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The US Public's Erratic Acceptance of Science

Soulskill posted about 8 months ago | from the pi-is-exactly-3 dept.

United States 600

An anonymous reader writes "The U.S. general population is often the butt of jokes with regard to their understanding of science. A survey by the Associated Press now shows just how arbitrary and erratic the public's dissent can be. 'The good news is that more than 80 percent of those surveyed are strongly confident that smoking causes cancer; only four percent doubt it. Roughly 70 percent accepted that we have a genome and that mental illness is seated in the brain; about 20 percent were uncertain on these subjects, and the doubters were few. But things go downhill from there. Only about half of the people accepted that vaccines are safe and effective, with 15 percent doubting. And that's one of the controversial topics where the public did well. As for humanity's role in climate change, 33 percent accepted, 28 percent were unsure, and 37 percent fell in the doubter category. For a 4.5-billion-year-old Earth and a 13.8-billion-year-old Big Bang, acceptance was below 30 percent. Fully half of the public doubted the Big Bang (PDF).'"

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Difference between erratic & erotic (0, Offtopic)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about 8 months ago | (#46819163)

Difference between erratic & erotic:
A whiskery shambles isn't exotic.
Before your fashion goes fully sclerotic,
Have women find you scientifically hypnotic.
Burma Shave

Re:Difference between erratic & erotic (3, Interesting)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about 8 months ago | (#46819419)

Doubt "Big Bang"?

Well you should.

It can be said that: Under the conditions for which we need a working model, this 'Big Bang' hypothesis behaves in a way that consistently explains our extrapolations from observable phenomena. It also introduces some inconsistencies when take as a factual occurrence, when we introduce additional extrapolations from different phenomenal observations at quantum level. For those, notions such as "time" or "location" seem to be irrelevant, if not non-existent. This demolishes the very concept of actual measurement in any possible way - so let us posit additional models that require among other things, the hypothesizing of multiple, non-observed dimensions that nonetheless allow our maths to be validated and not face the ontological consequences of nothing being real.

Zeno had similar preoccupations, with time and position.

Shocking... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46819187)

Only half the American public doubted a shaky hypothesis that we couldn't observe, and have very limited evidence for? Truly Amazing.

Re:Shocking... (4, Funny)

Bartles (1198017) | about 8 months ago | (#46819253)

Put yourself in the shoes of the AP. All of those sciencey things are the same, because they're science. Anything more than 0% dissent is too much.

Re:Shocking... (1, Insightful)

readin (838620) | about 8 months ago | (#46819331)

Climate change: A theory about very complex system to model with the most famous proponent being a politician who stands to make a lot of money if the theory is widely accepted but whose personal behaviors (traveling by private plane, having a huge house) indicate that he's not too worried about how much impact he makes. Of course there will be some doubters

Vaccines are safe and effective: Are people questioning science or are they questioning politicians and pharmaceutical companies? Even good-hearted politicians might be tempted to tell a noble lie about this. If a vaccine isn't safe but it is effective, then the negative effects of killing a few people directly might be considered to be outweighed by the positive effects of indirectly saving even more. And of course pharmaceutical companies have profits to worry about (that they use to bribe politicians). The research funded by those companies says the vaccines are safe? There was a lot research funded by cigarette companies saying smoking was safe too.

The age of the earth and the big bang? It is one thing to know and understand the science, it is another to believe the evidence isn't outweighed by other knowledge. Do I believe dinosaurs existed? Well I believe that we find dinosaur bones in the ground that appear to be millions of years old, and that the science of evolution is sound and explains many things including much human physiology and behavior, and I certainly do make use of that knowledge for understanding animals and other humans. But if you asked me if I "believe" in evolution... well the Bible can be interpreted to say otherwise and I believe God can give us whatever evidence he wants - though I don't know if he would. So such a survey might count me as a doubter of evolution even though I understand and use the theory regularly.


I'm not saying Americans are well-educated about science. I've seen plenty of evidence that they're not. On the other hand I've dealt with a lot of foreigners and their scientific understanding seems pretty limited too. What I'm saying is that these kinds of surveys can be very misleading about people. It's sort of like that question about Obama's religion and the supposed proof that Fox viewers were ignorant because they thought he was Muslim. But those same viewers had been fed plenty of information about his church in Chicago - how could they be as ignorant as people were claiming? What the people pushing the survey were ignoring is that Fox viewers might be well aware of what Obama claimed to be but just didn't believe him because of other things he said and did - while the survey pushers were simply taking everything Obama said at face value without any skepticism.

Re:Shocking... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46819667)

The survey is crap.

Just take this statement: "A mental illness is a medical condition that affects the brain."

Does mental illness affect the brain? Or is it caused by the brain? Is distinguishing the two even sensible? Is it a "medical condition" or a behavioral state? Is asserting that it is a "medical condition" a political statement that someone should take issue with (e.g., PTSD is listed in the DSM--is that a "medical condition"? Is depression following sexual abuse a "medical condition"? Is obesity a "medical condition"?)

Or this statement: "Inside our cells, there is a complex genetic code that helps determine who we are." Does the genetic code "determine" who we are? What does "who we are" even mean?

"Childhood vaccines are safe and effective." *All* vaccines? Even ones I don't even know about?

"The universe began 13.8 billion years ago with a big bang." I can't remember if it was exactly 13.8 billion years ago. Was it a big "bang" or a big "expansion" [profmattstrassler.com] ?

Re:Shocking... (4, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | about 8 months ago | (#46819699)

I'm just wondering, do people distrust science, or do they distrust corporations? I trust science that it is capable of producing vaccines that are perfectly safe (well, as safe as a medical treatment can become, there's always a minimal risk involved, but in general the gain outweighs the risk by some margin). I don't trust corporations to not cut corners and endanger lives if they can get away with it while making a buck.

Re:Shocking... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46819725)

There needs to be a way of convincing people the vaccine is what they claim it is. I do not trust the people administering it or the people deciding what should be administered. Governments need to stop lying about stuff before people will accept mandatory vaccines.

Re:Shocking... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46819597)

Are you being serious? None of the things in that article are seriously under any reasonable doubt. If given a choice between true/false/unsure on any of them, then yes, the only reasonable and rational decision is 'sure'. Anything more than 0% dissent is too much. Now if you were given the option to put a confidence estimate, like say 99% sure, then yeah, I'd agree with you. You could reasonably have maybe 1% doubt about the big bang. But that's not "unsure", by any metric.

There is controversy in science, and a lot of it. For instance, there's controversy on the efficacy of a lot of recent drugs and medical recommendations. But there's no controversy that vaccines are effective. There's no controversy that evolution is real and did happen. There's no controversy that global warming is happening. There may be controversy about the _results_ of global warming in the future - and that's an entirely reasonable, but separate, debate.

Vaccines (0, Troll)

Spazmania (174582) | about 8 months ago | (#46819199)

Vaccines are effective. Safe? I guess you can call crossing the street in a crosswalk safe. Some people do get run over and killed but most come out OK. Not as safe as simply not walking around lots of cars. But safer than jaywalking.

Re:Vaccines (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46819277)

Only about half of the people accepted that vaccines are safe and effective, with 15 percent doubting.

When I read that I hear:

Only about half of the people accepted that foods are safe and taste good, with 15 percent doubting.

THEY'RE NOT ALL THE FUCKING SAME! That's not science.

Re:Vaccines (1)

MadMartigan2001 (766552) | about 8 months ago | (#46819345)

Thank you. I was going to say the same thing.

Re:Vaccines (5, Insightful)

the phantom (107624) | about 8 months ago | (#46819361)

I'm not entirely sure what your point is supposed to be. If your definition of safe is "completely devoid of any possibility of risk," then I wonder how you justify getting out of bed every morning. A more reasonable argument is that safety is always a relative measure. Injuries attributable to common vaccines are uncommon, permanent damage is incredibly rare, and death occurs at a frequency that can best be described as vanishingly small. On the other hand, many of the diseases that we vaccinate against often cause permanent damage or death, and weakening the herd immunity puts not only the individual at risk, but society at large. So, yes, there are some potential (though very small) risks to vaccination, but that does not mean that they are unsafe.

Re:Vaccines (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 8 months ago | (#46819471)

If your definition of safe is "completely devoid of any possibility of risk," then I wonder how you justify getting out of bed every morning.

Probably by the fact that lack of movement leads to significant health issues?

Re:Vaccines (1)

the phantom (107624) | about 8 months ago | (#46819483)

Yeah, but that is a long term risk. Just getting out of bed, he could step on a LEGO or small animal, trip, smack his head into his dresser on the way down, and bleed out onto the floor. Clearly, it is much safer to simply remain in bed. The health problems could take years (or at least days) to develop. :P

Re:Vaccines (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 8 months ago | (#46819387)

Aren't vaccines statistically safer than surgeries (with all those MRSAs, VRSAs, potential post-op cardiac arrests and embolisms etc.)? Are anti-vaxxers refusing surgeries?

Re:Vaccines (2)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 8 months ago | (#46819443)

So what you're saying is that even the mainstay of the medical science/business isn't safe?

Exactly which side are you arguing for?

Re:Vaccines (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46819577)

Surgery: You need to remove this thing or high chance you die in a year. Surgery has minor chance of death via complications.

Vaccine: This will likely prevent you from catching a potentially fatal disease provided you are ever exposed to it. Vaccine itself has miniscule chance of death via complications.

I can use vague words too! You can waffle around it all you want, fact is you are putting yourself at a very minor risk for something you may not need. In most cases, the benefits outweigh the risk, but I think people should still have a choice. If you need to error on the side of caution, why not get yearly rabies inoculations. Or pre-remove your appendix. Or implant a pace maker on a healthy heart. Or wear a helmet when you drive a car.

Re:Vaccines (2)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about 8 months ago | (#46819411)

I guess you can call crossing the street in a crosswalk safe. Some people do get run over and killed but most come out OK. Not as safe as simply not walking around lots of cars. But safer than jaywalking.

I guess you can call walking across a field safe. Some people do get hit by meteoroids and killed, but most come out OK.

There I fixed that for you.

Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46819201)

Is this article implying the big bang is something that should be commonly accepted?

Re:Hmm (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46819213)

Yes, unless you're a Republican, in which case you probably reject most scientific fact and believe in a literal interpretation of the Holy Bible.

Re:Hmm (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46819229)

Funny thing about this is that anyone actually involved in science would reject the assertion that any theory of how we came to be is a fact. They might say it's a theory with strong evidence, or a weak hypothesis (as in the case of the big bang), but would reject any assertion that one theory was a "fact."

Re:Hmm (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46819477)

It's actually much worse than this.

They don't believe in a "literal interpretation of the Holy Bible"

They believe in what someone tells them is a "literal interpretation of the Holy Bible". In reality, they're being manipulated for someone else's agenda. These people base their interpenetration of reality from the words of what might as well be modern day witchdoctors.

These people are a danger to themselves, and through the machinations of Democracy, a danger to you and me as well. Were the anti-vaxx movement to take hold we'd be in deep shit if a major outbreak occurs.

Re:Hmm (5, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | about 8 months ago | (#46819723)

I stopped listening when one of them wanted to argue that the King James book was God's word.

God's word? That book is a translation of a (very bad, I may add) translation of a translation of a translation. And possibly you have to add another "of a translation" in there, the jury's still out on that one.

That's like a homeopathic dose of God's word.

Re:Hmm (3, Informative)

nobuddy (952985) | about 8 months ago | (#46819219)

Not implying. There are a lot of willfully ignorant people that prefer their religion's tale of a 10,000 year old universe to cosmology, geology, astrophysics, and biology. but they really should be a tiny minority on par with other mental illnesses. Sadly, this affliction is rampant in the USA. Happily, it is a dwindling number, and perhaps will soon be eradicated.

Re:Hmm (2)

DeBattell (460265) | about 8 months ago | (#46819293)

Soon on the cosmic scale perhaps. I will probably be several hundred years at best.

Re:Hmm (1)

Bartles (1198017) | about 8 months ago | (#46819323)

No, it's not. That opinion is just rampant among people who view themselves as intellectually superior. And they use it to delegitimize the rest of the county, declare the debate as over, and ram their "solution" through, over the protests of the people it's supposed to help.

Re:Hmm (1)

nobuddy (952985) | about 8 months ago | (#46819389)

True, but until we educate them, creationists will operate from the fervor of religious fanaticism.

Re:Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46819547)

A lot of people believe the fairy tail of the principle of uniformity, rather than admit the universe is much more dangerous and confusing than they wish to admit.

Re:Hmm (1)

elsuperjefe (1487639) | about 8 months ago | (#46819713)

Maybe we can develop a vaccine to address the illness?

Re:Hmm (2)

Opportunist (166417) | about 8 months ago | (#46819711)

Unless you got a better theory, I guess there's little alternative.

And no, "a wizard did it" is NOT a theory!

"Fully Half Doubt the Big Bang"? (5, Insightful)

Irate Engineer (2814313) | about 8 months ago | (#46819223)

Don't ALL scientists doubt the Big Bang and other models for the universe in the sense that they are all subject to comparison with observations? If a model conflicts with observation, the model either must be dropped or modified.

Science isn't about believing something to be true.

Re:"Fully Half Doubt the Big Bang"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46819343)

Science isn't about believing something to be true.

I agree, same goes for their schtick on vaccines (see my comment [slashdot.org] ). At this point I just feel like saying to them, "stop helping"... *sigh*

Re:"Fully Half Doubt the Big Bang"? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46819347)

Your terminology however may cause confusion.

As currently all available evidence does point to the big bang.

Therefore until any evidence contradicts that, it is the accepted model.

Saying scientists 'doubt' any of that can be technically correct if you play with your words enough, but in common language, no they do not.

Re:"Fully Half Doubt the Big Bang"? (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 8 months ago | (#46819475)

Evidence doesn't 'point' to a man made hypothesis. A hypothesis was made by a man to fit the evidence.

Re:"Fully Half Doubt the Big Bang"? (5, Insightful)

EvolutionInAction (2623513) | about 8 months ago | (#46819353)

That's misrepresenting it again though. Scientists don't doubt the Big Bang or evolution. They are theories that will continue to evolve as we find more evidence. They will modify them to fit the facts. The chances of some revolutionary, completely new method of interpreting the data is very, very slim at this point.

Re:"Fully Half Doubt the Big Bang"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46819573)

Please go read some history of science before speaking for scientists. Current consensus is that 96% of the universe is made of unknown stuff, but we should not doubt all our dating methods and basic theories?

Re:"Fully Half Doubt the Big Bang"? (2, Interesting)

SampleFish (2769857) | about 8 months ago | (#46819373)

Thank you for making some sense today.

Although it is easy to prove that the Earth is older than 6,000 years I don't think we actually know how old the universe is. There is a new estimate that came out in 2013 so many people may not be aware of it. Before 2013 we estimated "that the Big Bang occurred between 12 and 14 billion years ago." that's uncertainty of over %16? Doesn't sound very confident to me. The good news is that the new measurement lands in the middle of the old estimate which is encouraging.

NASA says:
"How does WMAP data enable us to determine the age of the universe is 13.77 billion years, with an uncertainty of only 0.4%? The key to this is that by knowing the composition of matter and energy density in the universe, we can use Einstein's General Relativity to compute how fast the universe has been expanding in the past. "

Unfortunately, Einstein's General Relativity is not a bulletproof model and these estimates will have to be revised as our understanding of physics changes.

From my layman understanding; I think it's safe to say that the universe is at least 13 billion years old but it could be much older. It's the best guess we have.

SOURCE:
http://wmap.gsfc.nasa.gov/univ... [nasa.gov]

Re:"Fully Half Doubt the Big Bang"? (3, Insightful)

nobuddy (952985) | about 8 months ago | (#46819401)

The age is constantly revised as the ability to measure increases. usually it is given an "at least" age- the technology and methodology sets a minimum date that the universe cannot be younger than. Sometimes the method gives a range, as the 12-16B one did. Now we are at 13.77B, the next may narrow it down to a date and time...

Re:"Fully Half Doubt the Big Bang"? (4, Informative)

camperdave (969942) | about 8 months ago | (#46819413)

If a model conflicts with observation, the model either must be dropped or modified.

That's a little too simplistic. Often, when a model conflicts with observation, the first thing that is questioned is the observation. Is the observation accurate? Is it repeatable? Is the observation made without observer bias (intentional or otherwise)?

Re:"Fully Half Doubt the Big Bang"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46819601)

Yes, and even if repeated the observation may be ignored because "something weird no one thought of must be going on". I'm not saying this is illegitimate, but science does not work the way these non-scientists claim it does.

You’re using the wrong defn of doubt (5, Interesting)

Theovon (109752) | about 8 months ago | (#46819599)

Much as most don’t understand the scientific definition of “theory,” you seem to be using the wrong definition of “doubt.”

Proper scientists recognize that a currently held theory is merely the best explanation we currently have for a phenomenon. In light of the evidence, they believe it’s PROBABLY MOSTLY true, but they are willing to easily accept that it isn’t if new evidence demonstrates that the older theory doesn’t explain all the facts. This isn’t “doubt” so much as “critical thinking.”

The doubters the article is referring to are people who, DESPITE the evidence, believe the theory is NOT true. Of course, most of them are painfully unaware of the evidence, they have no idea how to get to it, and they wouldn’t know how to interpret it if they had it. A lot of that is due to a broken educational system.

People say there’s “mounds of evidence” for evolution. So I’ve asked biologists if there was a compendium of major publications in the area, but I didn’t get very far. There are decent college text books, but many don’t present the original evidence; they only recount the findings from the literature. Part of the problem is that most of the “evidence” is boring tables of measurements of fossils and bones. If you won’t know what the numbers mean and how they relate, they’re just numbers. They are the evidence, but it doesn’t help they layman at all. Another part of the problem is that any summary of the evidence would leave out too much. A proper treatment of the topic would be on the order of “every peer-reviewed publication on the topic since Darwin.” This is because publications cite each other so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel. They make “assumptions” they don’t have to justify because someone else already did, but it’s a major undertaking to follow all the rabbit holes. Biology PhDs have trouble with that. A farmer will be hopelessly lost.

With most sciences, most people are clueless. But since they have no other reason to doubt it, this doesn’t cause any conflict. People have heard of chemistry and astronomy and mostly just consider them to be overly difficult or esoteric. It’s only biology (and some of cosmology) that makes any statements that go against things people have been taught to believe. They have no hope of understanding the science, but they do believe what their religious leaders tell them, and there is nothing intelligible to the that says otherwise.

It’s this lack of understanding of what “common folk” go through that makes me really angry with people like Richard Dawkins. As far as many people are concerned, he’s nothing more than an arrogant jerk who thinks that everyone who believes differently from him is a moron. I’ve seen dozens of videos of him on YouTube, and I never see him present evidence. He merely claims that it’s there and believes that it should just be obvious to everyone what it means. It’s like me (the computer nerd) when I was in high school who treated people unkindly because they didn’t understand computer as well as I did. Now I’m a CS professor, and I have to teach basic CS concepts to young adults. It’s VERY challenging to get some concepts across, but I work hard to do it. Dawkins is terrible at this. Perhaps if he deigns to teach an undergraduate course now and then, he might do okay, but he strikes me as one of those all-too-common lecturers who has no patience for anyone who questions what he says. His attitude reminds me of so many religious people who insist that you’ll go to hell if you don’t believe blindly exactly as they do. I guess calling someone a moron isn’t as bad as telling them they’re going to hell, but it’s a similar intolerant attitude, intolerant to people who don’t share your same training or idiology.

To me, people who doubt evolution are very unfortunate. It’s sad to miss out on such interesting science or to go through life believing things that are provably false (note that not all of religion is provably false, but the world clearly wasn’t created in 6 literal days), given a long history of scientific discovery. And I’m also really afraid of some of them putting their beliefs into legislation. But I think it’s important to understand that these people have not been equipped by their environment (culture, schooling, etc.) to understand some very abstract ideas. Only once you accept that these people are not evil for what they believe can you start finding clever and interesting ways to convey what we have learned from science and why we believe certain theories are probably correct.

mental illnesses aren't seated in the brain (1)

loufoque (1400831) | about 8 months ago | (#46819225)

Mental illnesses are just what society calls people that do not follow the norm in the way they think or behave.

Re:mental illnesses aren't seated in the brain (2)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about 8 months ago | (#46819247)

Society calls that being "weird", or a "loner". Mental illness is completely different.

Re:mental illnesses aren't seated in the brain (1)

Timmy D Programmer (704067) | about 8 months ago | (#46819273)

At least that's what the giant rabbit standing over there is telling me.

Re:mental illnesses aren't seated in the brain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46819319)

Ahh! You've met my friend Harvey.

Re:mental illnesses aren't seated in the brain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46819297)

There needs to be a button that takes someone's comment, adds it to a sepia picture as a subtitle, then posts it to instagram.

Re:mental illnesses aren't seated in the brain (1)

EvolutionInAction (2623513) | about 8 months ago | (#46819383)

You're kind of an idiot, ain't ya?

Seeing people who are not there is certainly a deviation from the norm. I think my schizophrenic friend would trade that for a more 'normal' brain, though.

The sudden crushing certainty that you're worthless and everything you do makes your life worse is certainly a deviation from the norm. Think my depressed friends would trade that for a more 'normal' brain, though.

Re:mental illnesses aren't seated in the brain (1)

nobuddy (952985) | about 8 months ago | (#46819423)

No, mental illness is rejecting reality in favor of your fantasies- whatever the source of those fantasies.

You are going to see that where Science conflicts (4, Insightful)

Zombie Ryushu (803103) | about 8 months ago | (#46819231)

You are going to see that where Science conflicts with Religion, and in some cases Industry. The Current Science that we have, with the technology and Anthropology we have, rules out the possibility of the Christian religion having any basis in reality. It doesn't rule out the possibility a god exists. It only means that the current dominant Abrahamic religions are not realistic descriptions of the universe we live in.

But these religions justify how we treat other people, why certain social groups are stigmatized, and have a heavy impact on who are leaders are, what our laws are, how we raise our children, and the legitimacy of the standing governments. If the Religions aren't true, then there is no justification for the political positions of MANY people in the US Government.

In other cases, its that we are so dependent on dangerous sources of fuel, like Coal, and Petroleum, that there is the fear of an economic death spiral. So we shut our eyes and want to live in fantasy land, until it kills us.

Re:You are going to see that where Science conflic (1)

Bartles (1198017) | about 8 months ago | (#46819265)

You eat organic food, don't you?

Re:You are going to see that where Science conflic (1)

PPH (736903) | about 8 months ago | (#46819591)

As opposed to what? Inorganic?

Re:You are going to see that where Science conflic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46819615)

You eat organic food, don't you?

Non-organic food is too crunchy, to the point of being really bad for my teeth.

Not much nutrition, either.

Re:You are going to see that where Science conflic (0, Troll)

BitZtream (692029) | about 8 months ago | (#46819335)

Science conflicting with religion isn't the problem, its when some people treat science as if its a religion by having blind faith in theories that have extremely hard to believe data that doesn't match up with common sense.

Common sense can certainly be wrong, but being that the nature of the universe (big bang theory versus god did it) doesn't really make a difference to most people. Doesn't matter which ones true and which one isn't. And lets not ignore the fact that the big bang theory has a metric fuckton of problems with it when you look at where the universe is today. By problems I mean things that don't match up with current observations and can't be tested at all given our current technology.

I personally don't have a problem with the big bang theory in general, but you have to be pretty fucked up in the head to think that everything about the current theories from high level physicists makes sense when they basically end up saying 'well, all these unbreakable rules of physics ... yea, they didn't apply back then ... because' and then they all have varying reasons for it, many of which are simply invented to fit the situation with no evidence that its the way it happened.

You're trying to mix people who use religion to be evil with science. Thats your problem, not a problem of either religion or science. Religion has no place in science, by definition, yet you seem to be pretty religious (i.e. have faith in unprovable things) about science.

You also have a pretty fucked up understanding of Christianity. You might want to start with looking at who actually proposed the big bang theory in the first place, and until you do, shut the fuck up you ignorant twit.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G... [wikipedia.org]

Re:You are going to see that where Science conflic (3, Insightful)

the phantom (107624) | about 8 months ago | (#46819437)

Ad hominem, no true Scotsman, a false analogy, an appeal to authority, some God of the gaps, and straw man arguments---and that's just what I can see off the top of my head. Nice. That is some mighty fine trolling.

Re:You are going to see that where Science conflic (0)

nobuddy (952985) | about 8 months ago | (#46819447)

Until the Christians quit forcing me to fight tooth and nail to keep their lies and bullshit out of my kids schools, I will remain this "ignorant twit" that you seem to see before you.

Don't get pissy when someone learns to distrust a group that kicks me in the nuts every goddam time I fucking encounter them. Go leash your own radical fuckwits and the Senators they have bought and watch how much the hate dies down against the whole group.

Re:You are going to see that where Science conflic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46819569)

And, your eloquence certainly helps to sway those who might be persuadable.

Re:You are going to see that where Science conflic (4, Insightful)

compro01 (777531) | about 8 months ago | (#46819627)

You also have a pretty fucked up understanding of Christianity

So do a lot of Christians. See "Christian economics", "protestant work ethic", and similar.

You might want to start with looking at who actually proposed the big bang theory in the first place, and until you do, shut the fuck up you ignorant twit.

Yes, a Catholic priest. As a general rule, Catholics seem to be significantly more sane than various American protestant sects on several issues.

Re:You are going to see that where Science conflic (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46819709)

You might want to start with looking at who actually proposed the big bang theory in the first place, and until you do, shut the fuck up you ignorant twit.

The fact that Lemaitre formulated this theory doesn't buy him any credibility for his religious beliefs. Aside from his work with mechanics and optics, Newton was more than a bit of a crackpot what with all his alchemy and wierd religious beliefs.

Also, keep in mind that Lemaitre was Catholic. And that particular branch of Christianity isn't held in high regard in the USA specifically because of its pragmatism (in recent times) regarding the absolute infallibility of the Bible. That's the primary thing that gets Americans laughed at. A 6000 yer old earth, created in 6 days, etc.

There sure is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46819239)

A lot of idiots in the US, that is unfortunatunate. That's what happens when most of your people believe more in some old book than actual science that can be proved.

Re:There sure is... (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 8 months ago | (#46819393)

actual science that can be proved

If you think that science can prove anything, then you know nothing about science.

Re:There sure is... (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 8 months ago | (#46819503)

Logic and truth will get you nowhere with a fanboi.

Experimental science vs narrative science (1, Insightful)

XanC (644172) | about 8 months ago | (#46819243)

The article conflates two very different types of science. One is experimental: cigarettes cause cancer. That's a testable, provable (and proven) hypothesis. The scientific method can be used. Alternate explanations can be systematically disproven.

Then there's the science that says, "because X and Y are true, it makes sense that Z is true". Note that it does NOT say "therefore Z MUST be true", which is what the article is implying. Z is something like the story of the universe from Big Bang through inflation up to today, or the story of manmade global warming. "Science" can project itself in those directions and come up with some answers, but there is no scientific method on a narrative. There are no controlled experiments. Every alternate hypothesis cannot be evaluated. They are at best projections, models. They're not "truth" without faith.

Re:Experimental science vs narrative science (-1)

thesupraman (179040) | about 8 months ago | (#46819325)

And not only that, it seems to be a vehicle for pushing the 'fact' that *human caused* global warming is a proven fact, by trying to associate it with a group of much more solidly proven 'facts' and poking fun at dissenters.

Which of course is NOT true, while there is a large amount of evidence for global climate change itself, there is much much less evidence as to the actual causes, let alone the magnitude of each of those causes.

So far the models that purport to prove that global warming (climate change, even) is CAUSED by humans have shown themselves to be absolutely terrible at one of the key tests of any scientific theory, prediction (and no, I am not talking about weather prediction, I am talking about climate prediction). And yet many people place these poorly performing theories on a high altar and will attack any dissent.

Which is a great pity, considering the article is trying to promote better understanding of science, and yet is making a major failing itself. It seems to be mainly another step in the political 2-step that is life in America these days. Sad.

Re:Experimental science vs narrative science (1)

nobuddy (952985) | about 8 months ago | (#46819457)

The only ones who disagree with human caused global warming are those paid by energy companies to do so. All others agree.

Re:Experimental science vs narrative science (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46819659)

The only ones who disagree with human caused global warming are those paid by energy companies to do so. All others agree.

Freeman Dyson [wikipedia.org] is a paid shill?

You are so full of SHIT.

Re:Experimental science vs narrative science (1)

Layzej (1976930) | about 8 months ago | (#46819677)

No, sorry. It's basic physics. It has been well understood for 100 years. The only thing scientists are arguing over at this point is the magnitude of the feedbacks.

Re:Experimental science vs narrative science (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 8 months ago | (#46819351)

Best way to describe the problem many people have with many theories I've seen yet. Kudos to you.

People confuse what science suggests with what science can prove. Those are different things. The first one may be right, but it could also be wrong due to unknown factors. The second is almost certainly write because (as a requirement to be actual science) its testable.

Re:Experimental science vs narrative science (4, Insightful)

quantaman (517394) | about 8 months ago | (#46819635)

The article conflates two very different types of science. One is experimental: cigarettes cause cancer. That's a testable, provable (and proven) hypothesis. The scientific method can be used. Alternate explanations can be systematically disproven.

Then there's the science that says, "because X and Y are true, it makes sense that Z is true". Note that it does NOT say "therefore Z MUST be true", which is what the article is implying. Z is something like the story of the universe from Big Bang through inflation up to today, or the story of manmade global warming. "Science" can project itself in those directions and come up with some answers, but there is no scientific method on a narrative. There are no controlled experiments. Every alternate hypothesis cannot be evaluated. They are at best projections, models. They're not "truth" without faith.

That sounds a lot like Ken Ham's distinction of observational vs historical science.

How do you actually test that cigarettes cause cancer? A big observational study? Well maybe people smoke because they're stressed or not health conscious, and they have a natural per-disposition to lung cancer. Build it from theory? Sure the smoke causes these problems in the lungs that we would expect to cause cancer, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're causing the cancer.

Now how do we test the Big Bang theory? A big observational study? We can see things that look a lot like after effects of what a big bang would look like, but maybe we're misidentifying them. Theory? There's a lot of theory about the universe that suggests a big bang, but that could be a mistake.

Clearly the cigarette cancer link is a lot easier to demonstrate than the big bang theory, or AGW, but they're not really alternative types of science. At the end of the day all of science is a mixture of observe X, where X is either a constructed experiment or a data set collected from the universe, and develop a theory Y, where Y has to explain X and all the previous observations we've made.

Putting a bunch of cigarette smoke into a lung and expecting it to develop cancer requires "faith" in the same way that putting a bunch of CO2 into the atmosphere and expecting it to develop warming does. The latter problem is a harder one no doubt, but it follows the same approach of incremental collection of data and development of theories to explain that data.

Re:Experimental science vs narrative science (2)

XanC (644172) | about 8 months ago | (#46819665)

We have countless lungs to study. We have one (1) universe, and one (1) atmosphere. There is no repetability of the grand narratives, because there's a sample size of one, and we're in the middle of the "experiment". Completely different from studies on lungs.

Re:Experimental science vs narrative science (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46819697)

If they understood smoking-cancer link they could say who would get cancer and when. The science cannot make such predictions and we don't know if there are hidden factors, so essentially this is not proven in the hard science sense. Does published evidence indicate smoking is linked to cancer? Yes.

OLD STORY !! DE-DUP SLASHDOT !! HOW-TO !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46819251)

You know you are a follower when you nothing original comes out !!

Pathetic CAPTCHA

50% of people have an IQ of 100 or lower. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46819283)

This is not news.

Nor is an article about the public's "erratic acceptance" of science news.

Slashdot continues its inexorable slide into complete irrelevance.

Big Bang (1)

Ogive17 (691899) | about 8 months ago | (#46819287)

I don't think the survey is very fair for the question about the Big Bang. I consider myself well informed and try to keep at least a layman's understanding of scientific breakthrough. I understand the concept behind the Big Bang but cannot understand most of the hard science behind it.

Am I willing to take someone else's word just because? I don't possess the knowledge to verify their research. In my opinion, most people should be uncertain because it's not something we're ever likely to prove.

Re:Big Bang (1)

TrollstonButterbeans (2914995) | about 8 months ago | (#46819629)

There isn't actually much evidence of the Big Bang directly, it is implied as a way to explain the red shift we see of distant galaxies (red shift = it seems like remote galaxies are moving away from us).

But alternate explanations do exist and as an example, we can't account via our current understanding of gravity why our galaxy rotates the way it does ---there isn't enough mass (hence dark matter theory, likewise we have no direct evidence of dark matter nor dark energy) --- perhaps gravity is more complicated on larger scales. Or perhaps something is missing trying to use certain types of supernova as standard candles (we could be miscalculating the red shift somehow and it is not entirely possible to dismiss something similar to "tired light").

The short version is the farther back we go in time, the more we have to guess --- and no doubt we are still doing a ton of guessing today. Maybe 50 years or 5000 years from now, our errors will look trivial in hindsight but the science of cosmology is a continuously emerging science as our tools and ideas get better.

I'll call gravity "solved" when we understand or disprove the idea of gravitational waves, for one.

Also the matter in our universe could exist from some other process than a "Big Bang" because as pointed out why did all of our energy become matter and almost none became anti-matter --- couldn't the matter in the universe exist due to an oddball pair-production event? That being said, star formation and spectrum analysis support the idea of a universe of very finite age (early stars made of simple elements like H and He, etc.) --- but old ideas of the Big Bang assumed a 4 dimensional sphere or hyperbola and measurements seem to contradict that (the universe appears flat) and we rely solely on the red shift as evidence of cosmic expansion --- what if an alternate explanation exists??

No our science of cosmology in still in its infancy and we are likely wrong about a great many things, still.

Preconceived Notions (1)

InsultsByThePound (3603437) | about 8 months ago | (#46819295)

Just like anything, people will consign to obvlivion anything that doesn't fit to their preconceived notions or the general dogma of the day.

Just look how any science that deals with racial differences (IQ, etc) is handled in the scientific community itself, or how Stephen Jay Gould was able to make a career out of political correctness on accusing past scientists of bias with brain sizes... while being completely off the mark himself.

Various stuff like that happens all the time in every era. Humans remain human.

Healthy to question authority (1, Interesting)

braddock (78796) | about 8 months ago | (#46819315)

We should be glad we are a country which does not take the word of "authority" at face value. Surely the best scientists and innovators come from that tradition. If a person does not understand a proof, they should not blindly accept it.

Re:Healthy to question authority (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46819451)

That'd be a fair point, but I'd wager that many of the people involved take bronze age writings and conspiracy theories at face value.

Big bang (1)

rsilvergun (571051) | about 8 months ago | (#46819317)

I've never read up on it, so if you asked me I might say "I don't know". That doesn't mean I don't accept a scientific explanation for the creation of the Universe, it just means I don't know enough about it to say "Yep, that's what happened".

Re:Big bang (1)

Bonobo_Unknown (925651) | about 8 months ago | (#46819405)

A scientist, even a proponent of the Big Bang theory should never say "Yep, that's what happened".

Most slashdot readers deny genetics and sex select (1, Interesting)

benzapp (464105) | about 8 months ago | (#46819321)

How many can tolerate the obvious truth, supported by thousands of studies, that average differences in intelligence across the various peoples of the world and especially races are due to genetic factors?

How many accept the fact that pervasive poverty and barbarism in the world has little to do with history or materialism, and instead is due to the fact that the poor are so because they have less ability to control themselves; hence their prodigious fecundity?

People are usually unwilling to accept scientific truths that contradict their religious worldview. In the case of the typical slashdot reader, that worldview is the belief in the equality of man and the tablua rasa myth.

Re:Most slashdot readers deny genetics and sex sel (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 8 months ago | (#46819567)

Try not to mix the results of Culture Tests with unscientific notions of race to further your bigotry.

Sadly, the rest of your claims are pretty much true.

The theories defined (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | about 8 months ago | (#46819337)

This is what confidence in evolution, the big bang vaccines, etc mean in the context of the poll.

Smoking causes cancer
A mental illness is a medical condition that affects the brain
Inside our cells, there is a complex genetic code that helps determine who we are
Overusing antibiotics causes the development of drug-resistant bacteria
The universe is so complex, there must be a supreme being guiding its creation
Childhood vaccines are safe and effective
The average temperature of the world is rising, mostly because of man-made heat- trapping greenhouse gases
Life on Earth, including human beings, evolved through a process of natural selection
The Earth is 4.5 billion years old
The universe began 13.8 billion years ago with a big bang

Except, perhaps for the "mental illness" question, there's not much room for quibbling over the meaning of each, imho.

Re:The theories defined (1)

ASDFnz (472824) | about 8 months ago | (#46819399)

The universe is so complex, there must be a supreme being guiding its creation

I highly doubt this as a conclusion.

History is full of things that could not be understood and therefore must be "the work of a supreme being" that have later been worked out and understood (fire for example). My preference is that there are just some things we don't understand yet.

Re:The theories defined (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | about 8 months ago | (#46819527)

I wouldn't suggest that the supreme being hypothesis is scientific. But as a polling question it's fairly unambiguous,

Are Surveys Erratic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46819367)

Could skewed surveys be a reflection of a more general lack of technical and scientific familiarity and skill? And, of a growing disregard for rigorous knowledge?

Blanket question. Localized answers.
Is factory food safe?
Is the health system safe?
Are seatbelts, airbags, and whatever cars are going to be recalled for next, "safe"?
Are big pharma for profit health system handled vaccines safe? Any reason for them to have less side effects than the rest of the toxic panoply of wares they hawk relentlessly?
Are there absolutely no scientific theories alternative to the Big Bang theory? Could it be a discontinuity limit, as the speed of light, or absolute zero seem to be? Is Dark Matter a workaround, like phlogsticon, epicycles, and impetus?
And so on.

Re:Are Surveys Erratic? (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 8 months ago | (#46819611)

Ah, so you've never worked for a survey company, eh?

Very different questions (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46819421)

Compare the two questions:

"Are you confident that the earth is billions of years old?"

"Are you confident that the earth is 4.5 billion years old?"

Version 2 was the version they asked. Frankly, I'd not express too much confidence in that. Just too much precision. Version 1 would have been a much fairer test.

Re:Very different questions (3, Insightful)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 8 months ago | (#46819623)

Careful!! Too much critical thinking and you might start wondering who 'sponsored' the survey!

Certanty of answers (4, Insightful)

Bonobo_Unknown (925651) | about 8 months ago | (#46819445)

My biggest problem with surveys like these is that they public are being asked to reply with certainties that are far greater in clarity and definition than any scientist working on these fields would ever propose. And then the ignorant public are laughed at for doubting scientific truth. No cosmologist would ever state they were 100% certain that the big bang happened, and yet we laugh at the public for not being certain either. True ignorance shows itself as certainty, either for or against supposed "scientific" principles. Being uncertain is okay, as long as you are aware of some of the options.

The butt of jokes? (1)

digitalPhant0m (1424687) | about 8 months ago | (#46819489)

Compared to the religious masses of the rest of the world, who subscribe to much stricter tenets which are largely contradictory to science, I call bullshit.

Alternate ideas that don't require a "big bang" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46819499)

The Dark Side Of Time
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oy47OQxUBvw&list=UU8v2umWI9I7sqAIG1xGjVCQ

The US Public's Erratic Acceptance of Science (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46819525)

The Moon? Been there, done that. Got the rocks and T-Shirt to prove it. We'll be back in spades once we get this budget silliness sorted out
The transistor? yeah, hi. We did that too.
The Integrated Circuit? You're welcome.
The Internet? Surprise! Conceived,, born and built in the USA.

Need I go on?

Yes, we have a fair amount of stupid fucks in the U.S. population. I'll bet you have a fair amount too.
Per capita, I'll bet you've got more stupid fucks than we do.

Poke fun all you want, but there's a lot of stupid fucks in the world that would believe anything they were told. Americans don't have a lock on stupid, it's pretty much the universal condition.

Horse poo all the way down (1)

MadMartigan2001 (766552) | about 8 months ago | (#46819533)

The day that I trust an Associated Press survey to tell me anything unbiased about public opinion is the day I accept the flying spaghetti monster as my lord and savior.

Re:Horse poo all the way down (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46819545)

Prepare to genuflect to Lord Garlic.

Path of Least Resistance (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46819643)

The biblical interpretation is easier, thus more readily accepted.
Consider the physics you need to understand for the Big Bang Theory to make sense.
The science required to understand carbon dating, relativity, or how evolution actually works.
Some of that shit is hard for some people. Especially liberal arts majors.
But "magic-man done it" as an explanation for the world as it is, that's simple and satisfying, without being too taxing on the limited gray-matter.
Without too much effort, it's possible to imagine that you understand the universe, and these fancy-pants professors are just trying to over-complicate things to ensure they remain employed.

Paradox of Scientific Elites & Illiterates (4, Interesting)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | about 8 months ago | (#46819657)

From Dr. David Goodstein, 1994: http://www.its.caltech.edu/~dg... [caltech.edu]
"In the meantime, the real crisis that is coming has started to produce a number of symptoms, some alarming and some merely curious. One of these is what I like to call The Paradox of Scientific Elites and Scientific Illiterates. The paradox is this: as a lingering result of the golden age, we still have the finest scientists in the world in the United States. But we also have the worst science education in the industrialized world. There seems to be little doubt that both of these seemingly contradictory observations are true. American scientists, trained in American graduate schools produce more Nobel Prizes, more scientific citations, more of just about anything you care to measure than any other country in the world; maybe more than the rest of the world combined. Yet, students in American schools consistently rank at the bottom of all those from advanced nations in tests of scientific knowledge, and furthermore, roughly 95% of the American public is consistently found to be scientifically illiterate by any rational standard. How can we possibly have arrived at such a result? How can our miserable system of education have produced such a brilliant community of scientists? That is what I mean by The Paradox of the Scientific Elites and the Scientific Illiterates.
    The question of how we educate our young in science lies close to the heart of the issues we have been discussing. The observation that, for hundreds of years the number of scientists had been growing exponentially means, quite simply, that the rate at which we produced scientists has always been proportional to the number of scientists that already existed. We have already seen how that process works at the final stage of education, where each professor in a research university turns out 15 Ph.D's, most of those wanting to become research professors and turn out 15 more Ph.D's.
    Recently, however, a vastly different picture of science education has been put forth and has come to be widely accepted. It is the metaphor of the pipeline. The idea is that our young people start out as a torrent of eager, curious minds anxious to learn about the world, but as they pass through the various grades of schooling, that eagerness and curiosity is somehow squandered, fewer and fewer of them showing any interest in science, until at the end of the line, nothing is left but a mere trickle of Ph.D's. Thus, our entire system of education is seen to be a leaky pipeline, badly in need of repairs. The leakage problem is seen as particularly severe with regard to women and minorities, but the pipeline metaphor applies to all. I think the pipeline metaphor came first out of the National Science Foundation, which keeps careful track of science workforce statistics (at least that's where I first heard it). As the NSF points out with particular urgency, women and minorities will make up the majority of our working people in future years. If we don't figure out a way to keep them in the pipeline, where will our future scientists come from?
    I believe it is a serious mistake to think of our system of education as a pipeline leading to Ph.D's in science or in anything else. For one thing, if it were a leaky pipeline, and it could be repaired, then as we've already seen, we would soon have a flood of Ph.D's that we wouldn't know what to do with. For another thing, producing Ph.Ds is simply not the purpose of our system of education. Its purpose instead is to produce citizens capable of operating a Jeffersonian democracy, and also if possible, of contributing to their own and to the collective economic well being. To regard anyone who has achieved those purposes as having leaked out of the pipeline is silly. Finally, the picture doesn't work in the sense of a scientific model: it doesn't make the right predictions. We have already seen that, in the absence of external constraints, the size of science grows exponentially. A pipeline, leaky or otherwise, would not have that result. It would only produce scientists in proportion to the flow of entering students.
    I would like to propose a different and more illuminating metaphor for American science education. It is more like a mining and sorting operation, designed to cast aside most of the mass of common human debris, but at the same time to discover and rescue diamonds in the rough, that are capable of being cleaned and cut and polished into glittering gems, just like us, the existing scientists. It takes only a little reflection to see how much more this model accounts for than the pipeline does. It accounts for exponential growth, since it takes scientists to identify prospective scientists. It accounts for the very real problem that women and minorities are woefully underrepresented among the scientists, because it is hard for us, white, male scientists to perceive that once they are cleaned and cut and polished, they will look like us. It accounts for the fact that science education is for the most part a dreary business, a burden to student and teacher alike at all levels of American education, until the magic moment when a teacher recognizes a potential peer, at which point it becomes exhilarating and successful. Above all, it resolves the paradox of Scientific Elites and Scientific Illiterates. It explains why we have the best scientists and the most poorly educated students in the world. It is because our entire system of education is designed to produce precisely that result."

Good news, actually (1)

sigmabody (1099541) | about 8 months ago | (#46819693)

It's gratifying to see that the public's general acceptance of scientific theories is roughly proportional to the actual evidence to support the theories themselves. For things which there is good evidence, there is broad understanding; for things which are highly questionable and politicized, there is much skepticism.

Good for the US population. :)

Assent without Understanding is equally useless. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46819703)

People who agree with vaccines without understanding how vaccines do what they do should be put in the same category as people who do not believe in vaccines. Science is not about believing or disbelieving, it is about understanding.

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