Sections

Services

Information

UK United Kingdom

Australians seem to be getting dumber – but does it matter?

Guess what: Australians have spent the last three years getting a little bit dumber. Well, at least according to the Australian Academy of Science, we’ve lost touch with a few key basic facts. Repeating…

The proportion of Aussies who know the Earth takes a year to travel around the sun has dropped since 2010, but is that really a measure of scientific literacy? R.O Mania♥

Guess what: Australians have spent the last three years getting a little bit dumber. Well, at least according to the Australian Academy of Science, we’ve lost touch with a few key basic facts.

Repeating a national survey of science literacy first conducted in 2010, a survey published today by the Academy found just two thirds of us know that it takes a year for the Earth to travel around the sun, compared with three quarters in 2010. Among 18 to 24-year-olds, the rate knowing the correct answer fell from 74% to 62%; among those over 65, the rate fell from 51% to 46%.

Nomadic Lass

Luckily, slightly more of us (73% now compared with 70% in 2010) know that early humans (are we allowed to call them cavemen and women any more?) didn’t live with dinosaurs.

The Academy found a number of other details about our scientific literacy:

  • 39% of us know 70% of Earth’s surface is water
  • 70% of us know evolution is occurring
  • 73% of us know we’re influencing the evolution of other species

Happily, 79% of us say science education is very important or absolutely essential to the economy.

The survey says … very little, actually

Surveys of this type are, to put it bluntly, blatant concern trolling. Scientists and the science interested can collectively gnash their teeth at the large groups of people who fail to grasp some rudimentary scientific fact.

They get great coverage, and they get politicians promising to do more to enhance the scientific literacy of the public.

But they really don’t mean very much. So 73% of Australians know the earliest humans didn’t live at the same time as dinosaurs - but how is that relevant to policy or politics?

rofi

We pretend that factoids are a useful proxy for scientific literacy, and in turn that scientific literacy is a useful proxy for good citizenship. But there’s simply no evidence this is true.

Science is increasingly a social issue. Lines between science, technology and their applications are increasingly blurred. There are ethical, political and environmental considerations.

Science and technology relate to areas such as health, education, leisure and employment. The issues are interrelated, complex and subject to rapid change. Will understanding Earth rotates around the sun help deal with any of these issues? Likely not.

Scientific literacy may be one aspect that defines a good citizen, but to claim scientific literacy equals good citizenship is naïve.

Inherent faults

Surveys such as this have been used, and criticised, since their inception in 1989. The very first issue of the journal Public Understanding of Science, which would arguably have a readership with a vested interest in such outcomes, contained several entries commenting on the “futility” of the exercise.

Yet we still persist in using these surveys to berate the public for not knowing more.

Science literacy surveys such as these do nothing except keep academics busy, tick various grant recipient boxes and make the general public feel more disillusioned about their scientific abilities.

Would a Nobel laureate in physics be able to answer biology questions? Possibly. But we don’t ask them to. We recognise it’s not their field of expertise. So why are we asking the general public questions about science unrelated to most peoples' expertise or day-to-day lives?

Kevin Dooley

The questions these tests ask have absolutely no bearing on the kinds of scientific literacy needed today. The kind of understanding needed about alternative energy sources, food security or water management; things that actually relate to global challenges.

Australia’s research and scientific community recognises this, as evidenced through the formation of a research alliance.

This alliance calls for a non-partisan, national strategy to invest in research and translation of science. Nowhere in the statement is there a call to educate the public about the living arrangements of dinosaurs and our cave dwelling ancestors.

Rather, there is the argument to support and nurture the existing science and research sectors, and to provide the necessary resources to ensure Australia actually has a research future.

Australia needs science, research and innovation to ensure our economy and society remains strong and internationally competitive in the 21st century.

The point people should be grasping from these survey results is that 79% of respondents see the crucial relationship between science and the economy.

Will 79% of our politicians also make the same connection, and act on it appropriately? That’s the real test.

Join the conversation

353 Comments sorted by

    1. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Maybe Tony (and Kevin, for that matter) have actually had a look at the difference Australia's action on AGW will make in a global sense and come to realise that it will make absolutely none.

      report
    2. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Correct Stephen. So why are we wasting resources on ineffective strategies? The only way we can reduce our impact as a species is by limiting our population globally.

      report
    3. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      ".....He (Tony Abbott) is relying on the stupidity of the Australian electorate, and trying to win an election....."

      That's the only way he will win.

      But on a more relevant note, I am more concerned that 25 - 33% of young Australian's don't know even the most basic information. Therre might be concerns or pleasure at some of the small changes over the past few years, but for 30% to not know that evolution is occuring, or for 27% to not know that humans didn't live with dinosaurs is a real indictment on our education system.

      No wonder there are so many climate change deniers out there. There are a hell of a lot of stupid people.

      report
    4. Stephen Ralph

      carer

      In reply to John Phillip

      I don't think we have the time it takes to reduce population.

      A great plan for the next hundred years or so, but personally I don't think we have that long.

      report
    5. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      If that's the case, why are we spending all this money to achieve exactly zero? It would be better spent assisting the nations with high rates of pop growth through education, contraception etc.

      report
    6. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      well not in my house, I had the kids trained to sneer at all right wing morons, (particularly one lying rodent), on the telly from a very young age. They can grasp more complex theories now and we're now all a bit more mature about it.
      Any way, nature will have the last say soon enough. Those who live through all these progressively worse events seem to be waking up, "climate ambition emerging from the climate lie" as John Connor says.

      report
    7. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Global population growth is pushing humanity to consume more energy and emit more CO2.

      Producing food at the rate currently required alone REQUIRES high energy consumption. And that high energy consumption cannot be supplied by low energy density renewable energy sources in the absence of fossil fuel energy.

      There will be no tangible action on climate change nor significant reductions in CO2 emissions as long as the human population is growing or that the current global population remains at its current size.

      report
    8. Mark Horner

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to John Phillip

      Why are you parroting "it'll make no use, so why bother"? So what are you going to do with the rest of your life: let your offspring's inheritance burn down around their ears? Or get a bucket and put out a little bit of the fire? All too hard: aw diddums. The cheque from Chevron's in the mail.

      report
    9. Mark Horner

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to John Phillip

      Let's all live like the average Bangladeshi/Somali/Peruvian: problem solved.

      Not numbers of people: numbers of people purchasing throwaway products and 4WDs. Marketed to them by the 1%. Connived at by 'democratic' governments.

      report
    10. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      "To respond adequately to climate change the west needs to reduce its emissions by 40% from 1990 figures by 2020."

      I believe there is little or no hope of achieving this until there is significant population reduction one way or the other.

      report
    11. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Alice I'll ask you one very simple question - one that I have asked before and been attacked for being a 'denier' etc, but one that no-one has provided an answer for. That question is "Will you quantify the difference to AGW that Australia's carbon tax makes?"

      report
    12. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Mark Horner

      Mark, apparently Australia produces 1.5% of all co2. How much will reducing that amount by 10% make to AGW? Forget the emotive rhetoric and do the math.

      report
    13. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to John Phillip

      John, this is the last time I enter into a dialogue with you. The amount would be small. the question is dumb. The more pertinent question you persistently fail to comprehend, is the difference to AGW if we do little or nothing and AGW gets worse than worse. "We" is the world. You are a denier.

      report
    14. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to John Phillip

      John, forget the 'math' and do the basic reasoning: every country emits a certain amount of co2 and it seems reasonablt that they be held responsible for the bit they do and can control, no more, no less. While Australia's total is only about 1.5% we are the 12th biggest emitter and just about the worst per-capita emitter (do your own math: we account for rather less that 1.5% of the world's population).

      Therefore there is a sound argument that Australia is particularly required to act decisively…

      Read more
    15. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Hey Patrick, what if I just wanted to murder ONE person - hell that's just one out of 7 billion - nobody would really notice the difference.would they?

      There's anice bit of emotive rhetoric for John P!

      report
    16. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Precisely Felix. Look, I murder maybe ten people a year, tops. Sure, I can see why some people think it'd be better if I stopped doing that. But the Mexican drug cartels murder thousands every year! So is my murdering really so bad? And if I stop murdering it'll have no real impact on the global murder rate, and besides, it'll erode my competitive advantage! We should wait until there's a coordinated global effort to reduce murders rather than refraining from committing murder ourselves. It's just common sense really.

      [Disclaimer: I do not actually murder people. As far as any of you know.]

      report
    17. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      No Patrick, not at all. I'd just like someone to quantify the effects on greenhouse gas emissions of our carbon tax/ets.

      report
    18. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Felix, have you got an answer for me? Can you quantify the effects on greenhouse gas emissions of our carbon tax/ets or is it just about feeling good? rather than actually making a difference?

      report
    19. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Tandra Lenley

      I would be very worried if Tandra really is an Engineer.

      Engineering relies on accepting the professionalism and integrity of of others. As Engineering is doing things the result of any project is tested by nature - failure is easily seen.

      As an Engineer Tantra should be able to apply her training to the evaluation of climate science, and if she is rational she can only conclude that the threat is very real and requires urgent action.

      If she is unable to do this then I wouldn't trust her with any Engineering project.

      report
    20. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to John Phillip

      Why is John Phillip reading The Conversation if he really has total contempt for all academic research?

      He can only be here to lobby.

      Now why would an ordinary individual spend large amounts of time and energy (John is another regular in these conversations) lobbying against the science of climate change? And why would he be doing so in a non-political way?

      It is clear that vested interests have lots to gain by delaying action - and this is why they spend lots of money on lobbyists in Canberra and funding groups such as the IPA. It would take only a fraction of this spending to pay a few people to post denialist rubbish in forums such as this. And when you think about it more, it would be negligent of the vested interests not to be doing so.

      I'm sure that there are some genuine loonies posting here, but that some people are paid to write this rubbish is the best explanation for what is happening.

      report
    21. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      MWH, you make a lot of false accusations but provide no answers. I am certainly not paid by anyone for my views and do not belong to any political body or NGOs - can you say the same?

      report
    22. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      MWH, you claim that I have contempt for all academic research. Such a statement is defamatory and false. What I do is ask questions. Those questions are often met with derision and ridicule by the usual ideologues such as yourself. The fact that they are not actually answered only serves to make their asking more imperative.

      report
    23. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to John Phillip

      No, the point is to do the right thing and to take responsibility for our actions. (Unless you're a consequentialist, I hasten to add, which you perhaps are. That's another story).

      report
    24. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Agreed, but if the action you are taking is pointless and ineffective, are you taking responsibility for your actions or just indulging in 'feel good' guilt assuaging?

      report
    25. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to John Phillip

      You're assuming that if it doesn't have a measurable empirical impact then it's "pointless." That's precisely the consequentialist assumption I'd want to contest.

      An example: let's assume that, all being equal, it's generally good to forgive people. My friend does something terrible to me. Eventually, I forgive her - but by the time I do so she's already long dead and my forgiving her has no 'practical' effect on the world. Even so, the act of forgiving, being morally good, is its own justification…

      Read more
    26. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to John Phillip

      If we were talking about the NBN you will see that I don't support all the views of the Greens. So my views are mine, and I speak for me.

      Your being paid to post here makes sense. I welcome another explanation for you being here so often and posting in the way that you do.

      report
    27. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Patrick, what I object to is restructuring our economy through a carbon tax that, according to Rudd can be shifted to an ETS and result in a 3.9 billion dollar hole in the budget. This suggests that the carbon tax did nothing for anything other than consolidated tax revenue. For over a year I have regularly asked those on this forum who support(ed) the carbon tax and/or our emissions targets what quantitative effects they would have on GHG emissions. I have been pilloried and attacked for this but…

      Read more
    28. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to John Phillip

      Regular readers will know that people like John Phillip ask the same questions again and again and again and again.

      And regular readers will know that some of those who accept the science can't resist answer John's questions again and again and again.

      Just like Abbott's strategy is to say "I'll stop the boats" repeatedly, the campaign against climate change is based on having 'supposedly real people' asking the same questions again and again and again.

      One of the reasons I believe that people like John are paid is that doing this repetitive posting is actually quiet boring and takes time - it is a job not something that would be done for fun.

      report
    29. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael I hope regular readers note that, not only do I 'ask the same questions again and again and again and again', I don't actually get any answers. A fact which I find astonishing given the absolute conviction expressed by those who ridicule those questions. I can certainly understand why the AGW movement has been losing traction with the public. It has little to do with the MSM, as is oft claimed, but everything to do with a lack of answers and argument provided by its proponents. This is further exacerbated by the continual descent into aggressive defensiveness by those same folks.

      report
    30. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to John Phillip

      Not true John. As you would know, I have bursts of posting heavily with long periods of not posting at all.

      When I am active you seem to be one of the regulars.

      I think my motivation is pretty obvious to all - I'm too passionate for my own good about the future of the planet.

      What is hard to understand is why you are so passionate about casting doubt on climate change. Unless you have invested heavily in an industry that will loose value if climate action is taken, it is hard to see why you are so concerned.

      And 'just interested' doesn't make sense when I think it would be easy to prove that you have not changed your posts (and thus not learned anything) in your year or so of posting. Your still asking the same questions and getting the same answers. To me that would not be very interesting.

      report
    31. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael: I see this accusation online all the time, and I've been on the receiving end it via the 'pharma shill' gambit. I spend a lot of time arguing with anti-vaxxers and the like online, and I know others who spend even more time doing so, answering the same points over and over and over again. Anti-vaxxers often accuse them of being paid by Big Pharma for the same reason you're claiming John is in the pockets of vested interests: because it's time-consuming, tedious and unrewarding work so why…

      Read more
    32. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael, we seem to live in a society where oversimplification and polarisation is the norm. I don't think anything is as cut and dried as that. I have asked those same questions and will continue to do so until I get answers. (That's my point, really, I haven't got any answers.) Not just the occasional link. Anyone can do the latter. They just have to pick their favourite website - denier or alarmist as the case may be. I am interested in the arguments people themselves have to support their positions.

      report
    33. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Oh, Felix, great to have your juvenile rantings back rather than any attempt on your part to be rational. Plays to your strengths, I guess.

      report
    34. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      I see vaccination as different.

      I can see why an individual passionate about the communities health would feel inspired to promote vaccination.

      And if you really thought that vaccination was harmful then this would also generate much passion and commitment.

      So in this example both sides are like my passion for getting action on climate change.

      Politics inspires passion as well, so though I'm sure some people on the right get assigned to post in left leaning forums, I'm also sure that…

      Read more
    35. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      I am not at all sure I have a complete answer Michael but I sure as hell know we should be focusing efforts of fertility reduction at least.

      But I am merely pointing out that I don't think you will come close to significantly reducing CO2 emissions by any mechanism as long as the global population is growing.

      report
    36. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael, what an odd thing to say about an engineer. Engineers are doers and creators, who thrive on problems to fix. They are a completely different species than, say, theoretical physicists, who are often happy to never leave the house, let alone get their hands dirty.

      report
    37. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to David Thompson

      David, as an engineer I agree with your comment that "engineers are doers and creators who thrive on problems to fix".

      Engineers are also highly qualified university trained professionals (which is a major difference between them and home handymen).

      So I maintain my view that any professional engineer who denies climate change is showing a lack of competence significant enough for me to question their ability.

      report
    38. Tandra Lenley

      Engineer

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Thanks MWH for proving you are incapable of rational thought. Instead of blindly attacking a person have a look at the enormous number of peer reviewed papers that show AGW is far from accepted. You've been sucked in and can no longer think rationally about this argument. Start arguing the case and stop with the ad hominem attacks.

      report
    39. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael, my experience (admittedly a totally unscientific sample) is that engineers are more likely to favour geoengineering SOLUTIONS to climate change, rather than mitigation. I have not many engineers who are out and out deniers. Though, I must admit, I do know a couple.

      report
    40. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Tandra Lenley

      Tandra, if you really are an engineer you would know that evidence is what convinces. You also would know that if over 95% of professional engineers support something then this is almost certainly correct, and very good evidence is needed to challenge this view.

      Further, you would know that the prime place to present this evidence is in professional journals, and the discussion in a forum such as this means nothing.

      If you have any evidence to cast real doubt on the threat of climate change please let us all know. I'll be elated if it is correct.

      And please explain why over 95% of the climate scientists, in every country, for the last decade, are all wrong. Is it all a giant conspiracy?

      report
    41. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to David Thompson

      It might depend on the type of engineer you talk to.

      Of course nuclear engineers tend to support nuclear, solar engineers solar, etc

      But most engineers should recognise that a wide range of solutions are required.

      report
    42. Urs Baumgartner

      Consultant for Environment and Sustainability

      In reply to James Jenkin

      I totally agree, James. These were exactly my thoughts when I read the article. How can we protect the earth if people don't even understand why sometimes its a bit less hot and sun shine hours longer than at others? The article is as superficial as the tests it talks about.

      report
    43. Ian L. McQueen

      Retired

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      I have been reading the comments and wondering where to insert my own. Then along came this one. I have two degrees chemical engineering, so maybe I qualify as an "engineer". I can say for sure that my studies prepared me to understand "science", so I feel qualified to comment on "climate".
      Where does this lead? For one thing, no one has ever proved that there is a valid relationship between carbon dioxide concentration in our air and "climate". Yes, I know that it is common belief, but that does…

      Read more
    44. Ian L. McQueen

      Retired

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael, do you really believe that nonsense about "95%" of scientists? Who tells you that 95% believe in the story? Why the very people who are putting out the story! Ask yourself who is making the money from this belief in the magic properties of carbon dioxide. It certainly isn't us realists- it is those who have high-paying positions, who receive research grants to prove the unprovable, and the like.
      The 95% figure is just nonsense, as you'd know if you read objective information on the subject.

      Best regards.

      IanM

      report
    45. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Tandra Lenley

      No Tandra, you have been sucked in, The first paper on the long list provided by the bogus web site "popular technology" by Sherwood B Idso "CO2-induced global warming: a sceptics view of potential climate change" (1998), states that, " these studies all suggest that a 300 to 600 ppm doubling of the atmospheres CO2 concentration could raise the planets mean surface air temperature by only about 0.4 degrees C". I decided not to read any further, as this cited paper is laughably false. We've already passed that theoretical number, but why include a paper 15 years out of date, trawling the garbage don't you think?

      report
    46. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Ian L. McQueen

      Note how this topic continues to have one active denier, but the style has changed from the 'average bloke asking good questions that have never been answered' to the 'I'm an expert in chemical engineering but I'll deny some fairly basic chemistry'.

      Note that when we do get the pretend scientific expert who is denying climate change we only get one of these people at a time.

      I'm pretty sure that IanM's post has been bought to you by those who fund the IPA.

      report
    47. Pop Tech

      Computer Analyst

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Alice, the current amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is 600 PPM? When did this happen?

      Do you reject Svante Arrhenius's 1896 paper "On the influence of carbonic acid in the air upon the temperature of the ground" and the basis for greenhouse theory because of it's age?

      There is nothing bogus about the website, all the papers are very real and very peer-reviewed.

      report
    48. Pop Tech

      Computer Analyst

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      "who is denying climate change..."

      Michael, that is a dishonest ad hominem as all skeptics believe the climate changes.

      report
    49. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Pop Tech

      And Pop Tech is yet another poster who proves that the problem isn't so much lack of knowledge of basic facts, but lack of ability to put together a rational world view.

      If Pop Tech is correct then the vast majority of scientists in every country for the last few decades are all either incompetent or are all involved in some giant conspiracy.

      So rather than 'debating' CO2 in the atmosphere, Pop Tech should be telling us about this mass incompetence or mass conspiracy.

      If Pop Tech is a real looney we can look forward to hearing about a push to one world government, etc etc

      If Pop Tech is just a (probably paid) lobbyist for the people who fund the IPA then he/she will ignore the big picture.

      report
    50. Pop Tech

      Computer Analyst

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      I have never seen any evidence of a consensus let alone a conspiracy. When were the vast majority of scientists in every country polled as to their position on climate change?

      Michael, why the need for the dishonest personal attacks? Surely you are capable of arguing the facts.

      report
    51. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Pop Tech

      As predicted - no mention of the big picture to explain how and why the world's scientists have all got it so wrong.

      report
    52. Pop Tech

      Computer Analyst

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Do you actually read what people write or just randomly respond with nonsense?

      When were all of the world's scientists polled as to their position on climate change?

      report
    53. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Pop Tech

      Did you see my quotation marks? I didn't say that, that was in the quote from of the article cited on the bogus web site. "popular technology" We are currently sitting at 400 ppm. The paper cited is 15 years old, at that stage not as much was known about the role that ocean heating would play in the current warming trends, which is why the arctic and antarctic has been loosing so much ice in the last 10 years, and any year soon the arctic will be ice free. The paper is not at all relevant any more…

      Read more
    54. Ian L. McQueen

      Retired

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Hi Michael-

      The only IPA that I know of off-hand is India Pale Ale, and I rather doubt that that is what you are talking about'

      I have found that those who don't have valid arguments stand on the sidelines and try to throw stones at those who state facts ("I'm an expert.....).You have done nothing to argue against any point of fact that I have made. I know that you can't because I have stated facts that can be verified. What facts have you contributed?

      Best regards.

      IanM

      report
    55. Pop Tech

      Computer Analyst

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Alice, your failure to read or comprehend the paper is evident as your strawman argument is addressed in it, even with your lack of understanding of what you stated.

      Where is the paper saying that the temperature will only increase +0.4C from a mid century baseline?

      So the temperature increased by +0.6C from 300 to 400ppm?

      How can your strawman argument be used as an example of fact? That does not even make any sense.

      Which paper on the list is not real or was not peer-reviewed?

      report
    56. Ian L. McQueen

      Retired

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Hi Alice-

      You wrote "I decided not to read any further, as this cited paper is laughably false." Such a shame, for you might have learned something. Sherwood Idso happens to know what he is talking about. You have only your beliefs that were apparently contradicted by Mr. Idso. On what are your beliefs founded? Have you any knowledge of the subect of CO2 other than what you may have read in the popular press (which was doubtlessly written with a poor knowledge of the subject)?

      Best regards.

      IanM

      report
    57. Pop Tech

      Computer Analyst

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Alice, I am aware of these unreliable sources but this not the information I requested.

      When were all of the world's scientists polled as to their position on climate change?

      report
    58. Ian L. McQueen

      Retired

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Hi Alice-

      Perhaps you can tell us where the "98%" figure comes from. This is not a new claim to me. I've been reading about this same claim for a few weeks now, only it started out as only "97%". In any case, the number is bogus as no survey was ever taken. The number came from the same place as so many other warmist numbers- they were simply invented.
      There is no scientifically valid reason to believe that CO2 controls climate; this idea is another invention. The world has not warmed for the past 16 years, and temperature records set in the 30's have yet to be broken. Think about!!

      Best regards.

      IanM

      report
    59. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Pop Tech

      You tell me what .4 rise he was talking about, most credible climate scientists use 1950 as a baseline because that year roughly marks the beginning of rapid temp. rise. His article wasn't clear. Yes, .6 degrees -400ppm, and how much will it be when we reach 600? Again. And what happens when the ocean stops heating and the atmosphere rapidly starts to increase again. The author stated that, we would only have an increase of .4 degrees even if we reach 600ppm. How is this factual? Do tell

      report
    60. Pop Tech

      Computer Analyst

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Alice, you are massively confused. Dr. Idso is talking about the increase solely from 300 to 600ppm. He is not talking about any temperature increase pre-300 ppm.

      Do you not understand what you are reading or is your hyper-sensitivity to knee-jerk dismiss inconvenient science normal behavior?

      report
    61. Pop Tech

      Computer Analyst

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Alice, you also brought up for a second time that the paper is 15-years old so I ask again,

      Do you reject Svante Arrhenius's 1896 paper "On the influence of carbonic acid in the air upon the temperature of the ground" and the basis for greenhouse theory because of it's age?

      report
    62. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Pop Tech

      nasa is unreliable? So try these nearly 200 international scientific organisations
      http://opr.ca.gov/s_listoforganizations.php
      Or you could read the article submitted 18th. January 2013 to Environmental Research letters which examined 11,944 climate abstracts (research by CLIMATE scientists) which found 97.2% endorsed the consensus.
      http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/8/2/024024/article
      How many of the 1100n"scientists" at that website were climate scientists?

      report
    63. Pop Tech

      Computer Analyst

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Poor Alice, does not know the difference between the 200 scientific organization's handful of council member and their membership bodies.

      Out of the 11,944 papers how many equal the 97.2% number? Make sure to read the paper carefully, something you have a hard time doing.

      Where does the paper claim that all 11,944 papers were research by "climate scientists"?

      Please provide the objective criteria for determining a "climate scientist".

      report
    64. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Ian L. McQueen

      Sure, on page 4 they show a different result when they asked the authors, as different from their findings from the abstracts, the result was 98.4% endorse. There have been a few other studies, but this is the most comprehensive and largest. Its findings have been endorsed by all major scientific organisations. The findings basically match previous studies, which I can't find at the moment.
      http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/8/2/024024/pdf/1748-9326_8_2_024024.pdf

      report
    65. Pop Tech

      Computer Analyst

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Alice, try reading the paper. Is Dr. Idso claiming that other sources besides CO2 cannot warm the planet? Is he claiming that the temperature cannot fluctuate up and down before hitting 600ppm?

      report
    66. Pop Tech

      Computer Analyst

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Alice, stop dodging and changing the question,

      Out of the 11,944 papers how many equal the 97.2% number?

      report
    67. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Alice - know they enemy, and you will know how to respond.

      Just like John yesterday was active for ages posting 'you didn't answer my question' posts again and again, today we have Pop Tech using exactly the same technique.

      I have NEVER seen a climate change denier on The Conversation take in the evidence and change their mind. These people are not here to debate or learn - they are here to lobby.

      Note also that this is now a dead article and it's really only those who have posted and elected…

      Read more
    68. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Pop Tech

      You have not answered any of my questions, not one, the last one being when was the last time 300ppm co2 was in the atmosphere, you have implied 1950 was pre 300? . Your responses seem bizarre mixed up and insulting. Stalker like. 1950=300ppm, to 600ppm (when?)=.4 degree rise....NOW PROVED TO BE A FALSE ASSERTION. we are at 400ppm and the temp rise has been .6 of a degree. F... off. Don't have any time for weirdos.

      report
    69. Pop Tech

      Computer Analyst

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael, if you wish to have a debate I suggest you start by answering my questions no matter how inconvenient you find them.

      And, you continue to use the same dishonest ad hominem as I already stated - I believe the climate changes.

      I have yet to receive a dime from anyone so it is good that you outed yourself as a conspiracy theorist.

      report
    70. Pop Tech

      Computer Analyst

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Alice, no need to get so upset because you cannot argue the facts,

      Has atmospheric CO2 reached 600ppm?

      Is Dr. Idso claiming that other sources besides CO2 cannot warm the planet?

      Is Dr. Idso predicting the warming from CO2 alone or the total increase in global temperature anomaly?

      Is Dr. Idso claiming that the temperature cannot fluctuate up and down before hitting 600ppm?

      Very fascinating that you are so intellectually dishonest you now resort to trying to smear me as a stalker.

      report
    71. Pop Tech

      Computer Analyst

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Alice, everyone can see you are dodging questions you cannot answer,

      Do you reject Svante Arrhenius's 1896 paper "On the influence of carbonic acid in the air upon the temperature of the ground" and the basis for greenhouse theory because of it's age?

      Out of the 11,944 papers how many equal the 97.2% number?

      report
    72. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Pop Tech

      Just like John yesterday - Pop Tech is far more active and far more repetitive than any reasonable person would be.

      report
    73. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Pop Tech

      If you say that the Easter Bunny is real it's not up to me to prove you wrong - if you want to make an extraordinary claim then it is up to you to make the case.

      So the onus is on you to prove that climate change is crap, not on me to answer your ignorant questions.

      report
    74. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Pop Tech

      I've done this before, and I won't bother to do it again now.

      Because the deniers remain active when someone is posting pro-climate change posts, it is possible to draw out this non-productive discussion with Pop for hours and hours more even if we are the only people posting back and forth.

      And what's more, if I keep posting after Pop finishes his/her shift, another denier will take her/his place.

      And another sign that Pop isn't a genuine person. Almost always a real person would identify their sex so I wouldn't have to write his/her.

      report
    75. Pop Tech

      Computer Analyst

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael, you have established the following,

      1. You are incapable of debating facts.
      2. Only know how to argue using logical fallacies (personal attacks, ad hominems, strawman arguments ect...)
      3. Are a conspiracy theorist.

      You seem to have me confused with the Skeptical Science "Crusher Crew",

      http://www.populartechnology.net/2012/09/skeptical-science-drown-them-out.html

      "I think this is a highly effective method of dealing with various blogs and online articles where these discussions pop up. Flag them, discuss them and then send in the troops to hammer down what are usually just a couple of very vocal people. It seems like lots of us are doing similar work, cruising comments sections online looking for disinformation to crush. I spend hours every day doing exactly this. If we can coordinate better and grow the "team of crushers" then we could address all the anti-science much more effectively." - Rob Honeycutt [Skeptical Science], February 11, 2011

      report
    76. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Pop Tech

      I'm no more a conspiracy theorist than someone who suggests that coke is paying the TV stations money to broadcast ads which will lead to greater sales.

      In this case the funders of the IPA, as well as funding them and Canberra lobbyists, and funding just a few people to ensure that their views influence internet discussions.

      Both coke and the vested interests are rationally spending money to influence public opinion to protect and hopefully increase their profits.

      The conspiracy theory is that all the worlds scientists are wrong.

      report
    77. Pop Tech

      Computer Analyst

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      No Michael, you clearly are a hard core conspiracy theorist as you believe that anyone who you cannot debate online is being paid to do so. This is typical conspiracy theorist paranoia.

      Unlike you, I don't believe in any conspiracy theories.

      Again, when were all of the world's scientists polled as to their position on climate change?

      report
    78. Neville Mattick

      Grazier: ALP Member at A 4th Generation Grazing Station

      In reply to John Phillip

      Last time I checked facts; Australians' have the highest per capita emissions globally, the atmosphere does not stop at our territorial boundary - for simplicity we have ONE atmosphere.

      Therefore; we (Australian's) are morally bound to take more action on understanding the origin of emissions and curbing their production.

      If we want to avoid the coming famine in Asia from the failure of the glacial melt and so it is clear the ALP have read the Science and acted accordingly, as for the Murdoch // LNP ship, denial is their ally.

      report
    79. Pop Tech

      Computer Analyst

      In reply to Neville Mattick

      The only thing that is going to cause a famine is jacking the price of energy up to the point where the poor cannot afford it. You have a moral obligation not to cause the price of energy to skyrocket for the poor.

      report
    80. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to John Phillip

      John, I see that, as is your wont, you are resorting to personal abuse and cheap slogans.

      There have been several useful articles on The Conversation alone indicating that, while it's obviously too early to tell anything particularly definitive from what is designed precisely to be a long-term and acceptably gradual process, th eindicators to date are positive. It is not my responsibility to do your research for you. Perhaps if you devoted a little less time to repeating the same discredited arguments and bothered to do a little simple research, you'd be less confused.

      report
    81. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Neville Mattick

      Last time I checked the facts the world if it keeps going as it is will emit enough carbon to give us an 80% chance of 2 degree warming in just 15 years. To keep warming at this level the world would have to emit zero carbon after that.

      This is why most experts are saying that the world is heading for 4 or more degree warming.

      As one of the worlds top 5 emitters, and the world's 15 biggest emitter overall, I agree that we are morally bound to take action.

      But isn't the idea of action to…

      Read more
    82. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to John Phillip

      John, it would be fair to consider the RELATIVE efficiency of different alternatives. Given that the argument is around new policies that have not yet been around long enough to have generated very much actual evidence of cost-efectiveness (though note my comment above about reasonably positive earlyevidence-to-date) we really have little choice but to consult experts and use sound modelling.

      It is generaly (though admittedly debatably) believed that economists specialise in questions like this…

      Read more
    83. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to John Phillip

      John, yet again, I suggest you devote less time to repetition and insults and actually do a little basic research yourself - the information you request is not that hard to find.

      report
    84. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Pop Tech

      Oh anonymous 'Pop Tech' did you actually read Alice's post. The number is mentioned in a quote from a fool about possible impacts IF cobcentrations ever rose to that level'.

      Anyone with the reading average of an average child could have spotted that.

      anyone with a grain of honesty and integrity would not have attempted so cheap a stunt.

      report
    85. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Pop Tech

      And that is one of the cheapest, least-rational play on words, bait-and-switch furphies in the world.

      And you really should look up the term 'ad hominem' - I know ir lend a certain air of learnedness to use Latin terms, but making a claim about someone's stated position is not an ad hominem attack.

      Do you get everything so childishly confuused?

      report
    86. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Pop Tech

      There's this little technique called analysis of the published peer-reviewed literature. It tends to be slightly more accurate than 'polling'.

      report
    87. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Pop Tech

      You might like to check out the actual meaning of 'straw man' as well.

      Then you might like to think about having the honesty to post under your actual name.

      report
    88. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Pop Tech

      I see you continue to demand that some kind of 'polling' be used. I counter demand that we measure their crania or the relative size of index and ring fingers - roughly as useful.

      report
    89. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Pop Tech

      Try repeating the ad hominem claim a third time - maybe that will make it true?

      report
    90. Tandra Lenley

      Engineer

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      The number you are searching for is 97% for the supposed consensus. This has also been disproven see - http://www.populartechnology.net/2013/05/97-study-falsely-classifies-scientists.html
      Seriously there is a pattern of behaviour here. Making up "facts" using dubious means and claiming facts without any reference to determine their veracity.
      There is no consensus except in the media because it sells papers and advertising. Please try to identify your own confirmation bias and fight it.

      report
    91. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      A bit of hypocrisy on your part there, Felix. You are quite adept at handing out the insults yourself. You claim to be 'in the know' but are incapable of answering the most basic questions. Does this mean you operate in a belief system rather than an empirical one?

      report
    92. Pop Tech

      Computer Analyst

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      "Last time I checked the facts the world if it keeps going as it is will emit enough carbon to give us an 80% chance of 2 degree warming in just 15 years."

      Please cite where you obtained such "facts".

      "This is why most experts are saying that the world is heading for 4 or more degree warming."

      When were all the "experts" polled as to their position on climate sensitivity?

      You have yet to cite any science or anything to support your wild allegations.

      report
    93. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Pop Tech

      Go google this yourself. You know that all the information is out there.

      Otherwise the onus is on you to tells us why the UN, the IPCC, the World Bank, Garnaut, the CSIRO, the BOM etc etc are all wrong.

      report
    94. Pop Tech

      Computer Analyst

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Felix, any literate person would understand the context of the quote. Dr. Idso is estimating how much for the doubling of CO2 ALONE,

      "could raise the planets mean surface air temperature..."

      It does not say what the increase would be including other forcings. Thus the current and future temperature could have increase by more than +0.4 C, yet be irrelevant to how much of it was caused by CO2. Do you not understand this simple fact?

      This is why I asked these specific questions,

      Is Dr. Idso claiming that other sources besides CO2 cannot warm the planet?

      Is Dr. Idso predicting the warming from CO2 alone or the total increase in global temperature anomaly?

      Of which we had silence.

      So I take you have the reading comprehension of a child?

      report
    95. Pop Tech

      Computer Analyst

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Felix, you need to quote what you are talking about as you are not making much sense.

      I know exactly what an ad hominem is but should of used dishonest ad hominem to be more precise. It is certainly a dishonest ad hominem to use dishonest personal attacks in an attempt to discredit my arguments.

      report
    96. Pop Tech

      Computer Analyst

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      An accurate and honest analysis of the peer-reviewed literature has never been done. Regardless, performing such a task would never allow any claim to be made regarding the opinion of the world's scientists. Only a poll of the world's scientists would allow you to determine their position on the issue.

      report
    97. Pop Tech

      Computer Analyst

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Felix, do you not own a dictionary? Would you like me to provide with the online sources to look up these words you seem confused about?

      Making an argument that I never made and then attacking it as if I did, is called a strawman argument.

      report
    98. Pop Tech

      Computer Analyst

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Felix, I suggest investing in a dictionary so you can look up what logical fallacies are as it is clear you are unable to identify them.

      Personally attacking anything about myself, instead of my arguments is called an ad hominem, something Michael specializes in.

      Skeptics are frequently "debated" using the following logical fallacies,

      1. Personal Attacks
      2. Ad Hominems
      3. Strawman Arguments

      Exposing these is usually rather embarrassing to people used to getting away with them like yourself.

      report
    99. Pop Tech

      Computer Analyst

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Felix, I have the intelligence not to post under my real name. I suggest looking up the NSA scandal here in the U.S.

      report
    100. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Pop Tech

      The IPCC reports are exactly that - an accurate summary of the state of knowledge based on all the peer review papers.

      Perhaps you can show us why the IPCC is wrong?

      report
    101. Pop Tech

      Computer Analyst

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael, I see you dodge the questions and change the subject.

      Accurate? First of all it failed to summarize hundreds of papers,

      http://www.populartechnology.net/2009/10/peer-reviewed-papers-supporting.html

      5,587 references cited in the IPCC reports were not peer-reviewed,

      http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/04/19/united-nations-climate-global-warming-ipcc/

      You can find extensive critiques of the IPCC reports here,

      Independent Summary for Policymakers: IPCC Fourth Assessment Report…

      Read more
    102. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Pop Tech

      More of this pretend rationality from the deniers - interesting how the persona of Pop Tech has changed from the 'I'm an average person' to the 'I know more science than the experts - here are all the references'.

      Pop - let us all know when there is a peer reviewed paper in a prestigious scientific journal which casts genuine doubt on the big picture of climate change. I'll be applauding when the author wins a Nobel prize.

      Until then I'm not going to look at any of your references and I'll treat your views as having the same credibility as if you insisted that the Easter Bunny was real.

      report
    103. Pop Tech

      Computer Analyst

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael, continues with his strawman arguments as I made no claim to know more then anybody.

      You have been presented with an extensive amount of peer-reviewed papers that support skeptic arguments,

      http://www.populartechnology.net/2009/10/peer-reviewed-papers-supporting.html

      Stick you fingers in your ears all you wish, the information will still be available later. As for winning the Nobel prize here are some who have won, who are skeptical,

      Kary Mullis, B.S. Chemistry, Georgia Institute…

      Read more
    104. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Pop Tech

      Before anyone looks at any of this you should first explain why every scientific academy, every university, every public research organisation, in every country, for the last two decades -

      those who are trained to know about such things -

      still all publicly support action on climate change.

      report
    105. Pop Tech

      Computer Analyst

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael, yes of course anytime you hit a brick wall in a debate you launch into another meaningless tangent.

      First of all most let alone "every" university and public research organization has not offered any sort of position on climate change.

      How many scientists from these scientific academies support public policy on climate change? You like Alice seem confused about the position released by a handful of the council members of a scientific academy with their hundreds of thousands of members.

      The membership bodies of those science academies have never been polled as to their position on climate change.

      report
    106. Neville Mattick

      Grazier: ALP Member at A 4th Generation Grazing Station

      In reply to Pop Tech

      There is no 'energy' in Tibet and Nepal to speak of, not in the way we understand it yet they are the first who will suffer; are these the 'poor' you refer to?

      Lets all understand that every Australian has an environmental footprint of 14hA - to derive the energy, food and water staples that an affluent society demands.

      report
    107. Peter Hindrup

      consultant

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      In general, are some paid to scour the web to find and rebut anything against the views of those who pay them?
      Try any site that carries criticism of Israel and see. The 'outraged answers' are soo scripted, across various forums that it is undeniable that the material is supplied to the planters.
      Not suggesting that there are some who are paid on TC.

      report
    108. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to John Phillip

      John,

      There are two sides to the equation that have to be addressed if we are to deal with the limits to growth imposed by a finite planet. It's a simple maths problem. If X*Y=Z then you can reduce the value of Z by reducing the value of either X or Y or both (my recommendation).
      Here's a question for you. If X is population growth and Z is ecological footprint, what is Y?

      report
    109. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      Riddles there Ian. What would you like 'Y' to be? The problem with this model presupposes that Y functions as a constant which it may or may not depending on how you choose to define it.

      report
    110. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Regardless of what Stern and Garnaut may have found we cannot continue economic growth if we are to not run out of resources. We have to do everything we can including trying to reduce population growth. In Australia for instance we should ignore Peter Costello's infamous plea to produce one for him, one for her and one for the country.

      report
    111. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to John Phillip

      You know the answers to your questions yourself don't you? Why don't you give us the answers?

      report
    112. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      Your model is problematic, Ian because it assumes that all of the component values of x utilise the same amount of y, which is clearly not the case and fails to acknowledge that, at some value of x (even if y is kept at an absolute minimum), the upper limit of z will be exceeded.

      report
    113. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      John,
      I give in. I've already been dumbed down.

      report
    114. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Alice,
      Tony did not invent the term. My first sight of it was from Al Gore.
      Al is available to educate the world on Climate Change and the Internet that he invented.

      report
    115. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      The frying temperature of a human body is???
      What place do hysterics have on a blog of combined university wisdom?

      report
    116. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      "Personally, I don't think...."
      Data trumps belief.

      report
    117. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Stephen,
      When was the last time that environmental matters started war or pestilence on a global scale?
      First we work towards a fix of inequality of nutrition and the combat of disease. Or have you become an advocate of mass nuclear weapon strikes for a really sudden population decrease?

      What a stupid bog you wrote. Please put your brain in forward gear before hitting the keyboard.

      report
    118. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Alice, Michael... Stop, stop you are only encouraging the deniers. I realize how hard it is to just walk away from all their nonsense but I'm convinced it's the only solution. Their efforts will fizzle out absent an audience response.

      Test my theory and you will see.

      report
    119. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      I accept the science and care and vote Green. Rudd, as you say is worse than Abbott because his lies are more subtle.

      report
    120. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      I agree that population growth needs to be halted.

      But when it comes to the west, where I think it is only Australia and the USA that have significant natural population growth, the major challenge is to change our way of life so that each individual consumes less natural capital.

      report
    121. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Alice,
      Scientific advice is far from unanimous. The more learned an author or commentator is held to be by peers, the less likely he/she will agree that the science is unanimous.
      Why, just this week a Dean of Science expressed to me some frustration that the juvenile "we claim that the science is unanimous, settled, 97% settled, 98% settled, take your pick" antics of many on TC are a cause of wonder.
      Take a Bex, a cuppa tea and a lie down until you are a little more calm.

      report
    122. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Felix, on the question of cap and trade as a mechanism to help reduce emissions in the most cost effective way; I would say that the main reason it has been accepted is it's been the only one offered by the mainstream (establishment) economists and it is one that offers the opportunity for the big corporations to hive off a dollar or two for themselves.

      There are other ideas like the tax and dividend proposals favoured by George Monbiot, James Hanson and others that I think should replace the cap and trade system that has now dug itself into a hole.

      Of course these solutions should go hand in hand with other, some already proven mechanisms like feed-in tariffs and direct subsidies or government investments in renewables.

      report
    123. Christopher Seymour

      Business owner

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      If the climate science is right, then it should be self correcting. Global warming will produce extreme weather, kill all the fish, destroy agriculture and flood London and New York. That should definitely reduce over population.

      report
    124. Neville Mattick

      Grazier: ALP Member at A 4th Generation Grazing Station

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Sorry Michael, I agree with your points as you would mine however; no not going to vote Green for one good reason; I want my vote to count and it is clear Labor has delivered on Climate Change, for example all the large scale renewable projects are resultant of Labor policy.

      I am sure Labor could do more; however as former Green Peter Garrett said in his valedictory speech Hansard P44 27/06/13 "the Greens had not delivered a lot of conservation reform".

      Our role this time is to keep Tony Abbott out of the Lodge if action on Climate Change has any hope whatsoever and that will only be done by Labor.

      report
    125. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Neville Mattick

      David - you are wrong for two reasons.

      Firstly, Labor have not delivered on climate change. Please read my long post here - https://theconversation.com/governments-are-not-protecting-the-great-barrier-reef-16107 - It's the second post, and I welcome comment there.

      Secondly, voting 1 Green does absolutely nothing to prevent Labor winning. If you vote 1 Green, and the Greens candidate comes 3rd, then your second preference, in your case Labor, becomes a full value vote for Labor.

      So rather than wasting a vote by voting Green, you really get double your vote - your first preference sending a strong message to both major parties that you support The Greens, your second preference having just as much say in whether Labor or Liberal wins the seat as if you had voted 1 Labor.

      Read my post on the Great Barrier Reef, and unless you can argue that I've got the science wrong, I think you will have to agree that Peter Garrett sold his soul for zero gain.

      report
    126. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to John Phillip

      Okay, okay you got me. Forget the X and Y. What I am saying is that both population growth (X) and growth in material consumption per capita (Y) increase our ecological footprint. Both issues have to be tackled if we are not to deplete our resources. In fact even if both X and Y were zero we would continue to use up our resources.

      I've given the game away now. You know what Y represents.

      report
    127. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael, you say; "But when it comes to the west, where I think it is only Australia and the USA that have significant natural population growth, the major challenge is to change our way of life so that each individual consumes less natural capital."

      Of course but it is not as if if we can't address both issues at the same time and when push comes to shove each additional Australian causes several times the additional footprint than would an additional, say Bangladeshi or German.

      And when addressing Australia's consumption we need to address the little things as well as the big things from say putting a levy on shopping bags a la Ireland to building large solar thermal power stations a la Spain.

      report
    128. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      Issues like shopping bags serve as more of a distraction and a Greenwash that being important.

      We get the person driving a km or two to the supermarket to get some milk, and then thinking they are an environmentalist because they have their canvas bag.

      (Then next trip they buy a packet of garbage bags as they no longer have any plastic carry bags to use.)

      We need to look at things from an engineering (or military) perspective which looks at what is most important and how to get the biggest bang for the buck.

      report
    129. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      Ian, I think my original point was ( and forgive me if I have muddled the links on this blog) that what ever we do in Australia to reduce our value of y is irrelevant to the overwhelming increase and overabundance(by comparison to Oz's value) of x. At some point we will exceed the Earth's carrying capacity regardless of our carbon tax etc.

      report
    130. Peter West

      CEO at Property

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      I would like to quote a couple of the stupid people:

      Professor Wolfgang Behringer, science historian at University of Saarbrucken:

      "The ice at the poles is supposedly melting faster than ever before -- but that has occurred many times before. That it is getting warmer is good news for man." He is wrong on the first point, but right on the second!

      Professor Storch of the Meterological Institute of the University of Hamburg and director of the Institute of Coastal Research at the Helmholz…

      Read more
    131. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Peter West

      Goodonya Peter.

      In a post which suggest that Australians are getting dumber, you prove the case for the affirmative.

      report
    132. Rex Gibbs

      Engineer/Director

      In reply to James Jenkin

      Hear Hear - Although some of the questions are asked in a way that tends to elicit bad responses. My 14 year old daughter was flumoxed by the earth going round the sun but answered correctly when asked differently.

      report
  1. Stephen Ralph

    carer

    We are pretty dumb......we are all sitting back watching the world go down the drain. We keep electing politicians who seem completely unable or unwilling to address the most crucial dilemma of the world's history.

    Carbon Pricing >>> Emission Trading >>>> invisible substance>>>>>
    the signs are irrefutable and yet we seem to be going backwards rather than forward.

    All that talk about PEAK oil and PEAK water, we have reached PEAK time.

    report
    1. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Stephen, It's really a form of narcissism , all the arguing about making a difference "fording" it and invisibility completely ignores the tribe of elephants. I don't think being dumb sits well with comprehending something which has to be done for the next 50 years, to slowly effect change. We have the most morally corrupt, scientific opportunist, and economic vandal sitting in wait on his pushbike. I gree wiv ya. And had to listen to Fran this morning , not grilling Joe Hockey about the obvious frailty of their no action plan.

      report
    2. Stephen Ralph

      carer

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      But to be fair Alice, neither side of politics ( i.e. LNP?Labor) has any real leadership in the issue. One may be "better" than the other, but the reality is that not only Australian politics, but world politics seems to be in denial of the seriousness of the problem.

      I get the impression that in 20-30 years time politicians will go "whoops, sorry about that".

      report
    3. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      No Alice - we have the most morally corrupt greenwashing opportunist and economic vandal as our current PM.

      Rudd is pretending that he accepts the science yet his weakening of the carbon tax and us meeting reduction targets by buying overseas permits means that Direct Action (which is doing things in Australia) might actually be better than Rudds ETS.

      I'm not saying this to praise Abbott - I'm pointing out that Rudd is about as bad.

      Yesterday Rudd said about the Great Barrier Reef "We want our kids and our grandkids, and I’ve got one now, to be able to enjoy one of Australia’s greatest natural assets. We don’t want them to be able to just read about the Great Barrier Reef in some history book in the future. We want them to experience the Great Barrier Reef in the future."

      Yet his lack of action is locking in temperature rises well above 2 degrees. If Rudd accepted the science then he would have to admit that the GBR is in serious trouble.

      report
    4. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Democracy is about giving the people choice.

      The people know (or should know) that both Labor and Liberal are taking us to future warming well above 2 degrees.

      The Greens accept all of the science and want real action.

      So don't just blame the politicians - it is everyone who votes Labor and Liberal that voted for short term economic gain rather than taking action.

      report
    5. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Look Michael I agree with you, but the wedge started with John Howard refusing to sign an agreement along with America, stating we couldn't afford it etc.. Tony Abbot has taken this approach to a further extreme, and Australias scientific literacy has been the casualty of long years of political wedging, the result, fatigue in the electorate. Then you could add to the mix a very conservative media lurking over everything some people read and listen to. I think it's amazing Gillard managed to do anything.

      report
    6. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Gillard didn't manage to do something.

      Gillard didn't want a price on carbon, and she was forced to put a price on carbon to get Green's support in the lower house.

      We all know that the Liberals are not serious about action on climate change. The reason Australia will be cursed by future generations for failing to act isn't because deniers or those who don't care voted Liberal. The reason we are failing to act is that most of those who accept the science and do care have swallowed Labor's spin and vote Labor.

      report
    7. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Gillard didn't, but she, and many in the labour party, independents (including two ex-nats both of whom did want one), and green members of parliament did put a price on carbon. Because they wanted to do something, or are you saying the Labour party didn't want to do something. Lindsay Tanner and Julia aren't the only members in the Labour party.

      report
    8. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      I'm certain that there are some Labor politicians and candidates that have much more in common with Green's policies than Labors. And I suspect that many of those handing out how-to-vote cards for Labor also actually support the Green's policies more than those of Labor.

      But despite what the would like to happen, they are all supporting:
      * inadequate action on climate change and fooling people that this will prevent serious warming,
      * single mums loosing welfare
      * miners paying so little tax…

      Read more
    9. Ian L. McQueen

      Retired

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael-

      Your statement about the "2 degrees" is based on nothing. The number was plucked out of the air and is without validity. There is no scientific connection between CO2 concentration and climate no matter how often the (mis)information is repeated. The belief is like a religion- many people believe, but they would be hard pressed to prove their beliefs.

      Best regards.

      IanM

      report
    10. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Alice, "it's amazing Gillard managed to do anything". The only reason she did was because of the Greens and independents.

      There is only so long before voting for the lesser evil must grind to a halt even if it means greater pain in the short term.

      In Australia we are lucky with our preferential voting system in that we can vote for the best option as our No. 1 choice but hedge our bets a bit by putting the lesser evil above the most evil on our ballot papers.
      Greens 1st, LNP last should do the trick.

      report
    11. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      Yes, and I agree with you about ignoring them. I hope we one day don't have any "parties" and people with greater intelligence have to work for their living in parliament. I have some admiration for many of the independents of our last parliament, curiously the two, rob and tony, were interesting to listen to. Erudite and intelligent.

      report
    12. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      As a candidate in 2007 I can assure you that many fairly educated people don't understand preferential voting.

      As you say, voting 1 Green sends a clear message to both major parties of what policies you prefer. And, if the Greens candidate comes third, voting 2 Labor becomes a full value vote in the count for Labor ensuring your vote helps beat the LNP.

      So rather than being a wasted vote, voting Green sort of doubles your vote :)

      report
    13. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      The big difference with rob and tony, as with the Greens, is that they all believe what they are saying.

      As seen by any episode of Q&A the politicians of both major parties are locked in to supporting the policies at that day using the message given by the spin doctors for that day.

      You can see that at times they don't believe what they are saying.

      And what is worse, whilst Tony Jones keeps thinking that Q&A is a debate, any fully informed political junkie who had followed the news for that day could replace either the Labor or Liberal person on Q&A and pretty much give the same messages. (Admittedly you also need to be a practiced media performer.)

      report
    14. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael, what I find so hard to understand is even the people (other than the trolls) commenting on this article who are obviously well informed and give fact and clear evidence priority over faith-based ideological arguments don't seem to be able to tear themselves away from their support of Labor. Its a conundrum that has had be pull my hair out in despair.

      There just isn't the time anymore to spend fooling around with Labor and hoping that this time they will display some guts.

      report
    15. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      Ian - The only progressive opinion leader I can think of that has written or spoken in support of views shared by the Greens and has then had the courage to publicly support the Greens is Malcolm Fraser.

      Though not surprisingly he doesn't agree with all Green's policies, he is a progressive opinion leader on asylum issues, and he has publicly supported Sarah Hansen-Young's reelection campaign.

      Australia is doing far too little on climate change and has an appalling record on human rights not because these things have the support of the right, but because most people who deplore this are voting for Labor - and thus voting for what the deplore.

      I share your despair and my hair is endangered as well.

      report
    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Tom

      God point Tom - hadn't thought of that - thanks!

      report
  2. Nicky Robinson

    Communicator

    This article's title suggests it is about Australian intelligence. It goes on to question the merit of research into 'rudimentary' scientific facts. But then suggests intelligence should be measured by awareness of 'policy and politics'!

    I'm sorry, but this whole article lacks balance. Since when has an understanding of politics replaced science as a valid measure of intelligence?

    Nor can the narrow field of literacy in issues relating to day-to-day living be regarded as an adequate litmus…

    Read more
  3. Etc etc

    Project Surgeon Brain Manager

    "Factoids" are not, in fact, useful for anything: they are questionable or spurious (unverified, false, or fabricated) statements presented as a fact.

    The usage in this (otherwise solid!) article indicates a common but incorrect understanding of that word.

    You might say that this understanding is something of a factoid.

    report
  4. Greg Boyles

    Lanscaper and former medical scientist

    "But they really don’t mean very much. So 73% of Australians know the earliest humans didn’t live at the same time as dinosaurs – but how is that relevant to policy or politics?"

    Bloody hell Grant you read like arts or economics graduate.

    These 'factoids' may not necessarily be critical in themselves but they are a clear indication of the science literacy standards of the population.

    If you don't know such rudimentary science facts about our world, our cosmos and our own place in them then how is it possible for such people to respond sensibly and rationally to such issues as climate change and alternate energy!

    Just go back to you your academic office and shut up for crying out loud and leave the issue of science literacy to people who care about Australia and about the direction of western civilization rather than having an 'opinion' on such surveys!

    report
    1. Will J Grant

      Researcher / Lecturer, Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at Australian National University

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Thanks Greg.

      Sadly, the *actual science* on this issue directly contradicts your claim: these tests do not provide a clear indication of the science literacy standards of a population.

      report
    2. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      A scientist who can't answer rudimentary questions about science outside their field of expertise is little better than an ignorant member of the public you foolish man!

      report
    3. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Will J Grant

      Well Grant clearly you and the science academy have entirely different ideas as to what constitutes a rudimentary science fact!

      I will stick with the science academy's position rather than yours!

      report
    4. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Will J Grant

      My son is really good with computers( being a bit aspy), yet hates the subject at high school. I suggested that maybe the kids could build one, or design a game, anything, to learn something as a project oriented curriculum, which could stimulate skills and understanding. Couldn't be done. Scientific literacy costs money.

      report
    5. Mark Horner

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Why so stroppy? The ability to have a disinterested yet involved discussion on an intellectual topic is a mark of scientific and 'academic' (in the best sense of the word) quality. Fulminating uselessly is not. Personal attacks are definitely not.

      Are David Attenborough and Brian Cox idiots? Is Karl Kruzelnicki? No, but I know some very introverted physicists, and some very introverted musicians. I know more extroverted musos than extroverted physicists. They express themselves in their work. But it doesn't mean they shouldn't get out more.

      report
    6. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Mark Horner

      Because we get this sort crap from academics all the time, ranging from science literacy to asylum seekers.

      Sitting in their university offices trying to justify their academic existence with often idiotic opinions on one thing or another.

      I am over them!

      How about we get the views on this survey from a number of real scientists - climate to medical.

      report
  5. Sean Lamb

    Science Denier

    "it takes a year for the Earth to travel around the sun"
    Such an abomination has never occurred.

    Aren't birds dinosaurs?

    report
  6. Dallas Dunn

    Disabillity Adviser

    I would at least hope that our education system would be striving toward enabling us to have a good basic understanding of science. Without this we become, (are becoming?), passive receptacles to government policies and commercial interests, with little ability to question, challenge and debate. Some investment in developing emotional intelligence would also not go astray, to allow a community more able to articulate inquiry.
    Media now regularly wheels out the "Experts" to tell us the facts. I for one hope that future generations are more able than the current generation, to challenge and debate what we are told is good for us............Can only dream.
    Otherwise we simply become rats in a Skinner box awaiting our next morsel delivered to us by the "Experts".

    report
  7. Mark Horner

    logged in via Twitter

    Calling the phenomenon of a person being 'less intelligent' by the foolish and ugly Americanism "dumber" is surely the transcendental example of what this article is talking about.The use of lazy and unexamined aphorisms ("'sup, y'all?") is a sure way to cheapen and muddy discussion and discourse on things that need logic and precision to carry through, and the current of intellectual life in general. Cultures that value and uphold exactitude in expression when it's necessary usually get things done…

    Read more
    1. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Mark Horner

      The fact that people don't have these unrelated rudimentary factoids is a strong suggestion that they also lack the ability to:

      "how to obtain facts, how to order them for ready use when necessary, and to know what facts and processes (intellectual, physical, emotional) are appropriate for which situations and tasks."

      Because much of this comes with science education along with the rudimentary factoids!

      report
  8. John Crest

    logged in via email @live.com.au

    "So why are we asking the general public questions about science unrelated to most peoples' expertise or day-to-day lives?"

    Yes, it's unreasonable to expect the general public to have any idea what a "year" is. :-|

    report
  9. Mitchell Lyons

    Postdoc at University of New South Wales

    I agree with others here and the literature on the general criticisms regarding the construction of the survey questions and the subsequent relevance of the results, and as other's have eluded to it would have been more appropriate to test things like ability to obtain facts and update their knowledge through comprehension of text, data, graphs, trends etc.

    However, I do think there is merit in being concerned that only two thirds of the respondents were aware of the connection between Sun, Earth and the way we measure "one year". I don't think it's unreasonable to expect of people that they understand a fundamental piece of knowledge that helps us place ourselves in context of the universe, in both space and time - it's not like the question asked them to explain it in context of general relativity!

    report
    1. Stephen Ralph

      carer

      In reply to Mitchell Lyons

      I'm not worried that peeps may not know their place in the universe.

      Outside of this planet time has no relevance anyway.

      What's a year to most people - 365 days. It's not the "time" it takes for the earth to orbit the sun.

      You can be the smartest person on Earth, but if can't cook a meal, communicate with others, laugh at a joke etc etc, it really is a moot point to be clever.

      report
    2. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      "To respond adequately to climate change the west needs to reduce its emissions by 40% from 1990 figures by 2020."

      Stephen the quality of the communication MATTERS.

      God help western civilization if you are happy with the average quality of communication you find on facebook etc.

      report
    3. Stephen Ralph

      carer

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      I agree with you.........what I'm saying is be clever at things that matter, not be worrying too much about clever things that don't matter.

      report
    4. James Jenkin

      EFL Teacher Trainer

      In reply to Mitchell Lyons

      And how sound is the methodology in this research? A fall of over 10% in correct responses to one question - in only three years? Something doesn't quite seem right.

      Maybe the authors should first scrutinise the study before drawing conclusions.

      report
  10. Greg Boyles

    Lanscaper and former medical scientist

    Grant general science literacy is not about being able to respond to one specific political issue or another.

    It is about people being able to engage in debates ranging from climate change to health issues such as vaccination without resorting to psuedoscience nonsense and political rhetoric.

    It is about them being able to pick true science fact from marketing and political bullshit.

    If anything such surveys should be expanded to include a much broader range of rudimentary science questions.

    report
    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Sean Manning

      Sean, I think you've raised maybe the biggest problem here; the argument about relevance to one's personal day to day existence - in the end I think this is nothing more than a manifestation of the 'it's all about YOU' lie that is currently so popular and dangerous - pretty much the main way humanity is starting to disappear up our own fundament.

      Guess what, folks - it damned well ISN'T all about you - it's a big, complex, wonderful world out there and you and I are rather small parts of it. Under those circumstances, it might be smart to learn a few useful things about that big world, even if they don't immediately apease your own little ego.

      report
  11. Audrey D

    Student

    I quote from this piece: So why are we asking the general public questions about science unrelated to most peoples' expertise or day-to-day lives?

    So knowing what a year is and why it is linked to the sun is no required in our day to day lives?

    report
    1. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Audrey D

      On the basis of your question Audrey, I have to ask why a third grade student is posting on the Conversation, But good on you for getting involved at such a young age.

      But to answer your questions: The length of a year and how it is related to our orbit around the sun is fundamental to everything we do and is inextricably linked to our day to day lives. Without such knowledge you would be unable to understand weather (why it is hot and cold) and why the days are of different length at different times of the year. It was one of the earliest things that humans needed to understand so that they knew when to plant their crops, and when to move in order to follow the migrations of prey animals.

      In fact, the very definition of a year is the length of time that the Earth takes to orbit around the Sun. It is not linked to people's 'expertise' to know such basics. But you will learn that when you get to fourth grade.

      report
    2. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Audrey D

      Audrey, if you really think the questions that made up that survey are answerable only by "experts", then Houston we have the wickedist problem of all. Any 6th grader should be able to answer all those questions.

      report
    3. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Audrey D

      Oops sorry, Audrey. You forgot the quotation marks, so I thought you were agreeing with the authors of this article. My comment goes to the authors.

      report
    4. Will J Grant

      Researcher / Lecturer, Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at Australian National University

      In reply to Audrey D

      "So knowing what a year is and why it is linked to the sun is no required in our day to day lives?"

      Sadly, Audrey, yes.

      Fully 41% of people got this question wrong. So either society is about to fall apart because of that lack of knowledge, or that small measurement actually doesn't mean very much at all.

      I completely agree that this is very useful knowledge for a lot of people - but if it was useful knowledge for everyone, then a lot more people would be knowing it.

      report
    5. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Will J Grant

      Let's get one thing straight Grant.

      Do you even have a science degree?

      And I don't mean a social science degree!

      It would be the first time that I have heard or read about the scientific community criticising the social science community about not applying the same rigorous evidence based approaches to their research and opinion pieces!

      report
    6. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Will J Grant

      ...assuming they knew that they didn't know and might be better off if they did.

      report
    1. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Alice Gorman

      Alice, I know a family of rather superior red heads who would be horrified to understand that their red hair may come from a neanderthal?

      report
    2. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Neanderthals had larger brains; associated with red-heads?

      report
    3. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Alice, well they better be prepared to be horrified, coz there is a hell of a lot of neanderthal DNA floating around certain population groups, even in 2013

      report
  12. Erica Jolly

    Writer about education

    After 1945, but most particularly from the 1950s onward we concentrated on early specialisation in schools, chose boys, and able girls, for the science and mathematics stream and established the humanities and arts and what we chose as appropriate technical studies for girls and for 'those good with their hands'. We compartmentalised knowledge at that early stage as if the 'hard' sciences and mathematics were only needed by an academic elite who would make sure we met the needs of modern physics…

    Read more
    1. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Erica Jolly

      One must include the arms race, from the mid-nineteenth century on, in causes for the "specialisation" of knowledge.
      Leading George Bernard Shaw to opine that: "The specialist is, in the truest sense, an idiot".
      Time for a change?

      report
    2. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to James Hill

      I think the world needs specialists and generalists but most importantly people who combine the two. It's the disinterested and or self interested that we don't need, ie the ones that don't know how long it takes for the earth to circle the sun or the capital of Australia (to look at the problem in a wider context).

      report
    3. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      Good points, Ian, professional specialists are normally quite intelligent but the intensity of their work often deprives the general political discourse of their contributions.

      report
  13. Casey Schapel

    Social Worker

    Everytime one sees these articles, the thought "who is actually being surveyed" comes immediately to mind. That said, is it more important for people to know the answers to a set of seemingly irrelevant questions or more important to analyse whether the public has access to research and find the answer to such questions if needed.

    report
    1. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Casey Schapel

      Casey, the latter is impossible without the former.

      report
    1. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Chris Caley

      And we have a leader of the opposition and his media urgers arguing that superstition can replace science, and that "no-one will be the wiser".
      But they will be happy little lambs, won't they.
      This crime against knowledge does have a motive and an opportunity.
      Undermine science, the better to control and manipulate the population, presumably for profit.
      None of this is "just" happening, it is the result of "policies" put in place to achieve just such a result.
      The English translation of Prometheus Chained, written by the Greek Aeschylus, two and one half millennia ago, explains the antagonism between science and religion, an old story still pertinent to our times.
      It also reveals just which "god" the leader of the opposition actually worships.
      By their actions shall you know them.
      "Political" science?

      report
    2. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Chris Caley

      Hooo....bloody...raaa Chirs.

      Some one who has some grey matter in their skull.

      God bloody help us if people like Grant were to ever become science teacher or political science advisers!

      Oh damn! He already is in some capacity!

      report
  14. Greg Boyles

    Lanscaper and former medical scientist

    Let's take you pet peeve Grant, that knowing that a year contains 365 days not being required for debating renewable energy alternatives.

    For starters how the fu$& can people have a sensible and rational debate about climate change if they can't f'ing well tell the difference between climate, weather and seasons!

    Knowledge of the difference between these is intimately tied up in the details of the Earth's orbit around the sun, of which 365.25 days is a small part along with the earths tilted…

    Read more
    1. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      What about the difference in chemistry, with respect to energy density, of hydrocarbons versus carbohydrates (from which biofuels ultimately derive from).

      What about the chemistry and ecology of photosynthesis that gives you some ability to appreciate that it will not be quite so simple convert western consumer society to renewable energy sources as many science illiterate environmentalists assume.

      What about the very chemistry of CO2 and photosynthesis that gives some appreciation that cutting down forests to grow more food to feed a growing global population undermines efforts to reduce CO2 emissions.

      How can you understand the chemistry of CO2 and photosynthesis without having some understanding of the periodic table of elements?

      report
    2. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      I tell you Grant, if you were working for me at the Centre for Public Awareness of Science, I would be giving you the sack about now for being an incompetent imbecile!

      It just goes to show that the academic community is not without its own version of 'shock jocks' who come out with outlandish opinions for their personal amusement at the controversy they generate!

      report
  15. Greg Boyles

    Lanscaper and former medical scientist

    I would like to know if Will J Grant has a science degree and, if so, what sort of science?

    report
    1. Will J Grant

      Researcher / Lecturer, Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at Australian National University

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Greg, you finally looked at my whole name!

      Pretty easy to look up my degrees, you can see in about two clicks from here. If you don't want to be bothered with that, I'm a political sociologist / social scientist by training.

      report
    2. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Will J Grant

      Yeah!

      In other words a social scientist.

      And I repeat........

      It wouldn't be the first time that I have seen social scientists being criticised for not apply the same evidential rigor to their research and to their opinion pieces that the science community generally does.

      Sorry Grant but, as far as what is required for adequate society wide scientific literacy, I think we are far better served by taking the advice of REAL scientists rather than social scientists.

      report
    3. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Greg, if Dr Grant did have a science degree (in the sense of natural sciences) it would be irrelevant to this article: questions about the degree and nature of scientific literacy needed for effective social and policy engagement are not questions for the natural sciences. Why would you send a chemist or physicist to do a sociologist or political scientist's job?

      report
    4. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      I disagree!

      I think it has total relevance.

      A social scientist telling society that rudimentary scientific knowledge is not required in a science and technology dominated world, and where science related global problems dominate, is a bit like Murdoch telling British society that the behavior of the print media in the UK does not require close government regulation.

      report
    5. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Patrick, I think you are conflating professionalisation with knowledge/expertise. Knowledge and even expertise in political and sociological matters need not need a jot of professional/academic training. Knowledge and expertise of the physical sciences requires systematic and highly demanding training.

      report
    6. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      You can't have sensible society wide debate about science based issues without a reasonable level of science literacy throughout society.

      I am not suggesting that every member of society needs a full science degree but I am suggesting that at the very least the vast majority of Australians should have a basic understanding of the difference between weather, climate and seasons for example.

      Perhaps then we would not have been bogged down over the past decade in pointless debates as to whether or not a particular small set of temperature data proves that the climate is cooling rather than warming.

      report
    7. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to David Thompson

      As does sociology, David. As does political science too (which is of course not the same thing as doing politics, any more than living in a society makes you a sociologist or being a bird makes you an ornithologist). So your claim that one can have sociological understanding without training is simply nonsense.

      report
    8. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      He didn't say that rudimentary scientific knowledge isn't required, Greg. He's talking about the *type* of scientific understanding that is desirable for effective citizenship. And again, that's not a question the natural sciences can decide for themselves because it is not the sort of question they deal with and not answerable using the methodology of purely descriptive sciences.

      report
    9. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to David Thompson

      EXACTLY!

      And that is why social scientists are often criticized for not apply the same rigor to their 'research' as real scientists.

      report
    10. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Patrick it is self evident, at least to non social scientists, that a reasonable level of knowledge about a particular subject is required to have a sensible debate about said subject!

      That doesn't require social science qualification!

      That just requires common sense.

      Something that you have apparently lost!

      report
    11. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      It is not for a social scientist to judge what rudimentary science is required for scientific literacy.

      Nor is it for a social scientist to alone judge what level of scientific literacy is required to have a sensible debate about relevant scientific issues in today's society.

      The first is entirely for the relevant experts in the physical science to judge.

      The second is for both physical scientists and social scientists to judge in consultation - a balance between what is required and what is achievable!

      report
    12. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Patrick, I have never in my life come across a situation requiring deference to a Sociologist or a Political Scientist. OTOH, the times are countless I have had to defer to a physicist, geneticist, and so on. I can read the papers in academic Sociology and PolSci with total ease, but show me a Chemistry paper, and it might as well be babel.

      report
    13. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to David Thompson

      Well call me crazy but I do in fact defer to sociologists on sociological questions. And you're clearly reading different papers than me, or maybe I'm just uncommonly dense.

      report
    14. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Oh I didn't 'lose' my common sense, Greg. My training gives me good reasons to believe there's no such faculty in the first place, but that's an argument for another night. Anyway, the point is that the type of science knowledge someone needs in order to operate as an effective citizen is not itself a scientific question (which you've partly admitted below). And hence it's not properly a question for scientists. If that strikes you as claiming some sort of 'superiority,' well, so be it. But I don't think that's the case: different disciplines address different sorts of questions.

      Oh except philosophy of course, which is in fact on top :)

      report
    15. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Perhaps you are indeed uncommonly dense Patrick because you appear to be very confused about where line is between a purely scientific question and a social question.

      The purely scientific question is what constitutes required rudimentary scientific knowledge that would afford the general public with a suitable foundation on which to build.

      The question that perhaps straddles the disciplines of sociology and science is how best this can be achieved.

      report
    16. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      And in what possible sense is that a purely scientific question? Which pure science investigates how much and what type of scientific knowledge is a minimum requirement for effective citizenship? That's a meta-scientific question at best - and the natural sciences do not and cannot answer their own meta-questions. And that's well before we get to the questions of what ends this scientific literacy is meant to serve and the further evaluative questions of which ends we *should* serve. Remember, descriptive disciplines can inform normative discussions but they cannot answer normative questions by themselves.

      report
    17. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Patrick I would agree with you that scientific literacy is not essential for a person to be economically useful at a minimum level.

      But we are talking here about a higher standard than economic usefulness that will allow people to be able to rationally debate such scientific issues as climate change which after all has major implications for the economy in which that person is deemed to be useful!!!!

      Apart from the fact that we are increasingly unable to compete on the global market in rudimentary…

      Read more
    18. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Spare me your philosophical babble Patrick.

      report
    19. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      It adds little of value to this debate.

      report
    20. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      If you want a say in what constitutes a appropriate level of scientific literacy Patrick then perhaps you should go and add BSc to the letters after you name.

      At least then you will actually have some authority in the science that you are criticising!

      report
    21. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      "Babble?" Oh dear - looks like you've wandered into a discussion you're not actually equipped to participate in. If you can't handle the basic philosophical terminology - and that stuff up there is very, very basic - necessary when trying to work out which approaches are required for answering which type of question, perhaps instead of telling me to get a BSc after my name it's time you went out and got a BA after yours?

      But perhaps I should be concerned here. After all, the distinction between…

      Read more
    22. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Well Patrick the fact that a significant proportion of Australians probably don't know what drives weather, climate and seasons (or the difference between them), which is clearly related to the survey question about how long does it take the earth to orbit the sun, then surely you will acknowledge that this ignorance feeds the pseudoscience around climate change and the pointless debates we have been having over small weather data sets!

      In which case the Academy of Science has some justification for their alarm about the failure of a significant proportion of Australians to correctly answer this question!

      If that is the case then, and if I have no right to be totally dismissive about your philosophical babble, then you have no right to be totally dismissive of this survey.

      I don't have a BA and you don't have a BSc.

      If you have constructive criticisms of the survey Patrick then make them.

      If not then its is best you just hold your tongue.

      report
    23. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      I'd suggest the problem with pseudoscience is, in many cases at least, not that people don't understand the science; it's that they think they *can* understand the science to a degree that entitles them to disagree with actual scientists about massively complex questions. It's not that people lack basic scientific literacy (I'm prepared to entertain, and worry about, the idea that they they do, but I question whether a survey like this really tells us much on its own), but that people think a bit of googling and 'common sense' entitles them to say 'no, you're wrong about that' to people with the relevant education.

      You're right that with some pseudoscientific claims a bit of basic scientific knowledge should put paid to them straight away *cough*homeopathy*cough* but on AGW, vaccination etc. it's really more about people refusing to accept that there are some things you're not really entitled to an opinion on without the relevant training.

      report
    24. Pop Tech

      Computer Analyst

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Patrick, this is a typical appeal to authority but regardless I take my scientific skepticism of AGW from highly credentialed scientists. Here is but a few,

      <b>John R. Christy</b>, B.A. Mathematics, California State University (1973); M.S. Atmospheric Science, University of Illinois (1984); Ph.D. Atmospheric Science, University of Illinois (1987); NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal (1991); American Meteorological Society's Special Award (1996); Member, Committee on Earth Studies, Space…

      Read more
    25. Pop Tech

      Computer Analyst

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Patrick, it is also interesting that you bring up relevant education, since many scientists lack the very basics in computer literacy, which is something I am proficient in. It was my skepticism of computer climate model's predictive abilities that made me a skeptic and I have just reason for this,

      http://www.nature.com/news/2010/101013/full/467775a.html

      Researchers are spending more and more time writing computer software to model biological structures, simulate the early evolution of the…

      Read more
    26. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      "He's talking about the *type* of scientific understanding that is desirable for effective citizenship."

      I simply don't agree with either of you that this is a unilateral decision reserved for sociologists who have little or no training in any of the physical sciences!

      And by the way Patrick, pondering it today at work, if by your previous philosophical babble you are referring to elements of critical thinking then I agree with you that that should be a part of general scientific literacy.

      But critical thinking usually gets implicitly drummed into you by when studying the sciences. But perhaps there is scope for it be explicitly taught in the context of your philosophy.

      God know with the climate change and asylum seeker issues we could do with more of the general public being capable of critical thinking rather than resorting to emotional and political rhetoric.

      report
    27. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Patrick I really don't think any one is suggesting that this survey provides a comprehensive picture of scientific literacy and critical thinking ability across all aspects of Australian society.

      But it is quite another for you, as a non scientist, to unilaterally pronounce that it is entirely worthless.

      It is and was intended as a very general indicator.

      Much like doing a mathematical survey that involved people adding and multiplying largish numbers.

      If a 1/3 or Australians were unable…

      Read more
    28. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Ian L. McQueen

      If a fix the typo will you shut the hell up about it???

      report
    29. Sean Manning

      Physicist

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Well, because the sociologist ard political scientist don't seem to be doing it very well. Better to hand it over to someone with some critical thinking.

      report
    30. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Sean Manning

      Exactly which aspect of 'critical thinking' do you see as lacking here Sean? (Remembering that critical thinking is both broader than and not coextensive with scientific method).

      report
    31. Sean Manning

      Physicist

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Well, for one, the bit where the authors missed the connection between knowledge of basic scientific facts and the ability to engage with issues like health, education, leisure and employment. Not to mention the other issues of alternative energy, climate change, etc.

      I'd also argue that an ignorant citizen is not a good citizen but then again I guess it depends on your definition of good.

      But I suspect you are looking for some textbook defined 'aspect of critical thinking' and when I fail to provide such you will use this in a strawman attack. So, proceed...

      report
    32. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Sean Manning

      No Sean, I was seriously just interested in which bits of their reasoning you took issue with.

      I'm not sure that the authors or anyone else were disagreeing that we all need at least some basic scientific knowledge in order to engage with the issues you cite. The question is whether e.g. 30% of survey respondents blanking out on the connection between the word 'year' and the orbit of the earth around the sun, or having their prehistoric timeline hopelessly muddled, is a good barometer of scientific…

      Read more
    33. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Pop Tech

      Proficient in numbers and models. Hm. Set up a betting agency devoted to climate change. Different odds for complete melting of the arctic, acidification of the worlds oceans, progressive heating by decade of the atmosphere/oceans/combined. Hell, you could even devote a part of it towards no more flooding of Bangladesh. Or the blue mountains fireballing into oblivion in the next few years. With your skills you'd make a fortune. But overall you'd be bankrupted. I'd be the first to invest money, on the side of Reality.

      report
    34. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Alice,
      Al Gore did this a decade ago, made heaps of $$$, then exited stage left. Were you too slow to cotton on then?

      report
  16. Greg Boyles

    Lanscaper and former medical scientist

    I have a suggestion for you social scientists.

    Instead of seeking to arrogantly over rule the relevant experts in judging the right balance of scientific literacy that might enable sensible society debate of such SCIENTIFIC issues as climate change, how about you instead add constructively to this debate by:

    1) Suggesting to real scientists how they might better engage with the general public.

    2) Suggesting ways that they might better foster a love and respect of the sciences.

    3) Suggesting ways that the curriculum might be modified to make science more attractive to a wider range of students.

    Etc etc etc.

    I can't believe that I am one of few 'students of science' or scientists here prepared to call you people (social scientists) on your presumption of superiority on this issue!

    report
    1. Merryn McKinnon

      Research Fellow at Australian National University

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Thank you Greg for your additions to the debate here. Naturally being an opinion piece we expected that there would be a range of responses and perceptions to our argument. This is only proper and frankly I am happy to continue to have science, science education and general scientific literacy at the forefront of people's minds. They need to be there.

      I would like to reassure you however that I do have the letters BSc (Hons) after my name. I have also spent the last 13 years of my career presenting…

      Read more
    2. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Merryn McKinnon

      Well at least one of you does Merryn.

      But I find it difficult to believe that you believe as Will does, that surveys like that conducted by the Academy of Science provides NO indication of science literacy among the general public.

      And with others that science literacy is not really required at all in Australian society.

      If the survey is to be criticized then surely it must be that it had far too few questions to provide an more accurate picture if science literacy.

      report
    3. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Look I did the survey myself and I could remember precise figures for the question about oceans and about fresh water.

      I knew for certain that the amount of the Earth's surface covered in water was around 70%.

      And I did answer less that 1% for the amount of fresh water, but then I had neglected to take into consideration ice (ice sheets in Antarctica, Greenland and Iceland etc)

      No scientists expect the general public to answer every last rudimentary question in such surveys with 100% accuracy.

      But fuck me, surely it is not unreasonable to expect that the vast majority of Australians would have a respectable clue as to most or all of the answers.

      But alarmingly the trend seems to be that this may not be the case.

      I reckon the Science Academy should conduct a more comprehensive survey to get a more concrete picture.

      report
    4. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      I meant to say.....

      Look I did the survey myself and I couldn't remember precise figures for the question about oceans and about fresh water.

      report
    5. Merryn McKinnon

      Research Fellow at Australian National University

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      "I reckon the Science Academy should conduct a more comprehensive survey to get a more concrete picture."

      You're right Greg - that is precisely our point. We don't believe that surveys like this are actually providing any real, useful insight into scientific literacy. And this has been argued in the UK, USA, Canada - all the places where surveys like this have been used.

      We absolutely need a society that is scientifically literate, or at the very least one that has the capacity to find, evaluate…

      Read more
    6. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Merryn McKinnon

      Well Merryn Will's words SURE AS HELL don't come across in that way.

      More like a presumptuous little ass who thinks he knows better!

      report
    7. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      I suggest if Will as a reasonable point to make about such matters then he do so decisively in the first paragraph or two and save the 'fluff' for subsequent paragraphs.

      Something to the effect of "a survey consisting of 5 rudimentary science questions is not adequate to gain an accurate picture of science literacy within Australian society"

      Phrases like "fear mongering" immediately give the wrong impression and put people like me off-side with extreme prejudice!

      That is the sort of phrase global warming deniers use!

      report
    8. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Merryn McKinnon

      I still disagree with you that the Science Academy survey was worthless - it clearly gives a blunt indication.

      But I do agree with you that a more comprehensive survey is needed to provide far more accurate picture.

      And I agree with you that there has to be discussion between scientists and sociologists about how much rudimentary science literacy is required versus how much is achievable.

      But I would have thought that such basic knowledge about the earth and our place in it are REQUIRED bits of science literacy.

      report
    9. Ian L. McQueen

      Retired

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Hi Greg-

      As someone else observed earlier, no one claims that the climate does not change. It is always changing. As for "global warming deniers", the world stopped warming 16 years ago, so where is the "global warming". And please don't deny the 16 years; it has been verified by the UK met office and the IPCC. It is only those with knee-jerk adherence to old ideas who refuse to accept valid information simply because it clashes with what they want to believe. Wanting to believe something does not make it so.

      Best regards.

      IanM

      report
    10. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Ian L. McQueen

      You opinion is noted!

      report
    11. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Ian L. McQueen

      Right back at you Ian!

      Wanting climate change to not be real wont necessarily make it so!

      report
    12. Ian L. McQueen

      Retired

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Hi Greg-

      I don't know if your comment is based on the missing apostrophe in "wont", but please note that my computer and this website do not get along well and two or three characters that I type are often dropped from the text that we see and I have to go back and find / change every one. I must have missed "wont". I do know where apostrophes belong!

      And just to make me a liar, not one typing error has appeared in this text!

      Best regards.

      IanM

      report
    13. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Ian L. McQueen

      Well I routinely don't bother puting in that apostrophe in so you will just have to learn to live with it.

      Perhaps if the word was wiln't instead of wont then I would.

      report
    14. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Greg,
      I'm with you.

      report
    15. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Greg,
      Personally I think that the AAS should conduct an internal investigation of the morals and ethics of its members in perverting the scientific method and in particular, by staying quiet when data that should be spread by it are suppressed.
      Here's an older example. I knew some of the participants.
      http://science.org.au/fellows/memoirs/carey.html#9
      Go about half way down to
      "Relationship with the Australian Academy of Science .
      Carey's relationship with the Australian Academy of Science was stormy to say the least." etc.

      Does it make you feel proud that the AAS procedures have hardly changed?

      report
    16. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Greg Boyles, Why do you talk to yourself so much? Won't anybody else listen to you or agree with you?

      report
    17. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Merryn McKinnon

      Merryn, perhaps the population's attitude toward the problem of climate change can provide a clue to our scientific literacy. Judging from the polls on the forthcoming election I would suggest there is a lot of work to be done. Keep at it, it's urgent

      report
  17. Don Gibbons

    Clerk

    This survey leads me to question the scientific literacy of the survey's authors. Although I've never lived in a cave, I have lived for over 7 years with an Psittaciform Avian Maniraptoran Theropod Dinosaur who answers to the name "Budgie". Her status as a Dinosaur has been widely accepted for a couple of decades with we Hominid Primate Mammals. Let he who is without sin cast the first aspersion.

    report
    1. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Don Gibbons

      Well I believe that Will J Grant cast the first aspersion here!

      By suggesting that the scientists at the Academy of Science are idiots who came up with a worthless survey.

      And Will J Grant is most definitely not without sin!

      report
  18. Liam Tjia

    Paediatrician

    Great piece, Will Grant and Merryn McKinnon.

    I wouldn't say that the scientists at the Academy of Science are idiots, just that this worthless survey would indicate that they may well be. :)

    report
    1. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Liam Tjia

      Less so than the drop outs who can't retain the answers to such simple questions!

      report
    2. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Liam Tjia

      I wonder how many of those questions supposedly learned Will J Grant And Patrick Stokes could answer correctly.

      report
  19. Greg Boyles

    Lanscaper and former medical scientist

    "We pretend that factoids are a useful proxy for scientific literacy, and in turn that scientific literacy is a useful proxy for good citizenship. But there’s simply no evidence this is true."

    Hypocrite!

    You have presented no evidence that supports your assertion that science literacy does not have social and economic value.

    You have made the assertion and the onus is on you to provide supporting evidence.

    So where is it?

    report
  20. john mills
    john mills is a Friend of The Conversation.

    artist

    Science has got a cheek calling anyone dumb or anything, when they created pills with insanity in them for psychiatry to call people insane with, make them insane with, and torture them with. Still i suppose it depends on what you call clever. Ive got no respect for a profession that helps torture people, and not only that, in my book, criminally continues to produce these poisons, for pseudo mind doctors, crystal ball people, to use on their victims. our families-- The "idiots" who don't know how many times the earth orbits the sun in a year.

    report
    1. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to john mills

      I happen to agree with you John that there is a need for the science community to be more responsible when it comes to such things as drugs (e.g. Thalidomide) and food production in the context of over population.

      With the latter there should be wider consultation between disciplines to try and head off unintended consequences of individual lines of research.

      And, where scientists become aware on unintended consequences, then the community should have some assurance that scientists will refuse to cooperate with their employers particularly within drug companies and the like.

      But I suspect the number of incompetent fools in the science community is a great deal less than the number of incompetent fools (or indeed corrupt fools) in the political, economics and business spheres.

      report
  21. Martin Bush

    PhD candidate

    I am concerned about a decline in statistical literacy.

    One of the headline figures used in news reports concerns a putative decline in young (18 - 24) people's knowledge. However the sample size here was 147 and so the sampling error for questions restricted to this sub-sample is around 7.5%. Presumably it was similar for the previous survey.

    To make strong claims about a change in 11% between two surveys with a sampling error of 7.5% seems rather adventurous, let alone proposing entirely unsupported mechanisms to explain such a change.

    report
  22. Ian L. McQueen

    Retired

    I believe that the original article covered the supposed stupidity of some Australians. I used to live in Australia and I met a good number of intelligent people. I also met some dummies. Back in my native Canada I could probably dredge up a similar survey showning that the average Canadian doesn't know much. The same would be true of virtually any country that you care to name. The unfortunate thing in all these surveys, discussions, etc., is the fact that people who don't know enough about the world are elected to make decisions that affect that world. I look very carefully at the question of climate and have spent several thousand hours reading about it. It worries me that huge amounts of money. the money of ordinary people, have been wasted in an effort to solve a problem that does not exist: the world is not warming, the number of storms is no greater now than in past years, etc., etc.

    Best regards.

    IanM

    report
    1. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Ian L. McQueen

      Well it appears that you are one of the dummies Ian!

      report
    2. Ian L. McQueen

      Retired

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Hi Greg-

      Your latest contribution here would not have passed for intelligent discussion when I was last in Australia. I guess I was lucky to have more intelligent companions.

      Best regards.

      IanM

      report
  23. Greg Boyles

    Lanscaper and former medical scientist

    You know what one of my pet peeves about science illiteracy is Merryn?

    When I was working at Tabcorp as a computer programmer my supposedly educated colleagues would not accept the FACT that hair is dead tissue and that washing it will vitamin enriched shampoo will do nothing to 'nourish' it.

    And that they would be better served to drink the shampoo if they wish to nourish their hair.

    That is of course assuming that the marketing is not totally bullshit and that there is nothing of the sort present in the shampoo.

    I mean bloody hell. If people are so astoundingly ignorant about their own bodies how the hell are we supposed to combat medical pseudoscience and the harm it does to society???

    report
  24. Greg Boyles

    Lanscaper and former medical scientist

    Where is the Australian version of this guy:

    http://www.stevespanglerscience.com/

    Why do our prime ministers attend rugby and football finals but they never attend the Australian Academy of Science - Awards presentations?

    I have recently become involved with http://www.sciencevictoria.com.au/sts/

    But where is are the competitions for general members of the public to enter with major prizes on offer?

    Why is it that 'tesla coilers' abound in the USA but I cannot find one single group across all of Australia?

    report
  25. Greg Boyles

    Lanscaper and former medical scientist

    Merryn I will also point out that science literacy is also a probably a bit of a moving target.

    What areas are focused will have to change over time, although some aspects of it would best remain constant.

    For example, given the current climate change issue, literacy about weather, climate and seasons is particularly important to be developed within Australian society.

    Perhaps in addition to some basic human physiology and particularly immunology as it applies to vaccines and vaccination.

    No doubt other health issues will crop up in future decades and the focus of science literacy will need to change.

    Any comprehensive surveys that are conducted regularly will also need to be adjusted.

    report
  26. Erica Jolly

    Writer about education

    Reply to James Hill. The invention of the Gatling gun, by a doctor, who had taken the Hippocratic oath, who thought this machine gun would end the American Civil War more quickly, did encourage more experimentation in armaments, so much so that in the Hague Convention of 1899 they tried to foresee what weapons of war should never be used against civilians. They failed. But the kind of specialization I want people to consider has been the deliberate division, the deliberate separation of the sciences…

    Read more
  27. Joe Gartner

    Tilter

    I'm more scared by the statistic that 50% of people are of below average intelligence.

    report
  28. Greg Boyles

    Lanscaper and former medical scientist

    A friend once observed that you can’t have engineering without science, making the whole concept of “social engineering” somewhat farcical. Jim Manzi has an article in City Journal which reviews the checkered history of scientific methods as applied to humanity, What Social Science Does—and Doesn’t—Know: Our scientific ignorance of the human condition remains profound.

    The criticisms of a scientific program as applied to humanity are deep, and two pronged. As Manzi notes the “causal density” of human phenomena make teasing causation from correlation very difficult. Additionally, the large scale and humanistic nature of social phenomena make them ethically and practically impossible to apply methods of scientific experimentation. This is why social scientists look for “natural experiments,” or involve extrapolation from “WEIRD” subject pools. But as Manzi notes many of the correlations themselves are highly context sensitive and not amenable to replication.

    report
    1. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      That was meant to be a quote.

      report
  29. Greg Boyles

    Lanscaper and former medical scientist

    This nicely sums up why a good level of science literacy, including on subjects that are not directly relevant to daily activities, is beneficial on a society level.

    "Next, there is the citizen-scientist justification. In a democracy, all citizens are involved—at least indirectly—in making policy. If policies are to be informed by scientific knowledge, then voting citizens must have a working understanding of scientific principles: An educated populace makes for better government. This argument seems to be a bit more successful in that it provides a rationale for why understanding major theories and the process of science is broadly informative. Politically motivated arguments against evolution and climate change would be less successful if the voting public had a good grasp of the tremendous explanatory power of the natural sciences."

    report
  30. Ian L. McQueen

    Retired

    Regarding Arrhenius, the following should be of interest. People who use the work of Arrhenius as a reference are usually referring to his 1895 paper. However, he wrote second paper in 1906 that largely negates what he wrote in 1895. The following is taken from my "archives":
    ***********
    Svante Arrhenius, 1906, Die vermutliche Ursache der Klimaschwankungen,
    Meddelanden från K. Vetenskapsakademiens Nobelinstitut, Vol 1 No 2, pages
    1-10

    I do not believe that it is on the web in a translated…

    Read more
  31. Ian L. McQueen

    Retired

    Second posting on Arrhenius:
    ********
    For once Wikipedia has a reasonably good entry on this subject:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svante_Arrhenius

    This paragraph is a good summary and references are at the bottom of the page. Most of his papers are in German:

    "Arrhenius estimated that halving of CO2 would decrease temperatures by 4–5 °C (Celsius) and a doubling of CO2 would cause a temperature rise of 5–6 °C.[8] In his 1906 publication, Arrhenius adjusted the value downwards to 1.6 °C…

    Read more
  32. Ian L. McQueen

    Retired

    Third posting on work of Arrhenius:

    ******
    However, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased much more quickly than he expected, but the Earth hasn’t warmed as much as he thought it would.

    Because Arrhenius was wrong on his calculation of α; 5.35 W/m^2 is an over-exaggerated sensitivity. Some authors have come over the revision of Arrhenius formula for calculating ∆T and have found α is not constant, but it varies depending on partial pressure and Cp of CO2. If the incoming load of IR remains constant, doubling CO2, according to Fourier’s algorithm, would cause cooling, not warming. For a doubling of CO2 causes warming, the source of heat (Sun) must experience a constant increase of the intensity of discharged radiation.

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/04/13/6995/

    ******

    Best regards.

    IanM

    report
  33. Ian L. McQueen

    Retired

    Fourth posting on works of Arrhenius:

    *******
    In 1906 Arrhenius – who had by then come across the fundamental equation of radiative transfer, which greatly simplified his calculations and improved their accuracy – recalculated the effect of doubling CO2 on temperature and, in Vol. 1, no. 2 of the Journal of the Royal Nobel Institute, published his conclusion that a doubling of CO2 concentration would increase global temperatures by about 1.6 Celsius degrees (<3 Fahrenheit degrees).

    Yet the Gorons continue to cite only Arrhenius’ 1896 paper, with its less accurate and more extreme conclusion. I wonder why.

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/04/13/6995/

    *****

    Best regards.

    IanM

    report
  34. Greg Boyles

    Lanscaper and former medical scientist

    QUOTE

    Almost 50 years ago, the Soviet Union shocked Americans by launching Sputnik, the first Earth orbit satellite. The U.S. response was immediate and dramatic. Less than a year later, President Eisenhower signed into law the National Defense Education Act, a major part of the effort to restore America's scientific pre-eminence.

    The signing organizations "feel strongly that the United States must respond to this challenge as energetically as we did to the Soviet Union's launching of Sputnik…

    Read more
  35. Greg Boyles

    Lanscaper and former medical scientist

    QUOTE

    If students can’t find those foreign countries, though, it’s clear that many businesses can – that’s where they’re going to find workers for jobs ranging from factory work to technology development. Statistics gathered by the number-crunching website Statistics Brain reveal that in 2011, the US outsourced over 2 million jobs, primarily to China and India. Among the reasons given by company CEOs? Along with the obvious – cheaper labor – comes another, more disturbing one: for some jobs, those…

    Read more
  36. Greg Boyles

    Lanscaper and former medical scientist

    QUOTE

    A better education in science for your child can also mean better things for society by helping students develop into more responsible citizens who help to build a strong economy, contribute to a healthier environment, and bring about a brighter future for everyone. As Science for All Americans points out, a good science education help students "to develop the understandings and habits of mind they need to become compassionate human beings able to think for themselves and to face life…

    Read more
    1. john mills
      john mills is a Friend of The Conversation.

      artist

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Sorry Greg, you have made some good points, and most of what your saying is well said, but this is simply not true, well not in mental health its not anyway,-- Scientific achievements have led to longer, healthier, better lives.---- For a starter psychotropic medication--(standard lifetime of management, not healing, or recovery,in Australia) shortens your life by 20 to 25 years, it also retards you, both mentally and physically, it isolates and alienates you, depresses you, it has ready made insanity…

      Read more
  37. Chris Cole

    Emergency Medicine Registrar

    That this article was written by someone who ostensibly has qualifications in, and responsibilities for, the public understanding of science, is disappointing, and even more concerning than the (admittedly sensationalised) results of the survey it is commenting on.

    Really. Just... wow. And it's not even April 1st?

    report
    1. Will J Grant

      Researcher / Lecturer, Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at Australian National University

      In reply to Chris Cole

      Thanks Chris - Just to clarify, we work in a centre focused on the public awareness of science, not understanding.

      report
  38. Peter Hindrup

    consultant

    Has anybody ever worked out by how much the planet/atmosphere would benefit /improve if we simply shut down all military activity?
    not only would there be a dramatic drop in emissions, but look at the money that would be saved!

    report
  39. Peter Hindrup

    consultant

    Picked this up a few minutes ago.

    Israeli students to get $2,000 to spread state propaganda on Facebook
    Written by Ali Abunimah

    Electronic Intifada - The National Union of Israeli Students (NUIS) has become a full-time partner in the Israeli government's efforts to spread its propaganda online and on college campuses around the world.
    NUIS has launched a program to pay Israeli university students $2,000 to spread pro-Israel propaganda online for 5 hours per week from the "comfort of home."
    The union is also partnering with Israel's Jewish Agency to send Israeli students as missionaries to spread propaganda in other countries, for which they will also receive a stipend.
    This active recruitment of Israeli students is part of Israel's orchestrated effort to suppress the Palestinian solidarity movement under the guise of combating "delegitimization" of Israel and anti-Semitism.

    report
    1. Peter Hindrup

      consultant

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      The known efforts of Israel include massive cash donations to political parties, and in the states pouring massive contributions into the coffers of anybody standing against any politician who dare question the funding the US provides Israel. (Until a couple of years ago the major part of US 'aid' went to Israel. Egypt received the second largest contribution.. Egypt, at least until this latest uproar,received the most aid in the past couple of years)
      Israel was receiving $US1300 .per head of population…

      Read more
  40. Ken Friedman

    University Distinguished Professor at Swinburne University of Technology

    There is a difference between understanding principles and memorising facts. Facts in isolation are meaningless, and a collection of random facts does not demonstrate the basic kind of scientific literacy required of active citizens in contemporary society. Some basic scientific literacy is required if citizens are to understand how the world works as a system. While a little quiz does not measure true understanding in any depth, it is a reasonable proxy for key principles. These principles affect the decisions that we make as citizens about the policies and issues on which we vote. They are also vital to the ability of individuals to succeed in jobs that require an understanding of how things work, and why.

    report
    1. Stephen Ralph

      carer

      In reply to Ken Friedman

      Facts are a good starting point....helps keep the Alzheimers away.

      But as you say it's also great to explore the history and (dare I say) connectivity behind the facts.

      report
    2. Christopher Seymour

      Business owner

      In reply to Ken Friedman

      According to Jim Flynn (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flynn_effect) people in most countries are steadily getting more intelligent - or at the very least getting better at doing intelligence tests. I don't know if anyone has ever tested the Flynn effect in Australia, but anecdotally, when I returned to Australia after a 20 year absence, the people definitely seemed more intelligent than when I left.

      report
    3. Merryn McKinnon

      Research Fellow at Australian National University

      In reply to Ken Friedman

      Thank you Ken - this is exactly our point and many of the others commenting on this article have raised the same ideas. Scientific literacy is about having an understanding of the nature of science as well as the concepts, yes. However more definitions of scientific literacy, and the purposes of science education, describe the need for a population which can access information about science, have the capacity to use these ideas in decision making and for evaluating knowledge claims (see for example…

      Read more
  41. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

    Boss

    Does it matter? Not until the authorities start cutting off our fingers to make adding up harder.
    We are already familiar with taking away.

    report
  42. Berthold Klein

    logged in via Facebook

    The way to solve a problem is to define the problem. If you cannot define the problem you can never solve the problem because you'll never know where you are. In science a definition of a problem is called a "Hypotheses" The next stage is a "theory" . The way to get from the Hypotheses to the theory is by experiments. Many experiments will fail before the hypotheses moves to theory. Many time the hypotheses is proved wrong because none of the experiments confirm the expected results. It is very important…

    Read more
  43. Berthold Klein

    logged in via Facebook

    The academic elite that monitor this web-site don't allow links except from John Cook and other supporters of the Hoax of Man-made global warming so the below link has been modified to pass the electronic censorship.
    Physicist Gordon Fulks, 11 others file amicus brief “proving EPA’s ‘three lines of climate evidence’ are fatally flawed”
    By: Marc Morano - Climate DepotJuly 20, 2013 10:18 PM

    Physicist Gordon Fulks, 11 others file amicus brief “proving EPA’s ‘three lines of climate evidence’ are…

    Read more
    1. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Berthold Klein

      Thanks Berthold.

      The irony of your post on a thread about Australians getting dumber would not be lost on everyone.

      report
  44. Yoron Hamber

    Thinking

    My own experience is that people tend to know more and more, about less and less. So asking someone about something regarding his or her field, expecting that person able to put it in a wider context, is like demanding a very narrowly programed computer to describe something outside its program.

    Few are able to comprehend, more able to follow a equation :)

    report
  45. rory robertson
    rory robertson is a Friend of The Conversation.

    former fattie

    Will and Merryn,

    Thanks for your piece. We are asked: "Australians seem to be getting dumber – but does it matter?" Obviously it does, especially if we are talking about nutrition scientists who are telling us what to eat to be healthy. My concerns at present are focused on a spectacularly false "peer reviewed" finding produced and promoted at the University of Sydney, a false finding that has been used to mislead both houses of Federal Parliament: www.australianparadox.com

    Awkwardly, the authors…

    Read more
  46. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

    Boss

    If Australians are getting dumber, then, logically, there is no way to choose who should write about the topic.
    ............................................
    However, as you age and hopefully gain some wisdom, you see more relevance in stories like this one, and you reflect on the decay of lateral and logical thinking.
    .................................................
    A couple attending an art exhibition at the National Gallery were staring at a portrait that had them completely confused.
    The…

    Read more