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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.



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.
A Modern Woman's Burden[Quotes CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]by Natalie LampertNew RepublicMarch 20th, 2015How much does egg-freezing technology help delay reproduction?
Scientists Urge Temporary Moratorium On Human Genome Editsby Rob SteinNPRMarch 20th, 2015Leading biologists and bioethicists are calling for a worldwide moratorium.
How Identity Evolves in the Age of Genetic Imperialismby Eleonore Pauwels and Jim DratwaScientific AmericanMarch 13th, 2015The Silicon Valley brand of genetic determinism tells us there is a gene-hack to solve every “problem” — that DNA is just a code to personalize at will.
The Price Of Hype: The Public Now Has Unrealistic Timelines For Scienceby Hank CampbellScience 2.0March 11th, 2015Today, people think stem cell therapies already exist. It's not science journalists and bloggers framing this for political gain. The culprits are scientists playing up their research.
Surrogate Mothers in India Unaware of Risksby Frederik JoelvingReutersMarch 2nd, 2015Renting out their wombs may ease financial problems for poor women in India, but new research suggests surrogate mothers there are unaware of the risks and often left out of key medical decisions about their pregnancy.
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