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The Washington Post: “Ben Carson’s creationist views spark controversy over commencement speech” Creationist doctor’s understanding of science and ethics called into question
Controversy erupted at Emory University when 494 disgruntled faculty, students, and alumni signed a letter complaining about the university’s selection of Dr. Ben Carson as commencement speaker. Why wouldn’t they want the Emory Community to be inspired by the world-renowned Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon who made history as the first doctor to successfully separate conjoined twins attached at the back of the head? Because, they feel, Dr. Carson doesn’t really “understand science.”
Dr. Carson is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, a noted philanthropist, the director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins, co-director of the Craniofacial Center there, and a professor of neurology, oncology, plastic surgery, and pediatrics.
But Dr. Carson is also a creationist who has publicly spoken against evolution. Speaking at a National Science Teachers convention, Dr. Carson said, “Evolution and creationism both require faith. It’s just a matter of where you choose to place that faith.”
The letter of complaint misrepresented Dr. Carson, saying he “equates the acceptance of evolution with a lack of ethics and morality.”
The letter of complaint misrepresented Dr. Carson, saying he “equates the acceptance of evolution with a lack of ethics and morality.” However, what Dr. Carson had actually said in his published interview with the Adventist Review was the following:
By believing we are the products of random acts, we eliminate morality and the basis of ethical behavior. For if there is no such thing as moral authority, you can do anything you want. You make everything relative, and there’s no reason for any of our higher values.
The letter of complaint further derided Dr. Carson for “not seeing a difference between science, which is predictive and falsifiable, and religious belief systems, which by their very nature cannot be falsified. This is especially troubling since his great achievements in medicine allow him to be viewed as someone who ‘understands science.’”
The complaint asserts that Dr. Carson is “incorrect” in his denial of the “overwhelming” evidence for evolution. It goes on to say, “Our understanding of the evolutionary process has advanced our ability to develop animal models for disease, our ability to combat the spread of infectious disease and, in point of fact, the work of Dr. Carson himself is based on scientific advances fostered by an understanding of evolution.” The complaint concludes by saying, “Dismissing evolution disregards the importance of science and critical thinking to society.”
This writer is personally amazed that anyone could question Dr. Ben Carson’s understanding of science or morality, much less suggest that Dr. Carson disregards the importance of science and critical thinking to society. His medical achievements demonstrate the contrary. He understands the differences between experimental and origins science. He understands the way a person’s starting assumptions determine the way he views scientific data about unobservable untestable events long past. For instance, in the area of craniofacial surgery, Dr. Carson’s understanding of embryological developmental errors that produce birth defects is not hampered by his “refusal” to believe embryologic development recapitulates an evolutionary past. He understands human anatomy and development and therefore has been able to develop innovative ways to ameliorate human suffering.
He certainly does not deny that non-believers can be ethical people, but he articulates the fact that they lack a logical basis for their ethics.
Furthermore, Dr. Carson has spoken clearly and logically about the importance of an absolute source of morality beyond man’s opinions. He certainly does not deny that non-believers can be ethical people, but he articulates the fact that they lack a logical basis for their ethics. In response to the attack, Dr. Carson told the Emory University newspaper the following:
It would have been extremely courteous if they had asked me whether it was true that I said people who are evolutionist are unethical, which I never did. Those of us who believe in God and derive our sense of right and wrong and ethics from God’s word really have no difficulty whatsoever defining where our ethics come from. People who believe in survival of the fittest might have more difficulty deriving where their ethics come from. A lot of evolutionists are very ethical people.
While Dr. Carson was not dis-invited, Emory president James Wagner has assured the faculty that he will henceforth mandate background checks on potential recipients of honorary degrees “lest,” as one website noted, “another Darwin doubter or other undesirable escape detection.”1
During Dr. Carson’s stirring address he pointed out the danger of political correctness, saying that it “threatens the prosperity and the vitality of our nation.”2 In the wake of so much discussion about limiting academic freedom in schools and this nonsense in which a man like Dr. Ben Carson could be accused of not understanding science and morality, it is worth noting Dr. Carson’s warning:
There was a time in the history of the world when there was great intolerance for anybody who thought differently than the mainstream. It was called the Dark Ages.3
It has become common for many evolutionists to imply that no real scientist could believe in biblical creation and that modern medicine is the byproduct of evolutionary thinking. And with this episode it appears that even those creation scientists who have most distinguished themselves are to be marginalized, ignored, insulted, misrepresented, and viewed as a threat to societal progress. Let us hope that the American people will heed Dr. Carson’s warning.
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Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.