One in four Americans 'do not know the Earth circles the Sun'
10:30AM GMT 15 Feb 2014
One in four Americans are completely unfamiliar with Nicolaus Copernicus's 1543 theory that the Earth circles the Sun, according to a study by the National Science Foundation.
The survey, released on Friday at an annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, asked 2,200 people nine factual questions about physical and biological science, with the average score being just 5.8 correct answers.
The question - "Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth" - was answered incorrectly by 26 per cent of respondents.
Fewer than half of the respondents - 48 per cent - are aware that humans evolved from earlier species of animals and just 39 percent answered correctly that "the universe began with a huge explosion".
A total of 42 per cent of Americans said that astrology is either "very scientific" or "sort of scientific".
Belief in astrology over science seems to be growing. In 2004, 66 per cent of Americans thought astrology was nonsense. "Fewer Americans rejected astrology in 2012 than in recent years," the 2014 Science and Engineering Indicators report said.
"The comparable percentage has not been this low since 1983."
In contrast, a study in China has shown that 92 per cent of people there believe horoscopes are unscientific.
John Besley of Michigan State University, the lead author of the report's chapter on public attitudes toward science, said there is a need to wait "to see if it's a real change" before assessing the significance of the results, but that the data "popped out to me when I saw it".
One in three respondents said science should get more funding from the government.
On a more encouraging note, nearly 90 per cent said the benefits of science outweigh any dangers, and about the same number expressed interest in learning about medical discoveries.
The study also asked people to state their primary sources of information. The results showed a decline in television and newspapers as a source for information on both current news events and science and technology since 2001 and an increase in the internet.