This week we got reminded about a lot of crazy things Americans believe, with almost one in five believing President Obama to be a Muslim. He’s not, but who cares if he is? There are severe undertones of xenophobia bouncing around the echo chamber of paranoia that is the Park 51 Islamic Cultural Center. How dare we even consider letting Muslims go swimming in a former Burlington Coat Factory! (Notice what words I didn’t use?)
But while post-9/11 bigotry against Islam was being discussed like it was news, some other studies showed that Manchurian Muslims aren’t the only nonsense Americans buy into.
A Gallup poll found that about 75% of Americans believe in at least one form of paranormal activity—some many more. Take a look:
I remember a point in my life where I might have believed in one, if not more, of these. For example, I am a perfect picture of a Virgo (what are my readers getting me for my birthday??), and I remember one day when I read my horoscope at the end of the day and it described the day I had had in ridiculous detail. I was convinced.
Of course, I was wrong. Astrology is BS. Just ask yourself this question: who writes your horoscope and how?
It’s disappointing, but perhaps unsurprising, that so many people are so easily duped. I wonder what the correlation would be if the same sample were asked if they believed being gay was a choice or that children of same-sex couples are not as well-adjusted as those of opposite-sex couples.
Unfortunately, this study showed no connection between level of education and level of gullibility. But another study did on one compelling point.
The Pew Research Center conducted a study about Americans’ perceptions of the future. One of the items was whether they believed Jesus Christ would return by 2050. One of the biggest factors that affected how people responded was the level of education they had achieved.
Those with college educations were much less likely to believe Jesus would be returning. Even those with only some college responded differently than those with only a high school education.
This, I think, bodes well for higher education. It’s one little observation about one little study, but I still think it’s one to be proud of.
A college education, in addition to preparing folks for their chosen profession, should promote critical thinking skills. While some might be saddened to see a loss of faith, I am proud to see an increase in rational thinking.
The Pew Study also found that Republicans were more likely to have a negative view about the future of education and were less likely to believe in ongoing global warming. Maybe if they cared a little bit more about supporting the education we already have, they would better understand concepts that are not really up for debate in the world of science.
I would love to see critical thinking skills and scientific literacy taking a higher priority in education, but in the meantime, I’m at least optimistic to see some great things are happening. It’s sad that our country is still so influenced by paranoia, but continuing to have the conversations is how we move forward.
Take a look through the studies to see some other interesting results.