Eight scientists in China have publicly criticised a government checklist designed to be a national benchmark to test the public’s basic knowledge of science. The scientists said some of the information given in a document compiled by government agencies was inaccurate or promoted ideas from traditional Chinese culture that run counter to scientific knowledge. These included philosophical ideas about yin and yang, opposite forces said in Chinese culture to be at work in nature. Hong Kong not nurturing its scientists or their research, says winner of Croucher Innovation Award The checklist was compiled by the Ministry of Science and Technology and the government’s Central Propaganda Department. It is part of a plan to carry out regular surveys on the scientific literacy of Chinese citizens. The document, to be introduced as the benchmark guiding people on their level of scientific knowledge, contains 132 knowledge points, divided into 23 sections, including physics, chemistry, astronomy and health. Eight scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the country’s top scientific think tank, published a joint letter online over the weekend calling for the guidelines to the be revised. One “serious mistake”, according to the scientists, was the description of the relationship between force and motion. The survey says people should be able to use Newton’s Laws of Motion to explain common movements in daily life and know that “force is the cause behind all motion in the world”. The scientists pointed out that the role of force is to change the state of motion, not maintain it. “Since the time of Galileo it has been known that the physics of Aristotle – which believed that force is what keep things moving - is wrong ... force is not required for a uniform linear motion,” the scientists wrote. They also claimed the were other inaccuracies, such as “all materials consist of atoms” and “the sunlight consists of seven different kinds of monochromatic light”. Some internet users defended the document, arguing it was designed to check basic knowledge of science and the researchers were judging it from an overly professional perspective. They referred, for example, to “the existence of dark matter and dark energy in the universe”, which may not have an atomic structure and from this ruled the document was wrong to say “all materials consist of atoms”. Some contents in the document also run counter to modern science, according to the scientists who wrote the letter. Under the section of “knowing how to use systematic methods to analyse and solve problems”, the guidelines demands people know about traditional Chinese philosophical concepts such as yin and yang and the five-elements theory: wood, fire, metal, earth and water . It states these concepts are part of the materialist theory of ancient China and have “realistic significance”. The scientists reject this claim and say these so-called theories are often associated with superstitious beliefs. ‘Innovation imperative’ the key to China’s economic success over the next decade, analysts say The science ministry and propaganda department said in a statement when the guidelines were released that all walks of life should study the information and the Communist Party, government departments, institutions and businesses should organise study and training programmes. Over 20 party and central government departments helped draw up the document, according to the notice. It has gone through expert research, pilot evaluation in some provinces and cities, plus full consultation from “various departments, administrative regions and all sectors of society”, the notice said.