A deep distrust of many young people with regard to science

France – At the request of the Jean Jaurès and Reboot Foundations, the IFOP (French Institute of Public Opinion) carried out a survey on the perception of science by young French people [1] from a panel of 2,003 of them (1,061 young people aged 11 to 17 and 942 young people aged 18 to 24), by self-administered questionnaire on the internet between October 28 and November 7, 2022 [2]. Its results are disturbing.

One in three (33%) thinks that “science brings more good to mankind than harm”, compared to 55% fifty years ago (1972). And 17% believe that its contribution to humanity is more harmful than positive, ie triple compared to 1972 (6%).

Alternate truths are doing well

More than one in four (27%) dispute that “humans are the product of a long evolution from other species, such as apes” and believe that they “were created by a spiritual force. Another example: 16% of 18-24 year olds, young people who for the most part have just finished their schooling, say that the Earth is flat. On medical subjects, the inventory is hardly brilliant either. For a quarter of young people aged 18 to 24 (25%), hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment for Covid-19 and for almost a third of them (32%), “mRNA vaccines […] generate toxic proteins that cause irreversible damage to children’s vital organs. Some ideas can have serious repercussions. Thus a quarter of young people (25%) think that “it is possible to have an abortion without risk with herbal products”.

The major role of social networks

In total, two out of three young people (69%) believe in at least one “alternative truth”, without adhering to all of them. The authors of the survey discern three main variables correlated with this dissensus with regard to science:

  • Adverse social conditions (income, employment status – eg 86% of young workers and 78% of young employees agree with at least one alternative truth).

  • The degree of importance given to religion (85% of “believers and religious” versus 62% of atheists), especially among Muslims (82%) and Catholics (75%).

  • The very regular use of social networks, in particular those of microblogging (81%), in particular TikTok (74%) and those using this network as a search engine (79%). A third of young people (33%) say they trust social networks for sharing photos and videos. “An alarming figure, 41% of young people who use TikTok as a search engine agree with the statement that an influencer who has a large number of followers tends to be a reliable source. »

A generational divide

Three results are worth mentioning. First, belief in at least one alternative truth depends very little on the level of education. Thus we note that it concerns three quarters (74%) of young health professionals (medicine, pharmacy, etc.), in training or not. Then, there is a “generational divide”, distrust of science being much higher among young people than among seniors (compared to previous surveys). For example, almost two-thirds of young people (61%) believe in at least one discipline of mancie (related to the divinatory arts), while this is the case for only 39% of seniors. Finally, this distrust relates to the academic sciences and not to “science” strictly speaking. Thus 50% of young people think that personal characteristics can be explained by astrology and 49% of them think that “astrology is a science”.

This article originally appeared on Univadis.frmember of the Medscape network

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A deep distrust of many young people with regard to science