Denial of molecular manufacturing is not limited to the United States. Britain's Royal Society has been working for a bit over a year to address concerns about nanotechnology, with initial impetus provided by Prince Charles's worries about 'gray goo'. Although gray goo is not a high-priority concern, the idea originated in studies of molecular manufacturing, and was introduced to the public -- along with the word 'nanotechnology' -- in Eric Drexler's book, Engines of Creation.
They've just published their findings. But the phrases 'molecular manufacturing' and 'molecular nanotechnology' do not appear anywhere in the body of the report. Even the word 'Drexler' appears only once, in a claim that he has "retracted his position". Anyone who's actually read the paper they're referring to knows it's not that simple. The report does not reference any of Drexler's technical writing. And it claims that they've seen no peer-reviewed evidence that molecular manufacturing can work. It appears they didn't look very hard.
In explaining why gray goo is impossible, the report cites a variation of Richard Smalley's 'fingers' argument. Instead of saying, as Smalley did, that the fingers would have to pick up atoms, this version admits that the atoms would chemically bond to the fingers and then transfer their bonds to the workpiece. But this drastically weakens the argument, since atoms transferring bonds from one molecule to another is what chemistry is all about. We find it very interesting that Smalley's original argument was apparently recognized as being too silly to use. But we are disappointed that they did not take the additional small step of admitting that the argument is unfounded.
On the positive side, the report gives a lot of detail about nanoscale technology applications, discusses their risks, and makes reasonable recommendations for further action. But the lack of analysis of molecular manufacturing is unfortunate. And given that several nations and organizations have recently expressed an interest in developing it, the flat denial of its possibility can only be called irresponsible.