Smart Carson Says Really Stupid Things

There’s no question that Ben Carson is a very, very smart man. You don’t become a neurosurgeon and teach at Johns Hopkins Medical School without being incredibly intelligent. But boy, does he say some astoundingly stupid things. The Washington Post covered an event at which he spoke and captured a few of them:

“The vast majority of people in this country actually have common sense; the problem is they’ve been beaten into submission,” Carson says, standing onstage between two mounted moose heads and beneath a series of chandeliers made of antlers.

This is pure pandering. There is no such thing as “common sense.” It’s a phrase invented to make ignorant, uneducated people think that they have access to some special type of intelligence that those overeducated eggheads don’t have.

He speaks softly, almost as though he’s reading a child to sleep. But this is a scary story. If Republicans don’t win back the Senate in November, he says, he can’t be sure “there will even be an election in 2016.” Later, his wife, Candy, tells a supporter that they are holding on to their son’s Australian passport just in case the election doesn’t go their way.

I’d love to make a bet with him: If there is an election, he moves to Australia. If there isn’t, I’ll do anything he wants me to do. It’s the same dumb thing people said about Bush. It’s ridiculous paranoia. Or it’s just plain demagoguery. Take your pick.

Carson says that at the time of the prayer breakfast, he was planning a relaxing retirement. He even bought an organ with designs on honing his musical skills and spending his days away from “The People’s Republic of Maryland,” as he calls it, in sunny Florida.

He did retire from surgery last year, but his retirement plans changed.

“Sometimes I realize there are forces greater than me,” he says. “I am an instrument that’s being used to help restore this country.”

Beware anyone who thinks they’re being used by God to do something. The men who bombed the World Trade Center believed that too.

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  • scienceavenger

    This is pure pandering. There is no such thing as “common sense.” It’s a phrase invented to make ignorant, uneducated people think that they have access to some special type of intelligence that those overeducated eggheads don’t have.

    I call this “The ADD effect” – discounting a valid concept because 90+% of the people who use it do so incorrectly. While I agree entirely with your depiction of how Carson and too many others abuse the concept, there is such a thing as “common sense” as a social sense which enables us to properly interpret the complex social signals the people around us send, many of which are nonverbal. It’s similar to our innate ability when we are young to learn languages. Those of us who lack it are usually the butt of social jokes. As a classic nerd who lacks much of this sense, it sort of stands out to me :)

  • tbp1

    It’s instructive to be reminded that someone can be admirable and accomplished in some ways, and completely out to lunch in others. Besides his baseless paranoia, and perfect willingness to deny others the government help he had, I have read that he is a young-earth creationist. How anyone in any medical profession could think human beings were actually designed is beyond me. If so, he spent his professional life correcting the designer’s errors.

    So many people think that because they can do X really, really well, that they must automatically be good at Y, too, even when X and Y have no discernible relationship and require completely different skill sets.

  • lorn

    Funny how those tools of God always seem to be doing something they have wanted to do for a very long time. I would love to see, maybe just a few cases, where someone claimed to be a tool of God and was compelled to do something completely different, maybe even something they hadn’t even contemplated.

  • ArtK

    There’s smart and then there’s smart. You actually don’t have to be that smart to be a neurosurgeon. From my friends in the OR, the biggest job requirement is an ego the size of Texas — you have to be supremely self-confident to stick your hand into someone’s brain. Beyond that, it’s some physical skill, good memorization and a lot of intuition. Logic and reason aren’t requirements. I’d go so far as to say that they are detriments — they can lead to doubt, which can be fatal, both figuratively and literally.

    The problem with Carson (and many people in his situation), he thinks that the competence he has messing around in people’s brains somehow transfers to competence in other areas. (“Dr. Dunning, Dr. Kruger. Please call your office.”) The supreme self-confidence he has in his professional life makes it that much harder to doubt himself elsewhere.

  • busterggi

    Carson will be using his passport to escape the US the same day Ted Nugent does.

  • vereverum

    So, how much money came rolling in as a result of these “astoundingly stupid things”?

    How much personal candidacy support did he garner as a result of these “astoundingly stupid things”?

    IMHO Dr. Carson is smart enough to be stupid when it is called for.

    Pandering, as you say, is the key word here.

  • Electric Shaman

    I’d love to make a bet with him: If there is an election, he moves to Australia.

    What makes you think we want him here? The time when other countries could dump their unwanted characters in Australia has long since passed Ed.

    Though there are probably quite a few people around here that would say that England is still doing this…

  • AsqJames

    It’s the same dumb thing people said about Bush.

    Well yeah, some people said equally dumb things about Bush, but who were they, and what platforms were they given to say such things? I don’t remember equivalent crap being given a podium at Democratic events or spouted on MSNBC (and if they had I bet they’d have been called on it). We all live in idealogical bubbles to some degree, but I’m sure the howling derision and outraged bluster of any equivalents would have been long enough and loud enough to break through.

  • Michael Noone

    As an Australian, can I tell him that if he thinks the USA is too secularised, then he won’t like it in Australia.

  • John Pieret

    I agree with ArtK @ 4. Orac, I believe, has spoken about it. Dedication to learn the skillful manipulation of a scalpel and other medical instruments, incredible concentration, the certainty of your skills so that you take a steady hand into the OR and the other traits to be a successful neurosurgeon do not necessarily translate to “intelligence,” which requires an ability, I think, to recognize reality when it comes knocking on your door and the flexibility to use logic and experience to know when you might be wrong and fix your thinking. Another example of a “highly skilled meatcutter,” as I call him, is Michael Egnor.

    OTOH, vereverum @ 6 might be right and Carson is merely pandering. But, based on the stupidity of what Carson has been saying since he became a darlin’ of the right, I tend to doubt it. A truly intelligent panderer puts the crazy in a way that the morons applaud but there is an escape exit when in front of a non-crazy crowd.

  • favog

    @1: I’d have to disagree with you there. References to “common sense” are exactly the scorn of “book lernin'” that Ed says they are. What you’re talking about is indeed very real, but since most people have it and assume it, it’s subliminal and therefore invisible to them. It’s people like us (yes, I said us, I have the problem too) that it stands out for.