Are we still numero uno in scientific illiteracy?


With all the former tobacco shilling one time defense scientists turned global warning deniers, and a few scattered young earth creationist nuts buttressed by our friends looking for cosmic aliens in various physiological mechanisms, AKA Intelligent Design, you’d think the US still sports the most willfully ignorant subset of purportedly educated human beings in the western world. Perhaps we do — there is national pride to consider after all, so perhaps we do. But cast the eye of shame down south, way south, where our friends down under are giving US illiterates a run for our dumb money:

Australian Financial Review — Australian Academy of Science secretary for science policy Les Field said the worst-performing age group was 65 years and older, in which 46 per cent of respondents answered correctly, compared with 51 cent in 2010. But knowledge levels among young people had dropped more than in other demographic groups over the past three years.

“It’s a worrying wake-up call to see scientific literacy declining among young adults, and to a lesser degree among the broader Australian adult population,” Professor Field says in a statement. The number of 18-24 year olds who knew the Earth took a year to orbit the sun dropped from 74 per cent in 2010 to 62 per cent in 2013. They still did better than women overall on that question. Only half the women answered it correctly compared to 68 per cent of men.

Generally men, young people or people with a higher education level did best. Seventy per cent knew evolution was still occurring and 73 per cent believed people were influencing the evolution of other species. Some didn’t believe in evolution. The encouraging news was that more Australians, 73 per cent up from 70 per cent in 2010, knew dinosaurs and humans did not live at the same time.

Nice try, Aussies. But you have a lot of work to do to catch up to the US!  There’s a reason why Australian transplant Ken Ham opened his creationist theme park in America. Just a year ago Gallup polled a similar set of questions and found that almost half their US respondents believed the Abrahamic God created humans more or less in their present form in the last 10,000 years or so. Which may not be identical in form, but is a twin in function.

While I can’t say where Australians got the notion the earth goes around the sun in one day (Whew, we are a super-hyper hot-Jupiter, who knew?), we can say where Americans got their pseudo-science on evolution:

Two-thirds of Americans who attend religious services weekly choose the creationist alternative, compared with 25% of those who say they seldom or never attend church. The views of Americans who attend almost every week or monthly fall in between those of the other two groups. Still, those who seldom or never attend church are more likely to believe that God guided the evolutionary process than to believe that humans evolved with no input from God.

Majority of Republicans Are Creationists


Highly religious Americans are more likely to be Republican than those who are less religious, which helps explain the relationship between partisanship and beliefs about human origins. The major distinction is between Republicans and everyone else. While 58% of Republicans believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years, 39% of independents and 41% of Democrats agree.

I’m not proud of the last two figures, but the primary infection vector-O-ignorance is plainly apparent. And let’s keep our eye on the ball, folks. The motivation for intelligent conservatives (sp?) to push the creationist nonsense has as much to do with pissing off middle-class and poor parents into defunding their school district, and ease those burdensome property taxes on McMansions and Walmarts in the process, as it does with any religious purpose.


  1. says

    “the notion the earth goes around the sun in one day ”

    No! No! No! It’s the Sun that revolves around the Earth in one day…
     From a certain point of view.

  2. Jacob Schmidt says

    It doesn’t help that the survey determining literacy views evolution in terms of ‘more or less advanced’.

  3. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    (Whew, we are a super-hyper hot-Jupiter, who knew?)

    *cough* exoplanet pedant, super-Earth actually, cough!*

    (Wonder how many people were confused by leap days?)

    I can’t say where Australians got the notion the earth goes around the sun in one day..

    Well, crikey! One heatwave day in a summer that sometimes never seems to stop can seem lo-oong time indeed, mate! ;-)

  4. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Amnd I menat normal hot earth not superearth dammit! Must be the heat!

    (Actually – looks out the window and listens to the rain on roof – its our mid-winter ’bout now & the weather is behaving accordingly, but never mind.)

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