Sunday, January 29, 2006

Faithfully informed about nanotech?

Recent media coverage on nanotech has zeroed in on the need for new regulations for nanotech, in part triggered by a report released this month by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars calling for better laws regarding nanotech risks.

But regulations may not be what the public is really concerned about. Here are some data from one of our national surveys on public attitudes toward nanotech that suggests that religiosity may be emerging as one of the key factors underlying public attitudes toward nanotech.

The figure suggests two interesting interpretations. First, both informed and uninformed supporters report lower levels of religiosity than the two segments of opponents. Second, and more importantly, the segment who reports the highest levels of religiosity are the informed opponents, i.e., the people who are generally opposed to nanotechnology, even though they are significantly more informed about the issue than more than half of the population.

Why may religion play such an important role? Is is the "playing god" frame? Or is it a spill-over effect from issues, such as stem cell research or therapeutic cloning, where religious arguments are at the forefront of public debate?