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“How Can You Resolve This Contradiction?”: How Is Ben Carson Both So Incredibly Smart And So Spectacularly Stupid?

There are a lot of scientific prerequisites if you want to go to medical school — not just biology, but also chemistry and physics, even some math. By the time you get there, and certainly by the time you leave, you’ll be long acquainted with the scientific method and the broad contours of scientific knowledge on those topics.

So imagine it’s 1970 or so, and you’re young Ben Carson, sitting in a biology class at Yale University. With your sharp mind and strong study habits, you don’t have much problem understanding the material, grasping the copious evidence underlying the theory of evolution, all the fossils going back millions of years, how it all fits together in an endless process that affects everything from a towering redwood down to a microscopic virus. And yet, the whole thing sounds like an attack on the beliefs about the universe you were taught your whole life from your family and your church. How can you resolve this contradiction?

The resolution came somewhere along the way for Carson: Satan. Evolution is Satan’s doing.

The fact that Carson believes this is a true puzzlement. Because Carson is an undeniably smart man. You don’t get to be one of the world’s most renowned neurosurgeons without the ability to understand complex systems, evaluate evidence, sift the plausible from the implausible, and integrate disparate pieces of data into a coherent whole. And yet he thinks that the theory of evolution is not just a great big hoax, but a hoax literally delivered to us from Hell.

Forgive me for my contemptuous tone, but that is what Carson actually believes. In a 2012 speech put up this week by Buzzfeed‘s Andrew Kaczynski, Carson says, “I personally believe that this theory that Darwin came up with was something that was encouraged by the adversary,” and reveals that he plans to write a book explaining how the organs of the human body refute evolutionary theory. He also says the Big Bang is bunk, because the second law of thermodynamics says that entropy always increases, and there’s too much order in the universe, what with things like galaxies and solar systems and planets. “Now that type of organization to just come out of an explosion? I mean, you want to talk about fairy tales, that is amazing.” Someone should explain to him that order didn’t arrive right out of the explosion, but over billions of years. You see, because of gravity…oh, never mind.

Carson’s ideas about the Big Bang are quite similar to his beliefs about Islam, in that he picked up a snippet of information somewhere — there’s a passage in the Koran that says this or that, there’s a thing called entropy — and that snippet seemed to take hold of his rational faculties and beat them to a pulp.

To be clear, this isn’t just about religious faith. There are millions upon millions of people in the world who believe fervently in a divine power, but who also acknowledge the truth of evolution. The Catholic Church, for instance, is quite clear that there’s nothing incompatible between its theology and evolution. You can believe God set the process in motion or that God guides it down to the smallest detail; nothing about a belief in God prevents you from understanding and accepting what generations of scientists have discovered about the history of life on Earth.

So how do we explain this contradiction? All of us have some things we know a lot about and some things of which we’re ignorant. Some of us are extraordinarily good at reading people and understanding social relations, but are helpless when it comes to math; others are just the opposite. Some of us pick up languages easily, others don’t. Intelligence is complex and varied.

But what’s so odd about Carson is that science is the very thing he was trained in, and the thing at which he excelled. Yet his religious beliefs are apparently so powerful that they completely overwhelm his ability to look objectively at any scientific area that might give some answers to what people once thought were purely metaphysical questions.

Training in science is also training in how to think — what sorts of questions can be answered in what sorts of ways, and how you know what you know and what you don’t. That’s why it’s nearly as surprising to hear Carson offer as justification for his belief that no Muslim should be president, “Taqiyya is a component of Shia that allows, and even encourages you to lie to achieve your goals,” as it is to hear him dismiss the Big Bang with a line about entropy. It isn’t surprising that Ben Carson knows next to nothing about Islam; what is surprising is that, despite a career immersed in a very specialized field, he would think that he could listen to a couple of Glenn Beck rants and come to a deep understanding of a 1,400-year-old religion.

That’s not to mention the fact that Carson’s entire campaign for president is built on the rejection of knowledge and experience, in that he argues that all you need to succeed as president is common sense, even if you’ve never spent a day in government. That opinion, unfortunately, is widely held. As is, we should mention, belief in Satan — according to polls, a majority of Americans believe in the devil, so Carson is hardly alone.

If the Father of Lies is amongst us, I’m sure he’ll take a keen interest in the presidential campaign. And when Carson’s candidacy immolates, as it certainly will, he’ll have someone to blame it on.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, September 23, 2015

September 24, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Bigotry, Science | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Kentucky’s Kim Davis Is Out Of Jail, But For How Long?”: Her Defiant Stand Seems Likely To Land Davis Right Back In Jail

At a distance, it’s understandable why U.S. District Judge David Bunning agreed today to release Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis from jail. Bunning locked Davis up last week after she brazenly defied a court order, but in the days since, the clerk’s office has begun honoring the law and issuing marriage licenses to all couples, not just those Davis finds morally acceptable.

With this in mind, the Kentucky clerk, who believes she has “God’s authority” to ignore laws she doesn’t like, walked out of a detention center this afternoon, to the hearty applause of an assembled group of conservative activists. MSNBC’s Emma Margolin reported, however, the next question is how long it might take before Davis is jailed once more.

[Davis’] attorney said that Davis would continue to abide by her conscience, which cannot condone same-sex nuptials, and that all licenses issued since her incarceration were not valid.

The defiant stand seems likely to land Davis right back in jail….

In this morning’s court order, Judge Bunning, a George W. Bush appointee and the son of a former far-right senator, said he is “satisfied that the Rowan County Clerk’s Office is fulfilling its obligation to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples,” consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality. As a result, Bunning lifted the contempt sanction against Davis and she was free to go.

So, problem solved, right? Wrong.

Bunning’s order specifically said that Davis, her religious beliefs notwithstanding, “shall not interfere in any way, directly or indirectly, with the efforts of her deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples.”

But as the MSNBC report added, Davis’s lawyer, Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, suggested she’s likely to defy this order, too.

“She cannot allow a license authorizing same-sex marriage to go under her authority or name,” Staver said in an interview with NBC News’ Gabe Gutierrez, ahead of Davis’ release. “That’s been her position from the beginning and that will be her position, I assume, on any subsequent occasion. She’s asking for a simple fix, a simple accommodation.”

 “We’re back to square one,” he added. “She’s been released. But there has been no resolution.”

In this case, the “simple accommodation” will not include Davis honoring the law, or following court orders, or fulfilling her oath of office, or even finding a job where her responsibilities aren’t in conflict with her religious principles. When Staver says “simple accommodation,” he effectively means “the legal authority to block marriages Davis doesn’t like.”*

If you read MaddowBlog over the weekend, you know that Staver leads a right-wing legal group created by the late Jerry Falwell. Staver has argued, more than once, that Kim Davis is comparable to a Jewish person living under Nazi rule. He wasn’t kidding.

As for the politics of all of this, while we wait for Davis to end up in jail again, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) – two second-tier Republican presidential candidates – went to almost comedic lengths to exploit the Kentucky controversy to advance their own personal ambitions.

* Update: One other possible accommodation that’s come up is removing Davis’ name from licenses issued by this clerk’s office. That said, if Davis interferes with her colleagues fulfilling their official duties, this may prove insufficient.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, September 8, 2015

September 9, 2015 Posted by | Kim Davis, Marriage Equality, Rule of Law | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Born Of Same Bigotry As Segregation”: Kim Davis Is Not A Christian Martyr; The Kentucky Court Clerk Deserves To Be In The Clink

There are going to be some people who celebrate scofflaw County Clerk Kim Davis sitting behind bars. Most of them are her allies. Not even the American Civil Liberties Union lawyers wanted to send poor Kim to the pokey—likely because they wanted to deny her (and her allies) the exact image they’ve now been granted: the long-faced Davis in handcuffs, dourly professing that she loves Jesus more than she does the law.

“Civil disobedience” is fine—but they don’t call it being a “civil servant” because the county courthouse is run by Christian Grey. She’s supposed to do her job, not decide what it is. But Davis, temperamentally, is obviously more of a top, anyway, and probably should have sought a job in line with her personality. Maybe at the DMV.

The only thing louder than Davis’s protestations is the jingle of the coins being dropped in all the various collection boxes that lay claim to some similar cause. In our curious hate-donating economy, Davis will undoubtedly receive some monetary reward for showmanship—whether it comes via GoFundMe or a book contract—but it will be a fraction of what’s raised by the political ambulance-chasers dutifully filing in behind her.

Already many of the GOP presidential candidates have weighed in, creating the curious spectacle of lawmakers pre-emptively breaking their oaths of office: How can you promise to “uphold the Constitution” if you have already admitted that it has a loophole big enough for Davis to fit through?

The judge who ordered Davis to be held in contempt, and the deputy clerks who started issuing marriage licenses, may be the only Republican left who realizes that Davis’s stunt is something besides a fundraising appeal. Or, rather, he seems to understand that Davis offers only the literal fundraising appeal to end all fundraising appeals. Follow her logic to its fiery end—the Bible as the ultimate legal authority—and there would be no political offices left to run for, just law enforcement positions.

There are regimes like that in the world; we’re fighting wars with a few of them.

Others have pointed out that Davis’s brand of Christianity is itself not too far removed from the sort of blinkered false-purity doctrine that rules radical Islam: the prohibition on makeup or clothes that come in anything besides a hazmat-suit cut. But if you want to understand just how antithetical to democracy Davis’s ideas are, don’t think about what her church doesn’t allow. Instead, imagine what kind of world would make Kim Davis happy.

Davis, after all, was not merely registering an objection to same-sex marriage, she is objecting to the notion of civil society, to “liberalism” not as a policy position but a modern ideal. In my understanding of liberal democracy, a Christian county clerk signing the marriage licenses of gay couples is to be celebrated—for the exact same reasons we celebrate the right of non-Muslims to draw Mohammed: The idea that any one person’s individual religious preference should end the instant it imposes on the rights of another. The true test of religious liberty isn’t whether or not you can practice your own, but if your society has room for yours and a few others.

To judge by her written statements, I am not not much over-worried that Davis’s turn in a jail cell will produce anything besides more vague boilerplate religious freedom stew. In response to questions from Think Progress, fellow members of her denomination couldn’t even identify the precise theological dogma they were sure she was trying to defend: Apostolic Christianity, a lay leader explained, “does not have lengthy, codified statements on marriage, divorce, or homosexuality. Instead, he said, members usually look to one document for answers…The King James Bible.”

The sect’s aversion to reasoned argument means we will probably not be treated to Davis’s own “Letter from an Ashland Jail,” which is just as well, since neither she nor her movement would benefit from a direct comparison to Martin Luther King’s pointed yet lyrical rejoinder to the clergymen who objected to his civil disobedience, both as a tactic and with its target.

King justified the Birmingham business boycott that led to his imprisonment (he and others defied a court injunction against the protest) with a list of humiliations suffered by black men and women in the South—and it does not include anything remotely like “being forced to sign a piece of paper.”

Rather, it includes the kind of bodily harms—and quotidian insults—that reverberate for both people of color and those in the LGBT community today. Indeed, King presciently articulates exactly why obtaining the same marriage license granted to opposite-sex couples matters, because without the complete protection of equality under the law, those discriminated against are “living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments.” They are, King writes, “forever fighting a degenerating sense of ‘nobodiness.’”

One of the members of the couple to whom Davis denied a marriage license put it in only slightly less poetic terms: “When you’re gay and you grow up in Kentucky, you kind of get used to hiding who you are, accommodating other people and making them feel comfortable. You don’t realize how much of your own dignity you’ve given away. It catches up to you.”

King pleaded with the other men of faith to come around to his cause: “Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.” Davis, it must be noted, is in jail precisely because she believes in monologue. Her belief that she should not be forced to interact with those she disagrees with is born of the same bigotry as segregation—even if on the surface it looks like the most banal interactions: paperwork.

That she could interpret the presence of her signature on a marriage certificate as evidence of her own sin isn’t a testament to the strength of her convictions, but to the height of her arrogance.

 

By: Ana Marie Cox, The Daily Beast, September 4, 2015

 

September 5, 2015 Posted by | Christianity, Discrimination, Kim Davis | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Laws For Thee, But Not For Me”: Kentucky’s Kim Davis Jailed, Held In Contempt

Federal judges really don’t like it when people ignore court orders and claim the law doesn’t apply to them.

A federal judge has ordered a Kentucky clerk to jail after she refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Kim Davis, a clerk in Rowan County, was found in contempt of court on Thursday morning…. Davis, in tears, said on the stand that she could not comply with the judge’s order. U.S. Marshals later took her into custody.

As she was being led out of the courtroom, the clerk said, “Thank you, judge.”

Davis, if you’re just joining us, is paid by taxpayers to issue marriage licenses, but she refuses to provide licenses to couples she finds morally objectionable, citing “God’s authority.” Davis and her lawyers have filed several appeals, all of which lost.

She could, of course, find some other job – one that doesn’t pit her professional responsibilities against her spiritual beliefs – but she refuses to do so. As we talked about yesterday, Davis feels entitled to keep her job and refuse to do her job at the same time.

U.S. District Judge David Bunning, appointed to the bench by George W. Bush, apparently didn’t find this persuasive.

Just so news consumers are clear, if you hear that Davis was jailed for her opposition to marriage equality, this is incorrect. She was taken into custody because she deliberately, brazenly ignored a court order. Davis was bound, not only to perform her official duties, but also to follow the law. She refused and is now in contempt of court.

Marriage-equality proponents did not ask the judge in the case to take her into custody, but by some measures, Judge Bunning didn’t have much of a choice.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 3, 2015

September 4, 2015 Posted by | Kim Davis, Law and Order, Marriage Equality | , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Never Mind The Law Of The Land”: Defending The God-Given Liberty Of County Clerks To Ignore Duties They Don’t Like

It’s sometimes easy to forget with all the presidential campaign stuff going on, but there will be gubernatorial elections in two states this November, Kentucky and Louisiana. And while the latter may really amount to a bipartisan celebration that Bobby Jindal’s finally leaving the office he’s become bored with as anything other than a presidential campaign prop, the former bids fare to be a good old-fashioned partisan cliffhanger. In a state that’s been trending pretty sharply Republican, however, Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway remains the betting favorite over Republican nominee Matt Bevin, best known as the Tea Party dude who got crushed by Mitch McConnell in a 2014 Senate primary.

But Bevin seems to think he’s found a big vote-pleaser, per the Louisville Courier-Journal‘s Phillip Bailey:

Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin said during a national conference call Tuesday he fully supports Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis’ right to refuse gay couples seeking marriage licenses.

“I absolutely support her willingness to stand on her First Amendment rights,” he said. “Without any question I support her.”

The strong defense of Davis’ actions underscores how the GOP nominee hopes to make the fight over gay marriage a centerpiece of the 2015 governor’s race, which polling shows is a tight race between him and Democratic nominee Jack Conway.

Conway’s position is that the Supreme Court decision striking down Kentucky’s same-sex marriage ban is the law of the land, and as such everyone, even public officials, should obey it (snark intended). There’s abundant evidence this is the way the wind’s blowing everywhere, which is why most Republican pols have stopped talking about the issue except when they are trapped in some church basement with members of their party base.

Bevin does, however, have a broader vision: like his junior senator, Rand Paul, he’s talking about getting government out of the marriage business altogether.

There’s the obvious problem with this idea, of course, that it strands the many, many policies Republicans favor that are linked to marital status. But beyond that, isn’t it a little drastic to separate marriage from the state when the issue at hand is the tender consciences of county clerks? I mean, perhaps I don’t understand Kentucky, and maybe county clerks there wield unusual power and possess unusual prestige, like sheriffs in Louisiana or water district councils in California. But if not, it may take Bevin a while to explain to regular Kentuckians that they should no longer be in state-sanctioned marriages because some county clerk wants to get paid to do some but not all of her job.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 2, 2015

September 3, 2015 Posted by | Jack Conway, Kim Davis, Marriage Equality, Matt Bevin | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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