1 In 4 Americans Thinks The Sun Goes Around The Earth, Survey Says

86

A quarter of Americans surveyed could not correctly answer that the Earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around, according to a report out Friday from the National Science Foundation.

The survey of 2,200 people in the United States was conducted by the NSF in 2012 and released on Friday at an annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago.

To the question "Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth," 26 percent of those surveyed answered incorrectly.

In the same survey, just 39 percent answered correctly (true) that "The universe began with a huge explosion" and only 48 percent said "Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals."

Just over half understood that antibiotics are not effective against viruses.

Written By: Scott Neuman
continue to source article at npr.org

86 COMMENTS

  1. I have a sneaking suspicion that the number of people who answered that question about the sun and the earth wrong probably corresponds perfectly with the number of people who also believe that Elvis Presley is still alive.

  2. A quarter of Americans surveyed could not correctly answer that the Earth revolves around the sun

    Why do they think it’s called the Solar system? They must know what “solar” means, thanks to solar panels. Maybe they’re just not good at making up for ignorance with inferences.

    In the same survey, just 39 percent answered correctly (true) that “The universe began with a huge explosion”

    The Big Bang wasn’t really an explosion, but you can’t expect people unfamiliar with the Friedmann equation to know that.

    • In reply to #7 by theGreatFuzzy:

      If the sun did orbit the earth how would it look different?

      Geocentrism would change a few things, as is explained in the link to 8 x 10-15min ‘Bollocks’ videos.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wyRJZbNmC7U

      It would radically alter a few minor but well-understood things like gravity, mass, light speed, relativity, etc…. 8-)

      Since we couldn’t exist in such an unreal place, we can’t even imagine what it would look like to us…. Mac.

      • In reply to #34 by CdnMacAtheist:

        In reply to #7 by theGreatFuzzy:

        If the sun did orbit the earth how would it look different?

        Geocentrism would change a few things, as is explained in the link to 8 x 10-15min ‘Bollocks’ videos.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wyRJZbNmC7U

        I want to, also, put in a plug for that great video series by CHL. Not only do they show what bollocks Geocentrism comprises, but the series includes excellent explanations of the current knowledge we have from astronomy, in general.

        There really is a group of people out there who want to deny the movement of the Earth for religious reasons. I have tangled with such persons on other web sites. One of whom, is behind a movie that is about to come out called, “The Principle,” that is another of these deceptive edits jobs like the movie, “Expelled,” we had a few years ago. This piece of misrepresentation is all about trying to support Geocentrism, or at least the idea that the Earth is in a special place re the Universe (now, isn’t that special ;-).

    • In reply to #7 by theGreatFuzzy:

      If the sun did orbit the earth how would it look different?

      You would not get different steller constallations in the year, There would not be any seasons, &
      The sun would need to be the same distance from earth as geostationary satellits (35,786 kilometres) and guess what the radius of the sun is? (clue – around 700,000 kilometers)
      Not to mention the rest of the universe would have to be in the same orbit.

      (well you did ask)

    • In reply to #7 by theGreatFuzzy:

      If the sun did orbit the earth how would it look different?

      To make it look the same you would have to screw around with gravity, mass and the speed of light. Do those things and, sure, it can look the same. If you want to know how it can look the same without changing those things the answer is it cannot.

      • In reply to #60 by DanDare:

        In reply to #7 by theGreatFuzzy:

        If the sun did orbit the earth how would it look different?

        To make it look the same you would have to screw around with gravity, mass and the speed of light. Do those things and, sure, it can look the same. If you want to know how it can look the same without those things the answer is it cannot.

        … and with a different size and mass of the Sun and Moon. But there have been plenty of past nutters who have redesigned the universe to comply with their religious beliefs!

        https://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/flat/flateart.htm
        Hampden thought the sun only 600 miles away, and 32 miles in diameter. These numbers derived from Rowotham, and added nothing new to flat earth theory.

        After Rowbotham’s death in 1884 his followers carried on the crusade. The Universal Zetetic Society (UZS) was founded in 1890, publishing a journal titled The Earth Not a Globe Review which had 1000 subscribers.

  3. Appalled, disgusted, followed by disbelief, and finally shame. They should break each level of ignorance down by age, region, education level, and economic status so some of us might have a chance to disassociate.

  4. Stupid Americans I thought. 26% think the sun goes around the earth. Then I read 34% of Europeans thought so too. So naturally I thought perhaps its the way the question is phrased. And then I thought maybe I have an issue with in-group cognitive bias….

    • In reply to #9 by phil rimmer:

      Stupid Americans I thought. 26% think the sun goes around the earth. Then I read 34% of Europeans thought so too. So naturally I thought perhaps its the way the question is phrased. And then I thought maybe I have an issue with in-group cognitive bias….

      I don’t think so…I thought the same people are generally very ignorant of world geography as well – let alone world affairs – let alone cosmic systems etc etc

      • In reply to #17 by Light Wave:

        In reply to #9 by phil rimmer:

        I don’t think so…I thought the same people are generally very ignorant of world geography as well

        My comment was only about my in-group (Europeans) out-group (Americans) reaction, and its unfair bias. I quickly thought Americans stupid, but when shown Europeans stupider I immediately questioned the results.

        I do think, though, a test that involved a diagram of heliocentric and geocentric solar systems, would indicate lower stupidity levels in both cases.

    • In reply to #9 by phil rimmer:

      Stupid Americans I thought. 26% think the sun goes around the earth. Then I read 34% of Europeans thought so too. So naturally I thought perhaps its the way the question is phrased. And then I thought maybe I have an issue with in-group cognitive bias….

      Ok, take a deep breath. Relax………

    • In reply to #11 by Aureliano Buendia:

      There is a quote in the Quran that Earth is in the centre of the universe, and the Sun goes around the Earth.

      Bible or Quoran says so – That must be right!!! – We’d better start work on a new theory of gravity!

      • In reply to #22 by alf1200:

        In reply to #12 by vbaculum:

        What exactly is the usefulness of having compulsory education? I mean this non-rhetorically.

        So Americans (myself) are not any dumber than we already are?

        You presume compulsory “education” reduces the dumbness level.

    • In reply to #13 by vbaculum:

      All the reports say “1/4 of Americans”. Has anyone been able to determine what that mean in terms of age. In other words, does the sample include chlidren below, say, age 10.

      Children below the age of ten would score better

  5. I hesitate to take too much from surveys like this- unless (like most of us) they confirm one of my biases.

    First, there was no demographic info given- no breakdown indicating which groups were more likely to get a question right or wrong.
    Second, according to the source given, most all were done by phone interviews the quality of which has to have suffered in recent years.

    Back in the 70′s, you could get a reasonably random sample by smiling and dialing but not so much any more. I, for example, am not listed anywhere and for various reasons (none of which included avoiding people) have had four different numbers in the last five years. If they are just asking the low-hanging fruit of listed people with land-lines, their demographic will be skewed.

    • In reply to #15 by rjohn19:

      I hesitate to take too much from surveys like this- unless (like most of us) they confirm one of my biases.

      First, there was no demographic info given- no breakdown indicating which groups were more likely to get a question right or wrong.
      Second, according to the source given, most all were done b…

      Its going to depend on the sample size. If its large enough and random its probably going to be somewhat accurate.

  6. Well I would take this survey with a pinch of salt.

    dont most surveys suggest creationism is about 46% in the US? yet 83% think the earth is millions of years old in this survey..

    Look at China’s score some of them seem so bad that if you were guessing you would do much better.

  7. His ignorance was as remarkable as his knowledge. Of contemporary literature, philosophy and politics he appeared to know next to nothing. Upon my quoting Thomas Carlyle, he inquired in the naivest way who he might be and what he had done. My surprise reached a climax, however, when I found incidentally that he was ignorant of the Copernican Theory and of the composition of the Solar System. That any civilized human being in this nineteenth century should not be aware that the earth traveled round the sun appeared to be to me such an extraordinary fact that I could hardly realize it.

    “You appear to be astonished,” he said, smiling at my expression of surprise. “Now that I do know it I shall do my best to forget it.”

    “To forget it!”

    “…Depend on it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.”

    “But the Solar System!” I protested.

    “What the deuce is it to me?” he interrupted impatiently; “you say that we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work.”

    • In reply to #19 by Katy Cordeth:

      Depend on it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before.

      LoL. But, no.

      “Irrelevant” knowledge is what will change your mind and notch you forward. The unexpected and inconvenient fact, not tidied away and passivated has the greatest power to make you think again. I love “irrelevant” knowledge. It uses me all the time.

  8. to be fair re the antibiotics question,

    ie do you know the differences between a virus and a bacteria,it really is beyond the couldn’t give a shit of most rational non science trained people. It’s kind of like asking what is the difference between trans-substantiation and something very similar to whatever tanssubstantiation is but is not quite the same and expecting someone who isn’t a priest to know.
    Frankly no one else gives
    a shit.

    • In reply to #27 by jjbircham:

      to be fair re the antibiotics question… ie do you know the differences between a virus and a bacteria…It’s kind of like asking what is the difference between trans-substantiation and something very similar…Frankly no one else gives a shit.

      Not really fair to compare the quintessential healthcare intervention of the 20th century to Christ-as-a-cracker now is it? I’ll stop giving a shit when a person’s ignorance of biology (which is not a crime) stops them from demanding antibiotics because I’m clearly mistaken about the natural history of a common cold. And don’t even try asking for ‘stronger’ antibiotics… This sort of unremedied ignorance has real-world consequences.

  9. I am beginning to wonder how important a little stat like this really is? I mean it seems like a trivial fact that everyone should know, but maybe because its trivial no one really cares. I not sure that this is really all that telling and I am not sure too much stock should be put into this. People tend to know the information that directly applies to them and so them not knowing this doesn’t automatically mean they are of inferior intelligence but as I said the information might not be that important to them personally.

  10. “As alarming as some of those deficits in science knowledge might appear, Americans fared better on several of the questions than similar, but older surveys of their Chinese and European counterparts.”

    Americans fared better? Really? What is the point of comparing new survey results (2012) with those from 2005 for the Europeans and Chinese?

  11. I use a dating web site. This web site asks a bunch of questipns to make good a match (not eharmony).

    Anyway, this site asks this very question. I thought it was a joke. How does someone not know the earth orbits the sun?

    Rest assured that all seam to get this question correct. Of course, my poll has a certain selection bias. Apparently heterosexual women between the ages of 35 – 45 in northern New Jersey largely know this fact. That doesn’t bode well for other demographics.

    I’m looking at you, Kansas.

  12. You know what? I sometimes think we make too much of this sort of stuff. We are interested in science and that’s why we hang about on this incredibly cool site (let’s face it the only cool place I feel at home these days) and while the consequences of all this knowledge are vital to everyone on the planet, actually knowing or understanding it is not (same as being able to drive as opposed to understanding how an engine works). It has always been the same. I have next to no knowledge of tropical fish, and doubtless those who do, because they are interested, will be slapping their foreheads at my ignorance of the fact that a lionfish is another name for a turkeyfish.

    Our angle should be to bear mind that a good many people have no knowledge of science nor any desire to acquire it. This might mean that some politicians with dodgy ideas could get elected and we will have a continuing responsibility to support the leaders in our fields of science in keeping them straight.

  13. I’m sorry, but I’m just not buying this. I know we have some ignorant rubes here, but 1 in 4 believing the Sun goes around the Earth? Nah! Where are these people? Why don’t I ever seem to run into them?

    • In reply to #38 by michael.speir.9:

      I’m sorry, but I’m just not buying this. I know we have some ignorant rubes here, but 1 in 4 believing the Sun goes around the Earth? Nah! Where are these people? Why don’t I ever seem to run into them?

      I can’t help but feel that a significant number of those who answered incorrectly probably misread/misheard the question, or maybe were nervous, distracted or rushed when they answered.

      • In reply to #39 by Simon Tuffen:

        Anyone remember the Sherri Shepard flap a few years ago? She was co-hosting a morning show when someone asked her “do you think the Earth is flat?”. Sherri’s answer was “I don’t know!”. Fallout was swift, someone (Phil Plait?) even wrote an opinion piece called “Sherri Shepard Must Go!”

        The next day she said something to the effect of “of course I know the world is round, it’s just that the question caught me off guard and I was thinking about my son and such”.

        Shepard is still on the show, and hosts another one, too. My guess, viewers love her and don’t give a s*** about her comprehension of astronomy.

    • In reply to #38 by michael.speir.9:

      I’m sorry, but I’m just not buying this. I know we have some ignorant rubes here, but 1 in 4 believing the Sun goes around the Earth? Nah! Where are these people? Why don’t I ever seem to run into them?

      Have you ever actually asked anyone? Try it and you’ll be astonished at the result. My standard question goes “Sun, earth, moon: what revolves around what?” Many people don’t know.

  14. I don’t find this in the slightest bit surprising, in fact if anything I’m surprised the results are as high as they are. I’ve asked people this question for decades when I first discovered as a teen that there were people who didn’t know the answer. I was incredulous when I encountered the first person. Try it yourself and you’ll see. My question is:

    Sun, earth, moon: what revolves around what?

    People who know will look at you like you’re insane for asking such a simple question. Others will think it’s a trick question, like there could be some hidden answer! Most will just guess or get it wrong. Most people have never considered the question, which might as well be one of deep astrophysics for all they care.

    In my experience more people don’t know than do.

  15. And 40% of Americans think the world is less than 10,000 years old, and Fred Flintstone really kept a pet dinosaur. And 30,000 gunshot deaths a year are a price well worth paying for (ahem) personal security.

    America is bonkers. It is La La Land. I will not visit out of choice and last went (on business) 17 years ago.

    I know there are some sensible Americans on this forum, exceptions which prove the rule. You have my very sincere sympathies.

  16. My four-year-old informed me, as we looked up at the night sky the other day, that all of the stars were suns. She then asked me which were the other planets, as she began naming them. How the hell can 1 in 4 not know the earth goes around the sun?

  17. I would have an easier time believing that 26% of Americans were incapable of reading the question or otherwise misunderstood it than believing they don’t know the earth orbits the sun.

    • In reply to #54 by theGreatFuzzy:

      Does the moon orbit the sun?

      Goggle ‘images for epicyclic orbit’ to see the path the moon takes around the sun as it orbits the earth.

      Is a man falling from a roof at rest?

      Initially restless, but ultimately restful…. 8-) Mac.

  18. They forgot to say that nearly 54% of americans dont believe in evolution either. How do you expect that ignormuses to know anything about astronomy. They are more used to simplistic ideas that “God created everything in 6 days”.

  19. The full survey actually says that Europeans and americans ar epretty much on par with regards to their ignorance of astronomy, slightly better than koreans and the japanese. Idiocy is not an american thing.

  20. If the survey expect the correct answer for the beginning of the universe to be a huge explosion then I don’t have much time for the survey itself.

    I would like to see the questions in more detail before I began to believe the figures.

  21. I’m all for teaching the geocentric model of the solar system along with the heliocentric. We need to teach the controversy and let people decide for themselves how the solar system works.

    • In reply to #64 by serfdood:

      I’m all for teaching the geocentric model of the solar system along with the heliocentric. We need to teach the controversy and let people decide for themselves how the solar system works.

      That’s all well and good, but the fundamentalist position is that the Earth is the centre of the galaxy – or was that the centre of the universe? Now there’s a set of new scientific laws to write!!

  22. I was surprised that, so many answered the questions correctly. From news interviews I thought a lot more were just plain ignorant. I have friend who will not study biology because it goes against the bible; so there you are.

  23. While I get emails from a certain whacko geocentrist group, it sends my BS detectors to 11 to see this being presented as a credible statistic for the rank-n-file American… To me this question seems to be “dumb american trolling”. I can testify that if you do a quick “grab-be-in-the-hall-and-ask-me” about my left from my right, I will blank out unless you let me hold up both hands to see “which one makes the ‘L’”. No really! It’s just not a hardwired node of knowledge that I have in my head 24/7. I’d argue that same thing happens to people who’s day-to-day job is not to know how long the world is or other piece of science trivia. I suspect that most people being asked this question are in the same boat or that there is some other polling error that is just too juicy for the proprietary of the result to let go.

  24. “The universe began with a huge explosion” is still debatable by scientists the world over. I’d cut them some slack there. But ignorance for the other items is mostly inexcusable, given the level of education, and information available in the U.S. today.

  25. I wonder if any of the demographics surveyed were mental patients?
    For those that think this sort of thing doesn’t matter a damn and no one is interested in this shit, you are quite wrong. This isn’t even a science question, it’s akin to “in which direction will you find the sky? up or down”, it scares the shit out of me if any demographic gets this wrong unless they are children or the afore quipped mental patients.
    anyways, I just signed up for here, it’s a nice place you have.
    Al

  26. We need to spend about the same on weaponry, but what we don’t need is one more general in the army times saying we need a wardrobe change or changes to physical training standards. The problem is that the government wastes money on projects that look good but are practically guaranteed not to work.

  27. The Earth doesn’t go around the sun, its is dragged behind in a gravitational wake as the sun moves though the milky way, so technically the question is miss leading, our galaxy a most, are Helical not the flat plain that we were taught in school, not arguing just saying.
    But yes we do need a better education system

    • In reply to #82 by JayTexan:

      The Earth doesn’t go around the sun, its is dragged behind in a gravitational wake as the sun moves though the milky way, so technically the question is miss leading, our galaxy a most, are Helical not the flat plain that we were taught in school, not arguing just saying.

      The positions are relative to chosen points. Normally we take the Sun as the reference point in the Solar System with planetary orbits slightly elliptical, flying alongside each other around the galactic centre. The Milkyway is also moving relative to other galaxies. We could take the Solar-System’s barycenter, the galactic centre, or even Andromeda, as points of reference. It is all relative. Taking the Earth as the central point, is geometrically possible to model, but becomes rather silly when the gravity of the various bodies is included.

  28. This is why I am so passionate about writing children’s books for freethinkers. If we can get kids liking or understanding science at a young age, they will not grow up to be adults like this. This just blows my mind.

Leave a Reply