It may be time to concede that there is such a thing as willful ignorance



In 2012, the National Science Foundation conducted a public survey on basic knowledge of science, but the results were just released.

The survey tracked the answers provided by 2,200 randomly selected adults to ten true-or false questions. The item that has attracted the most media attention has been the stunning revelation that 26% of the respondents did not know that the Earth orbits around the sun.

Here are the other, often equally dismaying results:

16% did not know that the Earth core is hot;

17% did not know that the continents migrate because of plate tectonics;

17% did not know that a gene from the father determines a baby’s gender;

28% thought that all radioactivity is man-made;

49% did not know that antibiotics do not kill viruses;

47% did not know that electrons are smaller than atoms;

52% did not agree that human beings have evolved from other species of animals;

53% think that lasers produce energy through sound waves;

61% did not know that the prevailing explanation of the origin of the universe is that it started with an explosion.

If the survey had been a quiz, the mean score would have been about 65%.

Interestingly, 66% did not think that government should provide more support for scientific research. But 90% described themselves as being enthusiastic about science and science education.

These results cannot be blamed on science teachers or professors simply because anyone who has even casually read the daily newspaper or even watched television should know more than the respondents to this survey seem to know.

Hell, the opening theme of the very popular series The Big Bang Theory explains the show’s title and thus the origins of the universe.

Then again, perhaps the popularity of the show simply explains how 39% of those surveyed got that answer right.