Ben Carson, Presidential Hopeful, Controversial in Academe

May 5, 2015

Ben Carson, among the new Republican presidential candidates, has received widespread praise for his work as a pediatric neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins University. But his views on social issues have made him controversial on college campuses.

In 2013, he withdrew from a planned speech at the convocation for the Hopkins medical school amid comments he had made about gay marriage. In an appearance on Fox News, he said at the time, "Marriage is between a man and a woman. No group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality, it doesn't matter what they are. They don't get to change the definition." Many students protested that it was inappropriate to have as a speaker someone who had compared those who favor gay marriage to those who favor bestiality or NAMBLA (which advocates for relationships between men and boys). Carson withdrew, saying, "This is their graduation, their big day, and if they think me being there is going to be a problem, I am happy to withdraw."

In 2012, many faculty members objected to his selection to speak at the Emory University commencement, questioning why a university committed to science would invite someone who does not accept evolution. Many professors also said that Carson had implied those who favor evolution were unethical -- a charge he denied. Carson delivered the speech and, in it, he criticized political correctness.

"I think the other thing that threatens the prosperity and the vitality of our nation is political correctness," he said. "Many people came to this nation, and they were trying to escape from societies that try to tell them what they could say and what they could think. And here we come, reintroducing it through the back door."

Carson has stood by his creationist views. In an account of his remarks declaring his candidacy Monday, The Detroit Free Press said that Carson recounted a debate he had with an atheist. "At the end of that debate, I told him, 'You've convinced me, I came from God and you came from a monkey,'" Carson said. "We're all entitled to our faith."

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