Improbable Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson has seen his poll numbers surge in recent weeks after solid debate performances and an aggressive pandering campaign towards Evangelicals. However, with his new position as a potential frontrunner comes a bit more scrutiny, and Carson isn’t handling it well. This week he slammed critics for pointing out that some of his dumbest beliefs are…well… dumb.
As a former world-famous neurosurgeon, Carson has long-skated on the premise that he is more scientifically minded than many of his colleagues in the anti-intellectual Republican Party. The belief that Carson, who went to medical school, must know something about science is so pervasive, that when he says something closed-minded, reactions from both sides of the political spectrum tend to look a lot like this:
Ben Carson is what happens when science majors get away with not taking courses in the humanities and social sciences.
— jelani cobb (@jelani9) September 20, 2015
But let’s be clear: Ben Carson is no scientist. He’s a climate-denying creationist with an astounding amount of ignorance when it comes to major scientific theories like the Big Bang, evolution, and climate change. He may be really good while operating on the human brain – let’s not take that away from him – but it’s obvious he essentially has no idea how to use his own.
Carson doesn’t like being shown his own ignorance, though. For him, being called out for his scientific illiteracy is tantamount to religious persecution. Ironically, he doesn’t mind telling others what they should and shouldn’t believe. Recently, he mused that Muslims couldn’t effectively be president because their religious beliefs prevent them from “valuing” the Constitution. In 2012, he speculated that scientists who study evolution by natural selection were agents of Satan and meant to deceive Christians into abandoning God.
“I personally believe that this theory that Darwin came up with was something that was encouraged by the adversary, and it has become what is scientifically, politically correct.”
You see, Carson, above all else, is a Christian fundamentalist, and a judgmental one at that. And yet he’s very thinned-skinned. As his campaign for the White House heats up, Carson seems genuinely upset that people might find his comments on “satanic” scientists a bit moronic. In textbook fashion, he defensively suggested that this was an example of religious intolerance towards his Christianity.
While giving a talk at Cedarville University, a Christian private school in Ohio, Carson made fun of people who believe in things like the Big Bang theory. Carson had the audience doubled over in laughter by mockingly explaining how silly it was to believe in the Big Bang theory, which he described was like blowing a “hurricane through a junkyard” and getting a fully-assembled 747. The anecdote, which has been around forever, has been debunked so thoroughly as to be a named fallacy. “Hoyle’s fallacy” is easy enough for a elementary school student to grasp, and much ink has been spilled explaining it. (A good read on it can be found here.)
He concluded his hurricane anecdote by saying that to believe in the science behind the expansion of the universe requires “more faith” than Christianity, but that he would tolerate scientists out of the goodness of his heart.
“I give you credit, for that,” continued Carson. “But I’m not gonna denigrate you because of your faith and you shouldn’t denigrate me for mine. And that’s the kind of attitude, ya know — that’s the kind of attitude that I think is very important in the society in which we live today.”
Carson wants to have it both ways. His electoral chances require an aggressively anti-scientific, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant campaign, but he condescendingly demands that his critics give him a pass when he says stupid things.
Is it okay for Ben Carson to be dead wrong about basic scientific theories? Sure. He’s entitled to his opinion. He’s even entitled to float the idea that scientists are conspiring with the devil. But Carson doesn’t just want to be left alone with his crackpot theories, he wants to be the President of the United States and that means Americans have the right to know if their prospective leader has the scientific literacy above that of a 5th grader. As science and technology continue to push us forward, it’s kind of important.
Watch Carson’s remarks below via Cedarville University:
Feature image via NBC News screen capture