The Big Question?

The Independent, the organ of middle class, slightly left leaning, middle of the road, organic veg munching people with a perpetually concerned expression on their faces (at least the ones I know) distills all the recent fuss into one big question, which it then fails to answer.

Should the Government call a moratorium on nanotechnology?

Yes…

* The risks are simply too great to carry on business as usual until we know more

* We have managed perfectly well so far without nanotechnology, so why take the chance?

* If there is any doubt at all, it would do no harm to call a temporary halt until we know more

No…

* We already enjoy too many benefits from nanotechnology to be able to straightforwardly stop now

* The risks are hypothetical and it would be a mistake to stop without harder evidence that the risk is real

* The potential benefits that are just around the corner far outweigh any possible risks

It’s easy to poke holes in this, even if it mainly concerned with nanomaterials rather than nanotechnologies, but to be fair, it’s in the nature of science journalism that it tends to be generalist and rather ill informed.

Even a polymath such as Leonardo Da Vinci would have had trouble dealing with the whole of science, from space walks to stem cells, and then breaking it down into 500 word chunks that non scientists could understand (and would have been no doubt lumbered with being the arts correspondent too).

However, in common with almost every other nanotech scare story in the last decade I suspect that this will be quickly forgotten by most, although those organisations who take up cudgels against any form of scientific progress will no doubt use the recent reports to claim legitimacy for their often rather unscientific arguments.

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