David Fass had a letter to the editor in this week's Jewish Press. In it, he expressed dismay at how the average frum person with a high school diploma can think that they know more about science than people who have studied the scientific disciplines at the graduate level and devoted their careers to it. In truth, however, most people who try to use science to disprove evolution, in thinking that they are brighter than the professionals, probably don't even understand the issue at all and simply read a sentence or two in a book such as Rejoice O Youth or the like, without really understanding the scientific principles behind what they are reading.
In reality, however, I think that perhaps Mr. Fass is a bit off on his reasoning. He states in his letter:
However, it's not the errors in Rabbi Eidensohn's letter that I find most troubling. What disturbs me more is the smug belief, evidently shared by many in the yeshiva world, that the working scientist is on average less intelligent than the typical potted plant.
How else can we explain the rabbi's readiness to believe that he has discovered fundamental problems in the theories of physics or biology that have escaped the notice of scientists who study these fields professionally? Such an attitude reflects either an unusual degree of hubris or a fundamental belief that scientists are all bumbling idiots. I suggest it's the latter.
I don't think that the issue is one of hubris or a belief that scientists are idiots. In my humble opinion, I think the issue is that, among many frum people, there exists a belief that there is a vast conspiracy among scientists to keep the truth of God's creation from the masses.
I've come across this mentality in the past. I remember having a conversation with a high school classmate about science and scientists. His response was that the scientists *have* proof that there is a Creator, have proof that the world is only 6000 years old, that there was a global flood, have proof to the existence of Avraham, Moshe, Dovid, etc. However, that evidence is being covered up so that the scientists can push their athiest agenda. (Incidently, he held a similar belief about Christians: that they all know the truth that Judaism is the proper religion, but they are stubbornly clinging to the wrong traditions - for what purpose he couldn't tell me.)
It's not so much that the average chareidi layperson believes that he has a better scientific knowledge than the scientist - it's just that he believes that the scientist is lying through his teeth. Of course, he (the chareidi) has no knowledge of the scientific process or peer review - or if he does, he believes that it is contrived to avoid having the truth leak out.
The problem we face is not one of lack of scientific knowledge (although, I acknowledge Mr. Fass's point about the state of the scientific cirriculum of our high schools) but the belief in a vast scientific conspiracy to hide the truth. The same people who would dismiss as an ignoramous a person who believes that the moon landings were faked or that the U.S. Government is hiding evidence of alien life at Area 51 have no problem believing that every scientist in the world is actively hiding the truth.