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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RE: Blaming Religion?
2/24/2008 9:43:27 PM
> "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?
2/25/2008 1:36:28 AM
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?
2/25/2008 10:26:34 AM
> "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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