A University of Wisconsin-Madison professor says that the acceptability of nanotechnology is low in the US because Americans with strong religious convictions probably consider it to be a part of the same group as biotechnology and stem cell research.
Dietram Scheufele, who teaches Life Sciences Communication, says that people view researchers as "playing God" when they create materials that do not occur in nature, especially where nanotechnology and biotechnology intertwine.
He expressed these views while presenting new survey results showing that "a much lower percentage of people who agree that nanotechnology is morally acceptable in the U.S. than in Europe."
"There seem to be distinct differences between the United States and countries that are key players in nanotech in Europe, in terms of attitudes toward nanotechnology," says Scheufele.
As to why such a difference exists, Scheufele believes: "The United States is a country where religion plays an important role in peoples' lives. The importance of religion in these different countries that shows up in data set after data set parallels exactly the differences we're seeing in terms of moral views. European countries have a much more secular perspective."
He denied that one of the reasons for this rejection could be people's ignorance about nanotechnology, claiming that survey respondents are well-informed about nanotechnology and its potential benefits.
"They still oppose it. They are rejecting it based on religious beliefs. The issue isn't about informing these people. They are informed," he says.
Scheufele further said that the survey results were indications that the scientific community needed to do a far better job of placing the technology in context, and in understanding the attitudes of the American public.