Monday, Nov. 03, 2008

Can You Spell Science?

Think Americans haven't gotten smarter? Think again. Between 1979 and 2006, the percentage of scientifically literate adults doubled — to 17%. This year, a survey by a professor of political science at the University of Michigan found that that dismal showing may have improved, but only a little. Currently, 25% of the population of the U.S. — the country that invented the airplane and the light bulb and landed men on the moon, remember — qualify as "civic scientifically literate." In practical terms says the investigator, that means that only one in four adults can read and understand the stories in the weekly science section of The New York Times. And this comes at a time when the U.S. electorate is being asked to grapple with — and reach informed consensus about — such complex questions as global warming and stem cell research. Meantime, in November, Beijing announced a new high in scientific literacy scores for the Chinese. So let's at least raise a glass to China. It's somewhere in Europe, right?