Science & Tech

Religious beliefs shape views of science

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Less than one-third of Americans consider nanotechnology moral

Religion greatly influences the American public’s views of technology, says Dietram Scheufele, a professor in the Department of Life Sciences Communications at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Presenting new survey results today at the AAAS Meeting in Boston, Scheufele said that a significant percentage of Americans did not find nanotechnology morally acceptable. Nanotechnology is the science of the very small, in particular the control of atoms and molecules, and it has a wide range of applications in everything from medicines to washing machines.

Yet only 29.5 percent of 1,015 adult Americans who were surveyed said
that nanotechnology is morally acceptable. In comparison, 62.7 percent of Germans and 72.1 percent of French survey participants found the technology acceptable.

Scheufele said that he believes religion plays a key factor. “The
importance of religion in these different countries that shows up in
data set after data set parallels exactly the differences we’re seeing
in terms of moral views. European countries have a much more secular
perspective,” he said.

Scheufele said that Americans viewed nanotechnology researchers as
“playing God,” adding that this is similar to the way Americans consider biotechnology and stem cell research.