Scientific literacy is not how many scientific theories you understand, but rather your appreciation for the process of scientific investigation. In this section, we provide an overview to the fields of philosophy and history of science. These tell us how science is understood and how it changes, and what science has included over the ages. They also help us understand how science operates differently from religious belief, and yet the boundaries may be more diffuse than conventionally recognized.

Key terms:

  • Scientific (hypothetico-deductive) method
  • Scientific literacy
  • Scientific theory
  • Scientific hypothesis
  • Atheism
  • Agnosticism


To get the module started, we have included a short inspirational video with the words of the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson on scientific literacy. “The goal here is not to make everybody a scientist. That’s not the goal. What a boring world that would be. You want artists. You want musicians. You want novelists. Poets. You want the rest of this. What matters is whether they’re scientifically literate, and that they maintain that literacy and that curiosity throughout their lives.”


Video Credit: “Scientific Literacy – Neil deGrasse Tyson” by Max Schlickenmeyer, 2014.

Thumbnail: “A Weird and Excellent Mosaic,” Mural of Avicenna and others in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Photo Credit: St. Blaize, 2009. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Learning Materials: