Jesus freaks now afraid of nanotech, too

Here's an updated list of things America's religious extremists are afraid of: gay marriage, in-vitro fertilization, The Golden Compass, stem-cell research, the earth revolving around the sun, and nanotechnology. Nanotechnology?

Yes, nanotechnology — the catch-all term for fiddling with materials at the molecular level. A scientific study found that opposition to nanotech on moral grounds varied in proportion to the prevalence of strong religious beliefs in a country.

What offends the religious about nanotech? The notion that man is fiddling with nature, mostly. Futurists predicted nano research would lead us into a future of self-assembling, microscopic robots which would tear the earth apart atom from atom in a runaway quest for raw materials.

Silicon Valley venture capitalists are just as offended by nanotech, though on financial grounds, not ethical ones. Nanotech turned out to be vastly overhyped, a bubble that never really inflated. There was no gray goo, no robots, not even any fiddling with nature of consequence. The reality of nanotech is prosaic: It ended up being good mostly for stain-resistant khakis.

But that just shows you how much both the proponents and the detractors of futuristic technology engage in acts of wild faith and outrageous belief — over something so small, it doesn't actually exist.