Big Bang Widely Doubted in the United States

big bangA recent survey found that the Big Bang theory, among other established scientific facts, is widely doubted in the United States. Acceptance of things like a link between smoking and cancer is much more widespread.

The concepts with low levels of acceptance all relate to events far outside everyday experience. The big bang, the idea that the universe came into existence by expanding from a single point, is a prime example of the issue. The universe was born approximately 13.8 billion years ago.

Evolution, the age of the Earth and global warming are similar in that regard; all too far removed from daily life to be readily understood and all doubted by many Americans.

The Associate Press-GfK survey asked respondents about their confidence in several statements about science and medicine. About 40 percent are not too confident or not at all confident that the earth is being warmed, mainly by human action; that the planet is about 4.5 billion years old, or that life evolved over a long period of time. Most respondents expressed at least some confidence in those concepts, but not in the Big Bang theory. 51 percent questioned it.

Other facts were not in much doubt among the individuals surveyed. Smoking was accepted as a cause of cancer by all but four percent of respondents. Only six percent doubted that human cells carry genetic information and that mental illness is a medical condition.

Fifty-four percent of respondents were “extremely confident” or “very confident” that there is a supreme being of some type guiding creation.

Other items in the survey addressed scientific knowledge, rather than confidence. 51 percent of respondents knew that antibiotics don’t kill viruses. Another item revealed that 42 percent of Americans regard astrology as “very scientific” or “somewhat scientific.”

The results are in line with findings from an earlier National Science Foundation (NSF) study of 2,200 Americans. Results, released earlier this year, showed that 25 percent of Americans don’t know the earth orbits the sun and that only half believe in evolution.

Scientists, including some Nobel Prize winners, reacted negatively to the results, arguing that these are established facts in science.

Randy Schekman, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in medicine called scientific illiteracy “pervasive” and a problem reinforced by leaders who are “openly antagonist to established facts.”

Political and religious views are associated with views on science expressed in this poll. Democrats were more likely than Republicans to express confidence in the Big Bang, the age of the Earth, evolution and global warming. Religion and politics, then, tend to explain in part why some science, like the Big Bang, is widely doubted in the United States.

Religious views were also tied to confidence, or lack of the same, in scientific fact. Confidence in the Big Bang, the age of the Earth, evolution and climate change all decline sharply with increasing faith in a supreme being. Those who regularly attend religious services, and Evangelical Christians, express greater doubt about scientific subjects like evolution and the Big Bang that might conflict with their faith.

Facts can’t overturn faith, says 2012 Nobel Prize winning biochemist Robert Lefkowitz of Duke University.

Many scientific facts, including evolution, are compatible with the Bible, according to Francisco Ayala, a former priest and a professor at the University of Carolina-Irvine. Darrel Falk, professor of biology at Point Loma Nazarene University, agreed, noting that science is not really at odds with the message of Genesis 1.

Experience and faith are not the only factors influencing people’s views on scientific matters. Organized campaigns to discredit scientific fact on topics like climate change and evolution may also have a substantial impact, according to Lefkowitz.

The poll was conducted March 20-24, 2014 by Associated Press and GfK using an online interview tool called Knowledge Panel. Respondents to this survey were selected randomly and interviewed online. Most of the questions used five answer categories: “Extremely/very confident” to “Not at all confident.”

The sample included 1,012 adults. Results based on their answers have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percent, meaning the actual percentages among all adults are expected to be within 3.4 percent above or below the percentages reported for the sample.

Some scientific facts are not as widely accepted as others, due to factors of religion, politics and personal experience. Difficult concepts like the Big Bang and evolution tend to be doubted more in the United States than other facts that are easier to observe.

By Chester Davis

Sources:

Fox News

The Independent

The Atlantic

 

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