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Author Topic:   Scientific illiterate: the sun revolves around the earth!
hotjer
Member (Idle past 2621 days)
Posts: 113
From: Denmark
Joined: 04-02-2010


Message 1 of 17 (578521)
09-01-2010 9:33 PM


Scientific illiterate: the sun revolves around the sun!
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/30/science/30profile.html?...

I saw this on another forum and I must say; I am a little disturbed and concern about Americans if this true to just some extent. Certainly, we do not have these kinds of problems in Denmark; I know of no one who would say the sun revolves around the earth! Alas, according to the article a lot of Americans are, by definition, scientific illiterate.
Just to clarify what is meant by scientific illiterate, here is a passage from the article:

quote:
Dr. Miller's data reveal some yawning gaps in basic knowledge. American adults in general do not understand what molecules are (other than that they are really small). Fewer than a third can identify DNA as a key to heredity. Only about 10 percent know what radiation is. One adult American in five thinks the Sun revolves around the Earth, an idea science had abandoned by the 17th century.

There are some more interesting details if you look into the article. I think, as hinted in the article, there might be a strong correlation between scientific illiterates and creationists – at least that is the feeling I have when I talk with creationists on the Internet. I have no reasonable hypothesis of why non-creationists would lack that much understanding of basic science, whom are asked in these surveys.

I thought the last part of the article was a little funny, but also a little sad:

quote:
[…] But not everyone is happy when he says things like that. Every time he goes on the radio to talk about his findings, he said, "I get people sending me cards saying they will pray for me a lot."

What is your daily life experiences regarding this topic?
PS: the article is from 2005 so something might have changed.

Edited by hotjer, : No reason given.

Edited by Adminnemooseus, : Changed opening link from being to page 2 to being to page 1. Also added "print friendly" link, which may also be more "reader friendly".

Edited by hotjer, : No reason given.

Edited by hotjer, : No reason given.

Edited by hotjer, : No reason given.


Replies to this message:
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Adminnemooseus
Director
Posts: 3879
Joined: 09-26-2002


Message 2 of 17 (578540)
09-01-2010 10:47 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by hotjer
09-01-2010 9:33 PM


How about quoting a little of the real substance in the article?
I tweaked your message 1 about, but I would like to see a little more substance added. The "Sun around the Earth" is a pretty thin example of the perceived problem.

Please edit message 1. When that's done, please post a "done" type reply to this message.

Adminnemooseus


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Replies to this message:
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hotjer
Member (Idle past 2621 days)
Posts: 113
From: Denmark
Joined: 04-02-2010


Message 3 of 17 (578548)
09-01-2010 11:15 PM
Reply to: Message 2 by Adminnemooseus
09-01-2010 10:47 PM


Re: How about quoting a little of the real substance in the article?
Done
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Adminnemooseus
Director
Posts: 3879
Joined: 09-26-2002


Message 4 of 17 (578578)
09-02-2010 1:51 AM


Thread Copied from Proposed New Topics Forum
Thread copied here from the Scientific illiterate: the sun revolves around the earth! thread in the Proposed New Topics forum.
    
Coragyps
Member
Posts: 5377
From: Snyder, Texas, USA
Joined: 11-12-2002


Message 5 of 17 (578606)
09-02-2010 4:54 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by hotjer
09-01-2010 9:33 PM


It's pretty amazing just how ignorant, or maybe just stupid, people are. Here's a multi-year summary of a National Science foundation survey of several questions:
http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind10/append/c7/at07-09.pdf

Europe in general isn't that far ahead of the USA in knowledge, either - see "International Comparisons" here:
http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind10/c7/c7s2.htm#s1

That link does put the Baltic countries in the lead, though. I have seen a much more detailed breakdown of the European data somewhere, but I don't have a link right now. Science magazine did a survey as well within the last couple of years.


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Bolder-dash
Member (Idle past 1706 days)
Posts: 983
From: China
Joined: 11-14-2009


Message 6 of 17 (578620)
09-02-2010 5:36 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by hotjer
09-01-2010 9:33 PM


Why are you so surprised by this, haven't you ever read any of Dr. A's posts?

OFF TOPIC - Please Do Not Respond to this message by continuing in this vein.
AdminPD

Edited by AdminPD, : Warning


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Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16085
Joined: 07-20-2006
Member Rating: 10.0


Message 7 of 17 (578622)
09-02-2010 5:45 AM
Reply to: Message 6 by Bolder-dash
09-02-2010 5:36 AM


Why are you so surprised by this, haven't you ever read any of Dr. A's posts?

If there is some lie that you wish to tell about me, perhaps you could man up enough to actually tell it.

OFF TOPIC - Please Do Not Respond to this message by continuing in this vein.
AdminPD

Edited by AdminPD, : Warning


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caffeine
Member
Posts: 1600
From: Prague, Czech Republic
Joined: 10-22-2008
Member Rating: 2.4


Message 8 of 17 (578623)
09-02-2010 5:51 AM
Reply to: Message 5 by Coragyps
09-02-2010 4:54 AM


That link does put the Baltic countries in the lead, though.

The link doesn't mention the Baltic countries - it says the Nordic countries are in the lead, specifically Sweden. Interestingly, in a study of scientific literacy done in 2005 (by Jon D. Miller of the Feinberg School of Medicine - here), Sweden was the only country in Europe to outperform the USA, with 35% of adults counting as scientifically literate, according to the standards of the study. The figure for the USA was 28%, and for Denmark 22% (and for Great Britain 14%, in case anyone's interested).

I think the information for this came from the Eurobarometer survey into scientific attitudes done in 2005. This is interesting to look at, because many of the same questions were asked as in the American survey. Specifically, 'the Sun goes around the earth, True or False'. 29% of Europeans answered 'true', performing worse than the USA.

So, seeing as hotjer's claiming such problems don't exist in Denmark, let's look at Denmark's results specifically. (Full survey details here)

35% of Danes think the Sun goes around the earth
37% of Danes think electrons are bigger than atoms
14% of Danes think humans lived alongside dinosaurs
42% of Danes think antibiotics can treat viruses
30% of Danes think lasers work by focusing sound waves
21% of Danes think all radioactivity is man made
23% of Danes think it takes a month for the earth to go round the Sun

This isn't a complete list, just the answers I found funniest. Anyway, I think it's clear that, however much we all enjoy pointing at Americans and laughing at them for being ignorant and simple-minded, in reality we're all at least as stupid as they are.


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bluegenes
Member (Idle past 553 days)
Posts: 3119
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007


Message 9 of 17 (578644)
09-02-2010 7:18 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by caffeine
09-02-2010 5:51 AM


It's more a question of ignorance and lack of interest than stupidity, but I broadly agree. I read an article recently that supports your point, but I don't know if I can find it again.

It also supported something I've known for a long time. American scientific knowledge is on a par with other western countries, but Americans have a much higher rate of not accepting certain aspects of science when they feel it conflicts with their religious beliefs, and that's why we often get the impression that the level of ignorance is higher.

It's purely because the level of religiosity is higher than in Europe. That's why the difference in the Dane's 14% for humans living alongside dinosaurs, and a possible 45% for Americans on such a question. The people of both countries may have been about equally exposed to information about the dinosaurs, but few Danes need to believe that humans were created in the first week of the earth's existence.

Plenty of people here in Britain will not be able to give you the accurate age of the earth because, although they may well have been taught it in school, they're not sufficiently interested for it to stick. But the rate that go for less than 10,000 years is about the same as the Danes on the dinosaur question (15% in the last survey I saw).

They're not all necessarily Biblical literalists. Some will just have chosen that as a guess in a multiple choice question with perhaps three options, because they've got no idea, and they'll be other lucky guesses that get the answer right.

We can try experiments for ourselves. I used to win bets (usually just a beer or two but sometimes cash) in my youth by saying to people that they'd give me the wrong answer to the question of why we see the moon change shape during the month. Most would answer that it's because the earth is between it and the sun, and our shadow causes the effect, so I was on to a good thing even if some got it right.


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hotjer
Member (Idle past 2621 days)
Posts: 113
From: Denmark
Joined: 04-02-2010


Message 10 of 17 (578661)
09-02-2010 8:31 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by caffeine
09-02-2010 5:51 AM


According to one of the results, Danes answered the questions correct 74 per cent of the time (page 41), though, it does not contradict your numbers from the source list at the end of the paper. I guess I will try to ask more people these simple questions, since it is a very small amount of people they asked in all countries in this survey. Sigh, people are ignorant xD!

Thanks for the link.


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hotjer
Member (Idle past 2621 days)
Posts: 113
From: Denmark
Joined: 04-02-2010


Message 11 of 17 (578667)
09-02-2010 8:48 AM
Reply to: Message 9 by bluegenes
09-02-2010 7:18 AM


That might be the case I am thinking about – contradiction between belief and the scientific community. Here in Denmark we have very few people that are creationists, though we have rural areas in Denmark where they are a little more concentrated. Only those whom live nearby know about them!

it might as well be my social milieu that is well informed and not a bunch of creationists, that gives me this prejudices towards different nations.


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slevesque
Member (Idle past 2717 days)
Posts: 1456
Joined: 05-14-2009


Message 12 of 17 (578668)
09-02-2010 8:53 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by hotjer
09-01-2010 9:33 PM


Well technically, the sun around the earth, the earth around the sun, it has all become relative, you know since Einstein
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hooah212002
Member
Posts: 3183
Joined: 08-12-2009


Message 13 of 17 (578674)
09-02-2010 9:38 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by hotjer
09-01-2010 9:33 PM


What is your daily life experiences regarding this topic?

My personal experience (what I remember from High School, anyways) is that there is a stigma for children in school that is attached to enjoying science and knowledge. That stigma is one of "smart isn't "cool"". High Schools in the U.S. are more worried about winning the big football game than upping SAT scores. Any effort to up test scores does JUST that: trains kids how to pass a certain test. There is no real strive for kids to actually do well in school other than to meet a certain state requirement.

This also shows in the states where they are trying to institute teaching creationism in schools. There is a country wide disdain for knowledge (not everywhere, but a large enough population to make some impact). Intelligent folk are seen as "elitist" because so many people are plumb ignorant, so anyone smarter than them IS elite. Just look at how people chided Obama during the presidential debate for enunciating words and pronouncing Iraq and Pakistan properly.

Another problem is the cost of secondary education/college. If you want to get a decent college education, you need to either be an athlete (again, we push the importance of sports ahead of knowledge) or have rich ass parents. I knew by Junior High that I wouldn't be able to afford college, so dropping out of High School didn't seem to matter (I regretted it a month later and got my G.E.D. and aced that bitch).

Perhaps I am overgeneralizing, but this is my opinion.


Your god believes in Unicorns
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Huntard
Member (Idle past 371 days)
Posts: 2870
From: Limburg, The Netherlands
Joined: 09-02-2008


Message 14 of 17 (578675)
09-02-2010 9:45 AM
Reply to: Message 12 by slevesque
09-02-2010 8:53 AM


slevesque writes:

Well technically, the sun around the earth, the earth around the sun, it has all become relative, you know since Einstein


Actually, Einstein's theroies mean that the Earth definately goes around the sun. But it was perhaps a clever pun.
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slevesque
Member (Idle past 2717 days)
Posts: 1456
Joined: 05-14-2009


Message 15 of 17 (578700)
09-02-2010 11:00 AM
Reply to: Message 14 by Huntard
09-02-2010 9:45 AM


It's all a matter of reference frames. Center your reference frame on the earth, and voilà!, the sun is revolving around the earth.

Of course, using such a reference frame isn't the most useful. It's much easier to model it with a reference frame at their center of mass. (which is inside the sun but not at it's center obviously)


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