Saturday, November 07, 2015

Deal Breaker

Ring of Fire has a post on Ben Carson and, if he is being quoted in context, then he has said some truly daft things.  That Dr. Carson is an evangelical Christian is not in dispute, and I personally think it is good to have someone who is so up-front about their faith on the campaign trail.  That is not the problem.  Here is what Justin Lane writes:
During a recent campaign event at a church in Nashville, TN, Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson explained that he believes in creation and thinks the theory of evolution is the work of Satan.

“They say, ‘Carson, ya know, how can you be a surgeon, a neurosurgeon, and believe that God created the Earth, and not believe in evolution, which is the basis of all knowledge and all science?'” Carson posited.

“Well, you know, it’s kind of funny. But I do believe God created us, and I did just fine. So I don’t know where they get that stuff from, ya know? It’s not true. And in fact, the more you know about God, and the deeper your relationship with God, I think the more intricate becomes your knowledge of the way things work, including the human body,” he said.

Carson went on to explain that the theory of evolution, specifically, is the work of the devil.

“I personally believe that this theory that Darwin came up with was something that was encouraged by the adversary,” he said.
Evolution is one of the most highly documented, well-supported scientific theories on the planet and he thinks that it came from Satan? Really?  This is, ostensibly, a highly educated man.  I simply cannot take seriously anyone who thinks this, no matter what their other accomplishments might be.  Nor can I vote for a person who thinks this. 

I simply cannot.

Carson is also on record as saying that he thinks that the pyramids in Giza were built by Joseph to store grain.

Paul Waldman of the Washington Post adds this:
Ben Carson’s ideas about things like the pyramids, combined with what he has said about other more immediate topics, suggest not only that his beliefs are impervious to evidence but also an alarming lack of what we might call epistemological modesty. It isn’t what he doesn’t know that’s the problem, it’s what he doesn’t realize that he doesn’t know. He thinks that all the archeologists who have examined the pyramids just don’t know what they’re talking about, because Joseph had to put all that grain somewhere. He thinks that after reading something about the second law of thermodynamics, he knows more about the solar system than the world’s physicists do. He thinks that after hearing a Glenn Beck rant about the evils of Islam, he knows as much about a 1,400-year-old religion as any theologian and can confidently say why no Muslim who doesn’t renounce his faith could be president.
In this way, he is not very different from many evangelical Christians who seem to be afflicted by an illness that convinces them that they can dismiss any scientific theory they don't like by reading one article on the subject.  If Carson does not moderate his public speaking on these subjects, he will continue to look foolish.  That is a shame because I think he genuinely wants to help the country and has some good ideas.  Just not the scientific ones. 


  1. Consider this Jim, concerning your comments about Ben Carson's suitability to garner your vote. Maybe what he meant in his comment about evolution being the work of the devil, was atheistic evolutionism, in which case he would be right. I think you would agree that an unqualified use of the now virtually meaningless popular word "evolution" needs to be qualified before proceeding with the discussion. Maybe you should ask him to clarify, he does apparently believe that the earth is very old. Also, I would have more faith in a man who believes that there is a God to whom he is accountable, regardless of what he believes about the details of evolution, than a man who is completely on board with an atheistic evolution and who consequently answers to no one but himself for his actions. I think the latter is infinitely more dangerous. Please consider this before you pull the lever in November.

  2. I would consider your argument more supportable if he had not used the phrase "theory that Darwin came up with." However, your point is well-taken and I will write to see if he will clarify his position. I will further suggest that he read some of the thoughtful (and thought-provoking) material at BioLogos. Hopefully, I will get a response.

    1. Fair enough. Again, don't forget the elusive shades of meaning for "evolution". That "theory that Darwin came up with" seems to be automatically attached to atheism in the popular mind. BioLogos is a good start. Have you seen Joel Duff at Naturalis Historia? Also some thoughtful discourse about science and faith there as well.

  3. This seems to come up every election cycle. Sometimes it seems to me that candidates pretend to be fundamentalist just to win favor with fundamentalist voters during the primaries. Other times it seems they're sincere believers. When I first started reading these kind of comments from Dr. Carson I assumed he was probably just pandering to the base. After all, he's a Yale educated world-renowned neurosurgeon. How could he possibly also be a Biblical literalist? But now I've come to realize that he sincerely believes this stuff. He's a dedicated 7th Day Adventist and theologically very conservative. Just as I think one can perform neurosurgery with the highest degree of competence, while holding to scientifically invalid beliefs about the origin of life, I don't see any reason a person couldn't do a great job as President while holding those beliefs. I just can't foresee a circumstance where the President's job performance will be impacted by what he does or doesn't believe about evolution. So that part doesn't bother me much. What bothers me the most about this is now we yet another prominent Christian taking seemingly absurd and anti-intellectual stands on science. That just reinforces the belief among the unbelieving or skeptical public that Christianity (or religion generally) is anti-science and anti-intellectual. It does a lot of damage, and no good, in my opinion. Just fwiw. Thanks for the thought-provoking post.