Irrational Moralising

“In a sample of 1,015 adult Americans, only 29.5 percent of respondents agreed that nanotechnology was morally acceptable” compared with 54% in the UK and 72% in France. This was put down to “religion” by Dietram Scheufele, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. (For anyone unaware, Dietram also has an excellent blog discussing issues of public trust called Nanopublic. )

The results raise two important issues when it comes to public trust of technologies. The first is that, certainly in the US, much of the public perception of nanotech has been influenced by the Kurzweil/Drexler axis who have been pushing a transhumanist agenda which many people would find morally unacceptable, and indeed was the root of may of the public misgivings over nanotech.

Secondly, I wonder how possible it is to deconvolute mistrust of technology in general from moral acceptability. The public tends to have an inconsistent approach to technology applications, for example many people agreeing that if GMOs can be used to boost food production in developing countries it is clearly a good thing while refusing to eat GMO’s themselves.

Suspicion and incomprehension of science is increasingly muddled with morals, which has led to vast areas of land in developing countries being given over to biofuel or organic cotton production rather than food crops. I’m glad that I’m not the only one that finds this rather irrational.


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