Despite growing interest in community-level science literacy, most studies focus on communities of interest who come together through particular science, environmental or health-related goals. We examine a pre-existing community—ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel—with a particular history and politics vis-à-vis science, technology, and medicine. First, we show how Haredi cosmologies and culture come together to critique science as an epistemology while engaging with science as a technology. Then, we demonstrate how community-based medical experts serve as both science-related knowledge mediators and gatekeepers. Whereas Haredi Jews are constantly critiqued for their low levels of individual secular and science education, these community-based webs of knowledge seemingly position Haredi individuals with knowledge that surpasses the average “secular” Israeli. This case study develops unique analytical tools in the growing field of community-level science literacy, while pushing forward conversations about self-ascribed experts, knowledge gatekeeping, and the socio-political contexts of group critiques of science.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was funded by Israel’s Ministry of Science, Grant 3-15724 and The TCSS Center of Excellence supported by the Israel Science Foundation, Grant 2678/17.
The authors are grateful to many people for their contributions to this article. First, we thank all the research participants who generously shared their time and experiences with them, partially in midst of a global pandemic. Special thanks to Aviv Sharon and to our collaborators on the “Communicating Science among the Jewish Ultra-Orthodox in Israel” project—Oren Golan, Nakhi Mishol Shauli and Yariv Tsfati. They also thank the anonymous reviewers and the Public Understanding of Science editorial team, especially Susan Howard for their support. We thank their colleagues at the Technion, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of Cambridge for their ongoing support. This research was funded by Israel’s Ministry of Science, Grant 3-15724 and The TCSS Center of Excellence supported by the Israel Science Foundation, Grant 2678/17.
© The Author(s) 2022.
- community-level science literacy
- science and religion
- scientific authority