It Cuts Both Ways: American Majority Deems Nanotechnology Immoral
February 23, 2008 1:57 AM
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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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2/23/2008 10:47:51 PM
> "The whole profession just got knocked down a (another) notch in my book"
You still have some notches left? I ran out years ago.
3/16/2008 2:24:55 PM
What, a blanket condemnation of all lawyers in response to frivolous lawsuits undertaken by a few members of the American plaintiffs' bar? Shocking!
Everyone loves to hate lawyers until they're charged with a DUI, injured by a defective product, sued in a messy divorce, fired by a vindictive boss, hoping to leave instructions more complicated than "It all goes to my wife and kids" in their will, etc., etc., etc.
There're good lawyers and there are bad lawyers. Just like there are good journalists and bad journalists, good politicians and bad politicians, good teachers and bad teachers, etc. etc. etc. I've met a few doctors who are egomaniacal jerks, but strangely I don't hear a lot of complaints about the profession at large.
Lawyers are a part of life in modern society. The rules governing our means of living together are complex enough to require a profession trained and skilled in their interpretation. If you don't like the actions of a particular lawyer or lawyers, contact the disciplinary body of your state to see if you have recourse.
The system isn't always perfect, but if you have a problem with a lawyer, and the disciplinary body won't help you, then engage with the political process - find out why you have no recourse for your concern, and make an effort to change the system if you think it's warranted.
Just don't label us all soulless cash-hungry monsters because it's the fashionable thing to do.
Porter Heffernan, B.A., LL.B., LL.M.(cand.)
... and proud of it.
"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates
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