A case in point is the following. The GSS folk actually made the mistake of asking the following question as part of their science module:
Now, does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth?
Here we go. Now what follows is real social science data folks. No joking around:
Earth around sun 73.6%
Sun around earth 18.3%
Don’t Know 8.0%
Among those who were up to date with seventeenth-century Galilean basic science, they actually dared to ask the follow-up question:
How long does it take for the Earth to go around the Sun: one day, one month, or one year?
One day 19.0%
One month 1.1%
One year 71.2%
Other time period 0.1%
Don’t Know 8.5%
I suppose the ignorance here shouldn’t really surprise me. The historical ignorance of the average American is proverbial, so why should anyone be shocked that a fifth of the population displays such ignorance here? I would agree that this is the kind of basic knowledge that one learns in, oh, elementary school, but, if high school graduates don’t necessarily know when the Civil War happened or where America is on a map, why should 25% being clueless about heliocentrism strike us as being all that remarkable?
But where does this come from? Where do these people live? Have they never seen a diorama of the solar system? Have they never read about the formation of planets? Did no one ever tell them about Kepler and elliptical orbits?