Over at his Genomics, Evolution, and Pseudoscience blog, Steven Salzberg has a post on the current public understanding of some basic scientific principles. The US National Science Board published the results of its latest report, which comes out every two years and serves as a gauge of how well Joe Consumer has learned (or has chosen to accept) fairly basic concepts. Salzberg highlights a few, but we'll stick with the first: evolution. Asked whether humans developed from earlier animal species, "43% of the US public got this one right, a number that has hardly budged in 20 years - the number was 45% in 1985," Salzberg writes. "Note that because this is a true/false question, the fact that only 43% gave the correct answer ("true") means that we did worse than random guessing."
But Salzberg's not ready to give in. "Overall, it appears public understanding is improving very slightly in a few areas, and not budging in others," he says. "This does not bode well for the progress of our society, but we have to keep trying: as scientists, we need to educate the public at every opportunity."