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Journal of No. 118

October 30th, 2014

Science Literacy @ 07:08 am

Interesting discussion from the NCSE about evolution questions on science literacy tests. First, given certain cultural biases against evolution, one has to be careful to navigate the difference between knowledge of, rather than acceptance of, evolution. "Life has evolved over several billion years." vs. "Scientists have formed the consensus that life has evolved over several billion years."

Even for these apparently(*) more neutral questions, there are problems. Although the correct answer is positively correlated with other measures of science educational background and knowledge, it is still more strongly correlated (in a negative fashion) with religious belief and religious service attendance. Should we use questions like this as a measure of science literacy, when in fact it is a better measure of something else? It's enough to make your head spin.

(*)Although "Scientists have formed the consensus that life has evolved over several billion years." is more 'neutral' about the student's belief, I would also note that one of the memes pushed by the antievolution crowd is that there are many scientists who reject evolution, and that the pendulum is swinging away from evolution. So students may give the incorrect response on the question, because they've been lied to by people they trust. Creationist students have been lied to about the science, and they've also been lied to about what scientists believe.
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Date:October 30th, 2014 09:14 pm (UTC)

I'm watching the first season of Cosmos right now, and I wish it was required viewing for all students. It is so lucid. But, yeah, kids who have been lied to aren't even likely to listen to this.

Journal of No. 118