A few weeks ago, Jerry Coyne posted a blog entry entitled, “Americans overwhelmingly support labelling foods that contain—wait for it—DNA!” It’s one of those blog entries where Coyne gets to posture and preen as if he is so much more smarter than those “dumb Americans.” Of course this is ironic given that Coyne, the biologist, actually wants to know “does flour have any DNA in it?” Yes Jerry, you will find DNA in flour.
Anyway, Coyne wrings his hands:
What does the complexity of government have to do with whether voters know what DNA is, and whether it’s dangerous, or whether the Earth orbits the Sun?
Ah yes, the Earth and the Sun. Over at the source behind Coyne’s blog entry, we find the following claim:
The public’s scientific knowledge isn’t much better. A 2012 National Science Foundation survey even found that about 25% of Americans don’t know that the Earth revolves around the sun rather than vice versa. Issues like food labeling bring together political and scientific knowledge, and it is not surprising that public opinion on these subjects is very poorly informed.
And the source for this claim about 1/4 Americans not knowing the Earth revolves around the sun takes us to discovery.com – a popular science site. The article was written by Ian O’Neill and is entitled, “1 in 4 Americans Don’t Know Earth Orbits the Sun. Yes, Really.”
O’Neill tries to link this survey finding to religion by setting up context using the Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham creationism debate. O’Neill writes:
And then, today, the National Science Foundation (NSF) delivered news of a pretty shocking poll result: around one in four Americans (yes, that’s 25 percent) are unaware that the Earth orbits the sun. Let’s repeat that: One in four Americans — that represents one quarter of the population — when asked probably the most basic question in science (except, perhaps, “Is the Earth flat?” Hint: No.), got the answer incorrect. Suddenly I realized why the Nye vs. Ham debate was so popular.
Okay, I get it. 1/4 Americans think the Sun revolves around the Earth because of religion. Right?
O’Neill even ends his blog entry with the typical warning that warms the Heart of Gnu:
For a nation that prides itself on science and discovery, it will be a tragedy on a national scale if fundamental science is undercut by superstition and the bad policies it inspires.
One problem. A three second glance at the data will completely destroy his attempt to smear religion.
Let’s go to the NSF survey. Go to this page of tables. Scroll down and find table 7-8. Click on the HTML tag and the data should pop up.
Oh no! They are right. If you look in the first column, only 74% of Americans know the Earth goes around the Sun. 1 in 4 Americans Don’t Know Earth Orbits the Sun. Yes, Really.
But if we are going to blame religion for this, it would be nice if we had a negative control. Y’know, like similar survey data from the European Union. After all, we have been told again and again the EU is much less religious and far more “pro-science” that we unsophisticated Americans are. Surely, they would do much better on this question.
What’s that you say? We have those data?! Holy smokes, we do! Just 2 columns over to the right. And what’s this? While 74% of Americans know the Earth goes around the Sun, only 66% of Europeans know the Earth goes around the Sun.
1 in 4 Americans Don’t Know Earth Orbits the Sun. Yes, Really.
1 in 3 Europeans Don’t Know Earth Orbits the Sun. Yes, Really.
With these data, it becomes clear the “religion as cause” explanation advocated by atheists and secularists has been falsified. Europeans, who are supposed to be much less religious than Americans, are even more likely to accept Geocentrism.
What’s most disturbing is Ian O’Neill. He is supposed to be a scientist writing for a science magazine. What is his excuse for completely ignoring the EU data?
In science, if a control result undercuts or falsifies your hypothesis, you do NOT ignore the control results in order to promote your hypothesis. Such behavior is the antithesis of science.