Science, God, and Nature: A Textual and Frequency Analysis of Public Facebook Comments on News Articles about Agricultural and Environmental Gene Editing
Abstract: Gene editing is an emerging biotechnology that holds the potential to address some of the most pressing agricultural and environmental challenges. In order to understand public conceptions of gene editing, this study undertook a thematic analysis of 107 Facebook comments and a frequency analysis of 1,290 Facebook comments on news posts about gene editing in agricultural and environmental contexts. Several themes emerged: gene editing as challenging a higher power, pro-science arguments, the conflation of gene editing with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and the use of humor and science fiction. While several of the findings reflect previous findings about public opinion on other biotechnologies, several nuances specific to gene editing were uncovered as well. These findings have implications for communicators, policymakers, and scientists, as it points to the moral, ideological, informational, and ecological considerations evoked by gene editing.