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Are US Voters Informed Enough About Science?

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the stone-knives-and-bearskins dept.

Education 868

Naturalist writes "For decades, educators and employers have worried that too few Americans are preparing for careers in science. But there's evidence to support a new, broader concern in this election year: Ordinary Americans may not know enough about science to make informed decisions on key questions."

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Obviously not (2, Insightful)

suso (153703) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580813)

What is it, 95% believe in a supreme being? Not that believing in a supreme being is compromised by understanding the results of science. Oh no.

Re:Obviously not (1)

linal (1116371) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580837)

what about people who believe in this [venganza.org] one?

Re:Obviously not (5, Insightful)

TechnoBunny (991156) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580845)

Science has *nothing* to say about the existence, or otherwise, of a supreme being.

Now, who's uninformed?

Re:Obviously not (5, Insightful)

Da Fokka (94074) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580867)

However, since most religions are mutually exclusive, statistics suggest that at least a majority of those people who believe in a supreme being are wrong.

Re:Obviously not (5, Funny)

Fanro (130986) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581021)

An omnipotent being could very well make it so that all religions are correct at the same time, even the mutually exclusive ones.
Omnipotency is weird like that.

Re:Obviously not (5, Funny)

yada21 (1042762) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581119)

That is not omnipotency that is market segmantation. Like selling basically the same car as a chevy or an oldsmobile or a buick.

Re:Obviously not (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24581023)

However, since most religions are mutually exclusive, statistics suggest that at least a majority of those people who believe in a supreme being are wrong.

Well, it means that they are wrong about the mythology, which is what differs, not about the idea of a supreme being as such.

If you take a loose definition like "sentient, all encompassing" you could probably get 90% of the worlds population to sign off on it.

Re:Obviously not (4, Insightful)

Da Fokka (94074) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581243)

True, but that's not the type of religion people base their lives on. The simple fact that there is a sentient, all encompassing being does not stipulate that there is an afterlife, that it's necessary live a good life or that homosexuality is a sin. You need a more specific set of beliefs for that.

Re:Obviously not (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24581187)

Science and Religion are not mutually exclusive... although, that might be part of the point - most people believe they are...

Re:Obviously not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24580877)

He said "not that believing in a supreme being is compromised by understanding science".

Now, who's illiterate?

Re:Obviously not (5, Insightful)

Elemenope (905108) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580899)

Science has lots to say about the means by which such a being could act, and places restrictions on the time, place, and manner of such creative acts. Many of the things that science has excluded as possible means (barring massive deception on behalf of the selfsame being) are means that are expressed in religious texts. As a religious scientist, one is restricted fairly strongly to believing those texts only metaphorically, or not at all.

Re:Obviously not (5, Insightful)

TechnoBunny (991156) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580997)

But science is predicated on what we see and observe. Should a supreme being decide to throw the rule book out the window, do all kinds of crazy shit, but then (being omnipotent), change everything around so we didnt see any of it then we'd be none the wiser.

So no, science doesnt restrict the acts of a supreme being at all. Do you really think God (should he exists) spends his days saying 'MeDammit, if only the laws of Physics were different....)

Omnipotence is the ultimate get out clause.....

Re:Obviously not (0)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581117)

science is repeatable

throwing the rule book out the window, do all kinds of crazy shit isn't

Re:Obviously not (2, Insightful)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581189)

science is repeatable

throwing the rule book out the window, do all kinds of crazy shit isn't

What part of 'supreme being' are you failing to grasp?

You can certainly choose not to believe it, but logic isn't going to help much here. These kinds of considerations are built in to the religion.

Re:Obviously not (5, Insightful)

ATMAvatar (648864) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581165)

Then you get a supreme being that is intentionally trying to make its existence seem unlikely or absurd, but still punishes you for all eternity if you do not believe in it.

Sounds like a loving deity to me.

In either case, the religious text are wrong in some respects, unless you take them metaphorically as the GP suggests.

Just to play the devil's advocate... (5, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581275)

I'm not religious myself, but just to play the devil's advocate:

1. Belief that it's all a metaphor doesn't necessarily make one any less religious. Saint Augustine argued exactly that: that the whole genesis is a metaphor and only an idiot would take it literally. He got sanctified by the Catholic Church. So...

2. (A possible) God doesn't have to obey his own rules, or exist _inside_ the universe he created.

Think of (a possible) God in terms of, say, a game programmer. Let's say you're this uber genius nerd in a CS university, you're bored enough one week and write the uber-universe simulation. Sort of like a SimCity or Children Of The Nile or The Sims 2 or Spore. Except let's say you're really really smart and have an uber-computer and those little creatures on your screen actually go sentient.

Now think about your position in the universe you just created. You're entirely outside it. In fact, there's no way for you to ever be _in_ it. You could create a character in that world, but it won't be _you_.

Also realize that whatever rules you set there, don't apply to _you_. E.g., if you set those creatures to no longer need to eat, it doesn't mean _you_ also suddenly don't.

Now also realize that you didn't sign any contract or anything. You can change the program's rules or bypass them any time you feel like it. If you want to raise a mountain over there, or have a jolly good flood, who's to stop you? Conservation of mass and energy? You can just change a variable and create more mass and energy. And if a bunch of those simulated people nailed your avatar to a cross, pfft, who's to keep you from resurrecting that char? Laws of biology? Pfft. You wrote the laws of their biology, and can amend them. Or change a bit in the database and have that guy up and kicking like nothing ever happened to him.

Or if that's too hard to palate, think Blizzard and WoW. All Blizzard employees exist outside of the world of Azeroth. In fact, they can't ever really be _in_ that world. They can create characters there, but the real "gods" at Blizzard are and remain fundamentally outside the world they created, and are not subject to their own laws. If they want to do something as mysterious and supernatural as creating a whole new island, or indeed a whole new planet out of nowhere (see the Burning Crusade launch), who's to keep them? If they don't like their own rules, who's to keep them from changing those rules?

Re:Obviously not (5, Insightful)

Hogwash McFly (678207) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581127)

Why not?

If something exists, it is part of the natural world and can be examined through the scientific method.

Why is a supreme being excluded, tucked away in some comfortable pocket safe from rational enquiry? Science says that it is highly unlikely that dancing can affect rainfall. Science says that it is highly unlikely that anyone can walk through walls, or walk on water, or heal the sick by touching or praying. Practically any rational thinking human being will agree with these assertions and many more, but when it comes to God they suddenly go on the frotz like a malfunctioning robot.

So why can't Science say that your garden variety supreme being is highly unlikely to exist? Because a lot of people might get their widdle feewings hurt? Because they are afraid of there being no afterlife?

God is an unnecessary link in the chain. Adding God to the equation solves nothing and raises a million questions. By the remote possibility that he/she does exist, he/she ain't doing much. We evolved ourselves out of the mud and the slime. We learnt to walk, to cook food, to build skyscrapers and airplanes and put a man on the fucking moon. We did it our fucking selves. We are our own gods. That's the 'miracle' right there.

Re:Obviously not (2, Insightful)

PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581245)

If something exists, it is part of the natural world and can be examined through the scientific method.

... except there are lots of things that are unobservable.

...Unless you're willing to argue that cellular biology didn't exist until we invented the microscope, and that there are stars out there that didn't exist until we built telescopes.

I'm not saying that God exists.

I'm saying that it is ignorant to claim that something doesn't exist because you can't measure it.

There are plenty of people who claim that God exists, and that they have personal evidence. Sure, the evidence sucks, but that doesn't change the fact that there are hundreds (if not thousands!) who believe that they have evidence that God exists.

Re:Obviously not (1)

OwnedByTwoCats (124103) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581305)

Science, at least the history of science, has a habit of reducing the value of "God Did It" as an explanation. As more and more of nature falls to the explanations of science, the realm of the gods is diminished. "God of the Gaps" is a way of describing this fallacy.

There is no positive evidence for the existence of the Greek, Roman, or Egyptian pantheons, nor for a supreme being with tri-omni powers.

Re:Obviously not (3, Funny)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580875)

This is why science needs to make a supreme being, then it just becomes a practical question: which would you rather worship? A God that doesn't care or a God that ensures you have enough to eat and something interesting to watch on tv?

Hmm.. damned if you do and damned if you don't indeed.

Re:Obviously not (2, Interesting)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580881)

First off, belief in something beyond understanding has nothing to do with understanding science. Sure there are nut-jobs that ignore facts, but most find no conflict between science and religion, so lets not get into an atheist rant okay?

Science and math are always good to learn and understand, but so are music, art, literature, and anything else. I think the important thing is that people continue to learn over the course of their lives. I do think that if no one else, Congress should be briefed on scientific principals related to any bills they pass though.

Re:Obviously not (2)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580953)

Correlation may not be equal to causation, but if there is a preponderance of it then it starts to be at least a better guess than pure coincidence. If you don't teach people to think for themselves and evaluate data but simply to 'believe' then you'll find that they become a lot easier to manipulate.

So, it does not need to be an 'atheist rant' to draw a connection between understanding science and 'belief in something beyond understanding'.

To someone that thinks for themselves instead of taking fairy tales for granted 'beyond understanding' equals a challenge to go and find out, to someone with a belief system it equals 'supreme being did it', end of curiosity.

Its ok to be intelligent and insane too (1, Interesting)

suso (153703) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580995)

You know its funny, I was watching President Bush during an interview in Beijing talk about how they are trying to cool over relations with China. One thing he said is that they need to convince China that religion isn't going to hurt them.

Let me see, let's say you're a sane person with all their faculties in place. Someone comes along and tells you something that is just crazy, like there is a big flying spaghetti monster in the sky that you need to believe in and give 5% of your money to or you are going to spend an eternity in damnation. Are you going to just take his word for it or are you going to label that person as confused an deluded?

Re:Its ok to be intelligent and insane too (2, Insightful)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581095)

I'm not going to argue with you since I don't think it will go anywhere, but don't act like religion just takes your money and scams you. Religious organizations are responsible for a HUGE percent of the humanitarian aid and support going on in this world. Yes, it's been used for evil (and still is in many places), but I'm talking about religion in American and Today. When was the last time you helped out at a homeless shelter, or traveled down to help disaster victims, or went out and took donations to help people in a war-torn country? I know people that did those things. Religion has power indeed, but it's power to motivate more than anything... as long as people keep their wits about them, that motivation can be a very good thing.

Re:Obviously not (4, Insightful)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581137)

the possibility that something exists is always there.

but actually saying that it exists with no evidence is just plain crazy.

Re:Obviously not (1)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581153)

more over if it's beyond understanding then all religion must be false as it's an attempt at understanding, how can you ever understand something that's beyond understanding.

Re:Obviously not (1)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581207)

Religion is really not so much about understanding. People that memorize the names of angels and literalize things are indeed morons. However, those that use religion to hold themselves to a higher standard and discover themselves though it's philosophies and lessons are more enlightened than most in my experience.

Re:Obviously not (1)

jav1231 (539129) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581297)

Wow! That's refreshing! Usually atheists get on here to evangelize atheism and ridicule religion when such a thread starts.

More OT, though, what difference does it make in this election? Neither candidate is exactly the pillar of scientific thought.

McCain isn't particularly computer savy. And I would think Obama's cult of personality would put off most geeks. Let's face it, it's uber-popular people like him that got all the chics we so longfully drooled over.

Eh, that's the least of worries (5, Interesting)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580979)

What is it, 95% believe in a supreme being? Not that believing in a supreme being is compromised by understanding the results of science. Oh no.

Actually, if they otherwise put their faith in double-blind tests or whatever sound methodology, I couldn't care less if they also believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster or the Invisible Pink Unicorn or whatever.

But the most worrisome phenomenon is the large mass of people believing in homeopathy, magic (as in, that you can actually change the universe by refusing to believe it's really like that), natural snake oils, conspiracy-theory science, and the like.

I mean, seriously, there are people buying wooden volume knobs and $500 ethernet cables, believing that it makes their MP3s sound better. (I mean, an MP3 is already digital and a network cable transmits digital information. A 1 is a 1 is a 1, and 0 is a 0 is a 0. It doesn't sound "warmer" or "more natural".) At least one on the Hardware Central forums believed he can hear differences in how MP3's sound, based on the hard drive brand. And not because of hard drive noise or interference, but because the magnetic coating somehow makes a difference, like in old cassettes.

There are people who believe that power lines cause brain cancer. Or that they can detect a turned on cell phone by getting a headache near one.

There are people who think that "natural" minerals are healthier, and that, say, salt processed industrially has mollecules that are unnaturally round and regular, and can't be processed as well by the body.

There are people who drink water with extra O2 in it and think it actually makes a difference in how well oxygenated their body is. As if would even make a difference. (No, seriously, calculate it.)

Etc.

And while I'd love to point fingers and laugh at the USA, trust me, it's no better in Europe.

And anyway, that should already tell anyone all they need to know about voters and science. The above mentioned people have a right to vote too, you know.

No (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24580817)

Whew.. I thought that question would be harder!

Re:No (5, Insightful)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581159)

How can voters be informed when the media aren't? It seem that whenever I see anything whatever about science on the TV news, they get something wrong, usually badly wrong and backwards.

The average American (at least the ones I talk to) don't think that scientific consensis is that the globe is heatihng and we are responsible.

I don't know about the rest of the world's media, but ours is abysmal. Without an informed media you can't have an informed populace. Perhaps that's what our corporate-controled media wants?

Re:No (-1, Flamebait)

Swizec (978239) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581283)

The average American (at least the ones I talk to) don't think that scientific consensis is that the globe is heatihng and we are responsible.

Apparently the average American can't spell either. Perhaps education should start at spelling and build from there? How are you supposed to educate someone who can't even understand the words they're reading?

DEMOCRACY MANTRA (1)

abscissa (136568) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580823)

Remember, the collective ignorance of the people is wiser than the educated and specialised few!

Also, the market determines the merit of everything!

Conclusion: don't listen to scientists, just buy the cheaper one at Wal-Mart.

Re:DEMOCRACY MANTRA (3, Funny)

PakProtector (115173) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581311)

Remember, the collective ignorance of the people is wiser than the educated and specialised few!

My Gods, Jimbo Wales, is that you?

Um.... (2, Funny)

prisoner (133137) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580825)

What is this "science" you speak of? Does it have something to do with making nucyalar bombs?

Isn't everybody ignorant? (5, Insightful)

Hoski (1249412) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580827)

I thought it was general knowledge that ordinary people (not just Americans) don't know enough to make informed decisions. Not just science based issues, but all issues.

Re:Isn't everybody ignorant? (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580855)

It's pretty obvious that the writers of that article (let alone the quiz) are mostly ignorant of "science".

Especially seeing as a big factor of science is recognizing one's own ignorance.

Re:Isn't everybody ignorant? (-1, Redundant)

polar red (215081) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581015)

recognizing one's own ignorance

WHAT ? I'm not ignorant i know everything, you insesitive clod ! prepare for a flame war !
seriously, even on /., you can't get many people to admit they don't know everything ...

Re:Isn't everybody ignorant? (1)

Emb3rz (1210286) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581085)

I well know, O Jehovah, that to earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man that is walking even to direct his step.

Jeremiah 10:23

A Greater Truth (5, Insightful)

benwiggy (1262536) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580835)

That's the beauty of democracy. You don't have to be qualified to have an opinion.
"Most people"probably aren't qualified to have a meaningful opinion on economics, agricultural policy, foreign policy, military strategy, etc., etc.
That's the price you pay for giving everyone a vote.

Re:A Greater Truth (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580961)

Well, in other democracies voters recognize that they are not experts so they don't let expert matters determine their voting preferences. One has to admit one does not know everything to start down that path though. Whereas, in the US, voters don't choose how they vote at all, they just do what the loud mouth people on the tv tell them to do.

Re:A Greater Truth (1)

mario_grgic (515333) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581307)

If that were only true. Large percentage of the population votes for who ever their pastor (religious leader) tells them to vote for, without ever discussing any issues at all.

All that is needed is that the leader tells them that certain politician is born again and stands for christian values :D.

Re:A Greater Truth (1)

DrWho520 (655973) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581315)

So if other voters in other democracies do not let expert matters determine their votes, we will call those "issues," what do they use?

Unlike US voters, who follow the words of talking heads, we will call that "oral diarrhea," they must have some discriminator. I guess they could listen to experts talk on TV about their areas of expertise and go with that. So do they use oral diarrhea from issue experts? But how do you judge the sweetness of the oral diarrhea? You have to know enough of an issue expert to determine whether oral diarrhea A is full of excrement versus oral diarrhea B.

But that would be letting issues determine voting preference, a premise proffered as false in this little thought experiment. Further, if the expert spurting oral excrement is loud enough, they are no different than the talking heads of US TV.

You know what, I am just going to go watch the Olympics.

Re:A Greater Truth (4, Interesting)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580987)

I used to think democracy was really great until I slowly became aware that it means that whoever controls the media controls the votes. Reading Noam Chomsky's "manufacturing consent" really opened my eyes to how big the problem really is.

It's a typical case of gigo, if you can not trust the sources for the knowledge that you base your decisions on (and almost no single source available to the general public is without bias) then you will get really lousy decisions.

Re:A Greater Truth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24581139)

Well there's your problem right there. Noam Chomsky is a total douche.

Re:A Greater Truth (5, Insightful)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581269)

Which is why you consume differing sources of media. If a news show or written article says something factual or editorial that you've heard from another source, switch to another source, until there's a difference. The problem with this is that it forces people to think, and people (sometimes even smart people) don't want to think.

Re:A Greater Truth (1)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581293)

yes, but you almost need a map of which news outlets are in the hands of which groups because so much of it has been consolidated that even if you think you are reading from multiple sources then in fact you may be reading from the same (or at least the same paymasters). Especially in the US this is a huge problem.

Re:A Greater Truth (2, Funny)

doyoulikeworms (1094003) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581031)

This is why I would much rather have a philosopher king than a democracy.

Re:A Greater Truth (2, Insightful)

3arwax (808691) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581073)

But we aren't a democracy. We are a republic and too few people realize this. The masses are too stupid and easy to control so politicians greatly prefer a democracy to a republic. Under a republic they would have to follow this thing call the Constitution which places limits on what the federal government can do. In a democracy they just have to convince enough idiots that they want something and they magically they have the power to do it. Democracies fail when the majority realize they can raid the treasury, much like this last stimulus check. Really, there are enough people in large groups who are stupid. It isn't too hard to manipulate them to give you more power and if you get caught doing something bad there usually isn't enough people who care to stop you.

Re:A Greater Truth (2, Informative)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581175)

But we aren't a democracy.

Yes, you are. People get to vote on stuff. That's democracy. There are different types of democracies that are defined by what exactly "stuff" is. If stuff is "bills/laws/etc", then you're a direct democracy, if stuff is "people who will then vote on things for me", then you're an indirect/representative democracy.

We are a republic and too few people realize this.

Yes, you're a republic, too. The position of "head honcho" isn't inherited (well, at least not on paper. Things might be a bit different in practice). Otherwise you'd be a monarchy.

There can be perfectly undemocractic republics (here's a hint: They usually mention "people" or "public" more than once in their name, usually in Latin and Greek) and democratic monarchies.

Re:A Greater Truth (3, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581247)

More accurately, we are a constitutionally-limited republic, as the Constitution delineates clearly the different branches of government and what powers they have and do not have.

The Founding Fathers debated vigorously over the form of government -- some wanted a more pure democracy, giving more power to states and others wanted a strong federal republic. This debate has been central to our politics for the last 200 years or so.

In the end, everyone agreed that the public was too stupid to run things by themselves, so they elected for representational democracy and a republican form of government.

In the end, it doesn't matter if the public doesn't know enough about science. The public doesn't directly decide issues of law or public policy -- that's why we elect our representatives in Congress and in the Executive Branch.

Unfortunately, we failed to realize that they, also, are too stupid and too greedy to decide anything of importance. ;)

Re:A Greater Truth (3, Interesting)

Bombula (670389) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581185)

You don't have to be qualified to have an opinion.

It's funny how some of the most important decision-making roles in our society - the role of a voter, the role of a parent, the role of an elected official - require no formal qualifications. What if being a heart-surgeon required no qualifications? What if driving required no qualifications? You need a license to pitch a tent and catch a fish, but not to be a parent? You need a certification to cut people's hair or do their nails but not to be President?

I'm not sure why we expect so little of ourselves, and then proceed bass-ackwards to address the problems that arise. To take the example of parenting, we let anyone no matter how irresponsible or unqualified have kids, and then punish them - and the kids - when they screw up the job of parenting. How stupid is that? We don't do that with dentists or doctors or any other role of responsibility.

Re:A Greater Truth (1)

tist (1086039) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581281)

You don't have to be qualified to have an opinion. True enough. But... What makes a democracy work for the good of the people, is not just having an opinion, but making an informed decision. Back when I was learning about rights, they taught us that rights come with responsibilities. It is our right to vote and the responsibilities are: 1. Vote! and 2. Become educated on the issue(s) and make the best decision you can. If the issue involves some science or math that you don't understand, then it's all just about rhetoric isn't it?

Has anyone looked at the sample test? (1)

lazycam (1007621) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580859)

By around age 5 I learned most (if not all) of these facts from watching TLC or Discovery. It also helped that my parents read to me and encouraged me to do the same. It sends chills down my spine knowing there are people out there without this knowledge. I don't know if we should blame schools or simply conclude a number of people just don't care...

Re:Has anyone looked at the sample test? (1)

Maelwryth (982896) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580963)

I object to question seven of the quiz though.
7. The universe began with a huge explosion.

I know the answer they want, but it is still just a theory. I am pretty sure I could make the sun revolve around the Earth as well. It's a matter of perspective.

Re:Has anyone looked at the sample test? (1)

Spatial (1235392) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581039)

but it is still just a theory

A scientific theory is an explanation for a body of evidence. Not that you should accept it blindly, but what kind of basis for a rejection is that?

Re:Has anyone looked at the sample test? (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581177)

It's not repeatable; it's not science, it's history. Same thing with archeology and anthropology. They may use sciencey type stuff to reach their conclusions, but at the end of the day, the only repeatable step is "State Hypothesis".

Re:Has anyone looked at the sample test? (2, Informative)

OwnedByTwoCats (124103) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581093)

The big bang and an expanding universe is not "just a theory", but rather an explanation for why Edwin Hubble observed that all galaxies are moving away from us, and the further away they are, the faster they are receding.

If you have a better account for the beginning of the universe that fits with observations, you're well on your way to an Astro-Physics PhD and a tenured position at a leading institution.

You can't get the sun to revolve around the earth in a non-accelerating reference frame.

Re:Has anyone looked at the sample test? (2, Informative)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581299)

The big bang and an expanding universe is not "just a theory", but rather an explanation for why Edwin Hubble observed that all galaxies are moving away from us, and the further away they are, the faster they are receding.

Actually, isn't the 'explosion' part already being questioned? I read about an idea that said what the universe is doing is probably cyclical. Expand, contract, expand, contract - kind of a thing. I think I saw it here, actually.

That being said, it really is 'just a theory' as one can NEVER prove it. Not EVER. Not even with a time machine, because if it were true it would be damn hard to record the event without altering it dramatically. That would, as far as I know, disqualify it from ever reaching 'law' status.

I really like these sort of 'science of the past' conclusions. They're nearly all faith-based, just like the other religions they compete with...

Re:Has anyone looked at the sample test? (1)

Mr. Sketch (111112) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581201)

but it is still just a theory

So is gravity.

Re:Has anyone looked at the sample test? (1)

fremsley471 (792813) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581043)

By around age 5 I learned most (if not all) of these facts from watching TLC or Discovery.

I thought you had 'rose-tinted spectacles' about your childhood abilities, but have just asked the 11 questions to my 6-year old and he got 9 right, 1 wrong and didn't want to answer the question about how the Universe started (understandable).

Re:Has anyone looked at the sample test? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24581097)

and didn't want to answer the question about how the Universe started (understandable)

Why? Not trolling, I really don't understand.

Americans obviously arent informed enough about (0, Troll)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580861)

a lot of things, see current administration....

Eh (1)

PJCRP (1314653) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580865)

Not enough science in the Election? Just make voters name the periodic table to vote.
Though, I fail to see how knowing science makes you able to make rational decisions.

Re:Eh (2, Insightful)

Teun (17872) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581075)

I fail to see how knowing science makes you able to make rational decisions.

You just gave us the perfect example of what becomes of us when lacking information!

Re:Eh (1)

PJCRP (1314653) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581089)

FOR THE HORDE.

Yes, and more ways than one... (4, Insightful)

Notquitecajun (1073646) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580869)

I suspect that most of the reaction is about those who believe in creation (or even God for that matter); I could list several more:

1. Global climate change

2. Viability of alternate energy sources

3. Carbon credits

4. "Scary" parts of nuclear power.

5. Where the power from the electric car will come from.



I'm certain there's more. Disclaimer: I'm a conservative, which probably gives you some sort of impression of my views on the above.

Re:Yes, and more ways than one... (0, Offtopic)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580929)

Where the power from the electric car will come from.

English clearly isn't your forte either.

Math and Science are important (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24580873)

Four out of three ordinary Americans agree they don't know enough about math and science. :)

Re:Math and Science are important (1)

Maximalist (949682) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580957)

Hey- If either of them were taught well in the schools, it might not be the problem it has become.

Unfortunately, making sure people understand the concepts has become secondary to the educational process.

Re:Math and Science are important (1)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580999)

I don't know why you didn't rate a funny mod :) Thanks !

Just science? (5, Insightful)

RandoX (828285) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580915)

How about economics? Psychology? Current events? Foreign relations?

People don't know enough about anything to make an informed decision when it comes to the actual issues. Campaign managers know how to spin anything to make their guy look good and the other guy look bad. I consider myself a fairly smart guy and there have been times where I've accepted a candidate's not-quite-straightforward answer until someone calls them on the facts.

short answer... (5, Insightful)

je ne sais quoi (987177) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580927)

No.

Long answer: Meh... There's really just the consolation that maybe Americans at least were never all that science savvy to begin with so the current state is nothing new. A more rigorous science education would probably be better.

I'd say a good start on that is to get the fucking religious dogma masquerading as science out of the schools. You know what I mean: intelligent design.

A good second step would be to hire more teachers who are actually good at science and math, but that would mean increasing the salaries and that probably won't happen. It used to be that intelligent women would do fulfill this need because of few career options but nowadays women can go on to science based careers not just in education. I've taught earth science to elementary education majors, very few of them found math and science to be enjoyable, but instead feared it. I can only presume they would transfer this to their students.

Re:short answer... (1)

malignant_minded (884324) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581225)

I really don't see the first issue as the real problem. I didn't learn anything about intelligent design in my school but I doubt it made much difference to my graduating class as a whole. I doubt that they are really more informed than a bible belt school. It probably has more to do with the teaching or lack of. I remember most of science class was watching lame PBS specials or cherry picking from books and with no real life experimentation, probably insurance issues.

So what? It is democracy (5, Insightful)

Kohath (38547) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580931)

That's the thing about voting. You get to vote regardless of whether someone thinks you have The Right Information about whatever topic. It's representative democracy. There are other forms of government that only let you decide in certain selected circumstances.

Almost every election we hear some variation on: "Americans are stupid. We hate them, their religion, their culture, and the things they like. Why won't they vote for us? Don't they know we're better than them and can lead them from their benighted ways?"

Yeah, we know. That's why you keep losing.

Why would they? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24580949)

You can't even vote on relevant topics. All you get to vote for is a selection of people who can then do anything they want for a couple of years, including u-turns on their stated positions. What you know about science matters jack shit.

Economics (1)

p51d007 (656414) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580951)

If the general public had a BASIC understanding of economics & business, we wouldn't be in debt to the tune of trillions of dollars, and the numbnuts wouldn't be "thankful" that the government is using its power to give us "rebates" (or whatever they call it) to buy votes.

Not just the Yanks (5, Insightful)

CmdrGravy (645153) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580965)

It's not just the yanks suffering from this.

Here in the UK we've had a bunch of morons sitting around outside a power station protesting about it burning coal. Fair enough, thats only mildly moronic but when they are also rabidly against any nuclear power alternatives it becomes stupidly moronic and when they suggest that everyone currently working in the power industry should be forced to move to the Shetlands and build wind farms it's unbelivably moronic.

Also people like Prince Charles speaking out about GM crops sets everyone a bad example.

Re:Not just the Yanks (2, Insightful)

Teun (17872) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581173)

It's not just the yanks suffering from this.

A lot of educated people will probably agree with you.

Here in the UK we've had a bunch of morons sitting around outside a power station protesting about it burning coal. Fair enough, thats only mildly moronic but when they are also rabidly against any nuclear power alternatives it becomes stupidly moronic and when they suggest that everyone currently working in the power industry should be forced to move to the Shetlands and build wind farms it's unbelivably moronic.

Also people like Prince Charles speaking out about GM crops sets everyone a bad example.

A lot of educated people will probably disagree with you :)

Do you need to know science? (5, Insightful)

91degrees (207121) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580973)

This isn't a job interview. At least it shouldn't be. We can't possibly have enough information to determine who would do the best job of running the country. If we could judge that objectively, then there would be virtually no political decisions, instead just some skilled advisors in each subject.

Democracy is all about the subjective factors. Is a public health service better than lower taxes? Should we invest more in education? How much more? Is it better to have extra perks for minorities or should everything be equal? Is the level of immigration too high, too low or just right?

None of these have a right and a wrong answer. You pick the answers that seem right to you and pick the candidate that most closely represents your views.

Re:Do you need to know science? (1)

Slashdolt (166321) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581009)

Excellent. I wasn't expecting any thoughtful replies on this topic. Thank you. I hope you get modded up.

The average American voter (1)

JohnnyGTO (102952) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580975)

doesn't seem to be qualified to if they want fries with their order let alone anything based on science. Products of the AES*, they never had a chance. (*American Education System) Our only hope is that chaos and random chance in voting will let those few informed voters make a difference!

Troll topic (1, Insightful)

Slashdolt (166321) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580977)

This entire topic flame bait, plain and simple. There's nothing I can possibly post here that will not fan the flames.

Disinformation abounds, too (1)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 6 years ago | (#24580989)

The issues are charged with disinformation from lobbyists, PACs, spin-meisters, and the just plain delusional. Separating truthful and rational sources from the BSers has become an art form-- because it's sure not science.

It's a wonder that John and Jane Q Voter are able to cut through the madness at all- then to attempt to pin the future on one political candidate or another (as they don't understand science well, either, most of them).

Re:Disinformation abounds, too (1)

neo-mkrey (948389) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581193)

What?!? There is no cake?!?

USA Today does science... and fails. (1, Insightful)

urcreepyneighbor (1171755) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581001)

He notes that nuclear waste controversies hinge on how much risk a community is willing to tolerate, which is not a matter decided by science. Likewise, debates on the use of embryonic stem cells in scientific research routinely boil down to moral beliefs about when life begins.

Risk? Moral beliefs? Irrationality is what got us into this mess. Pandering won't help.

You have a better chance of being killed by a drunk driver than a nuclear power plant. And, no, you won't go to a magical afterlife filled with clouds, cake and concubines after you die.

Cleary, we need (1)

Alexpkeaton1010 (1101915) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581005)

A kind and benevolent dictator who makes all of our decisions for us. It has worked in the past.

What concerns me more (1)

tb()ne (625102) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581027)

Are US Politicians Informed Enough About Science?

I don't expect your average Joe to be knowledgeable about most scientific issues. But when we have politicians implementing policy related to scientific matters without understanding the issues, then we have a real problem. Of course, this extends beyond just science. For example, you would think that policy makers would have figured out (or tasked someone competent to figure out) that diverting agricultural resources to produce biofuels just might have an impact on food supplies & prices. It seems there are numerous disciplines where politicians don't bother to educate themselves adequately to make sound policy decisions.

Jesus taught me everything I needed to know (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24581035)

...about trolls.

An alternative to democracy (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581059)

Nominations are a great idea. As is changing administrations regularly. The big problem with modern democracy is that political parties collude to water down their principles to pander to voters who are largely ignorant of everything. The stated goal of voting is thus subverted as the government no longer represents the people. So why have voting at all? The only reason we still do is because people consider it a "fair" way to choose which candidate gets power. Well there's nothing more fair than chance, and the modern understanding of statistics makes it just as verifiable as voting, if not more so.

Let's abolish the two party system. Let's have a lottery for every member of the cabinet.

USA today Science Quiz (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24581067)

Did anyone take the quiz? Holy carp! A 100% is considered 'Geek class knowledge?' Any middle schooler should be able to complete this correctly. Also, it's labeled as a 'True/False' quiz, where the last two answers are clearly NOT true/false. From the Article:

True/False Quiz:

1. The center of the Earth is very hot.
2. All radioactivity is man-made.
3. It is the fatherâ(TM)s gene that decides whether the baby is a boy or a girl.
4. Lasers work by focusing sound waves.
5. Electrons are smaller than atoms.
6. Antibiotics kill viruses as well as bacteria.
7. The universe began with a huge explosion.
8. The continents on which we live have been moving their location for millions of years and will continue to move in the future.
9. Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.
10. Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth?
11. How long does it take for the Earth to go around the sun?

Science or philosophy (1)

3arwax (808691) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581135)

There is a lot of philosophy which is passed of as science. The difference is that philosophy does not use the scientific method. It cannot be recreated, tested, etc. People just look at what they see and make up some explanation for it and call it science.

Duh (1)

quad4b (858152) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581167)

Duhhhh

Re:Duh (2, Informative)

infalliable (1239578) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581199)

yeah, no surprise at all. The average American believes everything on TV and has no idea of even the most basic scientific principles.

Writings by David Goodstein, Vice Provost, Caltech (4, Insightful)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581181)

From: http://www.its.caltech.edu/~dg/crunch_art.html [caltech.edu]
"In the meantime, the real crisis that is coming has started to produce a number of symptoms, some alarming and some merely curious. One of these is what I like to call The Paradox of Scientific Elites and Scientific Illiterates. The paradox is this: as a lingering result of the golden age, we still have the finest scientists in the world in the United States. But we also have the worst science education in the industrialized world. There seems to be little doubt that both of these seemingly contradictory observations are true. American scientists, trained in American graduate schools produce more Nobel Prizes, more scientific citations, more of just about anything you care to measure than any other country in the world; maybe more than the rest of the world combined. Yet, students in American schools consistently rank at the bottom of all those from advanced nations in tests of scientific knowledge, and furthermore, roughly 95% of the American public is consistently found to be scientifically illiterate by any rational standard. How can we possibly have arrived at such a result? How can our miserable system of education have produced such a brilliant community of scientists? That is what I mean by The Paradox of the Scientific Elites and the Scientific Illiterates. ... I would like to propose a different and more illuminating metaphor for American science education. It is more like a mining and sorting operation, designed to cast aside most of the mass of common human debris, but at the same time to discover and rescue diamonds in the rough, that are capable of being cleaned and cut and polished into glittering gems, just like us, the existing scientists. It takes only a little reflection to see how much more this model accounts for than the pipeline does. It accounts for exponential growth, since it takes scientists to identify prospective scientists. It accounts for the very real problem that women and minorities are woefully underrepresented among the scientists, because it is hard for us, white, male scientists to perceive that once they are cleaned and cut and polished, they will look like us. It accounts for the fact that science education is for the most part a dreary business, a burden to student and teacher alike at all levels of American education, until the magic moment when a teacher recognizes a potential peer, at which point it becomes exhilarating and successful. Above all, it resolves the paradox of Scientific Elites and Scientific Illiterates. It explains why we have the best scientists and the most poorly educated students in the world. It is because our entire system of education is designed to produce precisely that result. ... Let me finish by summarizing what I've been trying to tell you. We stand at an historic juncture in the history of science. The long era of exponential expansion ended decades ago, but we have not yet reconciled ourselves to that fact. The present social structure of science, by which I mean institutions, education, funding, publications and so on all evolved during the period of exponential expansion, before The Big Crunch. They are not suited to the unknown future we face. Today's scientific leaders, in the universities, government, industry and the scientific societies are mostly people who came of age during the golden era, 1950 - 1970. I am myself part of that generation. We think those were normal times and expect them to return. But we are wrong. Nothing like it will ever happen again. It is by no means certain that science will even survive, much less flourish, in the difficult times we face. Before it can survive, those of us who have gained so much from the era of scientific elites and scientific illiterates must learn to face reality, and admit that those days are gone forever. I think we have our work cut out for us."

That's wy we don't vote (2, Insightful)

Homer's Donuts (838704) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581197)

That's why we don't vote on stuff like global warming.

Global Warming: Religion, disguised as science.

Not that you don't have a right to believe in it.

Are the voters informed enough about ANY issue?? (1)

jrmcc (703725) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581215)

The whole voting process seems designed to obfuscate the issues. At least in the CA elections a ballot guide with outlines on issues and candidates were mailed to voters. I now live in KS where you have to go on a quest to find information of any depth on issues and candidates.

It's almost as if they're hiding something ...

The quiz says it all really (0, Troll)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581265)

The article links to a science quiz. Lets review the questions shall we?
  1. The center of the Earth is very hot.

    No shit sherlock, plenty of movies with volcanoes and magma/lava in it. Fail to know this and you have a room temperature IQ.

  2. All radioactivity is man-made.

    No, there is lots around and of course radio-active materials are found in nature. We are exposed constantly to radiation but I suppose people might not know this OR mis-understand the question. You might have picked up that the sun is an exploding nuke or that uranium is mined or heard the term background radiation.

  3. It is the fathers gene that decides whether the baby is a boy or a girl.

    Father of course, basic biology, comes up often enough, but I suppose you might have forgotten. It ain't an issue most of the time and out of sight out of mind.

  4. Lasers work by focusing sound waves.

    Seems pretty obvious to anyone who ever seen a laser LIGHT. I suppose the way the question is asked could confuse you. You might be swayed into thinking that by focussing sound you can create light. If anybody on slashdot fell for it, go kill yourself.

  5. Electrons are smaller than atoms.

    Duh, they are after all part of atoms, so they have to be smaller. If you know what an atom/electon is then you need to know this. If you do not, well there is nothing wrong with only having a swimming pre-school diploma.

  6. Antibiotics kill viruses as well as bacteria.

    Bacteria obviously but this is one of the questions people really might not know. Viruses and bacteria are often mixed up in the media.

  7. The universe began with a huge explosion.

    Fact? We do not absolutely know this yet, yes there was a big bang, probably BUT was that the beginning. A loaded question. If you think it was created by god 6000 years ago, you are wrong.

  8. The continents on which we live have been moving their location for millions of years and will continue to move in the future.

    Obviously, just ask anyone living near a fault. Millions of years might be debated by the insane but that the continents move can and has been measured.

  9. Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.

    True of course, the proof is getting stronger every year with more missing links being found. A deeply dividing question apparently in the US.

  10. Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth?

    Oh come on. If you fail this one after 3rd rock from the Sun you don't need to go out and kill yourself, you are already legally braindead.

  11. How long does it take for the Earth to go around the sun?

    Tsk, giving the answer for the previous question in the next one? Sad to say, I know people that would fail this question and yes, they are indeed the type that you absolutely do NOT want to vote because they lack any capacity to make conclusions based on observations.

  • 10 or 11 right: You are a geek!

    No, you have an average IQ. Welcome to the human race

  • 8 or 9 right: You will receive a lovely chemistry set as a parting gift

    You are retarded, you should have people taking care of you.

  • 7: You need to bring a (Newtonian?) apple to bribe the teacher

    You are severely retarded

  • 6 or less: Like a scientist knows, it's good to learn from mistakes

    You are dead. Random guessing would have served you better.

That you are supposed to be a geek to know the answer to these questions says it all. Come on, they are general knowledge questions, but yet usatoday seems to think that knowing these makes you the top of the bill, a genius equall to Einstein.

No, not everyone needs to know everything but this is stuff like not knowing that we need air to breath, that water is wet and fire hot.

Our society has slipped into a state where is is considered normal to know every detail about Paris Hilton's life but not why a year is a year.

We got to remember that democracy was envioned by educated people who DID NOT give the vote to every tom, dick and harry. Lots of people have been given the vote since the idea of a democracy came about without every considering wether this was a good idea.

You don't need to be a genius to vote, but you do need to be able to at least be able to reason and question as well as observe your world and learn. If you really never picked up that it takes 1 year for the earth to rotate around the sun and that is in fact why a year is a year long, then how can you hope to ever observe what the person/party you are voting for is really doing and how this affects your world?

How can person who did not get every question right ever hope to do anything more then vote for the party their father voted for?

The problem ain't voting alone, that usatoday really think this "science" test makes you a geek if you know all the answers is the real problem.

I want to propose a referendum. "We are allowed to kill on sight anyone who fails a single question on this quiz who is over the age of 10." Only people allowed to vote are those who failed the quiz. We just make the yes button shiny.

And to all those that mod this flamebait for hurting their egos that are larger then their IQ's, you are the problem. Now press the shiny yes button.

About Science? (1)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 6 years ago | (#24581319)

Most US Voters aren't informed at all, about anything.

Most folks don't have any idea what is going on in the world, what their government is doing in their name, how the economy works...

I'm constantly horrified at the number of people who vote for their representatives based solely on whether they seem folksy or friendly enough.

Liberal code-speak (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24581323)

Bah. This is just liberal code-speak for, "Are US voters too stupid to realize that man-made global warming is NOT a hoax?" The implication thus being that we have to all vote Democratic, and eventually go back to living like cavemen. The problem is that the same people who would formulate this pablum will continue to question the long-term viability of using wood as fuel for a fire, because it kills trees and causes yet MORE "greenhouse emissions." Seriously, where does it stop? Once you're on the kick that trees and water are sacred, what "impact" on those two resources is acceptable? I simply note for the record that trees GROW BACK, and water evaporates and comes back down as rain. Now, is that enough "science" for you? Seems to be more than you understand.

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