One in four Americans unaware that Earth circles Sun

Phys.org:

Ten questions about physical and biological science were on the quiz, and the average score—6.5 correct—was barely a passing grade.

Just 74 percent of respondents knew that the Earth revolved around the Sun.

One in three respondents said science should get more funding from the government.

Apparently, so should science education.



  • Stu Mark
  • Moeskido

    Not just science education.

  • Timmy

    I thought, strictly speaking, they revolve around each other.

    • JohnDoey

      No. Strictly speaking, both the Earth and the Sun orbit the solar system’s barycenter. But the Sun is definitely not orbiting the Earth.

      • Timmy

        Yes, you are correct. I didn’t mean that the sun orbits earth. I was thinking how all bodies are not stationary in multiple sense.

  • CJ

    I wish they’d be more clear about why people gave the responses they gave. There is a huge difference between ignorance of basic scientific facts and the willful rejection of scientific fact because of dogmatic belief in some opposing religious (or political) ideology. Ignorance can be addressed through education. Willful rejection of scientific knowledge is much more troubling.

  • Craig Treleaven

    I was gobsmacked that so many people appear not to understand something so fundamental. The linked articles provide essentially no information on the population sampled or any characteristics of those answering the questions correctly or not. If the sample included young children, then maybe the finding isn’t as surprising. Has anyone found a more-detailed source?

    • dustinwilson

      Well, if it included young children there’s an abundance of learning material for pre-school-age children that show that the Earth revolves around the sun at least. What the sun is is a question little kids ask their parents before they ever enter school.

      Also, a survey of just over 2200 people cannot in any scientific community constitute a scientific survey capable of reflecting the views of a country of 317 million.

      I’m not usually surprised when it comes to human intelligence, but this just borders on BS. I say human intelligence because you don’t see surveys of people of other countries because there’s not people out there actively trying to label any other nationality as stupid. What would be found if asking this of Canadians or Germans or Brits? 2,200 people wouldn’t remotely constitute a scientific survey of those countries either.

      • famousringo

        If the sample is representative, a survey of 2,200 gives a margin of error of only 2% with 95% confidence. I don’t understand how that sample size isn’t “scientific,” since reporting that 24% or 28% of Americans don’t understand the basic structure of the solar system doesn’t do much to change the point being made.

        The fact is, you can draw useful conclusions from a representative sample of 1000 or so, no matter how huge the population is. If you want to cast doubt on the survey, you’re better off attacking how representative the sample is instead of its size.

        • http://dustinwilson.com/ dustinwilson

          Sorry, I must have missed this response a few days ago. You can draw a lot of information from a sample size of 1,000, but you can’t state out of factual certainty like in a news article that 25% of Americans don’t know the Earth orbits the sun.

          However, modern news doesn’t work that way. They want click bait, and surveys that paint Americans with a stupid brush is popular.

          You are right there are better ways to attack the survey, but I made a mistake in really attacking the survey because the problem isn’t the survey but the article that claims it as definitive proof. Because, if you read the original source material it doesn’t say things in such ominous terms. It displays the information for what it is, and that’s it. That’s fine.

          Usually a survey of that size does have a 2% margin of error with 95% confidence, but those numbers change slowly as the ratio between sample and total size gets larger. They are also based upon subjects that only have size as the only contributing factor. On something like this the total U.S. population is hardly the only factor in play here (the same thing applies to other countries as well). Simply because there’s so many varying education systems in this country you couldn’t just take a sample size in one location in the country and expect it to statistically represent the entire country. You can’t just go into the most rural and remote swamps of South Louisiana, gather up 2,200 people’s views on anything, and then expect that to represent the entirety of the United States. We know that much just by watching this country’s politics. You can’t even contact 44 people in every state (44*50=2,200) and expect that to work either. You’d have 50 sets of a 44 person sample size with each state’s having varying population levels of their own. You’d also leave out the territories. So, in no way does this survey even have close to a 95% confidence even if you only take population as a contributing factor.

      • http://apuka.qqriq.com Az Időmilliomos Apuka

        Here is the detailed report: http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind14/content/chapter-7/c07.pdf Page 23 compares US to other countries Page 48 Ref 17 compares US to EU in detail. Too bad this didn’t make the article.

  • lucascott

    don’t feel bad, Sherlock Holmes doesn’t know that either

  • satcomer

    The USA Education system is failing young USA kids badly today. As well as parents seem to be failing their kids too.