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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Religion Affects View of Scientific Decisions

A majority of the public, 53 percent, believes scientific decisions should be based primarily on the risks and benefits involved rather than on the moral and ethical issues involved, while 32 percent thinks moral and ethical concerns should be the top priority, according to the 2008 Virginia Commonwealth University Life Sciences Survey. (Click on image for larger view.) At the same time, however, 56 percent of the public feels that "scientific research these days doesn’t pay enough attention to the moral values of society."
Religiosity, the survey found, "tends to correlate with views about scientific decision making. Those who are more religious tend to say that decisions should be based on the moral and ethical issues involved (44 percent); 39 percent of this group say the risk-benefit analysis should be primary. Those who are less religious clearly side in the opposite direction; 69 percent of those for whom religion is not important say decisions should be based on a risk and benefit analysis."
The survey also shows that about 80 percent of people believe genetic testing should be readily available to anyone who wants it, with only 28 saying their main concern about genetic research is that it will be used in ways that violate moral principles. According to 54 percent of the public, the benefits of conducting genetic research outweigh the risks.
Stem cell research that does not involve human embryos is acceptable to 70 percent of those surveyed, while 57 percent are in favor of embryonic stem research (36 percent oppose it). When it comes to therapeutic cloning, 52 percent think it's OK to use the technology to develop new medical treatments, while 45 percent do not. On the other hand, 78 percent oppose the use of cloning in humans when it is not restricted to therapeutic purposes.
Overall, 83 percent of Americans say that new developments in science have helped make society better, and 61 percent agree that scientific research is essential for improving the quality of human lives. —Heather Wax