In our forthcoming book, Unscientific America, Chris and I mention those national surveys where regularly, a large percentage of U.S. citizens fail to correctly answer basic science questions that they supposedly learned in school.
Last Friday, the latest results were released from the most recent quiz by the California Academy of Sciences and Harris Interactive. (See how you do answering test questions here).
From Science Daily:
Despite its importance to economic growth, environmental protection, and global health and energy issues, scientific literacy is currently low among American adults. According to the national survey commissioned by the California Academy of Sciences:
* Only 53% of adults know how long it takes for the Earth to revolve around the Sun.
* Only 59% of adults know that the earliest humans and dinosaurs did not live at the same time.
* Only 47% of adults can roughly approximate the percent of the Earth’s surface that is covered with water.*
* Only 21% of adults answered all three questions correctly.
Knowledge about some key scientific issues is also low. Despite the fact that access to fresh water is likely to be one of the most pressing environmental issues over the coming years, less than 1% of U.S. adults know what percent of the planet’s water is fresh (the correct answer is 3%). Nearly half didn’t even hazard a guess. Additionally, 40% of U.S. adults say they are “not at all knowledgeable” about sustainability.
But, wait a second… Before rushing to attack the American education system, first consider: What do such quizzes actually reveal? Is it fair to use the results as evidence of scientific illiteracy? Furthermore, what does that term really mean?
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