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Yet Another Look at Ben Carson's Views on Evolution - His Creation vs. Evolution Speech

Ben CarsonI've been writing about Ben Carson quite a bit recently (you can see all my Carson entries here), including a few entries specifically devoted to his stance on evolution. In a recent entry, Ben Carson Being Noticed by Popular Science Writers, I embedded a video that showed Carson giving a speech on Creationism vs. Evolution. In an addendum to that entry, I added some commentary that I think is deserving of being expanded into a full entry.

First, here's the video. Note that this was posted on YouTube by the Adventist News Network, not an opponent of Carson's. As bad as the video makes Carson look, the Adventist News Network wasn't intentionally trying to embarrass him.

My previous entries dealing with Carson's views on evolution had been based on short interviews or comments he's made, but those don't illustrate the depth of his ignorance and arrogance like this video. This was a 40 minute speech, a prepared speech that he had time to research, where he knew the topic ahead of time. This was not an off the cuff remark, or an answer to an interview question he wasn't expecting. This was a neurosurgeon, with the respect that goes along with that profession, giving a presentation to an entire crowd of people. And this speech is what he came up with.

His misunderstandings and ignorance of evolution are absolutely appalling, worse than I would expect from a high school biology student. So many of his misconceptions could have been cleared up just by reading a popular introduction to evolution, like Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution Is True, or Donald Prothero's Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters. If he was too cheap to buy a book, he could have gone to the Internet and sites like The TalkOrigins Archive. His misunderstandings of astronomy and cosmology were equally egregious, not to mention his mangling of a few other topics he brought up (including a topic I'm very surprised he mangled - memory). And that's not even getting into his implications that the Adversary (aka the Devil) is responsible for the idea of evolution.

I'm tempted to go into a point by point refutation of Carson, but there are so many falsehoods and misunderstandings, it would make this post extremely long, and that's not really what I want to focus on (update - I actually did go through nearly point by point in the entry, A Response to Ben Carson's Creation vs. Evolution Video). Rather, I'll direct readers to Jerry Coyne's entry, Ben Carson on evolution: an ignorant (or duplicitous) Presidential candidate, which addresses many of Carson's claims about evolution, and Lawrence Krauss's article in the New Yorker, Ben Carson's Scientific Ignorance, which addresses many of Carson's claims about cosmology and the Big Bang. And just for good measure, I'll also direct readers to the Talk Origins Index to Creationist Claims, which covers a huge amount of common creationist claims, not just those put forth by Carson in this somewhat recent speech.

Now, as I've said before, this level of ignorance in itself is enough to disqualify Carson from any serious consideration for the presidency*. I expect presidential candidates to have good enough educations to have basic scientific literacy. I'd similarly reject a presidential candidate who thought the Sun orbited the Earth, or really, who couldn't correctly answer every question in the NSF's scientific literacy survey. The president may not have to understand quantum mechanics, but they should know high school level science.

What makes this particular example so bad is Carson's extreme arrogance, and his inability to realistically analyze his own shortcomings. Like I said above, this wasn't an off the cuff response. This was a prepared speech that he had time to research. But he obviously either didn't do any research at all, or researched so poorly that he never corrected his own misconceptions. Even the parts where he mentions talking to scientists make you question his honesty or his intelligence, because there are answers to the questions he supposedly asked. So Carson either didn't talk to scientists, didn't understand their responses, or went in with a closed mind and wasn't engaged in an honest open dialog. I mean, for goodness sake, he thinks evolution predicts eyeballs must have poofed into existence with no precursors (a claim easily put to rest just by looking at living organisms), and that fossil shells on mountaintops are evidence of a global flood (has he never heard of plate tectonics?).

Most of us are ignorant about a whole range of issues, but we don't go around giving speeches about those issues. Yet Carson, despite his dreadful ignorance on evolution and cosmology, was still arrogant enough to give a 40 minute speech to an audience who trusted that he was knowledgeable on these topics. It just boggles the mind that Carson felt he was qualified to speak on topics about which he is so obviously completely ignorant. The fact that he was arrogant enough to do so, and that he was so clueless that he couldn't recognize his own incompetence, makes him completely unfit for consideration for the presidency.

* This type of ignorance is forgivable in most people as long as they're willing to learn about it once you point out their misunderstandings. Maybe they weren't the best of students when they were younger, maybe they'd been misled by authority figures over the evolution/creationism controversy, maybe their schools didn't cover evolution well for political/religious reasons. There are a whole host of reasons that most people might not understand evolution. However, I have higher expectations of presidential candidates than I do of 'most people'.

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