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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.

Dangers of an Unscientific Policy Process:
Why the UK’s legalization of “three-person babies” should not be the model for CRISPR
by Jessica Cussins, Biopolitical Times guest contributorOctober 25th, 2016The UK’s consideration of the science and public support for “mitochondrial replacement” may seem robust on its surface, but when it comes to CRISPR germline genome editing policy, we can and must do better.
DNA Dragnet: In Some Cities, Police Go From Stop-and-Frisk to Stop-and-Spitby Lauren KirchnerProPublicaSeptember 12th, 2016Private police DNA databases are multiplying, and are subject to no state or federal regulation or oversight.
Accessible Synthetic Biology Raises New Concerns for DIY Biological Warfareby Joseph NeighborVICE MotherboardAugust 23rd, 2016The monopoly on biology once held by governments and universities has been broken, posing significant challenges for the international community.
Human Gene Editing: A Timeline of CRISPR Cover StoriesWith recent gene editing tools, a number of high-profile media are featuring CRISPR on their covers and front pages. We gather highlights since early 2015, along with opinion polls, TV shows, and editorial board statements.
To Err is Biotechnological: Reflections on Pew’s Human Enhancement Surveyby Gina Maranto, Biopolitical Times guest contributorAugust 9th, 2016Biotechnologies aimed at human enhancement come with a guaranteed set of deficits, inadequacies, inconveniences, and risks.
What Ever Happened to Cloning?[cites CGS' Marcy Darnovsky]by Kimberly LeonardUS News & World ReportAugust 4th, 2016Twenty years since Dolly, the field of cloning remains highly inefficient for animals and too unethical to attempt with humans.
Human Enhancement Freaks People Out, Study Finds; Designer Babies Might 'Meddle With Nature'by Ed CaraMedical DailyJuly 26th, 2016Survey reveals more wariness than excitement for genetic technologies that would 'enhance' people.
Hateful politics infiltrate human genome editing debate in Franceby Elliot HosmanJune 29th, 2016New campaign calling for an international moratorium on CRISPR embryos experiments launched by prominent anti-abortion, anti-LGBT French group.
A book about the superiority of mixed-race people is going into a second printing, and the internet is pissedby Charles Pulliam-MooreFusionMay 24th, 2016Breeding Between the Lines relies on eugenic ideas to assert that mixed-race people are more attractive and healthy.
What the man in the street thinks about human enhancement[citing CGS consultant Pete Shanks]by Michael CookBioEdgeMay 7th, 2016Polls show that more than 80% of people surveyed thought babies should not be genetically modified for increased intelligence or sporting ability.
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