Four out of Five Americans Know Earth Revolves around the Sun.
January 10, 2001 11:00 AM   Subscribe

Four out of Five Americans Know Earth Revolves around the Sun. I certainly wish this was an Onion Headline. Should we all know this? I'm inclined to think so. Elsewhere in the article, 2% of Americans believe that Independence was won from France. Shoot me in the face.
posted by liquidgnome (71 comments total)

 
USAtoday ran an article about 10 years ago that showed the results of a decade quiz given to students (and I think to non-students too). Basically, they had to name just the decade that certain historival events occurred in - they didn't need to cite the day or specific year. Lots of people had troubles placing events such as the Civil War, the first moon landing, WWII, etc. into the proper decade. I wish I had clipped that article.
posted by gluechunk at 11:16 AM on January 10, 2001


This stuff is designed to make us all feel superior to the silly little fools who don't know that America won independance from England. But really, it should make us question the accuracy of Gallup polls, and the way they phrase questions.
posted by Doug at 11:17 AM on January 10, 2001


The people who don't know are happier than you and I because they don't know that they don't know. I envy them.
posted by internook at 11:21 AM on January 10, 2001


I don't know about that.
posted by crunchland at 11:27 AM on January 10, 2001


really it should make us question the accuracy of Gallup polls, and the way they phrase questions

Yup, questions like "As far as you know, from what country did America gain its independence following the Revolutionary War?" are sure potentially misleading, that's gotta explain it...
posted by DiplomaticImmunity at 11:34 AM on January 10, 2001


crunchland:
I don't know about that.

If you didn't know that you didn't know about it you'd be far better off.

posted by internook at 11:41 AM on January 10, 2001


nd lelarn. I thought we gained our independence by breaking away from the United Nations.
posted by Postroad at 11:43 AM on January 10, 2001


Nooo, Breaking Away was a bicycle racing movie set in Bloomington, Indiana. The United Nations is in Manhattan.
posted by fleener at 11:51 AM on January 10, 2001


Elsewhere in the article, 2% of Americans believe that Independence was won from France.

This invokes fond memories of the time I worked for a U.S. Congressman, because that 2% of the population comprised about 60% of constituent mail on a wide variety of topics.

I'd also bet there's a significant correlation to the 1% of Palm Beach County voters who couldn't figure out how to vote for Al Gore rather than Pat Buchanan.
posted by mikewas at 11:57 AM on January 10, 2001


I wonder how man of the respondents were high school kids with bad attitudes who felt like goofing on the Gallup people. Two percent sounds right. some people get a kick out of stuff like that.
posted by jpoulos at 12:25 PM on January 10, 2001


This article doesn't directly quote the question concerning Americas independance, Diplo. It's very possible that the people asked the question were confused, or whatnot. More than 2% of the population is under the age of, say, 10, so its actually somewhat reassuring to think that ONLY 5% mentioned a country other than England.
posted by Doug at 12:40 PM on January 10, 2001


The Sun DOES revolve around the Earth. Everyday.

It sails across the sky, goes down in the west and comes up in the east. How do they think it got around to the other side? Magic?

These Gallop people are retards.
posted by y6y6y6 at 12:46 PM on January 10, 2001


The most interesting part was that more Americans answered the earth-sun question correctly than Germans or Britons.

Still, I think history is quite a bit more important than astronomy, so the independence-from-whom question is more depressing.
posted by daveadams at 12:50 PM on January 10, 2001


I am wondering how many Americans know what the sun revolves around.
posted by thirteen at 12:54 PM on January 10, 2001


Doug, the article does quote the questions asked, at the bottom of the page where all three questions are listed along with the responses.
posted by dnash at 1:00 PM on January 10, 2001


For me, this is by far the scariest poll at gallup. I've heard about more recent polling on the topic, and 50% of americans still don't believe that evolution exists, though I couldn't find a URL for it.
posted by mathowie at 1:11 PM on January 10, 2001


Well, I'm a dumbass. You're absolutely right, I didn't scroll down. It even says they were adults. So, really, I feel like I'd answered Uganda to the Independance question.


posted by Doug at 1:12 PM on January 10, 2001


Not to worry. School vouchers will take care of this problem
posted by Postroad at 1:18 PM on January 10, 2001


Oh yeah, school vouchers will solve that problem, sure.
posted by mathowie at 1:27 PM on January 10, 2001


At least they are asking decent questions. I read a newspaper poll (a la the Onion) where they asked people how they felt about a report that two identical snowflakes had been found. One person said that they felt robbed.
posted by dithered at 1:41 PM on January 10, 2001


What DOES the sun revolve around?
posted by Neb at 1:46 PM on January 10, 2001


Just go to New York,they think that Bill and Hillary Clinton are the center of the solar system and all thought and originality devolves from them.The only exception to this rule are people who read the NY Post daily.
posted by Ed Viehman at 1:56 PM on January 10, 2001


Only a moron questions the question.Wait! I want a second guess and absent that a few hints so I can get the right answer.Are the answers in the back of the book?
posted by Ed Viehman at 2:00 PM on January 10, 2001


Speaking of scary polls, I find this new one, which indicates that the vast majority of Americans favor some sort of school prayer, to be extremely frightening.
posted by Aaaugh! at 2:02 PM on January 10, 2001


I have a suggestion for the politically and factually challenged.Log on every day to the Washington Post and Washington Times and get your facts and Politics balanced. If a computer is not available, turn on your boob tube and flip between Fox News and CNN News to get a balanced accounting of the facts between 6 and 8 PM.I blame a lot of this idiocy on public education and the fact that people don't take a daily newspaper.It's sad to be a dolt in an information age.
posted by Ed Viehman at 2:08 PM on January 10, 2001


Dear Aaugh!, I'll pray for you.
posted by Ed Viehman at 2:10 PM on January 10, 2001


Dear Aaugh!, I'll pray for you.
posted by Ed Viehman at 2:10 PM on January 10, 2001


Neb: The Sun revolves around the center of the Milky Way.
posted by thirteen at 2:19 PM on January 10, 2001


Alas, what does the center of the Milky Way revolve around? Pilgrims? Different riddle. This is like those damn cats in those damn hats or whatever that story was.
posted by internook at 2:31 PM on January 10, 2001


Let's see... We've taken God out of darn near everything and teenage pregnancy,STD's,suicide,satan worship,drug useage and violence is at an all time high in schools.Could a little civility or a moment of silence to gather your thoughts before each class period hurt?My guess is the kids killers at Columbine weren't exactly religious amd the kids at Owensboro and Little Rock targeted Christians ,if you'd care to check you facts.
posted by Ed Viehman at 2:34 PM on January 10, 2001


Hey! Let's debate about religion in schools! The kids aren't learning basic facts of science and history, but we need to focus more on getting them to silently contemplate God. I betcha if we all post our 2 cents, that will cause lawmakers to modify the Constitution of the U.S. and there will be no more violence. Or maybe not.

And that, my friends, is how we Save The Children.



posted by anildash at 2:41 PM on January 10, 2001


Some people are ignorant of what others consider basic facts. I know there are a million and one basic questions you could ask me and I wouldn't know the answer. That being said, the solution (if there even needs to be one) would be improvements in the education system. I assure you that doesn't include factoring in some make believe God. Facts come from books, not heaven.
posted by internook at 2:44 PM on January 10, 2001


"Facts come from books"?!?!?!
Haw, haw, haw!
The junk they taught me in school was so out of step w/ the then-commonly-held theories, it was ludicrust. Please keep in mind, the Bible is a book, too, and that is apparantly enough for some people.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:47 PM on January 10, 2001


Satan worship? At an all time high? The Columbine Killers "not really religious"? Friend, people do some pretty wacked out stuff in the name of religion. In fact, nothing creeps me out more than the commercial for the CD "Songs 4 Worship", which features hundreds of people standing with their eyes closed and hands raised to the heavens, listening to contemporary christian music. It's just creepy. Yeah, these people are the moral compass of the nation.
posted by liquidgnome at 2:51 PM on January 10, 2001


The Milky Way is moving away from the center of the universe.
posted by thirteen at 3:10 PM on January 10, 2001


The junk they taught me in school was so out of step w/ the then-commonly-held theories, it was ludicrust.

ludicrust is the crunchy stuff the center of a stale milky way bar revolves around.
posted by quonsar at 3:17 PM on January 10, 2001


Well if Satan worship is at an all time high, maybe a partisan effort between christians and SW's [as i like to say] for a moment of contemplation would be ok? Everyone could ask their deities for knowledge, like the date we won our independence from France.
posted by th3ph17 at 3:20 PM on January 10, 2001


And what is the universe revolving around? (And don't say "Not you!")
posted by gluechunk at 3:23 PM on January 10, 2001


we have yet to win our freedom from France. just ask Yahoo!
posted by quonsar at 3:25 PM on January 10, 2001


thirteen, I can't help but ask... Do you know if there are any theories on how long it takes our Solar System to make an orbit around the milky way?
posted by Neb at 3:27 PM on January 10, 2001


It takes about 200 million years to complete one orbit traveling at about 250 kilometers/sec.
posted by thirteen at 3:39 PM on January 10, 2001


(I have lots of Astronomy pages bookmarked)
posted by thirteen at 3:40 PM on January 10, 2001


Don't all the planets, technically orbit all the other planets? Or have I been miswatching all those cool BBC documentrys?
posted by davidgentle at 3:46 PM on January 10, 2001


You've been miswatching. They all have the centre point of their orbit at the sun, not other planets.

And "centre point" is probably wrong, because IIRC, the sun's actually off-center, but it's the thing keeping them all in their paths.
posted by cCranium at 4:08 PM on January 10, 2001


The earth-sun system revolves around a point that happens to be inside the sun.

Welcome to Metafilter, Ed. Don't forget to take your meds every day.
posted by rodii at 4:31 PM on January 10, 2001


[off topic]
They have meds for that???
[off topic]
posted by y6y6y6 at 4:37 PM on January 10, 2001


How do you respond to a statement like "I'll pray for you?" There's no good response for it, is there? Everything I write makes me appear as either a clueless moron or a heartless bastard. How do you politely make it clear that it's unnecessary and unappreciated? Thanks but no thanks just doesn't seem to cover it.
posted by Aaaugh! at 5:11 PM on January 10, 2001


Thanks for stereotyping all New Yorkers, Ed. I take personal offense at your mean-spirited remark. I'd like to give you the benefit of the doubt since you're new here, but I have a terrible feeling you might believe yourself. Since it sounds like you never actually been here, there do happen to be Christians in NYC. Not that I'm one, blessed dharma, but odds are there's gotta be a few around here somewhere.

As per the actual article that started the thread: I don't believe the results. Gallup does this for the attention.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 5:27 PM on January 10, 2001


I'll pray for you, Ed.
posted by sonofsamiam at 5:28 PM on January 10, 2001


I'll pray for people who take polling too seriously, too.
posted by sonofsamiam at 5:29 PM on January 10, 2001


Let's see... We've taken God out of darn near everything and teenage pregnancy,STD's,suicide,satan worship,drug useage and violence is at an all time high in schools.

umm... hasn't violence in schools been declining for a decade or so, when you look at actual figures, as opposed to well-publicized but isolated incidents? And "satan worship"? OK, maybe some kids sit around wearing black, listening to Marilyn Manson and saying "I worship Satan. Ooh. I'm scary." but that doesn't worry me too much.

And many pregnant teenagers claim to be Christian, a Chicken Soup for the Soul sparkly version of Christian that's more about appearing to be a nice girl than actually following a set of moral guidelines..
posted by dagnyscott at 6:13 PM on January 10, 2001


How do you respond to a statement like "I'll pray for you?" There's no good response for it, is there? Everything I write makes me appear as either a clueless moron or a heartless bastard

That's the hope, I think. It's an easy out from an uncomfortable conversation.
posted by daveadams at 6:24 PM on January 10, 2001


As an atheist who recently graduated from a Catholic high school, I can tell you that kids are still going to use drugs/wear black clothes/drink/get pregnant/whatever, no matter how much prayer they have in school. The same goes for college... I went to a public school in southern Kentucky (right in the middle of the bible belt) for two years. The Baptist Student Union was far and away the biggest organization on campus. There was as much (insert societal problem here) as in the next school.

dagny is right on.... most religious (as opposed to god-oriented 'spiritual' types) go to church and say they love jesus or whatever because everyone else does. It's not just American history, they don't know the history of or philosophy behind their church either.


posted by krakedhalo at 6:39 PM on January 10, 2001


dagny is right on.... most religious (as opposed to god-oriented 'spiritual' types) go to church and say they love jesus or whatever because everyone else does.

Which is why a lot of truly faithful people are highly offended at the notion of being considered 'religious' -- I know that the word says nothing about me.
posted by Dreama at 6:58 PM on January 10, 2001


We've taken God out of darn near everything and teenage pregnancy,STD's,suicide,satan worship,drug useage and violence is at an all time high in schools.

Um, you're almost completely wrong.

I can't vouch for Satan worship, but teen pregnancy is at a 25-year low, teen drug use is declining, teen crime rates are down (although with spectacles like Columbine, I can see how the perception would be otherwise), and overall STD rates have declined in the last half-century (not including AIDS, which is too new to have tracked for so long).

You're right on about the suicide rates, though.

If god has really been taken out of darn near everything, and if god-to-desirable-social-characteristics are correlated, it sounds like keeping god out of the way is good for business.

Maybe if we taught kids there was no afterlife they'd stop killing themselves and then we could all live free in a godless utopia at last.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:45 PM on January 10, 2001


Of course, I don't really thing god is less a part of life than ever before. This article in the Columbia Journalism Review argues that religion is increasingly prominent in American politics. And then you have creationism being taught in Kansas schools, a mandatory minute basically set aside for prayer in Virginia schools.

Maybe there are more interpretations of what "god" (or godess, Allah, godess, etc) means than ever before in U.S. history, but people are just as religious as ever, and they're increasingly bringing their personal religous beliefs into inappropriate public forums such as school and government.

.... okay, how off topic was that?
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:52 PM on January 10, 2001


Where is there evidence that most people who are "religious" are acting so out of societal pressure and are not "spiritual"? It seems to me that being religious merely implies membership in an organized religion, whereas spirituality connotes a connection with a higher power regardless of tradition or structure; the two concepts are not exclusive of one another. While it would seem a bit odd to be religious without being spiritual, some people still are drawn to religion, and only later discover spirituality through practice.

The only real difference (besides that which I described above) is that mud sticks more easily to those who claim to be religious than those who don't.

uh...now where the hell is the original thread? Can't seem to find it anywhere...
posted by Avogadro at 8:55 PM on January 10, 2001


Geez people, EVERYONE knows the world revolves around Britney Spears?!
posted by 120degrees at 10:45 PM on January 10, 2001


AS of the last government report from our drug czar teen drug use is up.The use of gateway drugs is up and teen pregnancy is still high although not as bad as it was.Ten smoking is up and teen violence as evidenced by school shootings and the threat to teachers every day is up.To say otherwise is to put your head in the sand.The "I'll pray for you" comment was a joke and it got the response I thought I'd get.I am religious but not evangelical.I believe that you have to be grounded in some faith or you are a party of one with nowhere to go.Most epople who say they are spiritual just don't want to strap on the clothes every Sunday morning and listen to a boring sermon.Find a message that warms your heart and connects you with the Creator whether that is in a Bible study class or at your local church or synagogue.As far as NY goes,my Mom was born and raised in Brooklyn,went to St.Joseph's College for Women and graduated Summa Cum Laude.I have been to NYC 3 times and enjoyed it immensely.My uncle still lives in Massapequa and my cousin is a priest in Brentwood.I am in transportation so I deal with New Yorkers on a daily basis on the phone.You will notice I only disparaged people who use the NY Times for their sole source of information and hold it to be the defintitive word on all things.Cheers Ed
posted by Ed Viehman at 5:52 AM on January 11, 2001


The "I'll pray for you" comment was a joke and it got the response I thought I'd get.

Ed, if you thought that you would get that response, then why did you make that comment? Please keep in mind that I'm not saying that you should hold your opinions to yourself, but there is a standard for civility here, and while heated debate occurs (frequently), trolling is beyond the pale.

"Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attack the first is not to assail the last."- Charlotte Brontë
posted by Avogadro at 6:33 AM on January 11, 2001


According to Einstein, whether the Sun moves around the Earth or the Earth around the Sun depends on which reference frame you choose. It's just an arbitrary convention. Neither one is "right".

For most people, the most useful reference frame is to assume that the Earth is standing still and everything else is moving. For Solar System astronomers, the most useful reference frame is to assume the Sun is stationary (at least, I imagine they don't need to take the Sun's motion into account when they talk about the orbit of the planets, since those orbits are moving as well).

For my everyday needs, it makes more sense for me to say the sun is about to rise than to say that the horizon is about to dip toward the sun.
posted by straight at 7:12 AM on January 11, 2001


The NY Times, while being a liberal media paper by Wall Street Journal standards, still is a better source of infomration than, say, the Post.

As for polls, statistics can be made to say watever you want in regards to who and how you ask on highly subjective topics like school prayer and so forth. Drug use is also an easy one - demographics, how the polls are conducted (anonymous, stopped on the street, open response), semmantics about drugs and sex all play a role in marginalizing the results.

I believe the 2% believing we won independence from France is accurate, however, just as I am sure a good percentage couldn't name our last three presidents, their current governor, who was president during the Civil War, or be able to point out Rhode Island on a map. Geography and history are not strong topics taught in schools, mainly because of the emphasis on standardized testing and benchmarking for english and math (which really robs the studnets since the smart teachers just teach to the test and nothing more).

As for religion becoming more promiment.. it's bound to happen that when people need something to hold onto, religion pops up because it requires no other support other than faith. All the data, facts, and truth can be wiped away with the wave of a hand if the Good Book says so.
posted by rich at 7:21 AM on January 11, 2001


I'd agree but it,religion, is not a haven for the insecure or weaklings as some might suggest.I will differ with you on the truth.That is universal.No Good Book wipes that away and it is up to people of good intention to fairly and justly interpret that Book without prejudice or bad intention.On another note ,the NY Times is advocacy journalism and its slant is by far the worst right next to our Minneapolis Star& Tribune which wouldn't run the Monica Lewinsky story for two weeks .I prefer the Washington Post vs Washington Times articles daily to get a clear view of what might be the truth and who might be handling the truth a little recklessly.The NY Times columnists are so predictable that I could almost write the stuff they put out.This ambush-style asking of questions with people looking like idiots ,really shows that the emphasis is no longer on learning the facts about anything.When I was in third grade you had to memorize all the state capitols.Fourth grade was all the presidents in order.Sixth grade was all the countries of Europe.Kids don't even know how to find the Nation's capitol on a map.Leno did it one time in a man on the street interview with a map of the US.It made me uncomfortable to watch otherwise normal people look stupid.
posted by Ed Viehman at 8:26 AM on January 11, 2001


For my everyday needs, it makes more sense for me to say the sun is about to rise than to say that the horizon is about to dip toward the sun.

Except that really doesn't have to do with the earth's orbit so much as the earth's rotation. :-)

Point on relativity well taken, but I really do doubt that the reason people said the sun orbits the earth is because they were talking relativistically. It's quite possible that some of them were, but I think it's safe to assume most who answered the way they did were talking out of ignorance.

I also don't think that ~1000 people are actually representative of America as a whole. 1000 does not accurate represent some 250 million. I think a reasonable amount of salt should be taken with these results, anyway.
posted by cCranium at 8:28 AM on January 11, 2001


A few years ago I was surveyed. I was asked who the president was and I said George Washington. The poller laughed then moved on. I'm not an imbicile, but I was distracted and thinking of other things. Anyhow, he was president once.

A co-worker of mine tutors Latino immigrants. She had to fill out a form giving information on how many years of formal education they'd had. Most answered fewer than 4 years, even though she knew that some of them had graduated from high schoo. When she questioned them further she learned that they didn't count the years before 9th grade as formal education.

Sometimes perfectly intelligent people answer straitforward polls in honestly and they still get the wrong answer. Cultural context, distractions, etc. can get in the way.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:14 AM on January 11, 2001


they didn't count the years before 9th grade as formal education.

That seems backwards. My high school years were the least formal of all my education... :)
posted by daveadams at 11:47 AM on January 11, 2001


One of the busiest topics on the whole Metafilter front page is about whether Americans are idiots and whether school prayer might help.

[sigh]
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:40 PM on January 11, 2001


So, what you're saying is... we should get the school children to pray for Metafilter?
posted by cCranium at 2:26 PM on January 11, 2001


y6y6y6,School prayer will not help idiots.A prayer for idiots that starts out,"Lord, deliver me from idiots or Lord,please give all the idiots the flu today" might have a chance.There's also an adaptation of the Irish saying that says," Lord,please sprain the ankle of all the idiots so I'll know them by their limping."ED
posted by Ed Viehman at 2:33 PM on January 11, 2001


heh ... I have to say I agree with you on this one, Ed.

I'm going to quote something one of my co-workers said today after a disheartening customer service experience yesterday:
"I'd be willing to pay higher taxes just so they'd keep all the idiots on welfare and out of my way."

... damn, I feel so dirty and elitist.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 3:38 PM on January 11, 2001


Talk of intelligence often proves to be rather shallow and ... well, unintelligent.
We have differing kinds: retention of facts (n tidbits), which is more of a "storage" issue, and then there's ability to make use of facts (n tidbits).

I get most worried about Americans who are "processing deficient" as opposed to "storage deficient".

And to me, religion in a person is often an indicator that, in that person, the processor has hit a brick wall.
posted by TheShovel at 12:14 AM on March 2, 2001


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