To the people of the 31th century:
As the 20th century drew to a close, Americans had perfected polling methods to accurately indicate the position of the public on selected issues. The following information was derived from polls taken of Americans in 1998 and 1999. We think it may tell you a great deal about who we were.
In our society, roughly 80 percent of Americans believed there is a God and that humans are called before Him on a Judgment Day to answer for their sins. However, only 39 percent said religion was "extremely important" in their lives. So 41 percent figured they were being watched and judged by an almighty power who would reward or punish them for eternity, but it wasn't that big a deal.
Asked how human beings first appeared on this planet, 47 percent believed God created humans in their present form less than 10,000 years ago. Forty percent believed that humans evolved over millions of years from less advanced life forms, as scientists contend, but that God guided the process. Nine percent felt no God had a hand in the process.
So what's the truth?
You have figured it out by now, right?
We didn't think so.
Almost no Americans said they were "below average" in attractiveness or downright unattractive. Fifty-four percent said they were "average," 34 percent said "above average," and 8 percent said they were "beautiful" or "handsome."
So, clearly, we were a good-looking people.
When asked to mention the greatest political or governmental figure anywhere on Earth in the last thousand years, Americans most often named John F. Kennedy, a former president of the United States. No. 2 was Abraham Lincoln. The top seven were all Americans -- all former presidents of the United States, in fact. When asked to name the top sports figures of the previous hundred years, all the top answers were likewise Americans. Ditto for business leaders. Also, military leaders. Finally, when Americans were asked to name the greatest explorers, they named someone who was not American. He was from Italy, and he was first on the list. It was Christopher Columbus, the man who discovered America.
So, clearly, we were a proud people.
When a basic science question was asked of randomly selected adults, one in four people in Germany got the wrong answer. In England, almost one in three got it wrong.
The question was: Does the Earth revolve around the sun, or does the sun revolve around the Earth?
In our country, only one in five got it wrong.
So, clearly, we were an intelligent people.
In a related matter:
Asked to list the greatest inventions of the 20th century, most Americans mentioned the computer. However, more than one in four listed the automobile, the telephone or electricity, none of which was actually invented in the 20th century. Asked to expand their list to the greatest inventions of the previous thousand years, from the year 1000 to the year 2000, 3 percent of the respondents said "the wheel."
Americans overwhelmingly agreed with the following statements: The rich get richer and the poor get poorer; what I think doesn't count very much anymore; most people with power try to take advantage of people like me; the people running the country don't really care what happens to me; I do not feel good about the morals and values of Americans in general.
In separate polls, a majority of Americans said they were generally "satisfied" with the way things were going in the United States.
So, clearly, we were not an excessively demanding people.
People in our society had the option of paying for things in cash or with a credit card. The advantage of the credit card was that it was convenient. The disadvantage of the credit card was that it was too convenient, encouraging impulse buying, luring people into spending more money than they had, satisfying a hunger for material possessions at the expense of long-term security. In a poll, most Americans believed that the use of credit cards had been a change for the worse in their society. This was a higher percentage than felt that nuclear weapons were a change for the worse. In total, 68 percent thought credit cards were a bad thing.
This was precisely the same percentage of people who used credit cards.
Sixty-five percent of Americans said they focused more on the material aspects of Christmas than on the religious or spiritual aspects. But 88 percent felt others focused on the material aspect more.
Sixty-two percent of all Americans who had pets gave them Christmas presents. Two-thirds of those people hung a stocking for their cat or dog.
Asked to predict what the world would be like in 2025,
29 percent believed space travel would be common for ordinary Americans.
59 percent believed cancer would be cured.
66 percent believed the United States would have elected a woman president.
69 percent believed the United States would have elected a black president.
26 percent believed people would have made or received contact with alien life forms. Of those, 78 percent felt the aliens would be friendly.
Fifty-one percent of all Americans thought it either "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that human life on Earth would be destroyed by a nuclear or other man-made disaster in the next hundred years. Thirty-eight percent thought it "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that life would be destroyed by an asteroid, ozone layer problem or other environmental disaster. Even allowing for overlap, a strong majority of us felt that no one would be alive to read this in the year 3000.
But obviously, that is not true because you are reading this.
Unless . . .
Er, you are humans, right?