Pop Quiz: Science and Religion, you’re doing it wrong

I read this piece on Slate’s Bad Astronomy Blog today, Lord of All I Survey.  It links to two Pew Research Surveys of Americans.  One is looking at basic knowledge of world religions (basic tenets, key players, etc) here, the other is looking at basic science (earth science, scientific method, etc.) here.

So, of course I took them.  You should too.  See how you do.  I talk about some of the questions below, so if you don’t want to cheat, take it before you read the rest of this post.

As usual, I’m disappointed by America.  Our lack of basic understanding of the religions practiced here, and of the way our world works is heart-breaking.

Here are my results from the science survey:

science survey

My results from the Pew Research Center “Science and Technology Knowledge” Quiz. I was in the 93rd percentile answering all 13 questions correctly.

Just think about the first three questions on the science survey- each were True/False questions.  That means answering by chance (say by flipping a coin) would mean that you had a 50/50 chance of getting it right.  Thus, surveying monkeys who can’t read would likely result in 50% of the monkeys getting the question right.

The first True/False question was “All radioactivity is man-made.”  A respectable 66% of respondents got that one right, it’s false, radioactivity is naturally occurring.

The second question was “Electrons are smaller than atoms.”  An abysmal 47% got it right, the statement is true.  It was True/False question, guessing randomly would have 50% of people getting it correct.  Thus, monkeys could have done better on this question than the actual people who took it.

Source:  jimbenton.com

I’m serious.  Science is everywhere.  That laser pointer, there’s a whole lot of science that went into making it.  Source: jimbenton.com

The third questions was “Lasers work by focusing sound waves.”  An abysmal 48% got it right, the statement is false.  38% of women got this question wrong.  HOW?!  Have people never seen a laser pointer?!  (Granted the 65+ group was the worst on this, with only 33% getting it right, so I guess maybe they haven’t seen one, but how do they think the doctor fixed their cataracts?!)  I could cry that only 38% of women got this question right.  Have they not seen/used a laser pointer?  Do they not watch YouTube videos of unsuspecting cats and dogs tirelessly and futilely chasing the red dot? Was there any sound to be focused from the GLOWING LIGHT?  Ugh.

I just don’t know what to say about this, except that it’s sad.  It’s sad that as a populace we are so uninformed.  It’s even more miserable that in general women did even worse than men.  Miserable.

Here are my results from the religion survey:

religion survey

My results from the Pew Research Center “Religious Knowledge” Quiz. I was in the 97th percentile answering 14 out of 15 questions correctly. (Damn you Great Awakening!)

Now onto religion- which seems to have become a weapon in the US.  The Jews know the most.  Most people only got half of the questions right.

Only 23% of the respondents knew it was acceptable for a teacher to read from the Bible in a public school as an example of literature.  There were only two options for answers to that question, “Yes, permitted.” or “No, not permitted.”  Thus, yet again, monkeys would have done WAAAY better just randomly selecting an answer and getting it right 50% of the time.  That means that in our nation people are actually MISinformed as opposed to just UNinformed on a topic that impacts PUBLIC SCHOOLS!?!

So, how did I get so many religion questions correct?  My friends.  No, I didn’t call them up and ask them the survey questions.  I have friends and family who are Jewish, Mormon, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, etc.  I was raised Catholic.  I’ve been to temple.  I’ve worshipped at a Seventh Day Adventist Church.  I’ve meditated at a Buddhist Monastery.  I’ve broken a fast during Ramadan. I’ve celebrated Diwali and Eid and Passover and Easter and Hanukkah.

I have friends of every ilk, representing many of the world’s religions.  Part of being a friend is learning about one another.  I  just asked my friend why she wears the hijab and learned about how she made the decision to cover her head.  I’ve engaged hours and hours of conversation with with my best friend from college about Seventh Day Adventism.  As a little kid I went to temple almost every Friday night with my friend (not surprisingly, I was always the kid standing right next to the rabbi when it was time to bless the challah).  On Saturdays I went to CCD at the Catholic Church.  Every summer I went to Vacation Bible School at the Baptist Church.

I’ve lived in the world.  I’ve made friends.  I’ve come to love people from all these religions.  In getting to know them, in coming to love them, I’ve learned about their religions.  That’s how I scored well on that quiz.  That’s why it’s nigh impossible for me to fall prey to prejudice and bigotry in this regard.

These surveys always depress me.

Please, take the surveys and tell me in the comments how you scored so as to bolster my spirit- I’m sure you will do better than a monkey.

To take the surveys or see the analysis of results, click on the embedded links above.


Filed under Scientist

3 responses to “Pop Quiz: Science and Religion, you’re doing it wrong

  1. I guess it’s really good that I got all the science questions correct, since I’m a high school science teacher and I think all those questions are things covered in high school science.

    I also got all the religion questions right, although I had to somewhat guess on one or two. I think I got those right for two reasons. One, I’m Christian and actually learn the important ideas in my religion. Two, I pay attention to stuff that goes on in the world that might motivate people to do the things they do, and religion is a huge motivator for people. When I meet someone of a different religion, I engage in conversation rather than putting up a wall to protect myself from different ideas.

  2. The problem is clearly that people THINK they know, but actually they’re worse than monkeys. I got all the science questions right. I also got all the religion ones right when I took it a few months ago; religious minority in the South = learning a lot about other religions and, especially, the intersection of law and religion. Also, I think religions are kind of neat.

    Challah is pretty delicious!

  3. Stefanie Summerer

    I got one science question wrong giving me an 85%. (I couldn’t remember which gas was most prevalent in the atmosphere.) I got 2 religion questions wrong. One was embarrassingly a question from my own religion (I’ve never been great with remembering Old Testament bible stories) and the other was a History question: “Which one of these preachers participated in the period of religious activity known as the First Great Awakening?” So that left me in the 87th percentile. Not too bad I guess.

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