Dr. Ben Carson has quite the résumé. He has received acclaim as a pioneer in neurosurgery, first by becoming the youngest major division director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital at the age of 33. Down the road, Dr. Carson would become the first person to successfully separate conjoined twins—leading a surgical team of 70 during the 22-hour procedure. Shortly thereafter, the neurosurgeon received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, was elected into the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, and was ranked as the sixth most admired man in the world by an American Gallup poll in 2014. Despite his undoubtedly impressive background, there is a serious reason to doubt his credentials as a potential president.
Over the past few months the GOP has featured a wide range of characters for its 2016 presidential nomination, including a former CEO of HP, a legend in the field of neurology, and an infamous real estate mogul. It is particularly interesting to note that these three candidates described above, Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, and Donald Trump, respectively, have all become some of the most popular choices for the Republican nomination. I’m not here to try to speculate that the American people are sick and tired of career politicians and are willing to spend their vote on a candidate with no political experience. Is it possible, at least imaginable, that a person who has never been involved in politics has the capability to lead a nation? Let’s at least entertain the thought that it is certainly possible. However, I believe that Dr. Carson is perceived to be an authority on certain topics merely because of his identity. This is something that we must remain wary of.
Dr. Carson is a neurosurgeon who is not in touch with scientific reality. He has explicitly, and repeatedly, expressed his lack of belief in evolution. Scheduled to deliver a commencement address at Emory University in 2012, Dr. Carson received a letter written by almost 500 students, professors, and alumni expressing their concerns regarding his views on evolution.
Unfortunately, the renowned neurosurgeon’s scientific illiteracy does not end there, but extends to social issues as well, such as when Dr. Carson boldly stated that homosexuality was “absolutely” a choice. He attempted to back up his stance by claiming that “a lot of people go into prison straight, and when they come out, they’re gay.” This sort of comment is not the sort of thing we would expect from a world-renowned neurosurgeon, and that is exactly the point. Being a legendary surgeon does not necessitate that one is an authority on science, or for that matter, anything else.
Despite being a person of color, it seems as though Dr. Carson is almost completely unaware of the systematic racism that exists in our nation. We have to remember that not everyone is going to be socially conscious of injustices, especially when they themselves are not encountering them on a regular basis as other members of a community might. Dr. Carson cemented his views on racism and the Obama administration when he said that the Affordable Care Act was “the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.” This sort of ludicrous comparison highlights his remarkably disturbing belief that the institution of slavery is somehow equivalent to an extensive health care reform package.
There is no doubt in my mind that Dr. Carson is an extraordinary neurosurgeon. But the skillset and abilities necessary to make a superb neurosurgeon do not necessarily translate to those of a good politician or leader. Dr. Carson reveals that it is possible for a medical professional and leader in the field to remain out of touch with science, that it is possible for a person of color to be “colorblind” to the modern-day manifestation of racism in various forms, and for a person who is respected as being a kind and dedicated doctor to be dead wrong on social issues.