Being a Doctor Does Not Mean You Can Think

Gifted surgeon- not a critical thinker.

Gifted surgeon- not a critical thinker.

Ben Carson, as he runs for president, is proof that physicians (MD’s) do not require critical thinking as a course in medical school, to be a surgeon, to be a neurosurgeon.

Case in point: Ben Carson does not “believe” in evolution.

Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, has put his “faith” – being a member of the Seventh Day Adventists, above all.  That fundamentalist faith has determined that god created things years ago, and therefore puts his faith above the science that is the background of most of medicine.

Being a Doctor Does Not Mean You Can Think Critically

Because to be a doctor you have to learn to treat things, to diagnose things – and in the case of a neurosurgeon, you have to learn where to cut what parts of the brain. But you don’t have to learn to think critically. You don’t have to take in the basics of biology that show how life came to be, the fossil record, or even learn that antibiotic resistance is mini-evolution (at least a fundamental natural selection).

He was, by all accounts, a gifted neurosurgeon. He spoke well. He had a presence. He is bright, and he has a compelling story. But it is clear he was not trained to “think.” The fundamentalist religion is his core, and he does not stray from that.

That seem strange to you? Consider this: Loma Linda has a medical school, it is a Seventh Day Adventist institution – and they even do research there. But evolution – well, it is the basis of modern biology and has been for over 100 years.

Logical Fallacy: Appeal to Authority

The logical fallacy that says because someone is an authority figure means they can speak outside their narrow window. In Ben Carson’s case he has the logical fallacy of authority to the prophet of the Seventh Day Adventists more than science. He also expects the appeal of authority to go his way – he is a neurosurgeon, specifically trained – highly gifted, and a great presence – to become President.

The eye doctor in the race, Rand Paul – demonstrated equally poor judgement talking about vaccines. Perhaps his appeal to authority is less because he is an ophthalmologist. But he still went to medical school.

It is More than Politics

The issue of what a physician learns is seen in multiple scams across the country where some physician lends their name to endorse a product. Be it a fad diet, or a supplement, or an idea.

To be a skeptic, to learn to think critically, to evaluate claims, to dismiss logical fallacies is not taught in most medical schools. What is taught are diseases. Now the basis of the microbiome is a story in natural selection.  Even the basis of the large brain is a story in natural selection (which Ben Carson would deny because he would say that our brain was created by god when he made Adam).

I want a critical thinker as my doctor, and as President

Being bright but without knowing how to think critically means your ability to process new information is framed in anecdote, and not science. I don’t want him getting guidance through prayer to his personal belief, but based on evaluation of facts. Much like my own doctor– I do not want my own physician making a diagnosis based on anecdote, but based on the facts, being able to critically think and re-evaluate as new information comes in.

We can Change Our Mind

Politicians cannot change their mind, apparently. They cannot admit they were wrong. Scientists can.  Critical thinkers can. So when it comes to my doctor, I want one who can admit being wrong, and move on without ego.

Dr. Terry Simpson About Dr. Terry Simpson
Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. He found he liked people more than petri dishes, and received his MD. Dr. Simpson, a renowned weight loss surgeon, is a leading advocate of culinary medicine. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.” For media inquiries, please visit