WASHINGTON, April 21 (UPI) -- In a new national poll on America's scientific acumen, more than half of respondents said they were "not too confident" or "not at all confident" that "the universe began 13.8 billion years ago with a big bang."
The poll was conducted by GfK Public Affairs & Corporate Communications.
Scientists were apparently dismayed by this news, which arrives only a few weeks after astrophysicists located the first hard evidence of cosmic inflation.
But when compared to results from other science knowledge surveys, 51 percent isn't too shameful -- or surprising.
Other polls on America's scientific beliefs have arrived at similar findings. The "Science and Engineering Indicators" survey -- which the National Science Foundation has conducted every year since the early 1980s -- has consistently found only about a third of Americans believe that "the universe began with a huge explosion."
In 2010, the NSF poll rephrased the question, asking whether the following statement was true: "According to astronomers, the universe began with a big explosion." When reworded, more Americans agreed, suggesting more respondents are aware of the science than originally suggested -- they just don't believe the science.
Every year, new reports come out suggesting America's grasp on geography, math, history or science is waning. But a wider lens suggests the reality isn't always so bleak. The 2014 NSF poll proved American's scientific knowledge was on par with most of Europe.
As the 2014 NSF "Science and Engineering Indicators" report stated: "The public’s level of factual knowledge about science has not changed much over the past two decades."
As part of the latest GfK poll, statements about the Big Bang Theory and the age of the Earth were the "facts" least well received by the American public. Respondents were much more likely to agree that "smoking causes cancer" (82 percent extremely confident), or that genetic help determine who we are (69 percent extremely confident).
And given the recent press on the resurgence of childhood diseases -- mostly blamed on public skepticism surrounding vaccines -- it is important to note that this latest poll suggests 83 percent are at least "somewhat confident" that childhood vaccines are safe.
[The Atlantic] [Slate]