News & AnalysisScientific Literacy

New NSF Survey Tries to Separate Knowledge and Belief

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Science  22 Jul 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6041, pp. 394
DOI: 10.1126/science.333.6041.394

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Can a person be scientifically literate without accepting the concepts of evolution and the big bang? To many scientists and educators, the answer to that question is an unqualified "no." But the National Science Board—the governing body of the National Science Foundation (NSF)—isn't sure that rejecting evolution for religious reasons automatically undermines a person's scientific literacy. And its attempt to distinguish between knowledge and belief in how people respond to an NSF-funded biennial science literacy survey has drawn fire from critics who view the changes as surrendering scientific ground to religion.