Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Scientific ignorance. Or make that ignorance, period.

I have long been alarmed by polls showing the scientific ignorance of the American people. For example, 25% of Americans believe the sun goes around the earth; 46% don't know that it takes one year for the earth to go around the sun; 52% believe that early humans lived at the same time as dinosaurs; and 35% think that radioactive milk is safe to drink as long as you boil it. I thought this might be because, at least in the case of "the sun goes around the earth," some religious beliefs conflict with scientific knowledge.

Then I found out that Americans are pretty ignorant about religion too (LA Times article - free registration required).
According to a 1997 poll, only one out of three U.S. citizens is able to name the most basic of Christian texts, the four Gospels, and 12% think Noah's wife was Joan of Arc. That paints a picture of a nation that believes God speaks in Scripture but that can't be bothered to read what he has to say.
Two out of three Americans can't name the four Gospels? Some Christian nation we are. I'm no Christian and even I know that the Gospels are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

(Via Kevin Drum.)

Update, 13 Jan: Dan of Sound and Fury points out that Europeans are pretty scientifically ignorant too (pdf link). This was the most upsetting:
52% of Europeans consider astrology "rather scientific."
Astrology is total bollocks. Few things make me more mad than pseudoscience masquerading as science.

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