Polls about public science literacy in the US always manage to depress me. We are the richest nation in the world, have outstanding universities, and spend more money on education per capita than any country besides Norway. And yet, we slum it down with Turkey on the public acceptance of evolution.
The discrepancy between public science literacy in the US versus the rest of the first world is jaw-dropping. Here is a new poll from Angus Reid comparing views on evolution between the US, Britain, and Canada. The respondents were asked:
Which of these statements comes closest to your own point of view regarding the origin and development of human beings on earth?
- Human beings evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years.
- God created human beings in their present form within the last 10,000 years.
- Not sure.
And the results:
Depressing? Yep. Surprising? Not so much any more.
This poll shows that virtually half of the US population is made up of young-earth creationists. HALF! Were not even talking intelligent design or wishy-washy, God-guided evolution here. Half of the US electorate thinks the universe sprung into unchanging existence less that 10,000 years ago; this is Flintstones creationism.
Only 35% of Americans can tell hard science from a fairy tale. How does this happen? Is it all because of rampant fundamentalist religiosity and anti-intellectualism? Are our schools really that bad at teaching science? Does the media drown human consciousness in insipid drivel, preventing people from being capable of a single fleeting critical thought? The answer is probably a lot of each, and it leaves me feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of ever overcoming it.