The USA Today published a nice little “Test Your Science Savvy” quiz as a sidebar to an article about scienfic literacy in the US. The quiz is a fun test of very basic science knowledge. Questions on The Big Bang, Evolution, and the age of the Earth set off a religious debate.
For me, the core of the article is here
“We have in this country a major crisis of people listening to people they feel comfortable with (rather than) listening to a variety of groups and critically thinking through their messages,” says Gerry Wheeler, executive director of the National Science Teachers Association.
I think that explains the comments from folks who appear to be getting their ideas about science from non-scientific sources.
It also contains a lesson for those who express frustration with people who prioritize religious over scientific teachings. Listening to religious folks will help science writers find ways to explain the world without pushing people’s buttons.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a successful example of this on their page on Influenza. They explain that flu shots are necessary every year because the flu virus changes. Note that they don’t use the word “evolve.” That could be for political reasons, but it’s also good because use of that word will distract people. The purpose of that web page is to give medical advice, not to piss people off. People don’t take advice when they are pissed at you.
I give the quiz Five Lemmys. It was fun, pushed people’s buttons (as something that truly rocks will), and told us something we might not have expected to learn.