Retired neurosurgeon and erstwhile knife-fighter Ben Carson's ride atop the GOP presidential polls has brought with it a renewed scrutiny of the crazy, stupid, and just plain weird things he's been saying for years. This week, Buzzfeed's Andrew Kaczynski surfaced a quote from a 1998 speech in which Carson theorizes that the ancient pyramids of Egypt were built by Joseph to store grain:
“My own personal theory is that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain. Now all the archeologists think that they were made for the pharaohs’ graves. But, you know, it would have to be something awfully big if you stop and think about it. And I don’t think it’d just disappear over the course of time to store that much grain.”
“And when you look at the way that the pyramids are made, with many chambers that are hermetically sealed, they’d have to be that way for various reasons. And various of scientists have said, ‘well, you know there were alien beings that came down and they have special knowledge and that’s how-’ you know, it doesn’t require an alien being when God is with you.”
I don't know who the "various scientists" who attribute the pyramids to aliens are, unless that guy who did the voiceover on the original Battlestar Galactica counts, but I'm pretty sure there's a decent scientific consensus on that whole "tomb" thing. See, you don't need a "theory" when you've already got fact.
As usual, though, the media is missing out on other Carson nuggets from that same speech. For example, he begins his riff on Joseph by explaining that the Old Testament fashion icon is one of his favorite Bible characters, because when life gave him slavery, he made slavery-ade!
That big thinking of his - look where it got him. He ended up being sold into slavery, but did that dampen his thinking? In no way. He said "If I'm gonna be in prison, I'm gonna be the best prisoner they ever saw." And he ended up in charge of the prison. That was pretty big thinking. Before that, of course, as a slave in Potipher's household, he said "If I'm going to be here, I'm going to be the best slave," and he ended up running the household. And of course, he ended up as prime minister of the most powerful nation in the world at that time.
What Carson doesn't tell them is that in order to escape slavery, Joseph had to listen to people's dreams. Slavery's bad and all, but damn.
Carson's affinity for Joseph makes particular sense in this context, as his own arc, as he sees it, tracks closely with Joseph's: overcoming adversity through divinely-granted wisdom and individual achievement, and rising to the precipice of that same level of power: leadership of the most powerful nation in the world.
It also changes the context of this quote somewhat, since Carson doesn't seem to think slavery worked out so bad for Joseph:
Obamacare is, really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.
Later in that 1998 commencement speech, Carson once again shows off his dazzling scientific mind by debunking the "fanciful" Big Bang theory, in favor of the obviously more realistic God Did It In Six Days theory. Here, he tells of his verbal smackdown with a "well-known physicist" who was stumped by Dr. Carson's scientific acumen:
I said "Do you believe in the First Law of Thermal Dynamics?" "Well, of course I do." I said, "You know, that's entropy, right?" He said "Yeah." So that says things tend to move toward a state of disorganization, rather than organization, is that right?" "Yes." "So now, would you just reconcile those things for me, the Big Bang and entropy? Well of course he has no answer for that. You know, they never have an answer for any of these things. And, see, that's the wonderful thing about having a relationship with God. God has already told us what happened, so we don't have to come up with fanciful theories about things so we can take the place of God.
Now, I hate to be a stickler here, but entropy is actually the Second Law of Thermodynamics, something I had to Google to check, but then, I'm not trying to lecture people about how wrong science is. The Second Law also happens to help support the Big Bang, not to disprove it. Go ask a science nerd, but it's sort of a mot point, because it and the Big Bang and the rest of science don't rule out the existence of God, either.
But the existence of God does seem to rule out the existence of science for Ben Carson, who told the crowd at a 2011 lecture that the world was literally created in six days:
It says in the beginning God created the heaven and Earth. It doesn't say when he created them, except for in the beginning. So the Earth could have been here for a long time before he started creating things on it. But when he did start doing that, he made it very specifically clear to us the evening and the morning were the next day because he knew that people would come along and try to say that, "Oh, it was millions and millions of years." And then what else did he say in the very first chapter? That each thing brought forth after its own kind. Because he knew that people would come along and say, you know, this changed into that and this changed into that and this changed into that. So at the very beginning of the Bible, he puts that to rest.
None of this is all that unusual for a Christian conservative to believe, but for a person whose entire lifetime has been spent steeped in science, this is downright weird.