Science illiteracy, it seems, has worked its way up to the administrative level at one public high school in Illinois.
Dan Delong, a teacher at Southwestern High School, offered an optional reading assignment last week for his students — an article written by well-known science blogger Jonah Lehrer entitled the "The Gay Animal Kingdom" published in Seed Magazine.
The article discusses the challenges facing Darwin's theory of sexual selection, as more and more research is documenting the prevalence of homosexuality in over 450 vertebrate species. In some cases, like male big horn sheep, homosexuality is the norm.
The teacher was suspended without pay.
This is one more example of the growing epidemic of scientific illiteracy in U.S. public schools. The topics of evolution and climate change have also faced similar challenges. In some cases, especially in the rural South, teachers are literally afraid of teaching "science as truth" for fear of parental retribution.
Religion belongs in church, not in school, but somehow it has crept its way in, taking advantage of the giant fissures left in the cracking edifice of an underfunded public education system.
The only way to fix it is public outcry and fortunately for Dan Delong, that is exactly what happened. The school administrators were bombarded by e-mails from the scientific community and parents concerned that the school's otherwise great academic standing would be threatened by such medieval administrative policies.
Dan just got his job back. In this case, science won out. But be forewarned ... science illiteracy is on the rise in the U.S.
So in the event you are faced with someone who doesn't "believe" in science, just remind them that the big difference between science and religion is that one requires peer-reviewed empirical evidence. The other does not.
If they don't know what the word "empirical" means just point them to this YouTube video:
Also on MNN: We're Deer. We're Queer. Get Used to it.