Ben Carson’s Creationist Talking Points

Ben Carson has written six books and Tim Murphy of Mother Jones magazine took the time to read them all (poor guy). He has some excerpts from those books that confirm what I’ve come to see about Carson in reading his columns in recent months: The guy doesn’t have an original thought in his head. All he does is repeat talking points and platitudes. The only thing that separates him from Sarah Palin is that he’s more eloquent than she is. Case in point:

From what I know (and all we don’t know) about biology, I find it as hard to accept the claims of evolution as it is to think that a hurricane blowing through a junkyard could somehow assemble a fully equipped and flight-ready 747. You could blow a billion hurricanes through a trillion junkyards over infinite periods of time, and I don’t think you’d get one aerodynamic wing, let alone an entire jumbo jet complete with complex connections for a jet-propulsion system, a radar system, a fuel-injection system, an exhaust system, a ventilation system, control systems, electronic systems, plus backup systems for all of those, and so much more. There’s simply not enough time in eternity for that to happen. Which is why not one of us has ever doubted that a 747, by its very existence, gives convincing evidence of someone’s intelligent design.

This argument is something of a litmus test for creationist ignorance. When you hear someone make it, you can safely dismiss anything else they might say on the subject because it’s now quite obvious that they simply have no idea what they’re talking about. The analogy is not just false, it’s utterly absurd. Evolution is not like a tornado going through a junkyard in any way whatsoever. More mindless repetition of creationist talking points:

For me, the plausibility of evolution is further strained by Darwin’s assertion that within fifty to one hundred years of his time, scientists would become geologically sophisticated enough to find the fossil remains of the entire evolutionary tree in an unequivocal step-by-step progression of life from amoeba to man—including all of the intermediate species.

Darwin said that? Where, exactly? Please quote him. He did say that he hoped that the more fossils are found, the more evidence we will have to support his theory and the better we will understand how life evolved on earth. And guess what? His hope came true, despite this nonsense from Carson:

Of course that was 150 years ago, and there is still no such evidence. It’s just not there. But when you bring that up to the proponents of Darwinism, the best explanation they can come up with is “Well…uh…it’s lost!” Here again I find it requires too much faith for me to believe that explanation given all the fossils we have found without any fossilized evidence of the direct, step-by-step evolutionary progression from simple to complex organisms or from one species to another species. Shrugging and saying, “Well, it was mysteriously lost, and we’ll probably never find it,” doesn’t seem like a particularly satisfying, objective, or scientific response. But what’s even harder for me to swallow is how so many people who can’t explain it are still willing to claim that evolution is not theory but fact, at the same time insisting anyone who wants to consider or discuss creationism as a possibility cannot be a real scientist.

This might be labeled the evolution of a creationist straw man. Scientists do not, of course, say any such thing, nor does the evidence. Despite the fact that the fossil record is incomplete (and always will be, of course), we have an extraordinary record of how life evolved on this planet. How would Mr. Carson explain that record? How would he explain the fact that, in the lowest strata, nothing appears but bacteria and stromatolites for nearly three billion years? How does he explain the fact that the fossils form a perfect sequence from single-celled organisms to simple multicellular life to marine invertebrates to marine vertebrates (fish) to amphibians to reptiles to mammals and birds and, finally, to humans?

How would he explain the fact that the first amphibians to appear in the fossil record look nearly identical to the fish they evolved from and become increasingly diversified and more adapted to terrestrial life over time? We see that pattern over and over again, where the first of each new higher taxa looks just like the one it diverged from and then, as new species within that taxa appear they are increasingly more diverse, less like the taxa they split off from and better adapted to the new territory into which they have expanded.

How does he explain the fact that we have an excellent series of fossils leading from our ape-like ancestors to modern humans? We can see all of the key human traits evolve over time in the fossil record, from dentition patterns to brain capacity to the ability to walk upright. Was God experimenting, making first an ape, then a slightly more human version, then a slightly more human version again, and so on, until modern humans appear in the last few hundred thousand years? Was he trying to trick us? Or did those traits evolve over time, as the fossil record clearly suggests?

Carson is merely repeating well-worn and false creationist claims. He clearly knows nothing at all about the fossil record, much less other lines of evidence for evolution like molecular sequencing data. This is the Dunning-Kruger effect in full bloom, a man who knows nothing at all about a subject but feels entirely competent in declaring that virtually every biologist, geologist and paleontologist in the world is wrong.

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  • karmacat

    He obviously doesn’t know biology either (or anatomy) If god made us why did he give us an appendix or a gall bladder? Why did he take away the ability to manufacture vitamin C internally?

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    The only thing that separates him from Sarah Palin is that he’s more eloquent than she is.

    Talk about damning with faint praise.

  • Larry

    It’s always amusing to me how important evidence is when creo-tins dismiss evolution but how it is never mentioned when insisting that god done it.

  • colnago80

    Re karmacat @ #1

    Even more to the point, why did dog take away the ability to manufacture vitamin C by breaking the gene responsible only in the great apes and humans but virtually no other mammalian species. IMHO, this is one of the best example of common descent of humans from an apelike ancestor.

  • jaybee

    Listen everybody, I’m an excellent car mechanic, which means I’m qualified to talk about quantum mechanics, because cars are also mechanical.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Which is why not one of us has ever doubted that a 747, by its very existence, gives convincing evidence of someone’s intelligent design.

    Granted, 747s were designed. Does anyone deny it? But then, they don’t reproduce biologically, so it was necessary to design and construct them.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    colnago80 “Even more to the point, why did dog take away the ability to manufacture vitamin C by breaking the gene responsible only in the great apes and humans but virtually no other mammalian species.”

    God didn’t do that. It was The Fall. Before it, Man was perfect. After it, Man was cursed with half a grapefruit with breakfast.

     

    Still, it could’ve been worse. Man could’ve been cursed with a whole grapefruit with breakfast.

  • tbp1

    Once again we see a clear demonstration that competence—even brilliance—in one field doesn’t necessarily translate to even minimal competence in others.

    And I’m not the first person to observe that this seems very common in physicians. The kind of incredibly focussed, intensely narrow training they go through seems to make it difficult for them to assimilate knowledge in other fields (when would they even have the time?) while simultaneously boosting their egos to make them believe they know more than they do.

    There is the occasional exception (Lewis Thomas certainly comes to mind), but they are definitely not the norm.

  • Chiroptera

    Which is why not one of us has ever doubted that a 747, by its very existence, gives convincing evidence of someone’s intelligent design.

    I remember when someone was trying to use Mt Rushmore as an example of when we can know when something was designed, I asked why that person really knew that Mt Rushmore was designed and not completely natural phenomenon. They never replied. Too bad, cause I was really interested in seeing how the conversation would develop.

  • a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    I think you “misunderestimated” him. The voters Carson is seeking to woo do not want to hear novel or intelligent arguments. They want to hear the same arguments they know and love parroted back to them by men (and they are all men for this crowd) that they think are smart.

    Carson likely is ignorant of any subtleties of biology. An MD is hardly a guarantee of any understanding of science (try asking your family physician about statistics or physics some time). However, I think Carson’s selection of arguments is as much about pandering as it is about his own personal ignorance.

  • gopiballava

    Last time somebody was trying to argue that complexity implies design, I asked him to give me an example of a simple, non-designed thing and a comparably functional complex designed example. Never got a response. I also pointed out that I believe the evidence generally points in the opposite direction. What is simpler, a city with a designer or a city without? Designers put a lot of effort into simplification.

    Paley’s watchmaker? How did the watch stand out in the forest? Because of its complexity? Really? Compared to the time keeping apparatus in a tree, the watch is amazingly simple.

  • scienceavenger

    For me, the plausibility of evolution is further strained by Darwin’s assertion…

    Apparently he doesn’t understand science writ large, since nothing in science is dependant on someone’s say so. That’s sort of one of its big benefits.

  • kantalope

    @ 9 Chiroptera

    But according to them, all the mountains are designed – what would make Rushmore stand out?

  • http://composer99.blogspot.ca composer99

    From what I know (and all we don’t know) about biology

    Well, Ben Carson has one thing absolutely correct. He doesn’t know about biology.

  • colnago80

    Re tbp1 @ #8

    But David Gorski and Steven Novella stand out, IMHO, as doctors who are well informed in subjects they discuss on their blogs.

  • colnago80

    From what I know (and all we don’t know) about biology, I find it as hard to accept the claims of evolution as it is to think that a hurricane blowing through a junkyard could somehow assemble a fully equipped and flight-ready 747

    Stole that one from Fred Hoyle without attribution.

  • busterggi

    If there is an intelligent designer then why are there such idiots as Ben Carson?

  • mjmiller

    Paley’s watchmaker? How did the watch stand out in the forest? Because of its complexity? Really? Compared to the time keeping apparatus in a tree, the watch is amazingly simple.

    Exactly, I’m an electrical designer. It’s what I do for a living. If my designs are too complex, I’m doing it wrong. I spend my time trying to make my designs as simple as possible.

  • Kevin Kehres

    Wow. Not only unoriginal but overt and blatant plagiarism.

  • John Pieret

    From what I know (and all we I don’t know) about biology …

    FIFY, Ben.

  • cptdoom

    Darwin and other scientists were forced to rely on anatomy and fossils to demonstrate the process of evolution because they didn’t have access to DNA. The best proof of evolution, it seems to me, is the genetic evidence we all carry around. Not only can a scientist use DNA to calculate when animals with a common ancestor split to become separate species, but DNA also allows us to see the epigenetics associated with evolution. So humans and whales share the same genes for limb development, but we have arms and legs while whales have fins because those identical genes operate for different lengths of time during fetal development.

  • comfychair

    But, if humans evolved from monkeys why are there still monkeys?

    And why haven’t rocks that are ‘millions’ of years old evolved into frogs or elephant shrews or whatever?

  • caseloweraz

    When anyone talks to Ben Carson about stromatolites, he thinks of the beer cooler in his local supermarket. True story.

  • Kermit Sansoo

    To be fair to the idiot, plagiarism charges are uncalled for. The “747 in a tornado” meme has been passed about freely for decades in Creationist circles. When I frequented talk.origins, we saw that one at least once a week. It probably should be considered open source ignorance at this point.

    .

    If white Americans are descended from Europeans, why are there still Europeans? Take that, liberal geneologists!

    .

    Humans have a plantaris tendon in their lower leg, and it has pretty much only a minor support function (in about 15% of us we are born with that tendon misplaced, or attached only at one end, or missing altogether). Other apes use it to grasp things with their toes (like chimps carrying four oranges). So did we lose the ability to use our prehensile toes with The Fall? Did Eve climb the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and hand a fruit down to Adam using her grasping feet? Is this the origin of some male humans’ foot fetishes?

  • gbgasser

    Well I certainly don’t want to endorse Carson for president but I must say i do agree with him on one thing:

    “There was a time when premature babies or babies with significant birth defects simply died, which cost the insurance company very little. Now, however, thanks to developments in medical technology, we’re able to put such babies in incubators and treat them, usually saving their lives–but then we hand the insurance company a bill for $1 million. This kind of scenario, repeated on a regular basis, drove insurance companies to drastically increase their premiums.

    One solution would be to remove from the insurance companies the responsibility for catastrophic health-care coverage, making it a government responsibility [like FEMA insures against hurricanes]. Clearly, if the health-care insurance companies did not have to cover catastrophic health care, it would be relatively easy by analyzing actuarial tables to determine how much money they are likely to be liable for each year. With this information at our disposal, health insurance companies could be regulated just as utilities are regulated.”

    Of course the debate would then become what gets considered as catastrophic health care….. but that is a better debate to have than the current one and it is a huge step in the right direction in freeing up the working class from worries about health issues taking all their savings away.