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Australians are stumped: nation fails basic science questions

world Updated: Jul 17, 2013 15:05 IST

One in four Australians believe humans co-existed with dinosaurs while one in three think it takes just one day for the Earth to orbit the sun, according to a "worrying" survey published Wednesday.

The Auspoll survey of 1,515 adults for the Australian Academy of Sciences showed basic scientific knowledge was declining on key questions, including human influences on evolution and the Earth's reserves of fresh water.

Only 59% of those surveyed knew that it took Earth one year to orbit the sun, a fall of two percentage points from the same survey three years ago - with 30% saying it took just one day.

Some 27% said the earliest humans lived at the same time as the dinosaurs, down from 30% in the previous survey; while 70% said they knew evolution was currently occurring.

10% said evolution was not occurring, 9% said they did not believe in evolution and another 12% said they were not sure - a similar result to 2010.

The proportion of those who believed humans were influencing the evolution of other species declined from 77% three years ago to 73%.

The survey polled Australians of 18 years and older, with the percentages rounded up.

"It's a worrying wake-up call to see scientific literacy declining among young adults, and to a lesser degree among the broader Australian adult population," said Les Field, secretary for science policy at the academy.

"We need to make a stronger commitment to science and mathematics education in this country or Australia will fall behind in those sectors which rely on our top thinkers such as research, innovation, manufacturing and more."