SCIENCE

Poll Shows We Want Those DNA Breakthroughs But Worry Scientists May Be 'Playing God'

02/02/2014 10:49 am ET
VICTOR DE SCHWANBERG via Getty Images

Most Americans are excited about the possibility of scientific breakthroughs brought by DNA research, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds. But the poll also shows that many people worry that the research could go too far -- and lead to scientists "playing God."

In the new poll, 71 percent of Americans said that they're excited about the possibility that DNA research could bring major scientific and medical breakthroughs. But 44 percent said they worry that DNA research involves unforeseen dangers. Thirty-three percent of Americans said they were both excited and worried.

Although the poll shows that optimism about the possibilities opened up by genetic research outweighs pessimism about potential ill effects, it also shows there are limits to where Americans think that research should lead.

Take the idea of cloning extinct species. By a 55 percent to 27 percent margin, most respondents said they were against the idea -- proposed by some in the scientific community -- of resurrecting woolly mammoths and other long-extinct creatures.

Americans seem even more wary about using DNA research with the goal of creating “designer babies.” Seventy-two percent said they would disapprove of efforts to create children with unusually high intelligence or other advantageous traits. Only 16 percent said they would approve of such efforts.

Perhaps because of those possibilities, most indicated that they were at least somewhat worried about the possibility of scientists "playing God" by trying to tinker with phenomena that they think should remain outside the realm of science. Thirty-five percent said they were very worried about that possibility, while another 37 percent said they were somewhat worried. A combined 19 percent said they were not very worried or not at all worried.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted Jan. 16-17 among 1,000 U.S. adults using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling.

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