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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.



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.
Good Eggs, Bad Sperm and Terrible Journalismby Kirsty OswaldBioNewsMarch 2nd, 2015By repackaging the findings to appeal to the mainstream press, the true relevance of this research has been overlooked.
Institute of Medicine to Study the Social Policy and Ethics of “3-Person IVF”by Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesJanuary 22nd, 2015The FDA held a public meeting last year to assess the safety and efficacy of nuclear genome transfer for the prevention of transmission of mitochondrial diseases. Now it has asked the Institute of Medicine to consider the social and ethical issues.
Artificial Intelligence Experts Sign Open Letter to Protect Mankind From Machinesby Nick StattCNetJanuary 12th, 2015Artificial intelligence experts are working to stave off the worst when – not if – machines become smarter than people.
Pharmacogenomics and the Biology of Raceby Myles JacksonThe Huffington PostJanuary 5th, 2015Why is race the privileged category used by biomedical researchers in understanding human diversity?
The NFL Has a Problem with Stem Cell Treatmentsby Antonio RegaladoMIT Technology ReviewDecember 10th, 2014Professional athletes are getting injections of stem cells to speed up recovery from injury. Critics call it a high-tech placebo.
Sperm Donor, Life Partnerby Alana SemuelsThe AtlanticDecember 8th, 2014Just because women can create and raise a baby alone doesn't mean they want to. An increasing number of women and lesbian couples are seeking an involved father for a donor.
Human Germline Modification in the UK? Cries of Caution from all Cornersby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesNovember 13th, 201475% of submissions about three-person IVF to the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee warn that more evidence is needed prior to offering these techniques.
North Carolina Compensates Victims of Eugenic Sterilization[With CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]by Lily LouThe GuilfordianNovember 7th, 2014The drive behind these sterilizations was the eugenics movement: the pseudoscience of improving a society’s gene pool through reducing populations of people with negative traits.
What Neuro-revolution? The Public Find Brain Science Irrelevant and Anxiety-Provokingby Christian JarrettWiredNovember 5th, 2014There have been huge investments in brain science by the USA and Europe, but new research suggests neuroscience has yet to make an impact on most people’s everyday lives.
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