According to The National Science Foundation, one in four Americans believe the sun revolves around the earth. The results were released from a 2012 survey whereby 2,000 people were asked various science questions. After analysis of the survey was completed, researchers concluded that 26 percent of Americans don’t know the basic rules of our solar system. Scientists describe the statistics as “frightening” and believe it emphasizes the importance of increasing funding in science programs in American schools.
These weren’t the only surprising findings, as the survey also found that 48 percent of those questioned believed that humans evolved from an earlier species of animals, relating to the evolution vs. creationism debate. Creationism and criticisms of evolution are still taught in some schools in America. It was noted that almost all public schools in America taught creationism until the late 19th century, and it is still hotly debated today on whether it should still be taught in classrooms. Another question in the survey was whether antibiotics kill viruses; 51 percent answered that no they do not. While this questions may not have to do with the knowledge of the earth revolving around the sun, it does means that half of the sample do not know the difference between viruses and bacteria or rather they simply do not know about one of the most common prescription medications used today. When questioned about how the universe began, 39 percent believed that the universe began from a massive explosion. The other 60 percent do not believe this, and while the survey did not divulge into what other answers they may have for how the universe came to be, it was estimated by a Gallop Poll that 46 percent of Americans believe in creationism. The survey also noted that less than 65 percent of Americans were aware that it is the father’s gene that determines the sex of the child – again, this is a basic biological fact that many would think most of the population should know.
So where does America stand compared to other countries? According to the report “residents of other countries, including highly developed ones, appear to perform no better.” This particular survey is performed yearly and the results have not changed much since 1992, with an average of 5.6 correct answers on the nine question quiz. American policy-makers have claimed that they are making efforts to better educate youth, and thus future Americans, in the area of science. Knowing that the earth revolves around the sun should be a basic lesson taught in schools as it teaches the public how the earth operates in our solar system.When comparing the results between sexes, the researchers also found a difference in the performance of men and women. Men tend to answer 70 percent of answers correctly and women tend to answer 60 percent correctly, and the gap varies depending on the types of questions asked. Men answer correctly on the majority of physical science questions while women answer biology questions correctly more often than men.
Interestingly, the study found that many Americans answered based on what they believe in and not necessarily on their knowledge of the material. When asked if humans descended from another species, 48 percent did agree that the statement was true, but when added “according to the theory of evolution” to the beginning of the question, 72 percent answered true. The difference of 24 percent shows that many Americans may have the necessary knowledge but just simply do not believe in it. America is a multicultural country with different religious backgrounds that influence some of the answers on the survey. When stating that one in four Americans believe the sun revolves around the earth, it may be true but not for the reasons one would think. Nevertheless, when looking at the answers cumulatively, it is clear that an increase in funding for science education would not hurt.
By Lian Morrison