I suspect that we would all agree that most of the world is woefully lacking in an understanding of basic scientific facts. Feel free to blame the educational systems, parents, teachers, the students themselves, etc. It could be argued that if you're not headed for a scientific career you don't need to know Newton's laws of motion or whether amino acids are right- or left-handed. However, regardless of what you end up doing with your life, everyone should have a basic understanding of how science works. By that I mean how scientists make observations, develop an hypothesis, devise logical experiments to test that hypothesis, and accept, modify, or reject their initial theory on the basis of the results. An understanding of the scientific method and the logic behind it would stand everyone in good stead as they are barraged daily with all sorts of hyped and overtly false claims from the "snake oil" sellers in the world around us.
In short, we are surrounded by bad science or non-science masquerading as science and when the world believes this foolishness bad things can happen. And because the media is full of folks who have ABSOLUTELY no understanding of science, pseudoscience and real science are often equated. So we are told that the mercury based preservative in vaccines causes autism and millions of children go unvaccinated, unnecessarily catching and spreading measles, mumps, whooping cough, etc. and occasionally dying totally unnecessarily. Famous misinformed people such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr, hop on the bandwagon and then the lawyers become involved, suing the vaccine manufacturers, delaying and increasing the cost of vaccine production and everyone suffers as a result. And all of this hysteria might have been avoidable if only logical, sane, scientifically grounded folks had taken a look at the (non)data on which these claims were based. But then again it might not (see my last paragraph below). There are, of course, many many more examples of bad or non-science being passed off as sound results. The homeopathic medicine culture and the cosmetics industry are particularly fertile grounds in this regard.
If any of the above is of even slight interest, then I strongly recommend the paperback book, "Bad Science"
by Ben Goldacre (HarperCollinsPublishers, 2008). Mr. Goldacre is a British MD who writes a column in the Guardian newspaper by the same title as his book. This is an outstanding discussion of quackery that masquerades as science in the world today. A few chapter titles, with brief comments from me may entice you a bit more:
The dilutional factor is so great that if one molecule of the original substance remains, the total volume would be greater than the volume of the known universe. Homeopathy is a huge tribute to the placebo effect.
"The Placebo Effect"
We all know something about this, but NOBODY fully understands it. Dr. Goldacre gives an incredibly lucid description including some truly mystifying psychological and physiological aspects of this effect.
"Is Mainstream Medicine Evil?"
Evidence-based medicine has done nearly miraculous things to improve and prolong life but the alternative medicine cult needs a scapegoat and we're it.
"Why Clever People Sometimes say Stupid Things"
"The real purpose of the scientific method is to make sure that nature hasn't mislead you into thinking you know something that you actually don't know." To phrase it more simply, the human mind sees patterns in chaos where patterns don't really exist.
"Health Scares" and "The Media's MMR Hoax"
MRSA, vaccines, preservatives, truly bad data, hype, etc... It's all laid out for the reader in fascinating detail.
In summary, this book is about thinking logically, skeptically, and applying the scientific method, but don't be surprised if you can't alter a "non-believer's" opinion with the facts. To quote the author, "You cannot reason people out of positions they didn't reason themselves into."