Aug 4, 2016 7:00 am

Why Americans are wary of using technology to ‘enhance’ humans

Emerging technologies that draw from biomedical technology, nanotechnology, information technology and other fields are developing at a rapid pace and may lead to any number of ways people might be able to “upgrade” themselves. Such technologies, in the pipeline now to address medical and therapeutic needs, could produce new ways for humans to push the boundaries of their abilities, making their minds sharper and their bodies stronger and healthier than ever before.

But a new Pew Research Center survey shows that majorities of Americans greet the possibility of these breakthroughs with more wariness and worry than enthusiasm and hope.  Read More

Topics: Bioethics, Emerging Technology Impacts, Health Care, Religion and Society, Science and Innovation

Aug 3, 2016 7:00 am

Nearly 1 in 100 worldwide are now displaced from their homes

More than 60 million people are displaced from their homes as of the end of 2015, the highest number of displaced people since World War II, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). This group accounts for 0.8% of the world’s population, or nearly 1 in 100 people globally, and represents the highest share of the world’s population that has been forcibly displaced since UNHCR began collecting data on displaced persons in 1951.

Recent years have seen a surge in the number of people forcibly displaced from their homes. A record number of asylum seekers arrived in Europe in 2015, with most coming from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. And nearly a million South Sudanese are believed to be on the move because of conflict in their country. Global efforts to address displacement are underway. In September, the United Nations will host a summit to discuss this trend and President Barack Obama will host a related meeting of world leadersRead More

Topics: Europe, Middle East and North Africa, Migration, Wars and International Conflicts

Aug 2, 2016 12:25 pm

U.S. voter turnout trails most developed countries

By International Standards, U.S. Voter Turnout is Low

Country % of voting age population % of registered voters
Belgium (2014)* 87.2% 89.4%
Turkey (2015)* 84.3% 85.2%
Sweden (2014) 82.6% 85.8%
South Korea (2012) 80.4% 75.8%
Denmark (2015) 80.3% 85.9%
Iceland (2013) 80.0% 81.4%
Norway (2013) 77.9% 78.2%
Israel (2015) 76.1% 72.3%
New Zealand (2014) 73.2% 77.9%
Finland (2015) 73.1% 66.9%
France (2012) 71.2% 80.4%
Netherlands (2012) 71.0% 74.6%
Austria (2013) 69.3% 74.9%
Italy (2013) 68.5% 75.2%
Germany (2013) 66.0% 71.5%
Mexico (2012)* 64.6% 63.1%
Hungary (2014) 63.4% 61.8%
Canada (2015) 62.1% 68.3%
Greece (2015)* 62.1% 56.1%
Portugal (2015) 61.8% 55.8%
U.K. (2015) 61.1% 66.9%
Spain (2016) 60.9% 69.8%
Czech Republic (2013) 60.0% 59.5%
Slovakia (2016) 59.4% 59.8%
Ireland (2016) 58.0% 65.1%
Luxembourg (2013)* 55.1% 91.1%
United States (2012) 53.6% 84.3%
Estonia (2015) 54.7% 64.2%
Slovenia (2014) 54.1% 51.7%
Poland (2015) 53.8% 55.3%
Japan (2014) 52.0% 52.7%
Latvia (2014) 51.7% 58.8%
Chile (2013) 45.7% 42.0%
Switzerland (2015)* 38.6% 48.4%
Australia (2016)* 91.0%

Pew Research Center

With less than 100 days left till the U.S. presidential election, we thought it was time for a fresh look at how U.S. voter turnout – regularly decried as dismal – compares with other developed democracies. As is so often the case, the answer is a lot more complicated than the question. Read More

Topics: Elections and Campaigns, Voter Participation, World Elections

Jul 29, 2016 11:15 am

Which countries still outlaw apostasy and blasphemy?

Apostasy and blasphemy may seem to many like artifacts of history. But in dozens of countries around the world, laws against apostasy and blasphemy remain on the books and often are enforced.

Last December, for instance, authorities in Sudan charged 25 men for apostasy – the act of abandoning one’s faith — including by converting to another religion. The men face the death penalty for following a different interpretation of Islam than the one sanctioned by the government. And, in Pakistan, police are currently pursuing a Christian accused of sending an allegedly blasphemous poem to a friend. Blasphemy – defined as speech or actions considered to be contemptuous of God or the divine – is a capital crime in Pakistan.

A new Pew Research Center analysis finds that, as of 2014, about a quarter of the world’s countries and territories (26%) had anti-blasphemy laws or policies, and that more than one-in-ten (13%) nations had laws or policies penalizing apostasy. The legal punishments for such transgressions vary from fines to death. Read More

Topics: Religion and Government, Restrictions on Religion

Jul 29, 2016 8:55 am

The religious divide on views of technologies that would ‘enhance’ human beings

Many Americans are wary of the prospect of implanting a computer chip in their brains to improve their mental abilities or adding synthetic blood to their veins to make them stronger and faster, according to a major new Pew Research Center survey gauging the public’s views on technologies that could enhance human abilities. And this is particularly true of those who are highly religious.

For instance, a majority of highly religious Americans (based on an index of common religious measures) say they would not want to use a potential gene-editing technology that would give their baby a much reduced risk of disease (64%), while almost the same share of U.S. adults with “low” religious commitment would want to use such a technology (63%).

Similar patterns exist on questions about whether people would want to enhance themselves by implanting a computer chip in their brains or by having synthetic blood transfusions. Not only are highly religious Americans less open to healthy people using these potential technologies, but they are more likely to cite a moral opposition to them – and even to connect them directly to religious themes. Read More

Topics: Emerging Technology Impacts, Religion and Society, Religious Beliefs and Practices, Science and Innovation

Jul 28, 2016 5:06 pm

A closer look at the gender gap in presidential voting

Hillary Clinton is now officially the first woman to top the ticket of a major U.S. political party. Her candidacy and controversial comments about women made by Donald Trump have raised the question of whether a long-standing gender gap in American politics could grow wider in 2016.

In the 1972 and 1976 elections, there was no difference in candidate support between men and women. Over the last nine presidential elections, however, women have consistently voted for Democratic presidential candidates at higher rates than men. Most recently, in 2012, there was a 10-percentage-point gender gap: 55% of women voted for Democrat Barack Obama over Republican Mitt Romney, compared with 45% of men. The gap in 2012 was little different than it had been in Ronald Reagan’s victory over Jimmy Carter in 1980, when 45% of women and just 36% of men voted for Carter. The size of the gender gap has fluctuated within a relatively narrow range over the past 36 years; on average, women have been 8 percentage points more likely than men to back the Democratic candidate in elections since 1980. Read More

Topics: 2016 Election, Gender, Political Attitudes and Values, U.S. Political Figures, U.S. Political Parties

Jul 28, 2016 11:00 am

5 facts about Latinos and education

Educational attainment among U.S. Latinos has been changing rapidly in recent years, reflecting the group’s growth in the nation’s public K-12 schools and colleges. Over the past decade, the Hispanic high school dropout rate has declined and college enrollment has increased, even as Hispanics trail other groups in earning a bachelor’s degree.

The issue of education is an important one for Hispanics. Roughly eight-in-ten (83%) cited education as very important to their vote in the 2016 election, ranking it alongside the economy, health care and terrorism as a top issue.

Yet, for many Hispanics, economic factors remain an obstacle to college enrollment. In a 2014 National Journal poll, 66% of Hispanics who got a job or entered the military directly after high school cited the need to help support their family as a reason for not enrolling in college, compared with 39% of whites.

Here are five facts about U.S. Latinos and education:
Read More

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Education, Educational Attainment, Race and Ethnicity, School Enrollment

Jul 27, 2016 1:28 pm

5 facts about Hillary Clinton’s candidacy

This week Democrats gathered in Philadelphia to officially nominate Hillary Clinton as their party’s presidential candidate. How do Americans view Clinton – a fixture in national politics for more than 25 years – as the race between her and Donald Trump for the White House begins in earnest?

Here’s a roundup of key Pew Research Center findings on views of Hillary Clinton, her politics and the impact she would have on Washington.

1More voters say they know a lot about where Clinton stands on important issues than say the same about Trump. About half (53%) say they know a lot about Clinton’s positions; by comparison, fewer (43%) are confident they know where Trump stands.

Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are just as likely to say they know a lot about where Clinton stands (50%) as they are about Trump (53%). Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, on the other hand, say they know much more about Clinton’s positions (57% say a lot) than Trump’s (36%). Read More

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: 2016 Election, Political Attitudes and Values, U.S. Political Figures, U.S. Political Parties

Jul 27, 2016 9:55 am

Blacks with college experience more likely to say they faced discrimination

A majority of black Americans say that at some point in their lives they’ve experienced discrimination or were treated unfairly because of their race or ethnicity, but blacks who have attended college are more likely than those without any college experience to say so, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.

About eight-in-ten blacks with at least some college experience (81%) say they’ve faced discrimination or been treated unfairly because of their race or ethnicity, compared with 59% of blacks who have never attended college.

These differences also extend to more specific incidents of racial discrimination. For example, blacks who have attended college are more likely than those who have not to say they have been met with suspicion or that someone has questioned their intelligence. Some 55% of blacks with at least some college education say that in the past 12 months someone has acted as if they were suspicious of them because of their race or ethnicity, while a similar share (52%) say people have treated them as if they weren’t smart. Among blacks with a high school diploma or less, those shares are lower, 38% and 37% respectively.

And when asked whether their race or ethnicity has made it harder, easier or hasn’t made much of a difference in getting ahead in life, about half (49%) of blacks with some college experience say their race has made it harder for them to be successful, compared with 29% of those with a high school education or less. Read More

Topics: Economics and Personal Finances, Education, Race and Ethnicity, Socioeconomic Class

Jul 27, 2016 7:00 am

Q&A: Two perspectives on human enhancement technologies and how the public views them

Christian Brugger, Professor of Moral Theology at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary
Christian Brugger, professor of moral theology at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary

Pew Research Center’s new survey on human enhancement finds a broad wariness about the prospect of technologies aimed at making people smarter, stronger and healthier. Americans who are highly religious tend to be the most concerned about these possible developments, which include genetic engineering, cognitive augmentation and synthetic blood.

Anders Sandberg, research fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University
Anders Sandberg, research fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University

Fact Tank sat down with two experts on science and bioethics who have different views on human enhancement – Christian Brugger and Anders Sandberg – to explore what these new findings might mean. Brugger, who is a professor of moral theology at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, Colorado, believes that people are right to be concerned about the social impact of human enhancement. Sandberg, a research fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, thinks that, on balance, human enhancement will improve and enrich our lives.

Our new survey shows that most American adults see the prospect of human enhancement with wariness and worry rather than enthusiasm and hope. Why do you think this might be the case?

Christian Brugger: It’s not because Americans are anti-science or because they suffer from irrational fear of change. They worry because they perceive a future about which they have grave doubts, a future where, by design, humans possess radically different capacities, where biotechnical interventions create a preferential class of enhanced individuals introducing even greater social disparities, and hence conflicts, than we already struggle with. Perhaps, beneath all this, is a future where our natural capacities come to be seen not as the glory of the human person, but obstacles that must be overcome.

Anders Sandberg: People’s attitudes to something in the future tend to be in “far mode” and much more based on abstract principles than when dealing with something in the here and now. In “near mode” we are much more pragmatic. People were rather negative to IVF and heart transplants before they became common. Hence I think current public attitudes are not very good predictors for attitudes in the future. Read More

Topics: Emerging Technology Impacts, Science and Innovation