Jeff Jacoby told a liberal colleague the other day that he would not vote for Ben Carson for president, but thinks he would make an excellent Surgeon General. After all, Dr. Carson, a Seventh Day Adventist by faith, is a pediatric neurosurgeon who for over two decades ran his department at Johns Hopkins Hospital, one of the best in the world. Time magazine once called Dr. Carson one of the best doctors in the country.
That wasn’t good enough for Jacoby’s liberal colleague, who wanted to know how on earth Jacoby could support a Surgeon General who is a creationist. If he rejects the science on something as fundamental as that, how can he be trusted? Jacoby answered, in part:
The best-known and most beloved surgeon general of all — C. Everett Koop — is remembered for his early leadership in fighting AIDS and for warning bluntly that smoking was harmful. Liberals admired him for putting public health before politics or ideology. Yet Koop, too, was skeptical of Darwinism. “It has been my conviction for many years that evolution is impossible,” he wrote in a 1986 letter. Like Carson, Koop also believed that Genesis should be taken at face value, not as “something like parables.” Yet those views clearly were no barrier to Koop’s nonpareil service as surgeon general.
Similarly, Carson’s decades of remarkable medical achievement should quell any suggestion that his biblical views about the development of life “in the beginning” have impeded his scholarship and skill at saving and improving lives in the present. All faiths (including dogmatic atheism) incorporate teachings that cannot be supported by mainstream science. Water into wine? Manna from heaven? Golden plates from an angel in New York? A universe that spontaneously created itself?
Jacoby’s last point is especially interesting. I’ve noticed over the years that very little winds up secular liberals like creationists, especially when people they would otherwise respect (like, say, a pediatric neurosurgeon) confess to taking a scientifically implausible, religiously informed view of how the universe began. I suppose it has to do with the role the Scopes monkey trial plays in our national historical narrative, but in my experience, creationist belief is kryptonite for secular liberals.
Thing is, as Jacoby points out, most of us who profess any religious faith at all — and even dogmatic atheists — believe in things that cannot be proven by science. If that were to be an insurmountable barrier to serving as Surgeon General, the current holder of that office, Dr. Vivek Murthy, would have to resign; he is a believing Hindu, and man, do they ever believe weird things. No believing Catholic or Orthodox could serve, because their strange and unscientific beliefs include the conviction that bread and wine become in some mysterious way the body and blood of God after a priest says certain words over them. All believing Christians, for that matter, believe that the infinite, eternal God entered into time and became a man, and not just a man, but a Galilean Jew whose mother was, get this, a virgin. And after they killed him, he rose from the dead and flew off to heaven.
It’s very strange, you have to admit.
Jews who profess Judaism not only believe that God exists, but they also believe (as do Christians) that He revealed himself exclusively to a tribe of desert nomads, out of all the people on earth, and chose that tribe for a special mission in history. Crazy! Believing Muslims confess that God sent an angel to a prophet praying in a cave in Arabia, and dictated a holy book to him. That really happened, according to Muslims. It might seem silly to you, but that’s what they believe.
Should no believing Jew, Muslim, or Christian ever be allowed to serve as Surgeon General because they believe things that cannot be proven scientifically? For that matter, you cannot prove scientifically that there is a purpose to human life. I have an atheist friend who is a staunch humanist, who believes that the purpose to life is to love others and to do good. She can’t explain to you why she believes that, only that she does. A Ditchkins type could demolish her in 90 seconds. But this is her faith. Though she wouldn’t call it faith, this is her faith.
“Can you regard someone’s religious creed as preposterous, yet entrust the person who is faithful to that creed with public office?” asks Jacoby. “Of course; Americans do it all the time.”
Yes, we do, because that’s how it is among us humans.Secular liberals who freak out in the presence of creationist beliefs are pretty much virtue-signaling. We use science to help us to understand the material world, and how it works, but most of us believe in something beyond the purely material, which is to say, beyond the reach of science’s ability to know. We experience life as a poem, not a syllogism.