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Americans' Evolution Knowledge Isn't That Bad, If You Ask About Elephants ( 385

sciencehabit writes: In 2014, a poll showed that just 49% of Americans agreed with the statement: "Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals." But it's difficult to tell whether those numbers measure ignorance about science, because belief in human evolution is closely tied to religious belief, especially in the United States. Yesterday, researchers at the annual meeting of AAAS, previewed data from a recent poll showing that when the word "human" is replaced with "elephant" in the evolution question, 75% of Americans agree — about 25 percentage points higher than before. Plus, the new elephant question does a better job of predicting general science knowledge than the human question, especially among those who say they don't believe in evolution. So it seems that America's dismal performance on past evolution polls can be blamed at least partially on this disbelief, rather than a lack of knowledge.

Let the Campaign Edit Wars Begin 571

Hugh Pickens writes writes "Megan Garber writes that in high school, Paul Ryan's classmates voted him as his class's 'biggest brown noser,' a juicy tidbit that is a source of delight for his political opponents but considered an irrelevant piece of youthful trivia to his supporters. 'But it's also a tension that will play out, repeatedly, in the most comprehensive narrative we have about Paul Ryan as a person and a politician and a policy-maker: his Wikipedia page,' writes Garber. Late Friday night, just as news of the Ryan choice leaked in the political press — the first substantial edit to that page removed the 'brown noser' mention which had been on the page since June 16. The Wikipedia deletion has given rise to a whole discussion of whether the mention is a partisan attack, whether 'brown noser' is a pejorative, and whether an old high school opinion survey is notable or relevant. As of this writing, 'brown noser' stands as does a maybe-mitigating piece of Ryan-as-high-schooler trivia: that he was also voted prom king. But that equilibrium could change, again, in an instant. 'Today is the glory day for the Paul Ryan Wikipedia page,' writes Garber. 'Yesterday, it saw just 10 [edits]. Today, however — early on a Saturday morning, East Coast time — it's already received hundreds of revisions. And the official news of the Ryan selection, of course, is just over an hour old.' Now Ryan's page is ready to host debates about biographical details and their epistemological relevance. 'Like so many before it, will be a place of debate and dissent and derision. But it will also be a place where people can come together to discuss information and policy and the intersection between the two — a town square for the digital age.'"

Wikipedia Edits Forecast Romney's Vice Presidential Pick 300

Hugh Pickens writes writes "In 2008, as The Washington Post wrote at the time, 'just hours before [Sen. John] McCain declared his veep choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, her Wiki page saw a flurry of activity, with editors adding details about Palin's approval rating and husband's employment. ... Palin's entry was updated at least 68 times, with at least an additional 54 changes made to her entry over the preceding five days.' The obvious — in hindsight — implications of the Wiki activity: Aides were going into the entries to tune them up and clean out any material that was either embarrassing or erroneous. Now Mark Memmott writes on NPR that today's Wikipedia activity may lend a clue to Mitt Romney's vice presidential pick, expected to be announced within a few days. So what's going on now with some of those said to be among the leading possibilities to be joining Mitt Romney on the Republican ticket? On August 7, Rob Portman's Wikipedia page was revised 100 times, the Wikipedia page for Marco Rubio was revised 22 times, and the page for Tim Pawlenty was revised only 5 times. Of course, Memmott adds, somebody who knows about the 2008 Wiki tea leaves may just be messing with our minds."

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