Dr. Ben Carson, the Johns Hopkins Hospital neurosurgeon who rocketed to national fame after a provocative keynote speech at the National Prayer Breakfast in February, is a 7th Day Adventist and, hence, a literal six-day-creationist.
Carson has not kept his views on biology and geology secret. But since he’s new to the national scene, many will find this a baffling revelation. As in: how can this brilliant scientific mind entertain an outlandish theory that virtually none of his peers shares? Or as Washington Post reporter Valerie Strauss implies: how can such an accomplished medical professional reject “Darwin’s theory of evolution, which is the central principle that animates modern biology, uniting all biological fields under one theoretical tent, and which virtually all modern scientists agree is true”?
John Derbyshire put the matter succinctly in a piece about the documentary “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” Ben Stein’s attempt at exposing the Stalinesque suppression of scientists at variance with Darwinian orthodoxy: “How could a guy like this do a thing like that?”
The truth is, as I learned throughout my childhood, lots of smart people are literal six-day creationists. They are not all mouth-breathing rednecks who, with Homer Stokes, rail against “all those smart-ass folks think we come descended from monkeys.” Some of them managed to graduate from Ivy League universities and clerk for Supreme Court justices. Some of them even conduct “impeccable” paleontological research. And at least one of them is, yes, a world-renowned neurosurgeon.
For the vast majority of human beings, even modern cosmopolitan professionals, beliefs about the geologic timescale, the processes of biological adaptation, paleontology, cosmology, etc. exist comfortably outside the scope of their core competencies. I get twitchy when scientific illiteracy creeps into the top ranks of our political class, but, at the same time, I’m forced to recognize that a country in which only four in 10 people believe in theory of evolution seems to function pretty well on an everyday basis.
In the event that you found yourself in Baltimore and required emergency brain surgery, would you, proud secular liberal, let a six-day creationist gay-marriage critic cut open your skull?
If you admit the answer is yes, then savor the irony—and maybe dial down the self-superiority.