Science news: Why Americans know so little

In 2004, NASA's Sun-orbiting SOHO spacecraft imaged a large solar prominence hovering over the surface (upper right).
NASA
In 2004, NASA’s Sun-orbiting SOHO spacecraft imaged a large solar prominence hovering over the surface (upper right).

Two years ago, when I was applying for a science journalism fellowship at England’s Cambridge University, my screening interview halted briefly after I dropped a comment that American newspapers were abandoning science coverage.

Could that be possible in the United States — the world’s capital of scientific discovery — wondered Sir Brian Heap, a prominent Cambridge biologist who was on the screening panel for the Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellowships.

Oh yes, indeed, Americans on the panel told him sadly.

The demise came even faster than those of us sitting around that table expected. As print journalism saw itself falling off a cliff, it pushed science coverage over the edge first.

This week, the British journal Nature published an obituary of sorts, making some disturbing points about the implications for our knowledge about science.

Before discussing the highlights, let’s consider the context. Truth is that the United States never has been a wellspring of scientific knowledge, even given its great achievements in that regard.

We wring our hands over low math and science test scores, but few adults bother themselves with the details. We get steamed over the politics of stem cells and global warming, but few voters know even the basics of cellular development and carbon emissions.

One in four Americans surveyed in a recent test of scientific literacy did not correctly answer the question, “Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth?” Nearly half were wrong on the question of whether antibiotics can kill viruses as well as bacteria. Sixty percent could not say whether the North Pole marks an ice sheet on the Arctic Ocean.

At the end of this article, you can test your own answers to the science literacy survey conducted in conjunction with the National Science Board’s 2008 report on Science and Engineering Indicators.

Dismal track record
The point of my digression was to say that most Americans need all of the accessible science news they can get just to inform their own decisions about health care and science-based public policy. They still will be able to find it online — if they bother. But that is a big if, given the country’s dismal track record.

Now, highlights from the Nature article:

• The traditional media are shedding full-time science journalists and the workloads of those who remain are on the rise.

• Researcher-run blogs and Web sites are growing apace, as are the public relations departments of scientific organizations.

• Under more deadline stress, science writers increasingly turn to the press offices and researchers’ sites for their information.

Bottom line: Scientists and the institutions at which they work have more and more influence over what the public reads about their work with less filtering through watchdogs and critics.

Readers who search for it can find lively commentary and sharp criticism on science blogs such as the popular Pharyngula blog run by PZ Myers, a biology professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris.  Seed magazine publishes links to Pharyngula and more than 100 other science blogs here.

But as science and environmental coverage moves to the blogs, it is being “ghettoized and available only to those who choose to seek it out,” Peter Dykstra told Nature. He was executive producer of CNN’s science, technology, environment and weather unit until it was closed down last year. Now he is at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Further, what we know so far about online information is that its users tend to seek news they agree with, the reports that make them comfortable and don’t rattle their attitudes too much.

Hence, the same concerns that apply to our civic knowledge hold for science news too. In the online marketplace of ideas, chances drop dramatically that minds will be expanded by the evidence on climate change, evolution and a long list of other subjects.

Many of us saw this coming as newspapers began retrenching a few years ago. Here is Nature’s summary of what happened:

Science journalism boomed in the 1980s and early 1990s. In the United States — where by 1989 some 95 newspapers had dedicated science sections — and elsewhere, the field’s precipitous rise was supported by buoyant profits in the media sector. “The model of a major paper was that they did really serious science coverage,” says Deborah Blum, who won a 1992 Pulitzer Prize for her reporting in the Sacramento Bee on the use of animals in research, and who now teaches at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. But there was a problem with the science sections, she says. “They didn’t make money.”

Most papers were willing to support their sections, even at a loss, because science was the thing to have. Today, in a harsher mass-media landscape, that has changed. Across the United States, newspaper science sections have been shut down.

Internet factor
Some MinnPost readers may remember the Star Tribune’s science page. When I wrote for it during the 1990s, I often heard from students working on class projects. And teachers told me they relied on the news articles for information about genetic discovery because the field was moving too fast for their textbooks to keep pace.

Now those students and teachers have far greater access to breaking science news and information than ever before, thanks to the Internet.

But I share a worry Blum expressed in Nature: that they will get fewer perspectives and a far less questioning approach.

“Science is like any other enterprise,” Blum told Nature. “It’s human, it’s flawed, it’s filled with politics and ego. You need journalists, theoretically, to check these kinds of things.”

Amen.

The quiz
Now, as promised, here is the National Science Board’s literacy quiz. You can compare your answers with the national sample. The first 11 questions have been asked repeatedly over the years, and the scores have changed very little. 

Answer true or false unless otherwise indicated.

1. The center of the Earth is very hot.

2. All radioactivity is man-made.

3. Lasers work by focusing sound waves.

4. Electrons are smaller than atoms.

5. The universe began with a huge explosion.

6. The continents on which we live have been moving their location for millions of years and will continue to move in the future.

7. Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth?

8. How long does it take for the Earth to go around the Sun: one day, one month or one year?

9. It is the father’s gene that decides whether the baby is a boy or a girl.

10. Antibiotics kill viruses as well as bacteria.

11. Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.

The latest survey included new questions about nanotechnology and the Earth’s polar regions. Here are a few of them:

1. The North Pole is on a sheet of ice that floats on the Arctic Ocean.

2. Hunting is more likely than climate change to make polar bears become extinct.

3. The sun never shines at the South Pole.

4. The properties of nanoscale materials often differ fundamentally and unexpectedly from the properties of the same materials at larger scales.

There is no prize except for pride in your correct answers. And hopefully, the ones you got wrong will motivate you to seek high quality science news even as it fades from the daily papers.

Answers:
1. True, answered correctly by 80 percent of adults.
2. False — 70 percent got this one right.
3. False — 45 percent correct.
4. True — 53 percent.
5. True — 33 percent, but this dismal score no doubt reflects religious thinking as well as knowledge.
6. True — 80 percent.
7. Earth around Sun — 76 percent.
8. One year — 55 percent.
9. True — 64 percent.
10. False — 56 percent
11. True — 43 percent. Is religion a factor here too?

1. True — 41 percent.
2. False — 36 percent.
3. False — 67 percent.
4. True — 39 percent.

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Comments (28)

  1. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 03/26/2009 - 09:27 am.

    WOW! Such intolerance toward religion! While our education system continues to fail in all subjects, religion must be the problem.

    I love the non-scientific, intolerant, condescending, uneducated, editorial comments.

  2. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/26/2009 - 10:05 am.

    Couple things,

    First, the question about the North Pole is very poorly written. It suggests that the North Pole may float on an ice sheet as apposed to there being an ice sheet floating at the location of the North Pole.

    Second:

    //Bottom line: Scientists and the institutions at which they work have more and more influence over what the public reads about their work with less filtering through watchdogs and critics.

    This presupposes that journalists at one time functioned as reliable science watchdogs and critics, and that somehow the decrease in the number of such journalists has contributed to scientific illiteracy. I don’t recall ever seeing journalists act as reliable critics and watchdogs of science stories, at least not since 1981 ( I think I can reliably claim memory from that date, that’s when I entered college and started paying attention to such things). Can you show me an example of such a journalist? The fact that Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars program (and the current ABM program) was/is a scientific fiasco even in theory, has never truly been revealed by journalists for instance. That’s just one example.

    Furthermore the trend towards stenographic reporting i.e. recording and reproducing prepared statements from officials or publicists is nothing new, so I’m not sure what kind of filter was ever in play.

    As to whether or not this is somehow contributing to scientific illiteracy, it would be nice to see some data. Have Americans become more scientifically illiterate as the number of science reporters has decreased? Of course even a correlation there would not demonstrate causation but it would be interesting to note.

    I think there are two separate issues here. One is the decline of science reporting, which is certainly real and regrettable in it’s own right. The other is the cause of scientific illiteracy amongst Americans, or at least the influence that science reporting may or may not have on that literacy. I think the case for reporting = literacy is dubious. After all, one could just as easily make the case that poor nature of science reporting has actually contributed to the illiteracy.

  3. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 03/26/2009 - 10:10 am.

    Those are pretty simple — but I did get #9 wrong. Sorry, dad, I didn’t know!

  4. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 03/26/2009 - 11:52 am.

    You lambast the American public for its sad lack of scientific understanding, and then, out of hundreds of excellent choices available at scienceblogs.com, you cite Pharyngula?

    Hilarious!

    Anyone that has ever dared to visit P.Z. Meyers’ virtual lunatic asylum knew right off that this story was headed for the ditch.

    Listen. Forget creationism, forget intelligent design. Evolution fails the “fact” test on strictly scientific standards very nicely, thank-you-very-much.

    There is compelling evidence, but nothing approaching unimpeachable proof. The fossil record has huge, gaping holes in it. You cannot model it experimentally. It is a scientific theory, the best known perhaps, but still one among many, that attempts to explain a difficult question.

    Those that refuse to accept *that* fact are just as misguided as those that claim the Earth is only 5000 years old.

    The Big Bang is also an unproven theory. I might be inclined to agree that the evidence at hand awards it “proven beyond reasonable doubt”, but because it is not proven beyond all and any doubt, the expanding universe continues to be challenged by competing models that rely on scientific principals that are just as sound. Dr. Hannes Alfvén, (a Nobel laureate) for instance, has published observations regarding the beginnings of the universe that have been taken quite seriously by his peers.

    Finally, the polar bear question is outright sophistry. Even ALGORES biggest fans can’t stick to a single (wrong) set of postulations from which to argue. Ice age, or easy bake oven? Dunno; check back next week.

    And you say American’s are backwoods hicks when it comes to science? Gee, I can’t imagine why.

  5. Submitted by Ed Stych on 03/26/2009 - 12:59 pm.

    I wasn’t going to read this article … until I saw the comments! Nice job by Ron, Paul and Thomas on breaking down this article.

    Sharon spends several hundred words bemoaning the lack of science coverage in our mainstream media … but takes cheap shots at Christians and other people of faith. No way to win people to her side.

    Of course, religion coverage has suffered along with science coverage. It would be nice to have both, but not with economic realities as they are.

    By the way, despite being one of those Bible-believing Christians that Sharon apparently doesn’t have a lot of respect for, and someone who is skeptical at best of some of the most recent theories on evolution and the creation of the universe, I still did rather well on your test. Missed one.

    But for me, most of that knowledge is interesting but hardly imperative to me living a good life. Kind of like knowing all the major rivers in Europe. Helps me on the Asimov quiz and makes me slightly more interesting at parties. I find the “why” much more important than the how. I find the Creator more interesting than how He created.

    As far as having all of this knowledge to help me make my health care decisions, I’m not sure if knowing the size of electrons is going to help. I’ll leave that up to the medical professionals that I hire. All I need is good decision-making skills.

  6. Submitted by Mark Snyder on 03/26/2009 - 01:16 pm.

    15/15 – that B.S. in Chemistry finally pays off! 🙂

  7. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/26/2009 - 01:30 pm.

    O.K., I’ll bite,

    Mr. Swift,

    I don’t know where you got the idea that a scientific theory requires proof beyond any reasonable doubt, but you are seriously mistaken.

    One of the differences between science and religion is that in principle, any scientific theory can be invalidated if sufficient evidence is discovered, that’s why it’s called a “theory”.

    At any given time in any area of scientific inquiry there are a set of theories that are accepted by the majority of scientists as being the best explanations for given observations, this is a consensus driven enterprise. A theory achieves this status when the majority of scientists conclude that preponderance of evidence supports the theory, and that there is no better alternative theory suggested by the evidence.

    The Big Bang theory, Climate Change Theory, and Evolutionary Theory are all currently accepted by the majority of scientist in their respected fields as being the best explanations given the observations made thus far. In principle, yes they could all be wrong. But the possibility that they could be wrong is not an argument that they ARE wrong. The possibility that a theory could be wrong can NEVER be entirely eliminated, therefore your demand for uncontrovertible proof is nonsensical. So long as the preponderance of evidence supports existing theory it remains the dominant theory. In other words, you don’t negate theories simply by pointing out that scientist are not omniscient and they don’t know everything. You need present evidence, not just merely point to deficiencies. Hence, gaps in a fossil record do not negate the theory of evolution.

    The negation of one theory doesn’t prove an alternate theory either by the way. I may be able to poke holes in a theory the moon is made out of cheese, that doesn’t prove it really made out of pixie dust.

    The notion of proving something beyond reasonable doubt simply doesn’t apply in science, it begs more questions than it anwers: what’s a “reasonable doubt”? Who would you prove this to? Science is not an adversarial process Mr. Swift. Scientist aren’t trying to win arguments, they simply make observations and try to explain those observations best they can.

  8. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/26/2009 - 01:43 pm.

    Ed,

    I don’t see any cheap shots taken at religion in the article. If you don’t believe in evolution why is it a cheap shot to point out that you don’t believe in evolution? Obviously science isn’t an important part of your life, but just because someone doesn’t espouse your religious beliefs in an article about science reporting doesn’t mean they’re taking cheap shots at you.

  9. Submitted by Francis Ferrell on 03/26/2009 - 02:02 pm.

    It is a sad day for us when average literate people can’t answer more than 2/3’s of this simple science quiz.

    Putting aside personal cultural, ethnic, and religious concepts and beliefs there should be no reason why the average American shouldn’t answer 13 to 15 questions correctly.

    Not being a science whiz, having given nanotechnology a second thought, I answered all of this simple quiz correctly. The point being that even this retired writer can be science literate without any problem. My recent high school graduate, son, answered all 15 questions correctly even faster except for slowing down on nano properties!

    I miss newspaper science sections, written by science writers or editors, for their in-depth authoritative accurate news content and perspective. Miscellaneous Internet blogs do not always provide solid substantial objective information that is referenced or confirmed as accurate.

    The world and information media sources are rapidly changing at hyper Mach speeds or beyond at Warp speeds. I wonder, maybe this is why newspapers are having problems with their readership.

    Keeping up with information accuracy and expense to publish or air such material is going to be a challenge that the legitimate media must resolve for future survival.

  10. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 03/26/2009 - 03:06 pm.

    Paul, you’ve misunderstood my point; perhaps I put it badly.

    I think you and I actually agree, I know we do in the first instance.

    Scientific theory certainly does not require proof “beyond any reasonable doubt”; it doesn’t require proof at all. A theory is an idea that is a work in progress.

    My problem is that these questions are stated either as acknowledged fact, or a false statement, ie: “The universe began with a huge explosion.” = True.

    The proper way to frame that question, and the evolution question would have been to say “Many astrophysicists believe that the universe began with a huge explosion”, and, “Many scientists, anthropologists and biologists believe human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.”

    The polar bear question, as I suggested, and still contend, is best suited for “the round file”.

    As to my notion of “reasonable doubt”, you are correct. The scientific method doesn’t allow for it. I merely suggested it as a way to put forward the idea that the “Big Bang” theory is much closer to being definitively proved than evolution.

    I hope that tidies up my position.

  11. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 03/26/2009 - 04:11 pm.

    While Thomas is technically correct that any given theory doesn’t require proof to back it up. However, you do need proof if you want to be taken seriously. I can put forth a theory that trees slowly move around on underground trollies with small wheels, but in order to be taken seriously I had better dig some of those trollies up and show them to people.

    Evolution, global warming, and the Big Bang all have a preponderance of scientific observations to back them up. It’s not enough for someone to come up with an opposing theory and claim it should be given the same level if seriousness simply because they say so: they also have to come up with the same amount of evidence. The theory with the most evidence wins the day.

    No trollies? No credibility.

  12. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 03/26/2009 - 04:30 pm.

    One poster glibly wrote that science really doesn’t matter in his daily living. I ran into the same attitude when I tutored mathematics in college. Undergrads came to me railing about an upcoming quiz, crying about how useless the class is and they’ll never need this knowledge as long as they live. I gently pointed out that they use it every day when they buy something in the store. Is the 10 oz bar of soap more cost effective than the 7 oz bar? Maybe, maybe not. How do you tell unless you have some basic math under your belt?

    So it goes with a general understanding of science. Will any one factoid help you out in your daily life? Probably not. But having a good grounding certainly does help you make better decisions. One poster mentioned the Star Wars weapons system, which I also remember from my younger days. I’m sure I’m not endearing myself to my conservative friends, but the Star Wars boondoggle another poster mentioned was one factor that prompted me to vote for the opposition. It was a waste of time, a waste of money, and a waste of scientific resources that would have been better focused elsewhere.

    And that’s just one example, albeit a large one. The point is that a good education can help you sniff out the cow droppings in someone’s rhetoric and make informed decisions that will help you and your loved ones improve your lives.

  13. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 03/26/2009 - 04:36 pm.

    Mr. Gotzman: Many religious people would agree that Sharon Schmickle was NOT showing disrespect to religion. Many of the them are scientists.

    The Bible speaks in metaphors. It tells stories that, for instance, describe Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and their loss of innocence when they ate the forbidden fruit. Science describes the development of the bicameral mind as the time in our evolutionary history that we became capable of duplicity.

    The Bible is not meant to be taken literally because it is not speaking the same kind of truth as science.

    Science, on the other hand, is a literal record of humankind’s gradual discovery of God’s creation — how it works, how it (and we) adapt and change and develop over eons, how we can use that knowledge to invent new technologies and medical treatments that benefit humankind.

  14. Submitted by Kris Troske on 03/26/2009 - 05:20 pm.

    “Scientific theory certainly does not require proof “beyond any reasonable doubt”; it doesn’t require proof at all. A theory is an idea that is a work in progress.”

    No, that’s incorrect. A hypothesis is an idea that is a work in progress. “Theory” is a word with a specific meaning in the scientific community, that unfortunately has been corrupted in the colloquial to mean the definition you choose to use.

  15. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 03/26/2009 - 05:25 pm.

    If you dig and find trollies, your theory has been elevated to fact.

    A scientific theory that aims to be held credible has to have nothing more than a sound, scientifically viable premise from which to work.

    The more demonstrable facts you can line up behind your theory, the more credibility it will garner.

    I think it’s true that all theories want to grow up to be facts, the problem (as in the case under discussion here), is that in some cases they are presented to society as finished products while still wearing theoretical diapers.

  16. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/26/2009 - 06:57 pm.

    //A scientific theory that aims to be held credible has to have nothing more than a sound, scientifically viable premise from which to work.

    Mr. Swift,

    Seriously, you are mistaken. In science, a theory must be supported by evidence. What you describe is conjecture, not theory. As someone already pointed out, technically what you describe is a hypothesis. The difference between hypothesis/conjecture, and theory is evidence. You start with hypothesis, you figure out a way to test the hypothesis, and as you accumulate evidence as a result of your observations you form a theory. Only after you have acquired evidence can you postulate a theoretical framework to explain your observations. A premise without evidence is not a theory, much less a scientifically credible theory.

    In everyday language people toss around the word “theory” all the time, it’s interchangeable with the conjecture. But we’re talking about scientific literacy here, scientific theories. In science theories have a very definite characteristics. Predominate theories like evolution and relativity are mature theories that have been around a long time and are supported by an overwhelming preponderance of evidence.

  17. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 03/26/2009 - 07:24 pm.

    Greetings Bernice,

    Did you read the answer section?

    If people just did not have these religious beliefs they would have got the question “right!”

  18. Submitted by Grace McGarvie on 03/26/2009 - 07:41 pm.

    Thomas Swift “proven beyond all and any doubt” – you fail to understand that science always leaves room for doubt, that is the defining difference between science and belief.

    All scientific theories are open to criticism, all you need is evidence (not belief). Cheap shots at Christians? Is asking for evidence a cheap shot? “The theory with the most evidence wins the day.” – is logical and reasonable. Several of the posts just demonstrate how abysmal science knowledge is. Sharon is not running for a popularity “Miss Science” contest, she is writing information to enlighten readers. Unfortunately many people prefer to remain in the cloud of “belief”. When people literally believe in virgin births and resurrections of the dead it is not surprising that they score poorly on science quizes.

  19. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 03/27/2009 - 10:59 am.

    “In science, a theory must be supported by evidence.”

    Really? Well then, unless the recently announced observation from the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center can be replicated, someone needs to tell the people working on cold fusion that they are wasting their time.

    “science always leaves room for doubt”

    Thanks for the update, Grace. That news will surely motivate stock brokers contemplating a leap from the Golden Gate bridge to have a backup plan ready.

    Kris, do you think that we can agree, at least, that whatever a theory “is”, it isn’t a fact? For all of the detours this discussion has taken, that’s all I wanted to say.

  20. Submitted by Pete Moulton on 03/27/2009 - 11:16 am.

    The proper answer to #9 is False. It is not the father’s *gene* that determines the gender of the offspring, it is in fact the father’s *chromosomes* that determine this, specifically the presence or absence of the Y chromosome in the lucky sperm that fertilizes the egg. This question is so poorly written as to be nonsensical.

  21. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/27/2009 - 01:34 pm.

    //Really? Well then, unless the recently announced observation from the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center can be replicated, someone needs to tell the people working on cold fusion that they are wasting their time.

    Dude, that’s exactly what will happen. If no one can replicate the experiment, it will be rejected. Again, a scientific theory must be supported by evidence or it simply will not gain any traction as a legitimate theory.

    When and how a theory can become a fact is an interesting conversation, but frankly one has to understand the nature of theory and fact before that conversation can be engaged; I’m not sure we’re there yet…

  22. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 03/27/2009 - 03:24 pm.

    “..one has to understand the nature of theory and fact before that conversation can be engaged; I’m not sure we’re there yet…”

    You can say that again.

  23. Submitted by Grace McGarvie on 03/27/2009 - 06:55 pm.

    Thomas, let’s have a look at other disputed scientific “theories.” For example, gravity: the “theory of gravity”, Science still studies this fundamental phenomena. Although hypotheses flourish, the definitive answer eludes us. I propose that Thomas take that theory to the Golden Gate bridge and remind himself that the “theory” of gravity remains disputed. Maybe God’s eternal love will catch him as he jumps, or maybe the theory is wrong. I have never thought of the stockmarket as a science, so I don’t understand his connection here, unless it was to demonstrate the theory of gravity.

  24. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 03/27/2009 - 08:48 pm.

    Grace;

    F = Gm1m2/R(squared)

    By all means, dispute away.

  25. Submitted by Grace McGarvie on 03/27/2009 - 10:01 pm.

    Thomas – you forgot the negative. Newton would be disappointed. Dispute ended.

  26. Submitted by Michael Jefferis on 03/29/2009 - 10:15 am.

    When I graduated from high school (1964) I was at best semiliterate in science; upon graduation from college (English major) I was only somewhat better informed about science. High school biology did more to eliminate, rather than stimulate, an interest in life science. Most science courses in college (one exception: geology taught by T. M. Beyer, Winona State) were equally deadly. Today I am well informed in several areas of science, and have learned how to think about science (I believe I have, anyway). To whom can I give credit for this progress?

    NOVA on PBS (watched consistently since the late ’70s) Solid information and an interesting, relevant presentation.
    Scientific American magazine (read some articles most months since mid ’70s) Can be dauntingly technical, but articles are well illustrated and reasonably concise.
    Science Tuesday, New York Times (read weekly since mid ’80s) and science articles on other days A reliable source of general information and well written.
    scattered articles appearing in several newspapers, on radio and television, and in magazines like New Scientist, Science News)
    I have also read numerous books on areas of interest such as viruses.

    By 1993 I think I had achieved solid scientific literacy – which is not the same as expertise, of course. But 25 years is a long time to acquire the knowledge that I didn’t have upon getting a bachelor’s degree.

    High school (and college) instruction could be improved a great deal, but finally individuals need to find their own reasons and methods for gaining knowledge – about anything, be it quantum mechanics or religious practices in medieval French monasteries. Students need to be encouraged by example to engage in life-long learning. Without good publicly available information (such as mass media can provide), continuous learning is less likely to happen.

  27. Submitted by Shad Petosky on 03/29/2009 - 11:49 am.

    I’d be embarrassed if I had missed any of these but two questions had answers that I knew they were going for but aren’t very good questions.

    1. The North Pole is on a sheet of ice that floats on the Arctic Ocean.

    The North Pole is not ON a sheet of Ice. The north pole is on/under the Ocean, which has sheets of ice and ice flows, but can can could have open water at any given time. If the sheet of ice were gone, the North Pole would still be there..

    2. Hunting is more likely than climate change to make polar bears become extinct.

    Sort of no…bad question.

  28. Submitted by Patrick Phenow on 04/02/2009 - 03:32 pm.

    Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but there appears to still be some misconception here regarding the scientific theory vs. scientific fact discussion. Scientific theories are not ever referred to as “fact”, do not become “fact.” A theory is “an explanation of a set of related observations or events based upon proven hypotheses and verified multiple times by detached groups of researchers.”

    So, insinuating that evolution is “just a theory” only reveals a lack of understanding of basic terminology.

    (Pretty good explanation of law, hypothesis, theory here: http://wilstar.com/theories.htm)

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