Every two years, the National Science Foundation conducts a nationwide survey that stands as the "State of Science" in America. As well as tracking progress in science education and science jobs in the labor force, it provides a baseline of Americans' understanding of their natural world.
And not all of the findings on this year's survey are as horrible as the headline on this post implies. For instance, "Levels of factual knowledge in the United States are comparable to those in Europe and are generally higher than levels in countries in other parts of the world." For instance, 44 percent of those surveyed in the European Union in 2005 said the sun revolved around the Earth.
Also positive is how Americans generally respect the discipline. "Most Americans see the scientists and engineers as "dedicated people who work for the good of humanity," the report states. And scores are up on the nine-question survey that the NSF uses to assess scientific knowledge compared with two years ago (5.8 correct answers compared with 5.6 correct answers). Still, there appears to be a gender gap in scientific knowledge. "On average, men tend to answer more factual science knowledge questions correctly (70% correct) than do women (60% correct)," the report states. When limited to biology questions, men and women score the same.
But the takeaway is this: Not all of us understand the most basic concepts of science. The chart below is adapted from the survey.
This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.