A survey conducted by the National Science Foundation asked Americans some basic science questions to determine American science literacy. Guess what? One in four Americans didn’t know of or hold to a heliocentric view of our solar system—they didn’t know the earth went around the sun.
Who knows what these unscientific Americans actually think is going on between the earth and the sun. Perhaps they never think about it. It probably doesn’t make much of a difference from one day to the next. The sun still rises and sets for these people, in spite of their ignorance.
I also have to question the validity of this survey. It said 48 percent of Americans were ignorant of the “fact” that humans evolved from lower animals. Listen to this pronouncement from TIME:
And the fact that only 74 percent of participants knew that the Earth revolved around the sun is perhaps less alarming than the fact that only 48 percent knew that humans evolved from earlier species of animals.
I’m very aware of the theories of evolution. I know more than most so-called scientists do about the development of evolutionary myth. I don’t believe macro-evolution is scientifically defensible. Does that mean I am not scientifically literate? Not necessarily.
But, to be completely honest, I am not frightened as much by American ignorance as I am by the fact that Americans uncritically approve of all things “science” by default.
According to this same survey, ninety percent of unscientific Americans believe “the benefits of science outweigh any dangers.” This is a recipe for disaster. The vast majority of Americans know very little about science in actuality. Couple that with unbridled enthusiasm, and you know what you have? A cult, that’s what.
We live in a culture that implicitly trusts anyone in a white lab coat. Consensus science is regularly used now to manipulate politics (e.g., climate change). How does our current scientific priesthood differ from the astronomer priests of Babylon or the architect priests of Egypt? They really don’t.