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Study: Most American Adults Flunk Basic Science

Most of us would be hard-pressed to remember the stuff we learned in school. The percentage of information retained is depressingly low, but that’s what happens when the knowledge isn’t required day to day.

A new national survey commissioned by the California Academy of Sciences and conducted by Harris Interactive reveals that the U.S. public is unable to pass even a basic scientific literacy test.

According to the national survey commissioned by the California Academy of Sciences:

  • Only 53 percent of adults know how long it takes for the Earth to revolve around the Sun.
  • Only 59 percent of adults know that the earliest humans and dinosaurs did not live at the same time.
  • Only 47 percent of adults can roughly approximate the percent of the Earth’s surface that is covered with water.
  • Only 21 percent of adults answered all three questions correctly.

”There has never been a greater need for investment in scientific research and education,” said Academy Executive Director Dr. Gregory Farrington. ”Many of the most pressing issues of our time—from global climate change to resource management and disease—can only be addressed with the help of science.”

The survey was conducted by telephone within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of the California Academy of Sciences between December 17 and December 21, 2008 among 1,002 adults ages 18 and up.

The press release sent out by the Academy poses that rather than spending on economic bailout plans, which is referred to as a "short term solution," the U.S. government should "transition to a more knowledge-based economy, including a focus on science, which is now widely recognized as a major driver of innovation and industry."