Survey: One Quarter of Americans Think the Sun Revolves Around the Earth
Many Americans seem to be more behind the times than we thought. A new report released Friday by the National Science Foundation reveals that over one quarter of Americans think the sun revolves around the earth. Paging Copernicus: you've got your work cut out for you.
People have known since before Galileo that our fair planet makes a circuit around the sun once a year. But maybe American science education is in worse straits than we thought. Even in an age of anti-vaccination movements and people treating the science of evolution as something you can actually "debate," it's hard to believe scientific knowledge seems to be so lacking.
In its survey, which was conducted in 2012, the National Science Foundation asked 2,200 Americans various questions about basic science. The survey covered not only elementary-school astronomy but also biology, medicine, and physics. Here are some of the surprising results:
Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth?
Answer: Earth around Sun (74 percent answered correctly)
True or False: Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.
Answer: True (48 percent answered correctly)
True or False: The universe began with a huge explosion.
Answer: True (39 percent answered correctly)
A majority of Americans also said lasers work by focusing sound waves (rather than light), and about half believed that antibiotics work on viruses as well as bacteria (they only combat the latter). Still, other components of the study imply that Americans aren't as pathetically behind as we seem. In 2005, members of the European Union were asked the same questions, and only 66 percent were up on their heliocentric theory. And just half of Chinese people surveyed in 2010 agreed that the continents have been on the move for millions of years and will continue to shift – a question 83 percent of Americans got right.
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