Random Thoughts

Amusing & Amazing Statistics and Power Hunger

From 'Endless Forms Most Beautiful' by Sean B. Carroll, the below survey question was asked.

'In your opinion, how true is this?
Human beings developed from earlier species of animals'.

Method of scoring '
1 point   ' Definitely true
2 points ' Probably true
3 points ' Probably not true
4 points ' Definitely not true

The above question was asked to a substantial number of random individual citizens of many different countries. The answers and point scores of each country were added and the sum divided by the number of sampled individuals from the same country. This gave a mean score for that country. Below are the countries and their mean scores. The sampling must have been done partly before the fall of the Berlin wall.

Country   Score
East Germany    
Czech Republic  
West Germany     
Great Britain   
New Zealand 
Northern Ireland 
United States

If we assume that at least a hundred individuals were surveyed (more were) and it was random (probably without sampling from specific education, ethnic or economic background) then the raw scores would be the mean score multiplied by 100 (number surveyed. The above countries were selected because they all have near 100% literacy.

As anyone who has a basic knowledge of high school biology will know that evolution is clearly a fact and the correct answer is the first one. Even an orthodox religious authority like the previous Catholic Pope John Paul issued a Vatican proclamation authenticating the physical evolution of humans from lower animals, while issuing a caveat for the soul. Thus one may consider that a few diehards may choose the second as the answer.

In a raw score of 186 for hundred persons, the maximum numbers with a raw score of one cannot exceed seventy-one. They would generate a partial country score of 71 for seventy-one persons of the sample. To raise the raw score to 186, of the remaining 28 would have had to pick answer 4 (28 times 4=112) and one would choose answer 3 to give a raw score of (71+112+3) 186. It is also possible that 14 persons chose and 86 persons chose 2 (14+172). Thus the East German sample analysis shows reasonable biologic knowledge literacy in 71% to 100% of the sample. Very similar numbers apply to Japan with a raw score of 189 and a mean of 1.89.

For Czech Republic and West Germany the biological literacy range is approximately 65% to 95+%. For Bulgaria and Britain the ranges are approximately 60% to 90%. For Norway, Canada, Spain, Hungary, Italy, Slovenia and New Zealand with raw scores ranging from 243 to 254 the range of biological literacy falls to 50% to 75%. Israel, Netherlands, Ireland, Philippines and Russia with raw scores from 266 to 280, the rates come down to approximately 40% to 65%.In Northern Ireland and Poland with raw scores of 299 and 306, the rate falls to approximately 33% to 50%.

The US with the highest raw score of 322 shows greatest biological ignorance. It gives an approximate biological literacy rate of 25% to 40%. Despite universal free school education, Americans are in such a sorry state or to paraphrase Mark Twain they unlike him have let their schooling interfere with their education or if it is education schooling provides, they have ignored it. Maybe it is not only the School Boards of Dover, Pa. Or the State of Kansas that need to be blamed. There is a more pervasive epidemic of the virus of ignorance nationwide.

In a survey by the US National Science Board in 1996, 32% of Americans agreed that early humans and dinosaurs lived together at the same time, while 20% were unsure of the truth of the statement. This proves that over 50% of Americans get their scientific knowledge from watching 'Flintstones' and Jurassic Park' and probably haven't heard of Darwin. This is not to knock America. I suspect that a similar survey in India, even amongst those with high school education, may give worse results, what with our beliefs in gods with the heads of monkeys, elephants, snakes etc.

Beware of religious zealots who reject science and hunger for power, A 75+ year person with power lust cannot claim to be a Hindu. Old age in Hinduism is a time for 'Sanyas' or renunciation. Democracy in India is such a farce that candidates run for parliament simultaneously from two constituencies in different states without ever having resided in either of them. Others become prime ministers without ever having been elected anywhere and being too scared to run for election even after being appointed as prime ministers merely because they make good puppets. In America, all Republicans who contested for the Republican nomination for the presidency, publicly rejected the theory of evolution on national television. Yet I won't be surprised if they elect another phony idiot like they did in 2000 and 2004, with similar ignorance and greater idiocy. The nations of India and America have paid a heavy price for their incompetent leaders and as Santayana said, 'Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it'.


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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