Wednesday, September 2, 2015

#1451: Ben Carson

Benjamin Solomon Carson, Sr. is a pediatric neurosurgeon best known for being the first to separate conjoined twins joined at the head. He attracted the attention of wingnuts after making a variety of comments at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast hosted by President Obama (such as advocating for a flat tax system because it is more in line with the Biblical principle of the tithe – Carson says God told him to talk about flat tax). At the time he claimed no political affiliation, commenting that “[i]f I were part of [a political party], it would be called the Logic party, and it would be dedicated to commonsense approaches we all should be able to see.” Which is not, of course, how logic works. Said Carson: “I believe it is a very good idea for physicians, scientists, engineers, and others trained to make decisions based on facts and empirical data to get involved in the political arena and help guide our country.” Instead, he decided to run for president himself.

Carson’s views on science
Though his credentials as a neurosurgeon are impressive, Carson is not a scientist and has no aptitude for the values associated with science such as truth, accountability and sensitivity to the evidence. Carson is, for instance, a creationist, though he doesn’t even have the most rudimentary idea what the theory of evolution (“just propaganda”) is: “I don’t believe in evolution ... I simply don’t have enough faith to believe that something as complex as our ability to rationalize, think, and plan, and have a moral sense of what’s right and wrong, just appeared,” which is precisely not what the theory of evolution says. To Adventist Review he continued: “By believing we are the product of random acts, we eliminate morality and the basis of ethical behavior.” 

More recently, he reaffirmed his rejection of evolution by arguing that the science of evolution is a sign of humankind’s arrogance and belief “that they are so smart that if they can’t explain how God did something, then it didn’t happen, which of course means that they’re God. You don’t need a God if you consider yourself capable of explaining everything,” which seems as irrelevant to the issue as it is possible to be. And to take it even further, “no one has the knowledge” of the age of the earth “based on the Bible,” adding that “carbon dating and all of these things really don’t mean anything to a God who has the ability to create anything at any point in time.” Right. Is that a particularly stupid version of the omphalos hypothesis we’re seeing? In fact, Carson wasn’t done: The “complexity of the human brain” is proof that evolution is a myth: “Somebody says that came from a slime pit full of promiscuous biochemicals? I don’t think so.” And evolution is unable to explain the development of an eyeball: “Give me a break. According to their scheme, it had to occur over night, it had to be there,” which seems to be exactly the opposite of, you know, what “evolution” means. In 2014 his Carson Scholars Fund promptly awarded a prize for “excellence” to Kirk Cameron.

Carson on history
Not surprisingly, Carson buys wholesale into the The United States as a Christian Nation myths, though, saying that divine intervention created America. “There are many well-documented stories about God’s intervention on behalf of our country during the War of Independence,” wrote Carson in a 2014 column, but cited just one: A familiar story about Benjamin Franklin leading the delegates in prayer during a particularly difficult moment of the Constitutional Convention, which was particularly loved by Jesse Helms and is just as false now as it was in Helms’s heyday.

According to Carson, the Affordable Care Act (which he likes to blatantly lie about) is “the worst thing to happen to the country since slavery.” He justifies the claim by pointing out that Lenin said that “Socialized medicine is the keystone to the arch of the Socialized State,” which Lenin did not say but is nevertheless enough to prove to Carson that Obamacare is of the devil. He later denied that he was “equating Obamacare with slavery,” though he kind of obviously was (he evidently doesn’t recognize the existence of youtube). He also admitted that there was controversy over whether Lenin used the “exact words,” but there really isn’t. Lenin didn’t say that.

Meanwhile, Carson blames feminism, no less, for Ferguson. Feminism is to blame for the egoism of the generations that create trouble in inner cities, and I simply cannot stoop to a level that allows me to finish that line of “thought”, but I know of groups who love that particular line of reasoning. No wonder Carson is popular with them (remember that he thinks Obama is deliberately trying to “destroy” society with “race wars”). Later he chastised people who protested against police brutality since such protests will just help ISIS and Al-Qaeda, no less. Here is Carson weighing in on Benghazi, and here on the Baltimore protests.

Gay marriage (of course), persecution and the Constitution
As for gay marriage Carson’s views are predictable enough: “Marriage is between a man and a woman. No group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality, it doesn’t matter what they are. They don’t get to change the definition.” (Though he did, it should be mentioned, apologize for that one. He also said, however, that the comments were taken “out of context,” which they were not.) Commenting on the backlash, Carson claimed that white liberals “are the most racist people there are. Because they put you in a little category, a little box. You have to think this way. How could you dare come off the plantation?” because they criticized his comments on gay marriage and failed to realize that criticism is the same as persecution when it suits Carson (it’s a violation of his freedom of speech). He also pointed out that by accepting gay marriage we change the Biblical definition of marriage, and if you do that – by the venerable argument-type slippery slope – “you can get rid of everything else in the Bible too.” Of course, Carson is oblivious to the fact that he, too, rejects the Biblical definition of marriage, unless he thinks marriage is a business transaction by which a man acquires property, but the issue is really about rejecting those parts of the Bible that Carson doesn’t want you to reject. 

To emphasize that he is not a bigot he did point out that “gay people should have the same rights as everyone else. But they don’t get extra rights,” such as the right to marry who they want, which straight people don’t have. If he were elected president, he would certainly get involved” in undoing the marriage decision” by creative lawmaking because although he claims to “respect everybody and let everybody do what they want to do,” if “everybody gets the right to change things for their group” that will lead to “chaos.” Also, gay-rights opponents are the real victims of “injustice” because they just want to be “left alone,” says Carson, which is a common enough trope but which we still think cannot be said by anyone less than a 12th-level master of self-delusion succeeding a pretty tough saving throw against the intrusion of minimal self-awareness.

It’s not the only time Carson has invoked persecution. When Dinesh D’Souza was charged with making illegal “straw donations” to the campaign of a Republican Senate candidate (which he obviously had in complete awareness of its illegality), Carson ran to D’Souza’s defense claiming that Obama administration officials are “acting like the Gestapo”. He also pointed out that “I believe we are dealing with an extremely corrupt administration,” because that’s obviously what’s going on when one of Carson’s allies are guilty of corruption and caught in the act. Citing no evidence whatsoever, he continued by claiming that “I don’t think [Obama] would be happy unless Fox News were shut down and there was no more criticism of his actions” for “[w]ithout Fox News,” Obama would have successfully introduced communism and “we would already be Cuba,” because such are the ravings of a delusional madman.

And he’s had more to say about gay people. In a March 2015 interview Carson stated that homosexuality was “absolutely” a choice, “[b]ecause a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight and when they come out, they’re gay. So, did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question.” And once again, Carson had to backtrack profusely afterwards – thereby losing the support of deranged bigots like Matt Barber, who said that Carson was now “dead to him” (their relationship ain’t gotten better). Carson, on his side, has tried to emphasize that he “loves all gay people” even though they’re like pedophiles and part of a plot to usher in a “new world order” that seeks to destroy America and turn it into a communist tyranny (we’realready close, in fact). He knows about this plot from reading right-wing conspiracy theorist W. Cleon Skousen’s book The Naked Communist.

Out of pity for poor, persecuted anti-gay people like himself Carson has also called for judges who disagree with his position to be removed from office. To justify the strategy, he cites the Constitution, which according to Carson “tells us that civil matters should be handled at the state level, not the national,” so when states have voted against gay marriage, and judges attempt to overturn that, they are doing something unconstitutional. So, when Carson claims to venerate the Constitution, which he has probably not looked at and definitely not understood a word of, what he is really saying is that he venerates is his own political views. He deplores the Constitution, according to which his argument is complete nonsense on an impressive number of levels.

Political programs
Something must certainly be done. Currently, we are facing a“war on God” where Hitlerian progressives are turning America into a society “very much like Nazi Germany” (like Cuba or Western Europe). We already “live in a Gestapo age” where Obama takes his cues from Mein Kampf and is effectively committing treason, and the administration is ruled by an anti-American spirit. What are some of Carson’s own suggestions?

Well, for one he is vigorously opposed to government programs for the poor, since dependence on government programs for the poor creates dependence ... An example would be food stamps, which Carson admits his childhood family couldn’t have done without, but which nevertheless is bad for everyone else since it makes them dependent on the government instead of … you know, things. It is also a deliberate, Satanic, hidden agenda Obama has to make voters dependent on the government (no, the objection isn’t completely coherent). To support his position he blatantly lies about Martin Luther King. And he is not afraid of Godwin’s law when calling out Obama as a Nazi. And a communist. In the same sentence. (And before you say anything, remember that whereas criticism of Obama is never motivated by racism, criticism of Ben Carson certainly is.)

Planned Parenthood, meanwhile, was established for the sole purpose of eliminating black people, a lie that has been debunked numerous times but remains popular among certain people because those people are crazy, zealous and stupid (or, fair enough, because it serves their purpose). Legal abortion, according to Carson, is “human sacrifice” (though there is some lack of clarity surrounding his stance on abortion; perhaps “human sacrifice” is not meant in a negative way?)

Being educated himself, it is natural for Carson to have strong views on education. So according to Carson, teaching kids about America’s past mistakes, such as Japanese American internment or treatment of the native population, should be avoided since it will make students “sign up for ISIS.”

He is against the legalization of recreational cannabis, which is his prerogative. But his reason is that it is a gateway drug that leads to “hedonistic activity”, which is a very strange reason.

As for immigration policy, Carson has said that he is open to drone strikes on American soil to fight immigrants, which doesn’t sound like a particularly good idea if you wish to go down in history as anything better than something to scare children with. Carson, however, thinks that the southern border of the US has been exposed to infiltration from “radical extremist Islamic terrorists” whom President Obama doesn’t intend to fight. According, people need more guns, since “we need to be able to fight them, particularly if we have an administration that won’t fight them, we need to be able to fight them ourselves.” As a policy suggestion this doesn’t sound like a particularly good idea either.

And as for voter fraud, Carson has bravely suggested that non-citizens who commit voter fraud should have their citizenship revoked. The suggestion was apparently met with applause. Good f***ing grief.

Carson and medical quackery (and cheating on exams)
Between 2004 and 2013, Carson promoted and appeared in testimonials for Mannatech, a company claiming that its line of “glyconutrients” would cure anything, including autism, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, life-threatening heart conditions, ADD, arthritis, and so on. Of course, it couldn’t, and the company was eventually sued by the Texas State Attorney General for false advertising (eventually settled for a rather substantial sum). Carson, however, appeared in promotional videos claiming that “We aren’t necessarily getting the nutritional value that we need. So as I analyzed all those things, I began to realize that that was a significant portion of my problem. And I started to try to figure out, how do you get that supplementation? Well, I became particularly interested in glycoscience, glyconutrients. These things are in your apples, your bananas and beets and everything, you know, that’s growing, but by the time we get them, they frequently are gone. And I discovered you can actually concentrate those in powders and pills and things like that.” So you should buy those products. Yes, Ben Carson was hawking scam supplements. Now he wants to be president.

At a National Day of Prayer event Carson spoke about how God once telepathically sent him the answers to an exam in a chemistry class he was failing. Which sounds like cheating, if it were true. Which, of course, it isn’t.

Diagnosis: Yes, he is dishonest to the core and there’s certainly a lot of pandering going on here, but it is hard to get around the conclusion that, despite his achievments as a neurosurgeon, Carson is pretty stupid. He lacks the most fundamental critical thinking skills, and is pathologically unable to distinguish evidence from whatever-he-wants-to-believe. Given his current influence among wingnuts he is also frighteningly dangerous.


  1. Apparently, he also believes that the pyramids were built by Joseph the store grain: There seems to be no end to his lunacy...

  2. Back in 2013, the students of his alma matter Johns Hopkins spoke up about how much they didn't want Dr. Gifted Hands to do the Commencement speech. So he's recognized by (at least a certain portion) of his foundation as a butt.

  3. How could he operate (on someone) when he sounds like he was just hit in the head with a sledgehammer? ..