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I want to write one paragraph answer this questionsUtilizing the information in Why Study Science , Why Should you be Scientifically Literate, Science Literacy, and any other appropriate source, answer the following prompts: (I will upload them)
Which argument(s) do you see as a valid reason for becoming scientifically literate? Why?
How do you think learning about biology will affect your life? Give specific personal examples (not just those from the readings) to show you critically thought about and understood the issues.Also, I want to write one respond for one student post ( 3 to 5 sentences) like ” I agree with you………”


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Actionbioscience | Why Should You Be Scientifically Literate?
Why Should You Be Scientifically Literate?
Robert M. Hazen
Why should you care about being scientifically literate? It will help you
understand issues that you come across daily in news stories and government debates
appreciate how the natural laws of science influence your life
gain perspective on the intellectual climate of our time
December 2002
Newspaper headlines on November 21, 2002:
Boxing the genome code (Sydney Morning Herald, Australia)
We live in an age of
scientific discovery.
Scientist to attempt creation of living cell (New York Times, USA)
2 black holes may collide, say astronomers (Times of India)
Ottawa unveils updated Kyoto plan (Toronto Star, C anada)
‘Death gene’ discovery (Daily Telegraph, UK)
Scientific issues are
the subject of many
Scientific literacy
helps us understand
We live in an age of constant scientific discovery — a world shaped by
revolutionary new technologies. Just look at your favorite newspaper. The
chances are pretty good that in the next few days you’ll see a headline about
global warming, cloning, fossils in meteorites, or genetically engineered food.
Other stories featuring exotic materials, medical advances, DNA evidence, and
new drugs all deal with issues that directly affect your life. As a consumer, as a
business professional, and as a citizen, you will have to form opinions about these
and other science-based issues if you are to participate fully in modern society.
Science literacy s trengthens opinions and decis ions
about s cience-bas ed is s ues . Photo: March 2009
BioScience magazine cover, courtes y AI BS.
More and more, scientific and technological issues dominate national discourse,
from environmental debates on ozone depletion and acid rain, to economic
threats from climate change and invasive species. Understanding these debates has become as basic as reading. All citizens
need to be scientifically literate to:
the issues.
appreciate the world around them
make informed personal choices
It is the responsibility of scientists and educators to provide everyone with the background knowledge to help us cope with the
fast-paced changes of today and tomorrow. What is scientific literacy? Why is it important? And how can we achieve scientific
literacy for all citizens?
What is scientific literacy?
Scientific literacy, quite simply, is a mix of concepts, history, and philosophy that help you understand the scientific issues of our
Scientific literacy is not the specialized, jargon-filled esoteric lingo of the experts. You don’t have to be able to
Scientific literacy
means a broad
synthesize new drugs to appreciate the importance of medical advances, nor do you need to be able to calculate the
orbit of the space station to understand its role in space exploration.
understanding of
Scientific literacy is rooted in the most general scientific principles and broad knowledge of science; the scientifically
basic concepts.
literate citizen possesses facts and vocabulary sufficient to comprehend the context of the daily news.
If you can understand scientific issues in magazines and newspapers (if you can tackle articles about genetic
engineering or the ozone hole with the same ease that you would sports, politics, or the arts) then you are scientifically
Using science, not
doing science, is the
core of scientific
Some scientists are so
focused in one area
that they lack
scientific literacy.
Admittedly, this definition of scientific literacy does not satisfy everyone. Some academics argue that science education should
expose students to mathematical rigor and complex vocabulary. They want everyone to experience this taste of “real” science.
But my colleagues and I feel strongly that those who insist that everyone must understand science at a deep level are confusing
two important but separate aspects of scientific knowledge. As in many other endeavors, doing science is obviously distinct from
using science; and scientific literacy concerns only the latter.
Surprisingly, intense study of a particular field of science does not necessarily make one scientifically literate. Indeed, I’m often
amazed at the degree to which working scientists are often woefully uninformed in scientific fields outside their own field of
professional expertise. I once asked a group of twenty-four Ph.D. physicists and geologists to explain the difference between
DNA and RNA — perhaps the most basic idea in modern molecular biology. I found only three colleagues who could do so, and
all three of those individuals did research in areas where this knowledge was useful. And I’d probably find the same sort of
discouraging result if I asked biologists to explain the difference between a semiconductor and a superconductor. The education
of professional scientists is often just as narrowly focused as the education of any other group of professionals, so scientists are
just as likely to be ignorant of scientific matters outside their own specialty as anyone else.
In considering what scientific literacy is, it’s also useful to recognize what it is not. Scientific literacy is often confused with
technological literacy — the ability to deal with everyday devices such as computers and VC Rs. Technological literacy is
important to many pursuits in modern society, but it is distinct from my definition of scientific literacy.
The scope of the problem
By any measure, the average American is not scientifically literate, even with a college degree:
Actionbioscience | Why Should You Be Scientifically Literate?
At a recent Harvard University commencement, an informal poll revealed that fewer than ten percent of graduating
seniors could explain why it’s hotter in summer than in winter.1
College graduates, as
A survey taken at our own university (George Mason University), where one can argue that the teaching of
well, fall short on
undergraduates enjoys a higher status than at some other institutions, shows results that are scarcely more
science basics.
encouraging. Fully half of the seniors who filled out a scientific literacy survey could not correctly identify the difference
between an atom and a molecule.2
I suspect that these results are the rule, not the exception. Most colleges and universities have the same dirty little secret: we
are all turning out scientifically illiterate students who are incapable of understanding many of the important newspaper items
published on the very day of their graduation.
The problem, of course, is not limited to universities. We hear over and over again about how poorly American high school and
middle school students fare when compared to students in other developed countries on standardized tests. Scholars who make
it their business to study such things estimate the numbers of scientifically literate Americans to be:3
fewer than 7% of adults
22% of college graduates
The average
26% of those with graduate degrees
American fails the
grade, too.
The number of Americans who are scientifically literate by the standards of these studies is distressingly low. The numbers, then,
tell the same story as the anecdotes. Americans at all academic levels have not been given the basic background they may need
to cope with the life they will have to lead in the twenty-first century.
Why is scientific literacy important?
Scientific literacy is
Why should we care whether our citizens are scientifically literate? Why should you care about your own understanding of
science? Three different arguments might convince you why it is important:
from civics
from aesthetics
from intellectual coherence
The general welfare
of a nation is
stronger with a
citizenry that is
science enriches our
appreciation of
everyday activities.
The first argument from civics is the one I’ve used thus far. We’re all faced with public issues whose discussion requires some
scientific background, and therefore we all should have some level of scientific literacy. Our democratic government, which
supports science education, sponsors basic scientific research, manages natural resources, and protects the environment, can be
thwarted by a scientifically illiterate citizenry. Without an informed electorate (not to mention a scientifically informed legislature)
some of the most fundamental objectives of our nation may not be served.
The argument from aesthetics is less concrete, but is closely related to principles that are often made to support liberal
education. According to this view, our world operates according to a few over-arching natural laws. Everything you do,
everything you experience from the moment you wake up in the morning to the moment you go to bed at night, conforms to
these laws of nature. Our scientific vision of the universe is exceedingly beautiful and elegant and it represents a crowning
achievement of human civilization. You can share in the intellectual and aesthetic satisfaction to be gained from appreciating the
unity between a boiling pot of water on a stove and the slow march of the continents, between the iridescent colors of a
butterfly’s wing and the behavior of the fundamental constituents of matter. A scientifically illiterate person is effectively cut off
from an immensely enriching part of life, just as surely as a person who cannot read.
Intellectual Coherence
The intellectual
climate of our era is
influenced by our
understanding of
Finally, we come to the third argument — the idea of intellectual coherence. Our society is inextricably tied to the discoveries of
science — so much so that they often play a crucial role in setting the intellectual climate of an era. For example, the C opernican
concept of the heliocentric universe played an important role in sweeping away the old thinking of the Middle Ages and ushering
in the Age of Enlightenment. Similarly, C harles Darwin’s discovery of the mechanism of natural selection at once made
understanding nature easier. And in this century the work of Freud and the development of quantum mechanics have made our
natural world seem (at least superficially) less rational. In all of these cases, the general intellectual tenor of the times — what
Germans call the Zeitgeist — was influenced by developments in science. How can anyone hope to appreciate the deep
underlying threads of intellectual life in his or her own time without understanding the science that goes with it?
So what to do?
Science educators are
providing ways to
improve science
The problem has been defined and the need for a solution is real. How can you and your family become scientifically literate?
Fortunately, science educators the world over have spent the last decade in an all-out assault on the problem, and a number of
solutions are at hand:
K-12 Education
U.S.’s National
Science Education
Standards emphasize
the learning of
concepts & principles
through inquiry.
At the level of K-12 education, the National Research C ouncil, in conjunction with the American Association for the Advancement
of Science and national teacher organizations, produced the sweeping National Science Education Standards.4 This farsighted
document serves as a building code for new science curricula for elementary, middle and high schools — curricula that
emphasize an inquiry-based approach in the context of concepts and principles rather than vocabulary and rote memorization.
Gradually, school systems around the country are retooling their science courses, while numerous programs at the local and
state levels seek to retrain teachers in this powerful new educational approach. Soon, educators hope, our nation’s students will
demonstrate a richer appreciation of science than ever before.
Higher Education
Higher education is
fostering student
scientific literacy.
Reforms have also been targeted at the college level. In 1990, I joined forces with physicist James Trefil in developing one
integrated science course, “Great Ideas in Science.” A companion textbook, The Sciences: An Integrated Approach, is now used
in approximately 200 colleges and universities.5 And hundreds of other institutions of higher education are engaged in their own
experiments to foster scientific literacy among college graduates.
The General Public
Science resources are
many and easily
available to the
And what about those of us who are beyond college years? Today there are amazing resources for continuing education. Scores
of books by scientists and science journalists present every field of science to general readers. Wondrous television and radio
programs explore the latest advances in scientific research. And the internet abounds with science web sites that elucidate every
conceivable scientific topic, from the pure research of space exploration and particle physics to applied aspects of medical
Actionbioscience | Why Should You Be Scientifically Literate?
technologies, environmental hazards, materials development, drug design, and hundreds of other important topics.
Learn more about
Conclusion: Everyone
should share in the
adventure of science.
Thanks to these efforts the ball is in your court. With a little effort, you can share in the most extraordinary, transforming
challenge of the human species — the adventure of science.
© 2002, A merican Institute of Biological Sciences. Educators have permission to reprint articles for classroom use; other users,
please contact for reprint permission. See reprint policy.
Robert M. Hazen, Ph.D., is a research scientist at the C arnegie Institution of Washington’s Geophysical Laboratory and
C larence Robinson Professor of Earth Science at George Mason University, Virginia. He received his B.S. and M.S. in geology
from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1971), and a Ph.D. from Harvard University in earth science (1975). Author of
more than 230 articles and 16 books on science, history, and music, including Why Aren’t Black Holes Black?: The Unanswered
Questions at the Frontiers of Science, Hazen also investigates possible roles of minerals in the origin of life.
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Read how citizen science projects help to advance scientific literacy.
To make progress, scientists and science educators need to build trust and empower the public with climate
change education, using a variety of media formats.
Some non-science-major biology and genetics courses show limited effectiveness.
The need for environmental literacy is discussed here.
Remember using the scientific method? Read why it should be the basis for the integration of math and biology.
A reviewer extols the virtues of a key book about teaching environmental literacy.
Joel C racraft explains how creationism in all its forms is not a scientific worldview, but a religious one that should
not be taught in public schools.
learnmore links
“Improving Scientific Literacy and Conservation in Developing Nations”
C arlos de la Rosa discusses, in an article on our site, the problems with scientific literacy in developing nations and suggests ways all nations can help.
Ask a Biologist
It is designed as an educational resource for students K-12, and their teachers and parents. C heck out their “experiments and stuff” with fun activities,
games, and puzzles.
“Science and Technology: Public Attitudes and Public Understanding”
Read the highlights from Science and Engineering Indicators 2006, by The National Science Foundation, for an analysis of the poor state of science
literacy in the U.S. The second link takes you to a related news article about the findings.
Scientific literacy for everyone
The Foundation for Scientific Literacy has as its mission to educate, support, and promote scientific literacy, defined as “the knowledge and
understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision-making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic
Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)
Find out about the largest international study of student achievement — which countries participated, how student achievement was measured, what
contextual information was collected, and how to obtain the results.
For educators: Improving science literacy
The NSTA position paper “Teaching Science and Technology in the C ontext of Societal and Personal Issues” offers suggestions on successfully
delivering science instruction within the context of societal and personal issues in order to allow students the ability to use and apply science and
technology in their personal and social lives.
Beyond Discovery
A series of articles from the National Academy of Sciences explores “the crucial role played by basic science, the applications of which could not have
been anticipated at the time the original research was conducted.”
Science basics
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has made its publication, Science for all Americans, available for reading online.
Learn the basics about science, from mathematics to biology.
Your Genes, Your Choices
A publication of the Science + Literacy for Health Project, Your Genes, Your C hoices “describes the Human Genome Project, the science behind it, and
the ethical, legal, and social issues that are raised by the project.” C lick on “table of contents” to read each chapter online.
Guide to Biotechnology
“Guide to Biotechnology” from the Biotechnology Industry Organization provides an overview about biotechnology. No science background is required.
C hapters cover history, technologies and their applications, and ethics.
Read a book: general
» Science Matters: Achieving Scientific Literacy, by Robert M. Hazen and James Trefil, presents basic scientific concepts that everyone should
Actionbioscience | Why Should You Be Scientifically Literate?
know (Doubleday, 1990).
» The Pleasure of Finding Things Out
This collection of previously unpublished or difficult-to-find short works by maverick physicist and Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman explores why we
do science in a humorous, anecdotal way. (Perseus Books, 2000)
Read a book: for educators
Global Science Literacy, edited by Victor J. Mayer, proposes an international science curriculum concept, with sample ideas and approaches (Kluwer
Academic Publishers, 2002).
International Center for Scientific Research
“The only portal that references all scientific organizations around the world, listed by country and topic” — in four languages (English, Spanish, French,


getinvolved links
Parents & Kids: online science field trips and more provides a database of over 400 science centers worldwide so that kids can “investigate, discover, and try science” themselves.
Included are interactive field trips and live webcams of exhibits.
Science trivia
Looking for a fun way to get your students or children curious …
Purchase answer to see full