We are regularly confronted with evidence that that are many very dull knives in the American drawer: 20% of our fellows “know” that the sun revolves around the earth; 31% believe “the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally word for word”; 58% of Republicans aren’t convinced that Barack Obama is a United States citizen, while 52% identify as “true” the assertion that Obama “sympathizes with the goals of Islamic fundamentalists who want to impose Islamic law around the world”; and—brace yourself—46% of Americans believe that Adam and Eve actually rode dinosaurs to church, that is, that God “created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.”
For many moons I have considered this last stat the most depressing, for in this one sweeping statement nearly half the country more or less blithely rejects all of the arts and all of the sciences, all at once.
Today, however, I am plunged further into gloom, because until this morning I had somehow managed to miss the results of this July 2006 survey, which revealed the following:
—while 77% of Americans can successfully name two of Snow White’s “Seven Dwarves,” only 24% could name two justices currently serving on the United States Supreme Court;
—some 60% of respondents correctly identified Krypton as the home world of Superman, but only 37% named Mercury as the planet closest to the sun;
—a similar 60% knew Homer to be the father of Bart Simpson, but only 21% could recall an epic penned by the Greek poet Homer;
—and 73% of fellow Americans could name all Three Stooges; only 42%, however, could identify the three branches of the federal government.