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Almost 400 years ago, Galileo faced heresy charges

1-in-4 Americans consistently say they believe the Sun revolves around the Earth

Too many Americans have questionable scientific grounding. Galileo would be dismayed.

In 2018, about 1-in-4 Americans told National Science Foundation researchers that they believed the sun orbited the earth. It’s a sad but fairly constant statistic.

In his 69th year, Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) arrived in Rome on 13 February 1633 “to face charges of heresy” for asserting that the Earth revolved around the Sun.

The theory of a “sun-centered solar system,” postulated by Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543), “conflicted with the teachings of the powerful Roman Catholic Church.”

Our understanding that the earth is round is even more ancient.

By around 500 B.C., most ancient Greeks believed that Earth was round, not flat. But they had no idea how big the planet is until about 240 B.C., when Eratosthenes devised a clever method of estimating its circumference.

His calculation was amazingly accurate.

Eratosthenes’ calculated circumference between about 24,000 miles and about 29,000 miles. The Earth is now known to measure about 24,900 miles around the equator, slightly less around the poles.

However, in 2019, a YouGov survey suggested “as many as one in six Americans are not entirely certain the world is round.” That year, the third annual Flat Earth International Conference was held in Dallas. In 2018, it was in Denver. The Flat Earth Society was founded in 1956, so this isn’t a new belief, either.

Eight years ago, The Atlantic dug into survey data about scientific beliefs, like evolution and the sun-earth relationship.

Americans may be answering not based on knowledge, but on belief…When the statement is simply “The universe began with a huge explosion,” 39 percent responded “true.” When it is “according to astronomers, the universe began with a huge explosion,” 60 percent said “true.” This seems to indicate that many Americans are familiar with the theories of evolution and the Big Bang; they simply don’t believe they’re true (emphasis added).

It’s been almost 100 years since the Scopes trial, almost 400 since Galileo faced down the Roman Catholic Church. And yet belief still trumps science for many.

#scitech, #STEM (024/365)


By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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