True science teaches, above all, to doubt and be ignorant.
— Miguel de Unamuno,The Tragic Sense of Life
Herewith a suggestion for Ben Carson. It came to mind listening to the Republican debate on November 10, 2015. During that debate two of the most important disclosures came from Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina. It turns out that BOTH of them know and have spoken with Vladimir Putin. Carly has not only met Mr. Putin but, as she let slip during the debate, (although it does not appear in the transcript, two of us listening heard it, so I’m going with recollection rather than transcript) she has met many of the world leaders in addition to Vladimir Putin, acquaintances that will serve her in good stead should she become president. (Although she didn’t say, those meetings probably happened before she was fired from her position as president of Hewlett Packard since it is not likely that leaders around the world would have been interested in meeting her otherwise.) She was slightly contemptuous of Donald’s meeting with Mr. Putin because, as she explained “Donald met Mr. Putin in a green room waiting to appear on 60 Minutes and the two of them got to know each other before their appearances.” She was somewhat dismissive of that encounter since it was in a green room. To show how much more important her encounter had been, she said it was “not in a green room before a show but in a private meeting.” She had apparently forgotten that when she was on the Tonight show in September she said she met Putin in Beijing saying: “We were in sort of a green room setting, actually.”
Of course, where or how the two candidates met Mr. Putin is not important. What is important is that they have met him and established rapport. Mr. Carson was probably listening to this and wishing that he had met Mr. Putin and had had the opportunity to discuss brain surgery or other scientific issues with him. The good news is he now has the perfect opportunity to get together with Mr. Putin in order to discuss a matter of great interest currently and one about which he and Mr. Putin have similar views. Such a meeting would not only enable Mr. Carson to brag about the fact that they met, but would help him establish his credentials as a serious candidate when it comes to scientific matters like climate change.
A meeting about climate change would be especially relevant because of the upcoming U.N. meeting that is to take place in a few weeks in Paris and because of a report just released by the World Bank. The World Bank report has said that climate change may force 100 million people into poverty by 2030 unless, as John Roome, the Senior Director for Climate Change says, “climate considerations . . .[are] integrated into development work.” The goal of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change that will take place in Paris from November 30 to December 11 is to get the 196 countries attending to sign a new climate change agreement.
Mr. Putin is skeptical of climate change. According to a report in the New York Times, in 2003 Mr. Putin told an international conference on climate that warmer temperatures would mean “Russians spend less on fur coats while agricultural specialists say our grain production will increase, and thank God for that.” Stanislav Belkovsky, a political analyst and Putin critic said that Putin “believes that there is no global warming, that this is a fraud to restrain the industrial development of several countries including Russia.” Given that stand, Mr. Carson and Mr. Putin could have a fruitful and substantive discussion. Not that Mr. Carson has yet taken a firm view on the subject.
At a town hall at the University of New Hampshire in late September he was asked if he believed in climate change. He responded saying: “Of course there’s climate change. Any point time (sic), temperatures are going up or temperatures are going down. Of course that’s happening. When that stops happening, that’s when we’re in big trouble.” He went on to say that climate change should not be a political issue and from there continued to discuss evolution (a topic he had earlier said was nothing more than a fairy tale) and concluded his response by saying: “Just the way the Earth rotates on its axis, how far it is from the sun. These are all very complex things. Gravity, where did it come from?” He might even want to probe Mr. Putin a bit as to where Mr. Putin thinks gravity comes from. It may be that that would be yet another area in which he and Mr. Putin agree because it is entirely possible that Mr. Putin has wondered about that.
Even if Mr. Putin is not puzzled by gravity, Mr. Carson would not have to bring up that subject in order to have a meaningful conversation with Mr. Putin about global warming. And the most important thing is that a conversation with Mr. Putin about scientific matters would not only burnish Mr. Carson’s credentials as a serious student of science but it would put him in the same class of candidates as Carly and Donald who have gotten to know Mr. Putin, thus giving his candidacy yet another shot at credibility. I’ll be happy to prepare a letter of introduction to Mr. Putin if Mr. Carson thinks that would be helpful.