How God Helped Ben Carson Cheat on a Chemistry Exam

Ben Carson spoke at a National Day of Prayer event and told a bizarre story about how God helped him cheat on a chemistry exam so he could pass a class he was failing by sending him the answers in a dream. Absolutely nothing about this story sounds even remotely plausible.

As Carson explained it, his goal of becoming a doctor was nearly derailed in his first semester at Yale University when he was failing his chemistry class to such an extent that he would not have been able to pass even if managed to get an A on the final exam. Fortunately for him, this particular professor had a policy that anyone who was failing the class could receive double credit on the final and so Carson asked God for a miracle before committing himself to study for the exam the night before.

But instead of studying, Carson fell asleep and had a dream in which he was alone in an auditorium as some “nebulous figure” wrote out chemistry problems on the blackboard.

“When I went to take the test the next morning, it was like ‘The Twilight Zone,'” Carson said. “I opened that book and I recognized the first problem as one of the ones I dreamed about. And the next, and the next, and the next, and I aced the exam and got a good mark in chemistry. It worked out okay and I promised the Lord he would never have to do that for me again.”

I hope someone looks up his old chemistry professor, if they’re still alive, or some of his other classmates. The idea that a Yale Med School professor had a policy where someone failing his course could get double credit on his exam so they could pass seems incredibly unlikely. The whole story sounds like total bullshit.

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  • StevoR

    Someone should ask him what some of the exam problems actually were and check. Something that miraculous must be memorable so much so he could still get it right yeah?

  • caseloweraz

    I wonder if Dr. Carson realizes that this account, as well as being unlikely in its major premise, makes it look like he put off studying for the exam until the last minute.

  • theDukedog7 .

    Hey libs— why is it that when conservatives criticize a black President, we’re called racists. But when liberals mock a black neurosurgeon, racism is never invoked?

  • Evan Brehm

    And we have a wingnut troll mindlessly parroting talking points from El Rushbo and Malkin. Go back to the echo chamber.

  • Sean Boyd

    He didn’t go to med school at Yale – that was where he did his undergrad. His MD is from Michigan. Story still reeks of BS.

  • colnago80

    Re Evan Brehm @ #4

    The Dukedog has posted his inane comments on several threads on this blog. So far, the speculation is that he is either David Duke, Don Black, or Michael Egnor.

  • John Pieret

    why is it that when conservatives criticize a black President, we’re called racists. But when liberals mock a black neurosurgeon, racism is never invoked?

    Probably because when many conservatives “criticize” Obama, they do it by telling demonstrable lies about him (he’s a Muslim; a communist; a socialist; a traitor, etc., etc.) all intended to demonize him and turn him into the “other,” a well known tactic of racists. Liberals, as in this case, merely hold up his own words and point out how silly or stupid they are.

  • theDukedog7 .

    #7

    Yea. You Dems will treat Carson with the same courtesy that you gave Clarence Thomas.

  • Evan Brehm

    I think Carson has said far to many stupid things to be deserving of much courtesy. Like how ObamaCare is worse than slavery and 9/11? Or that prison sex proves that homosexuality is a choice?

  • colnago80

    Apparently, Dukedog7 admitted to being Michael Egnor over at PZ’s blog. Egnor and Carson are standout examples of how surgeons don’t have to know much about biology in order to perform their tasks. In this regard they are like automobile mechanics who work on ICEs. Automobile mechanics don’t have to know anything about the physics of iICEs to perform their tasks.

  • colnago80

    Re Egnorance @ #8

    Gee, who likes to molest his female employees. Interesting that his accuser was also an African American.

  • Doc Bill

    Carson’s fable is just as plausible as that story some feller told, can’t recall his name (oops!) who while out jogging with his puppy shot a coyote with his wife’s pink Ruger 9mm. The only thing about that story that didn’t have holes in it was the coyote!

  • Evan Brehm

    Re colnago80 @ #10

    Yes, but automobile mechanics are not normally taught about the physics of ilCEs during their vocational school/training. Surgeons, however, have to take a LOT of medical classes, and many medical degrees require a significant amount of credits form biology courses.

  • John Pieret

    You Dems will treat Carson with the same courtesy that you gave Clarence Thomas.

    What a lovely non sequitur. But if we are off on another topic, you conservatives will, doubtless, in the end, treat Carson with the same courtesy that you gave Herman Cain.

  • colnago80

    Re Evan Brehm @ #4

    Egnorance use to comment over at Larry Moran’s blog. I guess he finally got tired of having his sorry ass handed to him over there and came over to Freethoughblogs looking for easier pickings. He will be sadly disappointed.

  • colnago80

    Re Evan Brehm @ #13

    Doesn’t mean they learned anything in those courses or remember anything that was covered. I took two courses in chemistry as an undergraduate and don’t remember a damn thing that I was taught.

  • sinned34

    Dukedog7,

    Go to almost any conservative site that accepts comments and you’ll see lots of posts calling Obama a “nigger”. Don’t see a lot of liberal site comments that call Carson that insult. Talk about your false equivalency.

    But hey, “both sides do it” is the best excuse conservatives can come up with these days, isn’t it?

  • Saad

    Carson becomes more and more unlikeable the more we hear from him.

    At least this story is comedic bullshit instead of his usual homophobic bullshit.

  • blf

    To the best of my knowledge, the principle reason for thinking “theDukedog7 .” is Dr Eejit is a comment at PZ’s which seemed to be signed “Mike Egnor”. However, as pointed out by others, these sorts of trolls are notorious liars and so I would not make that claim based solely on that one incident.

  • dan4

    Carson’s story, even if you accept it as 100% true, actually makes God look pretty bad, so I don’t understand the point of him telling it.

  • http://sidhe3141.blogspot.com jy3, Social Justice Beguiler

    There’s an easy non-miraculous explanation. If you go to sleep thinking about something, you’ll tend to dream about it.

  • dan4

    @21: I think Carson was implying that God gave him the specific answers to the test he was going to take, not that he was dreaming about chemistry in general (I assume that’s what you meant by the “something” in your comment).

  • Childermass

    “Hey libs— why is it that when conservatives criticize a black President, we’re called racists. But when liberals mock a black neurosurgeon, racism is never invoked?”

    If criticizing President Obama means that one is a racist, then this blog is written by a racist and read by racists.

    Sorry dumb dumb, but Dr. Carson was criticized here for making crap up. Criticizing crap from Dr. Carson is not racist anymore than criticizing President Obama’s policy positions are. By the way, the claim that criticizing Obama is racist is not a liberal position, it is a conservative straw man argument.

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

    And, another time, God told him he’d catch a fish this big. And the very next day, he did! Just jumped right up on to his plate, it did, filleted and everything!

     

    dan4 “”@21: I think Carson was implying that God gave him the specific answers to the test he was going to take…”

    Us Conservatives follow things like “personal responsibility”, “playing by the rules” and “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps”. True story.

  • had3

    So God didn’t see fit to give him the answer for a cure for melanoma? I mean, sure, I understand why God would hate me, but certainly there are some Xians worth curing, aren’t there?

  • grumpyoldfart

    The whole story sounds like total bullshit.

    Doesn’t matter. His followers will believe it. They’ll regard him as one of God’s little favorites. Mission accomplished

  • rabbitscribe

    Yea. You Dems will treat Carson with the same courtesy that you gave Clarence Thomas.

    Right, FTB readers are critical of Justice Thomas only because he’s black. If he were white, we’d have no problem with his contention that states can establish a particular sect as the official state religion, tax people to advance the faith, and imprison unbelievers for heresy. Come to think of it, I bet the only reason Scalia wouldn’t concur is because he’s just another liberal racist!

    http://www.allgov.com/news/top-stories/a-supreme-court-justices-dream-for-the-us-a-nation-in-which-states-can-establish-their-own-religion-140509?news=853111

  • Rick Pikul

    The idea that a Yale Med School professor had a policy where someone failing his course could get double credit on his exam so they could pass seems incredibly unlikely.

    Back in my university days, I had more than a few professors who had grading policies that used more than one weighting scheme. Almost always one of the schemes involved giving the final exam a very high weight, (even things like 33.3% midterm/66.6% final or “get 80%+ on the final and you pass”[1]).

    So this sort of this is hardly unlikely and it is generally done to allow for students who have problems with in-term work/exams that have nothing to do with their understanding of the course material. IME, it never involved reducing the value of major projects or lab work nor did it salvage a pass for anyone that needed more than 1 or 2%.

    [1] The standard for challenging a course, (where you only write the final and don’t actually take the course), was 70% to earn the course credit. Autopassing on an 80% final just avoided them taking the course next term and challenging it.

  • lorn

    Of course it is BS.

    Ben Carson may not know chemistry but he does know how much people love a good story.

    It is better applied to a far less transparent lie but generally it can be assumed that the press will always take the advice of how to deal with such stories:

    “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend”.

  • tbp1

    So God didn’t see fit to give him the answer for a cure for melanoma?

    God always seems to make time for helping people find their car keys or pass a chemistry test, but leaves finding ways to cure or prevent horrible diseases to us.

    He’s pretty good at smiting, though, even if nobody agrees who he’s smiting or why. Look at all the different things Katrina was supposedly punishment for, for example. My favorite theory was that God drowned a bunch of poor black people in NOLA because of a land deal in Israel, leaving all the people who actually made the deal unscathed.

  • garnetstar

    You asked, and I reply.

    I was a chem major at Yale, entered just a few years after Carson left (it’s the undergrad program that we both attended, not the med school) . I regret to say that there were, in fact, professors who, as was mentioned above, weight the final that heavily. It’s a lot easier to do the course grades if you do that.

    As now a chemistry professor myself, the story sounds entirely plausible, and God had nothing to do with it. Carson said he fell asleep studying–he’s brilliant, and his mind continued to work out the problems, in a dreaming, almost-waking state. That’s happened to me a lot. I, though not brilliant, once got an A on an organic chem final that way.

    Then, chemistry exams, are almost *always* composed of questions that are extremely like the examples that have been given to study. You take the same question, perhaps change the name of the chemicals and the quantities given, and use that on the exam. You want to see if the student knows how to do the problem they’ve been assigned to study. That’s how I write every exam.

    So, this happens to students all the time, no mystery.

  • http://teachingsapiens.wordpress.com Robert B

    In introductory classes, I have used a possibly similar means of rewarding students for doing well on a comprehensive final exam that, based on Bloom’s taxonomy, are more complex and require a better understanding of the material. If a student scores higher (as a percentage) on the final exam than one of the regular exams, the final exam replaces the lowest exam. This typically brings their score up by a few points, enough to bump them from say, a B to a B+, if they manage to do better on a harder exam. I think that is pretty fair, and since anyone can have a really bad day, this is a lifeline for those that were unlucky enough to have that day when their was an exam. It isn’t an option it a student simply didn’t take the exam.

  • tfkreference

    I doubt that dukey is Egnor, because I recall Egnor’s arguments on a different topic (brain/mind duality) being of much better quality than these or his anti-SSM comments (demonstrably wrong, but rhetorically stronger).

    As for Carson, he might have dreamed of chemistry problems and over time remembered them as being the same as on the test. Human memory can work that way.

  • sigurd jorsalfar

    Hey libs— why is it that when conservatives criticize a black President, we’re called racists. But when liberals mock a black neurosurgeon, racism is never invoked?

    Dukedog, let’s see if you can figure this out on your own, i.e. without god coming to you in a dream and helping you cheat.

  • Saad

    theDukedog7, #

    Hey libs— why is it that when conservatives criticize a black President, we’re called racists. But when liberals mock a black neurosurgeon, racism is never invoked?

    When we start asking for Carson’s birth certificate or start questioning his allegiance to the United States like your band of racist bigots, you can start calling us racist too.

  • tfkreference

    Funny how the “I’m not a racist, but” crowd is the first to bring up a person’s race. See ad hominem and tu quoque. Before dukey’s comment, the only mention I’d heard of his race was the contrast with the other occupants of the clown car.

  • magistramarla

    garnetstar@ 31

    My hubby was taking organic chem the semester that we were married. I still tease him about waking up one night to find him patting down the blanket on the bed, mumbling about “finding the t-butyls”. When I asked him to explain it to me, he told me “you wouldn’t understand”, his head hit the pillow and he continued to sleep.

    Those organic chem exams always worried him.

  • spamamander, internet amphibian

    I’m just wishing there was something like this for my daughter’s O-chem. It’s the only class she’s ever failed and it’s setting back her graduation time (she transferred campuses and missed out taking it early on, so didn’t get to until this year). She’s utterly convinced this will be what keeps her out of medical school. :(

  • Michael Heath

    Ben Carson is a serial liar. We can’t trust any of the supposedly factual premises Mr. Carson presents to frame his story. Therefore we have no ability to explain how Mr. Carson supposedly passed an exam.

  • http://helives.blogspot.com heddle

    tfkreference,

    Funny how the “I’m not a racist, but” crowd is the first to bring up a person’s race.

    Is that so? In this post on this blog it only took until comment #2 until a regular characterized him as “the Republican’s new pet black person.” And in comment #8 we get the obligatory “Uncle Tom” reference.

    I’m not paying much attention, but I seriously doubt you can support your claim.

  • garnetstar

    magistramarla @37, your poor hubby. That does worry a lot of people, especially organic. Don’t worry, as colnago80 @16 said, chemistry usually passes right out of people’s heads without leaving a permanent scar. Then they can get some sleep.

  • colnago80

    Re garnetstar @ #41

    I don’t remember much from freshman chemistry because I never made use of it. I remember quite a lot from freshman physics as I made use of that all the time.

  • tfkreference

    Sorry, heddle, I don’t find your comparison apt.

  • colnago80

    Re Heddle @ #40

    As a matter of fact, the sobriquet Uncle Tom is an accurate description of people like Ben Carson, Tom Sowell, Clarence Thomas etc.

  • footface

    So god could have inspired Carson to study harder or, I don’t know… Put better study partners in his path. Or bless him with an understanding of the concepts in a dream. Instead, god said, “Pssst! Here are the answers.” (So god doesn’t care if Carson actually learned anything. Got it.)

  • http://helives.blogspot.com heddle

    tfkreference,

    Sorry, heddle, I don’t find your comparison apt.

    Well of course it doesn’t count when our side does it.

  • tfkreference

    I’ll leave it to other readers to discern for themselves whether there is a difference in the two mentions of race.

  • Saad

    heddle, #40

    Is that so? In this post on this blog it only took until comment #2 until a regular characterized him as “the Republican’s new pet black person.” And in comment #8 we get the obligatory “Uncle Tom” reference.

    He earns the Uncle Tom comparison, so that’s not a good example.

    We’re not criticizing him because of how he looks as opposed to some people from the right to do Obama.

  • http://helives.blogspot.com heddle

    Saad #48,

    So you argument is, essentially: when the bad side brings up race first, it is gratuitous. When the good side brings up race first, even in a manner as subjective as whether an “Uncle Tom” label is “earned” (which you appear to consider yourself qualified to determine), then it is okay.

    Got it.

  • http://en.gravatar.com/mrupright Mr. Upright

    That grading policy is not implausible. In my intro physics class (mostly pre-meds) I give three mid-term exams and a comprehensive final that all hold equal weight. Anyone who does better on the final than on the average of the three mid-terms gets the final counted double and each of the mid-terms downweighted by 1/3. It’s a policy designed to “talk students down from the ledge” when they get their first mid-term back, which typically has a D+/C- median grade.

  • http://helives.blogspot.com heddle

    Mr. Upright #50,

    I go a step further. I have an unannounced (for hopefully obvious reasons) policy that I never give a student a grade lower than they get on the comprehensive final. After all, it’s what they know at the end of the course that matters. (In all my years of teaching undergraduate and graduate level physics and math, I have had only one student raise their letter grade two letters (she went from a C to an A) on the basis of this policy.)

    So in some sense I weigh the final infinitely more than the hour exams.

  • Saad

    heddle, #49

    No, you asshat.

    I need to see Obama’s birth certificate because he’s brownish looking and has a weird name. Also, I doubt he’s loyal to America. We don’t know his true motives.

    Ben Carson is refusing to see the obvious systemic police racism despite being from a background which should make him more sensitive. He’s behaving like an Uncle Tom.

    From Wikipedia:

    The phrase “Uncle Tom” has also become an epithet for a person who is slavish and excessively subservient to perceived authority figures, particularly a black person who behaves in a subservient manner to white people; or any person perceived to be complicit in the oppression of their own group.

    My argument is that those two are night and day. It’s an argument that hardly needs to even be made were it not for stupid people like you. Or maybe you see it but are just being dishonest.

  • http://helives.blogspot.com heddle

    Saad #52,

    My argument is that those two are night and day. It’s an argument that hardly needs to even be made were it not for stupid people like you.

    What a pinhead. You must have learned your rhetorical skills on Pharyngula. The point I was addressing (clearly) was a narrow upstream claim on who brings up race first. I gave a definite counter-example from this very blog. You then moved the goalposts from who brings up race first to bringing up race first is not the question, but rather whether race is brought up in a manner in which I, Saad the sage, deem it acceptable. (Which is of course when your side does it–like I said, I smell Pharyngula.)

    BTW giving a definition of Uncle Tom does not make your case. It is still wildly subjective as to whether a person is “lavish and excessively subservient”. What about AAs who do not think an official “Saad-the-sage-designated-Uncle-Tom” is in fact an Uncle Tom? Are they by definition also Uncle Toms?