Poll: 25% Don’t Know Earth Orbits the Sun

This isn’t a poll about creationism, but it’s bad. Look what we found at PhysOrg: One in four Americans unaware that Earth circles Sun. They say it’s part of a survey conducted every two years, and will be included in a National Science Foundation report to President Barack Obama and US lawmakers. We’re told:

The survey included more than 2,200 people in the United States and was conducted by the National Science Foundation. Ten questions about physical and biological science were on the quiz, and the average score — 6.5 correct — was barely a passing grade.

We can’t find anything about this on the website of the National Science Foundation, and PhysOrg doesn’t discuss all ten questions, but they say:

Just 74 percent of respondents knew that the Earth revolved around the Sun, according to the results released at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago.

What a country! And there’s this, which isn’t surprising:

Fewer than half (48 percent) knew that human beings evolved from earlier species of animals.

If you find the result about Earth orbiting the sun to be difficult to accept, there’s an older poll with the same result. At the website of Gallup, Inc., the polling organization, they have this article from July of 1999: New Poll Gauges Americans’ General Knowledge Levels.

Gallup asked only three questions: (1) What’s the Fourth of July all about?, (2) What country did the US win its independence from?, and (3) Does the earth revolve around the sun, or does the sun revolve around the earth? They say this about the response to the third question:

In the new poll, about four out of five Americans (79%) correctly respond that the earth revolves around the sun, while 18% say it is the other way around. These results are comparable to those found in Germany when a similar question was asked there in 1996; in response to that poll, 74% of Germans gave the correct answer, while 16% thought the sun revolved around the earth, and 10% said they didn’t know. When the question was asked in Great Britain that same year, 67% answered correctly, 19% answered incorrectly, and 14% didn’t know.

There’s not much we can say about this. That’s how things are out there.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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22 responses to “Poll: 25% Don’t Know Earth Orbits the Sun

  1. How the hell can this be true? Did these people ever take a science class?

  2. Stephen Kennedy

    It would be interesting to see a regional breakdown of the results on this question. I would not be surprised if there was a significant difference in the responses from, say, Massachusetts and Mississippi.

  3. Derek Freyberg

    I agree that this is appalling, but we need to distinguish between “does the earth revolve around the sun?” and “did human beings evolve from lower species of animals?”. AFAIK, dealing with Christianity, you need to be a deepest-dyed-in-the-wool species of YEC to think that the answer to the first question is “yes” – kind of like a flat-earther, but you can be much more mainstream and answer “no” to the second question – because you can allow for theistically guided evolution (whatever that is). In MOST other countries (and I except those where one or other of Islam and Christianity is the enforced cultural norm), I don’t know, but I expect that if you can’t answer both correctly (i.e. “yes” to both) you are simply scientifically ignorant rather than deciding on the basis of religious belief.

  4. Charles Deetz ;)

    I say this question goes with any science survey ever. If they get it wrong, all their answers get thrown out.

  5. The earth revolves around the sun!!!?

    Lies, I tell you, lies!

    What will those scheming scientists try to feed us next?

    Next thing you know they’ll be telling us that the world is round!

    Whoever heard of such a thing?

    Don’t they ever read the bible?


  6. P.S.

    I’m not surprised that the USA is becoming progressively far behind in science. Mathematics too. I’ve seen this trend growing for decades.

    I personally knew a 40-something woman who was shocked to learn that maggots hatched from fly eggs and eventually turned into flies themselves. She had no clue that maggots and flies were related in any way – and she taught a Cub Scouts troop too!.

  7. (Ken Ham response) The Earth going around the Sun is just inferentialistical-hypothestical science. Totally not the same as real science which is observistical-hornswogular science. It’s observistical-hornswogular science that gave us all the cool things like assault rifles and NASCAR.

  8. The Disco ‘Tute must be rubbing their hands with glee. They work very hard to see that Americans are as dumb as possible. I fear they are succeeding.

  9. It’s worse than that. There was a video some years back where people on the street were given a map of the world and asked to find France. Australia on the map was labeled “France.” A significant number of people pointed to Australia and said, “there!”

    Oy vey!

  10. But then, there’s a good chance that many respondents couldn’t care less about this quiz, and answered without even thinking, just to get rid of the questioner. In other words, they had no stake in it, so why should they care?

    Now, if you want accurate results, reward the quizees for each correct answer, with a double bonus for 100% correct. Even better, give them something for just answering all the questions so there will be no “Don’t know” answers. Just like training hamsters, the reward doesn’t have to be major; just tangible, like a piece of candy. An M&M, say, for each answer, two if correct; a candy bar for 100%.

    Perhaps the surveyors did this, but I’d be surprised.

  11. @docbill: Well, they were correct, in a way. They did find the word “France”.

  12. If the earth revolved around the sun why would one still say “sun goes up, sun goes down!”?

  13. Ceteris Paribus

    RSG suggests: “Now, if you want accurate results, reward the quizees for each correct answer, with a double bonus for 100% correct.”

    Hey! If they would offer that deal on lottery tickets, I would buy maybe 50% more tickets and be able to retire in half the time.

  14. I’ve said this before but science teaching in the USA is one big fail. The good news most Americans probably know that Kim Kardashian is married to Kanye. There’s a lot of stupid people out there all willing to be exploited!

  15. A lady I know through volunteer work is on the far, far end of the knowledge spectrum. She was home-schooled, married young, is a stay-at-home mom and has absolutely no curiosity whatsoever. She told me her husband bought her a new laptop, but it arrived broken and she had to return it. Turns out it was in her car so I asked to have a look at it.

    I booted it up, munged around a bit, and it looked fine. I asked her what was broken and she said

    “My old computer starts up and there’s Yahoo. The new one just shows this picture.”

    I then showed her how to launch Firefox and bring up Yahoo, but she insisted that she didn’t have to do that before and that her new laptop was broken. She had no clue and didn’t want a clue, either.

    So, I put a copy of Firefox in her startup folder, set the home page to Yahoo and she was overjoyed that I “fixed” her computer and she was glad to have a friend who was so smart.

    I went home and filled my coffee mug with bourbon.

  16. The Earth orbits the Sun, the Sun orbits the Earth … what’s the big deal? They’re two different ways to say the same thing, aren’t they?
    /Drool mode

  17. Doctor Stochastic

    One can use a geocentric coordinate system when useful (satellite orbits, long range gunnery,…), however, Kepler’s laws fail for other planets.

    Actually, two-body objects revolve about the center of mass of the system. At some point (in the Jovian Year, of course), the center of mass of the Jupiter-Sun system lies (or sits) above the putative surface of the Sun.

  18. Doctor Stochastic says: “One can use a geocentric coordinate system when useful (satellite orbits, long range gunnery,…)”

    I’m told it’s also used when sending rockets to the Moon. Simple is good.

  19. @docbill’s story is simultaneously the saddest and funniest story I’ve heard all week.

  20. @Doc Bill: You passed up a golden opportunity. You could have set the home page to sensuouscurmudgeon.wordpress.com 😉

  21. Malcolm Nigel

    It’s obviously not just the States. Every country, and every era has its stupid people, even in the UK where I reside there are plenty of us to spare.
    For example, when I was 15, back in the 1980s, I remember I was the only kid in my Geography class who knew where the United States of America was. One kid was so keen to impress the geography teacher that he cheated by sneaking a look in his school Atlas and then confidently pointed to the former U.S.S.R. on the map in the classroom, saying that’s where he knew for sure where the United States was.
    So stop wasting time through persecuting me and my innocent brothers and sisters, and research a genetic cure and something cool like that!