Flat Earth, aliens, astrology… Young people are exposed to more and more scientific misinformation

French youth are more skeptical of the scientific consensus than adults. So they turn to other beliefs: pseudoscience, mancie or even conspiracy theories.

The authors of the study evoke “the separation of a part of young people with the scientific consensus”. The ifop survey for the Reboot Foundation and the Jean Jaurès Foundation, published on Thursday, measures the “perceptibility to scientific lies” of 11-24-year-olds in France.

Today, only one in three young people, compared to more than half in 1972, believes that “science does more good than harm to mankind.” The proportion of those who judge his contribution to humanity to be more harmful than positive has tripled in forty years. a true generational break.

Flat Earth, witchcraft, aliens, hydroxychloroquine… Through various themes and theories, the study shows the growing opposition of young people to science and the resulting refuge in parasciences and the occult.

The weight of religion

Marginal among older people (3%), the opinion that the Earth could be flat is shared by 16% of 18-24 year olds. A very surprising figure that shows the world view of some young people, if not the majority. For example, more than one in four disagree with the theory of evolution.

Thus, the idea that people are not the result of a long evolution, that they were created by a spiritual force such as God, has twice as many adherents among young people as among older people: 27% versus 18%.

Ifop research shows that there is an important religious prism in the adherence to the various “alternative truths” that the institute presents to respondents. For example, 60% of believers and religious people support the thesis of creationism, and 12% of atheists. Among Muslims, the rate rises to 71%. Those who say, “It is possible that the Earth is not flat and round, as we have been told since school,” present the same profile.

Vaccine-skepticism, hydroxychloroquine and plants

Some of the young people are suspicious of science and scientific institutions in general. In the context marked by the Covid-19 pandemic, the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment is now recognized by a quarter of 18-24 year olds.

Likewise, according to this Ifop survey, they share the view that “messenger RNA vaccines produce toxic proteins that cause irreversible damage to children’s vital organs.” .

As a result of this view, many young people turn to other medical methods. Especially on social networks, you can find many tips or miraculous cures for any kind of pathology or difficulty. The idea of ​​”safe abortion with herbal products” is shared by a quarter of young people and more than a third (36%) of daily heavy users of social networks.

Growing interest in Mansia

Faced with this trend, young people are increasingly attracted to so-called pseudoscience, which “gives them a magical and simplified view of the world,” analyzed the authors of the ifop survey.

For example, 49% of young people today believe that “astrology is science,” which is a high number, but it’s also higher among older people at 41%. In addition to astrology, “mancy” or other disciplines of occultism are increasingly popular among young people.

Two out of three believe in at least one discipline: 48% in spirits, 38% in the predictions of seers, 36% in witchcraft, 23% in ghosts or 13% in marabouts. Rates far above those of their elders.

Women accept this kind of practice more: 71% believe in at least one mancie discipline, in contrast to 50% of men. Here again we find an important religious factor in the sociological profile of these young people surveyed, with 67% of Muslims and 69% of Catholics practicing at least one religious discipline, compared to 53% of atheists.

The influence of social networks

The researchers who authored this study also focus on the influence of social networks on these beliefs, “The information disorders of the Internet age undoubtedly emphasize the traditional permeability of younger generations.”

Two-thirds of multi-day Tiktokeurs follow at least one mancie discipline, versus 52% of youth who don’t use the app. Differences are also found for other “non-truths”, the networks that form the space in which their supporters find great freedom to popularize their theses.

An observation we observed when we learned that 19% of 18-24-year-olds agreed that “the Egyptian pyramids were built by aliens” or “Americans were never on the moon.” Conspiracy theories that are prevalent on the Internet.

The results of this study can be surprising, especially coming from a generation that is still in school or has just left school. While the researchers acknowledge the influence of the “age effect,” which may fade over time, they warn of the risk of misinformation in the long run.

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