Pseudoscience: More or Less?

on February 24, 2007

AP: “American Belief in Pseudoscience on the Rise

Head for the hills! American belief in pseudoscience is on the rise! A recent study by Jon D. Miller of Michigan State University reveals interesting developments in the U.S. populace’s familiarity with science and beliefs about alleged “pseudoscience.”

While Miller discovered an increase in scientific literacy over the past two decades, his research has caused concern due to its indication that “people are giving increasing credence to pseudoscience such as the visits of space aliens, lucky numbers and horoscopes.” Lumped in with that trio is creation-”ism”:

As students’ knowledge of science rises, their willingness to believe pseudoscience drops.

In addition, these researchers noted an increase in college students who report they are "unsure'' about creationism as compared with evolution.

Naturally, the article lumps creation beliefs along with beliefs in “visits of space aliens, lucky numbers and horoscopes,” presumably trying to indicate all these beliefs are equally pseudoscientific; however, are the survey-takers who believe in creation the same as those who believe in visits by space aliens, lucky numbers and horoscopes? We doubt it (and hope not!)-especially when considering the results of a similar survey, conducted at an unnamed U.S. university by Raymond Eve Eve, who is typically found working at the University of Texas. (These results were also reported in the linked AP article.)

The share that believed aliens had visited Earth fell from 25 percent in 1983 to 15 percent in 2006. There was also a decline in belief in "Bigfoot'' and in whether psychics can predict the future.

But there also has been a drop in the number of people who believe evolution correctly explains the development of life on Earth and an increase in those who believe mankind was created about 10,000 years ago.

Very interesting, indeed! Of course, the AP story makes this sound like a contradiction (belief in alien visits and Bigfoot declines while creation belief on the increase-what!?). But, in reality, it’s perfectly consistent: as students’ knowledge of science rises, their willingness to believe pseudoscience drops, whether the pseudoscience is alien visits, Bigfoot, psychics, or-you guessed it-evolution.

Remember, if you see a news story that might merit some attention, let us know about it! (Note: if the story originates from the Associated Press, Fox News, MSNBC, the New York Times, or another major national media outlet, we will most likely have already heard about it.) And thanks to all of our readers who have submitted great news tips to us.

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