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About Public Opinion & Human Biotechnology


Observers often ask, "Where does the public stand on human biotechnology? How do people feel?"

These important questions present challenges for pollsters. Most of the technologies in question are new and often poorly understood. They engage deeply held values, but there is not yet a well-developed vocabulary for their deliberation.

Polls tend to show that public sentiment about human biotechnologies is strongly ambivalent. Most people value their potential to alleviate suffering, yet are apprehensive about the social consequences of some applications.

Views on human biotechnology are strongly shaped by cultural experiences. For example, in the United States, many people focus on the moral status of the embryo, mirroring the abortion debates of recent decades. In contrast, Germans are more likely to interpret powerful biotechnologies though their country's experience with the Holocaust.

One of the most consistent findings of opinion studies is that respondents' answers depend heavily on how questions are worded. For example, two separate surveys in the United States taken one month apart showed contradictory results: one found that 70% supported human embryonic stem cell research while the other found that 70% opposed it. Reading the questions reveals why: The study sponsored by a research advocacy group emphasized the potential for cures, whereas the one sponsored by opponents of abortion rights dwelled on destroying embryos. Thus, survey results must be carefully evaluated and put in an appropriate context.



Human Gene Editing: A Timeline of CRISPR Cover StoriesWith recent gene editing tools, a number of high-profile media are featuring CRISPR on their covers and front pages. We gather highlights since early 2015, along with opinion polls, TV shows, and editorial board statements.
'No solid evidence' for IVF add-on successby Deborah CohenBBC PanoramaNovember 28th, 2016A year-long study finds that nearly all costly add-on treatments offered by UK fertility clinics are unreliable, misleading, and risky.
Should We Rewrite the Human Genome?by Alex HardingXconomyNovember 28th, 2016Critics worry that a synthetic human genome could be used in unethical ways. Unlike for clinical trials, there is no regulatory body for basic science research.
Why the Deaf Community Fears President Trumpby Sara NovicVICENovember 18th, 2016According to his biographer, Trump subscribes to a racehorse theory of human development and the superiority of certain genes — an echo of eugenics.
The Sudden, Inevitable Rewiring of the American Leftby Andrew BurmonInverseNovember 18th, 2016It's not clear which direction the Trump administration will be pushed by conservative evangelicals like Mike Pence and technophile wildcards like Peter Thiel.
Palo Alto committee debates whether Jordan school should keep its eugenicist namesakeby Jacqueline LeeSan Jose Mercury NewsNovember 17th, 2016David Starr Jordan, Stanford University’s first president, believed the human race could be improved through selective reproduction, including forced sterilization.
With Fertility Rate in China Low, Some Press to Legalize Births Outside Marriageby Didi Kirsten TatlowThe New York TimesNovember 17th, 2016Civil society groups are calling for greater reproductive freedom for single women, which would also affect lesbians.
Abortion-By-Mail Study Outrages Opponentsby Phil GalewitzKQED California HealthlineNovember 16th, 2016A pilot study of telemedicine-based medical abortion demonstrates a welcome new option for women. Opponents of abortion find the concept deeply disturbing.
Seeding Doubt: How Self-Appointed Guardians of “Sound Science” Tip the Scales Toward Industryby Liza GrossThe InterceptNovember 15th, 2016Sense About Science has downplayed concerns about industry-funded research and promoted science that favors private interests over public health.
Sorry, that DNA test doesn't make you indigenousby The 180 with Jim BrownCBC RadioNovember 6th, 2016Belonging to a particular community can mean sharing beliefs, cultural practice, even official citizenship. But it's not decided by genetic material.
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