Thursday, May 24, 2007

Nanoethics a No-No?

The most recent issue of the conservative-leaning magazine The New Atlantis has a very interesting article by editor Adam Keiper. Entitled "Nanoethics as a Discipline," it raises a number of provocative issues about the broader 'nano-and-society' undertaking.

While I don't agree with all of Keiper's comments, he does point out: the persistent confusion about what is nanotechnology; the divide between ho-hum nanoparticle research and more radical visions; the prevailing focus on EHS issue (partly as one of the few concrete areas where nanoethicists can get quick traction); and the rise of the nanoethicist.

It is perhaps on this latter point where Keiper is most harsh, referring to debates "awash in spin and misinformation" in which a recurring theme of "much of the social-science writing about nanotechnology is the importance of social -science writing about nanotechnology." Social scientists, he says citing researchers at CNS-ASU are full of self-pity and self-importance." Like I said, while I do not agree with all of his points, his observation that nanoethics (and here he seems to be conflating a wide range of methodological approaches and scholarly work) lacks humility and a "well-defined object of concern." If nothing else, this should give CNS folks something to think about.

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