I get asked sometimes why I’m concerned about the anti-science movement in the US. Many people seem to be of the opinion that there really is not any cause for worry over creationists, moon-hoaxers, anti-vaccers, or any of the other nutty positions people hold. I am of the opinion that those who feel that way are just not paying attention. So, just to serve as a reminder that this stuff warrants concern, I want to point out this story in the Sedalia Democrat. It is titled “Band shirts hit wrong note with parents,” and it is about the high school band making shirts to promote their fall program. This is something they do every year without issue. However, this year was different. The design they used was this one:
If you’re wondering what all the hubbub about such a shirt is, let me quote from the article: “[Assistant Superintendent Brad] Pollitt said the district is required by law to remain neutral where religion is concerned.” That’s right, the shirt violated the school dress code because it was not neutral with regard to religion. What about it was not neutral? From the article:
Band parent Sherry Melby, who is a teacher in the district, stands behind Pollitt’s decision. Melby said she associated the image on the T-shirt with Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.
“I was disappointed with the image on the shirt.” Melby said. “I don’t think evolution should be associated with our school.”
The lack of neutrality in regards to religion has to do with the perception that this shirt promotes evolution, which parents think “should not be associated with [the] school.” Now, exactly how a reference to the underlying theory of biology outside of which nothing in the field makes sense is supposed to have anything to do with a religious stance is unstated, but it isn’t hard to imagine. There are numerous Christian leaders proclaiming that evolutionary theory is nothing more than a conspiracy by atheists to get rid of God. This, of course, is patently absurd, but that does not change the fact that the claim is made often and with vigor. And, for those who insist that there is no cause for alarm at the fact that such misinformation is being spread, I give you this example.
There is every reason in the world to be worried. If you cannot wear a shirt referencing something, you certainly cannot teach it in the classroom. That means our children are not being taught the basic fundamentals of science. This is why scientific illiteracy is so high here, and it will not change until those of us who know better take off the kid gloves and stop bending over backwards to accommodate those who would keep our kids ignorant and uneducated.