January 16, 2008

Email to Mark Southerland (Taylor County, FL School Board Creationist) Goes Unanswered

After Casey Schmidt's recent email exchange with Taylor County, Florida District 1 school board Creationist Mark Southerland, I had a few questions of my own. I sent Southerland an email with those questions, reproduced here in full, on Sunday, January 13. It has met with no response as of this moment, and I suspect that it will not get a reply from him. On the other hand, if a response does come later I will follow this up. Alternatively, Southerland is more than welcome to respond publically to this entry — provided that he remembers to turn his caps lock off.

My email to Southerland:

From: "Michael O'Risal" [mxxxxl@mxxxxs.com]
To: Mark Southerland [soho@gtcom.net]
Subject: Regarding Your Stand on Biology
Date: Sun, 13 Jan 2008 08:03:07 -0500

Mr. Southerland,

I recently learned of your stand on the teaching of evolutionary biology in Florida's public school science classrooms and am a bit puzzled.

You noted in one of your correspondences that you refer people to the Answers in Genesis website to support your contention that alternative theories should be taught. As Answers in Genesis is a religious organization that explicitly states that its mission is to enable "Christians to defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ" and that it supports the contention that belief in "a young earth is a consequence of accepting the Word of God as an infallible revelation from our omniscient creator," it would seem that the alternative theory you would like to see taught in public schools is a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis.

On the other hand, religious instruction in public schools in the United States has been illegal for many years (cf Edwards v. Aguillard), and so to teach the alternative theory that you appear to support would be a violation of federal law. As a school board member, I would assume that you are already aware of this.

I would be interested in understanding how you reconcile these two facts. Clearly, it would not be permissible to insert a religious ideology into a science class, so even if we assume that some alternative to evolutionary biology as an explanation for diversity existed, the literalist religious version championed by Answers in Genesis could not be taught. Moreover, it has been soundly rejected by the vast majority of scientists in all fields of inquiry from physics to molecular biology as there has yet to be any evidence found to support it, and so it fails both on the legal and scientific fronts.

If not the Genesis account, then, what alternative theories are you proposing be taught?
I believe that my email, while perhaps pointed, is in no wise aggressive or demeaning. Still, I'm not going to wait for a reply forever before concluding that Southerland and his cohorts do not have one.

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