For some persepctive on polling

Apparently only 75% of people believe the earth rotates around the sun… Daaaaaamn.

Check the links.

Around national elections they tell us how disturbingly low the number of people who know who the current president of the united states is.

My sister went to Milsaps university (I am not sure about the spelling). She brought some friends to visit for spring break once. None of them could point to England on a globe. Two of them thought the capitol of this country was Washington STATE. When shown a map of North America that had a provincial maps, none of them could agree on which Provence of MEXICO was Canada although one of them was pretty sure Canada was to the north, not south.

If someone told me this, I would have never believed people were really that stupid. However you must realize you pick your friends. You may ask everyone you know these questions and they may look at you like your an idiot for even asking. Yet the vast majority of people are not like your friends and co-workers. There is a whole other world out there you do not even think about. The older cashier at Wal-mart. The manager of a McDonalds. The guy who drives a city bus, etc…

The manager of a McDonalds. The guy who drives a city bus, etc…

No, these aren’t the people giving those answers.

Bus drivers and franchise managers tend to be smarter than you’d think.

My preferred litmus test for “Will I get along with ________?” is if they understand the difference between contractions and possessive pronouns. My standards are high.

I tend to assume that everyone knows everything that I know, and that everyone has the same priorities I do. Experience has taught me that this is seldom the case, which leads to enormous quantities of frustration at my end. I’ve put a lot of time, thought, and effort into establishing my list of priorities, so naturally I think they’re the best ones. I find it insulting and offensive when people don’t take it upon themselves to, you know, know shit.

*Edited to add:

The reality is that many people have no motivation to improve themselves, they have no interest in knowing shit, they don’t mind being overweight, wearing pleated pants, whatever. People also don’t like it pointed out that they don’t know shit, that they’re overweight, or that they’re wearing pleated pants. This is why there’s an anti-intellectual movement in this country. We’re chock-full of stupid people, and they know it, and they resent anyone pointing it out. Just don’t ask them to do anything about it. Not while American Idol is on.

Of contemporary literature, philosophy and politics he appeared to know next to nothing. Upon my quoting Thomas Carlyle, he inquired in the naivest way who he might be and what he had done. My surprise reached a climax, however, when I found incidentally that he was ignorant of the Copernican Theory and of the composition of the Solar System. That any civilized human being in this nineteenth century should not be aware that the earth travelled round the sun appeared to be to me such an extraordinary fact that I could hardly realize it.

“You appear to be astonished,” he said, smiling at my expression of surprise. “Now that I do know it I shall do my best to forget it.”

Well, at least the remaining 25% are in good company.

I think both the blog post you link and your post are a little misleading in presenting this issue. It’s not a “belief” issue, a lot of people just couldn’t remember that particular piece of trivia.

Before people get all up in arms for me calling it trivia, please keep in mind that it is a trivial piece of information for the day to day of lives of 99.9% of the population who will never work at or do anything that requires them to know the Copernican model of the solar system.

I think if you rephrase the finding as “one quarter of Americans don’t remember some piece of trivia from grade school science” it’s a lot less shocking.

I suppose, but we’re not talking about the chemical composition of Salt here, or how to take the derivative of a function. There’s no way to dress it up and make it purty - this is just sad.

I’m conflicted.

On the one hand, I have to admit that this isn’t a crucial piece of information. A person will be able to get to work on time, and probably perform his duties admirably, without knowing the reason for the season, or why there are 365 days in a year.

On the other hand, I feel it’s quite a sad state of affairs that one in four people on the street won’t know the answer, that they don’t have…well…any intellectual curiosity. Really, who am I to tell you what you should or shouldn’t know? But, Christ!

Sad how?

This is just people being people. There’s no need for them to ever be curious about this particular information, it’s irrelevant to daily life for a ton of people.

A lot of people forget things they aren’t interested in.

I can’t remember the rules to soccer (or football to the non Americans reading this) at all, other than the vague idea that hands are a no no. I knew how to play once, I was in leagues as a small child and so forth. But now it’s a complete blank. Is that sad too?

I can’t believe no one has pointed out that the earth revolves around the sun. Classic terminology mistake.

I’m glad the poll question avoided that entirely (Now, does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth?)

ps. I’m far, far from being a grammar Nazi. It was the irony that got me.

I don’t care for that analogy. You may have learned that the earth revolves around the sun when you were eight, but you see the sun every day, and you have a pretty good idea of what season it is every day. You may have learned the rules of soccer at eight, but you don’t play or see it played every day. This is like, forgetting things run on electricity.

I wonder how many times people have had this conversation?

“You see,” he explained, "I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose.

A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones."

“But the Solar System!” I protested.

“What the deuce is it to me?” he interrupted impatiently; “you say that we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work.”

I always found it odd that Holmes would take this view. I agree with Adam that it does indicate a lack of intellectual curiosity.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m just going to go ahead and admit that I have no idea who Thomas Carlyle is.

I see the sun almost every day, true. But how often do I personally see the earth go around it? Considering that for thousands and thousands of years of human history the best and brightest of humanity didn’t figure out the solar system was heliocentric (epicycles anyone?) I hardly consider it some self-evident fact that any idjit can be reminded of by observation.

All the folks professing how sad this it, do you think it a failure of humanity to have this “lack of intellectual curiosity” about the world around them? Or perhaps a failure of our education system?

When I was in university, it bothered me a lot that people seemed so profoundly incurious to knowledge and indifferent to the great issues of the day. Today, with more experience with people from varied academic settings, I am far more annoyed with the postmodernist-type claims of otherwise well-educated and intelligent people that “Western” science and knowledge is subjective and culturally-based.

And I’m not just talking about arts students in leftish Western universities either, you should hear what some Chinese university students have to say about Western science.

And these idiots don’t even know what the difference is between Windows 95, Windows ME, and Windows XP either! LOL!!11! I mean serious big time LOSERS!!1! HOW CAN YOU NOT KNOW THIS STUFF PEOPLE?


I’m agreeing with Nick. There are certainly things which are somewhat fundamental to 99% of our knowledge, but astronomy isn’t one of them. Also, I couldn’t find the data that the blahgers used in the linked articles, specifically the data from the “GSS science module”.

I don’t know, in a time when supposedly edumacated people think the earth is 6,000 years old and noah carried dinosaur eggs around with him is it really that surprising that “ignorant” people don’t know/realise that the earth is fla… revolves around the sun?

Everyone knows Noah didn’t carry dinosaur eggs. First, he needs one of each sex, how could he know what sex the dinos would have been?

Secondly, dinosaurs are an invention by scientists to trick us into doubting the bible.

You see a computer monitor every day, how often do you see the electricity go into it? Would you feel the same way if one in four Americans thought computers ran on magic? What if one in four Americans thought the sun was Apollo’s chariot? What if one in four Americans thought the moon was made of cheese? What if one in four Americans didn’t believe that China exists? Certainly, far fewer have ever been there.

You’re arguing that any and all learning or progress the human race has made is pointless and irrelevant if it’s of no use on my daily commute. Why should I care if the Earth is flat or not? Why should I care if there are oceans? Why shouldn’t I drink that bottle of Dran-O? Why should I give a shit about anything I can’t see from my house? Why should I care about anything that doesn’t affect me personally?

Why should I bother knowing the correct answer to any question? Who the fuck cares?!

Electricity is a thing people work with every day. Not in a hands on way, hopefully, but we certainly flip enough switches on and off and plug/unplug enough things to need a little knowledge of electricity :)

It’s probably more than 1/4. They don’t call it magic, but they have no idea how the things work.

Now you are just moving the goalposts and being silly. We aren’t talking about people willfully believing strange myths, we are talking about some people misremembing a piece of science trivia.

Nope, but nice try at restating my point in absurd terms. I’m arguing that many pieces of scientific trivia are irrelevant to a majority of people. This is the day and age of google and wikipedia, if someone needs a piece of trivia it’s readily available ;-)

That’s so absurd I’m not going to respond to it. Suffice to say that those questions don’t have anything to do with what I was talking about.