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Why are people here so scientifically illiterate

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Initial post: Oct 13, 2009 2:54:12 AM PDT
It is a sad and sorry state of US scientific illiteracy that a science forum is just full of discussions of (Intelligent Design) IDiocy and climate denial ostriches.

The US is heading for irrelevancy, as the quality of its science is now done mostly by foreigners, whilst people here cannot address even the simplest scientific question.

Research shows that "70 percent of Americans cannot read and understand the science section of the New York Times.

Approximately 28 percent of American adults currently qualify as scientifically literate, an increase from around 10 percent in the late 1980s and early 1990s, according to "Science Literacy and Pseudoscience," by MSU's Jon Miller. "only 20 to 25 percent of Americans are "scientifically savvy and alert," he said in an interview. Most of the rest "don't have a clue."

American adults in general do not understand what molecules are (other than that they are really small). Fewer than a third can identify DNA as a key to heredity. Only about 10 percent know what radiation is. One adult American in five thinks the Sun revolves around the Earth, an idea science had abandoned by the 17th century!

No wonder people continually demonstrate that they confuse scientific research with obsolete religious dogma or far-rightwing political discussions. Wake up America you are fast becoming the sick man of the world!

Regards

John

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 13, 2009 3:48:13 AM PDT
Ronald Craig says:
It's often easier to see the problem from outside.

But yeah, it's really depressing.

Posted on Oct 13, 2009 5:45:24 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 13, 2009 5:46:48 AM PDT
Gary S. Hurd says:
This was the logical result of Richard Nixon's "Southern Strategy" in the 1968 and '72 elections. He realized that Southern racists were ready to leave the Democratic Party over desegregation. The "American Independent Party" was signing them up as fast as they could, and Nixon wanted those votes.

These same racists in the South were starting private "religious" schools associated with their churches that were all White, without any sort of curriculum review. They were also fueled by the rejection of the nationally promoted science and math curricula which taught Evilution and the "New Math." I remember neighborhood meetings of angry parents about the "New Math." It was just algebra being introduced in the lower grades, but few parents could use algebra, and so few could even help their children with their homework. This later point was the cause of much of the angst. There was also a resurrection of Young Earth Creationism onto the religious conservative scene driven by the 1961 publication of "The Genesis Flood" by John C. Whitcomb, and Henry M. Morris (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House) which is still in print BTW.

So, the newly re-segregated private Christian Academies had their science from recycled Seventh Day Adventist dogmas, and their math from accounting. Their history books told how the brave Christian Patriots beat the British to found the Christian White People's America, with a fractional vote count based on the happy happy slaves strumin' on the ol' banjo and too stupid to actually be allowed to vote. This false history is still promoted by David Barton and his "WallBuilders" outfit which promotes textbooks teaching that the American Founders were all conservative Christians who believed in a future legal system based on the Bible (Old Testament of course- can't have no sissy "turn the other cheek" or faggoty "love your brother." This is "Manly Christianity" an actual title BTW).

An excellent intellectual history of the creationist movement is Ronald L. Numbers, "The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism" (2006, Berkeley: University of California Press).

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 13, 2009 10:00:45 AM PDT
John, you missed your own point !!

The bastion of Evolution Truth is the cause pure and simple. And that is an argument against Evolution.

Go to the ACTA site and download the report 'The Hollow Core', a study of the best universities and colleges in America. Almost 40% require NO SCIENCE to graduate. It isn't religion and it certainly isn't politics. It is the schools themselves, those people whom you say are all evolution proponents.

Well, too bad if they complain about what they caused.

By the way the chief complaints against the overthrow of the core curriculum were religious and conservative groups. But don't bother your head with that.

Get that report and show me where it is wrong.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 13, 2009 12:42:45 PM PDT
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In reply to an earlier post on Oct 13, 2009 12:46:30 PM PDT
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In reply to an earlier post on Oct 13, 2009 12:48:50 PM PDT
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In reply to an earlier post on Oct 13, 2009 1:17:55 PM PDT
Dr. Chaos says:
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Posted on Oct 13, 2009 1:27:02 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 13, 2009 1:27:47 PM PDT
Dr. Chaos. I am a scientist with a PhD in genetics. I use math every day, but I don't consider it to be a science. I've met people who think it is, but they have never presented me with anything convincing. Would you mind offering more on this point. To me math is more certain, like logic. I am open to having my mind changed, but as of right now, I would say that math is not a science. Science is about theories, and if 2+2=4 is only a theory then I'm in trouble.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 13, 2009 1:33:41 PM PDT
Can you tell me the sources for your information, I'm working on my Ph.D. and when I'm teaching my undergraduate biology labs I'd like to use that information to try another way of showing them that understanding science in important.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 13, 2009 3:36:16 PM PDT
Gary S. Hurd says:
conservation84, the poll data were, IIRC, a Gallop Poll around 2004.

There are more recent data- Google is your friend.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 13, 2009 3:48:01 PM PDT
Gary S. Hurd says:
Dr. Chos, Mathematics is not science. A hammer is not carpentry, nor geology.

I have published articles on the application of graph theory to social network analysis and psychiatry. I have studied category theory and linguistics, and published on probability and language sampling. I have taught statistics.

Mathematics is not a science, but it does provide some very useful tools to scientists that know how to use them.

Other than that, your comment is irrelevant to the topic at hand. You claim to be a mathematician. Granting this, you are obviously ignorant of most other areas of human knowledge, particularly most sciences.

Posted on Oct 13, 2009 4:30:08 PM PDT
Scientific illiteracy is depressing. It is one of the reasons that creationism and intelligent design are accepted by so many.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 13, 2009 11:50:37 PM PDT
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In reply to an earlier post on Oct 13, 2009 11:54:11 PM PDT
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In reply to an earlier post on Oct 14, 2009 6:43:21 AM PDT
DonJuan says:
"Dr. Chaos. I am a scientist with a PhD in genetics. I use math every day, but I don't consider it to be a science."

Department of Mathematical Sciences?

"To me math is more certain, like logic."

"Science is about theories, and if 2+2=4 is only a theory then I'm in trouble."

Theories exist in math, too: set theory, measure theory, fixed point theory, group theory.

"I've met people who think it is, but they have never presented me with anything convincing."

All you have to do is search. What math do you use in genetics besides arithmetic.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 14, 2009 6:52:35 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 14, 2009 7:15:12 AM PDT
DonJuan says:
"Mathematics is not a science....."

That's an opinion, with ton's of evidence to the contrary. If mathematics isn't a science, then what is it?

Consider this:

Lemma->Theorem->Proof->Corrollary->

Similar to the scientific method?

I think I know why you say this. Your mantra of "nothing in science is ever proven," manifests a dichotomy between math and science, because things are proven in math. This is a false statement because using induction, I can prove that if I hold a ball 5 feet above ground and the release it, it will fall to the ground.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 14, 2009 8:42:38 AM PDT
A customer says:
Null - "Theories exist in math, too"

The WORD theory exists in maths, too. Watch out for fallacies of equivocation.

"This is a false statement because using induction"

That would not be a "proof" as it is meant in science. Ideas in science stand up by failing to be DISproven. By the way, induction is a bit of a philosophical problem, especially in the context you put forward, as science itself rests on the validity of induction. You're basically saying that given that the principle on which science rests is a valid proof, that principle can provide a proof within science.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 14, 2009 9:09:46 AM PDT
DonJuan says:
"The WORD theory exists in maths, too. Watch out for fallacies of equivocation."

As far as I'm concerned there is no need for two definitions of theory, nor two definitions of science.

"Ideas in science stand up by failing to be DISproven."

Happens in math, too.

"You're basically saying that given that the principle on which science rests is a valid proof, that principle can provide a proof within science."

I have no clue what you are talking about. If I did say that, then I definately said it better.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 14, 2009 10:33:27 AM PDT
The core curriculum is comprised of maths and sciences. Just as English Lierature is not history, though "the history of English literature" helps understand both subjects.

reading the posts that have come in reponse to my original discussion, I rest my case.

Scientific illiteracy is huge and it is clearly spreading!

See "Unscientific America: How scientific illiteracy threatens our future" by Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirschenbaum.

For every five hours of cable news, less than a minute is devoted to science, compared to much more on "celebrity and entertainment", "natrural disasters" and "crime"; 46 percent of Americans reject evolution and think the Earth is less than 10,000 years old; the number of newspapers with weekly science sections has shrunken by two-thirds over the past several decades. The public is polarized over climate change-an issue where political party affiliation determines one's view of reality-and in dangerous retreat from childhood vaccinations. Meanwhile, only 18 percent of Americans have even met a scientist to begin with; more than half can't name a living scientist role model, top scientists listed by those polled "were Bill Gates, Al Gore, and Albert Einstein, people who are either not scientists or not alive.".

For this dismaying situation, Mooney and Kirshenbaum don't let anyone off the hook. They highlight the anti-intellectual tendencies of the American public (and particularly the politicians and journalists who are supposed to serve it), but also challenge the scientists themselves, who despite the best of intentions have often failed to communicate about their work effectively to a broad public-and so have ceded their critical place in the public sphere to religious and commercial propagandists. There is a huge degree of disconnection between the scientific community and other influential communities in American society, in which infotainment is a major culprit. The US populace seems to ignore scientific advances and remain ignorant of scientific principles. The USA is beginning to fall behind India and China as the scientific leaders of the 21st century. This gap between what true science is showing (as distinct from the pseudosciences seem on this forum of IDiocy and climate change denial) has become self reinforcing. The anti-intellectualism of your leaders (like Sarah Palin) is a frightening development. 80% of Americans cannot read or understand the New York Times science section. Only half of the population of USA knows the Earth orbits the sun once per year!

John

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 14, 2009 11:09:12 AM PDT
A customer says:
"As far as I'm concerned there is no need for two definitions of theory, nor two definitions of science. "

That does not justify treating two existing definitions as one when two fields of enquiry have already established such a need for themselves.

"Happens in math, too."

Yes, but the point is that the mathematical concept of a proof does NOT happen in science.

"I have no clue what you are talking about. If I did say that, then I definately said it better. "

No, you left it unsaid. Rather slippery of you.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 14, 2009 12:26:16 PM PDT
John Croft--

Sadly true. It is disconcerting that science is becoming ever more important, with greater social impact, while our science education standards seem to be deteriorating. Meanwhile, we have a religious minority who fundamentally distrust all of science because it is not consistent with their "biblical worldview." How are people supposed to grapple with science policy issues in the 21st Century when we can't even educate them about the science of the 19th Century?

That said, I think we should recognize that the US has traditionally relied on foreign scientists. Only around mid-century did the US become a world-class scientific dynamo, and we owe much of that to the contributions of European immigrants. Let me mention a few names: Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi, Leo Szilard, Edward Teller, Hans Bethe, Felix Bloch.... Closer to my own field: Salvador Luria, Max Delbruck, Erwin Chargaff, Fritz Lipmann, Konrad Bloch, Carl and Gerty Cori, Heinz Fraenkel-Conrat, Emanuel Margoliash, Hans Neurath.... It is striking how many of these great scientists were Jewish, and came to the US to escape fascism. We thus owe much of our scientific prowess to our tradition of diversity, secular government, and liberalism--a lesson we forget at our peril.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 14, 2009 3:15:14 PM PDT
"As far as I'm concerned there is no need for two definitions of theory, nor two definitions of science."

The meaning of the word "theory" in the context of "scientific theory" has a specific meaning, one which differs from that of the word "theory" as it is used in everyday speech.

Those two meanings are a fact that can't be avoided. Since mathematics isn't the application of the scientific method, then, even if the word "theory" is used in the context of mathematics, it won't be with the same meaning as that used in the context of "scientific theory."

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 14, 2009 9:21:19 PM PDT
A customer says:
James G. Christenson - "It is disconcerting that science is becoming ever more important, with greater social impact, while our science education standards seem to be deteriorating."

Does that matter to scientists as long as the science gets done? The Indians and Chinese are not carrying this religious baggage around with them - although they have some of their own, of course. Science works for them just as well as for America and Europe. It can just move.

Posted on Oct 14, 2009 9:30:07 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 14, 2009 9:39:16 PM PDT
Blind Leading the Blind

As The Washington Post reported, Mr. Gore took exactly two science courses as an undergraduate at Harvard, scoring a D in Natural Sciences 6, and a C in Natural Sciences 118. He flunked his college entrance exams in science (488 in physics and 519 in chemistry out of a possible 800 - seems his daddy, a US Senator, got him in to Harvard.)

I'm guessing those were survey courses in science. Anybody know?
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