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Science Class Isn't Working

America remains a pre-scientific culture, driven by visceral thinking

It appears that more Americans prefer to believe in creationism, angels, and UFOs than in climate change and evolution.

A survey commissioned by the National Geographic Channel, in connection with its new TV series "Chasing UFOs," found that 36 percent of Americans believe UFOs are extra-terrestrial vehicles. One in 10 respondents said they had personally witnessed an alien spaceship.

Surveys by other reputable researchers like the Gallup organization, Smithsonian, and others find that:

• 55 percent of Americans say they believe in angels.

• Only 39 percent say they accept the concept of evolution.

• Only 36 percent say they believe global warning is partly anthropogenic (i.e. caused by human activity).

• 34 percent say they believe in ghosts.

• 34 percent believe in UFOs.

Delving a bit deeper, the research shows that:

As many as 69% of Americans who regularly attend religious services accept the "creationist" viewpoint, i.e. the belief that a single, omnipotent God literally created all there is.

This belief tends to be more prevalent among the elderly (the most religious age group), and those with a high school education or less. Among college educated people, and those who attend services less frequently, the percentage falls to about 23 percent.

The average across all populations is about 42 percent in favor of the literal creationist belief system.

Clearly, America is still a pre-scientific society. For all the popular news about "technology," the gee-whiz pictures from outer space, and the daily breakthroughs in medical research, a large majority of Americans seem to have understood or retained very little from their high school science classes.

And their view of scientific questions remains heavily contaminated by religious beliefs handed down over centuries. According to the U.S. government's National Institute of Science:

“Surveys conducted in the United States and Europe reveal that many citizens do not have a firm grasp of basic scientific facts and concepts, nor do they have an understanding of the scientific process. In addition, belief in pseudoscience (an indicator of scientific illiteracy) seems to be widespread among Americans and Europeans. Studies also suggest that not many Americans are technologically literate.”

What's more distressing, of course, is the number of political candidates, public office holders, and even school board members who show an appalling lack of scientific literacy, and in some cases even anti-scientific biases.

Noted biologist E.O. Wilson asserted, "We have created a Star Wars civilization with Stone Age emotions."

And, novelist H.G. Wells observed, "Civilization is more and more a race between education and catastrophe."

The Author:

Dr. Karl Albrecht is an executive management consultant, coach, futurist, lecturer, and author of more than 20 books on professional achievement, organizational performance, and business strategy. He is listed as one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in business on the topic of leadership.

He is a recognized expert on cognitive styles and the development of advanced thinking skills. His books Social Intelligence: The New Science of Success, Practical Intelligence: The Art and Science of Common Sense, and his Mindex Thinking Style Profile are used in business and education.

The Mensa society presented him with its lifetime achievement award, for significant contributions by a member to the understanding of intelligence.

Originally a physicist, and having served as a military intelligence officer and business executive, he now consults, lectures, and writes about whatever he thinks would be fun.


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