Monday, April 07, 2014

What do Americans know about science.

I would much rather Americans understood more science than they do, but I wonder about articles such as this one which purports to describe that knowledge.

Here is the date provided by the article on question 7 of 10 ("The universe began with a huge explosion" for which the article states "Correct answer: True")

Current theory is that the universe began as a tiny thing composed of a "soup" of energy. It then rapidly inflated, essentially creating space. That inflation continues today, creating the appearance of galaxies flying apart. This has popularly been termed "the Big Bang" theory of the creation of the universe, and I suppose that "explosion" is a reasonable metaphor for what happened, but the creation of the universe was not an explosion in the sense we normally use the term. The original substance of the universe changed as space expanded and that substance expanding, cooled. But that doesn't seem to be an "explosion".

Another example: "10. Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals   Correct answer: True"

Apparently many Americans know that the theory of evolution exists and that it is accepted by science -- can in fact explain it reasonable well -- but do not accept evolution as it conflicts with their religious beliefs. Thus people have the knowledge of the theory of evolution that the question seeks, but the question does not test for understanding but for belief.

If you feel better believing that people everywhere know very little about science, I suppose you can go ahead and continue believing that. It probably doesn't do much harm to do so. But I am not sure that the questionnaire used by the NSF and described in the article provides a good index of such knowledge.

No comments: