Brown Bag Lunch | Chris Toumey

Religious Reactions to Nanotechnology

Date: 02/01/2012 | 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Location: 1441 CIEMAS

Special presentation by Chris Toumey, Ph.D., Anthropologist from the University of South Carolina.

Abstract: Nanotechnology is a family of sciences and technologies for controlling matter at the level of atoms and molecules. It gets its name from the nanometer (nm), or one-billionth of a meter. Because of certain technical features, nanotech means different things to different people. Furthermore, survey research indicates that public reactions to nanotech will be strongly influenced by religious beliefs (and not by scientific knowledge about nanotech). Among the hundreds of commentaries and position papers on societal and ethical issues in nanotech, only a very small number come from religious organizations. In this presentation I describe a spectrum of documents which constitute religious reactions to nanotech, and then I summarize their main themes, so that we might anticipate future religious reactions to nanotech.

Bio: Chris Toumey is a cultural anthropologist who works in the anthropology of science. Since 2003, he has been involved in research on societal issues in nanotechnology. He is the author or co-author of approximately sixty publications on that topic, including: different ways of understanding the history of nanotech; the question of how nonexperts can have active roles in nanotech policy; epistemological problems (and solutions) in images of nanoscale objects; and, religious reactions to nanotech. By arrangement with the journal Nature Nanotechnology, he has four humanistic commentaries on nanotech each year in that journal. In 2010, Toumey chaired the NSF workshop on reevaluating the conceptual framework of public knowledge of science for the Science & Engineering Indicators, and he is the lead author of the report, Science in the Service of Citizens & Consumers.

Dr. Toumey is the Author of God's Own Scientists (ethnography of the creationist movement) and Conjuring Science (an account of the cultural dynamics of symbols and meanings in public scientific controversies).

Since 2003, he has worked on societal and cultural issues in nanotechnology. Author or co-author of approximately sixty publications in that area, including: [A] different ways of understanding the history of nanotech; [B] the question of how nonexperts can have active roles in nanotech policy; [C] epistemological problems (and solutions) in images of nanoscale objects; and, [D] religious reactions to nanotech. His publications include four humanistic commentaries each year in Nature Nanotechnology.