The average South African only cracked half of the questions, put to 1000 people via Media24′s online Forum24, Rapport said on Sunday.
The 2200 Americans who answered the same questions by the National Science Foundation got 6,5 out of 10.
South Africans were worst at the question: “Antibiotics kill viruses and bacteria, true or false?” with only 28 percent knowing the answer –white English speakers faring best at this question (56 percent).
South Africans did best on the true or false statement: “The centre of the earth is very hot” (78 percent).
On the question of whether man evolved from animals, 49 percent said yes, 41 percent no and 10 percent said they did not know.
Dr George Claassen, a science journalism lecturer at Stellenbosch University said a weak knowledge of basic science is not a joke; it can kill people and lead to exploitation through quackery.