Scientific literacy

ability to understand science; knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity

Scientific literacy or Science literacy encompasses written, numerical, and digital literacy as they pertain to understanding science, its methodology, observations, and theories.

Quotes edit

  • Increasingly, our leaders must deal with dangers that threaten the entire world, where an understanding of those dangers and the possible solutions depends on a good grasp of science. The ozone layer, the greenhouse effect, acid rain, questions of diet and heredity. All require scientific literacy. Can Americans choose the proper leaders and support the proper programs if they themselves are scientifically illiterate? The whole premise of democracy is that it is safe to leave important questions to the court of public opinion—but is it safe to leave them to the court of public ignorance?
    • Isaac Asimov, "Scientific Literacy", Los Angeles Times, (31 Mar 1989)
  • Let me suggest to you a simple test one can apply to scientific activities to determine whether or not they can constitute the practice of physics. Is what you are doing beautiful? Many beautiful things are created without the use of physical knowledge, but I know of no really worthwhile physics that isn’t beautiful. Indeed, one of the most distressing symptoms of scientific illiteracy is the impression so often given to school children that science is a mechanistic activity subject to algorithmic description.
    • Lewis M. Branscomb, “Physics and the APS in 1979”, Physics Today (Apr 1980), 33, No. 4, p. 50
  • Rampant scientific illiteracy in the general public is, in my opinion, one major cause of the current lack of opportunities for scientists. … A public that is ignorant of science, and of how science is done, is not going to support scientific research enthusiastically.
    • Alan Hale, "Shattered Hopes and Dreams: The Dim Prospect for Careers in Science", Chronicle of Higher Education (5 Dec 1997). As cited in Daniel S. Greenberg, Science, Money, and Politics: Political Triumph and Ethical Erosion (2003), chapter 13 epigraph, p. 205
  • A good many times I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists. Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is about the scientific equivalent of: Have you read a work of Shakespeare's?
    • C. P. Snow, "The Two Cultures: The Rede Lecture" (1959), pp. 14-5
  • Knowing how things work is important, but I think that's an incomplete view of what science literacy is or, at least, should be. Science literacy is an outlook. It's more of a lens through which you observe what goes on around you.

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