The preponderance of American adults are convinced – in accord with what can only be described as self-evident truth – that scientific research and education are of vital importance to our civilization.
As reported in a recent Harris interactive survey sponsored by the California Academy of Sciences, American adults “believe that scientific research and education are important. About 4 in 5 adults think science education is ‘absolutely essential’ or ‘very important’ to the U.S. healthcare system (86%), the U.S. global reputation (79%), and the U.S. economy (77%).” But the remainder of the results, described in Americans Flunk Basic Science and reiterated in Science Daily’s report Americans Flunk Basic Science, are far more disturbing.
According to the national survey, “only 53% of adults know how long it takes 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”; and, worse, only 21% of adults could answer all three of these basic questions correctly. Moreover, “less than 1% of US adults know what percent of the planet’s water is fresh.”
Our society is doing a woeful job of educating the public about matters which are of elementary importance – and broad ignorance of scientific knowledge in a technologically complex and interdependent democracy represents a clear and present danger to the very fabric of our national life.