The Australian Scientific and Technological Societies have done a survey of basic scientific literacy of the population.
The media is, expectedly, ringing alarm bells as though it’s the end of intelligent thought in this country. My first response was that the results weren’t actually too bad: two-thirds of people knew that humans and dinosaurs did not co-exist. The ABC frets that only about 4% of those surveyed got everything right, but that was largely due to one question on how much of the world’s water is fresh.
But maybe my expectations are too low. The survey does say that a third of people do think we were the Flintstones, living side-by-side with brontosaurs. Twenty-eight percent of people think it takes the Earth a day to go around the sun. These were pretty basic concepts. And even the freshwater question, which I reckon would be the hardest one to estimate for most people (although easiest for people familiar with multiple-choice tests), means that the general public doesn’t recognise the scale of water availability issues around the world.