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25% Of Americans Think The Sun Goes Around The Earth

Facepalm

Further evidence of the deplorable state of science education:

A quarter of Americans surveyed could not correctly answer that the Earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around, according to a report out Friday from the National Science Foundation.

The survey of 2,200 people in the United States was conducted by the NSF in 2012 and released on Friday at an annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago.

To the question “Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth,” 26 percent of those surveyed answered incorrectly.

In the same survey, just 39 percent answered correctly (true) that “The universe began with a huge explosion” and only 48 percent said “Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.”

Just over half understood that antibiotics are not effective against viruses.

As alarming as some of those deficits in science knowledge might appear, Americans fared better on several of the questions than similar, but older surveys of their Chinese and European counterparts.

Only 66 percent of people in a 2005 European Union poll answered the basic astronomy answer correctly. However, both China and the EU fared significantly better (66 percent and 70 percent, respectively) on the question about human evolution.

And we wonder why we’re losing ground to some of these nations.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Hal_10000 says:

    They’re just doing a Sherlock Holmes: keeping their finely-tuned minds clear of any extraneous information.

    In all seriousness, I am dubious of polls like this. I suspect that 25% contains a significant number who either don’t care or are messing with the pollsters.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  2. michael reynolds says:

    Try the same poll excluding respondents from red states. Bet you find significantly better numbers.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 11 Thumb down 9

  3. legion says:

    Well, it’s the same old floor-level of crazies and rubes – 25% of people think W was our greatest president; 25% of people would vote for Chris Christie; 25% of people think Santorum isn’t secretly gay… You can find 25% of people who believe _anything_.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  4. george says:

    Oddly enough, motion being relative (do I get humor points for adding “in a General sort of way”?), you can argue that the sun goes around the earth, as you are free to choose whatever origin for your reference frame you want, though the equations quickly get pretty horrendus for most choices. And the easiest equations come from having the sun and earth both revovling around their common center of gravity (which is of course inside the sun, given the relative masses). The old Newtonian intertial reference frame hasn’t transitioned well to General Relativity.

    No doubt this is what the 26% had in mind …

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  5. John Peabody says:

    Agree with the first comment. That bring said, I’m sure that the number of dunderheads is in the millions. However, their thinking does not harm me one whit.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. al-Ameda says:

    25%? Why that’s just 2 points shy of the very reliable Crazification Factor.

    Actually I’m shocked that ONLY 25% believe that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  7. Tran says:

    Fun fact: The moon orbits the sun first and foremost.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  8. gVOR08 says:

    @al-Ameda: The article as quoted actually said 26%. So yes, 27% would be within the margin of error.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  9. superdestroyer says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Do you really think that the poor Latinos in California are really better at astronomy or biology than middle class whites in Texas? Do you really think that the black students in the District of Columbia are great at evolutionary biology?

    The lack of knowledge is way beyond the red-blue divide that status-seeking progressives want to view the world in but I guess refusing to think about things goes beyond what many progressives are capable of doing. Someone who lives in California where white student under perform white students in many others states has nothing to brag about.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 6

  10. al-Ameda says:

    @superdestroyer:

    Someone who lives in California where white student under perform white students in many others states has nothing to brag about.

    Actually, if you look at the statistics you can see that white students (actually, ANY student) who attends a school in an upper middle class area performs academically quite well. So I’m not sure what you’re talking about.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  11. Hal_10000 says:

    @legion:

    Well, it’s the same old floor-level of crazies and rubes – 25% of people think W was our greatest president; 25% of people would vote for Chris Christie; 25% of people think Santorum isn’t secretly gay… You can find 25% of people who believe _anything_.

    Didn’t South Park say something like this? That at least 1/4 of Americans are idiots?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  12. superdestroyer says:

    @al-Ameda:

    If you look at NAEP scores for California 8th grade students in sciences, California’s average score was 140 versus the national average of 154 http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/states/

    IF you did through the NAEP scores for demographic factors using the dataset generator, http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/naepdata/report.aspx you will see that whites in California have an average score of 159 versus a national average of 163 and that Latino students in California have an average score of 128 versus a national average of 137. There is nothing special about the success of the education in California even though it is a deep blue state.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  13. bill says:

    common core at work?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  14. In the same survey, just 39 percent answered correctly (true) that “The universe began with a huge explosion”.

    Actually this isn’t true. While it’s often described that as a “big explosion” in elementary science class, this is an example of simplifying something to the point where simplification becomes wrong. The big bang did not violently eject the particles of the universe from a central point the way “explosion” implies; it was space-time itself that was expanding.

    A better depiction is to draw a bunch of dots on the surface of a balloon and then to blow the balloon up. The dots aren’t moving anywhere, yet they seem to be getting further apart because the material of the balloon itself is stretching.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  15. superdestroyer says:

    @bill:

    No considering the scores are from two years ago. Common core is just the latest fad in education and will be gone in a couple of years.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. john personna says:

    @superdestroyer:

    My parents worked in those Hispanic schools. While there were smart kids there was an unfortunate expectation that education was futile.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  17. gVOR08 says:

    Glancing at the study, it makes comparisons between the US and a few other places in the world, including the EU. In general we’re no worse, in fact slightly better. There were two areas, however, where the US falls below, evolution and the environment. That is politically driven.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  18. Tyrell says:

    @michael reynolds: These type of polls get varying results. We always see high numbers for those who believe in ghosts, ufo’s, Bigfoot, and astrology. Unscientific polling by their very nature.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  19. Franklin says:

    @Tran: By your logic, doesn’t the moon really revolve primarily around the black hole at the center of the Milky Way?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. Franklin says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Plus it shouldn’t be called the Big Bang because you can’t hear sound in space, am I right? :)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. john personna says:

    Oh, oh, the “astrology” poll has been shredded, by data:

    NSF Report Flawed; Americans Do Not Believe Astrology is Scientific

    That older faceplam has aged off, so I’ll post here.

    This one could be similar though.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  22. Pinky says:

    Worth a read: belief in astrology by politics, age, etc.

    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2395697

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0