19 July 2012


29% of surveyed European citizens believe the Sun goes around the Earth, and 23% think the earliest humans lived at the same time as the dinosaurs (11% "don't know" or refuse to answer). Arg. How can we can have logical discussions if basic knowledge is ignored?

Photo credit: Total sun eclipse, (c) Valérie Desnoux

Here is the full quiz – answer by true or false:

1. The Sun goes around the Earth

2. The centre of the Earth is very hot

3. The oxygen we breathe comes from plants 

4. Radioactive milk can be made safe by boiling it

5. Electrons are smaller than atoms

6. The continents on which we live have been moving for millions of years and will continue to move in the future

7. It is the mother’s genes that decide whether the baby is a boy or a girl

8. The earliest humans lived at the same time as the dinosaurs 

9. Antibiotics kill viruses as well as bacteria 

10. Lasers work by focusing sound waves

11. All radioactivity is man-made 

12. Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals

13. It takes one month for the Earth to go around the Sun

The data comes from a very official report published by the EU commission in 2005. There is a strong correlation (-0.72 coefficient, and even -0.95 by removing 4 outliers out of 32 data points which strangely include the 3 Baltic states) between the percentage of correct answers and the belief in a god, stronger at least than the correlation between the correct answers and GDP per capita at 0.61 (testing the assumption that richer countries have better education systems). Cause and effect?

Further reading:

  • Full report, read page 40 in particular, and page 41 for the averages per country)
  • Data on religious belief in Europe
  • Spreadsheet with data and calculation of correlation coefficients