The Impact of Culture & Religion on Nanotechnology

The Impact of Culture & Religion on Nanotechnology

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The field of nanotechnology is becoming more widely used in both military and medical applications.  As the Department of Defense employs a diverse workforce, an understanding of the cultural, religious, and ethical implications of  nanotechnology remains critical to ensure that nano-based technologies do not disrupt operations due to cultural or ideological objections by service members.

The field of nanotechnology is becoming more widely used in both military and medical applications. As the Department of Defense employs a diverse workforce, an understanding of the cultural, religious, and ethical implications of nanotechnology remains critical to ensure that nano-based technologies do not disrupt operations due to cultural or ideological objections by service members. Select to enlarge Infographic

1. Rastafarianism (Jamaica)

Rastafarians oppose the consumption of non-pure, modified foods, which may include nanoparticles used in food additives, such as Titanium Dioxide used to increase a food’s shelf life. [1,2]

2. Symbolism (Republic of Korea, China)

Cultures that symbolically associate chrysanthemums with death may express reservations to the use of Zinc oxide nanoflowers, which strongly resemble chrysanthemums, as an antimicrobial. [3,4,5]

3. Raëlism (Geneva Headquarters)

Raëlians view nanotechnology capable of mitigating health concerns, including the use of carbon nanotubes to trap harmful gases or pollution, as beneficial in extending the human life span. [6,7]

4. Judaeism (Israel)

Certain uses of nanotechnology, such as in the creation of synthetic biology, echoes the Jewish story of the Golem, which portrays ethical issues concerning the creation of artificial life. [8,9]

5. Catholicism (Vatican City)

The use of nanotechology to develop more effective fetal diagnostics may correlate to a rise in abortions, which the Catholic Church historically opposes, with the increased discovery of fetal abnormalities. [10,11]

6. Islam (Islamic States)

The future use of nanotechnology to potentially produce artificial meat, naturally comprised of nanofibers, may generate ethical questions as artificial meat was never part of an animal and therefore could not undergo the Halal preparations required. [12,13]

7. Māori (New Zealand)

The potential impact of nanotechnology as a pollutant on the environment remains one of the larger concerns posed by indigenous groups such as the Māori that maintain a close relationship with the environment and nature. [14]

8. United States

  • Jehovah’s Witnesses: Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in receiving blood products through blood transfusions due to a passage in the Old Testament of the Bible; however, the convergence of nanotechnology with biotechnology, polymer chemistry and molecular biology has allowed for the creation of artificial blood substitutes, which may provide a reasonable alternative for this group. [15,16]
  • The Church of Christ, Scientist (Christian Science): Christian Scientists believe that God is the only reality leading to their conclusion that matter is an illusion. This belief also leads many Christian Scientists to choose handling health issues with prayer rather than relying on conventional medical treatments. Apart for the obvious rejection of any medical applications created by nanotechnology, Christian Scientists believe that sickness and death are consequences of a reliance on matter, and thus would not necessarily be interested in the advances of manipulating matter through nanotechnology. [17,18]
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormonism): Mormon scripture holds that power is derived through persuasion and not through force, and that this limitation even applies to God. Some believe that leveraging the natural tendencies of atoms and molecules to achieve new forms and functions plays into the grander scheme of natural persuasion; however, the limits would be set at utilizing nanotechnology to create brain-machine interfaces that stimulate artificial emotional experiences. [19,20]
  •  Seventh-day Adventist Church: Seventh-day Adventists follow strict guidelines in regards to their health. There are many proscriptions on diet, including adherence to a well-balanced vegetarian diet and the avoidance of particular foods such as highly refined foods. In addition, Seventh-day Adventists refrain from consuming any mind-altering or harmful substances, such as tobacco and alcohol, in order to keep their minds clear. Engineered nanomaterials are used in many foods for coloring and as preservatives and in food packaging. It is not necessarily clear how these food-grade nanomaterials would affect the choice of Seventh-day Adventists; however, the prohibition of highly processed foods may apply in some of these instances. [21,18]

9 France and Mexico (Nanoterrorism)

Nanotechnology has been embraced by most, but some countries have faced more resistance to the technology than others. From October 2009 through February 2010, five public events in a series of 17 planned town halls sponsored by the French Government regarding nanotechnology were disrupted by protesters. A series of explosions, thwarted attacks, and bomb threats spanned a two-year period from 2010-2012 and targeted facilities engaged in nanotechnology across 10 cities in Mexico. The attacks were planned and carried out by an eco-anarchist group identified as Individuals Tending Towards Savagery. [22,23]

10. Latin America (South America – Argentina, Brazil and Chile)

Nanotechnology has generally been embraced as a positive advancement throughout Latin America, but primarily in South America as a way to remain competitive with other parts of the world, particularly the United States and Europe. Research and development efforts in nanotechnology are especially dominant in Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico. However, the level of resources committed to assessing the societal impact of nanotechnology remains far lower among Latin American countries compared with developed nations. [24,25]

11. Africa (South Africa)

Nanotechnology development in Africa is primarily aimed at improving sustainability and meeting UN Millennial Development Goals. Advances include improving the clean water supply and minimizing the spread of disease. Most nanotechnology research efforts in Africa occur in South Africa, where there is a well-coordinated effort through organizations such as the South African Nanotechnology Initiative. South Africa is often considered the most technologically advanced nation in Africa, which often shifts the focus of science and technology efforts away from nations along the North African cost and traditional Sub-Saharan African nations. [26,27,28,29]


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