The Latest Eyebrow-Raising Moments From Ben Carson

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Ben Carson speaks during a breakfast at the Alpha Gamma Roh fraternity at Iowa State University in late October. The candidate recently had to defend statements he's made about the Egyptian pyramids. Mark Kauzlarich/REUTERS

Ben Carson is giving Donald Trump a run for his money when it comes to controversial statements. Since the beginning of the mogul's surge, Trump's inflammatory public statements have become commonplace. Carson now has about the same GPH (gaffes per hour).

On Thursday, there were plenty of what-the-what? moments from the former doctor. A video from 1998 surfaced on BuzzFeed in which Carson, giving a commencement speech at Andrews University, professed a Bible-based theory about the Egyptian pyramids.

"My own personal theory is that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain," he said.

The video shows a younger Carson ignoring what has been the widely accepted theory of Egyptologists and scholars for decades, which is that the pyramids are tombs constructed for Egyptian royalty, not hollow storage facilities (except for the narrow shafts that link what are thought to be tomb chambers).

According to the biblical story, Joseph was an exiled Israelite who rose high in the ranks of the Egyptian bureaucracy and advised the pharaoh on how to prevent famine.

"Now all the archaeologists think that they were made for the pharaohs' graves," Carson said. "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."

There's more:

"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 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."

In the ancient Near East, monumental structures like the pyramids tended to be built for political and religious reasons, not to serve as giant warehouses. There were better methods to store grain than using thousands of workers to construct buildings with small interior spaces and massive exteriors. The shape is also not terribly efficient, which is one reason you don't see pyramid-shaped grain silos today.

What's telling about all this is not that Carson questions the function of the pyramids. There are counter-theories about the monuments, though none are widely held. The alarming aspect of his statement is his dismissal of expert opinions.

First of all, there actually aren't any credible scientists who think that aliens built the pyramids (if you raise this point with an archaeologist, he'll do this to you). But even that fabrication pales in comparison to the way Carson glosses over evidence with startlingly cavalier language. "All the archaeologists think" one thing, but "you know," they're all wrong, because of "various reasons" that I, Ben Carson, know about from my personal beliefs.

As president, would Carson say the same thing about his military advisers when assessing potential casualties? What about the secretary of the treasury warning of an economic collapse?

It's not the first time that the famous surgeon has stepped into the wrong academic territory. When arguing against the theory of evolution in a speech, he stated that Lucy, the australopithecine skeleton considered by anthropologists to be an ancestor of modern humans, was probably just someone with a deformed skull.

"I'm a neurosurgeon, and I operate on a lot of people who have, you know, deformed skulls and things, and eventually they die and they get buried, and years later somebody like you comes along and finds their skull and says they found the missing link."

Once again, the subtext of his statement is what's politically revealing. Being a neurosurgeon, in Carson's world, qualifies him to comment on the provenance of fossilized material. Why shouldn't it qualify him to be president?

Plenty of people have been asking if it should, and Carson took to Facebook late Wednesday night to tell them how he feels.

"Every signer of the Declaration of Independence had no elected office experience," he wrote. "What they had was a deep belief that freedom is a gift from God. They had a determination to rise up against a tyrannical king."

That would be a nice sentiment if Thomas Jefferson had not been serving in the Virginia Legislature before and during the American Revolution. John Hancock was elected to the Massachusetts colonial Legislature in 1766.

The people who started the revolution were politicians, generals and others who had experience with the levers of government. It's not hard to find this out.

Is it possible that Carson doesn't believe the things he espouses? CNN was broaching that uncomfortable question Thursday in "A Tale of Two Carsons," an investigative report that interviewed classmates and neighbors from his childhood. Carson has presented himself (in books and on the campaign trail) as a once violent and temperamental youth who transformed his life through his faith in God, but the new report cites nine people with memories of Carson's early years who don't recall him being violent or assaulting people. That doesn't prove Carson lied about trying to stab someone with a knife as a teenager, but it does raise doubts.

Any journalistic investigation won't matter to Carson, who blames political correctness, the media and liberal propaganda for every criticism leveled at him. His lack of political experience isn't really a lack of experience to his supporters—it's "being an outsider."

"The secular progressives try to ridicule [faith] anytime it comes up, and they're welcome to do that," he told reporters on Thursday morning when asked about his pyramid theory.

His approach is working. Carson is not only leading in the polls; he's also the best-liked candidate in either primary, according to a Politico report.

Out of all of Carson's unsubstantiated opinions (for example, that Islam is actually a "lifestyle" and not a religion), his disregard for archaeology might be the worst, if only because it's a little personal.

The mind-blowing stuff that Carson says can only be summarized in images: