The following table shows differences in responses, by theistic confidence (for whites only), to the science module of items deployed by the GSS during 2004 and 2006 (except for the last 3 questions, which were asked in 1993, 1994, and 2000). Theistic confidence is characterized by breaking respondents up into three groupings: 1) Atheists and agnostics (8.2%), 2) those who believe in an undefined higher power or fluctuate between theistic belief and doubt (34.1%), and 3) those who are express certainty in God's existence (57.6%). Some of the questions are inverted from the GSS for viewer ease so that in all cases, the higher the percentage, the more knowledgeable the group is. Green indicates the relatively best performance; black indicates middling performance; and red indicates relatively poor performance:
|Astrology is not scientific||77.2||70.4||69.7|
|The benefits of science exceed the harms||80.3||81.8||75.7|
|Understands the need for control groups in testing||90.6||84.8||80.6|
|The earth's core is very hot||97.8||93.7||91.7|
|Demonstrates a basic understanding of probability||97.2||94.3||95.6|
|Not all radioactivity is man-made||92.7||88.3||82.8|
|Father, not mother, determines a child's sex||72.7||71.9||80.3|
|Lasers are not made by condensing sound waves||85.2||82.1||67.8|
|Electrons are smaller than atoms||83.8||73.1||73.9|
|Antibiotics do not kill viruses||69.0||67.4||64.9|
|Continental drift has and continues to occur||97.5||95.1||87.6|
|Humans evolved from other animals||91.1||78.0||32.0|
|The earth revolves around the sun||91.5||81.9||79.2|
|It takes the earth one year to rotate around the sun||93.4||80.0||76.4|
|Respondent will eat genetically modified foods||83.4||80.6||65.3|
|The north pole is on a sheet of ice||76.1||69.5||59.3|
|Not all man-made chemicals cause cancer when eaten||58.6||52.7||50.4|
|Exposure to radioactivity doesn't necessarily lead to death||82.9||79.7||73.2|
|Exposure to pesticides doesn't necessarily cause cancer||75.0||69.8||61.7|
It's a blowout. Atheists and agnostics demonstrate higher levels of basic scientific knowledge across the board, the only exceptions being a marginal difference with skeptics over the presumed benefits of scientific progress and the question regarding whether the mother or father determines an offspring's sex, where believers shine. They're the ones having kids, after all, so they should know.
I would've predicted non-believers to be more inclined to grant scientific legitimacy to astrology, but that's not the case.
That fewer than one-third of firm theists believe that macroevolution has occurred is a fraction even smaller than I thought it would be. Evolution really is the contemporary defining issue for the fight between science and religion. Parenthetically, I wonder how the 9% of atheists and agnostics who do not believe in evolution account for humanity in its current state.
GSS variables used: GOD(1-2)(3-5)(6), RACECEN1(1), RACE(1), ASTROSCI, SCIBNFTS, EXPDESGN, ODDS1, HOTCORE, RADIOACT, BOYORGRL, LASERS, ELECTRON, VIRUSES, CONDRIFT, EVOLVED, EARTHSUN, SOLARREV, EATGM, ICESHEET, SCITEST5, GRNTEST1, GRNTEST5