While I was looking over at Volokh, I ran across a link to a WSJ article (not linking; subscription required) about scientific literacy and the presidency
. The article focuses on the central claim that because "[a]lmost all of the major challenges we will face as a nation in this new century, from the environment, national security and economic competitiveness to energy strategies, have a scientific or technological basis" it is imperative that the next president be scientifically literate. While I'd like to see a more scientifically literate President, it's really not that high on my list of priorities. I'd settle for making sure that they can tell when something is scientifically nonsensical.
One thing I do find troubling about this article is that to illustrate the problem, it points out that "Republican debates underscored this problem. In May, when candidates were asked if they believed in the theory of evolution, three candidates said no." They picked one of the most politically/religiously charged issues of all time with which to illustrate scientific illiteracy. If that's the standard by which we are going to judge it, count me out. I know multiple science Ph.D.s who are creationists. Am I seriously intended to believe that they are scientifically illiterate?
It is possible for people of good will and excellent scientific understanding to disagree with evolution for reasons entirely unrelated to being unable to grasp the science. Heck, one could argue that God set the universe up to look like evolution was true in order to prevent there from being irrefutable proof of His existence, thus preserving a sphere in which faith can operate. One could argue that macro-scale evolution has serious falsifiability issues on anything shy of several thousand year experimental timescales. One could argue that the theory is tautological (a position Karl Popper, noted philosopher of science, held). These are all positions that are possible for reasonable people with decent scientific understanding to hold. Accusing them of scientific illiteracy is not only doing them a disservice, but making yourself look silly. Any of the above positions could be wrong, but they are not inherently stupid