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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