When we saw this, we knew our morning news sweep had struck gold. Today’s letter-to-the-editor (like so many others) appears in the Shreveport Times of Shreveport, Louisiana. It’s titled: The Presumption of Naturalism.
We don’t like to embarrass people (unless they’re politicians, preachers, or other public figures), so we usually omit the writer’s full name and city. But this one is special — very special. The letter-writer (or “guest columnist” as he’s now styled) is John Byrd. Yes, yes! Byrd is back! Previous letters by Byrd, starting with the first time we discovered him, are all linked in our last post about a Byrd letter: #422: Two Explanations.
At some point — from which there is no turning back — the Shreveport Times recognized Byrd’s genius (or at least his talent for attracting readers), and they stopped treating him as the usual maniac-in-a-shack who writes creationist letters to the editor. Now he’s a full-blown “guest columnist,” with a picture and all the status that goes with such a title. That tells us a lot about journalism.
Now that you know what we’re dealing with, we’ll give you a few excerpts from Byrd’s latest letter, enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary, and some bold font for emphasis. Okay, here we go:
Naturalism is a philosophy that holds there is nothing outside of nature. Every observed phenomena [sic] and the origin of everything can be explained as the product of natural processes (as opposed to supernatural).
[W]here science attempts to explain the origin of the universe, the origin of man, or the diversity of life, the inquiry begins with a presumption of naturalism. That starting point excludes any consideration of the possibility that the phenomena being examined might have been caused by, or created by, God. Our public schools teach that God had nothing to do with the origin of the universe, the origin of man, and the diversity of life that we see.
Uh, no. The inquiry begins with no presumption whatsoever — it begins with evidence. We recently discussed that bogus “presumption” in this post: Answers in Genesis: Why Science Is All Wrong, so we won’t bother to debunk it again. It’s sufficient to point out Byrd’s own assumption — that Oogity Boogity somehow is a valid explanation — is supported by absolutely no verifiable evidence. Further, although “It’s a miracle!” literally explains nothing, makes no predictions, and is inherently untestable, Byrd imagines that it’s the only acceptable explanation for everything. Then he says:
It bears repeating (repeatedly) that beginning with a presumption is not “scientific.” It is disingenuous and deliberately misleading to exclude explanations such as creationism (because they are not “science”) from science classes and yet include explanations that begin with, and are grounded on, a non-scientific presumption. Any attempt to claim that naturalism is based on observation and testing and thus meets the criteria for “science” is a lie.
Uh huh. Byrd says natural explanations aren’t based on observations and can’t be tested. Right. Good show, Byrdie! Observe, dear reader, how Byrd’s supernatural dreamworld based on Oogity Boogity automatically leads him to reality-denial. Let’s read on:
In real “science,” the inquiry begins with, and proceeds from, observable evidence. Scientific inquiry into the origin of the universe, the origin of man, and the diversity of life begins with, and proceeds from, a presumption of naturalism that arbitrarily excludes any consideration of an omnipotent God as a participant in the process being studied.
The first sentence is correct. There’s nothing we can say about the rest of that paragraph because its refuted by the first sentence. Byrd relentlessly continues:
When scientific inquiry begins with that presumption, any conclusion reached should carry a disclaimer that reads something like this. “This theory is premised on an underlying non-scientific presumption of naturalism.”
Great idea. Here’s more:
Humans evolved via random, undirected mutations over eons of time from a single, very simple, common ancestor that they share with all other plant and animal life. God had nothing to do with it. Other widely accepted explanations, and evidence refuting the naturalist’s explanations are muzzled.
Hey, Byrdie — the Shreveport Times regards you as a guest columnist. They’re not muzzling you. Wouldn’t your column be the ideal place to present your evidence? So where is it? [*Curmudgeon scans ahead, but sees no evidence*] Okay, skipping a bit we get to this:
Our School Board members are complicit in this indoctrination. Some churches and preachers agree with the naturalists. Sin is publicly mocked, and seldom preached. But the real guilt lies with those that condone it with their silence.
Yeah, it’s a gigantic Satanic conspiracy. Skipping to the end:
Collectively, as a nation, we have abandoned the God of our forefathers. We’re no longer sinners. We’ve been enlightened by the “progressives.” We now worship science and ourselves.
Way to go, Byrdie! Great letter! Verily, you’re an epistemological fossil.
Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.
I love John Byrd, he doesn’t just write columns, but he responds to comments with full blown buffoonery. One more column and he should get an entry in American Loons
So as a naturalist, I am observing evidence of a letter to the Shreveport Times. I’m going to presume that god didn’t write the letter on behalf of Bird-brain. I’m also going to presume that god didn’t tell Bird-brain what to write. I’d like to call the editor and even his wife and confirm that he did indeed write this drivel. But even then my methodology would be failed because I made a presumption that he wrote the letter at all (according to him).
My point is his logic doesn’t apply to everyday thinking or science, why does it suddenly work when talking about creation?
“That starting point excludes any consideration of the possibility that the phenomena being examined might have been caused by, or created by, God.”
Byrdie is right! This is the core of the scientific method and I’m sure Byrdie is willing to grant it some success. So I have a little challenge. Why doesn’t Byrdie – and the IDiots from Seattle for that matter – develop a reliable method to research supernatural phenomena, ie to separate correct claims about god (and of course other supernatural entities) from incorrect ones? I am eagerly waiting, but won’t hold my breath.
“Any attempt to claim that naturalism is based on observation and testing and thus meets the criteria for “science” is a lie.”
Uh oh. I observe that I can read Byrdie’s drivel on internet. I know there is a perfect naturalistic explanation for it. What more does Byrdie want?
Johnny Cakes is on a rant again! Love that guy. He shoots his own argument full of holes then heals like Wolverine.
Hey, it’s Friday the 13th. Is it just me or do we ever see Johnny Cakes and Jason in the same place at the same time? Could it be …
Byrd’s basically using the same tired arguments creationists have for decades
I’d like to ask him: if he believes naturalistic explanations for natural phenomena can’t be tested and aren’t legitimate, why do they work so well? There’s a huge irony involved in creationists discussing their ideas on the Net, which wouldn’t exist if their kind of thinking had prevailed.
Putting the matter in Biblical terms, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” What fruits are derived from subjecting science to supernaturalism? (Plenty of nuts seem to be nurtured, but that’s another matter.)
Here’s how Jerry Coyne responds to the “assumption of naturalism” canard:
“I am SO tired of this trope. It may indeed be the case that we can’t justify a priori via philosophical lucubrations that we arrive at the truth about nature only by using the methods of science. My answer to that is increasingly becoming, “So bloody what?” The use of science is justified because it works, not because we can justify it philosophically. If we are interested in finding out what causes malaria, no amount of appeal to a deity, philosophical rumination, listening to music, reading novels, or waiting for a revelation will answer that question. We have to use scientific methods, which, of course, is how causes of disease are found.” (source: http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/10/02/a-belated-reply-from-francis-spufford-who-defends-his-faith/)
@Mark Joseph: Thanks for the link to Jerry Coyne’s article. He pretty much says it all.
I’m still messing with Johnny Cakes over at the Shreveport Times thread. He’s like a human piñata. No matter how hard you hit him the same hard candy drops out.
That said, he reminds me of someone I know. Oh, yeah, everybody at the Disco Tute! They, too, just chant the same mantra over and over and over: Buy my book! Buy my book!