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US Scientific Literacy Exploded Upward Starting in 1995

Scientific Literacy
Civic Scientific Literacy: A Necessity in the 21st Century

Obviously the story we’re told about belief in Intelligent Design causing a decline in scientific literacy is a canard. What aside from a growing uncertainty in the U.S. about whether or not orthodox evolution theory is true happened during the time frame of interest?

A couple of things come to my mind.

In January 1995 Republicans took over congress and entered into the Contract With America.

But what I really think had the big effect was the introduction of Microsoft Windows 95. Prior to Win95 it was exceedingly difficult to get a home computer connected to the internet. That all changed with Win95 which automated the process and made it possible for people to easily and inexpensively get their home PC connected to the World Wide Web. The information superhighway opened up for the average American at that time.

That’s just speculation of course but something new and wonderful happened circa 1995. Any other ideas on what it may have been?

Update: The measurement of civic scientific literacy (pdf)

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25 Responses to US Scientific Literacy Exploded Upward Starting in 1995

  1. Random events of 1995 from Wikipedia – connections?:

    “February 15 – Hacking: Kevin Mitnick is arrested by the FBI and charged with breaking into some of the United States’ most “secure” computers systems.”

    “April 24 – A Unabomber bomb kills lobbyist Gilbert Murray in Sacramento, California.”

    “May 14 – The Dalai Lama proclaims 6-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the eleventh reincarnation of the Panchen Lama.”

    “June 24 – The New Jersey Devils defeat the heavily favored Detroit Red Wings 5-2 in Game 4 of the 1995 Stanley Cup Finals at Brendan Byrne Arena at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey to win their first Stanley Cup Championship in team history.”

    “November 1 – The U.S. House of Representatives votes to ban “partial birth” abortions by a vote of 288-139.”

    Source:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1995

  2. Thanks Dave for the info just confirming what we knew all along. There should be a law against people standing up and making false claims to the public. I think a public beating followed by 6 months solitary should suffice.

    I remember Stephen Meyer debating Peter Ward in Seattle, and just wanting to beat the snot out of ‘Dr.’ Ward for his blatant fabrications about this topic. The next time some fear mongering Darwinist spews forth on how ID will make America fall by the way and make us a bunch of illiterates, can someone please pull out a graph or two and some verified stats and then slap for their insolence for good measure.

  3. Well, the New Jersey Devils’ victory is certainly one for the history books!!

    As mentioned, the big questions that relate to people’s lives certainly play a big factor, and have come to the surface in a greater way in the 90s and today:

    Are we designed for a purpose, or do we just make it up as we go along?

    Are we really bringing about the destruction of our world through global warming?

    Is our pathetic diet killing us as Type 2 Diabetes, obesity, etc go way up?

    Is the cosmos an amazing feat of Mind, or pure happenstance?

    Is or was there life on Mars?

    All this is why it is so important to have a free and open debate on these issues. Now, who is pushing to shut down the open forum on certain of these subjects in academia and the media, and why? Hmmmm.

  4. When something is so low sometimes it can only go up.

    The question should be “what made it so low?”.

    Introducing dogma as science and stifling all academic discussions to the contrary would be my guess.

    That worm turned, as Larry Caldwell discusses here:

    Bravo for Encouraging Discussion of Intelligent Design

  5. The question should be “what made it so low?”.

    That’s a good point. A jump from 10 percent to 17 percent scientific literacy in four years is impressive but is still a huge cause for concern.

    We have any info on the rate since 1999?

  6. JGuy, what do you mean?

  7. We would need data from say the 1950s to see when the decline started. Then try to figure out what caused it. I made my prediction…

  8. “Windows 95″? You can’t be serious.
    Yes, the internet may have played a key part in this, but not Windows 95. It wasn’t even available until Q3: “Windows 95 is a consumer-oriented graphical user interface-based operating system. It was released on August 24, 1995″ (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_95).
    Plus isn’t it true that long term trends typically are triggered by events that took place in the recent past? The notion that millions of people woke up one day and said “hey, Win95 is out, now I can get smart!” is misguided at best.
    I would look back a bit. What happened in the 1990-1994 time frame that took root and produced this result in 1995 and forward?

  9. We would need data from say the 1950s to see when the decline started. Then try to figure out what caused it. I made my prediction…

    And it happened in 1963.

  10. “All this is why it is so important to have a free and open debate on these issues. Now, who is pushing to shut down the open forum on certain of these subjects in academia and the media, and why? Hmmmm.”

    Who is pushing to shut down the open debate of these subjects in academia?

    To me it seems like the Materialists are the ones doing it, but I am interested in what your opinion is Ekstasis.

    P.S. If life did or does exist on Mars how would that harm the Design argument? Cosmologist Freeman Dyson believes that a “Universal Mind” designed the cosmos (but not life) and he believes that life will exists on billions of other worlds.

  11. zerobone,

    Yes, the oligarchal high priesthood of Materialists have only permitted their stifling liturgy to be disseminated in the public eye, so people took their natural curiosities and intellent and dropped off into a doze. Much the same as, under communism, enterprise, creativity, and innovation took a long hibernation.

    Why 1995 specifically? You may as well ask why you woke up at 6:07 this AM instead of 6:06 or 6:08. It is when something, such as intellectual curiosity, reaches a critical mass and finds an outlet.

  12. 12

    Ok cool I think I understand now. Thank you.

  13. Matt

    You’re wrong about Win95. Plug & Play connectivity to the internet for the masses began with it. I know, I was a key engineer at Dell working closely with Microsoft before the Win95 rollout, I knew at the time it would open the internet floodgates, and I made millions by betting on it. Win95 Beta test versions became widely available in 1994 and by early 1995 were quite stable. It was the largest beta test program in the history of computing.

    You’re also misinterpreting the graph. If you look at where the data points were plotted you’ll see it’s every two years. Something special hadn’t happened by the time the 1995 sample was plotted but when the 1997 sample was something big had happened in the prior 2 years and when the 1999 sample was plotted whatever it was had continued.

    Between 1993 and 1995 there was increasing access to the World Wide Web but it was mostly confined to large corporations and academia. AOL was growing fast but it was a proprietary network much like CompuServe. These however did set the groundwork and I’d been involved with them all beginning in 1991. In 1993 I became aware of the WWW and by 1994 I realized that a Plug & Play solution for getting a PC onto the internet for home users would be the killer app to end all killer apps for home computers. I was right. The rest is history.

  14. a5b01zerobone:
    “JGuy, what do you mean?”

    My comment was more for humour, AND to provide a ready linked source where one can find many events of 1995.

    My question “connections?”, was a light hearted quib asing whether any (eg. the New Jersey Devils defeating the Detroit Red Wings) could help explain the literacy change.

    You never know, maybe the Speaker of the House was from New Jersey. ;)

  15. I’m not aware there was any decline in scientific literacy prior to 1988 when the graph begins. Does anyone have any data on that?

    1988-1990 appears flat at 10%

    1990-1995 there was a very modest gain to 11%

    1995-1997 an upward explosion to 14%

    1997-1999 the explosion slows slightly but continues to 17%

    There aren’t many data points and rounding to the nearest percent makes it even more difficult to be precise but it sure looks to me like the opening of the information superhighway is the signal event.

  16. I wonder if people don’t get more science knowledge from Cable/Satellite TV (Discovery/Learning Channel/PBS etc.)?

  17. russ

    Cable/Satellite TV

    Now there’s a good guess! I think you might have nailed it with that one, buddy.

    Can you find any stats as to growth of cable TV penetration in US households and number of providers carrying Discovery, TLC, etc. in this timeframe?

  18. I like Dave’s theory about the windows platform. Access to information. But how online was America in 1995 – 1997 really? I wonder if yo ucould find a graph of percentage of homes online. then there’s the question of how much science related material was online then.

    Another concern would be the testing process itself. Were these tests made easier?

  19. correction: ‘comes’ should read as ‘homes’.

  20. [...] (HT: Uncommon Descent) [...]

  21. It will be interesting to track public acceptance of blind-watchmaker Darwinism in coming years, what with the explosion of information available on the Internet. In the past, Darwinists had a monopoly on most major sources of information (TV, news sources and public education), and this may continue for some time, but with websites like this one and the Internet in general, information is readily available to inspire doubt about Darwin.

    When I first started doubting Darwin one had to do some digging (e.g., find a book like Denton’s). It may be ironic: Education, which Darwinists seem to think will fortify their position, may have the opposite effect.

  22. Sorry, just couldn’t resist! Coming from the great-white-north and all that.

    The graph looks suspiciously similar to the Mann-made “hockey stick” of global-warming infamy.

    I recall that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its 5-yearly report on climate change in 1995, including the reference to man-made global warming.

    And so it came to pass, the scientific literacy increased just about as fast as the gullibility of anthropogenic global warming.

    Conclusions of the embryonic global-warming ideas became the premises for its genetic evolution — a weird reincarnation (or recapitulation?) of ontogeny and phylogeny.

    Windows 95 may have been the a(m)biotic fluid that provided slippery delivery.

    ;-)

  23. Viewership of cable/satellite penetration is a little hard to track down, but here’s an interesting tidbit about Discovery Communications Inc (DCI):

    http://www.answers.com/topic/d.....ations-inc

    “During 1994 the Federal Communications Commission relaxed its regulations for cable broadcasters, allowing them to add more channels and charge more for their services. DCI responded by announcing that it would form four new channels in 1995, including ones on nature, science, history, and a home improvement/cooking combination.”

  24. Actual PC purchases increased dramatically too.

    “Between 1990 and 1997, the percentage of households owning computers increased from 15 percent to 35 percent. During this time, the amount spent by the average household on computers and associated hardware more than tripled.”

    “College graduates had the
    largest increase in ownership, more than doubling from 24 percent in 1990 to 56 percent in 1997 (see chart). High school graduates also showed a significant increase in computer ownership, from 9 percent in 1990 to 23 percent in 1997″

    Though I had TI, Vic’s in college, a access to Compaq afterwards(DOS), I did not buy my first PC until 94, when I started consulting. Good ol’Gateway. Even then, many companies had the old IBM’s and 5 1/4 floppy. Dead weights for sure.

    Seems a combination, population purchase increase, WWW, 95 plug/play, Cable TV. And is it possible there were more college graduates raising kids? WWII benefits and all. Many people in 60/70′s were first time graduates in their families history. My Dad was a good example receiving his Architect degree from a small town less than 1000.

    But even prior to connectivity I read the latest Scientific American and kept up with latest science trends, technology, etc., so not sure how this correlates, unless it can be shown people learn more by interaction with other people thru argument and dissent? At college, you didn’t blow hot air if you didn’t know what you were talking about, or easily get shot down and have to pay for a round of beers.

    Prior to the big PC purchase breakout, much time could be wasted watching MTV or any TV show which is a passive environment dulling the brain. Even good programs on TV still do not provide the interactive level of recall and memorization required to maintain a good online discussion.

    Interacting on forums thru the internet allows people to maybe freely express themselves, to make more mistakes, and at the same time learn more as a result? Course, it can lead to group think just as easy.

    I think the attempts to bridge the gaps at time, like Salvador and PT mixing it up here without attacks, is one way learning works thru networking opposition viewpoints in a friendly manner.

    Even in 94, on AOL myself I met interesting people all over the world that broadened my scope of knowledge.

    Finally, people may actually learn more by reading comprehension and writing skills for responses.

    For a long time, Americans lost the skillsets of a good letter. Email brought that back. We rediscovered our own potential as individual writers.

    The Blog explosion is I think evidence of this continual spiral upward in the art of human expression by the written word once lost in TV land.

    Though I do not have the stats to back that up. We all learn differently. For me reading and hearing are not equal. I learn more easily reading than listening to a lecture unless I take rigorous notes.

    Whereas emails, old subscription feeds, you could analyze, spell check, thesaurus, define, research, etc., before sending back a response.

    So, you have a combination of information flow, information exchange, plus resource tools and voila, individual knowledge increases more rapidly thru a spiral of interlocking links.

  25. Preface: by the 25th post, it is time for some poetry!

    Can “fundies” think clearly as the surf is in Fiji?
    Or, shall Dawkins’s rants (which are commonly PG)
    Convince my dear reader
    To play follow-the-screeder,
    Dismissing ID, Heebeejeebee!

    Stop! US or Euro, who surfs the most Ouija?
    Who is the sounder (or just BCBG)?
    Is Dawkins their ringer?
    “Well, we’ve got Peter Singer.”
    Seeking humanity as if by EEG.

    Mr. Scot offered stats to give us an e.g.–
    They’re fairly fair to me, your dull pro”teegee”.
    It’s been already a reach,
    But one more thing I’ll teach.
    An Italian-American invented the squeegee!

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