Americans have no problem believing that CBS' "The Big Bang Theory" is the best comedy on television. However, they do seem to have a problem believing that the top-rated show's scientific namesake theorem explains the origin of the universe. They also have a problem with the estimated age of the Earth and with the Theory of Evolution. What they do not seem to have a problem with is believing that cigarette smoking can cause cancer and that there is a genetic code inside a human being's cells that helps determine who we are.
The Associated Press reported (via Yahoo Finance) April 21 that only 21 percent of Americans were "very confident" or "extremely confident" that the universe began 13.8 billion years ago with a big bang. A full 51 percent were "not too confident" and "not at all confident" of the position. Only 27 percent think that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old. And only 31 percent of Americans have confidence in the theory that animals, including humans, evolved through natural selection.
In fact, it is easy to see that Americans don't have a problem at all believing science or science-backed assertions and theories when it comes to the individual level. But when more abstract concepts come into play -- such as the origin of the universe and global warming -- more Americans appear to lose confidence in the subject's credibility.
The poll saw a clear drop in confidence regarding the more abstract concepts as the respondents' faith in a supreme being rose. And just as there was a significant difference in terms of religiosity, there was also a clear delineation when it came to political affiliation. Republicans were less likely to have confidence in the more abstract subjects, while Democrats were more likely to have confidence that the Big Bang Theory, Evolution, and the scientific calculation that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old are correct.
And yet, according to Francisco Ayala (via the Associated Press), a former priest and professor of biology, philosophy and logic at the University of California, Irvine, only Bible literalists (read: fundamentalist who believe in the infallibility of the text as the word of God) cannot find compatibility with faith in the major abstract concepts like the Big Bang Theory and Evolution.
Overall, Americans were 82 percent "very confident" and "extremely confident" that smoking causes cancer. They were 69 percent confident that there is complex genetic code inside our cells that determines who we are. And 54 percent believe there is a supreme being guiding the universe's creation.
The Big Bang Theory poll, or so it is being called, comes on the heels of news in March that scientists had found evidence that confirmed that the Theory of Inflation, which accounts for the rapid increase in the size of the universe in the moments succeeding the Big Bang, was correct.