In their paper “Genetically Modified Theology: The Religious Dimensions of Public Concerns About Agricultural Biotechnology” Celia Deane-Drummond, Robin Grove-White, and Bronislaw Szerszynski talk about the way different groups of people – including scientists, politicians, and everyday people on the street – talk about biotechnology (as well as other technological developments). This creates environments where technology, such as biotechnology, is viewed in a myriad of different ways within society.
For example, there are some significant concerns being expressed by the general public about biotechnology, and about genetically modified organisms and food in particular. These concerns tend differ from those envisaged by those charged with overseeing or implementing policy, or with researching and developing biotechnology. Rather they reflect questions that are concerned with the very essence of human personhood, about human nature, and the character of the relationship between human beings and the natural world. Commenting on public resistance and antipathy towards particular forms of biotechnology in Britain and Europe at the end of the 1990s they write,
It seems conceivable that the intensity of current controversies around genetically modified crops and foods arises in part from the fact that, in their regulation in the public domain, conflicting ontologies of the person are making themselves felt in the politics of everyday life.
See: Deane-Drummond, Celia, Robin Grove-White, and Bronislaw Szerszynski. “Genetically Modified Theology: The Religious Dimensions of Public Concerns About Agricultural Biotechnology.” Studies in Christian Ethics 14, no. 2 (2001): 23-41.
In these environments religion can play a significant, and often underrated, role. Recent discussions of this with respect to nanotechnology include the following:
- Nanotechnology and religion: a complex relationship | Science | guardian.co.uk.
- Religiosity as a perceptual filter: examining processes of opinion formation about nanotechnology.
- Seven Religious Reactions to Nanotechnology – Springer.
- Religious beliefs and public attitudes toward nanotechnology in Europe and the United States : Abstract : Nature Nanotechnology.
- Science & Religion Today: Religion Affects Reaction to Nanotech.
As one of the links notes, because nanotechnology is actually the product of a variety of convergent technologies (and is used in a variety of different ways) it doesn’t have the same ‘impact’ in public debate as something like genetically-modified foods or cloning research, but perhaps will have more impact in the long term.