Chris Mooney points me to some data on scientific knowledge indicators published by the NSF. There’s a controversy whereby evolution and Big Bang related questions seem to have been removed because American religious Fundamentalism tended to produce a rejection of sane consensus in these areas. Science pointed to the unedited chapters which have some international comparisons. I’ve reformatted a figure from page 103 below. No surprise that American comes out badly on evolution and the Big Bang, but what always strikes me when Russia is included in the list is how skeptical citizens are to conventional science. If you poke around the World Values Survey you don’t find the Russians to be a particularly religious nation, at least compared to Poland or the United States, despite a general shift back toward nominal Orthodox Christian affiliation after the fall of Communism. Rather, I suspect Russian rejection of mainstream science probably has its roots more in a broader skepticism of institutional elite knowledge. After all, the Marxist ideology under which they were tyrannized for 70 years made the pretense of being scientific and positivistic.
The line in the middle of the bar graph is 50%, and all the bars represent correct responses.