Science literacy: 1 in 4 Americans don’t know the earth orbits the sun

1 in 4 Americans are in the dark about one of the most basic questions in science: Does the sun revolve around the Earth, or does the Earth revolve around the sun?

A survey conducted by the National Science Foundation asked individuals ten questions about science and technology. The results were released at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago.

The good news: 3 in 4 Americans know the earth orbits the sun. The bad news: 1 in 4 Americans don’t know the earth orbits the sun.

When asked “Does the sun revolve around the Earth, or does the Earth revolve around the sun?” 1 in 4 Americans surveyed answered incorrectly. In other words, a quarter of Americans do not understand one of the most fundamental principles of basic science.

Perhaps more disappointing is the fact that fewer than half (48 percent) of study participants were aware that human beings evolved from earlier species of animals.

However, in the words of the report, while “many Americans provide multiple incorrect answers to basic questions about scientific facts;” … “residents of other countries, including highly developed ones, appear to perform no better.”

See MSN for a list of the questions in the survey, along with their correct answers. Below each question, you’ll see a graph showing the percentage of Americans who gave the correct answer, along with the percentage of people in other regions who answered correctly when asked similar questions.

Perhaps the best news from the survey: While many Americans are fuzzy on basic scientific facts, an overwhelming majority (90 percent) of Americans believe that scientists are “helping to solve challenging problems” and are “dedicated people who work for the good of humanity.”

The earth orbits the sun.
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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Blaidd Mathúin

    There is a second possibility…1 in 4 Americans dont understand English well enough to answer the question. No, this isnt better but it is another possibility. However, considering Florida’s voting issues and the sad failure of US schools who are heavy on ESL classes instead of forcing them to speak ENGLISH….so, what language was used to question the Americans or did we use pictographs?

    • Cardunculus

      A third possibility: 1 in 4 Americans (or at least a significant fraction of this 25%) can be bit of a smartass when anonymously answering trivial questions.

    • Eli

      uh…ESL IS to teach English.

      • Blaidd Mathúin

        Yes, ESL, English as a SECOND language…and in US schools it is failing, horridly. That was the point. Sorry if I didnt spell it out for you totally, Eli.

        • Eli

          I don’t understand your point…it’s not their native language, thus it’s their second (or third, etc) language that they’re learning. The “second” just refers to the fact that they’re not native speakers and have to learn it like any second language, as opposed to through exposure as a baby. Are you thinking it means English is not the primary language used in classes? Because that would be incorrect.

  • Paul DeLuca

    or the other possibility is that their religious leaders have told them that the earth is the center of the universe and everything revolves around it

    • http://batman-news.com Anton

      or the other possibility is that their religious leaders have told them that the earth is the center of the universe and everything revolves around it and it’s the year 750.

      I fixed it for you.

  • http://anopenorthodoxy.wordpress.com/ Tom

    It’s one in four that “doesn’t” (not that “don’t”) know, etc. They don’t know science. You don’t know grammar.

  • R Vogel

    You have to believe that there is something in the wording that confused people (if the link is accurate I thought ‘goes around’ a strange way to phrase that), the low scores everywhere on that question has to give you pause. Only 65% of those polled in the EU got this right? So am I supposed to believe that 1 in 3 people in the EU don’t know how the solar system works?

    • John Pantzer

      I agree with your comment, R Vogel. There are more ways than one that could have led to this question being answered incorrectly, and it seems very unlikely that the only reason people missed this answer was that they actually think the sun revolves around the earth.

  • http://timpanogos.wordpress.com/ Ed Darrell

    On that question, of the Earth orbiting the Sun, the U.S. came out better than other nations, except South Korea.

    In the EU, only 66% answered the Earth/Sun question accurately. In India, 70% got it right. 72% in Malaysia, and 86% in South Korea. (The question was not asked in Japan, China or Russia.)

    “#2” sounds a lot better than “stupid.”