In his 1886 mystery novel “A Study In Scarlet”, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote how Doctor John Watson was left astounded by his colleague and detective Sherlock Holmes’ ignorance of the Solar System:
“My surprise reached a climax, however, when I found incidentally that he was ignorant of the Copernican Theory and of the composition of the Solar System. That any civilized human being in this nineteenth century should not be aware that the earth travelled round the sun appeared to be to me such an extraordinary fact that I could hardly realize it,” wondered Dr. Watson.
Imagine how he would have felt after knowing that almost two centuries later, a world superpower, the one that sent the first man on the Moon, struggled with the same bit of general knowledge.
When asked whether the Earth orbits the Sun or if it’s the other way around, one in four Americans answered incorrectly, according to a recent science and education review.
The survey which included around 2,200 people found that only 74% knew their planet revolves around the giant ball of gas in our solar system.
Even worse, fewer than 48% knew that human beings evolved from earlier form of animal species – which is basically primary school stuff.
Unfortunately, this is not one of those random university surveys that people usually don’t pay much attention to. The study was in fact carried out by the National Science Foundation (NSF), a government agency, which uses the results to file a very important report that is submitted to the President of the United States and the Congress for policy and decision making.
While celebrated naturalist Charles Darwin and physicist Galileo Galilei might be rolling in their graves, here’s how the general American response has been to the survey so far: