Recently on the Frum Skeptics Group, Mis-nagid sent out a link from Skeptic magazine which had an article regarding a study done to investigate the rates of disbelief of modern mainstream scientific ideas in college-going Orthodox Jews.
Suffice it to say, the results were far from encouraging. As the abstract of the article explains, "The sample of 176 Orthodox Jewish students surveyed showed almost complete denial of evolution and other central tenets of modern science (such as the age of the universe); the survey also revealed that these students received their scientific beliefs not from their college science courses, but from rabbinical authorities, or from Orthodox Jewish scientists, who in turn propagate the anti-science views of rabbinical authorities. Perhaps the most surprising result of the survey was that the Orthodox Jewish students who were science majors were even less accepting of mainstream science than those who were not science majors."
The survey was done so that the participants would give a true or false response to the series of statements offered.
For the statement “Evolution correctly explains the origin of life,” 14 responded true, while 156 responded false. To the statement “Human beings evolved from apes,” 11 said true while 163 answered false. Only 45 of 168 respondents answered that “The age of the universe is about 15 billion years old, as opposed to about 7,000 years" and 159 answered true to the statement “Current land animals descend from those on Noah’s ark,” while only 16 answered false.
To see further questions and their responses, do refer to the article.
Now, while the results themselves are interesting in their own merits, what is particularly interesting to me is that I took part in this little experiment. No joke. The article says that "Students who sat at the kosher area of a New York City public college cafeteria were surveyed about their attitudes on evolution and other scientific issues...Only the answers of participants listing themselves as Orthodox Jews in the survey were retained in the results below."
This was in Brooklyn College and I was one of the students polled! I even had to do some thinking about how to classify myself, but I stuck with Orthodox because it really did describe me best, from my own perspective (and no doubt from most others' perspectives as well), even if I had some issues with the title. I don't remember exactly what the date was, but it had to be from two or three years ago. This was before I had started to blog.
I was sitting in the cafeteria with a couple of my friends and this guy comes over and asks us to take part in a little experiment and fill out this survey. We all said sure. It wasn't as if we were doing anything important and the survey was short. But I didn't realize until after it was already in my hand on what kind of survey it was.
So I got a little scared at first. Not frightened really, but wary of my friends' reactions to what they might consider heretical thoughts. I really had no desire to get into a big debate. So I filled my form out quickly while listening to my friends discuss when the Tower of Babel occurred and whether Hebrew was universally spoken 4,000 years ago.
As I was getting up to return my form (not giving my friends a chance to get a good look at it) one of my friends asks to see my responses. He was curious of my thoughts. I do have some reputation of an interesting thinker among my friends. But I responded curtly, "Nope. It's private," and I went off and delivered it to the surveyor. My friends never gave it a second thought (or in any case, they never mentioned it again) and that was the end of that.
This article though is bringing it all back and what I find particularly funny about the results is that they also broke it down between science and non-science majors. Here's one prime example:
"[F]or the statement “Human beings evolved from apes.” For non-science majors the results were 10 true and 111 false, while for science majors it was 1 true and 49 false. Thus while only 8% of non-science majors answered true, for science majors it dropped to 2% answering true."
I was a science major (I am now a bearer of a science degree) and I wrote true for that statement. That means that I am that one and only true response for science majors to this question. I am the lonely two percent representing all Orthodox Jewish science majors who actually know what they're talking about. It boggles the mind.
And I actually feel just a little bit more lonely knowing this.