The Five Dumbest Science ‘Facts’ Believed By Australians

The Five Dumbest Science ‘Facts’ Believed By Australians
Image: iStock

It’s International Science Week. To “celebrate”, we thought we’d revisit this timely article about science literacy in Australia. [Warning: it makes for cringe-inducing reading — especially the bit about dinosaurs.]

The national science literacy survey produced some embarrassing results back in 2013, including the whopper that more than 25% of Australians think humans co-existed with dinosaurs. Here are five shocking misconceptions unearthed by the survey (along with some essential links to help you bone up on your science knowledge).

Caveman picture from Shutterstock

Researchers from the Australian Academy of Science have reported a marked drop in the nation’s science literacy levels compared to the last time the poll was conducted in 2010.

The survey asked 1515 Australians questions on basic scientific facts from a cohort segmented and weighted to be nationally representative of Australia’s population by gender, age and residential location.

“We had an expectation that maybe we should have seen some improvement over time [but] the results indicate that we haven’t moved all that much in our basic understanding of science,” Professor Les Field, the Australian Academy of Science’s secretary for science policy said.

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“In some areas it was surprising that we have moved backwards. The results are very much a reality check: there is a significant fraction of the population that really don’t have a basic understanding of science and technology or know how the world works around us.”

Here’s how the nation fared in the five key areas of the poll:

The earliest humans lived at the same time as dinosaurs (believed by 27% of respondents)

The Five Dumbest Science ‘Facts’ Believed By Australians

Of all the misconceptions flagged in the survey, this is probably the most surprising. Only 73 percent of the Australians surveyed realised that humans did not walk the Earth at the same time as dinosaurs.

Sadly, we can’t even blame crazy creationists for skewing the results. According to Professor Field, the main culprit isn’t religion but Hollywood.

“This is probably the legacy of Jurassic Park and TV shows like Terranova which show humans running alongside dinosaurs and use great special effects, which really makes it difficult to distinguish fact from fiction,” Field said.

“I think this has contributed to the fact that there is a certain proportion of the Australian population which still believes that dinosaurs and humans co-existed in time.”

I suspect that a lot of respondents were just taking the piss. At least, I hope they were.

Evolution has stopped occurring (believed by 30% of respondents)

The Five Dumbest Science ‘Facts’ Believed By Australians

According to the survey results, more than a quarter of Australians don’t realise that evolution is a continuous, ongoing process. The poll showed that males and people with higher education levels were more likely to think that evolution is currently occurring.

Around 35% of 18-24 year olds did not think humans were influencing the evolution of other species. 9% of respondents said they didn’t believe in evolution at all.

” excerpt=”General knowledge is important. While it might not come up in everyday life, it’s an effective intelligence barometer that can colour people’s perception of you and leave your reputation permanently tarnished. This got us to thinking — how much does the average human actually know about the solar system? Take our quiz to find out!”]

The Earth does not take a year to go around the Sun (believed by 41% of respondents)

The Five Dumbest Science ‘Facts’ Believed By Australians

This is pretty embarrassing. A little under half of respondents didn’t actually know how long the Earth took to orbit the sun. Apparently, the seasons aren’t enough of a clue.

“It’s a concern to me that 40 percent of the population doesn’t realise that it takes a year for the Earth to travel around the sun,” Field said.

The greatest fall in knowledge for this question was among cohorts in the 18-24 age bracket, which probably says something about modern schooling. Curiously, 68 percent of men knew the Earth takes a year to orbit the sun compared to just 50 percent of women.

More than 3% of the Earth’s water is fresh (believed by 91% of respondents)

The Five Dumbest Science ‘Facts’ Believed By Australians

This was easily the most popular misconception, with only 9% of respondents giving the correct answer. This was down from 13% who gave the correct answer in 2010.

“The overwhelming majority of Australians — in fact, almost all of them — overestimate the amount of fresh water we have on the planet,” Field explained.

We’re not terribly surprised by this one, to be honest. Off the top of our head, we probably would have guessed around 10-15% of the Earth’s water is fresh. (It’s basically one of those trivia questions that you either know or you don’t.)

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Science education isn’t important to the Australian economy (believed by 2% of respondents)

The Five Dumbest Science ‘Facts’ Believed By Australians

Amusingly, it seems that many Australians hold science in high esteem despite knowing very little about the basics, if this poll is anything to go by. 79% of respondents said that science education is absolutely essential or very important, while only 2% said it wasn’t at all important; around the the same proportion as in 2010.

“It was very gratifying to see that the overwhelming response was yes, science education is extremely important to the economy of Australia,” Field said. Clearly however, a lot more work needs to be done.

“As the world becomes more technologically advanced the average person in Australia needs to have on board a sound understanding of basic science simply to survive and to actively contribute to the community. If nothing else, our education system has to factor this in.”

We’re guessing most of our readers are pretty cluey when it comes to basic science, but if you fear for the future of your children, here are a few websites that are well worth book-marking:

How Stuff Works: Wonderfully exhaustive website that covers almost every conceivable topic in easy-to-understand language.

Wikipedia: While unfairly maligned for its questionable accuracy, the world’s most popular online encyclopedia is pretty hard to fault when it comes to scientific factoids. This is thanks to the tireless editing efforts of armchair experts who really know their stuff. We’d be a bit leery of pages relating to global warming though (mind you, the same thing could be said about nearly every published article on this subject).

I F***ing Love Science: If you’re into the cooler aspects of science, this Facebook page provides daily missives detailing the weird and wonderful.

Questacon: The National Science and Technology Centre represents one of the few reasons to visit Canberra and contains lots of hands-on exhibits aimed at children and students. If you’re after a fun approach to scientific learning, it’s well worth a visit.

The Australian Academy of Science notes that the accuracy of the results at an overall level is +/-2.5% at the 95% confidence interval. (“This means, for example, that if the survey returns a result of 50% to a particular question, there is 95% probability that the actual result will be between 47.5% and 52.5%.”)

Science literacy in Australia [Australian Academy of Science]

This story originally appeared in July 2013.


      • Birds are the direct descendants of dinosaurs, blue tongue lizards share a very distant common ancestor with dinosaurs. Big difference. You can’t taxonomically define birds and dinosaurs as two distinct groups without them being paraphyletic, therefore birds are dinosaurs.

          • The grandparent post is talking about the cladistic view of biology. Rather than species, they talk of clades, which is like a species but also includes everything that evolved from that species. If you think of all evolution on earth as a large branching tree, you get a clade by snipping off a single branch.

            From this view, birds are dinosaurs since they evolved from dinosaurs. In contrast to your example, while you could define a clade that included both humans and fish, it would also contain a lot of things that aren’t humans or fish.

        • You have an odd view of how taxonomy works. Dinosaurs are members of the Dinosauria clade of the Reptilia class, birds are members of the Avialae clade of the Aves class. Descent does not imply equality, nor equivalence. Humans are not flatworms, despite our evolutionary history being traced back to them.

          • Bird show more common feature with dinosaurs then dinosaurs do with lizards. Birds are effectively feathered dinosaurs.

          • They are cousins to most dinosaurs, descending only from an obscure branch of dinosaurs. We don’t always say mammals are reptiles.

          • You have an odd view of how evolution works… You can’t trace the evolutionary ancestry of any extant species to any other extant species, even if said species hasn’t changed much in the past few billion years and resembles a common ancestor of both. The taxonomic groups you’re referring to are relics of an outdated system when evolutionary relationships were not fully understood. In modern taxonomy clades are defined as every species shared by a common ancestor and as such birds and reptiles cannot be considered distinct groups, even if for convenience sake we still distinguish them using the old system.

          • Some very recent speciation events are well documented and understood (talkorigins has some good examples). Spot on with the rest of your post – well put.

          • I didn’t trace two extant species, flatworms are a specific ancestor of humans – they are the origin of our hemispheric brains. Nevertheless, the term ‘dinosaur’ specifically refers to the Dinosauria clade, and the term ‘bird’ specifically refers to the Avialae clade: it is not correct to say ‘birds are dinosaurs’. My original point stands, and is correct – descent does not imply equality, not equivalence.

          • But clades do imply descent: if a particular species is part of a clade, then everything that evolves from that species is also part of the clade. So if birds evolved from dinosaurs, then they are part of the clade.

            I’m not sure why you bring up equality though. Saying “birds are dinosaurs” does not imply “all dinosaurs are birds” — it is just saying one is a subset of the other.

          • Yes, clades indicate descent, but descent doesn’t indicate equivalence or subset. Speciation breaks a subset from its set, but the inheritance relationship remains, eg. you are not your parents, you’re descended from your parents.

          • [this is in reply to Zombie Jesus, but it seems we hit the reply depth]

            You seem to be using a different definition of “clade” to the commonly accepted one. Would you care to provide some other examples of people using your definition?

            The whole point of a clade (as opposed to a species) is that it includes all descendent species of a particular organism. If you say “except when the descendents become a new species”, then what you’ve defined is a species.

          • I’m not doing a good job of being clear, I apologise. Most of my comment wasn’t about clades, it was about subsets and the “is a” relationship. Clades and taxonomic ranks are branches of different trees – clades are branches of the phylogenetic tree, while ranks are branches of the taxonomic tree.

            A super-simple example that might help explain what I’m trying to convey would be single-cell organisms. There might be plenty of subsets: big ones, small ones, aggressive ones, transparent ones; plenty of variation, mutation and evolution within the set “single-celled organism”. But as soon as a mutation appears that results in a multi-cell organism, that organism is no longer a subset of the set its parents belonged to. It loses its “is a” relationship (you can no longer say it “is a single-cell organism”) but retains its “is descended from” relationship.

            Clades only care about the “is descended from” relationship, while taxonomic ranks are almost the opposite. So while being part of the same phylum or class or order does imply the “is a” relationship (eg. human is a chordate, is a mammal, is a primate), being part of the same clade doesn’t make the same implication.

            Dinosaurs and birds are together in certain clades (eg. Eumaniraptora) which imply “is descended from” (ie. “birds are descended from dinosaurs”), but on the taxonomic tree they’re (at least currently) part of different branches of the Chordata phylum: birds in Aves and dinosaurs in Reptilia. The two branches represent different sets – you could say “dinosaurs and birds are chordates” but you couldn’t say “birds are dinosaurs”.

            As an aside, if you can’t reply directly to me, you can tag me by putting my username @zombiejesus in your post somewhere and I should get a notification that you replied. It would be nice if they just let you reply constantly and just stopped indenting after a few depths if that’s their concern (grumble).

          • “Clade” isn’t a subset of class. Clade describes a monophyletic group – a common ancestor and all descendants. So primates are a clade, mammals are a clade. And theropods and birds together are a clade, whereas birds and lizards are not without including crocs and dinosaurs.

            Taxonomic groups are messy, and fluid, and are descriptive not absolute. Aves is a class and Reptilia is a class because obviously feathery flying things are different to scaly crawling or slithering things, as naturalists back in the “golden age” saw it. But now through phylogenetic trees, genetics, more recent fossil finds and so on, we now know that crocs and lizards are more closely related to dinosaurs than they are to turtles – the diapsids – and crocs are closer to dinosaurs than they are to lizards – the archosaurs. “Reptiles” is not very useful as a descriptor of relationships – the extant reptiles are the evolutionary survivors from a pretty disparate bunch.

            Humans are indeed not flatworms. But humans and sea squirts belong to a clade that excludes flatworms. And humans and flatworms both belong to a clade that excludes sponges. And so on.

            By this cladistic view, birds and theropods are a clade. And if dinosaurs include ceratopsians along with sauropods and theropods, and birds are descended from theropods, then birds must be included in Dinosauria. How we resolve this in taxonomy is an open debate still and there’s no answer that’ll please everyone – Aves is so ingrained it would be hard to subsume it, and taxonomy generally deals with extant relationships. Nature hates to be pigeon-holed. But it’s clear enough that birds are basically an extant group of dinosaurs.

          • I didn’t say clades were a subset of any specific thing, clades are simply a branch of the evolutionary tree. I said these particular clades have their roots in different classes – Dinosauria in the Reptilia class, and Avialae in the Aves class. They don’t contain members of other classes in the same phylum.

            I think there might be some misunderstanding about what my point was. The term ‘dinosaur’ refers to members of Dinosauria, as the term ‘bird’ refers to members of Avialae. Even with current theory about the evolution of birds from a specific set of dinosaurs, the terms themselves are exclusive. It’s not correct to say ‘birds are dinosaurs’, but rather ‘birds evolved from dinosaurs’, in the same way that it’s not correct to say ‘humans are flatworms’, but rather ‘humans evolved from flatworms’.

          • Long comment disappeared into the ether. :/

            Short version – dinosaurs are a clade that includes birds. Whether or not we use a classification pigeonholing certain members of the clade into one class or another is a human thing. Birds are Aves, diapsids, archosaurs, vertebrates, and animals. Dinosaurs are diapsids, archosaurs, vertebrates and animals. The question is whether “Dinosauria” should really be under the really odd class Reptilia – I think it should be removed and Dinosauria should become a class, with Ornithischia, Saurischia and Aves as sub-classes.

            Anyway, this is the sort of science debate that’s fun. 🙂

          • Oh, and sorry – your previous post that dinosaurs are “members of the Dinosauria clade of the Reptilia class, birds are members of the Avialae clade of the Aves class” really reads as if you thought clades are subsets of classes. Apologies if I misread you, but I hope you understand how I read it that way. Cheers.

          • Yeah, it wasn’t the most clear, sorry. Biology isn’t my strong suit, I’m a physics guy. On your post above, I agree there’s probably some reclassification needed with respect to dinosaurs, but I was under the impression the Dinosauria clade doesn’t currently include Avialae, despite the theories. I suppose the problem is clades can cross-cut the taxonomic hierarchy, so while speciation can branch from any prior rank, clades just go where they want.

    • They are only descended from an offshoot from dinosaurs, its also not technically correct to call birds dinosaurs. Birds and modern lizards are distant cousins though, in fact all living creatures are.

      • Tuatara is referred to as a ‘living fossil’ and that often gets extrapolated to mean dinosaur, but it isn’t one. It’s the only surviving species of Rhynchocephalia, which is one of the two orders of Lepidosauria – the other, Squamata, contains all the other lizards and snakes. Dinosaurs (and birds by extension) are part of the sister branch, Archosauria, along with crocodiles and a few others.

  • “Sadly, we can’t even blame crazy creationists for skewing the results. According to Professor Field, the main culprit isn’t religion but Hollywood.”

    Your bias is showing … very poor journalism there …

    • Creationists may not be crazy – simply misinformed, ignorant or naive. Whatever the case, what they believe in is definitely crazy, and most people who read the article would agree with the author’s sentiments.

      Bias should be left out of hard news articles, but this is not one of those. And with the amount of religious crap that gets brought into the news and politics, I’m happy to have some more logical viewpoints counteracting it.

        • To be honest, there is more likelihood of aliens than some of the “facts” in the bible. I asked one of the religious members of my family if they believed the story about a talking donkey in the bible (ie. speaking a human language). Their answer (of course, from a book of “fact”) was “yes”.
          I think i’d trust those that believe in UFOs before those that believe in the bible.
          FYI – I don’t believe “Roswell greys” exist, although flying objects that are identified are perfectly feasible.

          • My mum is against homosexuality. You know why?

            Because the bible says so.

            That’s her reason. I say “well if it’s written in a book, it must be true!” whilst throwing my hands up and walking off.

          • I remember reading about the talking donkey. Perhaps god is a good ventriloquist.
            UFOs are very likely a real unexplained phenomena, although there is not enough evidence to explain what they are.
            It is not too much of a stretch to think that there were external intelligent influences in human evolution, given the massive evolutionary gap between us and our hominid cousins. Even if this was confirmed, it still does not mean that humans have any obligations towards “god”

    • What bias? By any rational measure, anyone who believes creationism is crazy, bat-krap crazy to be precise. It is one thing to cling to religion and reject evolution but quite another to believe in some made-up pile of easily disproved garbage.

          • Yeah but on the other side of the same coin, not knowing about something doesn’t mean it does exist either.

            And believing in something because it MIGHT exist is pretty crazy. Like fairies. Or elves.

          • So believe in something you know exists because you’ve experienced the evidence for it.

            Hmmm to throw a curve ball in there… what if the evidence you’ve seen or experienced (for any reason) can’t be experienced by everyone. (Not to say that everyone else can’t experience it just not 100% of people). Does it still exist?

          • Like in the X-Files?

            Yeah sure it still exists… and if it does it can be replicated right? So therefore, it can be proven and thus, it’s real.

            Man I feel so boring saying (typing) this stuff. I don’t think like this everyday. I’m just logically following the thought process.

          • And believing in something because it MIGHT exist is pretty crazy. Like fairies. Or elves.
            Or the Higgs boson until they discovered it.

          • All the evidence pointed to the existence of the Higgs Boson though, we just didn’t have the necessary technology at the time to prove it.

            There’s a difference between saying ‘this is the most credible explanation for what we’ve observed, even if we can’t prove it yet’ and ‘I don’t have any evidence to support my argument, but you can’t disprove me, so I’m going to go ahead believing it’.

          • Except we all know about God – it is thrust down our young throats at school and even forced upon us by crazy people on the street as we go about our daily business. Very much like Santa Claus, who we all stop believing in at a young age, when we work out that it simply doesn’t make sense. It’s the same with God – the more you know, the more questions you have that cannot be answered by anyone, so you end up realising that it doesn’t make any kind of sense and can’t possibly be real.

          • Strangely, I must be an exception to that. I am English, and 3rd generation atheist. My dad took me to church once. We walked around the building (which was interesting-looking, gargoyles and the like) and then he asked if I wanted to go inside. I said no thanks so we went home for tea.
            Although I was aware that some Christianity was a thing I really never got it. I still don’t.

    • The bible does not mention dinosaurs (or cats either), but a lot of people christians assume they coexisted. I guess Noah had no room on the ark…

      • Dinosaurs in the Bible?

        Job 40:15-24

        New International Version (NIV)

        15 “Look at Behemoth,
        which I made along with you
        and which feeds on grass like an ox.
        16 What strength it has in its loins,
        what power in the muscles of its belly!
        17 Its tail sways like a cedar;
        the sinews of its thighs are close-knit.
        18 Its bones are tubes of bronze,
        its limbs like rods of iron.

        I’m pretty sure there is another part that speaks about a beast with armoured plates on it’s back and also references to a beast called the Leviathan which I think was from the sea.

        • A behemoth could be a hippo (except maybe for the reference to the tail – interesting). There have been hippo “relatives” that became extinct relatively recently (~10,000 years ago) that may fit this description.

          A leviathan could be a whale, although it does mention him walking so this is also dubious.

          the most likely explanation is that primitive humans were aware of dinosaurs because they had discovered remains. This is also probably the origin of dragon myths that exist across different cultures.

          I think it is fairly well established that dinosaurs were long gone before any hominids existed.

          • Was just illustrating the point that the Bible did in fact mention dinosaurs 😉

            Although the fact they found dinosaur bones with blood still in them makes me think they were around a little more recently.

          • To be honest, that description is so vague it could refer to a draught horse or an elephant or a hippo, rhino, hell it could be a kangaroo.

            I always assumed dragon myths came from crocodiles or other large lizards. Thought it’s interesting that they’re prevalent in the far north.

    • Yeah I don’t see the bias personally. Creationists believe we coexisted with dinosaurs, and don’t they also think the earth is only 2000 years old?

      That’s pretty crazy due to the amount of evidence saying otherwise.

      • Between 5000 and 6000 years old, I think (Possibly between 5773 and 5937 years old, but figuring out 0 is a tricky).

        Of course, depending on your views around physics, existentialism, and objective reality, the Earth could only be seconds old, too.

        The evidence argument is also tricky, since be you theist or atheist, the evidence and its properties are framed from within your existing bias. There’s no empirical basis for God or science – you have to believe in either before you can use it to evaluate the evidence that supports your belief (as demonstrated by the rarity of instances in which someone logically disproves what they already believe).

        Rationally, accounting for inductive assumptions, the evidence suggests one truth over another based on the belief system you employ. A Christian creationist comes to the rational conclusion that dinosaurs coexisted with humans before they were wiped out and buried in the great flood, and thinks it’s crazy to suggest God wasn’t involved, because God is involved in everything. A Humanist atheist comes to the rational conclusion that dinosaurs predated homo sapiens by ~66 million years, having been wiped out during an extinction event that ended the Cretaceous era, and thinks it’s crazy to suggest God was involved, because there’s no evidence God exists.

        • Well the evidence I was talking about was the carbon dating of bones and finding them to be millions of years old. Doesn’t that fundamentally disprove the idea of the earth being 6000 years old?

          • It does if you believe that carbon dating is reliable and that science trumps religion.

            Just because it proves it to your – and let’s face it, most comprehensively educated people’s – satisfaction doesn’t mean it does so for everyone. Some people will trust scientific measurements based on the decay of carbon-14 in organic matter over a 1500+ year old book dedicated to some guy that got nailed to a tree. Others will trust the Word of God over some what some geek with a gizmo tells them. The irrational part is assuming your belief is the only correct one, because there is only one valid interpretation of the data.

            That you place your faith in science doesn’t make it better or more correct than someone else’s faith. More useful, practical and convenient in terms of laying the groundwork for the petroleum-utilising internal combustion engine, sure, but not more correct.

            It could easily be argued that the Earth is literally four-and-a-half billion years old, but the 6000 years is a metaphor representing God’s conception of time. In which case, both are true, because the belief systems are non-exclusionary – the science doesn’t invalidate with metaphor, and the religion doesn’t invalidate empirical data.

          • Does it hurt, having such an open mind?

            I mean seriously, I get where you’re going, and you’re obviously a very intelligent person, but at some point you have to choose which reality you believe.

            I’ll go for the one that can be proven thanks. That IS the correct belief. The one that can be backed up with facts. I really hate it when people talk about things like “god’s conception” because that’s an unknowable, unprovable entity. I don’t, not believe in God. And I don’t tell people that they’re wrong to believe in god. But I do think people are wrong to think they know anything about what god could be like, what it thinks or anything of what it conceives.

            With all the terrible things happening on this planet all the time, it’s fairly obvious that if there is a god, he doesn’t care a jot for any of us, and therefore it’s a waste of time wondering about what his intentions are. You might as well worry about what the sun thinks of us, or a pebble. It’s the same thing.

          • rowan, just what has been proved and how have you been convinced? I have found that in my longish life, science has revised what has been known – and it continues to do so. I would be described as one of those ‘crazy creationists’, and thank God for that. As for Him not giving a jot for any of us, He laid down the laws and we progressively ignore them. We are stewing in our own juices. That is God given freedom. We were given laws (and I refer to the Holy Bible), and yet left to live as we please. We’re just reaping what we’ve sowed. Would you then make a comment about innocent children and the horrors that they face although they are innocent? Well, we’re just reaping what we’ve sowed, and so are our children. However, I can tell you as a Christian (not a particularly nice person who does however try hard to mind the laws of God), I tend to be in a good place – as is anyone who believes and prays to Him. It’s not always roses, but there is a great peace and general understanding about this life. I can honestly say I have no fear, no depression, and I generally live in peace, despite the not so great things. I have not doubts at all about the existence of one Holy God (within the Holy Trinity). Without a doubt. Absolutely. I wonder if you can honestly say that about your belief system. By the way, you should research Charles Darwin, and his dabbling with automatic writing. We are losing our history, and it will be catastrophic. No different in fact to what has been given to us in the book of Revelation. Good luck, Rowan. Peace.

          • So because some people ignore the laws of god, as written in a book, that’s been re-written by men, many many times… it’s totally okay for horrible things to happen to any of us? Just because some people won’t follow the rules?

            That seems unfair. After all, if god created all of us, he created those who don’t follow his rules. So why are we being punished for his creation?

            You see where this circular logic goes? Nowhere.

            Like, you REALLY think it’s totally okay for horrible things to happen to children? Because we’re ‘reaping what we’ve sowed’????

            You’re the more religious one, but I guarantee you I’m more sane. Cos I have a big problem with that statement. It’s not okay. At all. Our children should be cherished and protected. Not offered up as a sacrifice to the great fairy in the sky who created everything because it was written in a magic book.

          • …but at some point you have to choose which reality you believe

            Actually, I don’t.

            I’ll go for the one that can be proven thanks. That IS the correct belief.

            Correct for YOU. Although, if your holding incontrovertible, empirical proof that your belief is the only correct one, I’d genuinely appreciate you sharing it.

            Ultimately, your own argument contradicts itself, though.


            But I do think people are wrong to think they know anything about what god could be like, what it thinks or anything of what it conceives.


            it’s fairly obvious that if there is a god, he doesn’t care a jot for any of us,

            To hold those contradictory beliefs and maintain a rational perspective would take a far more openmind than mine.

          • But Sparhawk, what I’m saying is that you should believe in things that can be proven. Can be shown to be evident and real.

            You have a problem with that statement? If you need proof, just read any university level textbook for a science or maths discipline. Or do you really prefer your bible for ‘facts’?

            Those aren’t contradictory beliefs, but if you think they are… well… it’s obvious neither of us are going to change our minds by this discussion, so I’m just going to bow out. You seem like a good guy. You’re definitely a smart guy. But I don’t agree with what you’re saying. In fact, I don’t even know what you’re saying. You just seem to be disagreeing with me and asserting that there’s multiple realities, depending on what you choose, and only one is the real.

            Believe me mate, if I could choose my own reality, I wouldn’t be playing computer games. I wouldn’t need to.

          • One correction: Science doesn’t require “faith” because it is a repeatable and measurable aspect of the physical world. Science is not a religion, although many religious people can only understand the world in those terms. I am not required to have “faith” in gravity. it behaves consistently.

          • Actually, science does require faith. Your statement that “it is a repeatable and measurable aspect of the physical world” is pretty much a text book explanation of why, which is the Problem of Induction ( That we know the sun rose yesterday is not a rational basis for predicting it as a 100% certainty it will rise tomorrow, and behaving as though this is the case. It almost certainly will, but to act as though it will requires faith. Similarly for scientific enquiry, you need to believe it will work based on past instances where it did, i.e. inductive reasoning. It’s very important to note that this is OK, and that science adherents should be OK with this paradox. What isn’t Ok is to deny it or pretend it doesn’t exist, because this is in essence deifying science in the form of exempting it from valid criticism, something that is a frequent recourse of insecure religious folk (in essence, it’s a form of zealotry).

            Your example of gravity is an excellent one. Up until January this year, there had been no direct observation of gravity in any form. All that could be observed was the effect of gravity. Scientific theory in the area relied on the belief that gravity existed, without being able to point to observations of gravity itself. Those theories worked, which made the belief justifiable, but no less a belief. It was only in February this year that scientists have been able to directly observe gravitational waves:


            And if I may offer one correction of my own, which is that gravity behaves far from consistently, even in situations where we generally assume it does, like gravity on Earth:


            To say nothing of the issues non-Relativistic behaviour of gravity at the quantum level.

          • The difference is that the science doesn’t claim to be able to prove anything – scientific undetemination is a well-known tenet of the field (for a good article on it, check out

            Science is literally just our best guess as to how everything works. We have theories, and a chunk of them are probably true, but many probably aren’t – to quote the article, our theory of gravity looked pretty solid for 200 years, until Einstein showed us it wasn’t. Then, we adapted our theories, which is pretty much the the crux of the science vs. religion debate. Science adapts to new information, whereas religion sticks firmly to its beliefs, regardless of any contrary evidence.

            To use your example, yes, we predict the sun will rise tomorrow based on past evidence. And if it didn’t, in the short time before humanity froze to death, our scientific theories would adapt to account for the new data.

          • @cffndncr

            Science adapts to new information, whereas religion sticks firmly to its beliefs, regardless of any contrary evidence.

            That’s not entirely true for either system. A central part of Karl Popper’s criticism of justificationism in science was that the orthodoxy of scientific beliefs can be difficult to overcome (and while I don’t agree with Popper’s alternative process of “critical rationalism”, his criticism is sound). The enlightenment view of gravity was shaky for a long time before Einstein published his theories, but there was a strong orthodoxy of Newtonianism to overcome – it wasn’t shonky science for the whole 200 years, but it was at least slightly shonky science for the last 40-50 years, outside of the members of the scientific community who controlled what was published in science journals. Indeed, the sheer existence of a scientific movement called “Newtonianism” – or any scientific grouping ending in an “ism” – is a case in point. The fact that it still exists over 100 years post-Relativity hammers the point home beyond all reason (and yes, I’m sure the GUT will include at least some Newtonian theories, but not as an -ism).

            On the other hand, religion can be highly adaptive. The existence of doomsday cults beyond their predicted doomsday most readily speaks to this. And not just minor religions. Jehovah’s Witnesses have repeatedly predicted it, missed the date, revised their predictions, missed it again, and revised again. Sure, it seems ridiculous to you and me (and most people, really), but not to a JW. They’re fully capable of rationalising this and seeing it as consistent and reasonable. And that’s the rub, because that goes both ways. I might be able to hold the view that I can exercise my beliefs and also serve in the military, which a JW might regard as nuts (even worse, some of their criticisms hold some weight – I can’t bring myself to call them “valid”, though).

            The inherent difficulty in criticising other belief systems against your own is that it’s pretty much impossible to do objectively – particularly when you’re trying to say that your system is “better” than the others. Sure, the Church of England didn’t deliver me a Surface Pro 4, but The Selfish Gene didn’t stop the Great Leap Forward, either. It’s often further complicated in the case of science advocates*, because so many of them don’t recognise science as a belief system at all, and can even use that “fact” as part of the case for moral/ intellectual superiority. (In which case, you’re back at the induction problem again, because even if it were true, how would you prove it empirically?)

            I keep using this term, and no one has picked me up on it. I use it because most commentators on science or science-related blogs aren’t scientists themselves (myself included, though I like to think of myself as more of a lapsed data scientist). So, they are to scientists what churchgoers are to priests, which means by definition, they’re lay scientists. Because, do you “know” that anthropogenic global warning is occurring as fact, or do you believe it is fact based on what the priest/climate scientist tell you? Have you gone through the IPCC reports page-by-page, or have you just read all the (excellent) refutations on Skeptical Science? Even worse, the same goes for CC deniers – just swap “climate scientist” for Lord Monckton and “Skeptical Science” for “The Bolt Report” (NOTE: please, PLEASE do not refer to “The Bolt Report” over “Skeptical Science”, because no one should be that kind of asshole). It’s just that they are to CC believers what anarchist satanists are to Catholics, I suppose.

          • @sparhawk0

            The difference, as I see it, is in the burden of proof. If my scientific theory says that sun isn’t going to rise tomorrow and it does, then that unequivocally proves my theory is wrong; however, as you pointed out, if the foretold doomsday doesn’t occur, then it’s obviously not a problem with the doctrine, just in the interpretation.

            Yes, that’s oversimplifying it somewhat, but I think it illustrates the point well enough. In science, the explanation is changed to fit the observations, whereas in religion the explanation never changes, and any facts to the contrary are at best ignored, or at worst actively shut down.

          • @cffndncr

            The difference, as I see it, is in the burden of proof.

            That’s a pretty good point of difference, I agree. The problem you’ve got is that “the burden of proof” is a central tenet of the scientific belief system, and by definition almost entirely absent from a religious belief system, which rely on faith over proof. Faith and proof being almost entirely mutually exclusive, using one to judge the other is going to result in the other comprehensively failing. Demanding that a person of faith demonstrate how their faith in God meets the requirements of scientific burden of proof (e.g. prove that God causes gravity) is inherently unfair. The reverse is also true, too – would it be reasonable for a Christian to demand that you demonstrate how the General Theory of Relativity reflects the power and nature of the divine as put forth in Hebrews 1:3? And would not being able to do so make you “dumber” and the Christian “smarter”? The Christian might like to think so, but I’d disagree. By the same token, that someone of faith can’t meet a specific burden of scientific proof doesn’t make them the “dumb” one, nor does it make one system “better” than the other, either. Just different.

          • Science is not ‘faith’ based. It is evidence based.

            Religion is ‘faith’ based.

            To conflate the two is misleading and wrong. And a common trick used by defenders of religion to try to establish an ‘equal’ footing with the rigours of science.

            Within that framework, of course there will be differing viewpoints and theories, and different interpretations of the data.

          • Science is not ‘faith’ based. It is evidence based. Religion is ‘faith’ based.

            Well, no, they’re both “evidence-based”. They differ on what constitutes evidence in the context of building a body of knowledge. In terms of how that contrasts to “faith”, that is a long-standing issue, largely around their ontological justifications. Religious organisations and thinkers have covered this ground extensively over centuries, whereas scientific bodies and thinkers tend to avoid it.

            To conflate the two is misleading and wrong.

            Far from conflating the two, I think it points out how fundamentally different they both are in terms of explaining phenomena.

            And a common trick used by defenders of religion to try to establish an ‘equal’ footing with the rigours of science.

            Just to clarify, I’m very much defending science, not religion. One of the greatest threats to the advancement of science as a method of enquiry is its deification by adherents. It isn’t comparable to religion in any useful way, and certainly not in a way that is objectively superior, because that’s an irrational belief.

            In terms of intellectual rigour, the process for adding to the body of knowledge in the major religions is arguably harder and more rigorous than it is for scientific knowledge. There’s a much stronger orthodoxy to overcome. So increased rigour can actually be a bad thing. I mentioned above science philosopher Karl Popper’s suggestion was to actually LOWER rigour through a process he called “critial rationalism”, which was essentially to lower the bar to overthrow scientific theory by accepting the most falsifiable theory that was still proven accurate, which would lead to newer, better theories to be established more easily. It’s not an approach I support, but it is interesting.

          • All of those statements about both being right assumes *both* are right. Maybe there is no god there is a flying spaghetti monster or two dozen greek gods or the great old one Cthulhu. Or maybe there is nothing and it’s all us making shit up because we’re terrified that once we’re dead that’s it.

            It’s just annoying that the only way to know whether you are correct is after you’re dead. And even then, it’s possible (Likely even) that you won’t know since you will no longer exist.

          • I’m uncomfortable with asserting science as “right” or “true”. Those are value-based, and open to interpretation, and suit religion better. Science is concerned with facts, so I think whereas religion aims to be “right”, science aims to be “correct”, or at least “accurate”. I wonder if a defining characteristic for each is their comfort with the opposite of these: science is OK with being “wrong” and happy to label things as “false”; and religion is OK with being “incorrect”, and will happily label things “inaccurate”.

            Totally agree about the “afterlife”. I think that’s where it sucks more to be atheist. If a theist is wrong, they’ll never know. If an atheist is wrong, they’ll have a LONG time to dwell on it.

            He hoped and prayed that there wasn’t an afterlife. Then he realized there was a contradiction involved here and merely hoped that there wasn’t an afterlife. HHTTG

          • Please check your facts on carbon dating. Then realise that the earth could not be more than 100,000 years old.

      • It helps if you know what you are talking about before commenting. Some YOUNG EARTH creationists believe man coexisted with dinosaurs, and believe the Earth was created between 6-8000 years ago.

    • The obviously didn’t ask it to avoid a shitstorm, but it’s disturbing how many people believe in young earth creationism. As in, that the world was created fresh within the last 10,000 years.

      In America its around 40%, and I doubt it would be much different in Aus, certainly 25% Id confidently believe.

  • OK, tongue in cheek comment below. Don’t read if you’re easily offended :p
    Curiously, 68 percent of men knew the Earth takes a year to orbit the sun compared to just 50 percent of women

    The remaining 50% of women expressed surprise that it did not, in fact, revolve around them

    Right, I’ll behave now

  • Couldn’t agree more! When our last census showed 61% of Australians were Christian, and it’s a pretty fundamental belief (only written in black and white a few chapters before the 10 commandments they hold so dear) that God created _all_ the animals at about the same time as Adam and Eve’ – I think it’s a bit premature to let them off the hook.

    I’m surprised that only 27% of our population got that wrong.

    The more controversial way of headlining that data would be: At least 55% of Christians do not believe Genesis 1:1-27.

      • There’s a difference between writing “Christian” on the census and actually being Christian.

        As a side note, it’s a few years old now but:
        “Denial isn’t a sure ticket to a rational existence. Heaven, hell, angels, witches and the devil get a tick from about 10 per cent of those who doubt or disbelieve the existence of God. A quarter support miracles; 27 per cent put their faith in astrology and UFOs; and a mighty 34 per cent believe in ESP. So a third of the nation’s atheists, agnostics and doubters have turned their back on God, but not on magic.”

        • If that is true than it is incredibly depressing.

          How the hell can you be an atheist and believe in things which were expressly created by the god you don’t believe exists. I gotta call bullshit.

          • According to the bible there is no such thing as free will (Jeremiah 10:23, Romans 8:29 and interestingly enough 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12), so god makes christians and it also makes atheists.
            For what reason would it do this?

          • Care to share how you interpreted those verses to mean there is no free will? I just read them in their context and can’t for the life of me see how any of them relate to free will.

          • Depends on definition. For example; what is a witch? Is it a women with magical powers who rides around on a broom, or is it an old lady who lives by herself and treats illnesses with herbs?

            I hate the whole UFO = Alien thing. I believe in UFOs because they’re not necessarily alien. Could be a russian plane or a drone or a balloon or who knows what. That said, I also believe aliens exists, though I don’t think they’re the ones behind UFOs here. I don’t think we’ve been “visited”.

    • I’m a Christian and I have no problem believing the earth is 4.5 billion years old, I also believe in Genesis, and the Bible as a whole, being the word of God. Obviously, the first chapter of genesis was not written by someone who witnessed the events first-hand (we don’t know who wrote genesis, probably it was Moses) and who couldn’t possibly grasp the concept of billions of years. So, it was written in a way that made sense to the people at the time. Basically that the universe had a beginning (a major problem for a materialist worldview by the way) and that God poured order and information into the chaos of the universe until He finally created Man. Sounds good enough for me.

      Now lets look at the other end of the spectrum and see what a naturalistic account of events looks like: No answer for how the universe came from nothing (no, quantum vacuum doesn’t cut it). No explanation for the origin of life. No explanation for the Cambrian explosion and the vast amounts of new information of animal body plans. And no explanation for the extreme fine tuning of the universe other than: “Well, we wouldn’t be here to talk about it if it wasn’t so.”
      Also, on the topic of evolution, can someone show me one example of evolution producing a novel function? Surely this must be happening all the time, and yet….

      Sorry for the massive rant, just tired of people blindly believing what the discovery channel feeds them without actually looking into the real science and then accusing Chrisitians for not knowing their bibles. It goes both ways people.

      • What do you define as a novel function? Every useful element of animals and plants was novel at some point in time. If you’re asking for evidence of a new evolved trait within the span of recorded history (which is extremely short on the scales we’re talking about, for the record) then the evolved resistance of bacterial strains to antibiotics would be an obvious example.

        Perhaps a good example is the Italian wall lizard. They were introduced to a new island by scientists in the 70s but because of military conflicts they weren’t able to complete their initial observations and the animals were left for decades. In that time the lizards evolved from insect-heavy to plant-heavy diet, developed stronger jaws for biting, and their inner organs underwent fairly significant changes including the appearance of cecal valves in their intestinal system. Those cecal valves are completely novel to the species.

        • Ah, I’ve heard about these lizards before. If you look into the paper written about this you’ll find that the change happened very quickly (about 30 generations) way too fast to be caused by natural selection. Also, you’ll see written in the paper that the ‘new’ lizards were “genetically indistinguishable” from the non-cecal valved lizards. This suggests that this ‘novel’ function was an epigenetic variation. Basically a different expression of the same genes. So, the genetic information was already present in the lizards, I think this makes a far stronger case for some kind of design than darwinian evolution.

          • So what if it was an epigenetic variation rather than a mutation? The population with cecal valves have gut fauna that the founders do not. If it’s a heritable variation and there’s any selective advantage (which there seems to be in terms of digestion – the cecal valves and attendant commensal gut fauna assist in digestion of plant material), then 30 generations is plenty enough to fix it in the population, and you have a distinctive group. That’s natural selection in action. Rinse and repeat for another 30 generations, and another 30, and the two groups can’t interbreed anymore and there are two species, and you will be able to distinguish them genetically, maybe.

            Selection works a lot faster than most people understand. Given the right conditions and selection pressures, serious phenotype modification can occur across a population in a couple of tens of generations. And nowhere in the paper or anywhere else does it suggest that the “~36 years” is way too fast to be caused by natural selection, that’s just argument from incredulity.

            Here’s the paper for those who want to read it:

          • Indeed, natural selection is quite a fast process on its own. Survival is a very immediate thing – individuals either survive and reproduce or they don’t, and the ones that do often pass on their advantages to their offspring. Noteworthy genetic differences take a while longer, but then that’s not the criteria for evolution, just a milestone.

      • There are number of theories for the cause of the big bang, and even a theory or two negating the need for a cause.

        In the ‘no need for a first cause’ basket, there are two ideas that I know of, and they both feed into each other (although to some degree the second one is a fundamental part of our understanding of the universe, rather than just one of several theories).
        First is that time has been expanding along with the universe, and so if you trace back to the beginning of the big bang, then you get to a point when time=0, and there is no ‘before’ to have an event to cause it.
        Second is that the big bang at the first moment was a cause, but not an effect, and so there was no need for a cause.

        For theories that have a cause to the universe, they usually involve a multiverse.
        I used to be a fan of the big bounce theory, an infinite cycle of big bang/big crunch, but I know now that there is no known method for the universe to collapse back inward.
        My favourite theory these days is one I heard from Rich Gott in the 2013 Asimov Memorial Debate on which the topic was “nothing” ( 42 minutes in) and that is that not only are universes created from the quantum vacuum, but that the first universe began from a branching universe created from the quantum vacuum within itself at a later point in its history. Look at the video for a clearer explanation and physical model.
        The rest of the video covers some other explanations, as well as pointing out the fallacy of the claim that our universe is finely tuned. On that, they point out that a universe with fewer (or more) universal laws, rules and constants could still produce intelligent life asking many of the same questions we ask of reality today. This universe isn’t finely tuned, it is an ugly mess, we just live in one of the pockets of something where most of the universe has nothing.

        • Theories and hypotheticals, none of which seem very compelling to me. A universe created from a quantum vacuum (of course! that old chestnut) which was actually created from itself…. from the future?…I’m sorry, but you’ve lost me.

          Here’s the problem with all of these though, even if they’re mathematically sound theories (I quite like the idea of string theory) there’s absolutely no evidence for them, and by very definition they are a cause outside our universe and therefore there will likely never be any evidence for them.

          • Look at the video in my previous comment at the 42 minute mark. He explains better than I can and has a model because visual aids help. Another way of putting it is that the universe is its own stable time loop.

            And theories that were once thought unmeasurable, are becoming measurable with improved techniques, including verifying the quantum vacuum’s existence even on a macroscopic level.
            I find these mathematically (but not religiously) sound models more agreeable than the religiously (but not mathematically) sound models (ie creationism whether old or young), because I’ve generally found maths to be more reliable than religion (such as the oh so many contradictions in all the Abrahamic religions).

          • There is more evidence of these theories than your god…..

            You tell people not stop believing the Discovery Channel but yet believe a book that has been re-written to suit the author hundreds/thousands of times, and ultimately instead of giving an explanation as to why things are the way they are, come the conclusion that god did it. How does that level out? Here we have people trying to figure out and explain the origins of the world around us and here you are essentially pissing all over it by saying god did it.

        • There’s also the theory that there were many universes before. As the universe looses energy and heat it will under gravity contract back to a singularity. Leading to another possible big bang. So we might not be the first or last universe around.

        • I actually believe that there wasn’t a single big bang. I believe that there are multiple and they could even be happening with some regularity. Matter expands from a “bang” but there could be another “bang” some distance away pushing matter in our direction too. The bangs are a result of black holes reaching “critical mass”, consuming so much matter that they explode and spew matter all over the place.

          Oh, and the universe is infinite and timeless ie: there was no before and after, it just keeps going.

          Sorry, I probably didn’t explain that very well.

      • And you’d be pretty nuts to think that we’ve even got the slightest grasp on how the universe was created, considering the piddly amount of time we’ve been around. The universe is old, vast and infinitely wiser than we will ever be. Creationism isn’t the answer. The scientists don’t have an answer. And you’d be pretty foolish to think that anyone on this planet has the definitive answer. I’m happy knowing that during my lifetime, I’ll never truly know how we got here, why we’re here, and why things are the way they are. I’ve no delusions of grandeur.

        We only know what we’ve been taught and what we learn in our short lifetimes. Everything comes back to what we know, what we’re familiar with and makes sense. Until the ‘human’ filter has been done away with, we’ve got no hope of ever truly knowing the when’s and why’s of anything.

      • Your “massive rant” basically says that because Christianity has an answer with no proof, it is better than scientists saying “we’re not sure”. No sale.

        • I’m not disregarding science at all, I’m disagreeing with the materialistic explanations made based on the scientific evidence. I look at those same scientific evidences and conclude that the universe, and life, look designed. I can do this scientifically. What I can’t do scientifically is explain who or what the designer is, out of principle. Science has to leave that to religion and philosophy.

          • If life is designed it was done by a hack with no talent. So many mistakes and lousy design decisions that should have been fixed 😛

      • Hey Mr Sketch. It depends upon whether you need evidence or not. Science needs evidence to apply theories. Religion, even creationism does not. It’s all explained away with “god did it”.

        If that’s what you like to believe, then good for you. I personally reject that idea as I haven’t seen any evidence of it myself.

        • I can, scientifically, explore the evidence that the universe is designed.
          Accusing me of just saying “God did it, nothing to learn here!” is like me looking at a car and throwing up my hands and saying “the car builder did it!” and not being able to learn anything about how the car was made. Of course you can learn about it by studying it.

          If the universe and life are designed things, then we should be able to learn about those designs.
          So no, it’s not all “explained away by God did it”. Never did I say this or imply it.

      • ” Obviously, the first chapter of genesis was not written by someone who witnessed the events first-hand”

        How is it you know this but dont know that the rest of it wasnt written by anyone that witnessed any of what happened first hand? Not a word that is in that bible was written within Jesus alleged life span. The whole thing is between 100 to 1000 years of Chinese whispers.

        So no, it doesnt go both ways, hardcore christians remain intentionally and wilfully ignorant of the reasoning behind atheism and evolutionism, whilst atheists and evolutionists reject a set of fairy tales written by goatherders more than a millenia ago in preference for the work of almost a millenia of science, and free thought.

        • So why is this set of fairy tales still around after a millennia of criticism like yours. Criticism backed up by millennia of science and free thought?

          • Because of a few reasons;

            1. People are terrified of stuff they don’t understand so they try to explain it (even if the explanation is nonsense).

            2. People are terrified that this is all there is, that they have a few short years then they’re gone. So they want an afterlife

            3. People in power have a motive to play on point 2. If you have nothing and you see a person with everything why wouldn’t you take some of what he has? Simple, establish this rule that if you do something naughty now (thou shall not steal) you’ll be punished for eternity. And conversely if you live a nice sheep like existence (the meek shall inherit the earth) you’ll be rewarded with a happy eternal life.

            Note: The above doesn’t just apply to Christianity but pretty much every religion.

      • You cannot believe in evolution AND Genesis, the two are mutually exclusive accounts of one event.

        As a Christian, you are compelled to believe in Genesis, because it lays the foundation of your theology (the origin of the sin which prompted your god to send his son/self to die to absolve believers in his resurrection from the sins of one man and woman).

        This account (the Christian account) says that the man was made from dirt, and the woman was made from his rib, snakes talk, fruit is magic and eating magic fruit condemns your entire lineage to a place in eternal fire if they refuse to give their entire lives to the same god who saddled them with a punishment they themselves are not responsible for.

        So you’ll excuse us if we (who have bothered to actually learn) don’t want to explain how a quantum vacuum works, or the leading hypotheses in abiogenesis, or what may have accounted for the diversity of life attributed as emergent in the Cambrian, or how reality is not at all ‘finely tuned.’

        You (Christians) need to read many books if you’re interested in reality – not just one. Its lazy, and it shows your disregard for the truth. You have arrived at your answers and will only accept explanations which support them – if a question challenges your pre-fabrications, the question must be flawed, or the explanation isn’t good enough, or because every answer is’t provided to your satisfaction, or is incomplete, or requires an understanding or a tolerance for unusual circumstances (eg, at the quantum level).

        We (people who have bothered to learn & reject god-claims) are frankly sick of you (Christians) asking questions knowing that if we were to feed you all the information we’d taken years to understand ourselves, you’re just going to reject it because you have no interest in what is real.

        BTW – it (reality) does NOT go both ways.

        • You obviously have a very thin understanding of what a Christian is. Good on you for knowing your Sunday school stuff tho. At least you remembered something while you we’re there.

      • If you believe the Bible, then you will believe that God said that His creation was very good. How then do you explain the millions of years of carnivory, killing, death and disease found in the animal kingdom, prior to the arrival of Adam and Eve, that God apparently thought was very good. And how do you account for Jesus believing that man and woman were created at the beginning of creation, if that beginning was billions of years before they appeared? And what do you do about death being the result of sin. If that is so, whose sin caused all the pre-Adam death?

    • Not as controversial as you might think. Literal interpretations of the bible are in the minority amongst the various Christian denominations. Most take a number of old testament books as metaphors and parables rather than direct accounts.

      • Of course the obvious question there is how do you know which parts are metaphor, parables, allegory etc. and which parts are supposed to be taken literally? How someone can reject The Garden of Eden and what the Bible said occurred there, but absolutely defend the Jesus story as true and accurate is headache-inducing.

        • There may well be some agreement on that within different denominations, but you’d have to ask a theologian, it’s not my area of expertise =) It’s a valid question though, and within different denominations there’s definitely some variation in how different parts of the bible are interpreted.

        • That’s a fair question, and the answer, as someone who has studied the bible quite a bit is actually very similar to the way that history is studied.

          Firstly, the bible is not just one book. It is many books put together and each of those books come from many copies of a similar manuscript. The version of the book that is in the bible is made up of manuscripts that have a large number of copies that are the same. Sometimes there are some differences, but these are recorded in the footnotes of each bible.

          To Answer your question, Each book is known to be written at a certain time, possibly by a specific person (some books have no known author especially OT books). We know this based on the age of the manuscripts and also by the style of writing, and other factors and this is all taken into account (by theologians at least) when interpreting the bible.

          Let’s take Genesis as an example. This book is believed to have been written by Moses, based on the style of writing and the similarities to other books where he has mentioned his name as the author. It was also written in the Ancient Near Eastern time period, and the style of writing is very similar to writings of the time (which are historically accepted documents). Genesis has three different types of writing styles throughout, which can all be interpreted differently and can’t all be read the same way. The First two chapters (7 day creation) is written in a style that at the time was like a story or fable, i like to think of it as like an aboriginal dream time story. It is a story that has patterns (almost like poetry in the original language Hebrew), repetition and purpose, almost like a story you would tell a child. In this story we discover that there is a being who created us and our world and everything in it (God). I personally do not believe in a literal reading of these 2 chapters, and i also believe in evolution and that in this way science and religion can exist together. The style of writing changes in chapter 3 and continues to change all the way through the bible.

          I hopes this helps, i am by no means an expert, but i am a “believer” and have spent a lot of time researching and testing what i believe. If i just blindly believed then i would consider myself a fool. though many people would consider me one anyway, and that’s fine.

          • How does original sin or the fall come into the picture with the evolution interpretation?

          • Short answer: Genesis 3 is written (and read) differently to the first 2 chapters of Genesis. Adam and eve actually existed and the fall was a real event. This is probably one of the biggest things that i struggled with when interpreting Genesis and many people don’t agree with me, they say it’s one or the other,

            EDIT: I am at work, so is a bit hard to go into more detail, sorry

          • I appreciate that you went to the effort to respond to me, but it doesn’t address my point. My point is simple: the Bible makes many claims of supernatural occurrences (Garden of Eden, the great flood, burning bushes, resurrections, etc.)

            How can you tell which ones happened and which ones didn’t? If you don’t believe in the great flood, why? If you don’t believe in an actual garden where Adam and Eve lived until they were booted out on their ass, why?

            Surely your point can’t simply be “The style of writing dictates whether the story is literal or not”. I doubt many believers, not to mention us non-believers, would go along with that line of reasoning.

          • Don’t get me wrong, I do believe in “supernatural occurrences”, I believe that symbolism (Genesis 1), poetry (song of Songs, Psalms), and factual information (the Gospels) are all present in the bible and also agree that it is sometimes hard to determine what is what. I believe that Jesus was a real man and that he was crucified (which most secular historians agree on), and i also believe that he rose from the dead (most historians would not agree on).

            In terms of what is testament and what is allegory, The NT was written by people who were all alive at the same time as Jesus, and either new him personally (apostles, his brother) or had met him and persecuted him and his followers (Paul). This is considered fact and i believe that it is all true and accurate (the only exception is revelation, which is much more complicated to get into here). I would also point out that i know basic ancient Greek (enough to read and translate) and have studied the bible (NT) in it’s original text, not just in English.

            The Old testament is much harder to categorize as it is much older and has many different styles and authors, many of whom are unknown. I agree that it is not just the style of writing, there are many other factors. Here is a video from John Walton, who is an specialist in comparing the literature and culture of the Bible with that of the Ancient Near East. I would prefer you hear it from someone who has studied this there whole life.


            This video comes from the Centre for public Christianity. It has some interesting videos and articles available about this if you are interested. If not that is fine. I will never stop testing what i believe, even if that does involve some faith in things i do not understand (cause that is what faith is), and i like to think that other intelligent people feel the same, whether they believe in the bible, in the Quran, aliens or anything else for that matter.

    • “61% of Australians were Christian” appears to be a false statistic. A more in depth study ( showed that the religion percentages diverged considerably when more options were given. When given the extra option of “spiritual but not religious”, the Christian portion drops to 40%. Even then, that includes people who call themselves “Catholic” or “Presbetarian” just because their family identifies that way, and they’ve never actually stepped in a church.

    • I agree, the fact that a ‘Christian’ nation (based on census data), came up with only a 27% ‘belief’ in dinosaur/human interaction would be alarming from a Christian viewpoint. It was much more surprising to me than the author’s implications.

      Full disclosure, I identify myself as a Christian, and would have answered that dinosaurs and humans were alive at the same time. I don’t see why that would classify me as crazy, my beliefs don’t stop me functioning in today’s society as far as I’m aware. I do agree with @villainsoft, Christians are pretty rubbish at acting on what they believe, it’s rather embarrassing sometimes.

    • That’s incorrect. According to Genesis 1, marine animals and fowls were created on the fifth day; land-based animals and people were created on the sixth day. Be that as it may, the “fundamentalist” view is that creation occurred around 5000 BC (roughly), but the Biblical text doesn’t necessarily support that interpretation. It merely says “day”, but does so as a descriptive term denoting a period of time (which exact period is not stated).

  • We had a very similar discussion amongst my friends over the past week. None of them knew why the 23.5 degree tilt of the Earth caused seasons. How can grown men not know how seasons work? One of my friend is over 50 and has 3 kids and he didn’t even know.

  • I just read all these questions out to my staff at work. they got them all correct except for the fresh water one. that casued a few ummms and ahhs.

    I also threw in the questions: The story of Noah’s Ark is true – true or false.

    All came back false……no one getting fired today it seems.

    • Keep your nationalist discrimination to your ignorant self. This is classed as hate speech by the discrimination act, and completely unnecessary.

      • Might want to keep your own prejudices to yourself.

        Long version: There was nothing hateful in the remark, and unless you were standing right next to the commenter, no way of discerning the tone in which it was said.
        If they had said “Imagine if you asked those American dumbasses these questions” or ” Most Americans are so stupid, they would fail all of these questions”, then yes, you would have a point.

        Given the standard of education is deemed to be higher in the US than in Australia, the poster may well have been asking if the American surveyed might not have done a lot better than their Australian cousins ?

        Short version: Harden up and stop being so sensitive

      • But… unknown is correct? Two minutes of googling will give you similar poll results referencing the US as opposed to Australia, with some very very whacky results.

        Jam your accusations of faux racism where the sun dont shine.

  • I remember coming across an article something like, “revisiting your science textbook”.
    It went over many of the old examples given in your eighties and nineties science textbooks (plenty still getting used today).
    It linked to studies disproving many of the examples given in the textbooks (note these studies were not done to try disprove, rather the opposite).
    The article got a lot of hatred even though it was not religious and didn’t link any Creation articles.
    I’d like to see half formed organs on the way to bringing a species to the next evolutionary stage.

    • What is your point? Science is not static. It develops theories and hypotheses to explain observable phenomena. If these fit the data better than alternatives then they become the accepted scientific explanation. This can change over time as our understanding of the universe improves through better analytical methods, instruments, and so on.

      I’d frankly be surprised if everything in an eighties science textbook was still the prevailing scientific thinking.

      • Goblin may be talking about the way some facts are presented to young children. I’m pretty sure that when we were taught about volcanoes in primary school there was no mention of plate tectonics, just that the lava came “from the centre of the Earth” (complete, if I remember correctly, with diagrams showing this). Clearly this isn’t true, but perhaps it was a way of explaining volcanoes without confusing things with more complex aspects. This is along the lines of “Wittgenstein’s Ladder” argument, so perhaps the article goblin refers to was using those examples to illustrate that term.

  • The evolution one is probably debatable depending on how you take the question. Yes evolution is going on around us, that’s unquestionable, however I remember hearing a story a few months ago saying that Human evolution has more than likely slowed to an almost stop.

    The theory was based on the fact that because so many conditions are now treatable, many people that should die before being able to pass on their defective genes are now and to live and and breed, taking survival of the fittest, and evolution, out of the equation.

    • It’s also because humans no longer really go through the process of adaptation, as I understand it. Instead of modifying ourselves by favouring traits that cope with the habitat we exist within, we modify our habitats to make them more suitable to our current form.

      Mind you, if you subscribe to the theory of an upcoming technological singularity, then it would mean that evolution for humans has only stopped in the “traditional” sense, having moved to a completely different order of natural selection, where physical traits are almost completely irrelevant.

      • I sorta agree with you, but I’d also counter that we are still undergoing adaptation. It’s just that it’s not as noticeable. Instead of becoming say, bigger or running faster people are getting more dexterous hands (thumbs particularly). And other traits that seem minor could be changing too (eyesight for example).

        • That’s possible, but two counter-counter-points are that (1) Such adaptations aren’t natural responses to our environment, per se, but are both a response to and an application of our environmental modifications, so don’t provide an evolutionary advantage (essentially, we’re getting better at using tools that we make while simultaneously making tools that are better for us to use); and (2) Our tools might be creating a mild devolutionary effect, by allowing traits to continue that normally would’ve selected individuals and groups out. That ranges from IVF to white skin (which is probably only to become increasingly harmful if climate change delivers a wider band of zones where melanin rich skin is more advantageous).

          Of course, that’s all contestable, and there are some adaptations that are still occurring – increasing height is the obvious one. But whether or not that is useful it evolutionary (as opposed to a cosmetic preference that is either non-evolutionary, or represents an evolutionary preference that is no longer useful) is an open question, as far as I know.

          • Adaptation is not evolution (appearance of new functional complexities). 2nd law of thermodynamics (yes, a scientific theory) says this won’t happen.

    • Depends on how you define “a year”. If you’d define it as 365 days, then you are (approximately) correct in adding the extra 6 hours, but if you define it as the period of revolution around the sun, then those extra 6 hours are built into the definition (along with the fact that the period changes over time).

      I can remember the last one of these, and thinking that I’d get the questions “wrong” because I would answer them in a more technical way, which would actually be more accurate. Such as depending on if you classify birds as dinosaurs, or that “a year” was a rather imprecise answer to the question given that proper scientists should be using SI units.

      • okay so if we do define it as a year and 6 hours leap years would no longer exist and we would have 6 hours added every year, then we would have the days progressively becoming the night and back every four years right?
        or would people just adjust their clocks to suit the time of day they think it is?

  • Ahhhh yes, all you clever people who ignore evidence and even though you WEREN’T THERE claim humans and dinosaurs didn’t co-exist. I mean, we’re not saying that they co-existed with ALL dinosaurs but they did. One day you will see. And be wrong still. Til then, have fun being wrong but thinking you’re right, Whatever.

  • Well when you go to a religious school and have compulsory religion classes tell you “It’s obvious to everyone the Earth is only 6000 years old. Anyone who thinks otherwise will burn in Hell after they die” it might make a few people think that way. A lot of Australians go to private schools, almost all of which are religious.

    • Yep, my kids go to a decent but cheap private school which teaches such nonsense (they also happen to be a damned good school, which is the only reason they go there). It’s a bit of a challenge to de-brainwash them every so often. I just don’t have the fervour and experience that the brainwashers do 🙁

      • i’ve only attended private schools in my pre-tertiary educational life, and none of them have ever tried to shove that bullcrap down my throat. I must have been lucky :p

        I’m one of those christians that follow the faith because I believe in the values and morals that it imparts, to try to be a good person and all that, and i’d like to pass those on to my kids, but I almost always side with science when it comes to arguments like these.

        Im sayin science and religion aren’t necessarily exlusive, it would be nice if there was someway to say they complement each other, lucky i ain’t a crazed-up creationist hehehe.

        edit: private schools meaning catholic schools in my case.

        • Y’know, what a lot of people don’t pay heed too is the fact that if you follow 9 of the 10 commandments, you’re going to live a pretty good life.

          That’s not something to be sneezed at. That’s something real and good.

        • Creation and science are completely compatible. It’s evolution theory that’s in trouble. Try the first and second laws of thermodynamics, Pasteur’s law of abiogenesis, carbon dating, probability theory and countless other scientific discoveries. Evolutionists will try to talk their way around these, but only with made up stories, not with scientific facts.

    • I was taught in school that it was just the human race that extended back 6000. Not that the earth itself is 6000 years old. The problem with any view, biblical or scientific, is that we don’t have a time machine yet, so it can’t be verified 100%. It could be 6000, or 6,000,000… ?

      • that’s where carbon dating etc come in, through trial and error they figure out the deterioration of the element across time and in certain circumstances and then can extrapolate to longer periods of time – with repeatable results.

    • Be careful when you say “exactly”. There are very few things in science that are “exact”. Especially when you consider that the duration of a revolution is changing over time as the sun loses mass.

    • I am a university biology teacher and publish regularly. Believe me it is not unusual to come across university students that do not know that the earth orbits the sun, let alone in what time. I am not surprised. Evolution? No comment necessary.
      A lot of it has to do with people not being told how things were worked out. That teaches a lot more science than simply telling people things. Unfortunately, few teachers actually have the comprehension to do so.

  • No one can be 100 percent certain about anything. For all we know we couldve came down in space ships and killed the dinosaurs with our ray guns. BTW God invented science.

      • Well, we can’t discount the possibility you may have evolved the ability to survive without oxygen and neither of us actually know it =)

      • You are correct. If I stop breathing I will either breathe in as an involuntary response, or I will pass out, and then I will breathe in as the conscious effort that was stooping me breathing ceases to apply.

        If I am starved of oxygen for long enough I will die, unless(as ZJ points out) I am some form of higher life that no longer needs O2 to survive and I haven’t realised it.

  • Here we go again. Everyone thinking they are the only one that is right and every other view is wrong (and crazy). How do you explain top Phd scientists who do not believe in evolution theory and prefer creationism as more plausible? By the way I passed both a psych test and a Christian theology test this week. Science obviously does not have all of the answers and spiritual matters are not easily understood by those that are spiritually disabled. Sir Isaac Newton believed the bible is absolute truth. Did that make him insane or a bad scientist? (Macro) evolution is the biggest load of bull I have ever heard and most rational people agree. Just because it may be popular with some people today will never make it true. Some of you talk like you are smarter than God.

  • 4 of 5 of these are minority groups… “Believed by Australians” is a major stretch….

    As for the fresh water thing.. 3% is a very low number and people aren’t really aware how much that actually is and how big the oceans are.. so it’s not a dumb thing at all.

    • So because I’m of Chinese descent (though both sides of my family have been here for over a hundred years and my grandfather was the first australian rules couch in his state to let aboriginals play with whites) i’m not an Australian.

      Are you also saying that because someone didn’t know something, that makes it NOT DUMB? Seriously?

  • You still hear about Darwin’s Moth as a more modern example of evolution.
    Apparently it is evolving to speckled white again.
    This mutated during the industrial revolution to be better camouflaged in a sooty environment.
    It’s mutation is no longer valuable and the white version, which never disappeared, is again the dominant variety.
    It’s a good example of natural selection, but far from evidence for evolution.
    These examples fit the creationist model just as well, that Moths have devolved into different varieties.

  • You can’t blame Jurassic Park and Terranova. In no way did they imply that humans lived alongside dinosaurs.

    In Jurassic Park, scientists recreated dinosaurs through fossilised samples and put them into some sort of safari park while in Terranova, future humans discovered a portal in which they could travel back to a parallel-universe Earth during the era of the dinosaurs.

    In both this cases, humans didn’t naturally lived alongside dinosaurs but created scenarios that allowed them to do so. I think very few people would have mistaken that.

  • Ive never seen my own words from someone else in a comments section of a website before.


    Ive always said that whether if im wrong, and there is a heaven etc, someone who has followed all the commandments but worship god will be going to heaven well before a christian who thinks following only the worship god commandment.

  • subsets…clades…etamology…extant…
    what is all this crazy talk.

    As far as i’m concerned….the Land of the Lost tv series of 1974 is a historical document
    I wont have any of you part-time professors dissing the Sleestaks.
    Remember when they battled the fire-breathing Dimetrodon.

  • “The Earth does not take a year to go around the Sun (believed by 41% of respondents)”

    You can’t prove this answer was 41% stupid, it could be 41% smartass.

    A calendar year (365 days) is shorter than the time it takes to go around the sun (365.25 days)

    • Nice try, but wrong.

      A year, by definition, is the amount of time that the earth takes to orbit the sun. It just happens to be 365 and a bit. If the earth took 17 days to orbit the sun, it would still be 1 year, just that a year would now be equal to 17 days.

      A CALENDAR year is a different thing to a year.

      • The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word “year” as either a tropical/solar year as you described or, just as reasonably, as a calendar year.

        I would blame the 41% fail rate on poor wording of the question over participant stupidity.

  • I see that Michael Behe’s pseudoscientific argument of irreducible complexity central to the creationist concept of intelligent design didn’t get a mention in the comments section.

    Many christians thought that Behe’s humble mousetrap disproved the theory of evolution until comprehensibly refuted in peer-reviewed research papers and rejected by the scientific community at large.

    Still, you have to hand it to them for continuing to come up with fiction to try and disprove evolution.

  • At first I thought that people thinking something along those lines might have skewed the results, but I looked at the report (had to search because broken link), and it looks like it was a multiple choice question, with the options being ‘A Day’, ‘A Week’, ‘A Month’, ‘A Year’, and ‘Not Sure’.

  • 1. Humans are dinosaurs…they just dont like being refered to as dinosaurs.
    2. Evolution is provably false because at superposition all organisms are the same organism and the only thing separating a superpositional organism is possibility…like which side of the peg the falling marble rolls off.

  • “It’s basically one of those trivia questions that you either know or you don’t.”

    Fresh water knowledge is trivial? I’m surprised at your take on that one. It’s only the amount of water we can actually drink!

    • I agree with the statement, like everybody should know there is vastly more sea water than fresh water, but if nobody has told them the exact percentage I could see an answer like “Less than 10%” being fine.

  • “…there is a significant fraction of the population that really don’t have a basic understanding of science and technology or know how the world works around us.”

    The scary part is a great many of the ignorant occupy postions of power in politics both here and overseas.
    They gravitate to politics because they failed at science and technology and talking BS is the only thing they are good at.

  • Rehashing again ? 2013 and twice this year (if not in 2016 as well) ? Are you sure this is still accurate, perhaps in the last 4.5 years people have got smarter, unlike LH regurgitating out of date stories.

    • The thing I hate most about rehashed articles is responding to a comment that is over 4 years old without realising it. This one has been rehashed multiple times, so the comments section is a mish mash of then, other then, and another then and now.

      I hope the author doesn’t get paid again for recycled content.

      • I can top that, i nearly posted a nearly identical comment years after the original because it was rehashed, only found out when doing a last minute comment scan.

        Infact i actually have a niggling feeling that i was writing the reply, found the old comment, went to reply saying how much i agreed with the commenter, only to find it was my own comment.

  • How did God come into existence? What was before God? Did he/she/it appear out nothing before putting all the stuff in the universe and making earth and various bits and bobs like cells, bacteria, diseases to name a few…and while he was making all that, did he think…mmm yes this Ebola virus might come in handy one day, so I will make it to kill humans in a particular way so if they chose not to follow the book of which I did not actually write but just sort of past on the info through various men, who wrote various versions into various books, which is then interpreted by various “scholars” that are heads of various rich religious organizations that still have not many answers to why God has just left us to do our own thing for so long after spending what must have been some considerable effort to make all the various bit and bobs that went into the universe, including that Ebola virus, surely just watching and being everywhere at the same time but only now and again throwing a miracle or two at us would not satisfy the God of everything, surely if we have not quite lived up to the initial draft involved in the making of the universe and we made that mistake with the apple right at the start of it all for pete sake!, he/she/it would have just made a better version without all the problems we have today?…maybe I digress a little, so lets get back to whats really important…a debate about religion and science.

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