Re: Newspaper article

David Marten (
Tue, 28 May 1996 17:47:43 -0700

Our local paper ran a shortened version of this AP article and I wondered
what the actual questions were that were asked. It did not take me long to
find the NSF report upon which these newspaper articles were based. It is
located at the following address:

Chapter 7 deals with the science and economics literacy survey. Also
Appendix table 7-7 lists the questions and numeric results for the
scientific understanding data.

One can view this data using the Acrobat reader.

In response to the posting made by Kenneth Feucht, I would tend to agree
that the statements mentioned could be misleading to many and that the data
therefore may not reflect true scientific understanding and knowledge.
However, there may have been an opening general statement given to the
surveyees which went something like: Respond to the following statements
using your knowledge of scientific facts and theories that are generally
accepted by most scientists today. If a statement like this is not included,
then the questions mentioned by Kenneth Feucht (and a few other ones, like:
the universe began with a big explosion) could be answered in different ways
by knowledgeable individuals, resulting in inaccurate survey results.

Another aspect of the survey which also disturbs me is the apparent lack of
basic scientific knowledge by a large segment of our population. This brings
to mind some of the threads developed earlier on this list-server dealing
with helping our non-scientist Christians with alternative views of the
creation story and the age of the Earth. It is difficult to get into
intelligent discussions if a basic knowledge is lacking. For example:

Since I am a chemist, and an educator, it was very disheartening to observe
that only 9% of the 2,006 questioned could describe a molecule. Even with
college graduates the number improves only to 22%. The biologists are doing
slightly better with 21% being able to describe what DNA is (47% of college

How can we begin to discuss the DNA evidence and its evolutionary
implications if one does not know what DNA is? How can we talk about the
problems with abiotic chemical evolution if one's audience does not know
what a molecule is?

I have many questions but few answers. One answer for me individually is
that I must continue to work hard to see that our college graduates have
this basic scientific knowledge. This knowledge, coupled with a commitment
to follow our Savior, will help bring understanding and reconciliation among
our Christian sisters and brothers.

>On Sat, 25 May 1996, Kenneth Feucht wrote:
>> The Tacoma News Tribune on 24MAY96 had this article by Paul Recer of the
>> Associated Press titled Think You know your science? Most don't. It reads
>> "Fewer than half of American adults understand that the Earth orbits the sun
>> yearly, according to a basic science survey. .. Only bout 25% of American
>> adults got passing grades in a survey by the National Science Foundation of
>> what people know about basic science and economics, etc. , etc., etc.
>> They include sample questions from the quiz, and most are the questions
>> demonstrate a bitter sense of triviality, that anyone should know, such as
>> 1)The center of the Earth is very hot (T/F) 2)Electrons are smaller than
>> (T/F) 3) Which travels faster, light or sound? So on and so forth for the
>> questions. Nestled in among the questions that the newspaper included was
>> question 4) Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier
>> species of animals (T/F).
>> I realize that many ASA'ers might scan over that, or consede the
question to
>> be true simply on the basis of how God did things. Yet, contextually, to
>> answer the question as true implies a world-view as to how we got here,
>> by divine fiat vs. by chance occurence. Those who are more oriented to
>> creation as a 7 literal day event would very accurately answer this question
>> as false and yet be counted wrong. Those of us who feel that creation was
>> a gradual event, but instantaneous occurences over seven figurative days
>> also correctly mark this wrongly, according to the people that designed the
>> test. Even if you concede that man occured by slow progression with
>> intelligent design, the question might be difficult to answer.
>> The essense of this test implies that evolution is such a fundamental
>> it is as obvious as the center of the earth being hot, or the earth taking a
>> year to go around the sun. Do other ASA members find this to be distasteful
>> and arrogant on the part of the quiz makers?
>> Kenneth A. Feucht, MD, PhD, FACS

This is my first posting on this list-server. I have been following most of
the topics over the last few months and have found it very stimulating. As a
teacher of chemistry at a Christian college I am very much interested in the
integration of faith and science. I have been a member of the ASA for about
10 years and support its mission.
David Marten | Department of Chemistry | Phone: (805)565-6189
Associate Professor | Westmont College | Fax: (805)565-7066
of Chemistry | Santa Barbara, CA 93108 | email: