Last weekend, Republican Presidential candidate Ben Carson spoke at the Faith and Freedom Conference in Washington, D.C. and mentioned a debate he had with an atheist (whom Carson would not name). Then, Carson— a retired neurosurgeon— displayed an utter lack of understanding of biology:
I remember a few years back I was engaged in a debate in Hollywood with a leading atheist. This guy thinks anybody who believes in God is a total moron. As they got to the end of the conversation, you know, he is denigrating anybody who could believe in Creation, I said, “You know what? You win.” I said, because, “I believe I came from God, and you believe you came from a monkey, and you’ve convinced me you’re right.”
I’m trying to reconcile the fact that a respected neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins University also is in the throes of unfathomable ignorance. Humans did not “come from monkeys”, we share a common ancestor with monkeys. If Ben Carson truly does not know this, he apparently didn’t pay attention during the “biology” part of medical school.
However, while a doctor failing to understand evolution seems like a paradox, it actually is not. See, Dr. Carson is also a creationist, so he puts more stock in myths and superstitions than he does in things like evidence, or direct (and documented) observation. His denial of facts might also have something to do with the incompatibility of his religious beliefs with reality, or even with common sense. It might also be that the study of genetics has shown that the story of Adam and Eve is actually impossible, because humans have FAR too many genes to have descended from a population of only two people (such a high rate of mutations would have rendered humans nonexistent).
This phenomenon of stupid, smart people isn’t isolated either— far from it, in fact. In 2013, United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia was interviewed by New York Magazine. Out of the blue, Justice Scalia offered up this gem: “I even believe in the Devil.” When pressed to elaborate on this bizarre statement, Scalia responded, “Yeah, he’s a real person.” It’s hard to read something like that without thinking about this:
Then, as if his intention was to leave no doubt that he’s a crazy person, this exchange happened:
Have you seen evidence of the Devil lately?
You know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore.
It’s because he’s smart.
So what’s he doing now?
What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.
The fact that a U.S. Supreme Court justice has these thoughts is, frankly, shocking. Antonin Scalia is not a stupid man, and he is highly educated (he attended Georgetown University, and went on to graduate magna cum laude from Harvard Law). But when it comes to rational thought, people infected with religion often will choose faith over common sense, because they are too afraid of what a vindictive imaginary character might do to them. Many religious people lead perfectly normal lives— but it’s the ones who are deeply devout who have difficulty with the difference between fact and fiction, between superstition and evidence. It’s scary that so many of them are in the position to wield immense power. While Ben Carson is (fortunately) a longshot to become the next President of the United States, Justice Scalia has served on the Supreme Court since 1986.
These two are not the only people who surrender common sense in favor of dogma. Another Presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee, recently told Fox News that racism has been “solved” because of Jesus. Huckabee is another intelligent person who has lost his grip on reality because of his religion. It really seems like people like Carson, Scalia, Huckabee, Cruz, Rubio (and many others) are trying to demonstrate that religion is proof that the human brain has an “Off” switch.
I’ll leave you with a quote from The Roving Mind, by Isaac Asimov:
Imagine the people who believe such things and who are not ashamed to ignore, totally, all the patient findings of thinking minds through all the centuries since the Bible was written. And it is these ignorant people, the most uneducated, the most unimaginative, the most unthinking among us, who would make themselves the guides and leaders of us all; who would force their feeble and childish beliefs on us; who would invade our schools and libraries and homes. I personally resent it bitterly.