Janet Kellogg Ray | Science Denial and Christian Culture

You mean the scientists you don’t agree with….

Huh? No, I was talking about tabloid journalism and good science being exaggerated beyond warrant and any scientist doing good science, their responsibility for policing public media.


(I’m not saying scientists cannot exaggerate their own findings of course – most of them are human. ; - )

I never said, nor do I expect, an individual scientist to police it all. I’m saying the public isn’t solely to blame for the current lack of trust in science and expertise. The public, the journalists, and the scientists have all contributed to the problem and all must take a role in the solution.

  • And just how do you propose that that effective, ethical responsibility be enforced?

You seem to imply there is nothing scientists can do to improve the public reporting of their work. Off the top of my head:

  1. Read what journalists write about your work
  2. Be public and set the record straight when journalists get it wrong or wildly exaggerate
  3. Seek out and promote journalists who act with integrity and provide accurate reports
  4. Refuse to work with journalists that intentionally exaggerate or misrepresent

Is this a silver bullet? Of course not, but it certainly moves things in the right direction. And I’m sure there are other options that I’m missing.

Again, my point is that the breakdown in trust has been contributed to by everyone, not just the public.

1 Like

I was actually referring to policing ‘all the press’ about just their own work, the individual scientist.

Good suggestions, but… If a sensationalist ‘tabloid’ scientific journalist reads a paper and reports on it inaccurately with or without an interview and then mainstream media picks up on it, the damage is already done, making #2 problematic and undoable without a national campaign. Certainly, if it was with an interview, #4 would be pretty much a given and #3 an obvious corollary of it.

  • You seem to be confused and mistaken. And so I ask you again–“just how do you propose that that effective, ethical responsibility be enforced?”. That certainly doesn’t imply what you say you think it implies where I come from and among people who use pretty much the same language I do.
  • I was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and raised there and in Hawthorne Nevada, and attended the 11th and 12th grades in Oakland, California. Both my biological parents were Deaf, but I am not, so my first two languages were American Sign Language and American English.
  • The steps you propose are interesting, but I am not a credible scientist. However, as a citizen of the U.S., I certainly am interested in scientists’ credibility and in enforcement issues. In the U.S., we live in tumultuous times, where some people demand, IMO, questionable methods of enforcement."

Nice suggestions but not always easy to apply. Few scientists have repeatedly so important findings that they can affect the decisions of journalists - a one-time story does not encourage cooperation. According to game theory, cooperation usually demands that the players work together more than once.

My experience has been that the journalists writing about our findings based on written texts usually made more accurate stories than those that interviewed me. This probably tells about my limited ability to tell about my speciality in an easily understandable way :flushed:. Basically my fault, not so much of the journalists. One journalist wrote a newspaper article about an interview with me and another person although he had never discussed with us; he wrote a decent article, all facts were correct, except that the whole interview was a fabrication. For some reason, he wrote the newspaper article anonymously…

Sometimes the point in the article is not in reporting boring facts, it is in building a nice, readable story to the readers. One journalist who spent several hours in the field with me told that he will write this kind of stories. Facts were not quite right but the article he wrote was an entertaining story.


Journalism in itself must be quite a multifaceted and challenging profession (as I’m coming to appreciate and your post above, I think, illustrates.) On the one hand, we all expect them to get their (our) facts right. We want truth, and as a matter of professional pride - I’m sure most journalist feel obliged in that direction (or they should, in the facile opinion of all of us outsiders.) Yet on the other hand, - all their true, dry facts don’t do anyone any good if nobody reads their stuff (much less heeds it if it involves exhortation or persuasion.) So (and perhaps often in creative tension with veracity) they are also obliged to “spice it up”. And what does it take to get us to actually put our eyeballs on it? Well, the unflattering (to all us consumers) answer to that seems to be: provocation. The most effective click-bait seems to be juicy narrative laced with plenty of conflict.

And dang-nabbit … wouldn’t you know it, but journalists like to eat and not be homeless too! Go figure.


That is bizarre!

1 Like

Story is how humans tend to think, especially when explaining something about the world – that journalist knew his job.


Same answer. I never said, nor do I expect, an individual scientist to police it all. I’m only asking that they try and do their best.

If you are referring to legal enforcement, I don’t know how. I’m not a lawyer, but creating a law that aligns with the 1st Amendment is extremely difficult, especially for journalists.

If you are referring to social enforcement, I’ve suggested some methods for scientists to encourage journalistic ethics. Peer review is used by scientists to improve quality and accuracy. Perhaps a similar process could be used by science journalists.

It can be confusing, regarding science’s directions. In her book, Janet Ray pointed out that Dr Fauci did say that not masking the general public, in the interest of maximizing distribution to health care workers exposed to the virus (and less evidence in favor of it in the general public) was the state of the science then. There were some nuanced reasons for that–she goes into some of them.

Dr Fauci changed his mind soon after hearing more evidence from China.

There was urgency to do the right thing. In retrospect, it was confusing, but I think he did the right thing, both times. In the long run, the ability to change with the science saved many lives.

It’s not easy, though. It is scary, and there is a lot of unknown with pandemics, especially with new viruses, I imagine. Partly as a result of the difficult situation, we’ve not complied with vaccines, social distancing, and masking to the effect it could have had, I think. It is hard.

I appreciate Dr Kellogg’s books–I’ve learned from both now.



I read two of them. Well written, informative but preaching to the choir as there is next to no discussion of scripture or how to reconcile mainline Christian beliefs with science. I wouldn’t recommend them to conservative thinkers. Maybe fence sitters would find them inspirational and sometimes just knowing full fledged scientists are Christians can help.

1 Like

A valid point. I think your last sentence is the main take away. She is a scientist/educator talking to science/educators and perhaps the theology should be left to the theologians, with her books being about how science oriented people can be faithful Christians, something that some in the church deny is possible.


The bigger takeaway for me is that the packaging is misleading. The back of the book says something to the effect of:

How to hold true to your faith and embrace modern science

Maybe the fault is mine but with a statement like that I was expecting some scriptural exegesis, not just a long laundry list of how conservatives screw up science. At the end of the book, as someone who embraces modern science and sacred scripture, I am completely at a loss on how to do that based on this book.

Ever since the Scopes Monkey Trial in the early twentieth century, American evangelicals have considered scientists public enemy #1. But this antipathy to modern science turned deadly during the COVID-19 crisis, when white evangelicals snubbed precautions and vaccines. Herself an evangelical Christian and a science educator, Janet Kellogg Ray explains how we got here and how to fix it.

If you’re afraid of science hurting your faith, this book will show you how to be true to both.

Note the bold. She shows how we got here well enough I’d say but without any or extremely little scriptural exegesis, how on earth can the book claim to show us how to fix it?

I enjoyed the read but was disappointed.There is no need to sugar coat it for me. The author is a self-professing evangelical. One would think that dialogue with the thought process of evangelicals would be in order. I expected the book to do or at least attempt to do what it is marketed at. It did not. I do not regret reading it though or Baby Dinosaurs on the Ark.


Not being a part of Christian culture, I cannot help but wonder if Christian culture is big part of the problem. People are afraid of science hurting their faith because their faith isn’t in God, Christ, or the Bible but in the culture which has frankly replaced these things.

1 Like