WASHINGTON, November 5, 2015 – Dr. Ben Carson believes that Egypt’s pyramids were built to store grain. He believes that the earth is only a few thousand years old, and that the diversity of life is explained by God’s creation, not evolution.
He believes that human life begins at conception, and that all abortion involves killing a baby. He believes that had Europe’s Jews been armed, they might have been able to stand up to the Nazis. He thinks that Democrats are racists.
Is Ben Carson insane?
Answering that question is something like answering, “Is Hillary Clinton dishonest? Is Bernie Sanders a lunatic? Is President Obama a narcissist?”
The answer is likely to say more about you than about the candidate.
“Confirmation bias” describes our tendency to interpret evidence and events to reinforce our prior beliefs. If I lose my keys, utter a quick prayer to find them, then promptly remember leaving them in the flour bin in the pantry, I see it as evidence of God’s existence and interest in my personal well-being.
A psychologist sees it instead as evidence of the mind’s ability to take a moment of calm to retrieve information that was always there, but lost in the anxiety of the search.
If you like Obama, his golf outing after ISIS beheaded American photojournalist James Foley was a display of sang froid, coolness under pressure, a serious man taking time out to collect his thoughts and plot strategy on the golf course. If you don’t like him, it was a display of callous self-regard and detachment.
If you like Hillary, her performance before the Benghazi committee was coolness under hostile fire; if you don’t, it was arrogance and mockery.
Is Ben Carson insane? Religious belief is irrational, but that’s true whether you’re a Seventh Day Adventist, a Catholic, a Muslim or a Presbyterian.
Resurrection, water to wine, flying to Heaven on a horse, parting the Red Sea – it all sounds nutty.
Egypt’s pyramids were probably built as tombs, just as archaeologists believe, but if you believe they were used to store grain, are you insane, ignorant or stupid? There are politicians who most people consider intelligent and sane who believe in contradiction to logic and evidence that if you double minimum wage, you’ll make the country prosperous and productive.
Perhaps both beliefs are insane, but which is more relevant to the job of the presidency?
We can’t know whether 5-million armed and militant Jews would have been any more successful at avoiding the Holocaust than were the Jews who died in it. Coordinated action would have been important to go along with those guns, and had Poland’s Jews gone out to meet the Wehrmacht, they’d probably have been as unsuccessful as the Polish army and the Soviets.
Is the belief that armed and determined resistance in the face of personal death or racial annihilation gives you a better shot at survival than the alternative insane?
Is the belief that human life begins at conception any crazier than the belief that it begins upon leaving the birth canal? That’s another question that says more about your own thinking than about objective reality.
Anyone who agrees with you will seem to you saner than anyone whose position is opposite to yours. Most Americans believe that truth lies somewhere between “every sperm is sacred” and “the unborn child is just a lump of tissue,” but the point of insanity isn’t clear.
(If you have a taste for it, here’s some real insanity for you, courtesy of the Journal of Medical Ethics: “Actual people’s well-being could be threatened by the new (even if healthy) child requiring energy, money and care which the family might happen to be in short supply of. Sometimes this situation can be prevented through an abortion, but in some other cases this is not possible. In these cases, since non-persons have no moral rights to life, there are no reasons for banning after-birth abortions.”)
Whether Democrats are racists is a question that only individual Democrats can answer, though as liberals often enjoy pointing out, the fact that you don’t think you’re a racist doesn’t mean you aren’t one.
Regardless of what they say their motives are, Democrat-favored policies like minimum wage (it’s had a destructive impact on unskilled minority youth) and welfare programs (we spend enough every year on those to grant a cash-gift large enough to lift every poor person out of poverty – over $17,000 per person, or about $70,000 per family of four – yet at the end of the year, the poor are still poor) either don’t help or actively hurt minority poor.
If you focus on results rather than motives, Carson might have a point about Democrats.
Carson’s speeches and website are light on details about tax policy, foreign policy, and other important issues. He may be wise, wrong-headed or vacuous. That remains to be seen. He has no political experience, but he has a lot more experience being poor and black than Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.
He has some strange ideas, but so do we all.
Whether those ideas and lack of political experience disqualify him for the White House is something each of us has to decide for ourselves. Whatever we decide, it tells the world what we value and what we prefer.
It says precious little about Ben Carson.