Ben Carson: Gravity, boy I dunno

Ben Carson has some questions for all you elitist science nerds out there: If you’re so smart, how come you don’t know how gravity works?


Answering a question about climate change, Carson spun off into a discussion of why he isn’t an atheist, and how he doesn’t have to accept climate science or astrophysics in order to be a good neurosurgeon.

To the extent that Carson did answer the climate change question, it was with a patronizing non-sequitur, saying, “Is there climate change? Of course there’s climate change. Any point in time, temperatures are going up or temperatures are going down. Of course that’s happening. When that stops happening, that’s when we’re in big trouble.” He did then say that it was important to take care of our environment, but not as a “political issue,” ignoring the fact that he is running for the nomination of a party that is uniformly of the political belief that the environment should be secondary to the market. As The New Republics’ Rebecca Leber rhetorically asked, “If we don’t use politics to protect the environment, who will? The Earth itself? God?”

But then things got weird.

Spinning off into a discussion of his personal religious beliefs, like how his young-Earth creationism is perfectly compatible with evolutionary biology:

As far as evolution is concerned, you know, I do believe in micro-evolution, or natural selection, but I believe that God gave the creatures he made the ability to adapt to their environment. Because he’s very smart and he didn’t want to start over every 50 years.

And, later, a selection of open questions about sciences great mysteries:

Just the way the Earth rotates on its axis, how far away it is from the sun. These are all very complex things. Gravity, where did it come from?

Yes, Dr. Carson, where did gravity come from??? And while you’re at it, how’d the moon get there?

Can’t explain that!

Except we can. As it turns out, we know where gravity comes from. And we’re pretty sure how the moon got there. And we are one thousand percent sure that life on this planet took longer than six thousand years to evolve into what it is today.

We’re lucky that gravity and evolution aren’t political issues that Ben Carson would have to deal with if elected president, but that doesn’t let him off the hook here. These kinds of unscientific beliefs should — and yet somehow don’t — disqualify you in the minds of the American electorate. As I wrote back in February:

None of the issues that fall under the umbrella of “science” should be partisan issues at all. Analytical thinking may correlate with liberal ideology, but that doesn’t mean that facts themselves are biased. A presidential candidate’s position on evolution is as important as their position on vaccines because both speak to that person’s respect for and ability to understand evidence. So evolution doesn’t need to serve as a proxy for the current scientific issues of the day; on the policy side alone, it serves as a proxy for the next issues of the day.

Ben Carson is sure that the world was created in six days, but he isn’t sure that we can explain one of its most basic governing principles — even though he could have Googled it. That he’s considered the intellectual, smart candidate in the Republican primary is even scarier than the fact that Donald Trump is leading it.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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18 Responses to “Ben Carson: Gravity, boy I dunno”

  1. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:


  2. cleos_mom says:

    Every time Carson speaks, I get the impression that he’s struggling to not fall asleep.

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  4. emjayay says:

    I keep asking, why did he quit about ten years before most doctors do? What about the babies? If his hands weren’t good enough, why didn’t he continue to administrate and also teach, handing on his awesome baby saving knowledge to future generations?

  5. 2karmanot says:

    Or it could be that the blood moon sucked energy from his frontal lobe.

  6. Ol' Hippy says:

    The other question: what do they call a politician? An attorney who was too stupid to practice law!!

  7. zorbear says:

    I always remember what I heard a doctor say once: “What do they call the person who graduated at the bottom of his class?

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  9. Fucking magnets? How do they work?

  10. Don Chandler says:

    Never watch Fox or Bill O’Really. Hate Carson. Hate Rush. I guess it’s election time so I have to see them again and again. So how did the Moon get there?

    It’s the anti-intellectual argument. GWB got elected using it. People that don’t have much curiosity about the world we live in eat that shit up. So Bill O’Really plays a cynical devil’s advocate with his audience and asks over and over, “So how did the moon get there [dickhead]?” But now, all you have to do is perform a simple search: “how was the moon formed” and you get the most popular theory at the top of the google search:

    “The moon was formed ~4.5 billion years ago, about 30–50 million years after the origin of the Solar System, out of debris thrown into orbit by a massive collision between a smaller proto-Earth and another planetoid, about the size of Mars.”

    You look at some follow-up links and you find 3 theories listed at

    After the sun spun to light, the planets of the solar system began to form. But it took another hundred million years for Earth’s moon to spring into existence. There are three theories as to how our planet’s satellite could have been created: the giant impact hypothesis, the co-formation theory and the capture theory.

    But Bill O’Really suggests it’s something else. He actually knows the theories but the people that listen to his show don’t. They prefer a good old fashioned 6,000 year old biblical model. They don’t want to read about Big Splats ;) They want to live their lives out in denial of our precarious position in the universe. Blackholes, no need. BigBangs, only in bed. “tell me this, how did the moon get there?”–bill O’really asks over and over.

    But we all know it’s an election year and Bill the Puppet is going out there to do his worst. Tell people lies so his bosses can make some more dollars on petro at the expense of the future. He doesn’t care because he doesn’t believe in cosmic retribution or a vengeful god . He believes in the present and he can get rich quick on misinformation. Same with Rush Blowhard. Same with Ben Cartoon. They don’t believe in god. They don’t believe in cosmic retribution. They just know they won’t be here to pay the price of over consumption. It’s a sad commentary. They don’t care about the future. And they don’t care about the children. They care only about their wallets in the NOW. They are making money hand over fist.

    There is an argument about balancing economics and the environment. But these assholes aren’t making that argument. There is also a trend that PR is more powerful than the truth. Sadly, it’s fact in a world without education.

  11. Indigo says:

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  12. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    One of these theories must be correct.

  13. BeccaM says:

    What I want to know is how the f*ck someone like Carson made it through medical school — never mind to have become a world-renowned neurologist — when he is so incredibly ignorant on what appears to be all areas of basic science.

    Like Trump, Carson repeatedly demonstrates himself to be functionally unqualified to be a serious candidate for the presidency, never mind the office itself.

  14. BeccaM says:

    Mad cow prion disease has been my working theory.

  15. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    Alzheimer’s? Maybe, but he could just be really baked.

  16. nicho says:

    Temperatures going up and down on a short-term basis is called “weather.” Climate, while related, is something altogether different. I’m not sure this is a guy I would have wanted screwing around inside my brain. But then, we have this misconception that doctors are really smart. I’ve known a lot of totally fucked-up doctors.

  17. 2karmanot says:

    Dr. Alzheimer’s babbles again…..Yawn…..zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  18. fry1laurie says:

    This is the first time I’ve seen the word “gravity” in a story on Ben Carson, because his campaign has had none of it.

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