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
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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
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