Date: Wed Jul 06 1994 00:00:26
From: Sheppard Gordon
Subj: Ignorant about science
SCIENCE POLL PROVIDES THOUGHT FOR ANTHROPOLOGISTS
The Columbus Dispatch
Americans apparently love science even as they continue not
to know much about it.
A poll conducted in March by Louis Harris and Associates for
the American Museum of Natural History showed that 51 percent of
the 1,255 respondents understand less and less about what
scientists are doing.
The survey shows the gigantic gap that is widening in the
population between those who understand science and those who
haven't a clue.
Asked if they were interested in anthropology, 44 percent of
respondents said they were. Asked if they were interested in
peoples of the world, 81 percent said "yes."
Here are some similar results:
Botany, 39 percent vs. plants and trees, 77 percent; zoology,
59 percent vs. animals, 87 percent; evolution, 43 percent vs.
history of life, 77 percent.
The survey also shows how difficult it is to obtain a
snapshot of public attitudes. Although 37 percent of those polled
believe science poses major risks to humanity, 68 percent believe
science will solve many world problems.
At least they're realistic.
Medical research topped the list of science issues considered
most important, at 33 percent, followed by environmental issues, 22
percent; genetics, 6 percent; and space, 5 percent.
The survey included multiple-choice and true-false questions.
In which of the following is Earth and our sun located? The
"Great Spiral Nebula in Andromeda" received 4 percent of the vote
and the "Trifid Nebula" 2 percent. Only 41 percent of those polled
correctly answered that we live in the Milky Way galaxy. Most
people, 52 percent, had no idea.
Here are some other questions followed by the answer and
percentage of respondents who got the answer right.
How many cells do you need to get a complete DNA blueprint?
The continents are gradually changing position: True.
The ozone hole is due to: An increase in chlorofluorocarbons.
How much of the total area of the Earth is taken up by land
surface? 30 percent.
The only species made purposefully extinct by humans is: A
The earliest humans lived at the same time as the dinosaurs.
Scientists studying evolution believe humans are most closely
related to: Apes.
And, of course, there was the litmus-test question - Humans
evolved from earlier species of animals: True.
More statistics: A Washington Post-ABC News poll indicates
that people who say they've seen flying saucers are Ross Perot's
biggest fans. Six out of 10 saucer-spotters liked Perot in May.
The results were from questions that were thrown in at the
end of a standard political poll. The poll found 10 percent of
respondents said they had seen an unidentified flying object, 21
percent believed in communication with the dead and 12 percent said
they had been reincarnated.