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A one thousand-year-old history lesson awaits those who would deem the cutting edge wicked

Damascus steel was forged using a process of carbon doping iron in a smelting and quenching process.  This steel became famous almost a thousand years ago; it was said a Damascus sword would cut through falling silk, a rock, and then another piece of silk while still keeping its razor sharp edge. 

The ability to make the Damascus steel was lost with the ages.   Blademasters would often take the secret of the forging process to the grave rather than reveal its mysteries. Many were persecuted as heretics, others heralded as deities.

A study by a University of Wisconsin-Madison revealed that more than 70% of 1,015 surveyed Americans deem nanotechnology morally repulsive.  Professor Dietram Scheufele attributes this repugnance for technology to American reliance on religion. 

It's easy to say that perhaps the 1,000 Americans surveyed are just not that bright.  Scheufele disagrees, stating, "They are rejecting it based on religious beliefs. The issue isn't about informing these people. They are informed."

Scheufele believes that Americans who disprove of nanotechnology do not want humans "playing God."  That is, man manipulating structures of one nanometer, one billionth of a meter, is akin to God manipulating the forces of the universe.

In 2006 German researcher Peter Paufler discovered (with the aid of a sub-nanotechnology, the electron microscope) that a four hundred-year-old Damascus steel sword gained its incredible properties from carbon nanotube structures within the blade's edge.  Fifteen years earlier NEC created the world's first synthetic nanotube. One year later it was awarded the patent for one of the sharpest materials on earth, a plasma polished carbon nanotube blade.

Science has always bordered on the fence of terrifying and mysterious.  Civilization lost the secrets of Damascus steel making when then modern thinkers deemed it a practice of deus ex hominis.

Attempting to describe the morality of natural phenomena leads to an exercise in natural fallacy. Not once, in the history of mankind, has science ever been proven immoral -- and conversely -- nor has it ever been proven moral either. 

Will society deitize nano-researchers as modern day Damascus blademasters, or will it learn to look beyond the meta-ethics of natural phenomena for a change?


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By Dfere on 2/23/2008 10:07:29 AM , Rating: 2
Hi,

Sorry but I think this argument, like most others about technological change, is moot. Science advances all the time, and while polls (which are hard to accept without understanding the methodology and process) may be taken to show people for or against a certain new technology, the end result is people accept new technologies when commercial technologies become available and provide a benefit. In other words, when you benefit from it, you are usually for the technology. I can only think of two groups who do not rely on current technologies, Christian scientists and to some extent, the Amish. But even the Amish are rejecting conveniences as a spiritual matter and not the technology, and Christian Scientists rely on faith.

I think the rate of adoption of a technology is simply related to its common everyday commercial use. In terms of damascus steel, it is hard for me to believe a lot of the clamor was not because not everyone could have the technology.

Too bad they didn't have a patent office in Damascus.




"If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." -- Scientology founder L. Ron. Hubbard














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