Scientific literacy constitutes the knowledge you need to understand public issues. It is a mix of facts, vocabulary, concepts, history, and philosophy. It is not the specialized stuff of the experts, but the more general, less precise knowledge used in political discourse. If you can understand the news of the day as it relates to science, if you can take articles with headlines about genetic engineering and the ozone hole and put them in a meaningful context--in short, if you can treat news about science in the same way you treat everything that comes over your horizon--then as far as we are concerned you are scientifically literate.

This definition of scientific literacy is going to seem rather minimal, perhaps even totally inadequate, to some scholars. We feel very strongly that those who insist that everyone must understand science at a deep level are confusing two important but separate aspects of...

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