Poll shows many students in college have `cult beliefs'
United Press International
NEW YORK - Many of today's college students seem to be followers of
"cult beliefs" - a trend that does not speak well for the nation's
science education, a survey showed.
The poll released Sunday showed one-third of the college students
surveyed in three states believe in extraterrestrials, Big Foot and the
lost continent of Atlantis.
"What really surprised us were the number of students who believed
in what we call `cult beliefs' or unproven pseudoscientific theories,"
said Francis Harrold, an archaeology professor at the University of Texas
at Arlington. "We all agree that for a leading scientific nation, this is
not a good sign of the effectiveness of our science education."
Nearly 1,000 college students in Texas, Connecticut and California
last fall filled out a detailed questionnaire on beliefs.
Most of the respondents were white liberal-arts majors between the
ages of 18 and 22, Harrold said.
About one-third of all the students surveyed believed that Big Foot,
a hairy manlike creature reputed to live in the mountains of the
northwestern United States, actually exists. An equal number believed in
the legendary Atlantis, an advanced civilization that supposedly sank
into the ocean.
Thirty percent of the students responding to the survey said aliens
from outer space visited Earth in ancient times.
Overall, 37 percent said they believed in ghosts, and 39 percent
said it is possible to communicate with the dead.
Harrold said the students also were asked how much they read, what
television programs they watched and their political and religious
"There are practically no relationships or correlations among the
`cult believers,' " he said. "They accept some theories and reject
others. They don't have any patterns of reading or television or religion
that we can tell."
The poll also showed that one-half of the students believe in
creationism. These students, the survey found, are less likely to read
books, tend to be more politically conservative and have a lower grade
point average than students who dispute that God created Earth in six
"Overall, the higher you scored on the creationist segment of the
survey, the lower your grade point average - this was a tendency," said
In Texas, 71 percent of students said they believe in the story of
Adam and Eve, while 51 percent did so in Connecticut and 47 percent in
California. An average of 44 percent of the students in the three states
said the story of Noah's Ark is true.