26 Percent of Americans Say the Sun Revolves Around the Earth

But at least we’re better than the European Union.

National Journal
Brian Resnick
See more stories about...
Brian Resnick
Feb. 17, 2014, 12:05 a.m.

Every two years, the Na­tion­al Sci­ence Found­a­tion con­ducts a na­tion­wide sur­vey that stands as the “State of Sci­ence” in Amer­ica. As well as track­ing pro­gress in sci­ence edu­ca­tion and sci­ence jobs in the labor force, it provides a baseline of Amer­ic­ans’ un­der­stand­ing of their nat­ur­al world. 

And not all of the find­ings on this year’s sur­vey are as hor­rible as the head­line on this post im­plies. For in­stance, “Levels of fac­tu­al know­ledge in the United States are com­par­able to those in Europe and are gen­er­ally high­er than levels in coun­tries in oth­er parts of the world.” For in­stance, 44 per­cent of those sur­veyed in the European Uni­on in 2005 said the sun re­volved around the Earth. 

Also pos­it­ive is how Amer­ic­ans gen­er­ally re­spect the dis­cip­line. “Most Amer­ic­ans see the sci­ent­ists and en­gin­eers as “ded­ic­ated people who work for the good of hu­man­ity,” the re­port states. And scores are up on the nine-ques­tion sur­vey that the NSF uses to as­sess sci­entif­ic know­ledge com­pared with two years ago (5.8 cor­rect an­swers com­pared with 5.6 cor­rect an­swers). Still, there ap­pears to be a gender gap in sci­entif­ic know­ledge. “On av­er­age, men tend to an­swer more fac­tu­al sci­ence know­ledge ques­tions cor­rectly (70% cor­rect) than do wo­men (60% cor­rect),” the re­port states. When lim­ited to bio­logy ques­tions, men and wo­men score the same.

But the takeaway is this: Not all of us un­der­stand the most ba­sic con­cepts of sci­ence. The chart be­low is ad­ap­ted from the sur­vey.

Are You Smarter Than an Amer­ic­an? | Cre­ate In­fograph­ics
What We're Following See More »
Trump Leads Tightly Packed Group Vying for Second
4 hours ago

In one of the last surveys before New Hampshirites actually vote, a Monmouth poll has Donald Trump with a big edge on the Republican field. His 30% leads a cluster of rivals in the low-to-mid teens, including John Kasich (14%), Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio (13% each) and Ted Cruz (12%). On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders leads Hillary Clinton 52%-42%.