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One Quarter Of Americans Don’t Know That Earth Orbits The Sun

Facepalm

Well this is pretty sad:

To put the brightest possible spin on this story is to say that three-quarters of Americans are fully aware that the Earth revolves around the sun.

The downside, of course, is that means 1 in 4 are in the dark about what Discovery calls “probably the most basic question in science.”

The National Science Foundation asked that question and nine others of 2,200 Americans, with the average score on the quiz coming in at 6.5, reports Phys.org.

• 39% answered correctly that “the universe began with a huge explosion”

• Fewer than half — 48% — agreed that “human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals”

• 51% knew that antibiotics don’t kill viruses

Meanwhile, about 90% of respondents were enthusiastic about science, and 1 in 3 thought it should get more government funding.

Perhaps the increased funding could be used to bring an end to this kind of ignorance.

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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. Dave Schuler says:

    It’s about the same as 15 years ago. In 1999 three quarters of Americans knew that. When Germans were asked the same question in 1996, about the same percentage knew the correct answer.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  2. Tillman says:

    39% answered correctly that “the universe began with a huge explosion”

    That’s not the correct answer! The Big Bang was not an explosion!

    An explosion is when matter within spacetime flies apart due to a huge release of energy. The Big Bang was literally spacetime expanding in the space of a few microseconds.

    I can’t believe this has become my pet peeve about cosmology…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  3. Tillman says:

    I’d also disagree on “does the Earth orbit the Sun” being the most basic question of science. I’d say that was “name the three basic forms of matter” or something similar.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  4. DrDaveT says:

    @Tillman:

    “name the three basic forms of matter”

    Plasma don’t get no love.

    “The most basic question of science” is an odd concept. I nominate the question “How can we learn whether a claim is true or not?”. The answer is awfully complicated, but the question is at the heart of all science.

    If you want “the fact that is most shameful to not know”, that’s trickier. I don’t think “the Earth orbits the Sun” would get my vote, though.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  5. Oh it’s worse than just them not knowing…

    Apparently some of the New Earther Creationists that have decided to double down on the stupid:

    http://galileowaswrong.com/

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. Ron Beasley says:

    This is just too depressing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Tillman: Heh, I know what you mean. That caught in my craw too.

    As to the results of the study, what do you expect from a country where public policy is determined by “sincerely held religious beliefs”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  8. mantis says:

    I’ll bet it was really 27%.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  9. Vast Variety says:

    Your Captain Picard picture is right on in more ways than one. Some moron has apparently conned Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) into narrating some ridiculous geocentric movie coming out this year called, The Principle. It’s full of taken out of context quotes from real scientists mashed together with religious hogwash from fake scientists and creationists.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8cBvMCucTg

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  10. grumpy realist says:

    @DrDaveT: Heh. My first reaction was: “animal, vegetable, or mineral?”

    That’s the problem with being a physicist. We think of materials in terms of phase diagrams.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. al-Ameda says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    Doug, I’m guessing that either Galileo or Copernicus originated the “Facepalm” it’s just that nobody captured it on film or video.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  12. Tillman says:

    @DrDaveT:

    “The most basic question of science” is an odd concept. I nominate the question “How can we learn whether a claim is true or not?”. The answer is awfully complicated, but the question is at the heart of all science.

    That’s getting epistemological though. I think, given how Discovery framed it, they were going for basic science facts.

    “What’s the freezing point of water in Celsius” would be another good one. Tricky for people who don’t deal in Celsius often, but if they recall their schooling they’d get it in a heartbeat.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. @Vast Variety: I was about to post a link to the celebrity blog “The Superficial” (NSFW if you want to google it), they had a blog post about her involvement with the movie. They also pointed out that one of the people involved in making the film, Robert Sungenis, is a rabid anti-Semite and Holocaust denier.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  14. DrDaveT says:

    @al-Ameda:

    I’m guessing that either Galileo or Copernicus originated the “Facepalm”

    Actually, it was the Roman general Marcellus, on discovering that one of his enlisted grunts had just skewered the greatest mathematical genius of all time while out looting.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  15. DrDaveT says:

    @Tillman:

    “What’s the freezing point of water in Celsius” would be another good one.

    Not bad, but I was hoping for something that requires almost no book larnin’ at all. “What does water do when it gets very cold?” is both easy (“It turns into ice”) and tricky (“It gets less dense.”). But anyone who has ever seen an ice cube floating in water should know it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  16. Pinky says:

    The most basic question would probably be something about air or gravity. But I get the distinction you’re making, between the most basic principle of science and the most basic fact of scientific knowledge.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  17. Dave D says:

    @Pinky: Gravity is just a theory. TEACH THE CONTROVERSY!!!!!!!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  18. anjin-san says:

    a few microseconds.

    Far less than that even:

    Planck Units

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  19. mike shupp says:

    @Tillman:

    Hmmm…. tthe basic “Big Bang” notion is that the Universe began at a distinct moment, at the Start of Time so to speak, and began expanding. This is what Fred Hoyle was referring to baci in 1949 when he uttered the phrase (he was rejecting the idea, on the BBC if I recall).

    The “big expansion” of space-time that subsequently occured, which we now call “Inflation” was theorized by Alan Guth in the 1970s.

    Perhaps we are all picking too many nits . . .

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  20. Tillman says:

    @mike shupp: But, but I have all this fancy scientific knowledge and I have to flaunt it somehow… How else if not by being a technicality-spotting jackass?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Heh, 2 down votes for a simple statement of truth. Hey, down voters? If you don’t like the truth, turn on FOX news.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. Pretty much every science course I ever took I got the highest grade in the class (including bunches of rabid pre-meds). Yet, I don’t know the universe was created in an explosion, nor do I know that man evolved from beast. Those are merely theories that may or may not be true — far from proven. I would bet that at least one is false. Jumping to conclusions and mocking those who disagree make for good lawyers perhaps, but are practices not in the soul of a true scientist..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  23. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @Let’s Be Free: You’r gonna get in trouble thinking like that here. Whatever “science” says (at any time) is THE FACTS AND THE TRUTH!

    AND DON’T YOU FORGET IT EITHER!!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  24. DrDaveT says:

    @Let’s Be Free:

    Those are merely theories that may or may not be true — far from proven.

    Here we go again.

    Yes, you are correct — but only in the sense that you could say the same about the theory that matter is organized as elements and compounds, that the Earth circles the Sun, that electromagnetic waves exist, etc. It’s all just theory, impossible to prove. A working model, good enough for engineering purposes.

    But if your standard of evidence is low enough that it permits you to think that we “know” what the Sun is made of, or how electricity and magnetism interact, or that black holes exist, or what causes Down’s Syndrome, then you are stuck with human evolution and the Big Bang as well.

    Your only consistent alternative is to reject all of the other everyday scientific ‘facts’ that are only as well-established as those are. Science is a package deal; take it or leave it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  25. Guarneri says:

    In other news………..those same respondents claimed full belief in AGW because “the science is settled.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  26. John H says:

    @DrDaveT:

    I don’t know, getting through freshman science was a pretty convincing argument that they’re far from proven.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0