Another survey shows Americans are dumb as rocks about science.

Seems every so often someone releases the results of a survey that demonstrate just how scientifically illiterate most Americans are. Here’s yet another one:

NEW YORK—When the results of its latest survey came back, officials at the American Museum of Natural History were hardly astonished.

The survey was trying to find out how much people know about water. Turns out, not much.

Fewer than half of those surveyed answered correctly when asked how much of the planet is covered in water (about three-fourths). Hardly anyone knew how much of that water is drinkable (about 1 percent).

It’s not the first time a survey has shown how little the public knows about science; the results of one museum survey in 1994 were so woeful, museum President Ellen Futter barely raises an eyebrow anymore.

“I haven’t been surprised by the public’s reaction since our first survey, when I saw that 35 percent of the adult population thought that humans lived at the same time as dinosaurs,” she said.

To say there’s reason to be concerned is an understatement:

“There is no area of education that is probably worse taught than science,” she said. “I am deeply concerned about the competitive capacity of this country going forward in terms of education generally and in the areas of science, math (and) engineering particularly.”

It doesn’t help that the Republicans have been waging a war on science (along with just about everything else it seems) for the past couple of decades. Alas, it seems it’s the one war they’re actually winning.

11 thoughts on “Another survey shows Americans are dumb as rocks about science.

  1. “There is no area of education that is probably worse taught than science,” she said. “I am deeply concerned about the competitive capacity of this country going forward in terms of education generally and in the areas of science, math (and) engineering particularly.”

    I can name a few worse taught than science.  Philosophy isn’t taught at all.  Ethnic Studies isn’t taught at all.  History is taught with a bias towards the victors.  Politics and economics are taught exclusively from an American bipartisan republican (as in the system not the party) capitalist perspective.  Art is taught as little more than an optional hobby rather than a socially valuable means of discourse.

    Let’s be honest.  Science and math have it the best.  In 2004 the National Endowment for the Arts got $117 million and the National Endowment for the Humanities got $152 million.  How much did the National Science Foundation get?  $5.481 billion.  No whining allowed.  Americans are stupid period.

  2. Ok.  I take issue here.  The example questions were not about “science”, they were about trivia.

    I would guess that most americans do have a pretty good understanding of scientific processes and methods.

  3. Jake: I would guess that most americans do have a pretty good understanding of scientific processes and methods.

    Uh, perhaps you missed the following sentence from the article…

    “I haven’t been surprised by the public’s reaction since our first survey, when I saw that 35 percent of the adult population thought that humans lived at the same time as dinosaurs,” she said.

  4. I would guess that most americans do have a pretty good understanding of scientific processes and methods.

    Really!  Then why is it that plagarism and lack of due dillegence are on the rise with many science students.  Also why is it that the believe of the scientist being an unbaised independant observer consistantly under threat.  Magic and the supernatural had it’s chance to win way back with the Royal society and Issac Newton.  Look who is taught in the schools and yet its core philosophy is consistantly under fire.  Even I have some difficulty following all the correct processes and methods of science.  Most people don’t even know what the word hypothesis means!  No aspect of science is completely grasped by the public.  Science has become the new “magic” in our society.  It makes magical things like Ipods; and that is where people leave it at.

  5. (and) engineering particularly.

    Yep.  Being an engineering student myself, I can attest to some of the lack.  Engineering schools aren’t there to teach, but to provide a learning environment. 

    Translation:  learn it your fucking self, there’s the (world class research) library, teach yourself, it’s all in your text.  That $150 book with few worked examples.  Of course, if you can’t read the theorem and understand it without examples, what are you doing here?

    Sorry, just stressed from school.  I find it highly annoying when the feedback I need to know if I’m getting a handle on the subject doesn’t come back b/c the prof didn’t grade the one homework assignment before the test, and doesn’t help you with h/w questions since he wants you to “figure it out yourself”.

    No, I don’t think the material should be spoonfed, but profs should teach, students should learn, and meet in the middle.  That would go a ways in increasing the number of engineering graduates.  It’s my own damn fault for going to a community college, where the profs are there b/c they like to teach.  It’s amazing what one can learn when examples are worked on the board!

  6. “I haven’t been surprised by the public’s reaction since our first survey, when I saw that 35 percent of the adult population thought that humans lived at the same time as dinosaurs,” she said.

    I’m pleasantly surprised it was only 35%. smile

  7. I’m pleasantly surprised it was only 35%.

    The rest believe that dinosaurs never existed and that the bones were fabricated by scientists and/or Satan.

  8. But dinosaurs and humans did live at the same time! Didn’t any of your read Jurassic Park or see the movie? What’s next, are you all going to tell me that ‘State of Fear’ is also made up!?

  9. The rest believe that dinosaurs never existed and that the bones were fabricated by scientists and/or Satan.

    That, or they just say, “God works in mysterious ways.”

  10. Come on now, I’m in that 65% of Americans that don’t believe the Flintstones is a documentary (thank you Lewis Black) and I don’t think the earth is only 6,000 years old or chalk up fossils to my magical sky daddy.

    I assume the questionaire was multiple choice though, that would definitely have weighted the score a bit, especially if it was true false.  Most of the morons taking the quiz probably just picked a random answer if they weren’t sure.  Personally, I blame the education industry (among other forces).  Schools, be they elementary, high school or college simply indoctrinate you into the world of work, they don’t really encourage critical thinking, curiosity or creativity.  At least, that’s been my experience with it.

    Anyway, let me say this: we here in the United States are totally screwed.

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