If the results of a new AP poll are any indication, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Seth MacFarlane, and FOX should probably order up another season of Cosmos.
The survey asked American adults about a handful of scientific and medical issues–more specifically, to say how confident they are that a certain scientific statement (all of which are accepted by the vast majority of scientists) is true. The AP-GfK poll asked about a variety of issues, from the tangible (smoking causes cancer) to the seemingly intangible (the big bang theory). And the results paint a picture of an America that is still incredibly skeptical of many well-established scientific concepts.
I would assume that the headline stealer here is that only 21 percent of Americans surveyed said that they are "extremely confident" that the universe began with a big bang.
Also, only 31 percent said that they were confident that life on Earth evolved through a process of natural selection.
Strangely enough, more people (33 percent) were "extremely confident" that man-made climate change is a real thing.
When you combine the responses of "extremely confident" and "somewhat confident," you get these percentages of Americans who agree with the following concepts:
The Big Bang Theory - 46 percent
A 4.5 billion-year-old Earth - 60 percent
Evolution by natural selection - 55 percent
Man-made climate change - 61 percent
The 51 percent, 42 percent, and 36 percent (respectively) of people who are not too confident that the universe began with a big bang, we all evolved through natural selection, and our planet is roughly 4.5 billion years old can be partially explained by this other figure:
Seventy-two percent of those surveyed said that they were at least somewhat confident that there has to be a supreme being "guiding creation." Even with the number of millennials and Gen X'ers who affiliate with any particular religion on the decline, that's still a very large portion of the sample who believe in a divine hand.
Of course, a belief in a creator isn't always a hindrance to support of evolution and natural selection–but it often is.
Apart from these large-scale questions about human existence, the AP poll also asked about some medical issues–and the results there are
even more interesting absolutely shocking.
Five percent of those surveyed were not too or not at all confident that smoking causes cancer. Hell, eight percent of people aren't sure about DNA ("inside our cells, there is a complex genetic code..." as the survey worded it). You're also going to have a hard time convincing six percent of this sample that mental illness is really that-an illness.
But back to the bigger questions. If you're curious about how religious affiliation does affect the belief in human evolution, take a look at this recent Pew study. According to it, 60% of all adults surveyed supported the concept that humans have evolved over time–White mainline Protestants being the process' biggest champion. When it came to who denied the concept the most vehemently, it wound up being the evangelicals.
Speaking of NDT, it's always nice to remember this quote:
“Once science has been established, once a scientific truth emerges from a consensus of experiments and observations, it is the way of the world. What I’m saying is, when different experiments give you the same result, it is no longer subject to your opinion. That’s the good thing about science: It’s true whether or not you believe in it. That’s why it works.”
Image via Wikimedia Commons