X-Message-Number: 30717
From: David Stodolsky <>
Subject: Religiosity serves as an important filter
Date: Sat, 26 Apr 2008 12:22:03 +0200

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Dietram Scheufele: One of the things we're doing as part of the Center  
for Nanotech in Society, and this is a collaboration of a number of  
universities including Arizona State that heads the Centre and then  
also Wisconsin and others...what we're doing is looking at  
nanotechnology as an issue that certainly has global implications and  
in public attitudes comparatively. So we collected survey data in the  
US that directly matches what colleagues have done with the  
Eurobarometer surveys in Europe, so over 30 countries in Europe, and  
then our data with exact parallel working where we asked people in the  
US the exact same questions that people in Europe had been asked.

The most interesting one of them is; is nanotechnology morally  
acceptable? And to just let you guess in your head here, you can  
imagine what the patterns look like. In France, for instance, you have  
over 70% thinking that nanotechnology is morally acceptable, and in  
the US that percentage drops to under or just around 30%. So what  
you're having is you seem to have this very strange disconnect between  
what's going on in France, Germany and the UK, for instance, and  
what's going on in the US. We looked more carefully where that might  
be coming from, and one of the key explanations if you look at other  
survey data is religiosity. If you compare, for example, the US to  
these other three European countries and you ask them how much  
guidance does God provide in your life, then on a ten-point scale the  
US on average falls in at 8.5, and that is not a specific population  
in the south, that is a general population survey; 8.5 out of 10 say  
God provides a lot of guidance in their life. In Europe that number is  
consistently for most countries below 5; so 4.3 for France and others.

So what you have as a first explanation is that people take their  
religious values and interpret what they learn about nanotechnology  
based on those values, and this is exactly what we then found in more  
detailed analyses. So it's not what we found in these analyses in the  
US in particular, it's not that highly religious audiences are, for  
instance, not informed about nanotechnology, they are. It's not that  
they don't understand the benefits. They agree in fact that  
nanotechnology may lead to better ways of curing disease, that it may  
help us clean up the environment, that it may produce better and  
faster computers very, very quickly. But if you look at a link between  
the perceptions of those benefits and the attitudes that people form  
about nanotechnology, meaning are they in favour and should we fund  
nanotechnology in the long term, then that link is much stronger for  
non-religious audiences than it is for religious audiences.

So it's not just that religiosity undermines attitudes toward  
nanotech, it's that religiosity serves as an important filter, if you  
will, of information. Religious audiences see the benefits, they  
choose to discount them when they form attitudes about nanotechnology.  
I think what we're seeing here is really one of the key factors that  
will explain as more and more of these new emerging technologies  
really bridge what it means to be human or really address what it  
means to be human with bio and nano, with human enhancement, where  
science issues almost immediately become political issues, almost  
immediately become ethical issues, that's where these filters or  
culturally specific...I would call them filters that people bring to  
the situation become more and more important. For nano, religion in  
our research really has emerged as one of the big ones.


David Stodolsky    Skype: davidstodolsky

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