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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.



The Facts Behind #CRISPRfacts and the Hype Behind CRISPRby Jonathan ChernoguzBiopolitical TimesJuly 28th, 2015WIRED's hyped CRISPR cover article triggered a wave of tweets and criticism.
CALL FOR NOMINATIONS: NAS and NAM Initiative on Human Gene Editingby AnnouncementCommittee On Science, Technology, and LawJune 24th, 2015The National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine are launching a major initiative to guide decision making about controversial new research involving human gene editing.
CRISPR: Move Beyond Differencesby Charis ThompsonNatureJune 24th, 2015Researchers and ethicists need to see past what can seem to be gendered debates when it comes to the governance of biotechnology.
CRISPR: Science Can't Solve itby Daniel SarewitzNature CommentJune 23rd, 2015Democratically weighing up the benefits and risks of gene editing and artificial intelligence is a political endeavour, not an academic one.
A Community Bio-Tech Lab Offers a Crash Course in Designing Life — Open to the Publicby Adam WernickPRIJune 5th, 2015Genspace, in downtown Brooklyn, is the world's first "community bio-lab." It offers a three-class crash course in synthetic biology to anyone who is interested.
CIRM Pursues “Prudent Path” Forward with Genome Editing Technologiesby Jonathan ThomasThe Stem CellarJune 1st, 2015CIRM Board Chair Jonathan Thomas will convene a public workshop on genome editing technologies this November.
The Lessons of Asilomar for Today’s Scienceby Alexander CapronThe New York TimesMay 28th, 2015Attempts to use new gene editing techniques to "improve" our descendants raises profound ethical and social issues, and a group dominated by scientists is too self-interested and unrepresentative to take them on.
Innovation and Equity in an Age of Gene Editingby Charis Thompson, Ruha Benjamin, Jessica Cussins and Marcy DarnovskyThe GuardianMay 19th, 2015As experts gather in Atlanta to discuss the rights and wrongs of editing human genomes, four of the attendees explain why it is vital to put social justice at the heart of the debate.
Science is Often Flawed. It's Time we Embraced That.by Julia Belluz and Steven HoffmanVoxMay 13th, 2015That science can fail shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. It's a human construct, after all. And if we simply accepted that science often works imperfectly, we'd be better off.
Overcoming Bias: Why Not?by Ari N. SchulmanThe New AtlantisMay 7th, 2015Some of the most prominent of the "new rationalists" are also spokesmen of transhumanism.
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