Having a basic knowledge of scientific principles is no longer a luxury. In today's complex world, it is a necessity.
If you read mainstream media science journalism or the monthly new horror stories by environmental groups, you'd be surprised to know that America actually leads the world in adult science literacy. And has since the 1950s. Groups that are in the sue and ban business don't want to acknowledge that, they prefer Europe where the political greens can overrun scientists easily, but it has been so since tests began in the 1980s. So even if 70 percent of Americans cannot read and understand the science section of the New York Times, the 28 percent that can leads the world. And if you read the New York Times, you realize the 70 percent don't need more endorsements of acupuncture, the scientifically illiterate are already buying organic food, herbs, supplements, and books on how to get out of vaccines in the local Whole Food store.
To be classified as "scientifically literate," a person must be able to understand approximately 20 of 31 scientific concepts and terms similar to those that would be found in articles that appear in the New York Times weekly science section and in an episode of the PBS program "NOVA."
So why does America lead the world? It's part of our heritage. Americans are not reading science journals, nor do they read pop science magazines, but they read independent sites like this and Science 2.0 and Scienceblogs and the American Council on Science and Health, they use other informal science education resources, such as science museums and Internet videos. And Americans are inherently more skeptical than Europeans or Asians. We distrust centralized authority and bristle at appeals to expertise that are not merit-based.