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How Can We Have Science Literacy Without Literate Scientists?

If we scientists have a God, he is Quantus, the champion of quantitative reasoning (who I imagine looks like Mercury, but with winged sneakers and a portable PC). Our numerical description of nature marks our intellectual style. But outside our temple, Quantus and his computer can't help much. In the wider world, as we teach, sell a research program, or explain medical risks to an anxious public, we must rely on the same insubstantial vehicles used by advertising copywriters and humanities prof

Sidney Perkowitz

If we scientists have a God, he is Quantus, the champion of quantitative reasoning (who I imagine looks like Mercury, but with winged sneakers and a portable PC). Our numerical description of nature marks our intellectual style. But outside our temple, Quantus and his computer can't help much. In the wider world, as we teach, sell a research program, or explain medical risks to an anxious public, we must rely on the same insubstantial vehicles used by advertising copywriters and humanities professors: words.

I like numbers as well as anyone but words have special meaning for me. My parents painfully learned English as adults and passed on to me their hard-won appreciation of their adopted tongue. Because I love the English language, I think about how it connects with science. How many of the words that we bandy about are understood by nonscientists? Can we count on scientific literacy?

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