Ben Carson on evolution: an ignorant (or duplicitous) Presidential candidate

September 24, 2015 • 10:00 am

I don’t care how good a surgeon Ben Carson was (and he was reportedly a terrific one), he’s still pig-ignorant when it comes to evolution, geology, and cosmology. And that ignorance—regardless of whether he doesn’t know the facts, knows them but eludes them and is lying for Jesus, or truly believes that the facts support creation ex nihilo—makes him unqualified to be President. For the first possibility means he’s uninformed (especially as a doctor); the second means he’s dishonest; and the third means he’s blinded to reality by his fundamentalist faith, Seventh Day Adventism.

According to little green footballs, Carson’s odious talk on the falsity of evolution was delivered to the Adventist News Network’s “Celebration of Creation” in 2011, but was posted on YouTube on June 15 of this year. Four years ago, Carson was probably not contemplating a run for the Presidency, so he was willing to say what he really thinks. And what he thinks is truly frightening. I think this is in fact the answer: the man is a flat-out, bull-moose creationist, and, soaked in faith, ignores any evidence to the contrary.

The press needs to query Carson about this issue repeatedly, asking if he stands by what he said four years ago. In a country whose citizens were rational, this talk alone would dismiss Carson as a serious Presidential candidate. But of course our citizens, particularly Republican ones, aren’t all rational, for if they were they wouldn’t think that Donald Trump and Ben Carson were serious contenders to run our country.

You needn’t listen to the whole 49-minute talk unless you truly want to plumb the depths of Carson’s ignorance. (I’ve already done that so you don’t have to.) Otherwise, the bits below, transcribed by Daniel W. VanArsdale, will suffice.

Here’s my summary of what Carson avers in this talk:

  1. All species were created in one six-day episode by God. At 19:42 Carson claims he’s not a “hard and fast person who says the Earth is only 6000 years old”, but doesn’t say how old he thinks it is. But his first comment below the video suggests that he thinks the earth is young.
  2. Evolution is a completely random process analogous to a hurricane blowing through a junkyard. That would merely produce windblown junk, not adapted organisms. This is the old “junkyard tornardo argument” that rests on a deliberate mischaracterization of evolution. (For a refutation, go here.)
  3. The Big Bang didn’t occur.
  4. The reason Darwin proposed his theory of evolution was that he was influenced by someone whom Carson calls “The Adversary.” This could be Satan, though Seventh-Day Adventists aren’t clear on whether they see “The Adversary” as simply evil human opponents, Lucifer himself, or some other evil supernatural figure. (See here and here, for instance.) Nevertheless, Adventists do accept the existence of Satan.

The video:

Van Arsdale’s notes (my emphasis). The notes are indented, my own comments are flush left.

[20:56] “… there is abundant evidence, geological evidence, that there was a worldwide flood. Go up into the Andes Mountains and see all those fossils on the top of those mountains. I mean, these things, when you talk to the evolutionists about them, they always say the same thing … ‘well, we don’t understand everything.’ And I just say, ‘I’m not sure you understand anything.’ You know, they look at all those layers, and then they find some fossils in one of the layers, and they says this fossil is this many years old because it’s in this layer. So, that means this fossil is like a million years old. And then later on they say, ‘well, this layer is a million years old because this fossil which is a million years old is in it.’ You know, that’s like saying, you know, ‘the sky can be red or blue’. And you say, well, the sky is blue. And you say why is it blue? ‘Because it is not red.’ Well why is it not red? ‘Because its blue.’ Yeh, you know that’s known as circular reasoning. That’s how they explain the age of all these things, its very circular reasoning, and really it has no real scientific validity.” [22:22]

Carson’s accusation that evolutionists are engaged in “circular reasoning” that has “no scientific validity” is simply an old creationist canard, and is blatantly false. Yes, layers are collated from place to place by the presence of the fossils in them, but the layers are dated using radiometric dating. And when you line up the layers by their radiometric dates, you see a progression of organisms absolutely consistent with evolution. Geological layers are not dated by the fossils in them!

[24:34] “So we should be able to find intermediate species at any given point in time, and we should be able to find how they line up. You know Darwin said his whole theory depended on the fossil remains and he said we should be able to line up from a single cell organism to man several miles long and just walk right down the fossil trail and see how everything evolved. And he said the only reason they didn’t have the fossils was because they were not geologically sophisticated enough, but that we would be in fifty to a hundred years. Well that was a hundred and fifty years ago. We still haven’t found them. Where are they? Where are the fossil remains? But when you ask the evolutionists about that they say: ‘Nnuuhhh I don’t know where they are, they’re somewhere, we just haven’t found them yet.’” [25:35]

Of course we can find intermediate species; Why Evolution Is True is full of examples. We have intermediates—and at the right times—between fish and amphibians, between amphibians and reptiles, between reptiles and mammals, between reptiles and birds, and, of course, between early apes and modern humans. NO evolutionist says that we lack fossil intermediates—transitional forms.  Of course we don’t have a perfect sequence of all ancestors and descendants, for the fossil record is woefully incomplete (we have perhaps 0.1% of all the species that ever lived). But we have enough fossils to convince any thinking person that modern organisms evolved from ancient ones. The problem is that Carson isn’t a thinking person: he’s on religious autopilot.

[27:24]“You know, according to the theory [of evolution] it [the eye] had to go pukh! and there was an eyeball, overnight, just like that, because it wouldn’t work in any other way. And when you ask the evolutionists about that they say, ‘well, we don’t understand everything.’ And I say, ‘well, I don’t think you understand anything.” [27:48]

Darwin himself dispelled the idea that the modern “camera eye” couldn’t have evolved because all the parts would have to be present simultaneously before it would work. The claim that Darwin couldn’t figure it out is simply wrong (see here). In a truly clever argument, he described various rudimentary eyes that are functional in different modern species, and how one could line these eyes up in a plausible evolutionary sequence to show how a camera eye could have evolved by steps, with each step conferring an adaptive advantage to the organism. To see a good refutation of the “eye couldn’t evolve” argument, watch this presentation by a very young Richard Dawkins.

[31:03]. “Well, now what about the big bang theory? I find the big bang really quite fascinating. Now here you have all these highfaluting scientists, and they are saying there was this gigantic explosion and everything came into perfect order. [31:19] … [32:16] Well, but I mean it’s even more ridiculous than that, because our solar system, not to mention the universe outside of that, is extraordinarily well organized to the point where we can predict 70 years away when a comet is coming. Now that type of organization, to just come out of an explosion?[32:43] And then even if you want to use their own scientific theories, you know you’ve got this mass spinning and then it explodes. In physics we have something we call angular momentum and it is preserved, so it should be preserved in any orbit of anything that is effected [sic] by gravity around a planet, which means everything has to traverse in the same direction. Well it doesn’t! There are many planets that have satellites and moons that go in the opposite directions. So that doesn’t work with angular momentum.” [33:19]

By denying the Big Bang, which is accepted even by some young-Earth creationists (they simply say it happened 6,000-10,000 years ago), and also by many old-Earth creationists, Carson puts himself beyond the pale of rationality. Let him refute the evidence for the Big Bang!

Dear Ceiling Cat, can some savvy reporter please ask Carson, in front of the public, to explicitly deny both evolution and the Big Bang? (Of course, that won’t drive away much of his Republican base.)

The explanation of the retrograde motion of some moons (contra Carson, all the planets orbit the Sun in the same direction), is that they were captured from elswhere after the formation of their planet rather than derived from the cloud of gas that formed their planet.

[36:49] “How are flowers able to reproduce? Pollination. How does pollination occur? Bees and other creatures. Now according to evolution, plants came along before the bees. So how did the plants reproduce? … [37:41] … according to evolutionary model, you know we really came from an ameba [sic]. And amebas, they just like split and then there’s two amebas. So it seems to me like according to evolutionary model you do things that are efficient. So rather than going out and looking for a mate you would just divide, and then there would be two of you. …

Umm. . . .has Carson not realized that many plants are pollinated by wind, and that, in fact, the earliest pollinated plants we have were pollinated not by insects but by wind or water? And insects that are candidate pollinators for angiosperms (flowering plants that originated about 200-250 million years ago) antedated the presence of flowers by about 50-100 million years. Once again Carson hasn’t bothered to look up the data; he’s just repeating old creationist tropes. And yes, the origin of sex remains an evolutionary mystery, but plenty of microorganisms have forms of sexual reproduction that combine DNA from different individuals. Two minutes of Googling would reveal that (see here, for example).

[38:16] But, you know, things are supposed to work in an efficient way, so according to the evolutionary model we would be less pugilistic, we would be much more logical, we would be much more creative, we wouldn’t be going around fighting each other and cutting off people’s heads anymore. Because that stuff would be extinguished and we would have evolved into something much better. According to the creation model, in which we have an adversary, it’s very easy to explain why people act that way, it’s because they have choice and because there is an adversary out there. [38:57]

Umm. . . who is the “adversary” to which Carson refers? (The answer is given in the next quotation!). In fact, humans—if that’s whom Carson means by “we”—are both pugilistic and cooperative, and this dichotomy in our nature is completely explainable by evolution. And who is Carson to judge that it would be to our advantage to be more “logical” and less pugilistic than we are, particularly when most of our evolution took place under conditions completely different from those of modern world? For instance, our xenophobia may be a byproduct of our evolution in small bands, a tendency that is not only inimical to modern humans, but one that we can overcome through culture. Human altruism, which Carson says can be explained only by God (Francis Collins agrees), can also be explained by a combination of evolution and culture. Further, many “altruistic” behaviors show the earmarks of natural selection on individuals (see reference below). There is simply no need to invoke God.

I found this added gem at 43:01, when Carson says this: “. . it takes faith to believe in God; it takes faith to believe in evolution. I think it takes a lot more faith to believe in evolution than it does to believe in God, but they both require faith, and the fact of the matter is that they’re both religion.”

Here Carson displays his ignorance of the meaning of the term faith, which in religion is “belief without compelling evidence” but in its vernacular use in science means “confidence based on evidence.” As I’ve shown before, these aren’t the same. As for evolution being a religion, well, I needn’t dispel that old canard. If evolution is a “religion,” so is chemistry, geology, physics, and Carson’s own field, medicine!

Finally, this:

[answering a woman’s question, 45:07]I personally believe that this theory that Darwin came up with was something that was encouraged by the adversary [Satan], and it has become what is scientifically politically correct. Amazingly, there are a significant number of scientists who do not believe it but they are afraid to say anything.” [45:38]

Seriously? Satan? Carson doesn’t utter Old Nick’s name, ergo the brackets, but it’s pretty clear to whom he’s referring. As far as scientific opposition to evolution, I know a lot of biologists, but I’ve never met one who has told me that they don’t accept evolution but are scared to admit it. If there was copious and compelling evidence against evolution, in fact, the person who presented it would become famous. But there isn’t such evidence, and that—and not intimidation—is why reputable scientists don’t question evolution.

If the press doesn’t go after Carson (currently the second-place Republican Presidential candidate) for this kind of nonsense, then I despair of our press corps. He should be called to account. Those who still support Carson after reading his blather above, well, they’re just as ignorant as he.

h/t: jsp, Don B., Wendy



Price, M. E. (2012). Group selection theories are now more sophisticated, but are they more predictive? Evolutionary Psychology, 10, 45-49.

121 thoughts on “Ben Carson on evolution: an ignorant (or duplicitous) Presidential candidate

  1. On the dating of a rock layer and associated fossils by the presence of another fossil: the latter are called indicator fossils (or other names), and these are generally fossils of very abundant and widespread species that have a known age range. Fossils of super-abundant marine organisms like foraminifera are commonly used to help date co-localized fossils in marine strata, for example, and of course it dates the strata itself.
    These procedures are considered reliable b/c they encounter few contradictions. I am sure that in the past, when all of this was being discovered, that contradictions were found but these were used to refine the science and now they are pretty much spot on.
    Such indicator fossils are very important for more practical purposes, such as finding oil deposits. When certain species of foraminifera are encountered in drilling samples, geologists can determine that the layer has a certain age and formed under certain conditions. Some of these mean that they can predict that oil deposits should be found further down, and so money and time should be spent drilling deeper. So this science is not only accurate, but one can bet a lot of money on it and expect huge profits. Republicans outa love this stuff b/c it works, bitches.

  2. “so according to the evolutionary model … we would be much more logical”

    I almost disrupted my whole office by cackling at this line. The idea that a sky-fairy worshipper would complain about humanity’s lack of logic is just unbelievable!

    “we wouldn’t be going around fighting each other and cutting off people’s heads anymore.”

    It’s folks like Carson that do this these days, in general.

  3. Carson is only a wannabe politician (with no real chance), so I can at least sit back and be amused by his antics. My former congresswoman, Marsha Blackburn, in contrast is the second ranking member on the house energy committee.

    “Speaking as part of a forthcoming Radio 4 documentary series “Climate Change – Are we Feeling Lucky?”, she asserted that the earth had cooled in the last 13 years by 1F. And she said no evidence would persuade her of man-made warming.”

    It’s that last sentence that’s really the most scary

    1. I doubt then that any new information will do any good for such a closed mind. But for everyones’ perusal here is an awesome computer model of atmospheric CO2 circulation over one year. I expect it is based on actual measurements. We will soon have satellite imagery of the real thing.

      What it clearly shows is that most CO2 emissions are concentrated over industrial areas, and these are in the northern hemisphere, and that as photosynthesis kicks in much (but not all!) of this extra CO2 is absorbed by carbon fixing photosynthesis. It is beautiful but also very very disturbing.

      1. Wow, that is amazing! Thanks for the link!

        Remarkable just how much difference the plants make during the N. hemisphere summer.

  4. As bad as these arguments are, the fact that a surgeon thinks he is qualified to explain, examine, and refute a scientific topic outside of his area of expertise — and do this in public in front of an audience — is the smoking gun here. No way is this guy qualified to be president of the United States. He’s not qualified for any political office.

    You don’t have to know everything, but you do have to know what you don’t know and exercise a judicious restraint. A lot of intelligent, reasonable people can be horribly wrong about something. But intelligent, reasonable, ignorant people do not agree to give a talk defending a controversial viewpoint without doing some due diligence with research.

    Either you keep your unexamined beliefs to yourself or you make sure you’re explaining everything properly to your audience. You’re not qualified if it’s not your field no matter how right you think you are, or how easy and receptive you think your listeners will be. Intelligence carries some responsibilities or you’re just a dumb guy with a high IQ and who cares?

    1. Exactly!

      Further, it’s nearly always the Theory of Evolution that such people feel they’re qualified to expound on. This betrays their religious motives imo.

    2. Carson is a Biblical literalist. It wouldn’t matter if he was a surgeon or a sturgeon, he’d still be willfully ignorant.

      It’s very simple with these guys. The Bible is true and anything that contradicts the Bible is false. Carson is no different in that regard than Ken Ham.

      1. No, the odd thing here isn’t that Carson’s “willfully ignorant.” Given that he’s a devout SDA it’s also pretty certain that neither intelligence nor a scientific training will be enough to counter Biblical literalism.

        To me, what stands out is Carson’s willingness to lecture on this topic in public. Bright people who have experience in an area which involves research, peer review, falsification, etc. tend to develop a self-protective disinclination to defend their unscientific views directly. Instead they focus on some non scientific aspect of their religion or make an extra special super duper virtue out of faith. If nothing else they’re shrewd enough to keep their pontifications among close friends or confined to small venues.

        But Carson? He doesn’t even have the innate common sense to do any of that. It’s like a different version of dumb, added to the usual one.

        1. I think Carson’s extra level of dumb is likely a result of a very large ego. Stupidity, a certain technical competence and egomania are a potent combination. Dunning Kruger +, or ^2. People like him can be extremely dangerous. And pretty much always annoying as hell.

          1. I think you are right. He seems to be the kind of person who’s certain that any thought he or she has on any topic simply must be the truth, case closed.

  5. Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Plymouth Brethren, Assembly of God, etc.: these are brainwashing cults like Scientology and Christian Science that have taken on the trappings of social and religious respectability during the last half-century or so. They are very much where Mormonism was in the late 19th and early 20th centuries: far out in their doctrines, yet fast-growing in appeal even though denounced by mainstream Protestant churches.

    Thus, today, people seem rarely to differentiate Ben Carson’s Adventist faith from other versions of Christianity. So he is merely identified as a Christian among Christians–as are all the other Republican Presidential candidates (and for that matter President Obama and, doubtless, Hillary Clinton). This gives him good cover, especially (as Prof. Coyne notes), journalists do not ask him even indirectly about some of his preposterous beliefs.

    To do so would be to criticize the supernatural, which would be to criticize religion, which would be to criticize themselves and their bosses. While I certainly agree with Prof. Coyne that such an inquiry is NECESSARY for the health of the Republic, I do not expect it to occur.

  6. Well maybe he’s right and the big bang didn’t occur. There are competing theories, but something totally cataclysmic did occur and a very long time ago too. So what was it Ben? Inflation, no inflation, branes colliding..what? science breathlessly awaits your special insights.

    1. Read about the Hubble Deep Field photos of seemingly empty areas of the sky that reveal galaxies billions of light years away after long exposures. The images of these galaxies show them as they were billions of years ago, and they’re very different from closer galaxies. They’ve been described as “train wrecks” in the sense that they appear to be in the early chaotic stages of formation, rather than the usual, more orderly appearance.

      Big Bang deniers sometimes advance the ludicrous claim that God created the light from distant galaxies already en route to Earth when he created the Earth a few thousand years ago, but I’d say the Hubble Deep Field photos pretty-much lay that argument to rest.

      1. ” I’d say the Hubble Deep Field photos pretty-much lay that argument to rest.”

        I’m afraid they don’t. It’s all just light on its way to us, and if Goddidit for distant galaxies then Goddidit for all other light too. No more ingenious and twisted than putting all those fossils in the right places (while carefully removing the precambrian rabbits)


        1. Wow! there were pre-cambrian rabbits? I can’t wait to tell Fluffy that she has a really long evolutionary history. Thanks

      2. “…seemingly empty areas of the sky that reveal galaxies billions of light years away after long exposures.”

        Is there anything cooler than that?!

        1. Maybe…but I can tell you one thing that is surely less awe inspiring-third rate magicians doing parlor tricks to convince people they are divine. And to think, my commute to work tomorrow is going to be massively fucked up by the presence of this magician’s earthly representative. I’ll be attempting to leave on a train beneath Madison Square Garden tomorrow as the Papal Mass takes place…

          1. I made it through the crowds and his Holiness has delivered a miracle, for my train out of the city is nearly empty. For some reason, there were massive throngs of people heading the opposite direction from where I was going. Go figure…

          2. Papal Mass

            For some reason that term sounds really disgusting. It evokes nasty, smelly biological . . . things of some sort. I’ll have to remember it!

          3. Thanks…I actually went over a few variations on how to describe it and settled on Papal Mass. I thought it sounded more colorful (picture that) and now that you mention it, it can also take on a more disgusting sounding connotation.

      3. That’s really nice stuff of which I was unaware. I quote from the Wikipedia article on which you linked:

        The HDF galaxies contained a considerably larger proportion of disturbed and irregular galaxies than the local universe;[10] galaxy collisions and mergers were more common in the young universe as it was much smaller than today. It is believed that giant elliptical galaxies form when spirals and irregular galaxies collide.

        The wealth of galaxies at different stages of their evolution also allowed astronomers to estimate the variation in the rate of star formation over the lifetime of the Universe. While estimates of the redshifts of HDF galaxies are somewhat crude, astronomers believe that star formation was occurring at its maximum rate 8–10 billion years ago, and has decreased by a factor of about 10 since then.[16]

    2. There isn’t much of any competing theories anymore, since the latest Planck data release of the polarization data. [Well, I hear Steinhardt of cyclic universe fame claims he can reproduce those spectra, so maybe there is one then.]

      Here is what was said by a cosmologist on the preliminary data:

      “Still, at the small angular scales, the polarisation data can be trusted and in this data Planck have one of their most impressive figures. The figure below shows how both the temperature multiplied by the polarisation (pixel by pixel on the sky) and how the polarisation itself varies with angular scale. The blue dots are the measured signal. Now, the red curve is not the best fit curve to this data. That is worth pausing and reflecting on. If it isn’t the best fit curve, then what is it?
      These curves reflect some of the best of humanity. These are the tiny fluctuations in the polarisation of a field of radiation, left over from a hydrogen plasma that permeated the entire universe, 14 billion years ago. The oscillations in the curves come from sound waves in this hydrogen plasma. The curve is our prediction for this data, with no free parameters to play with at all. Just reflect on that. I’m unable to describe how incredible this is. We don’t even know whether Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare’s plays, but we can predict exactly what the polarisation in the CMB should look like.

      That curve is the unique prediction from analysing Planck’s temperature data. There are no free parameters in defining those red lines. Once the temperature data is analysed, we can make an unchangeable prediction for what the polarisation should look like. The fact that the red line goes straight through the blue data points is absolutely remarkable. However, if one believes in the big bang and standard cosmological model, this is all that could have happened. If one doesn’t believe in the big bang, then not only is there no reason to suspect that the CMB exists, or that it is polarised, but certainly not that the way the polarisation averages on particular angular scales should look like that.

      [ ; my bold ]

        1. It deserves to be said! My layman thoughts exactly, and I think the reaction of all cosmologists when they saw how it turned out.

      1. I don’t quite understand all the science but the conclusions reached are mind blowing. One might easily ask – how the hell can people (apes really) have figured out all that detail about the echos of the big bang. Just extraordinary. And our understanding appears to go back to fractions of a second after the big bang to a time before inflation! Bizarre and breathtaking.
        Thanks for catching us up on these results. I didn’t know.

  7. Yes he is a truly scary, dangerous man. He’s spewing all the old creationist arguments we’ve seen for years from folks like the banana man but when he says them, he just sounds really dumb. The press has been all over him about these issues too but somehow I don’t think it matters to his growing list of supporters. It just boggles the mind how he can be so stupid. He’s far worse than Trump. How can a medical doctor who studied biology not accept what the text books say. I’m thinking his patients may have been far luckier than they realize .

  8. Carson speaks to and for the fundamentalist wing of the Republican party, which is a major component of it. Most of the other Republican presidential candidates agree with him. This is why he is high in the polls. Aside from what the Republican party wants to do to the economy and foreign affairs (none of it good), it should be clear to all secularists that the party is a clear and present danger to secular values: reason, science, and the separation of church and state. Anybody who thinks there is no difference between the parties and thus sees no point in voting is either appallingly ignorant or deluded by ideology.

    1. My fundamentalist family are all-in for Carson. Psychologically I think he has a number of things that resonate with them:

      1. He’s an on-your-sleeve religious person, which scores more points with my family than anything else.

      2. He’s black, which gives them cover for the accusations of GOP racism (my family is not very racist by party standards but they feel the sting of the GOP’s embrace of racists and of being thought of as racist by association).

      3. He’s a doctor, a brain surgeon even, which undercuts the sting of being called ignorant. My family is not highly educated and accusations of the GOP embracing the backward part of the electorate bothers them as well. They don’t really care what the arguments are, they just want the assurance that “smart people” think like they do too.

      He tells them exactly what they’d like to hear while soothing some of the dissonances they feel when many other candidates say it. I see my family sticking with him as long as he is in the race.

  9. Yes, Carson and Trump are hopeless nutcases undeserving of the consideration of any rational person, but I don’t think they stand out from the rest of the Republican candidates in this respect. My current preference is “ABAR for President.” (Anyone But A Republican)

    1. This crop does seem even nuttier than the last. Or the last before that. Sarah Palin seems almost level-headed compared to some of these clowns.

  10. Leave aside his religious beliefs, and the fact remains that Carson has no qualifications to be president. All he has are opinions. The polls I’ve seen are only of self-identified Republican voters. Trump only has about 25% among those (and Carson slightly less). Right now they are pulling in the core voters, who in each party are the people with the strongest hates. As things move on, those leads will be diluted by less committed voters.

    1. I wouldn’t bet on it. More than 50% of GOP voters are voting for outsider candidates. Both those who’ve pulled out so far are governors. It is mostly the far right that votes in Republican primaries (and the far left in Democratic ones) so they get a greater influence on who will be the candidate.

      There are GOP candidates that accept climate change science, are OK with same-sex marriage, accept evolutionary theory, and even one who’s pro-choice. They don’t have a chance because of who votes in the primaries.

      Long term, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing because the more extreme the candidate’s views, the less chance they have of winning the presidential election.

  11. One common translation of the Hebrew word “Satan” is “adversary” or opposer, so no mystery here about BCs meaning.

    (not to be confused with the Slavic word “Sagan” meaning “wise one” the root word of “sage”.)

    1. Actually, there is also a Slovak (? IIRC) word “Satan”, as well. “shatan” is how it is pronounced apparently – someone with that family name played in the NHL for a while. Never for the Devils, IIRC – that would have been nifty 😉

  12. Even if I read Carson’s arguments in a YouTube comments section I’d find them surprisingly stupid. I don’t think it’s much of an exaggeration to say that the dumbest creationists on the web still seem to know a touch more about evolution than Carson.

    It’s crazy that a Republican candidate for the presidency doesn’t consider this primary-school-level ignorance any kind of hindrance to his campaign. The Republicans seem to be living in a peculiar, epistemologically inverted bubble, where the opinions of the rest of the American public don’t matter and the candidates are engaged in some weird ‘nonsense-off’ where they try and outdo each other in the night-is-day and black-is-white stakes.

    As an outsider I just don’t understand it. Do they even care what happens once this contest is over and the dust is settled? What is the tactical long-game that Carson’s advisors are(presumably) playing? If I were an American voter I wouldn’t want Ben Carson within a fifty-mile radius of the White House – not because he opposes evolution, although of course that’s a bad sign, but because the way he talks about evolution is so startlingly stupid. I can believe other candidates ‘reject’ evolution at least partly for reasons of pragmatism, and the relatively brief, perfunctory way in which they generally declare their opposition seems to suggest a level of half-heartedness and shame mixed in with the unapologetic vote-grabbing. Carson, on the other hand, lets these childlike creationist fantasies dribble from his mouth like he should be wearing a bib. He sounds like a genuine moron.

    I’m sure when it comes to other subjects he can get it together, and I’m aware that he’s a neurosurgeon, but considering how worryingly, complacently idiotic the man is on the subject of evolution(and cosmology) I’d probably choose any of the other Rep. candidates over him*.

    *at gunpoint.

    1. You need to understand the nature of the Republican party to understand the appeal of Carson and others of his ilk. A Public Policy Poll in February 2015 revealed the following regarding Republican primary voters.

      1. 66% of Republicans do not believe in global warming.
      2. 49% do not believe in evolution.
      3. 57% support establishing Christianity as the national religion.

      These figures confirm that the Republican party is a threat to all secularists who believe in science, reason, and the separation of church and state.

  13. Carson is an abject fool. I hope some real journalists expose his idiocy; hell, anyone with half a brain could expose his idiocy. It is depressing to listen to his drivel.

  14. You may be living in a bubble. More press attention of Carson’s stupid speeches is actually going to make him popular. This won’t be limited to bottom-of-the-septic-tank Republicans. In comparison to most of the country, it is the views of New York Times reading city dwelling liberals that are peculiar. I often work with highly educated health professionals who’ve betrayed their crush on The Donald. Now imagine your toothless God fearing Appalachian hillbilly.

    The U.S. is an odd place. It shows a person can pursue an advanced degree in a narrow area of specialization and yet remain isolated from the broader arch of scientific literacy. A mere dozen essays by writers like Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov or Stephen Gould may have done vastly more for tools of cognition than years of formal graduate school. It’s that, or maybe the spawn of Golgafrinchams all made it to our shores…

    1. Carson seems to me to be a fascinating case of differential intelligence/ability, the mental equivalent of blind people with good hearing.

      He’s like a horse with good vision but nonetheless wearing blinders that have kaleidoscopic mirrors in them, and as such he is a good case for the Dawkins trope of religion as a kind of mind virus/parasite (although I think that trope has its limits).

      1. His religion has corrupted him further re his bigotry towards gays and liberals.

        His most astonishing jaw dropping statement is that ObamaCare is the worst thing to happen in America since slavery. (Yeah, being black gives you a pass on slavery metaphors. Right!)

        He’s also had to apologize a few too many times, especially for his remarks asserting gay is a choice because look people who go to prison turn gay.

        1. That’s a pretty telling statement assuming he understands black people were still being lynched in the streets in the 1900s, Japanese were placed in internment camps and McCarthy waged full out war in freedom of speech. Of course, Carson would probably view the latter as a good thing, but Obamacare is worse than lychings and false imprisonment? These were just the first three things that popped into my head; I’m sure with some thought, we could come up with a much longer list of atrocities post Civil War Era that are utterly ridiculous to compare with Obamacare.

  15. A lot of things about Carson bother me but what really irks me is that before he retired, he worked at Johns Hopkins. One of the finest institutions in the country and also the home of the Hubble team. He had immediate access to some of the best and brightest minds in biology and cosmology but did he take advantage of it? Apparently not because he’s horribly ignorant of anything outside of neurosurgery.

  16. Carson’s views on evolution are some of his least concerning, except in the context that a clearly intelligent person is able to subsume reality because of his religious beliefs.

    Another thing he’s said is that prison makes you gay, and he’s talked about people turning gay in prison more than once. He thinks being gay is a choice and, of course, a sin. It goes without saying he opposes same-sex marriage and will try to ban it.

    He’s thinks we’re in the End Times and the Final Battle is imminent. He’s said it’s possible we won’t even make it to the next election because of this. Several of his foreign policy positions can be interpreted as advancing the End Times if you’re that way inclined. This idea in particular makes him ineligible to be Commander-in-Chief imo.

  17. How closely related is willful ignorance to duplicity? In Carson’s case he must be treated with the utmost scrutiny. He is asserting epistemological claims that at best not only can no one know, but at worse, they are both unrealistic and lacking evidence. He has the beliefs of a medieval barbarian and he is not fit for global leadership.

    If my neighbor has the same beliefs as Carson the level of scrutiny is correspondingly less as my neighbor’s belief are unlikely to affect thousands, if not millions of people.

    I would claim that in all cases (in America), willful ignorance and duplicity are one in the same for religious people. Niches no longer exist where willful ignorance can persist without genuine skepticism and this makes naive ignorance a thing of the past.

    1. “I would claim that in all cases (in America), willful ignorance and duplicity are one in the same for religious people. Niches no longer exist where willful ignorance can persist without genuine skepticism and this makes naive ignorance a thing of the past”

      I think you underestimate the naively ignorant…

      1. I would qualify Kevin’s claim by relativizing it to education and social class. This is someone who’s been fortunate enough to attend medical school and is apparently a successful surgeon. Hence a person who has opportunity, so yes, “culpable” ignorance applies. Not so for others.

  18. Seventh-day Adventists worship on the Old Testament Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.

    Adventists do not work on Sabbath. Indeed, they believe they will be persecuted in the “time of trouble” for working on the Sabbath.

    So, if elected, will Dr. Carson work on Sabbath? Seems like a valid question.

    1. I believe affairs of state would fall under the rubric of “ox falling into pit”. Although when I was growing up, it was understood that there were certain careers an Adventist couldn’t undertake for just this reason. In our house, being president would have been one of them.

      On a side note, it is worth noting that the SDA church has traditionally been pretty good on church-state separation. Fear of “Sunday laws”, mark of the beast stuff, and so on.

      1. I’ve been curious to see if anyone has asked him this question. If so, I haven’t seen it.

        re religious freedom, how do you think he would respond to the quote from NYT that Jerry mentioned today?

        “…the freedom of religion we cherish in this country is meaningless — unless it is accompanied by an equally valid freedom from it.”

      2. Yes, Seventh Day Adventists were often very much in favor of the separation of church and state, historically. Looks like former allies who once talked a good talk regarding the principles of freedom of conscience may have morphed into the same old advocates of theocracy once their heresy was no longer seen as being as or more threatening than nonchristian beliefs.

        Years ago a hysterical little SDA used to regularly burst into an atheist chat room screaming SUNDAY LAWS COMING!!!! pasting long screeds concerning fears that Congress was going to pass a law making Sunday the official Sabbath … and this would bring on Armageddon. We kept trying to figure out why he thought #atheism needed to know this specifically. Did he want our help to prevent these laws? Was he trying to convert us? What?

        Several long and thoughtful conversations eventually revealed that he was just a nut who targeted everybody and he didn’t think anyone could do anything.

  19. Just for fun, read up on Ellen G. White, founding prophetess of the Adventist church. I was raised as an SDA and hadn’t actually read much of EGW’s work until I was in university. Her bat-shit insanity was one of several factors that drove me directly out of religion. If Carson has remained an actual Adventist into adulthood, he is very much a compartmentalizer.

  20. Coynage: caca de vacca!! I would suggest that Mr. Carson read WEIT, but he would have difficulty understanding DAWKINS’ MAGIC OF REALITY. Although it is more age appropriate, level wise, for the ignoramous.

  21. By my calculations, Richard Dawkins was fifty years old when he gave the lecture that included demonstrations of how an eye could evolve bit by bit. As someone 50+, I am very glad to hear that 50 is “very young”. (Have to admit that Doc Dawkins does look much younger than 50 in the video!)

  22. I guess I should be most shocked by the big bang thing, but as a botanist I can’t get over the pollination. Never heard of ferns, for example? I mean, I read all about that stuff when I was in my country’s equivalent of high school.

  23. I’m pretty embarrassed for my country when I see who its politicians are. My parents really like Ben Carson but he’s a pretty sad excuse for a doctor, considering the way he views such a widely accepted scientific theory.

  24. “Those who still support Carson after reading his blather above, well, they’re just as ignorant as he.”

    But there are certainly a large portion of Americans who accept this nonsense, or don’t care about the issue at all. It makes me question the foundations of democracy. Can an irrational electorate maintain a rational society? Good grief.

  25. Carson also failed to defend vaccination against Trump’s anti-vaxxer hogwash, yet he “emphasizes” his pediatric experiences and claims he is running for America’s children! I can’t imagine a more horrifying future for those poor children than to suffer his presidency. It will be a true dark age!

    The media are infatuated by his anti-Muslim bigotry and don’t pay attention to other nonsense he is spouting. My opinion is his anti-Muslim comments-though unconstitutional- pale in the level of ignorance and prejudice compared to his claims about evolution and other scientific subjects.

      1. It was lukewarm support, at best. I recall watching it live, wishing that he would have been more emphatic in his rejection of Trump’s claims and in his support for vaccinations. Worse, some of his statements even pandered to the anti-vax crowd, such as this one:

        Vaccines are very important, certain ones, the ones that would prevent death or crippling. There are others, a multitude of vaccines that don’t fit in that category, and there should be some discretion in those cases.

        This one was particularly bad:

        But it is true that we are probably giving way too many in too short a period of time, and a lot of pediatricians now recognize that and, I think, are cutting down on the number and the proximity in which those are done.

        Here’s a good discussion in Forbes, Ben Carson Doesn’t Get It: All Our Vaccines Prevent Death.

  26. Carson also failed to defend vaccination against Trump’s anti-vaxxer hogwash, yet he claims he is running for the future of America’s children. I can’t imagine a darker future for America’s children with someone like him making decisions for them in the White House.

    My opinion is the level of ignorance and prejudice of his anti-Muslim comments pale in comparison to this nonsense he spouts about scientific theories. The media are eager to point he has failed the constitution test. They forget he has failed a much more important test already.

  27. Ben Carson is simply saying what he thinks will get him the most votes. Hillary Clinton is doing the same. All the “candidates” are doing the same even Bernie Sanders (who would get my vote if I could vote) although most of what Bernie says is what he’s been saying for a long time

    1. Carson has been saying the same thing for a very long time, probably his whole adult life. In 2006, long before he was a candidate, in a debate with Dawkins, he flatly stated, “I don’t believe in evolution.” Our ability to think and our moral sense was too complex to have “just appeared.”

  28. Jerry! Want to know who the “Adversary” is? Read this.
    “3 And the Adversary entered into Judas, who is surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve, 4 and he, having gone away, spake with the chief priests and the magistrates, how he might deliver him [Jesus] up to them, 5 and they rejoiced, and covenanted to give him money, 6 and he agreed, and was seeking a favourable season to deliver him up to them without tumult.”
    This is the version of Luke 23: 3-6 given in Robert Young’s no-concessions-made Literal Translation of the Bible, the one for intractable Biblical creationists like Carson. All other versions of the Bible I have seen (admittedly few), substitute “Satan” for “Adversary”. For Ben Carson, the “Adversary” who influenced Darwin was the same evil hobgoblin who prompted Judas to betray Jesus, God, Hobby Lobby, and the American Way. Carson is unfit to be dog-catcher.
    Also see comment #14 by Jon Lynn Harvey.

  29. The depth of Carson’s ignorance is a ‘thing’ in itself. I don’t care what he is or trying to be, but he needs to be ‘put down’ for the sake of global cognitive health.

  30. And this guy would have us entrust him to evaluate the evidence on which, on short notice, to order a nuclear strike. From the above it’s clear that he either has no interest in evaluating evidence or no ability to do so. (Apologies if this point has already been made. I just searched for ‘nuclear’ here and came up empty.)

  31. I think Carson’s views can be best summed up by one psychological phenomenon: projection.

    As for scientists who don’t believe evolution but are afraid to admit it, how the hell does he know this? Wouldn’t this require that they had admitted it? Or is he proposing that telepathy is real?

    1. He claims whenever he speaks at Universities about creationism, biology professors whisper to him afterwords that they feel as he does but are afraid of being condemned if they go public. Of course, his claim is untestable since the alleged biology professors don’t want you to know who they are, and Carson is such a loyal friend, he would never blow their cover. So, don’t ask how the hell he knows this – he just knows. Believe it!

      1. I wonder how it’d play out if an opponent (not that any of the clowns in the debates now would be one of them) claimed that Carson whispers in the ears of scientists after he speaks and admits it’s all a charade to buy the votes of the ignorant. It’d certainly be interesting to have that segue into a conversation about how competing claims can be validated.

  32. Mr Carson seems unaware that even a hurricane and its effects obey the laws of physics, as did the origin of life and its evolution, neither was or is entirely random, or does he believe that a hurricane is truly the manifestation of his god?

  33. More points:

    You know Darwin said his whole theory depended on the fossil remains

    That might have been true then, but Darwin didn’t know about genomes and their fossil evidence. Furthermore, as Jerry use to note, there are hundreds of other examples of observed evolution including speciation.

    … they are saying there was this gigantic explosion and everything came into perfect order.

    No, that is Carson. Scientists are pretty tired to note that there wasn’t ‘an explosion’ into preexisting spacetime but an expansion of spacetime itself. And the current inflationary cosmology has structure formation starting out as quantum fluctuations and eventually gravitationally ordering according to the 2nd law of thermodynamics. [Gravity is a funny beast.] The ‘order’ maximum, or rather the disorder maximum of structure complexity, was passed some time ago, today the star formation rate is going down and the large scales structures are diluted away.

    you know you’ve got this mass spinning and then it explodes.

    Again with these ‘explosions’ that science says wasn’t. Planets formed in a similar manner as the stars themselves, mainly by gravity aggregation.

    the earliest pollinated plants we have were pollinated not by insects but by wind or water?

    I think the jury is still out, but both plants in general and later flowering plants likely evolved in water before conquering land.

    1. What a tragedy. I watched most of the lecture (not fun) and all I could think of was – this is a science lecture that gets everything wrong. How can the guy sleep at night spewing so much nonsense. But that’s not right – he believes this crap. He probably sleeps like a stone. The look on the faces in the pews was gullibility personified.

    2. You know Darwin said his whole theory depended on the fossil remains

      Out of the entire Origin of Species, Darwin only devoted two chapters to fossils. There was so much other evidence for evolution that he marshaled for that book, evidence that was overwhelming enough to convince most educated people of his day. Fossil evidence is only icing on the cake, helping us understand the details of history.

  34. Dr Carson is Seventh-day adventist( SDA).
    ( I was once an SDA. )
    Dr Ben Carson grew up poor.
    His family found solace in the church and has been a loyal member.

    SDA church was founded by Allen White. { check her on wikipedia }
    The church believed she was the last prophetess.

    She claimed she was “transported” by her creator back to the day of Genesis.
    She wrote many books based on her “visions”.
    Her book topics ranged from natural healing, dressing (eg. holy dress ), to end-of-times – almost encyclopedic.

    Example, the shocking ones –
    a.) In the day of Genesis, humans were healthy, lived to 700-900s because they were vegetarians. They were giants.

    b.) On dinosaurs – she wrote that in the day of Genesis, knowledge was very advanced.
    Some tinkered with some-kind genetics. Dino was the result of experiment went awry – ala Frankenstein.
    The Tower of Babel event, used by the creator to set it back.
    It was later discovered that Allen White copied much of her books from other authors.

    Having been brought up in such environment, evolution is a foreign concept.

    Many churches shun SDA.
    His candidacy is a long shot.

  35. I say let all this come in under the radar for now. Having him win the primary would be great for a progressive alternative. Hit him over the head with this information during the general election campaign.

  36. As a former Seventh-Day Adventist (now atheist), I can assure you with 99.99% certainty that Ben Carson believes that God created earth in a literal 6 days, ~6000 years ago.

    SDAs actually churn out a lot of doctors, attorneys, and others with advanced degrees (myself included), and in SDA universities (there are 9 in the US), evolution is disregarded as “hogwash,” while the rest of the sciences are taught as they would be anywhere else. The rest of biology, chemistry, physics, math — all are given the utmost respect, but evolution is simply DISREGARDED.

    As SDA students, we weren’t even allowed to discuss evolution. I had read about it as a child, but when I mentioned it in class (~5th grade), I was promptly scolded and humiliated in front of my classmates.

    I was about 10 years old, and one day, after a teacher had mentioned that “God” created Earth about 6,000 years ago, I cited the dinosaur fossils we’d all seen in museums, and I mentioned that carbon dating confirms that they’re hundreds of millions of years old. The teacher scoffed and said, “The scientists are WRONG.” (At that age I didn’t quite have the tools to challenge her as I would today.)

    She continued, “When Noah was in the ark and the earth was covered with water, that changed the molecular composition of the fossils.”

    In shock, I blurted out, “In FORTY DAYS?!?!?”

    “Mark, that’ll be ENOUGH from you today!” And that was that. No discussion allowed.

    It’s disregarded and banned from discussion. No amount of evidence matters. THE SCIENTISTS ARE “JUST WRONG.” No further explanation is needed, nor provided.

    That is how Ben Carson was educated. One can go on to be a neurosurgeon, a cardiologist, or whatever — by learning about and excelling at *current* science and methods. But evolutionary biology is given absolutely no credence whatsoever. It’s utter compartmentalization, and it’s a fascinating psychological phenomenon that otherwise brilliant people are PREVENTED from learning about evolution. And since a belief in evolution isn’t required for modern living, per se, you end up with people like Ben Carson — otherwise smart but with this huge gap in their understanding of the world.

    In conclusion, remember:

    SDAs are forbidden to do any nonreligious work on the sabbath. So, Carson needs to be asked:

    “If you were President, and the US were to experience a financial or business crisis on a Friday night or on a Saturday before sundown, would your faith prevent you from working on the sabbath to address the issue on behalf of the rest of the American citizens who are NOT Seventh-Day Adventists”?

    If he can’t work on the “sabbath,” he’s unfit for office. (Meaning, that’s one *more* reason he’s unfit.)

    1. Thanks for the explanation. That helps make something totally incomprehensible (I mean the utter ignorance of the man) somewhat understandable. But just barely.

      1. Yes, of course. Any science that contradicts a literal interpretation of the biblical Creation myth and a 6,000-year-old planet is flat-out disregarded by Seventh-Day Adventists.

        We could list various examples: Evolution, geology, The Big Bang Theory, etc…

    2. “The rest of biology…[is] given the utmost respect, but evolution is simply DISREGARDED.”

      That’s like teaching anatomy but forbidding all mention of the skeleton.

  37. Carson has every right to his opinion in a world of science that is controlled by the conspiracy of intellectuals against the world and societies. A number of dubious scientific theories have bitten the dust of the earth after they remained unchallenged for decades or centuries and they suddenly fell apart after a honest scientist came up with a true knowledge. Examples are those that said the universe had no beginning, matter can neither be created nor destroyed, the earth is flat etc.. Many more scientific theories, which you have cast in iron will soon become history and evolution is one of them. Because certain theories of science are not understood by 99.999% of the people and are held alive by a powerful ‘cultic’ few who control the society does not mean that you evolutionists are correct. You western scientists need to balance your position with the native intelligence of Africans, Asians etc.. Everything about creation with its orderliness shows clearly without excuse that SOMEONE is behind all created things and we do not evolve from a worm or an ape. So the big-bang is the person? You cannot remain in one region of the world and assume that your theories are fool-proof and by silencing the opinion of others. Why is it that you discountenance the possibility of a cure for AIDS with a wave of the hand without investigating further whenever those claims are from outside the West? The way the issue of same-sex marriage is being canvassed in Africa by leaders of the West is like if you do not embrace it, we will not support your economic development? Why is bilateral relationship being tied to mundane things like same-sex marriage? Why must you guys force others to accept your own culture that you have found suitable to you? Why is it that you always want to force people to swallow your opinion without even giving others opportunity to air theirs? Is this a new democracy? Why are you so aggresively, angrily insulting Carson for his view or you think that everybody must be politically or socially correct? How does political correctness embrace to freedom of speech? This is a modern society and civility of expression is of essence.

    1. Carson has a right to make a fool of himself, and he’s entitled to his ridiculous opinion, but he’s not entitled to the facts, and the facts show that evolution is true. Read my book if you think otherwise. And who on earth says that there can be NO cure for AIDS?

      The truth of evolution is not a matter of “western culture”: it’s a matter of fact, and, in fact, our species evolved on your continent.

      Go back and read my book, please.

  38. As a Scientist, I have observed historically that there is conspiracy in science to lock down the belief of people to certain positions only for those theories to scatter and die after some decades or centuries. There seems to be dispensational mood swing in science. It is possible in science for a few individuals to conspire to control the thinking of the entire world. I treat any scientific theory that is not clear to the majority with caution.

    1. I wouldn’t consider you a scientist if you deny the factuality of evolution. And, to virtually all biologists, much less ‘the majority’, evolution is true. I’m not going to educate you about that, you can go away and do that yourself. But please don’t post your evolution denialism here any more.

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