Creationist surgeon to give commencement address at Emory University

UPDATEOver at erv, Abbie Smith just posted the harrowing tale of a biologist and three trustees of a Seventh-Day Adventist School (La Sierra University) who were fired for being sympathetic to evolution.


Over at Secular Perspectives, a website sponsored by the Washington Area Secular Humanists, our own reader Hos has written a piece called “Secular perspectives: How religion corrupts minds and undercuts science.” There, Hos introduces us to Ben Carson, an eminent neurosurgeon and director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. You can’t get much more eminent as a doctor: Carson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest award for civilians. He’s performed many difficult operations—including the first successful separation of twins conjoined at the back of the head, and has 61 honorary degrees.  He’s a man to be be reckoned with.

But of course there’s a “but.”  Carson is also a devout Seventh Day Adventist who doesn’t accept evolution. See, for example, this interview with him in Adventist Review, where he issues howlers like this (“JG” is interviewer Jonathan Gallager)

JG: So why do so many people prefer to believe in the random formation of the universe–and of life itself? Or to put it another way, Why is the matter of evolution so important?
BC: It comes down to a matter of ownership. Who owns the universe, who owns the earth, who owns your life? Those who believe in evolution, and in a naturalistic explanation of the universe, ultimately see themselves as end-owners–as the creator and ultimate source of authority. In this way they answer to nothing and nobody, for there is nothing higher than themselves.

How does this happen? What are the consequences of accepting evolutionary views of human origins? How does this affect society and the way we see ourselves?
By believing we are the product 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.

If we are all the product of chance, the random assortment of atoms, living in a deterministic universe that is simply the consequence of physical interactions, doesn’t it all seem so futile?
Yes, in my education I had to learn evolutionary theories, and as a God-fearing Christian I wondered how to make God and evolution mesh. The truth is that you can’t make them mesh–you have to choose one or the other. . .

But just supposing you did have that first cell?
Even if you accept evolutionary theory–developing a more sophisticated organism in this theoretically “logical” fashion, then there should be a continuum of organisms. And why did evolution divert in so many directions–birds, fish, elephants, apes, humans–if there is some force evolving to the maximum? Why isn’t everything a human–a superior human? Darwin specifically stated that his theory hung on the discovery of intermediate forms, and was sure that we would find them. More than a hundred years later we still haven’t found them. Even the earliest fossils don’t show such intermediates.

Take the simple case of ape to human. It should be easy to find abundant fossil remains since, according to evolutionary theory, this is the most recent transition. If we can find so many fossils of dinosaurs, which are further back in the evolutionary scheme, we should have plenty of evidence of intermediates between apes and humans. But we don’t have them. We have very few supposed intermediates–like “Lucy,” based on fanciful reconstruction with a lot of filling in. Today we have people with significant congenital abnormalities whose skeletal remains would seem like a missing link. So “Lucy” does not make the case, and there should be multiple “Lucys” if the transition from ape to human were true.

Also, there’s the whole subject of irreducibly complex organisms–the idea that everything has to be there all at once for it to work. How could all the complex items evolve simultaneously–as in the eye, for example? . . .

A few closing thoughts?
Ultimately, if you accept the evolutionary theory, you dismiss ethics, you don’t have to abide by a set of moral codes, you determine your own conscience based on your own desires. You have no reason for things such as selfless love, when a father dives in to save his son from drowning. You can trash the Bible as irrelevant, just silly fables, since you believe that it does not conform to scientific thought. You can be like Lucifer, who said, “I will make myself like the Most High.”

Can you prove evolution? No. Can you prove creation? No. Can you use the intellect God has given you to decide whether something is logical or illogical? Yes, absolutely. It all comes down to “faith”–and I don’t have enough to believe in evolution. I’m too logical!

This is all extraordinarily stupid stuff—the acceptance of intelligent design, the denial of transitional fossils, the characterization of evolution as an “accident”, and so on (I’ve left out a lot).  It’s beyond my ken how a surgeon who can figure out, using scientific principles, how to separate twins joined at the head, can nevertheless reject the mountains of evidence that evolution is true.  Hos has the explanation:

How is it that one of the most brilliant brain surgeons in the world can be so incredibly ignorant (bordering on idiotic) about a scientific theory that has been the backbone of biology and geology for 150 years? The answer is one word: Religion. As long as religion infects minds, you can expect ignorance peddling from the shining stars of even the top institutes of higher education in the world.

Truefact.  To paraphrase Steven Weinberg (with some slight exaggeration), “With or without religion smart people can believe true things and dumb people can believe fairy stories.  But for smart people to believe fairy stories—that takes religion.”

Carson is scheduled to give the commencement address at Emory University in Atlanta, a school I once visited.  A petition of the University’s students and faculty has been circulating to protest this choice, and, to their credit, many faculty have signed. You can see the petition (but not sign it) here. The cover letter is quite eloquent.

It won’t work, of course.  One can hope only that Carson doesn’t disgorge his antiscientific views at the students of Emory.


  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted May 18, 2012 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Before this thread dies

    Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine (Paperback)
    Randolph M. Nesse MD, George C. Williams

    Titled differently outside US, maybe evolutionary medicine.

    Dawkins talked about it.

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