The statistics at Science and Engineering Indicators 2008 are disturbing. Here are some sample questions, and the percentage of correct answers (1864 adults, in 2006):
45% – Lasers work by focusing sound waves. (False)
56% – Antibiotics kill viruses as well as bacteria. (False)
76% – Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth? (Earth around Sun)
55% – How long does it take for the Earth to go around the Sun: one day, one month, or one year? (One year)
I’m not even going to get into the evolutionary or cosmological questions. The report also states:
The large numbers of Americans who regard astrology as at least somewhat scientific is an indicator that many Americans do not reliably distinguish between scientific and nonscientific knowledge claims. Available national data cannot differentiate those who misapply what they think are scientific criteria from those who in some respects reject conventional scientific criteria, even though they are familiar with them.
— “Science and Engineering Indicators, published by the National Science Board, provides a broad base of quantitative information on the U.S. and international science and engineering enterprise.”