Ben Carson: World Renowned Surgeon or Ignorant Rube?

Dr. Ben Carson is not your typical presidential candidate.   The fact that Donald Trump and Carson are well ahead of the pack in the Republican primary battle suggests that American are pining for a non-traditional candidate to support.  Carson is a retired pediatric neurosurgeon who, in 1987, became the first doctor to successfully separate Siamese twins conjoined at the head.  He has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, some 38 honorary doctorates, numerous national merit citations, and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine.  His scientific and intellectual chops should be universally accepted, yet they are not.  A recent editorial by Gail Collins raised an ugly specter regarding a not-so-hidden skeleton in Carson’s closet.  After referring to Carson’s inspiring personal story of rising from poverty, she wrote:

On the other side, it is kind of unnerving that he doesn’t believe in evolution.  …Carson doesn’t believe in evolution.  And he is, you know, a scientist.

That is all she says, but that is enough.  She does not need to evaluate, because the mere fact that he is not an evolutionist calls everything else in his career into question.  In those few words, Carson moves from admirable figure to ignorant rube in her mind.

It is an all too common story in American history dating back at least to the Scopes Trail of the 1920s.  John Scopes was a substitute teacher that occasionally subbed in a science classroom.  In the state of Tennessee at that time, it was illegal to teach evolution in the classroom.  The American Civil Liberties Union was seeking a test case to challenge the law and offered to defend anyone accused of violating the law.  The law was not generally enforced, but some boosters of Dayton, Tennessee thought that such a case would bring much needed publicity to their area.  John Scopes agreed to being accused of violating the Butler Act that outlawed teaching evolution.  Scopes could not remember actually doing so, be the ACLU provided a defense lawyer, Clarence Darrow, and Scopes helped to find false witnesses.  That trial was a media sensation and a circus for Dayton, Tennessee, because the state asked three time presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan to help prosecute the case.  The media painted the case as a battle between science and religion, progressives and fundamentalists, rationalists and rubes.  The judge disallowed scientific experts saying that the case was not about the merits of evolution, but about the law.  Inexplicably, however, he did allow Darrow to interrogate a biblical expert and Bryan became that expert.  Darrow asked him a variety of questions, many of which Scripture does not directly answer.  America’s misguided perspective of this event is based on the play, Inherit the Wind, written in the 1950s by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee.  It has been made into a movie several times.  The play was designed to critique the McCarthyism in America during the 1950s, and rewrote the essence of the trial to emphasize the intellectual gap between evolutionists and creationists.  He likened creationists to McCarthyites and evolutionists to those who opposed Joseph McCarthy’s tactics in trying to eradicate communists in America’s government.  While their purpose is clear, America’s perception of the Scopes Trial is not.  Bryan actually did not like the law in Tennessee, but did support the right of a state to determine educational policy.  He preferred that teachers be allowed to teach both and even offered to pay Scope’s fine.  While the play portrays the Bryan character to be an unthinking buffoon, the trial transcript shows Bryan to be quite thoughtful in his responses.  Today’s America would critique him, however, for actually believing what Scripture teaches.

And that, apparently, is Dr. Carson’s great failing. It is ironic what becomes a political issue in this day and age.  In this case, a person, who by all accounts is a highly successful physician and a good and decent man having given away large amounts of money to help other young Americans be successful, is attacked because he holds a view on origins that some 42% of Americans hold.  I wonder what these critics think of our Founding Fathers, none of whom held to the evolutionary theory.  Biological evolution as we know it was not even introduced until the mid-nineteenth century by Charles Darwin.  I suppose the America of today would find Thomas Jefferson or Abraham Lincoln to be ignorant  and unsophisticated as well because they believed in an Intelligent Designer.

I am not even going to get into the fact that evolution is a theory and those who hold to it have to believe that certain conditions existed in order to allow it to occur.  In other words, it requires faith, just as it does for a creationist to believe in creation.  Perhaps what is most frustrating is that Dr. Carson is a scientist.  I have actually read arguments trying to suggest that physicians are not scientists, but I think they would be very surprised by such assertions.  Regardless, it is clear that a belief in evolution is not required to become one of the world’s foremost surgeons.  Perhaps Gail Collins and other editorialists ought to evaluate Carson on what he intends to do if he is elected president.  Carson, like many highly successful Americans (and Presidents) both in the past and in the present, believes in the God of the Bible.  Such a belief should not be seen as shocking or considered ignorant given the important role that Judeo-Christian thought has played in the development of Western Civilization.  I hope that Americans will remember their history.  I also hope that Christians will graciously refuse to accept the type of denigration that Carson has faced.

11 thoughts on “Ben Carson: World Renowned Surgeon or Ignorant Rube?”

  1. And just to add a few names to the list (just a few out of many I could pick)…
    Isaac Newton
    Johannes Kepler
    Francis Bacon
    Galileo

    All these men that contributed greatly to science were creationists that did not believe in evolution.

    Of course I could ask the rhetorical question, what does evolution have to do with being President? What difference does it make when it comes to jobs, immigration, refugee crisis’, dealing with ISIS, the economy, etc. whether one believes in creationism or evolution or young earth or old earth?

    1. How could Newton, Kepler, Bacon, and Galileo believe in evolution through natural selection when it was not even proposed until after they were dead?

      Kepler believed in astrology, and Newton in alchemy. Must we accept astrology or alchemy just because THEY did?

      You are committing the fallacy of appeal to authority.

      What counts is not who says something, but the evidence behind what is being said.

      1. I did not say these men were perfect nor was I, as you accuse, appealing to “their authority”. My purpose was not to debate creation vs. evolution since regardless of what I might say, I already know that there are those, including you, who are never going to accept it. I would just be banging my head against a brick wall. My statement was a simple observation that many notable scientists have been creationists and that fact did not stop them from making very valuable contributions.

    2. If you are a Cedarville student, I am disappointed to see that you cannot argue logically.

      Your “argument” was clearly an appeal to authority. Otherwise, you would have no need to cite the names of Kepler, Newton, etc. Names are irrelevant to the truth of a claim being made. Even brilliant people can be wrong. Even a stopped clock is right some of the time–two times a day.

      I did not claim that you said they were “perfect.” You are setting up a straw man, another logical fallacy.

      Here is the bottom line: the scientists you mentioned lived BEFORE Darwin proposed evolution through natural selection. They lived in a time before fossils had even been discovered and identified as such. The vast, vast majority of people who lived where they did when they did were creationists. So what. They were wrong. Geocentrists who believed that [their interpretation of] the Bible supported their positions were wrong.

      Now we know better (well, most of us do, at least).

      But the great thinkers you mentioned were not intentionally wrong. They just did not know better.

      Although we cannot bring back the great Newton and his contemporaries from the dead, we can say that if they were truly scientists, if alive today they would see the obvious evidence for evolution by natural selection and would admit that creationism is inconsistent with the said obvious evidence.

      If alive today, they would almost certainly not be creationists. If they were truly outstanding scientists, they would see the error in their ways and then change their minds. Newton above all was not a creationist. He was a physicist. I would presume that as a true scientist Newton would seriously consider and end up accepting Einstein’s criticisms of his ideas.

      People today have no excuse for ignorantly believing in the indefensible. We today KNOW better, since we now have the data and other evidence. They did NOT know better.

      In 2015, with all of the evidence we have, there is no excuse for believing that Genesis 1-2 should be interpreted literally. Obviously, that is not how God wanted us to believe.

      There is no excuse today for being a creationist, other than willful ignorance and refusal to accept reality.

      When you are digging a hole, in the future you should ask for a ladder, not a shovel. :-) Have a nice weekend.

      1. It is irrelevant to the argument that started this conversation if they existed BEFORE Darwin or not. The ENTIRE point was simply to say that the lack of belief in evolution does not make one some country bumpkin or hillbilly and that many smart men have believed, and many smart men do, believe in creationism. It doesn’t matter whether he came before Darwin or not. Evolution is simply a theory, a religion, or origins. The Greeks had their mythology, Egypt had its gods. That did not stop superstitious mythology-believing Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, or Romans from contributing to science, technological advancement, or from being great generals or kings. Its irrelevant to whether one is qualified to be President of the United States.

        “There is no excuse today for being a creationist, other than willful ignorance and refusal to accept reality.”

        This is probably the stupidest and most insulting comment you have ever made on this blog.

        Reality is created by God. What he tells us about reality is reality and he has told us in Genesis how that reality started. Regardless of what we “observe” about that reality, it is not our place to disagree with what God has told us. It is willful ignorance and a refusal to accept reality to stand in front of God and say “but based on what I see, how could what your Word says be true”.

        God has given us his written Word that tells us how this universe came into being. Regardless of what we might “observe”, there is no excuse for being an evolutionist.

      2. Your comments intrigue me. I would recommend against presuming what Newton, or anyone else would or would not do after being exposed to Darwin’s work, but that is not what makes me wonder most. Your definition of knowledge is based, it would appear from your argumentation, entirely on the empirical method. And herein lies the crux of my blog. Knowledge has been debated for centuries. Interestingly, however, for most of recorded history, many people, I dare say most, have embraced the notion that that which is known, can be based upon authority. For the Jew from the earliest recorded history (the Jewish historians were some of the first that the field properly calls historians), knowledge given to man from God was the highest form of knowledge. It was true because its Author was the true and living God. Christians embrace the same concept. Truth is timeless, but the knowledge you describe is not. Your “knowledge” is based on what you presume is proven. The question of proof has been the subject of debate since the Enlightenment. What is it? How much is enough? What scientists purport may be considered knowledge, but is it true? The average American respects science quite a bit, but in practical terms, it often questions the veracity of science’s findings. And, I would suggest, with good reason. The latest “scientific” knowledge might suggest that coffee is good for our hearts. The consensus of the field may concur. Next year, a new study may challenge that and the field may concur. What do you do with today’s knowledge when it might be found untrue next year? As a Christian, I am very thankful for science. I benefit from it in a thousand different ways, not the least of which is when I am sick and see a doctor. Yet doctors call what they do “a practice.” And this is with good reason. They practice and learn, and sometimes I benefit and sometimes I don’t. But I recognize that doctors are going to give me what they can at this moment. What they have is knowledge, but it may turn out to be false. I live with that because that is the nature of the empirical method. What appears to be true today, may turn out to be proven false tomorrow. For Christians then, we do not deny the value of the empirical method, we simply recognize its shortcomings. We also recognize that there is only one foundation for timeless, unchanging truth and that is God. He has spoken to us in His Word and it is true because He is the God of truth. There is no greater source of authority than Him. He does not need to be proven, although there is proof of His existence all around us. He is accepted by human beings when they believe.

        Scientists who accept nothing but the empirical method to lead them to truth, also have a belief. They believe that the empirical method is the only source of truth. There is no way to verify that this is the case. A philosopher might argue that the authority behind the empirical method is simply human reason. In a country like America, citizens have the right to believe that reason is the highest source of truth. They also have the right to believe that God is the highest source of truth. Given that both systems of knowledge appeal to an authority, I don’t think there is much ground for suggesting that holding to one or the other makes someone ignorant or unwilling to accept reality.

        I know you can point me to some extreme examples of people who are unwilling to accept what science has repeatedly demonstrated and good medical practice, for example, has shown to be true in most cases. I am not an advocate, for example, of withholding medical treatment from children because God’s Word says that God will heal them. This is both a poor understanding of science and a poor understanding of Scripture. I am a little surprised as the tenacity with which you argue that science has proven evolution to be true. It certainly has strong case with regard to micro-evolution, but the evidence for macro-evolution is not nearly as strong. In addition, while we have had many so-called great scientific discoveries of species that were supposed to be evolving from one species to another, they invariably turn out to be mistaken or hoaxes. If macro-evolution had taken place, our fossil record would be replete such examples. In reality, the best that science has to offer is a few examples and often even they are debatable. My point is not to get into yet another arena of debate with you, it is to suggest that you are not giving others their due. Just because someone believes in a literal creation account does not make them ignorant. Evolution is called a theory for a reason.

        Now back to my blog point. Surely, if so many fine political leaders were able to lead this country without believing in evolution, another one could. The proximity to Darwin’s work is immaterial. Dr. Carson strikes me as the perfect example of my point in this rejoinder. He recognizes the value of the empirical method as a physician, but in the realm of origins, he also understands its limitations.

  2. “I am not even going to get into the fact that evolution is a theory and those who hold to it have to believe that certain conditions existed in order to allow it to occur.”

    Sorry, but you just did. If you did not want to get into it, you would not have included it, lol.

    Scientific theories can be tested and can make predictions that are falsifiable. Evolution through natural selection more than meets this requirement.

    In science, theory does not refer to some conjecture, guess, or such. Most ideas in science never get even close to being considered as theories. That is why the “evolution is only a theory” meme is so lame. It is based on an inaccurate definition of scientific theory.

    Evolution is both a theory and a fact. The facts that support natural selection span many scientific fields of inquiry–biology, genetics, geology, paleontology, to name only a few.

    On the other hand, creationism is not even close to fitting the standards of a theory. It is not even a coherent hypothesis. It cannot be tested. There is no data for creationism.

    Indeed, WHICH creation account would the right one? There are two in Genesis alone, and many others in ancient literature.

    Believing in creation is merely a matter of faith, since there is no data to support it. On the other hand, one does not need faith to accept (not believe–evolution is not a matter of belief) natural selection.

    Accepting requires honesty and a willingness to admit error. As someone who used to believe in creationism, I know being honest with oneself is difficult. Most people cannot do it.

    As to your original question, one can be talented in one area and yet totally out of his league in another (for one, no one would want to hear me sing or dance). Ben Carson is a brilliant neurosurgeon who has saved lives with his gifts. For that he deserves respect, and he seems to be a gentleman.

    But those qualities do not make him a strong candidate for the presidency. The fact that he is among the upper tier of Republican candidates says more about the poor quality of the ideas in the GOP. In most election years, Carson would not be close to the top.

    That said, my analysis is just a theory!

    1. Now, to bang my head against the brick wall…

      “Evolution is both a theory and a fact. The facts that support natural selection span many scientific fields of inquiry–biology, genetics, geology, paleontology, to name only a few.”

      I am sorry, but evolution is a theory and an INTERPRETATION of facts, not fact itself. Creationists look at the same facts and interpret them differently. It all comes down to worldview and whether you accept Genesis as literal or not. You don’t. I do. Impasse.

      “On the other hand, creationism is not even close to fitting the standards of a theory. It is not even a coherent hypothesis. It cannot be tested. There is no data for creationism.”

      Same as above, this one only works when one rejects as evidence the written word of God. That’s your choice of course. The only thing I can say is… when we both get to heaven we will find out for sure, and each of us can take comfort in the fact that when we do find out who is right, in heaven, the other will not be gloating.

      “Indeed, WHICH creation account would the right one? There are two in Genesis alone, and many others in ancient literature.”

      There is only one creation account in Genesis. I don’t know where you come up with a different one unless it be a misunderstanding of the text.

      “Believing in creation is merely a matter of faith, since there is no data to support it. On the other hand, one does not need faith to accept (not believe–evolution is not a matter of belief) natural selection.”

      My friend, you have to have quite a bit of faith to believe evolution. But I think you make the mistake of equating evolution with natural selection. The two are mutually exclusive. One can believe in creationism and in natural selection, at least in the sense that many species that God created have, through that process, become extinct, while those that adapted survived. As for data, like I said, that is a choice of accepting the Bible or not. If you accept the Bible, and that it is God-inspired, that is all the evidence or data one needs.

      “Accepting requires honesty and a willingness to admit error. As someone who used to believe in creationism, I know being honest with oneself is difficult. Most people cannot do it.”

      I wonder if you extend the same courtesy to the many ex-evolutionists who have admitted their errors and are now creationists? Or is “accepting requires honesty” only valid if one follows your path from creationism to evolution and not the reverse?

      “As to your original question, one can be talented in one area and yet totally out of his league in another (for one, no one would want to hear me sing or dance). Ben Carson is a brilliant neurosurgeon who has saved lives with his gifts. For that he deserves respect, and he seems to be a gentleman.”

      Well, finally, at the end, we come to a matter on which there is some agreement between us. One CAN be talented in one area and out of his league in another. Classic example is George McClellan during the Civil War. He was very talented at organizing, training, and equipping, the Army of the Potomac. But when it came time to take that army onto the battlefield he was most definitely out of his league.

      Dr. Carson is a good, decent, man. Very talented in some areas. Like you, I do question his readiness for the Presidency.

      P.S. In one way we are indeed alike… no one wants to hear me sing or dance 😉

      1. Please don’t hurt your head. We need our brains!

        Let’s reason this out. Let’s look at another theory…

        Gravity is “just a theory” as well, but that does not mean one safely can ignore the fact that if you climb to a ten-story building and jump off, you will fall the ground and like Wile. E. Coyote go splat on the ground.

        Atomic theory has supporting facts. So does germ theory. How about heliocentric theory?

        You obviously have no idea what evolution through natural selection even is, or even what a scientific theory is, and yet you feel compelled to argue with someone who does?

        That makes no sense to me.

        You said, “But I think you make the mistake of equating evolution with natural selection. The two are mutually exclusive. One can believe in creationism and in natural selection, at least in the sense that many species that God created have, through that process, become extinct.”

        If you accept natural selection, then by definition you accept that natural processes, and not just some creator, is responsible for the diversity of life. Congratulations, you are half-way there!

        Being a creationist who believes also in natural selection and then denies evolution–that makes absolutely no sense. If you believe in natural selection, you believe in evolution as well.

        The only difference between “microevolution” and long-scale evolution over millions of years is time. Take “microevolution”, and THEN add a lot of time (far, far more than young-earth creationists are courageous enough to accept), environmental changes, population dynamics, plate tectonics, etc.

        You end up with evolution through natural selection over hundreds of millions of years.

        Saying that you accept in natural selection but not in long-scale evolution is like saying that while one can walk for 1 minute, it would be impossible to walk for six hours. Same action, just a difference in time.

        Let’s take this further…

        Why have some species gone extinct? Because of natural processes? Because of God?

        If you say “God,” then this arguably contradicts the Bible. Genesis 1:31 says that after creation, God said it was very good.

        Why would God make most species that have ever existed go completely extinct if God said that the creation he had just made was very good? It makes no sense.

        If you say “natural processes,” then you accept the veracity of evolution already. You just don’t know it yet.

        If you say BOTH, then you are like me and many other Christians who have a truly high view of God, who cannot accept that God wants us to accept as literal history a story that cannot be literally accurate.

        I encourage you to open your mind. Check out the videos and books of Dr. Robert T. Bakker, evangelical minister AND paleontology Ph.D. Remember, I am a Cedarville grad who took Dr. Walter Griffith for geology probably long before you were born. I later realized, through my own first-hand study, (including collecting my own fossils, some of which go back 325 million years) that while there are many nice people at Cedarville, those who accept in young-earth creationism are wrong.

        One can be a good person and be wrong. I prefer to keep the good and get rid of the wrong aspect.

        I trust you will honestly question what you are being told, by me and by everyone else, and that you honestly seek truth, even if it requires the painful admission of error at some point in the future.

        My best to you.

      2. Natural processes are part of nature and therefore, since nature was created by God, then ultimately, though they be natural processes, the diversity of life is still due to the Creator.

        And remember, I said I believed in natural selection IN THE SENSE that already existing species can adapt to new environments and those that don’t become extinct. These species can develop new traits, but they don’t become a new species.

        And if evolution is, as you say, fact. Why do we not see examples of it today? Has evolution stopped? If so, what stopped it? If Humans evolved from apes (or whatever the current THEORY says) why do we still have apes that are fully ape and Humans that are fully Humans? Did only some apes evolve? Why didn’t the rest? Where are the “transitory” ape-Humans? If Humans are the next “step” up, shouldn’t apes still be transitioning to Humans? Evolution claims that the dinosaurs became birds, thus no dinosaurs and lots of birds today. So why are there still apes if Humans evolved from them?

        If evolution is, as you say, scientific fact, then we should be able to observe it happening in real time as we can observe in real time that a person going splat off the 10 story building is proof of gravity. Evolution is a theory that offers an explanation, based on an INTERPRETATION of untestable data (the past) for the origins of life. It is as much a religious belief about origins as Creationism is.

        “Why would God make most species that have ever existed go completely extinct if God said that the creation he had just made was very good? It makes no sense.”

        It makes no sense only if you ignore Genesis 3. ALL of creation was cursed when Adam sinned, ALL. It WAS very good. And one day it will be again. I believe when this creation passes away and God creates the new heaven and earth, that EVERYTHING he created in the original creation will be there, including dinosaurs.

        “If you say BOTH, then you are like me and many other Christians who have a truly high view of God, who cannot accept that God wants us to accept as literal history a story that cannot be literally accurate.”

        Then your view of God is not a high view. If you cannot accept even the possibility that Genesis is literal, then you deny that God could have created a universe that from the moment of its creation was a fully formed, functioning, system. Five minutes after his creation, Adam would have appeared to a time-traveler as a fully grown man. Without the revelation of Genesis, such a person would naturally, and not unjustifiably, think that the man standing before him had to have existed at least twenty some years. The same is true of ALL creation. That person could have looked at a rock, a fully grown tree, an adult animal, and concluded the same absent the Word of God.

        In the end its a simple choice. Either we interpret the Bible by what we see or we interpret what we see by the Bible. Your choice is to interpret the Bible by what we see and if it doesn’t add up, then the Bible must mean something other than what it actually says. My choice is the other, that if I see something that doesn’t add up, then it must be my understanding that is lacking, not God’s Word. As I said before… Impasse.

  3. Well your economist was disappointed tonight at Mr. Carson’s support of the minimum wage. I hereby declare him an economic rube. Nevertheless he is a fantastic American success story–I hope he continues to influence the discussion (aside from the minimum wage!).

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