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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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Religion VS Science
By xRyanCat on 2/24/2008 12:33:01 AM , Rating: 2
I'm a practicing Christian and I don't feel that religion and science have to be mutually exclusive. I find it almost hard to believe that these people honestly think nanotech is morally unacceptable on religious grounds. I believe they are ignorant to begin with; perhaps not on the subject of nanotechnology, but their own religion.

I've read the Bible and I can't remember any references detailing anything remotely close to nanotech.

While slightly off-topic, I'm trying to get my head around "the earth is 6,000-10,000 years old" thing. Everything I've ever read says otherwise and the arguments I've read from my pastors are pretty moot. I talked to him about radioactive carbon dating and how it clearly states the earth is much older than what the Bible says. He wanted to know how accurate carbon-14 dating is, and how exactly it works. I've read about it, but can anyone give me a detailed explanation (or some references/citation) to tell him?


RE: Religion VS Science
By masher2 on 2/24/2008 12:54:35 AM , Rating: 2
The earth has been dated radiometrically in dozens of different ways. C-14 dating isn't actually the best method used to date the earth itself...but all the multitudinous methods used agree to fairly close order.

An excellent book on the subject is:

I have this on my bookshelf myself; highly recommended.

RE: Religion VS Science
By KristopherKubicki on 2/24/2008 11:17:42 AM , Rating: 3
As I've mentioned in the past: 6,000 years ago, 13.7 billion years ago, and 5 minutes ago. All of these are possible ages for the universe when God is introduced.

It's a thought exercise. If you believe a supreme being constructed the universe, then it may have started just about any time. Carbon dating, memories, photographs are all just aligned particles set in motion. If you believe God created the universe then there is absolutely no reason to think God could play with the starting time a bit.

RE: Religion VS Science
By Gondorff on 2/24/2008 1:56:13 PM , Rating: 2
Except on a philosophical level.

If we assume a Christian God, who is all-loving etc, then it would not make any sense for that God to be trying to trick us and fool us into thinking that the world is different than it appears. That would seem malicious.

A theological approach would say that we have two things pretty straight from God--the Bible and the world (yet even the Bible was mediated by human writers). Now, to deny either would be to deny the truth, so they should work together. Truth does not contradict truth (I think JP2 said that).

On the issue of the world being 6,000 years old as seen in the Bible--the writers of the Bible were not scientists. And writing at that point in time took on much more symbolic, and much less historic tendencies. Historical truth was equal to describing how an event felt or what it seemed to mean, and not factual literal truth. [for example, one might say that there was an army of a million people, even though it was really much smaller--the effect was the important part though]. The Gospels for instance, do not only give us a set of historical facts about Jesus. Much that is contained in them is likely not literally true, but describes the essence of Jesus' teachings, which, really, is more important. I'd rather know what he was all about than a factual roadmap of his every little journey.
So all in all, the 6,000 year old argument flops when considering the intentions of the writers of those books--they weren't trying to make scientific observations. If we are to take them as scientific teachers, then there are a whole slew of other things we would have to believe--for example, Genesis, and I think some of the psalms, paint a pretty clear picture that people of that time believed the sky was a literal dome above the earth that had gates in it. Above this dome was lots of water, and when God wanted it to rain, he opened a gate and let some water through (God separated the waters above from the waters below). I really hope no one believes this as factually true anymore, yet this aspect of Biblical science is conveniently glossed over.

RE: Religion VS Science
By Proteusza on 2/26/2008 8:37:37 AM , Rating: 2
Who even knows if the people of the time could understand the numbers required to understand the possible age of the universe?

I'm sure they understood 1000, and maybe 1000000, but perhaps 14 billion was such a large number they truncated it to 6000, because it made no difference to them.

RE: Religion VS Science
By radializer on 2/26/2008 11:05:32 PM , Rating: 2
Who even knows if the people of the time could understand the numbers required to understand the possible age of the universe?

A lot of people don't realize that the early mathematical knowledge of the ancient Hindus is what forms the basis of our current numeric system in the West - and they were quite advanced in their numerical abilities. The earliest recorded mathematical texts are from the 2500BC-1500BC time period and the classical period extended from 400AC-1200AD. The most important contributions spanning these times were the concept of zero (or the void), negative numbers, algebra and arithmetic.

The concept of "arabic numerals" traveled to Europe through the Arab world in the 7th Century AD - when the persian gulf acted as a conduit for information and knowledge exchange between the Greeks, Arabs and the Hindus. Since these numbers came from the Arabs, the West came to know of them as "arabic numerals". Interestingly enough, the arabic name for these numerals is "arqam hindiyyah" - which stands for Indian numerals.

In answer to your question about the understand of numbers large enough to comprehend the age of the universe, the religious texts of the Vedic Period (1200BC-900BC) provide evidence for the use of large numbers. By the time of the last Veda, numbers as high as 10^12 were being included in the texts. The names of these numbers were (some of which are still used in India today) -->

shata = 100
sahastra = 1,000
ayuta = 10,000
niyuta = 100,000
prayuta = 1,000,000
arbuda = 10,000,000
nyarbuda = 100,000,000
samudra = 1,000,000,000 (literally means "ocean" in Sanskrit)
madhya = 10,000,000,000 (literally means "middle" in Sanskrit)
anta = 100,000,000,000 (literally means "end" in Sanskrit)
parardha = 1,000,000,000,000 (literally means "beyond" in Sanskrit)

So, in a nutshell, there were people on this planet at that time and age who could comprehend large numbers.

RE: Religion VS Science
By Alazar on 2/28/2008 12:29:16 PM , Rating: 2
Following along this vein of thought, I have to ask for a reconsideration of the title to something like "Religion and Science". Why must the public mass automatically assume a religion is anti-science?

The biggest example, of course, being the Christian Church.

For years the large consensus was, has been, and probably still is, that the Christian church-goer is uneducated, blind, and otherwise ignorant lot.

I cannot express how far from the truth that is. While there are stereo-types for a reason there are a vast majority of Christian scientists. An example of this would be A group dedicated to apologetics (Christian defending) ministry, most notably the entire Creation V. Evolution debate.

The only difference in scientists come on where you begin basing your theories. All bases go back to a focal point. The beggining. If you assume there was no God during the begining of the earth and go from there, you are bound to get answers far different from a scientist who assumes there was a Creator.

Not to say that there are not various Laws and Theories (EX: Thermodynamics) that Christian and Secular scientists both agree upon. But there are areas in which these groups will conflict.

At any rate, we cannot assume a religion is anti-science based because the mass ignorantly assumes their religion says it's immoral. It is a simple demonstration how the majority only say they are of so-so denomination or faith just to have that tag.

RE: Religion VS Science
By Ramon on 3/4/2008 3:48:55 PM , Rating: 2
Google "Long Day Creationist" and you'll find that there are lots of very good arguments that favor a very long creation time without requiring you to lose your faith in the God of the Bible.

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