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Moon landing conspiracy theories Learn All About The Moon Landing Conspiracy Theories On The Web Learn All About The Moon Landing Conspiracy Theories On The Web Man first landed on the moon, that celestial body that is our constant orbiting companion, on July 20, 1969. Neil Armstrong recently passed away, which prompted an article all about him and the Apollo missions... Read More , anti-vaxxers 6 Sane Online Resources For The Latest On Ebola And Other Outbreaks 6 Sane Online Resources For The Latest On Ebola And Other Outbreaks Are you concerned about the recent Ebola outbreaks that are spreading across the globe? Do disease outbreaks cause you great alarm? Avoid the media entirely, and get the latest pandemic information from official sources. Read More , and climate change Can We Engineer the Planet to Fight Global Warming? Can We Engineer the Planet to Fight Global Warming? If we can reverse global warming by engineering the planet... should we? Read More deniers. It seems like all sorts of established scientific knowledge is called into question Is It Really True? The 5 Best Fact-Checking Websites Is It Really True? The 5 Best Fact-Checking Websites Fact checking has its origin in the early 20th century, when magazines began to verify statements made in non-fictional texts prior to publication. This practice increases credibility and trustworthiness of articles and documents. Today, fact... Read More because of bad information on the Internet Top 10 Conspiracy Web Sites Top 10 Conspiracy Web Sites Read More .

Have you noticed that the misinformation seems directly proportional to the amount of people on the Internet? What’s happening that people can’t separate facts from rhetoric? Why is it that people on the Internet deny even the most basic scientific principles? Why is it that people on the Internet will believe anything with the word “science” anywhere near it?

Apollo 11 Crew During Training Exercise

In order to understand scientific knowledge, one has to have a certain amount of scientific literacy 10 Best Channels for STEM Education on YouTube 10 Best Channels for STEM Education on YouTube STEM is not just an acronym but an idea that could help transform how our children are taught. These ten YouTube channels not only teach but also inspire to study STEM subjects better. Read More . The established definition of scientific literacy is, “…the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity. It also includes specific types of abilities.”

Is the information on the Internet lowering society’s general ability to use science to evaluate the veracity of facts How To Debunk Online Rumors & Urban Myths How To Debunk Online Rumors & Urban Myths Have you ever seen a post on the Internet and your only reaction was "what? That can’t possibly be true". It’s happened to me lots of times and I’m always sent on a wild goose... Read More That’s what we’re here to find out. First, we need to understand where the world is at with scientific literacy.

How Scientifically Literate Are We?

According to one study of science literacy levels, only 42% of people in the most scientifically literate country in the world, “… have a basic level of scientific literacy necessary to understand media reports about science Stay Up To Date With Science News With These Sites Stay Up To Date With Science News With These Sites Read More …”.

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To find this number, researchers surveyed a sample group of 2,000 people using a test developed by Professor Jon D. Miller. The test contains questions like, “Does the sun go around the earth or does the earth go around the sun?” or “Human beings as we know them today developed from earlier species of animals. True or false?”

The percentages of people that got those wrong are in the double digits. Based on this report, it appears that humanity isn’t very science literate, doesn’t it?

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Would you be surprised that the U.S. ranked third in science literacy, in that same study? Some will know the U.S. is a hotbed for science 3 US Science Labs You Can Follow On YouTube [Stuff to Watch] 3 US Science Labs You Can Follow On YouTube [Stuff to Watch] It's unfair to expect a simple home physics enthusiast build their own particle accelerator, and for experiments on this scale we're lucky enough to have some of the United States' top scientific facilities showcasing their... Read More , but the American media would have us believe that the U.S. is generally stupid. So if the top country for science literacy, Canada, is only two places ahead of the U.S., you may be thinking society’s science literacy is pretty low. There’s only one way to tell if our science literacy is dropping though – compare today’s results to results gathered decades ago.

How Scientifically Literate Were We?

Canada was in a bad way in 1990. According to a survey conducted then, “Only about half the respondents knew that the Earth revolves around the sun”. Seeing as that was established as a scientific fact about 500 years ago, that sure makes Canadians sound really uneducated. Perhaps more condemning is that 50% of them believed that dinosaurs and early man lived together Create Your Own Dinosaur Theme Park With Jurassic Park Builder Create Your Own Dinosaur Theme Park With Jurassic Park Builder Building a real-life dinosaur theme park seems like a bad idea, especially if you've ever seen Jurassic Park. Sometimes it's better to pretend. Read More .

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In 1988, only 10% of Americans were found to be scientifically literate, based on Dr. Miller’s test – meaning only 10% of Americans had the ability to comprehend the science section of the New York Times. For those of you that regularly read that section, you may find that to be a shockingly low number. Some of you may even be flustered, thinking that the science section is already ‘dumbed down Is Smarter Technology Dumbing Down the Human Race? Is Smarter Technology Dumbing Down the Human Race? As a child, you memorized your friend's phone numbers; now you just add them to your phone. You used to memorize directions; now you just use your GPS. Are humans becoming stupid? Read More ‘.

So, Are We Better or Worse?

Overall, the trend is that we have become more science literate. A 2008 survey found 28% of Americans met or exceeded the threshold. An 18 point jump is significant by any standard.

Meanwhile, in Canada, the numbers moved from half of all people thinking the sun revolved around Earth to only 13% believing so. That’s a 37 point drop in ignorance, so to speak. Pretty impressive gains.

Exam TIme

The trend to better scores also appears to be a worldwide phenomenon. According to the same study that determined Canada to be the most scientifically literate country, there’s a report from the National Science Board that shows, “…an improvement in European performance between 1992 and 2005. Other countries therefore would likely see improvements in their scores.”

All this establishes that science literacy is not dropping – meaning the theory of the Internet making us less knowledgeable is wrong. Why, then, does it seem like there are so many more people contradicting fact 8 Weirdest Conspiracy Theory Websites On The Planet 8 Weirdest Conspiracy Theory Websites On The Planet Isn't it crazy how few skeptic, fact-checking sites there are out there, yet there is such an abundance of crazy, poorly-researched conspiracy garbage sites ? I've decided to share a few of my top selections... Read More ? And how does the Internet play into this?

What is the Internet’s Role in This?

The Web was born The Web Is 25... So Let Us Celebrate [Weird & Wonderful Web] The Web Is 25... So Let Us Celebrate [Weird & Wonderful Web] The Web recently turned 25, with this incredibly dense and diverse set of online destinations having been born in 1989. I think it's time to celebrate the Web in all its different forms. Party, anyone? Read More  out of a need to make it easier to do scientific research, and to jump from one scholarly paper to another. Seriously: Tim Berners Lee was not thinking of a faster way to distribute porn or increase the profile of cute kittens. But it didn’t take long for the Internet to be used for more than scientific research.

It’s not unusual for a new technology to become more popular than intended. Still, why does the Web seem to be so full of misinformation 4 Reasons You Should Never Trust Social Media 4 Reasons You Should Never Trust Social Media You just got burned in an argument because, once again, you quoted something you saw on social media. Why does this keep happening? Read More ?

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The Web as the Ultimate Soapbox

It used to be that to get your message out, you had to get your message into print or on TV. To do that took a lot of work and years of establishing yourself as an expert in your field. It even took some luck to get on the good side of the newscaster, or to get your book in front of an editor 5 Sites To Learn How To Write A Book And Get It Published 5 Sites To Learn How To Write A Book And Get It Published There are millions of people all around the world who want to be professional writers, yet only a tiny fraction of them ever make enough money to write full-time. It’s a market that is saturated... Read More . Even then, you’d be lucky if your message reached a few hundred people, let alone a nation.

Outside of that, you would set up a soapbox Everything's Worth A Rant: David Mitchell's SoapBox on YouTube [Stuff to Watch] Everything's Worth A Rant: David Mitchell's SoapBox on YouTube [Stuff to Watch] Read More in a busy public place, stand on it, and shout your story to the sky, hoping it doesn’t fall on nothing but deaf ears. (This, kids, is where the soapbox reference comes from.)

Soapbox

Now, the Internet and Web gives us a soapbox in front of billions of people with just a few keystrokes. We can all have our time on the soapbox and potentially convert thousands, or at least find thousands of people who agree with you. With that kind of exposure, it’s no wonder we see new “experts” popping up every day.

The Rise of the False Expert

With billions of people spending hours online daily, the Web is the perfect forum for anyone to promote themselves. Often this is done by creating the appearance of being an expert in a specific topic.

It’s relatively simple to do. Start a blog 10 Essential First Steps When Starting A Wordpress Blog 10 Essential First Steps When Starting A Wordpress Blog Having created quite a few blogs, I'd like to think that I have a good system down for those essential first steps, and I hope it can be of use to you too. By following... Read More  – that’s basically free. Maybe throw in a weekly or daily podcast 4 Tips for Producing a Professional-Sounding Podcast 4 Tips for Producing a Professional-Sounding Podcast They say content reigns king when producing a podcast, but it's not the only thing that matters. Read More . Again, free and easy to do.

Then one just reworks the information they got off the Web to make it sound like their own, or at least to support their opinion. Then, one spreads the word through social media How To Kickstart Your New Social Media Accounts How To Kickstart Your New Social Media Accounts Ah, the smell of a new social media account. Take a moment to pop the bubblewrap and kick the tyres. Looking good? Excellent. Now we have to rev it up and get the motor purring. Read More like Twitter More Than Updates - 5 Creative Twitter Marketing Campaigns More Than Updates - 5 Creative Twitter Marketing Campaigns Social media has a reputation for serving narcissistic purposes, encouraging users to share minute details about their day that no one really wants to know. The fact of the matter is that social media tools... Read More , Facebook 4 Easy Steps To Promote Your Business On Facebook 4 Easy Steps To Promote Your Business On Facebook Read More , Pinterest Double The Social Power: How To Integrate Pinterest And Facebook Double The Social Power: How To Integrate Pinterest And Facebook Most curators of visual content have a Pinterest account and either a Facebook account, page or group. Today we'll focus on connecting Facebook Pages and Pinterest accounts; however many of these ideas could be used... Read More , YouTube How To Make A Documentary Online That Will Spread Like Wildfire How To Make A Documentary Online That Will Spread Like Wildfire Read More , whatever. Before long, they’ve got a thousand people buying into their “expert” advice. One can achieve expert status in just a few months, if not a few weeks or days.

Because Aliens

But, are they really experts? Maybe, but most likely not.

Many who do this build their reputation on the backs of others. That free blog they created was only made possible because creating a website was made easy Focus On The Content, With Managed WordPress Hosting Focus On The Content, With Managed WordPress Hosting Read More  because hundreds of people, over several years, put together software that makes this easy. The research these experts paraphrased, or even blatantly copied, may have been done by academics who spent years in university.

Surely, false experts are easy to spot and easier to ignore. Aren’t they?

The New Car Syndrome

Once upon a time, Kia was an obscure brand in North America. Even once they were established, lots of people still thought of them as a marginal brand.

But those people that did buy a Kia, however, suddenly noticed that Kia had become a top selling foreign brand – all of a sudden! Every second or third car they saw was a Kia.

Of course, they were always there. You just didn’t notice because you weren’t looking for them. This “new car syndrome” is also known as the the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.

Lots of Kias

The Web does a similar thing. You might have heard somewhere that the moon landing was faked. You weren’t around when it happened, but you’re 99% certain it did actually happen. That one percent of doubt just keeps nagging at you – or, at the very least, you’re curious why people would think that way.

On to Google you go, and search for evidence of moon landing being faked. After all, you want to know what’s wrong with these crackpots.

Whoa. 792,000 results. You already know that most people think the moon landings are real, so you skip over those articles to find the ones that tell you why it’s faked. Already you’re setting yourself up to see more “evidence” by “experts” of it being faked than of it being real.

All of a sudden, it seems like there’s nothing but ignorance on that highway.

So Now What?

The illusion of exposure, the illusion of authority, the illusion of omnipresence – perhaps it’s these illusions that make us think that the Internet is making more people scientifically illiterate. But perception is reality; especially for the science illiterate. So how do we change that perception?

To change the perception of the misled – well, that’s a Sisyphean task, isn’t it? There’s a saying:

“For the non-believer, there will never be enough evidence, and for the believer no evidence is necessary.”

Hopefully, at some point in our lives, the scientific method will prove itself. At some point, we may start to ask questions of ourselves. We may start to wonder why things in our lives seem to get no better. Or why our cause isn’t gaining ground. Perhaps we will accidentally use logic and reason to identify that it has been our lack of the same logic and reason that creates our untenable situation.

After we get a taste of the effectiveness of science in our own life, we may come around to recognize it formally. Maybe.

Image Credits: confused scientists Via Shutterstock, Apollo 11 Crew, Bunch of Kias, Internet Population 2011 via Wikimedia, Soap Box, Exam Time, via Flickr, Science Literacy Graphs via Council of Canadian Academies

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