…and 73% believe surveys are reliable

The following is a comparison of scientific literacy in 2001 in the US, the EU and China. (The table here includes partial data for 2005 and for South Korea, and the full table is here, but this is simpler):

The actual survey comes from the National Science Foundation, using various data sources “which may not be comparable in a strict statistical sense.” In other words, the Science Foundation’s survey on scientific literacy is unscientific. It could be that the Chinese who didn’t know the interior of the Earth is hot were unschooled Tibetan yak herders freezing on some snow-swept mountain, while the Americans who understood that radiation occurs in nature all had doctorates in physics and had just hit peak brainpower after the day’s second coffee. But why let that ruin a good opportunity for some over-generalization and stereotyping?

Many of the results cut across regional groups. Everywhere, it seems, people are immensely stupid on the subject of lasers, with only a minority knowing that the devices do not focus sound waves. On the other hand, a satisfying majority of folk realize that the Earth goes round the Sun, not vice-versa. Some of the results are also understandable; it can’t be a coincidence that most Chinese think antibiotics kill viruses when their doctors and hospitals make a living selling tetracycline to flu patients.

The fourth-, third-, and second-last questions refer to the Big Bang, plate tectonics and evolution. The Chinese respondents score highly on evolution, yet they seem to be especially ill-informed about the origins of the universe (or it could be that they are cutting-edge proponents of the Cyclic Theory and object to the underlying presumption of the question). Also interesting is that the Americans perform particularly poorly on these two questions. This would tally with the numerous surveys in which a large proportion of people in the US say they believe the Bible to be the literal truth. (Continental drift, on which 79% of Americans answered correctly, is also unbiblical.* Perhaps people who dismiss Big Bang/evolution on religious grounds are too stupid to realize it.)

There was a time when Hong Kong would score straight 80s and 90s on a survey like this, as long as the questions didn’t conflict with certain theories on statistical probability in casino environments or the power of furniture rearrangement to improve daughters’ marriage prospects. However, there is shocking news: 10.9% of Hong Kong parents believe their children’s health is more important than academic results. If this carries on, the city is doomed to be as stupid as everywhere else.

* That Institute of Creation Research’s layman’s summary of plate tectonics is surprisingly good, even though they insist it loses out to their Noah’s flood theory.

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15 Responses to …and 73% believe surveys are reliable

  1. Smedley Tangbottom III says:

    Re “children’s health…….” (last para), are you sure there is not a typo and it is really “children’s wealth…….”?

  2. Sir Crispin says:

    The creationists are trying to inject their insanity into HK schools too, as the debate fired off in 2009. And I recall, there are a fair number of evangelicals in Legco too. For the Kwok brothers of Sun Hung Kai…I have one question: if you’re god-fearing, love your neighbour, golden rule abiding Jesus freaks…how do you reconcile your rectum defiling tactics for all the customers who buy your flats? Hmmmm?

  3. Big Al says:

    Ah, yes, Noah. So, here’s one for the Kwok Brothers: If the whole world was flooded, where did the water go when the the flood receded? Ha! Answer that and stay fashionable!

  4. Pingo says:

    Polar ice caps. Which the lord is now melting. Everybody panic, repent and build boats. The second soggy coming is coming.

  5. Joe Blow says:

    Big Al: tectonic shifts. When the plates collide, some of them are pushed up at one end, or the other. That’s why you can find seashells embedded in the rocks of the Himalayas. The process would take billions of years, of course, but don’t say it is impossible.

  6. Sir Crispin says:

    Global warming is just a trick of the devil. Scientists say the last ice age ended 12,000 years ago, but the Bible says the Earth is only 4000 years old, so obviously melting ice caps must be a satanic ploy.

    A.C. Grayling on ‘militant atheism’

    It’s only in the past decade that these three strands of thought have developed into a public campaign against faith – but it wasn’t the atheists, according to Grayling, who provoked the confrontation. “The reason why it’s become a big issue is that religions have turned the volume up, because they’re on the back foot. The hold of religion is weakening, definitely, and diminishing in numbers. The reason why there’s such a furore about it is that the cornered animal, the loser, starts making a big noise.”

    All we’re doing is speaking very frankly and bluntly and they don’t like it,” he laughs. “So we speak frankly and bluntly, and the respect agenda is now gone, they can no longer float behind the diaphanous veil – ‘Ooh, I have faith so you mustn’t offend me’. So they don’t like the blunt talking. But we’re not burning them at the stake.

  7. gunlaw says:

    Noah must have been the richest man in the world in his day cos he was floating a company when the rest of the world was in liquidation…

  8. Big Al says:

    Joe Blow: Tectonic shifts my arse! It rained for 40 days and 40 nights. That’s why the whole world flooded. Then the sun came out and it all dried up in a matter of hours, apparently. Billions of years? Yes. A month and a half from start to finish? Nah!

  9. Probably The Injunear says:

    Is it a coincidence that I’ve just heard the latest comedy sketch (sorry public information broadcast) on RTHK announcing that anti-biotics do not kill virus?

  10. Probably The Injunear says:

    And apologies for the virus/viruses typo in the last post but as a supplemental on the same subject I would like to ask is “Big Lychee” a colonial (who spells realise, “realize”) or someone who doesn’t proof read?

    BTW my excuse is an over sensitive touch pad.

  11. maugrim says:

    Then stop touching your pad.

  12. bah says:

    Millions of years of plate tectonic shift or an angry god who saved pairs of species in a boat driven by some fella called Noah?

  13. Smedley Tangbottom III says:

    I agree Maugers – as a fairly firm Roman Catholic, I try my very best to avoid touching the old “pad”, although sometimes I confess to finding it difficult not to do so. In my opinion, PTI should strive to be similarly resolute. May God be forever with the pair of you.

  14. Joe Blow says:

    Al, those 40 days and nites are metaphors (google it !). Only Wiggy Kwok takes that as literal truth.

    PTI: “realize” (like ‘harbor’) is American spelling. It is different but that does not mean it is wrong.

  15. Probably The Injunear says:

    Guid day Joe,
    Whilst a body is awaur ‘at thaur ur variations upon spellin’ an’ accent within a single leid ‘at derife frae different provinces. However surely, in an international context, a body shoods use th’ original leid.

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