Blame religious fundamentalism and the poor quality of science education in America’s schools.
By CJ Werleman—Alternet
The success of National Geographic’s Cosmos might appear to offer a glimmer of hope that America is ready to break free of the anti-intellectualism movement that has left this country in the wake of other developed nations when it comes to scientific literacy.
But the deep structural and cultural obstacles in American society for attaining intellectual enlightenment will erase any short-term good news moments like popularity of a TV show.
America remains a scientifically ignorant nation for two reasons: the resurgence of fundamentalist religion during the past 40 years, and secondly, the low level of science education in American elementary and secondary schools, as well as many tertiary colleges.
While television ratings for Cosmos may have stunned media critics and your average fundamentalist, “Americans continue to poll more like Iranians or Nigerians than Europeans or Canadians on questions of evolution, scriptural inerrancy, the presence of angels and demons, and so forth.”
This week, Gallup released a poll showing 42 percent of Americans still believe God created human beings in their present form less than 10,000 years ago. Last week, the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire published a study showing only 28 percent of Tea Party Republicans trust scientists.
It gets worse. More than two-thirds of Americans, according to surveys conducted for the National Science Foundation, are unable to identify DNA as the key to heredity. Nine out of 10 don’t understand radiation and what it can do the human body, while one in five adult Americans believe the sun revolves around the earth.
A 2008 University of Texas study found that 25 percent of public school biology teachers believe that humans and dinosaurs inhabited the earth simultaneously.