Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Pew Science Quiz

Pew research has a science knowledge quiz posted to go along with its science report. There were twelve questions, five of which were True or False, and none of which related directly to Evolution. Although one, which asked about continental drift, was closely related to Evolution.

They were pretty simple questions that to my mind were more like general knowledge questions related to science than what I would call real science questions. Anyway, I managed to join only 10% of the public which got all 12 questions right. 54% of the public got at least 8 questions right which would be a passing grade.

Given that 5 questions were True or False and the others were multiple choice, typically from four choices, my pet goat Franky, choosing answers randomly, would be expected to get about 4 questions right. Incredibly 6% of the population did no better than a goat and 9% did worse!

The question the most people got right was “Which over-the-counter drug do doctors recommend that people take to help prevent heart attacks?” 91% of the public knew that it was aspirin.

The question that the fewest people got right was a True or False question that asserted “Electrons are smaller than atoms.” Only 46% got it right.

Men did better than women getting an average of 8.1 questions right while women got an average of 7.4 correct. Unsurprisingly, those with a college degree did better than those with a high school education or less, getting 9.5 questions correct compared to 6.6.

Those in the 30-49 got the most correct answers with 8.5. Those 65 or older did the worst with only an average of 6.5 correct.

Of the demographics listed, men, those with some college, college graduates, those in the 30-49 age range and those in the 50-64 age range would have passed assuming a passing grade was 65%. Only college graduates and those in the 30-49 age range would have passed assuming a passing grade was 70%. The highest grade would have gone to college graduates with a whopping 79%.

That would have been right on the border between a B- and a B.

The lowest grades would have gone to those 65 or older with a grade of 54% and those with a high school or less education with a grade of 55%.

Imagine if the questions had been hard?

The question that amused me the most however was another True or False question which asserted “The continents on which we live have been moving their location for millions of years and will continue to move in the future.”

76% of the population got this question right by answering True. Now, unless a significant number of people answered this question strategically, in other words gave the answer that was needed rather than the one they thought was correct, how come only 61% accept Evolution?

Continental Drift is one of Evolution’s companion theories. It provides some of the strongest evidence for Evolution through the field of Geographic Biology. If you accept Continental Drift, and apparently 76% of the population does, then by definition you must know that Genesis is not an accurate representation of creation and Noah’s flood is a myth.

I find it hard to believe that 38% of the least education segment of the population, those that reject evolution, are intelligent enough to answer the Continental Drift question strategically. I think this is just another example of the inability of the average American to think things through and understand the implications of some of the things he believes.

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