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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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RE: Blaming Religion?
By masher2 on 2/23/2008 2:28:45 PM , Rating: 2
> "I blame hippies, wacky environmentalists, and fear mongering journalists"

Certainly that's part of it. Nanotechnology is on the attack from the Left and the Right. Quite a few environmentalists believe it to be "against nature".

Which, when you think about it, is really just another form of religion -- deifying mother nature, rather than a god or gods.

RE: Blaming Religion?
By Gondorff on 2/24/2008 2:15:10 PM , Rating: 2
Ok... instead of putting the focus back on religion, let's instead look at what the poster above was actually saying.

Namely, that the blame that is put on the religious in this article is completely unwarranted given the lack of any study on the matter. All the quotes from the source article merely show the researcher's belief that religion is the cause of the dissent. Also, he asserts with no backing information that lack of understanding is not the problem, but religious mores are. This is simply one man's biased ramblings, and it is all very unscientific.

In addition, I find it rather unsettling how various news media have portrayed this article, with titles that state as fact "Religion colors Americans' views of nanotechnology" when there is no evidence that shows this. Only a biased man's convictions.

In truth, I do realize that the religious right does hold some uneducated views about science, and I often have to defend myself against such claims being applied to me personally, as I take a much different approach to science than other Christians (though, people please note: the Catholic Church takes science very seriously -- and don't go all Galileo on me, that was hundreds of years ago; I'm talking about today). However, when I end up being victimized by a "scientific" article that doesn't even have any facts and figures to back up its ad hominem attacks on all of religion, then it gets pretty annoying. This is a shoddy job of scientific research and journalism for many involved.

[Please note: I realize that this article is a blog post on DT, which is what it belongs as. I have no problem with the journalism here; however, the articles cited were not blog posts, and to that I take offense.]

RE: Blaming Religion?
By DeepBlue1975 on 2/24/2008 8:02:10 PM , Rating: 2
Wearing clothes and using medicines to cure illnesses that would have actually killed us some centuries ago is also against nature.

Yet I don't see environmentalists refusing to take vaccines or to use clothes.

But we don't have to worry too much, history has demonstrated in numerous opportunities that those who oppose scientific and technological advances fail miserably in their goal.

The problem with those is their purpose of banning, rather than regulating (regulations are always welcome for new technologies if that makes them better suited to a society's wellbeing than otherwise) and, even as a most basic step, trying to understand how the things they try to forbid work.

RE: Blaming Religion?
By masher2 on 2/24/2008 9:43:27 PM , Rating: 2
> "history has demonstrated in numerous opportunities that those who oppose scientific and technological advances fail miserably in their goal"

History demonstrates even more cases where such forces have succeeded. Consider China's stagnant culture from the Song Dynasty on, which developed such innovations as the cannon and printing press, only to have them die out for hundreds of years, later to be reintroduced by the Western world. Or consider Medieval Europe, which took a thousand years to recover the science and culture of the Roman Era, due primarily to the stranglehold the Church held upon thought and expression. Or the Moorish developments in math and astronomy, which ultimately went nowhere within that particular culture.

Or even consider the Luddite movement in England, which was crushed only by draconian government action, including execution and deportation. Were such a widespread, popular movement to reform today, no Western government alive would have the political wherewithal to actively resist them.

Those that oppose scientific progress are indeed often succesful. Their track record has been a bit poor as of late, but across all human history, they've been quite succesful.

RE: Blaming Religion?
By Ratwar on 2/25/2008 1:36:28 AM , Rating: 2
Sure, there have been short term victories for anti-innovation forces, but you see the end result of all of your examples was innovation. The Europeans did regain the science and culture of the Romans (whether or not it was hindered by the Church). China got its ass handed too it by Britain, effectively opening it up too new ideas.

Someone somewhere will always innovate, and through their innovations, they will gain advantages over those that aren't willing to change. Eventually, the advantages will force those opposed to scientific advances to open their eyes, or be buried.

RE: Blaming Religion?
By masher2 on 2/25/2008 10:26:34 AM , Rating: 2
> "Sure, there have been short term victories..."

I see your point, but it's hard for me to call a thousand years a "short term victory". Were such an even to recur in contemporary civilization (which it very well might) it would doom a hundred generations of our descendents to a miserable existence...assuming they could even survive the collapse.

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