Army of darkness: 33% of Americans think the sun goes around the earth

[Hat tip “Why evolution is true”]

Sometimes all you can do is weep: 

While I don’t want to engage in simple “American bashing”, it is rather terrifying to think that one-third of Americans believe in a geocentric universe. [1]

Creationism and the denial of climate change have become party platforms of the right-wing/conservative/Republican views since the 1980s.

This is the price American society pays for the so called “culture wars” that have been running since the 1980s under Reagan.

This is the product of the long running “war on science” and the attempt to wind back the Enlightenment.

Conservatives in the US struck a Faustian deal with evangelicals and conservative Christians decades ago. Now it seems the Republican Party has been “captured” by ideologues and ignoramuses.

When Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin are the movements leading intellectual lights, you know there is a problem.

Is it me, or does the thought the world’s largest economic and military superpower being populated by millions of people who reject the idea the earth goes around the sun terrifying?

Sadly, I suspect figures in Australia might not be that different.

So many educated, professional people I know subscribe to astrology, alternative medicine and a host of wacky conspiracy theories (faked NASA moon landings, Climategate, Kennedy assassination).

It has nothing to do with “intelligence”.

This is why I battle against the “denial machine”.

It is but one division of the armies of darkness seeking to extinguish the light of knowledge. 


[1] Or at least don’t understand how long the Earth takes to orbit the sun

134 thoughts on “Army of darkness: 33% of Americans think the sun goes around the earth

  1. john byatt says:

    you may have missed the point sundance, human emissions are reversible by cutting emissions be that china ,australia or anyone else,
    emissions as explained released due melting permafrost will not be reversible , can you see the difference, it means that human emissions reduction to prevent beyond 2DegC will have to be larger now than previously required ,


    • Sundance says:

      The whole point as I see it is that the February 2011 Davies et al study illustrates that even when Earth was 24C degrees (9.5C degrees warmer than now), and when tropical SST was as high as 42C degrees, and when the permafrost had all melted, and when all that CO2 and methane was in the atmosphere, there was no irreversible/permanent tipping point in the climate. The point is I don’t find any scientific evidence for proof that future warming of 2C degrees, can cause an irreversible/permanent tipping point. I billion tons of additional CO2 from permafrost melt is a drop in the bucket and no long term threat. I refer you to scientist Ed Dlugokencky, from NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory, who in a written comment on melting permafrost and methane clathrates in the Arctic advised Andy evkin’s readership that any danger was remote and not likely.

  2. john byatt says:

    No sundance you are getting tipping points confused, you are seeing tipping points as only being a runaway tipping point in the climate, that is not as stated, this is a tipping point that will completely over time melt all permafrost and greatly reduce the current levels of carbon sinks, ie the permafrost will never refreeze to lock away carbon for many tens of thousands of years at least

    What you are trying to relate to this is the absurdity of a runaway venus syndrome, this cannot occur on this planet due to distance from the sun and locked up total GHG, the planet however can achieve a global temperature which would cause the total extinction of all mammals ,

    it is a strawman argument to claim that we are saying that all tipping points are total climate tipping points , you need to sort this out

  3. john byatt says:

    Sundance (06:29:00) :
    “Just let me finish and say this. If the world as a whole cut all emissions tomorrow the average temperature of the planet is not going to drop in several hundred years, perhaps as much as a thousand years because the system is overburdened with CO2 that has to be absorbed and that only happens slowly.”

    Tim Flannery

    What can you say to that?


    That you do not have any understanding of what is trying to be achieved,
    can we reduce temperature in several hundred years NO
    can we prevent temperature rise going beyond 2DegC, YES we can if we choose to do so ,
    should we choose to do so ? yes , why? because beyond that is a dangerous level for everyone of earth

    • Sundance says:

      John I do better understand the distinction you make. I agree with a key point that you make that people have to “choose” to reduce energy use and environmental impacts. I would suggest though that people really aren’t going to identify with a goal of limiting global temperature rise by 2C degrees because it isn’t personal enough for them. As you can see from recent elections people will resist a forced approach to emissions reduction. I’m still not sure what is the best approach but I do believe it has to incorporate reinforcing positive actions at the personal level.

      • john byatt says:


        You see small children playing on the railroad track, a train is racing towards them,

        you can see that no matter how fast you run you are not going to reach them in time.

        you have two choices, stand and watch or run like blazes and hope against hope that you will reach them in time

        I choose to run

        the children’s names are not denial

        their names are apathy

  4. JeffT says:

    johnny byatt,
    Very dramatic and emotive scenario.
    But why don’t you preface that by scrapping the trains and railway system and tearing out the tracks, as your CO2 proposals indicate ?
    ie. Remove the root cause.
    Anyway, you must have been responsible for this bit of dramatic and emotive captrap:-

    Is Quercus another ID of yours ?

  5. John says:

    So 33% is roughly a hundred million Americans, which can easily include the entire US population of illiterate and poor, as well as people who do not live within a convenient distance from a center of knowledge–which is plenty of people–and even those without internet access, which last time I checked was as of 2012 around 23% of all Americans. Your statistics don’t really shock me at all. The most important thing beyond numbers however is that question that pops up in elementary school all the time: When am I ever going to need this?

    As “basic” as the idea that the Earth revolves around the sun is, it is a quaint and irrelevant fact to most people. Even in something immediately relevant like orienteering it is easier to assume that the Sun and the stars arc across the sky to find coordinates than to assume that the moving, shiny point in the sky is actually standing still. The math alone would be annoying.

    Sherlock Holmes famously said that he did not know that the Earth revolves around the Sun because such information is irrelevant to his life and work.

    The “shock” value of this survey comes from this democratic-enlightenment belief that such information ‘should’ be as free as air and known like the wetness of water and because it is a poetic in its monumentally simple science. The crutch here is that there is no obligation to “know” what is essentially trivia to at least 33% of Americans.

    Just knowing things is not considered proactive for today’s busy, consuming, building, destroying homo sapien. Knowledge is either useful and thus valuable or not useful and thus unwise to keep knowing. Black and white, yes but most people in this world can’t afford or want to bother with the nitty-gritty of subtlety.

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  9. Orson says:

    What does doubting the official version of the JFK killing have to do with ignorance of science? You mean, doubting the magic bullet theory makes you a dummy? What are you:CIA? You know what ignorance of science makes you do? It makes you believe that a 110 story building , held together by huge steel girders, with floors of poured concrete laced with metal bracing, could fall to the ground as fast as a ball bearing, as if the floors gave no resistance at all. Now a scientist would say that’s impossible, as thousands of brave engineers, architects, pilots have done. Please, spare me the bullshit.

  10. Abraxxas says:

    All I can do is laugh after reading “Scientific literacy” then reading ahead to find “Antibotics.” Seriously disappointing.

  11. lara says:

    This 1999 Gallup poll reported that 18% believe the sun revolves around Earth.
    The question wording “…once a year” might have affected the results.

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