BIOTECH: Public Attitudes
Sun, 2 Mar 1997 08:33:15 -0500 (EST)

I stumbled into the AOL "current events" area and discovered that the service
was conducting a member poll on attitudes toward human cloning. The
following was the tally of votes as of early this morning:

> Out of 10012 total responses:
> 5599 people (56%) picked: Ban it.
> 2086 people (21%) picked: Don't ban it.
> 2326 people (23%) picked: For medical research only.

I then visited the associated message board. Of the just under 300 messages,
it seemed that a significantly higher proportion or posters were willing to
entertain the idea of tinkering with human genetic material, including quite
a few who expressed very extropian values. Those expressing fears about
cloning exhibited an abysmal scientific ignorance of the process and seemed
most concerned with the question of whether a human clone would have a soul.
Opposition to human cloning appeared to be primarily based on some
conception of "god's will."

I find all of this to be an interesting expression of public opinion, even if
it isn't very rigorous. Presumably the initial survey population represents
mildly technophilic people (compared with the general U.S. populace), with a
slightly higher than average interest in public affairs, since participants
are self-selected in an online service. In this group, an overwhelming
majority (79%) favors government regulation of scientific research and
technology development. A solid majority (56%) favors an outright, total
government ban on human cloning. (In this connection, I spotted a newswire
story that the British government has moved to cut all funding for the
original sheep research . . . perhaps another argument in favor of Scottish
independence . . .) However, of those willing to take a little extra time to
express themselves, a more free and courageous attitude is much more

Reviewing this material once again brought home to me how careful we have to
be to always remember that the vast majority of humanity, even in "advanced"
societies, is deeply ignorant of science and bases their most profound moral
and political views on simple superstition and inarticulate fears. Brace

Greg Burch <>----<> -or-
"Nature abhors a moron." -- H.L. Mencken