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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.



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, however, 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.
Stopping or Selling Human Germline Modification?by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesMay 7th, 2015Debate about human germline engineering has taken off since publication of a paper describing failed attempts to genetically modify a human embryo.
Ethics of Embryo Editing Paper Divides Scientists[Quotes CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]by Sara ReardonNature NewsApril 24th, 2015In March, rumours of the work prompted calls for a moratorium on such research. “No researcher has the moral warrant to flout the globally widespread policy agreement against altering the human germline.”
Seeking Your Input: Survey on Egg Retrievalby Gina Maranto, Biopolitical Times guest contributorApril 22nd, 2015We are surveying women’s knowledge and attitudes toward egg retrieval to yield critical insights into how best to frame health information intended to enable women to make informed choices.
Calling for “More than a Moratorium” on Human Germline Modificationby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesApril 9th, 2015A broader array of critical responses and policy suggestions follows recent reports that the gene-editing technique CRISPR has been used to genetically modify human sperm, eggs or embryos.
New Study: Stem Cell Field is Infected with Hypeby Michael HiltzikLos Angeles TimesMarch 31st, 2015Stem cell researchers often ply journalists with "unrealistic timelines" for the development of stem cell therapies, and journalists often swallow these claims uncritically.
Gene Counsellors Expect Resurgence of 'Jolie Effect'by Erika Check HaydenNatureMarch 26th, 2015Misinterpreted results of tests for cancer risk can result in unnecessary surgery.
This is Why you Shouldn’t Believe that Exciting New Medical Studyby Julia BelluzVoxMarch 23rd, 2015All studies are biased and flawed in their own unique ways. The truth usually lies somewhere in a flurry of research on the same question.
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