MADISON -- Is nanotechnology morally acceptable?
For a significant percentage of Americans, the answer is no, according to a recent survey of Americans' attitudes about the science of the very small.
Addressing scientists here today (Feb. 15, 2008) at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Dietram Scheufele, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of life sciences communication, presented new survey results that show religion exerts far more influence on public views of technology in the United States than in Europe.
"Our data show a much lower percentage of people who agree that nanotechnology is morally acceptable in the U.S. than in Europe," says Scheufele, an expert on public opinion and science and technology.
Nanotechnology is a branch of science and engineering devoted to the design and production of materials, structures, devices and circuits at the smallest achievable scale, typically in the realm of individual atoms and molecules. The ability to engineer matter at that scale has the potential to produce a vast array of new technologies that could influence everything from computers to medicine. Already, dozens of products containing nanoscale materials or devices are on the market.
In a sample of 1,015 adult Americans, only 29.5 percent of respondents agreed that nanotechnology was morally acceptable.
In European surveys that posed identical questions about nanotechnology to people in the United Kingdom and continental Europe, significantly higher percentages of people accepted the moral validity of the technology. In the United Kingdom, 54.1 percent found nanotechnology to be morally acceptable. In Germany, 62.7 percent had no moral qualms about nanotechnology, and in France 72.1 percent of survey respondents saw no problems with the technology.
"There seem to be distinct differences between the United States and countries that are key players in na
|Contact: Dietram Scheufele|
University of Wisconsin-Madison