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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.



Frozen II : The Tech Industry’s Eggs[With CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]The Weekly WonkOctober 16th, 2014A group of experts react to the news that Apple and Facebook will pay for female employees to freeze their eggs.
Stem Cell Treatments Surging Into Clinicby Bradley J. FikesUT San DiegoOctober 7th, 2014How the government, insurers and patients would pay for very expensive new stem cell therapies drew the attention of more than 700 biomedical and health-care executives at the 2014 Stem Cell Meeting on the Mesa.
The Troubling Persistence of Eugenicist Thought in Modern America by Michael Brendan DoughertyThe WeekSeptember 30th, 2014We no longer talk of "unfit" children, but we'll still destroy them in the name of quality of life.
The Collapse of a Dangerous Analogy: Or, why mitochondria are much more than batteries by Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesSeptember 29th, 2014Amid a flood of new evidence that mitochondria impact an individual’s traits, the editors at New Scientist have made a “U-turn” on “three-parent babies.” Their new conclusion: “It’s more messy than we thought.”
Women Better Informed About Prenatal Genetic Testing Choose Fewer TestsNews MedicalSeptember 25th, 2014A clinical trial led by UC San Francisco has found that when pregnant women are educated about their choices on prenatal genetic testing, the number of tests actually drops.
The Story of 10 Couples Who Fought Costa Rica’s Ban on in Vitro Fertilizationby Johanna TorresThe Costarican Times [Costa Rica]September 21st, 2014A new documentary tells the story of ten couples in Costa Rica who sued their government after it banned IVF.
Is Modern Technology Killing Us?by Erica EtelsonTruthoutSeptember 19th, 2014"Science now makes all things possible...but it does not thereby make all possible things desirable." - Lewis Mumford, The Myth of the Machine
MacArthur Grant Sheds Light on Reproductive Technologies[References CGS]by Elayne CliftSentinel SourceSeptember 18th, 2014Thanks to a recent MacArthur Foundation grant to the Center for Genetics and Society and Our Bodies Ourselves, the information gap surrounding surrogacy and other assisted reproductive technologies will be addressed.
The Stupidity of the “Smart Gene”by Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesSeptember 17th, 2014Now that “one of the largest, most rigorous genetic studies of human cognition” has effectively turned up "nothing," can we finally put the notion of “smart genes” behind us?
Arizona GOP Official Resigns After Controversial Commentsby Sean SullivanWashington PostSeptember 15th, 2014Russell Pearce is out after controversial comments about contraception, sterilization and Medicaid.
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