Print 87 comment(s) - last by pheffern.. on Mar 16 at 2:24 PM

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?

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: Whatever
By borowki on 2/23/2008 7:31:51 PM , Rating: 2
There is no question that Americans are more concern about moral issues than Europeans. In this case though, I think it's just people confusing nanotechnology with bioengineering. I'm very, very doubtful that 700 of 1000 Americans--or people of any nationality, for that matter--have given any thought at all to nanotechnology, let alone the morality of it. This is pure sensationalist stuff.

It's a well-known phenomenon that if you offer three choices to people on a topic they don't they feel they have expertise in, they will choose the "compromise" position. Hence my sugar example. You can pretty much produce any result you want in a survey. A follow-up to the controversial Holocaust survey, asking directly whether it happened or not, showed 90%+ in the affirmative.

Surveys are pretty much useless when it comes to trying to determine the public's attitude, even with issues people are familiar with. Take abortion. If you ask "should abortion be banned in all circumstances?", you'd get a pro-choice answer. If you ask "should abortion be allowed in all circumstances?", you'd get a pro-life sounding answer.

The bottom-line is this: there is no political movement to restrict nanotechnology research. That's a real measure of what the public thinks--not phoney poll numbers.

RE: Whatever
By Proteusza on 2/26/2008 8:19:59 AM , Rating: 2
No, Americans are more concerned with religious issues, lets not confuse the two.

Given a real moral choice, such as between saving a life and not saving a life, I dont think you will find much difference anywhere in the world.

This is different though - I highly doubt that those surveyed knew what nanotechnology was. If they do, I hope they dont use any device containing a microchip - not only they are progessing towards nanoscale sizes, but also are a large part of the motivation towards nanotechnology.

RE: Whatever
By robinthakur on 2/26/2008 9:56:35 AM , Rating: 2
I sometimes think you can get away with anything in the US (or Pakistan) just by tacking on "because it says so in the Bible(Quran)" I can only imagine that most of those hicks which were surveyed hadn't got the foggiest what nanotechnology is, which is sad in itself in a supposedly educated nation, and simply assumed that this unknown technology must be frowned upon by 'God' because let's face it he's not a big fan of progress. Maybe they've all been taught using creationist propoganda.

RE: Whatever
By Ramon on 3/4/2008 3:35:40 PM , Rating: 2
I agree. I suspect that many polls of this ilk are created to make the scientist appear a "hero" who is fearlessly facing the "religious fanatics." I call it the "Copernicus Syndrome."

"I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen

Most Popular Articles5 Cases for iPhone 7 and 7 iPhone Plus
September 18, 2016, 10:08 AM
No More Turtlenecks - Try Snakables
September 19, 2016, 7:44 AM
ADHD Diagnosis and Treatment in Children: Problem or Paranoia?
September 19, 2016, 5:30 AM
Walmart may get "Robot Shopping Carts?"
September 17, 2016, 6:01 AM
Automaker Porsche may expand range of Panamera Coupe design.
September 18, 2016, 11:00 AM

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki