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Are US Voters Informed Enough About Science? 868

Posted by kdawson
from the stone-knives-and-bearskins dept.
Naturalist writes "For decades, educators and employers have worried that too few Americans are preparing for careers in science. But there's evidence to support a new, broader concern in this election year: Ordinary Americans may not know enough about science to make informed decisions on key questions."
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Are US Voters Informed Enough About Science?

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  • by OwnedByTwoCats (124103) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:34AM (#24581093)

    The big bang and an expanding universe is not "just a theory", but rather an explanation for why Edwin Hubble observed that all galaxies are moving away from us, and the further away they are, the faster they are receding.

    If you have a better account for the beginning of the universe that fits with observations, you're well on your way to an Astro-Physics PhD and a tenured position at a leading institution.

    You can't get the sun to revolve around the earth in a non-accelerating reference frame.

  • Re:A Greater Truth (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ihlosi (895663) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:41AM (#24581175)
    But we aren't a democracy.

    Yes, you are. People get to vote on stuff. That's democracy. There are different types of democracies that are defined by what exactly "stuff" is. If stuff is "bills/laws/etc", then you're a direct democracy, if stuff is "people who will then vote on things for me", then you're an indirect/representative democracy.

    We are a republic and too few people realize this.

    Yes, you're a republic, too. The position of "head honcho" isn't inherited (well, at least not on paper. Things might be a bit different in practice). Otherwise you'd be a monarchy.

    There can be perfectly undemocractic republics (here's a hint: They usually mention "people" or "public" more than once in their name, usually in Latin and Greek) and democratic monarchies.

  • Re:Duh (Score:2, Informative)

    by infalliable (1239578) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:44AM (#24581199)

    yeah, no surprise at all. The average American believes everything on TV and has no idea of even the most basic scientific principles.

  • by BobMcD (601576) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:50AM (#24581299)

    The big bang and an expanding universe is not "just a theory", but rather an explanation for why Edwin Hubble observed that all galaxies are moving away from us, and the further away they are, the faster they are receding.

    Actually, isn't the 'explosion' part already being questioned? I read about an idea that said what the universe is doing is probably cyclical. Expand, contract, expand, contract - kind of a thing. I think I saw it here, actually.

    That being said, it really is 'just a theory' as one can NEVER prove it. Not EVER. Not even with a time machine, because if it were true it would be damn hard to record the event without altering it dramatically. That would, as far as I know, disqualify it from ever reaching 'law' status.

    I really like these sort of 'science of the past' conclusions. They're nearly all faith-based, just like the other religions they compete with...

  • Re:Obviously not (Score:2, Informative)

    by Zarquon42 (873333) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @09:22AM (#24581727)

    no, American voters are not as informed about science as they should be. They're not as well informed about anything as they should be. Ignorant people shouldn't be allowed to vote, or have any say in the lives of others -- especially if they're white protestant Christians.

    I hate it when I see statements like this about ignorance of particular issues being a valid reason for disenfranchisment. Who are you to decide what topics people need to be informed of in order to qualify to vote? You seem to be ignorant of the cultural importance of religion in this country. Maybe you shouldn't be allowed to vote? I hope that in your rationality you can see that anyone can be painted as ignorant in at least one domain that could be important to selecting a president. And in your rationality hopefully you can see that universal suffrage is a much better route to take. You wouldn't want to lose your vote because of you "ignorance", and as such you probably shouldn't wish the same on those you deem "ignorant".

  • by liquidpele (663430) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @10:00AM (#24582389) Journal

    Wow, I did all that stuff because I wanted to help people. Not because I was afraid of a fiery hell or wanted a wonderful afterlife.

    Perhaps, but it's more likely that as self-righteous as you want to believe you are, you had an agenda just like everyone else (hot girl there, were bored, whatever). If you truly just felt like helping, than I applaud you. However, I don't believe the reason for helping should really matter... it's getting out and actually helping that's important. Too many people work at excuses why they can't instead of reasons why they should.

    My experience is that people who help in the name of religion are doing more of a look at me thing. They want to look good and want to go to heaven. It is a peer system like highschool. They want to be cool and in the 'in' crowd. So they go along.

    No, people that just want to look good are the ones that go to church and pay lip service, but never actually do anything more than that. Those that genuinely help others are rarely putting on a face.

    Beyond that, a lot of their 'good' work is used just to push their agenda. Will that christian homeless shelter take in a homeless man who refuses to embrace god? The ones around here require you to console with a church leader and read the bible. Which is why I choose not to donate my money or time to them.

    Yes, the do usually preach while doing these things, but they're not forcing you to believe, just explaining their beliefs. I've never seen anyone retract help or services because the person denied their beliefs... doing so would pretty much invalidate their purpose for believing if they did.

    I just wanted to do something good.

    I give you a pat on the back *pat* *pat* :)

  • Re:Obviously not (Score:3, Informative)

    by Luterek (1174623) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @10:01AM (#24582419)
    Actually no. Atheism is the opposite of theism. Theism: the belief in a higher being. Atheism: the lack of belief in a higher being. Yes there are weak atheists and strong atheists, those that simply don't believe and those that insist there is no god, but does not make atheism a belief system.
  • by Moraelin (679338) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @10:44AM (#24583303) Journal

    1. You can hear a CRT TV because of the line sync frequency is actually very much in the audible spectrum. I don't know of anything even remotely similar for cell phones.

    2. More importantly: they invariably _can't_ detect cell phones in a double blind test. That's really the damning bit.

  • by rocketman768 (838734) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @11:32AM (#24584167) Homepage
    Well, first of all, there aren't many Atheist organizations with any sum of money that can remotely come close enough to the money that the Christian Church has. So, if you're questioning why atheists as a group don't go to homeless shelters or go on some sort of atheist mission trip, that's why. However, I know several non-religious people that have done great things at shelters and with Peace Corps.

    Secondly, just because a religion might give people hope or an extra motivation to do good things still does not make it right. In my opinion, the motivation given is usually that you will be rewarded with good things when you get to heaven. Why is this good motivation? Really, it's just people pretending to be good when they are really being selfish in expecting a reward later. Being non-religious, when I do something good for someone else, I know I did it just to help a fellow person and because it just made the world a tiny bit better.

    So, just think about WHY religious people would do the things they do.
  • Re:Obviously not (Score:4, Informative)

    by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @11:51AM (#24584535)

    Well, it means that they are wrong about the mythology, which is what differs, not about the idea of a supreme being as such.

    If you take a loose definition like "sentient, all encompassing" you could probably get 90% of the worlds population to sign off on it.

    Yes, but that's not religion. That's simple Deism, which has no actual religious beliefs. Religion by definition requires a set of beliefs which are dogmatically adhered to with faith. Every religion has a specific set of beliefs such as what this sentient, all encompassing being wants and what rules his believers must follow, and these rules are different between different religions. Some religions even require its believers to mass murder the believers of other religions.

  • by rmjohnso (891555) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @01:10PM (#24585991)
    Question 3 from the quiz linked FTA:
    3. It is the father's gene that decides whether the baby is a boy or a girl. (True or False)

    That would be the Y CHROMOSOME. chromosome != gene
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chromosome [wikipedia.org]

    There isn't a single gene that determines gender.
  • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @01:52PM (#24586831)

    from wikipedia:

    "The Y chromosome is the sex-determining chromosome in most mammals, including humans. In mammals, it contains the gene SRY, which triggers testis development, thus determining sex. The human Y chromosome is composed of about 60 million base pairs."

    So the SRY gene, which determines sex (words have gender, people have sex) is located on the Y chromosome. Since only the father has a Y chromosome, that gene is inherited from the father.

  • Re:No (Score:3, Informative)

    by sumdumass (711423) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @03:56PM (#24588991) Journal

    Lol.. the milk story. Well that puts it a little different then what you originally claimed it to be.

    Let me recap this for you, some reporters at a fox affiliate done a news story on a specific growth hormone given to cows that increase milk production. They found that the hormone had been banned in Canada and Europe because it had long term effect on the cattle. They also stated that the growth hormone hadn't had any significant studies on human effects (from drinking the milk) by the FDA and it was approved only as a veterinary drug.

    Monsanto threatened a large and lengthy lawsuit which cause the corporate overlords at FOX (Which isn't necessarily FOX news) to yank the story unless it could be presented in a way that doesn't cause the lawsuit. The reporters over reacted after making some minor changes and claimed that they were being censored and that it was a common practice at FOX and were eventually fired. They (those reporters) filed a whistle blower lawsuit that they ultimately lost. Now here is the interesting part, the claim made was that they have no obligation to put any truth out to the people. In other words, they aren't a alarmist platform that serves anyone. This position has nothing to do with the content of their news stories or how accurate they are.

    You can actually read this statement as they don't have to tell every last piece of information just because it might be true. Obviously if they misrepresent the situations they report on, they are open to slander suits and so on so they have to be at least factually correct but a dog shitting in the woods doesn't need to be a story on their stations even if it is true. And that is really what the statement was about, they don't have to report something just because it is true. Otherwise, they would have to report our little exchange here because it is true, we talked about this. Your initial representation of it was completely misleading. You said "FoxNews went to court to prove that they had no legal responsibility to tell the truth." when the truth of the matter is that they went to court to prove they didn't have to run a story just because it was true. A big difference there.

    Now, it is a shame that FOX chose to protect it's corporate interests over the publics but at the time, and perhaps even to date, nothing has shown that the growth hormone in question presents a danger to humans who consume milk because of it. So in the end, a story that said a growth hormone that is banned in other countries because of it's effects on cattle and that we don't know if it is dangerous to humans was pulled to avoid a lawsuit. I'm not aware of any accurate claims that the drug in question poses a serious health risk to humans who drink the milk so I don't think we are out too much.

How many QA engineers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? 3: 1 to screw it in and 2 to say "I told you so" when it doesn't work.

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