On science, Americans are a little less dumb than Europeans

A new study also makes for embarrassing reading

Kate Lieb By Kate Lieb

A greater percentage of Americans go to science museums than Europeans. Here’s one new attraction in New York: the Space Shuttle Pavilion at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. (Reuters/Bill Ingalls/NASA/Handout)

Time to stop beating ourselves up about science learning in the U.S.?

Turns out that when it comes to basic scientific knowledge, Americans are not doing so badly, at least when compared with Europeans.

According to a new study carried out by the BBVA Foundation, the average American knows more about science than the average European.

The Foundation, funded by Spain’s number two banking group, BBVA, surveyed people in 10 European Union countries as well as the U.S. Out of 22 knowledge-based multiple choice questions (the options being: true, probably true, probably false or definitely false), 16 were answered correctly by a majority of American respondents. Overall, the U.S. placed fifth behind Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany and the Czech Republic, respectively.

That sounds pretty positive. But there’s a sting in the tail. When we get it wrong, we get it very wrong. Only 42.5 percent of us knew that the earliest humans didn’t live at the same time as the dinosaurs.  The only country that fared worse than America on that question was Italy.

The study also compared “closeness” to science through a variety of indicators, including general interest, science museum attendance (the U.S. was ahead of the European average here too) and connections to science professionals. The Danes and the Dutch dominated all categories.

At least the U.S. isn’t Spain, BBVA’s home country, which consistently ranked either worst or one of the worst in all categories.