By Lawrence M. Krauss
For a man with an impressive educational C.V., Ben Carson makes a lot of intellectual missteps. In his September 16th debate performance, he displayed a profound lack of foreign-policy knowledge; last Sunday, when he said, on “Meet the Press,” that he “would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation,” he may have seriously crippled his campaign. Still, there’s one area in which Carson’s credentials have seemed unimpeachable. Many people assume that, as a successful surgeon, he has a solid knowledge of technical, medical, and scientific issues.
With the wide release of video from a speech that Carson made to his fellow Seventh-Day Adventists in 2012, however, it’s becoming clear that there are significant gaps. In the speech, he made statements on subjects ranging from evolution to the Big Bang that suggest he never learned or chooses to ignore basic, well-tested scientific concepts. In attempting to refute the Big Bang, for example—which he characterized as a “ridiculous” idea—Carson said:
You have all these highfalutin scientists, and they’re saying that there was this gigantic explosion and everything came into perfect order. Now, these are the same scientists who go around touting the second law of thermodynamics, which is entropy, which says that things move toward a state of disorganization. So, now you’re going to have this big explosion, and everything becomes perfectly organized. When you ask them about it, they say, “Well we can explain this based on probability theory, because if there’s enough big explosions, over a long enough period of time, billions and billions of years, one of them will be the perfect explosion”…. What you’re telling me is, if I blow a hurricane through a junkyard enough times, over billions and billions of years, eventually, after one of those hurricanes, there will be a 747 fully loaded and ready to fly.
He continued, “It’s even more ridiculous than that, because our solar system, not to mention the universe outside of that, is extraordinarily well organized, to the point where we can predict seventy years away when a comet is coming. Now, [for] that type of organization to just come out of an explosion? I mean, you want to talk about fairy tales, that is amazing.” Finally, he argued that the observed motion of the planets in our solar system would be impossible if there had been a Big Bang.
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