Drawing from literature in the social studies of science, this paper historicizes two pivotal concepts in science literacy: the definition of life and the assumption of objectivity. In this paper we suggest that an understanding of the historical, discursive production of scientific knowledge affects the meaning of scientific literacy in at least three ways. First, a discursive study of scientific knowledge has the epistemological consequence of avoiding the selective perception that occurs when facts are abstracted from the historical conditions of their emergence. Second, a discursive approach to scientific knowledge can also be an example of science-as-exploration. Third, literacy and discourse studies contribute insights that alter assumptions about pedagogical appropriateness in science education. The paper concludes by suggesting that when science literacy includes the historical production of scientific knowledge, it can thereby extend the possibilities for what can be thought, studied and imagined in the name of science education.