Thirty years ago, I matriculated from Wheaton College, a “fundamentalist” school 25 miles west of Chicago. Well, actually the faculty and student body never called it fundamentalist, that’s what the big TV station called us whenever they did their “local news specials”, and waited for the opening prayer at mandatory chapel to pan the audience for the obligatory “every head bowed” shot. In actuality, Wheaton was proud of its “progressive status” among the consortium of 13 small liberal-arts Christian colleges, promoting an “old-earth creationism” in contrast to the 24/6 “young earth creationism” usually associated with Bible colleges. They had even built their then-new science building with a rotating display of a student-excavated mastodon skeleton (“Perry”) to reinforce their commitment to older-than-6000-year bones. And my science profs proudly displayed their membership and articles in the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, the “non-YEC” Christian society for scientists. I faithfully read the journal at the library, feeling not as wealthy as my geology-major roommate who had a subscription. And a particularly good essay in a science class might get the rare praise “perhaps you can submit it to JASA.”
So it is with some astonishment that recently I received an email asking why attendance at ASA meetings has “grayed” so much, with one reporting that only 5 in a crowd of 80-100 were below the age of 40. A mail-in survey of 53% of the members found that less than 15% were below 40, (and apparently not desirous of attending meetings.) An anecdotal survey of other Christian affiliations of scientists found them with larger percentages of young scientists. So what ailment has afflicted the ASA?