Skip to main content

See also:

Poll finds Americans to be lacking in scientific smarts

Big Bang a big question for Americans not understanding science
Big Bang a big question for Americans not understanding science
A.P. created this graph

A GFK Poll conducted for the Associated Press of 1012 adults over the age of 18 found that many Americans do not have a basic grasp of science.
Candidates for the poll were pre-selected , by GFK, to represent the population of the United States. Then, they were asked to look at a computer and answer whether they were sure about ten different scientific facts and theories. Those who did not have a computer were provided one in order to answer the questions.
Those surveyed were asked to click whether they were extremely confident, very confident, somewhat confident, not too confident, or not at all confident about the information.
When asked if smoking causes cancer, about 82 percent were extremely confident that it does.
When asked whether life on Earth, including humans, was the result of evolution through the process of natural selection, only 31 percent of those surveyed were extremely confident.
The survey did not discount God or religion. It did not say religious ideals were not correct in any way. It just said the scientifically accepted fact that evolution and natural selection do exist.
They have been proven time and again to come to be accepted as fact by scientists, but evidently they are not accepted by Americans.
They found that Americans have a lot of skepticism of science like global warming, radioactive dating to determine the Earth’s age, and the concept of evolution. Most have trouble believing what is currently accepted as the most reasonable explanation of how the Earth was created, the Big Bang of the universe 13.8 billion years ago.
Only 4 percent of the U.S. doubts that smoking can cause cancer. 6 percent don’t think that MENTAL illness is in one’s brain, and 8 percent are not sure that genetic code is inside our cells.
Even more interesting, 15 percent don’t think childhood vaccines help more than they hurt.
About 2 in 5 people don’t believe that scientists have measured that the Earth is warming and have accepted that greenhouse gases have caused the temperature change. The same amount don’t believe that scientists have been able to scientifically date the Earth to 4.5 billion years old, and 51 percent don’t understand the Big Bang theory at all.
Those results do not please the scientists or science teachers that have been trying to get the message across for generations.
Nobel prize winning scientists approved the scientific facts used in this survey. They are tested and peer reviewed.
“Science ignorance is pervasive in our society, and these attitudes are reinforced when some of our leaders are openly antagonistic to established facts,” said Professor Randy Schekman of the University of California, Berkeley.
Schekman is a 2013 Nobel Prize in medicine winner.
The poll highlights “the iron triangle of science, religion and politics,” said Director Anthony Leiserowitz, of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.
This poll has not been a total shock to these scientists though.
“Most often values and beliefs trump science,” said Alan Leshner, chief executive of the world’s largest scientific society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The poll found that Democrats were more likely to embrace scientific facts like the Big Band, the age of the Earth, and global warming.
Republicans rely more heavily on what they learn in church. And more importantly, they don’t think they can have both.
“When you are putting up facts against faith, facts can’t argue against faith,” said 2012 Nobel Prize winning biochemistry professor Robert Lefkowitz of Duke University. “It makes sense now that science would have made no headway because faith is untestable.”
Francisco Ayala, a former priest and professor of biology, philosophy and logic at the University of California, Irvine says there is no need to pick and choose. All scientific facts are compatible with God and religion.
Darrel Falk, a biology professor at Point Loma Nazarene University and an evangelical Christian, agrees.
“The story of the cosmos and the Big Bang of creation is not inconsistent with the message of Genesis 1, and there is much profound biblical scholarship to demonstrate this,” Falk said.
A 59-year-old nanny, Marsha Brooks, took the survey, and when asked why she didn’t know the information, she said she just isn’t close enough to the issue.
“It could be a lack of knowledge. It seems so far (away),” Brooks said.
But she was able to identify smoking as a cause of cancer, because her mother, aunts, and uncles all died of cancer.
A 39-year-old architect from New Jersey said he thought global warming really is a thing, because the winter of 2012 was warm.
He said that he “feels the change”, thus he believes in it.
He is not sure, however that the Earth can be dated back 4.5 billion years, because “I wasn’t there,” he said.
Duke University’s Lefkowitz says that religion isn’t the only thing getting in the way of people’s educations. There is misinformation spread to help certain causes.
“The force of concerted campaigns to discredit scientific fact,” he said is a striking factor for campaigning against scientific truths on vaccines, climate change and evolution.
The men see the fact that people are starting to get it about cigarettes as a reason to have faith that they may someday understand the more complicated nuances of how organisms have evolved over billions of years.