Half of Americans Aren’t Sure Big Bang Happened

The 10-meter South Pole Telescope and the BICEP (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization) Telescope at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station is seen against the night sky with the Milky Way in this National Science Foundation picture taken in August, 2008. In March, astronomers announced in that they had discovered what many consider the holy grail of their field: ripples in the fabric of space-time that are echoes of the massive expansion of the universe that took place just after the Big Bang. The gravitational waves were detected by the BICEP telescope. REUTERS/Keith Vanderlinde/National Science Foundation/Handout
The 10-meter South Pole Telescope and the BICEP (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization) Telescope at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station is seen against the night sky with the Milky Way in this National Science Foundation picture taken in August, 2008. In March, astronomers announced in that they had discovered what many consider the holy grail of their field: ripples in the fabric of space-time that are echoes of the massive expansion of the universe that took place just after the Big Bang. The gravitational waves were detected by the BICEP telescope. REUTERS/Keith Vanderlinde/National Science Foundation/Handout
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It’s just a theory, right?

Scientists be damned, slightly more than half of Americans are doubtful the Big Bang ever happened, according to a new Associated Press poll.

The poll, conducted in partnership with research firm GfK, asked respondents to rate their confidence in several scientific theories. The Big Bang fared the worst, with 51 percent of of those asked saying they were either “not too confident” or “not confident at all” that the universe began with an explosion 13.8 billion years ago.

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From the AP’s analysis of the findings:

Those results depress and upset some of America's top scientists, including several Nobel Prize winners, who vouched for the science in the statements tested, calling them settled scientific facts.

"Science ignorance is pervasive in our society, and these attitudes are reinforced when some of our leaders are openly antagonistic to established facts," said 2013 Nobel Prize in medicine winner Randy Schekman of the University of California, Berkeley.

The poll was conducted March 20-24, just days after astrophysicists announced newly discovered evidence supporting the Big Bang theory.

Political and religious beliefs appear to be factors in whether respondents were on board with the theory, according to the AP. The AP-GfK pollsters found less support for the Big Bang theory among Republicans, people who regularly attended church, and those with “faith in a supreme being.”

There were also respondents who weren’t comfortable with a theory about something that happened when no one was around to see it, according to the AP:

Marsha Brooks, a 59-year-old nanny who lives in Washington, D.C., said she's certain smoking causes cancer because she saw her mother, aunts and uncles, all smokers, die of cancer. But when it comes to the universe beginning with a Big Bang or the Earth being about 4.5 billion years old, she has doubts. She explained: "It could be a lack of knowledge. It seems so far" away.

Jorge Delarosa, a 39-year-old architect from Bridgewater, N.J., pointed to a warm 2012 without a winter and said, "I feel the change. There must be a reason." But when it came to Earth's beginnings 4.5 billion years ago, he has doubts simply because "I wasn't there."

Statements about evolution, climate change, and and the age of the Earth also faced strong resistance in the poll, according to the AP.

The survey wasn’t all bad news for Team Science. The statement “smoking causes cancer” topped the list of accepted scientific theories, with 94 percent of respondents saying they were “extremely,” “very,” or “somewhat” confident it was correct. Mental illness as a brain disease, genetic code theory, and concerns about the overuse of antibiotics leading to drug-resistant bacteria all found wide support in the poll.