Scientific literacy

There was one major omission in Carly Weeks’ article about the downside of health news sensationalism: it’s the role played by the public, through their understanding of science.  While it is the medical journals that publish the results of studies (and the journalists who report on them) who should be held responsible for upholding minimum standards of accuracy, ultimately it is individual members of society who are responsible for interpreting them. 

Scientific literacy doesn’t mean that everyone needs to be a scholar in chemistry, physics, or biology; rather, it means that basic science should be taught in a way that helps even non-scientists develop a “cognitive toolkit” that helps them draw more rational conclusions from the data that is presented to them.