New Survey: 1 in 4 Americans Believe the Sun Revolves Around the Earth

By Tom Yulsman | February 17, 2014 10:00 pm

You read that right. According to a new survey sponsored by the National Science Foundation, about a quarter of American adults evidently have been left behind by the Copernican revolution.

Which began almost half a millennium ago and ended 200 years later. That would be in the 1700’s.

(A quick aside: When I first posted this short piece, I was in such a state of absolute disbelief that I wrote a headline saying that 1 in 4 Americans believe that the Earth revolves around the sun.)

Okay, just for the record . . .

The heliocentric model was advanced by Nicolas Copernicus back in the 1500’s. Before then, the Ptolemaic view of the universe held that the Earth was at the center of everything. It was a model that didn’t die easily.

Galileo Galilei conducted observations of Venus with his telescope that gave strong support to the sun-centered model of Copernicus. Later, Isaac Newton figured out gravity (or at least the big picture), which explained the force that caused the planets, including Earth, to revolve around the sun. Case closed.

I have to say that I can’t believe I’m writing this. Suffice it to say that if you have a batty uncle or some such who hasn’t yet heard of the Copernican revolution, show him the video above of Venus transiting in front of the sun, as seen by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. I don’t know whether that will be helpful. But it could be a start.


  • eric

    You can thank, in part, Ken Ham, for this absurdity.

    • A Yelkon

      “The Bible is neither geocentric or heliocentric. It does not give any specific information about the structure of the solar system.” Ken Ham

      • John Shaw

        It DOES give the argument that the world is flat and round like a disc…stupid. Anyone who believes anything in that ridiculous book is not only an idiot, but a fool.

        • Rj Stephens

          It looks like you have not read THE BIBLE .It clearly states that the earth is a spereoid and that it is held in place by things ( eletromagnitism and gravity) not seen, while the rest of the world thought it was flat like you and Eric do. Matbe you should trust in science instead of an actor who protraits one

          • John Shaw

            Wrong sir. I haveread your bible over 7 times…which is one of the main reasons I am a Satanist/Atheist and NOT CHRISTIAN…

            Please see this for more information so that you may better understand your bible:


            There are other sources, but I’ll leave the rest of the due diligence to you…
            Hope that helps.

          • Rj Stephens

            I really doubt you have read it. You would understand the science behind it, for it proves GOD and HIS creation.

          • Melody Szabo


          • michael trust

            So you will find favor and good repute In the sight of God and man.Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.…

          • John Shaw


          • Timbo

            About as retarded as saying “I’m an Satanist/Atheist” Um, buddy? You can’t really be both. Maybe go read up on this stuff before you post in a public forum?

          • John Shaw

            Been reading about it for 30 years. Clearly you haven’t read about it which shows your ineptitude. If you knew what it was to be a Satanist you wouldn’t have made that comment you dolt.

          • Timbo

            Congrats on reading whatever you read for a long time. That, my friend, does not make you educated. Reading a lot does not make you a scholar.
            Sorry to burst your pretentious entitled bubble, but kid, nobody’s impressed…

          • John Shaw

            Actually, researching something and applying what you have learned, only to learn even more, is exactly what educated is. Obviously, this has also eluded you, among other obvious apparent things.

            Also, the fact that you said “nobody’s impressed” implies that you are just that…impressed.

            You can tell a lot about someone when you see the manner in which they choose to attack you. Also, your trolling makes you look a tad bit lonely. Suggestion…go out and actually talk to a girl…come on…you can do it. If you fail again, just get a dog…

          • Timbo

            So share with those reading along how one can worship Satan yet not believe God exists.
            Then, I’m happy to point out how much of an ignorant idiot you are.

          • John Shaw

            I am so happy you posted that. You just proved how ignorant you truly are. A Satanist does not worship Satan, as we do not believe in a god, a devil, an angel, demon, ghost,a unicorn, or anything supernatural. If we worship anything, it’s ourselves.

            You are thinking of devil-worshippers, or christian inversionists.

            You should really get your facts straight before touching that keyboard kiddo…lol

          • Tron78

            Had to back up this dude. The christians think one thing is true while it is false… well most things they believe are false LOL. Honestly the satanist name is very unfortunate due to the christian caricature of their organization… but then again the christian culture heavily reinforces the primitive instincts to be tribal. Personally, I think it funny how they claim you guys are so evil when actually their religion is based on human sacrifice, cannibalism and vampirism… with a touch of genocide for good measure.

          • Robin
          • ceeenbee

            “A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct. This every sister of the Bene Gesserit knows. To begin your study of the life of Muad’Dib, then, take care that you first place him in his time: born in the 57th year of the Padishah Emperor, Shaddam IV. And take the most special care that you locate Muad’Dib in his place: the planet Arrakis. Do not be deceived by the fact that he was born on Caladan and lived his first fifteen years there. Arrakis, the planet known as Dune, is forever his place.”

            — Princess Irulan, from “Manual of Maud’Dib”

          • Achillius Boone

            I personally think the bible has its place as it instills hope and good morals into the masses. … BUT I DON’T BELIVE IT AS OTHERS DO WHOLE HEARETDLY. Why? Because it has many holes and inconsistencies. I (like many others) was brought up in a church and taught by my mother and her mother and her mother. … (You get where I’m going) that God is good and serve him and DONT ASK QUESTIONS! …. but when you trace the history of christanity, it’s violent, unforgiving, and man made. . First of all christanity broke off from the Catholic Church. Why?…. during the crusades, many non believers where slaughtered in the name of man, oops I meant god if they didn’t convert. In saying that, after about 3 generations humans tend to forget the bloodshed and commit whole heartedly to the cause what ever it may be. As a black man from African decent (by the way Africa isn’t its true name given to it by the natives living there long before Europeans “discovered” it) anyway, my ancestors knew nothing about a bible or Jesus until our identities were striped and our minds beaten blank. We then accepted this religion….and today’s African American people will die over a book that was used to make them good slaves. …ha ha ha ha….. once again, theres nothing wrong with a book that teaches good morals but there is something wrong when you start lying to people and taking advantage of them by manipulating thier emotions (I.e. you tend to give more after you’ve heard some “good word or good music”) there is no magic man in the sky looking at you. .. there maby some drones but no magic man. .. he’ll if any thing I logically belive that an advanced race of beings came to earth and inverted us to the beings that we are today. …and I support that with this statement. … “life on earth exist because a certain set of conditions are present for it to exist. Who’s to say these conditions haven’t existed a million times over in different areas of the universe? Who’s to say there aren’t older advanced civilizations? Younger civilizations? Similar civilizations? Not you. And Not I! I feel like we as humans are a young race because we are capable of higher intellect but all too often we fall short due to our animalistic nature. Racism, religion, and general ignorance keep us from advancing..

        • Dave Coulier

          Isaiah 40:22 “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like
          grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads
          them out like a tent to live in.”

          A circle is not a sphere or globe. However, the Hebrew word “chugh” is translated as circle, or sphere or globe. Therefore the verse could just as easily (and does) claim the Earth is a globe. The Bible does NOT claim the Earth is a flat disc and Ken Ham has no bearing on what the Bible said centuries before he was born.

          • Hector Macias Ayala

            Then god is a glove, hast to cover us to see us.

      • Carlos Lamus

        I am a Christian. But the fact is that Satanism is NOT a belief in Satan. That would be Devil Worshipers. I got caught up in that label as well. If you read about the Satanic movement it does not worship Satan as a Real Deity but as a concept of Freedom and Rebelliousness. It is in reality a free thought movement. Most people, like myself, thought if you were a Satanist that you believed in the Devil. Nope. There are legitimate Devil Worshipers out there and they use the term Satanist as well. But they are 2 different things. Confusing isn’t it? But there is a webpage and everything. In summation, Satanists do NOT worship the devil. They are really just Atheists.

      • Mark aster

        Yes, the same guy, along with 1/4 of the US population that believe the Earth is 6,000 years old. Stupid me, I keep forgetting the Flintstones was a documentary…

    • X2000
    • themistrius

      I’d be curious to see what percentage of the population knew this BEFORE the Department of Education was created.

  • kieron George

    I don’t see why the eclipse by venus would mean anything more to a geocentrist than the lunar eclipse does.

    • Christian Kemp

      LOL, thats true.

  • Christian Kemp

    When I heard this I was shocked, but honestly I stopped been shocked when I see some of the other rubbish that people believe (i.e. ID). Its a sad state of affairs.

  • Spanky

    Ya, I guess that explains why everything is fffff’d up, uneducated people!

  • Gene Partlow

    An uneducated and insular nation can be more easily divided
    against itself, groomed to be consumers of ‘stuff’, sold snake
    oil and cajoled to re-elect presidents and congresses which
    pander to the lowest common denominators. This was
    inevitable back in the 1970s, when Wall St. and Congress
    spoke glowingly about shifting the USA economy from
    a manufacturing base to a service base. A manufacturing
    base needs some bare minimum level of education and
    rational capability in its labor force. A service based
    economy… not so much. At the time, scientists and
    educators warned of this loudly, but nobody listened.
    This tragic poll is one result. The great hate divide in
    the USA is another.

    • Arationofreason

      Let’s not be too hard on the ‘uneducated masses’ after all what difference does such a question make to their daily lives. People care about what effects them.
      On the other hand the fools in Government who told us this service sector fairy tale in 1970 were supposedly of the educated intelligentia as were all of their successors over the last 45 years. Yet what do we get as a response? $17 Trillion dollar debt and endless more Trillions in counterfeit money printing generated from more debt to solve the problem. Compared to these fools I believe our uneducated man on the street probably displays more sense in their daily lives than the majority of the …… who deign to lead us.

  • Emily Woods

    hahahahahahaha why am I not surprised?

  • fark

    In other countries most people dont even know the earth is a planet

    • belize

      Can you cite some evidence.I have lived in 7 countries in Europe, African and Latin America and found they know .

    • Hector Macias Ayala

      The rest of the world don’t produce stupid retarded TV content about alien beings, like The History Channel does.

      Or BS like Preppers, a display of complete morons, a waste of time.

  • Uncle Al

    1) That which supports religion supports religion.
    2) That which ignores religion supports religion.
    3) That which contradicts religion supports religion – test of faith!
    4) Anybody who criticizes is thereby proven unqualified to comment – and must be destroyed lest god(s) take offense.

    God save us from the congenitally inconsequential.

    • freqlink

      The greatest con of all

      • Buddy199

        There have been plenty of pseudo-religions that gave the abuses of theological religion a run for it’s money: Communism, National Socialism to name two recent examples.

    • DERP

      tell me more of the God you speak of. Perhaps he has an answer.

  • Andrew Kantor

    I’m trying to be an optimist here. What if these folks are simply ignorant? That is, they just never learned the truth. It’s not that they believe the sun revolves around the earth *despite* the evidence, it’s that they believe it because they’ve never been exposed to the evidence.

    If you heard that “half of Americans believe that atoms are the smallest particles there are,” you wouldn’t think they were stupid — just that they hadn’t learned about protons, neutrons, electrons, quarks, etc. So maybe it’s the same here.

    Like I said, looking for the half-full glass.

    • Paulette Patricia

      The point the author is trying to make is that this is further proof of the sad state of American science education. 1 in 4 means that 25% of Americans believe the sun goes around the Earth. Where we these people educated?

      • Jim Kirk

        Probably in the DarkRed of the Bible Belt…

        • Terrie400

          Do you always blatantly expose your own ignorance like this?

          • Pedantic Fascist Grammar Nazi

            10 States with the lowest rate of college degrees: West Virginia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nevada, Alabama, Oklahoma, Indiana, Tennessee
            8 or 9 of them are in the Bible Belt (US Census Bureau).

            38% of people without college degrees think the Sun revolves around the Earth (NSF). This correlates with the Bible Belt whether you like it or not.

            People in the Bible Belt are less educated _on purpose_ because religion is at war against science.

            “We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.” –Republican Party of Texas, 2012

            (For comparison: Massachusetts, Maryland, Connecticut, Virginia, New York, Vermont, New Jersey, Colorado, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island are the top 10 states granting graduate degrees, and 91% of them correctly state that the Earth revolves around the Sun. They are also *not* in the Bible Belt.)

      • JH

        Oh my. Ascribing way too much to this survey reflects its own special kind of hypereducated ignorance.

      • Cue Ememvee

        (1) at home. (2) Kansas.

        • Cue Ememvee

          This is NOT a joke, by the way.

    • freqlink

      I hope you are right and that ignorance is the key to this.

      I’m sure many people just don’t think about the world they live in very much; don’t look up at the stars and planets and actually observe their movements over time; don’t think outside of their small world; don’t leave their small town and simple lives; don’t read any science articles or watch youtube for anything more than the latest twerking craze.

      This makes me very sad and once again I feel compelled to apologize to the world for the mindless sheep that live among us.

    • Martin Johncox

      Wow, excellent point. As an aside, there is a never-ending stream of “Americans Are Fat and Dumb” surveys. It would be interesting to know if anyone is ever interested in what people outside of the US think about anything, and poll them. What do people in Asia, Africa, Europe, South America believe about the heliocentric model? I think the results would be really enlightening.

      • JH

        Well, from personal experience, I can tell you that Europeans believe whatever academics tell them almost without question (except about GMOs, where they believe everything Greens tell them).

        I’m really not sure which kind of ignorance is worse: unquestioning fealty or simple lack of knowledge.

        • Pedantic Fascist Grammar Nazi

          Thank you for your (rather useless) anecdotal evidence and straw man fallacy. Kindly demonstrate with proper data that Europeans don’t have evidence for what they believe.

          Just because you don’t understand reality–or how logic and data work–doesn’t mean that education equals “unquestioning fealty.” Don’t you think your obsession of demonizing people who know more than you is kinda silly?

      • Mickelodian

        “It would be interesting to know if anyone is ever interested in what people outside of the US think about anything, and poll them.”

        Yeah thats been done too! The EU for their part have a rolling program of doing it all day long every day. I’ve had my doorbell rang three times now in a year with EU folks doing ‘surveys’ and asking questions like this.

        The last one asked me questions specifically relating to robotics of all things.

      • Pedantic Fascist Grammar Nazi
    • David Latchman

      Ignorant is certainly the word for it but we must ask the reason why. Are they being taught this in school or are they choosing not to believe despite what they are being taught. The other possibility is that they are being taught that the Sun revolves around the Earth for a reason.

      Take the recent Nye-Ham debate. We may like to think that the Creationist/Evolution debate is new but it is not. It is in fact, an old debate that like that with Copernicus been settled.

      When Darwin advanced his Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection, it predicted an old Earth. This fit in with his observations as a geologist. The problem is that Thomson, aka Lord Kelvin, who was a devout Christian saw a young Earth and Sun as was described in the Bible.

      To be fair, Thomson had good reason for what he believed. The math supported his conclusions. The man was a brilliant theoretical physicist and based on his thermodynamic calculations, neither the Earth nor Sun could be more than 500 million years old. At best it was around 20 million.

      But his calculations were incomplete. He didn’t and couldn’t know about things like nuclear fusion or radioactivity which did account for a billions year old Earth and Sun. Despite that debate having been settled about a century ago with the discoveries of fusion and radioactivity, evolution is still being questioned when it should not.

      So the question is, why do people believe this? Is it a flaw in our education system or something else? Are they choosing to ignore basic science at the expense of religious belief? It could be all of the above. Until we find out, we will never know.

      • Rj Stephens

        Ignoring the basic science , Laws of thermodynamics, and in carbon dating of soft tissue. We all know that carbon 14 half -life is 5700 years old and is only good for thousands of years and not millions. So when a claim of dinosaur protiens is millions of years old, has to make a inquistive mind wonder where they get their “science”. Just takes a little effort to find these facts, unfortunatly many people are too lazy to question propaganda.

        • Maximillien Hefley

          The problem with your idea, as presented, is that it indicates an incomplete understanding of the term “half-life”. The half-life of a radioactive sample is the time it takes for one half of the sample at time t=0 to decay. At any point on the timeline, t can be set equal to 0 and we can measure again. It is mathematically modeled by f(x) = e^p, where p<0 or exponential decay, and only as time approaches infinity does the sample decay to nothing. So, in theory, with a known starting sample size, carbon dating can be used to measure any magnitude of time including into the billions. In practice, it serves as a starting point for physicists and proves beyond a doubt that the earth is far older than a few thousands years, or even a few tens of thousands. Also, while the general feeling of your post was understandable, the specifics were a garbled mess of bad grammar. Please proofread.

          • Rj Stephens

            Sorry you felt my grammar was not up to your standards , although it was not bad nor, garbled. Measurable carbon dating is 50k yrs +/- 7500. The 1st law of thermodynamics, in a nutshell, states that matter cannot be created nor destroyed.

          • breeves2000
          • Mickelodian

            Actually no, the first law of thermodynamics does not state that nucleosythesis is impossible…were that the case the sun would not be shining and nuclear power stations wouldn’t work.

            What it states is that energy has a conservation equilibrium…

            But that does not strictly apply in the quantum world either.

            So you can make matter from energy and he other way around.. What you can’t do is delete any …

            It also applies to a closed system. If the system receives any energy at all externally then that needs to be considered. It can’t just be counted as magic extra energy.

          • Indyhere

            Max, Be careful not to confuse the issue. Carbon dating is only good for about 50,000 years (upper limit 75,000 years).
            Scientists use the half life of the Potassium / Argon radioactive decay system to measure dates above 100,000 years. Look it up on wiki.

        • Indyhere

          Hi RJ,
          Good question that deserves a good answer. Carbon 14 is only good for measuring up to 50,000 years (with certain techniques it can be pushed to 75,000 years). This is clearly well below the range needed to measure dates for Dinosaurs.
          In order to measure Dates in the millions of years, scientists use Potassium Argon Dating. This radioactive decay system has a much higher half life and allows measurements from 100,000 years up to over the 4.5 billion years the age of the earth. (If you notice… we have a gap between 75,000 years using carbon dating until we get to the base level of 100,000 years with K/Ar. I don’t know if we have anything to cover those years, but other stratigraphy methods allow approximations.)
          Anyway… look up Potassium Argon dating on wiki or other physics sites. The math is not to hard to understand and some sites can be found that summarize it all quite nicely.
          Just a word of caution… never date a dinosaur… potassium today and they are gone tomorrow. Get it??? Argon :) ok… nevermind. :)

          PS… There are other isotopes with other half lives that back up the date ranges as well. Scientists have overlapping tools to help verify the results.

        • Mickelodian

          “We all know that carbon 14 half -life is 5700 years old ”

          We all know this…. but seemingly 25% of Americans can’t tell you that the Earth orbits the Sun! Really?

          I’d say offhand less than 1% of American know what a half life is, let alone what the half life of C12, C13 or C14 is!

      • SwampOgre

        Evolution is being rejected by Christian fundamentalists because it conflicts with the core of Christian theology. If the science is right, theology is wrong, and they can’t bear to think that. Creation had to be perfect, then there had to be a fall from grace, and that’s why we need the savior Jesus. If life just evolved, it never was perfect and we don’t need a savior, we don’t need to be “saved.” That’s why Christians can’t let go of creationist ideas.

        • Noloferratus

          Wrong the facts all point to a flat earth and a persons religion is not important to knowing the truth and rejecting the lies of the Free Masons.

      • Shotgun Sus

        Coz we realised we have been lied to. #autocadproof #nocurve
        #steelbridge #itsfnflat

      • Mickelodian

        Thomson also thought the sun burned coal as a fuel. He had to think that for it to be a young star… The alternative was his physicist mind that would have twigged him to the sun being a tad older than that.

        Rather ironically Thomson also had this pet hate of powered flight and concluded it was impossible. He actually lived to see aircraft.

    • Hector Macias Ayala

      Most people in this planet been never exposed “to the evidence”. That is just too much ignorance and you should be worried about how to fight instead of how to excuse it.

    • SwampOgre

      I’d say you’re too optimistic. Atoms, particles and electricity should have been taught in elementary school science. If the kids were too dopy to pay attention and learn by doing in simple lab exercises, they will reap (such a biblical word!) the results of the stupidity they have sown in their badly developed minds.

    • Melody Szabo

      The American school system is among the worst in the world. It caters to every kind of separatist mentality you can imagine: private schools for the ruling class, home schooling for fascist militia types, religious schools for every kind of violent ideology you have and have not heard of. The solution, is of course, one public school system, which everyone attends. Religion happens at home. If you don’t like it, leave. Syria needs people so I’m told.

    • Mickelodian

      The questions are published and where I get your point on this occasion its not the case.

      But in other cases then yeah, sure, that makes sense. We can’t all be expected to know everything about everything or even give a damn. Not everyone spends 3 hours a day trawling science papers.

  • LVG26

    >>…My surprise reached a climax, however, when I found incidentally that he was ignorant of the Copernican Theory and of the composition of the Solar System. That any civilized human being in this nineteenth century should not be aware that the earth travelled round the sun appeared to be to me such an extraordinary fact that I could hardly realize it.

    “You appear to be astonished,” he said, smiling at my expression of
    surprise. “Now that I do know it I shall do my best to forget it.”

    “To forget it!”

    “You see,” he explained, “I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.”

    “But the Solar System!” I protested.

    “What the deuce is it to me?” he interrupted impatiently; “you say that we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work.”<<

    — Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet

    • JH

      In my job, I frequently have to do some extremely modest calculating. Stuff like this: “I need 37 of those, and they come in layers of eight. I need four layers plus 5”.

      This approach, sadly, seems to be revolutionary among my colleagues, who are prone to approaching the problem this way: “lets see, I need 37 of those. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven….” It’s fortunate we never need 11,572 of anything. What happens if you lose count?

      Unfortunately, if I were to survey my colleagues, I’d probably find that nine out of ten – perhaps 19 of 20 – approach this problem by counting. I find that far more disturbing than the results of this survey.

  • Jim Nelson

    Obviously the Ptolemaic view isn’t dead yet.
    Who’d they poll? College students?

  • Vondruke

    It’s more likely that 25% of the people surveyed didn’t understand the question.

    • Natasha Wadlington

      I think it was a straight forward enough question. “Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth?” I’d be interested in the demographics of who answered that question to see if there were any generalized populations who answered incorrectly. Maybe those are our target audiences to reach out to for science education at least on this subject.

  • DirkPitts

    It’s not “crazy uncles”… 25% of the people just answered without thinking.. which is bad, but not as bad as people are making this out to be.

    If you ask the question with diagrams of the solar system, I’m sure well over 98% of people would get the answer right. People fundamentally understand what the solar system looks like.. that planets go around the sun. People were just mixed up by the poll question.

    The same NPR report linked here mentions that in the European Union, 1/3 of the participants answered incorrectly. It’s not because they have more “crazy uncles” than the US.

    • IAteLunchToday

      Yeah, I agree. I just posted a comment saying that I think the question must have been phrased in a confusing way. I can’t think of anyone that I know that actually believes that and now I’m supposed to believe that 1 in 4 people I meet think that. I think maybe 1 in 4 people actually think this poll is accurate.

    • Hector Macias Ayala

      If they have to think about it, it is a bad sign anyway.

  • Buddy199

    They misunderstood the question most likely. Literally, the Sun does appear to circle the Earth each day from morning to night fall. However, I don’t think this survey means the respondents would be amazed if informed that the Earth actually orbits the Sun in space.

  • Rus Archer

    and if we keep telling people that this is a new idea, they might believe it

    • JH

      Marketing rules.

  • Doug Morrell

    I’m actually surprised it’s not higher. I’d be interested to know what percentage of US individuals think the world revolves around them. I would bet it’s close to 100%. (And who could prove any of them wrong?)

  • Gaetano Albert BonGiovanni

    But the sun does orbit the earth… wait, what?

    “Astronomers have calculated that it takes the Sun 226 million years to completely orbit around the center of the Milky Way. In other words, that last time that the Sun was in its current position in space around the Milky Way, dinosaurs ruled the Earth. in fact, this Sun orbit has only happened 20.4 times since the Sun itself formed 4.6 billion years ago.”

    Read more:

    @guyatree 140218

  • DERP

    Maybe some of them brain farted. It’s so absurd, I would probably answer the same if it were in multiple-choice format. “Of course it orbits us, stupid!”

  • syahran wael

    kalau terbukti maka apa yang kita pelajari selama ini salah……harapan saya semoga para ilmuan dapat memberikan pencerahan yang lebih baik tentang kebenaran majalah ini. . . . . . . . mari kita tunggu update yang lebih baik. terima kasih ibu sinay sudah berbagi.

  • disqus_GS46e5I0h0

    amazing how many people take surveys seriously. someone you don’t know says he asked some other people you don’t know what they thought, then generalizes the specific with math models, and tells you it’s a fact. 2200 isn’t a significant number. ask another 2200. then another. you still won’t know what the whole population believes. besides, the number of people who believe in surveys is the real scary number. the rule of three applies – if you hear it once, and read it twice, it must be true. also to be considered is the population sampled is made up of people who take surveys. how skewed can you get? remember, there’s lies, d*mned lies, and statistics. ask 2200 of your closest friends.

  • Indyhere

    All is not lost. While it may be fun to smirk at those who botched the question… be careful not to fall into the equally flawed group who instantly believes all polls are perfect.
    When given the ability to explain an answer instead of selecting a multiple choice… you will find that many people *do* understand the concept but might have just had a perspective problem.
    As Einstein noted… many things are relative to your observational mindset. Even though a person may “know” the earth goes around the sun, if they are thinking of watching a sunrise and sunset while answering the question, they may reflexively answer that the sun is moving around the earth. It’s an easy perspective mix-up. Does this mean the person is scientifically illiterate? Maybe not.
    Also… how much “value investment” does the test taker have in focusing on getting the question right? If it’s a casual survey, many people will fill in random answers like Ferris Bueller. If there is no reward or consequence, many people won’t take the survey seriously.
    Also keep in mind that there are many other bias factors that can skew a population to answer incorrectly. There may be some “English as a Second Language” barriers. There may be other cultural barriers. The question itself may be flawed.
    Our culture has become increasingly led by the nose by politicians, statisticians, corporations, and media pundits. …To the point where we lose our ability to think critically. And while I agree with the idea that we should invest more in science education as a nation, people need to be careful to not categorize things in simplistic terms.
    Sure… a quarter of the people got the multiple choice sun/earth question wrong. But if you are going to expect exactness and look down your nose at them… you are just as wrong as they are. Because in reality… the other 3/4’s got the answer wrong too. The real answer is “none of the above”. The earth and the sun *both* go around each other. Even though it’s ever so small… our earth pulls on the sun and the sun ever so slightly orbits the earth as well. This is how we tell other stars have planets going around them. Those planets pull on the star and make it’s path wobble. Our planets do the same to our sun… including the earth. The sun indeed goes around the earth as the earth goes around it.
    For those who didn’t know that… don’t feel bad. It’s a perspective mix up. Plus the questionaire didn’t provide you with the correct answer to begin with. Plus there is no way to explain the real perspective since you have to check off a bubble sheet. Polls can be very inaccurate… and most times will only reveal what the question writers want to have revealed.
    For those who still insist the earth exclusively only goes around the sun (after reading this)… it is a really sad day indeed. (Or should I say year?)

  • aram harrow

    It’s not a great question since Einstein’s covariance principle means there is no preferred coordinate frame. Coordinate systems exist where the Earth is stationary and the sun orbits it, or where Mars is stationary and the sun orbits Mars, etc. None of these systems is more “true” or “false” than any other, but some are clearly more useful than others for solving problems of interest for people living on Earth.

    Obviously that’s not what most of the 26% were thinking, but it does make it a bad question to beat them up on.

  • blue 101

    There is something wrong here. It implies that one out of 4 people that you and I know believe that. I don’t think I know anyone who believes that. I want to see how this “survey” was carried out, who exactly were the test subjects and how the questions were worded. The author of this article said he began by making a mistake writing the headline. People could have also made a mistake in answering the questions.

  • umbrarchist

    We can thank a lot of the nitwits running our grade schools. I didn’t get a science course until highschool and got straight A’s in biology, chemistry and physics but I never got an explanation of the solar system and the seasons. High school classes took for granted that we knew that stuff. I only learned it as a result of reading lots of science fiction which led me to what concepts to research.

    My sister told me that a nun said to her that “science and religion don’t mix”.

  • David Landy

    Although Copernicus did indeed suggest heliocentrism, and apparently came up with it independently, it’s not like it was new with Copernicus. Many people, including Archimedes, had previously adhered to heliocentrism. “Before then, the Ptolemaic view…” suggests an excessively simplistic view of history.

    Doesn’t call into question the thrust of the results. It just seems like in a science blog we have an obligation to try to be fairly precise.

  • RedWell

    Calm down, everybody. This is probably an artifact of psychological shortcuts and heuristic simplifications. These Harvard grads, for example, thought the seasons are caused by the Earth getting closer and further from the Sun:

    • JH

      Thank you. My point exactly.

  • Von Vechburg

    To those who are reading and still believe the sun orbits
    around the earth, you are wrong but you have the right for your own opinion. Let
    me tell you why the earth orbits the sun and not the other way around. Think of
    it this way; the greater the mass the greater the gravitational pull. Our sun
    has the greatest mass in our solar system, so it pulls all the lighter ones,
    including earth. And we do not crash and burn because earth is in motion, like
    a ball on a string you are pulling it towards you but the balls motion keeps it
    from hitting your hand. That is why I ask you to abjure this idea. Would you
    like to be left behind, while the rest progress?

    • Edwin Roger

      Although you have the right concept Von i believe you made a small mistake.gravity exerts the same amount of force on every object. The mass only determines how a certain object is affected by gravity. for example the sun weighs more than the earth so the force of gravity affects the earth more than the sun.

      The people that got interviewed in this article didn’t get exposed to the fact the earth revolves around the sun or they just didn’t think it was relevant. That’s why i think science should be greatly implemented and required into elementary, middle, and high school. This way people could be informed about the solar system and other sciences like biology and chemistry. saying the sun revolves around the earth would be like saying protons are the smallest particles in the universe its not that people are ignorant its just that they never knew about it.

      • Henry Clay

        I can understand why people wouldn’t think that knowing the earth revolves around the sun benefits their daily lives. I could also see how some people somewhere never learned such information. However, this is America. In America we have a pretty good school systems, or at least good enough to know which heavenly body revolves around which. Nearly everyone in the country is taught that the earth goes around the sun; its common knowledge. If 25% of Americans didn’t pay attention to their teacher in elementary school and actually still believe in the Ptolemaic model, they are ignorant, no excuses.

    • Jerry Engelbach

      Actually, Von, the greater mass doesn’t do all the pulling. The lesser masses pull as well. The Sun doesn’t stand still. It is pulled by the Earth and the other planets, although to a much smaller degree. So the Sun and the planets orbit each other. So too do the Earth and Moon orbit each other.

  • Voyce Suvreason

    The Ptolemaic view of the universe was a great example of Consensus Science. Global Warming is another.

  • eetom

    Someone was asking, “I thought the sun and all the planets and moons revolve around me! You mean they don’t?”

  • IAteLunchToday

    I don’t believe it. I think the question must have been phrased in an odd way. I mean, seriously, can anyone really think of anybody they know that believes that? I can’t.

    • Daniel Brown

      Click the link to see the actual study:

      The question” “Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth”
      26 percent of those surveyed answered incorrectly.

  • Mark Zarraonandia

    And in a related story, 49% of Americans voted for Obama in 2012.

  • Jerry Engelbach

    Well, Tom, if you know anything about gravity you should know that the Sun and Earth actually orbit each other.

    There are no fixed bodies in the universe. The Earth’s affect on the Sun is so tiny as to be almost undetectable, but it is there. The perturbations of distant stars are how astronomers know that they have planets.

    The geocentrics don’t understand this, of course. They’re arguing from ignorance. But since Relativity, we’ve known that “the Earth orbits the Sun” is only a half-truth.

  • Jason

    Considering the Earth is my frame of reference and from an outside observer my frame of reference is spinning, the entire Universe is revolving around the Earth. So only 26% of Americans got the answer correct. Now if we are talking about “orbiting” thinks get a little muddier. But to answer the question correctly, the Sun “revolves” (definition: move in a circle on a central axis) around the Earth.

  • got2berealistic

    i would have answered wrong just to screw with their stupid study.

  • Alexthekay

    Just looked it up. This “new survey” was supposedly conducted two years ago, and released two months ago. This is hardly how such surveys are normally done. I don’t buy it.

  • James Phillips

    Things are about to change! Once this movie hits the theaters a whole lot more people are going to realize that — sure enough the sun (and the entire universe!) acutally go around the Earth!

    “The Principle” (,
    the serious scientific (yet extremely entertaining) movie long in the making and with the greatest of scientific implications, Has A Major Announcement To Make! See

  • SwampOgre

    The Bible is not a science book. You religious morons need to stop trying to peddle it as such. When you stand on flat ground and look around, you see the horizon as a circle. Evidence of the spherical shape of the earth is seen from the fact that an approaching group with a tall flagpole is seen flag first, then pole, then the group. Columbus figured out the roundness from watching ships sailing away, seeing the tops of sails last. Preachers need their butts kicked for preaching nonsense and spreading disinformation. The Bible is a historic document only, with myths, history and stone age moral dictums. It’s going to be recognized as such in the future and cease being a guide to living of any more value than Andrew Carnegie’s How To Win Friends And Influence People. And those who try to spread biblical mythology are going to reap the reward of that every peddler of ignorance and superstition reaps, being tossed into the scrap heap of history.

  • Joseph Guidry

    The sun most certainly does circle the earth, every day. they just don’t want you to view things from your own perspective.

  • Markm Mitchell

    This is so sad –

  • Tina

    I know this article is old but did anyone read the original article?

    “As alarming as some of those deficits in science knowledge might appear, Americans fared better on several of the questions than similar, but older surveys of their Chinese and European counterparts.”

    Also, I’m sure people were just answering without thinking it over. The questions might have been written in a purposely confusing way. Who is going to write about 100% of people believing that the Earth revolves around the Sun? No publicity there…

    Goodness, some of these comments are just asinine! I don’t even know where to begin…

  • gregoryvii

    Not being a scientist, my opinion would not hold much weight, but after watching “Journey to the Center of the Universe” DVD, it seems to me that Sungenis has put forth some sound points concerning geocentrism.

  • JohnnyBGood

    Did you clowns even read the friggen article and the link?

    The NPR article clearly states:

    ‘to the question “Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth,” 26 percent of those surveyed answered incorrectly.’

    and further goes:

    ‘As alarming as some of those deficits in science knowledge might appear, Americans fared better on several of the questions than similar, but older surveys of their Chinese and European counterparts’

    So Fat, Lazy, Stupid Americans (infidel doggs) are not so stupid after all. Europeans can be dumber.

  • Kyle MacDonald

    Heliocentric model of the solar system is Roman Polytheism under a sci-fi veneer. If you think earth is s spinning ball in space, you are deeply religious. The globe is your new cross.

  • Shotgun Sus #autocadproof #nocurve
    #steelbridge #itsfnflat

  • Brady Nicol

    I’m 13, so maybe I’m ignorant, but isn’t the geocentric model true as well. It seems that the geocentric model just takes the earth, puts it in the middle, and builds around it. It may be a more complicated and outdated model, but it still predicts the planetary movement in relation to the earth. The heliocentric model is just simpler with elliptical orbits rather than weird deformed orbits in the geocentric model. Maybe I’m in that 25%.

  • Noloferratus

    Anyone with a precision gyroscope can prove the earth does not spin in a simple test that takes about 15 minutes so why should anyone be surprised that people no longer believe the Free Masonic lies?

  • Guy

    But, but…. Y’all ain’t living on no 1000mph spinning wobbling whirling twirling balll, orbiting around the sun at 66,600mph chasing the sun thru the Milky Way galaxy at 250,000 mph. Do any of y’all feel yourselves spinning??? Little clue: water ALWAYS seeks its lowest level and takes the shape of its container. It also Always lays flat and level across the surface. Listen closely because here is what you must understand folks, if 70 % of the earths surface is covered with water, and water ALWAYs seeks the lowest level and takes the shape of its container and lays FLAT and LEVEL across the surface. Then my friends there is no way the earth can be a ball if 70% of our earth is covered with FLAT and LEVEL water. That’s why we call it sea LEVEL and not sea curve. Case closed!



ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.


See More


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Collapse bottom bar