WORLD Magazine is full of content for Christians, but what about for scientists who are Christian? Michelle Ols responds to a recent piece that promotes scientific skepticism and perpetuates the idea of a war between faith and science.
Do you listen to their podcast or read their material? What do you think about their science content?
Enjoyed the article. The whole article is a rich quote-mine, but let me reference one to encourage others to read the whole article:
"Spreading the message that scientists with many different views on origins can all hold a high view of Scripture could reduce the fear and cynicism that some believers seem to have towards science. Let us try to stay optimistic and “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15), engage with people who disagree with us. "
I was raised on World magazines (including the student ones in school), so this article seems par for the course. A few years back they waded into the vaccine debate (which was brave) and got some pretty vehement feedback in their comments for daring to speak positively of vaccines (though I think they still gave the “other side” too much credit).
If you look on their website under the Science/Tech tab, they have “Intelligent Design” as one of the choices. The articles on evolution all look like the same content on Discovery Institute’s “Evolution News,” i.e. a lot of evolution denial and the dangers of “Darwinism” to a Christian worldview.
Several years ago WORLD magazine had a cover story about BioLogos, and the cover image was people (including someone in a lab coat) pulling a stereotypical church building down a hill with ropes. They also named Stephen Meyer as their “Daniel of the Year” a while back. So yes, very pro-ID, and against evolution.
How unscientific! You drag things uphill, not downhill. I’m sure our BioLogos scientists would’ve come up with a better way to get that church down into the valley. Probably something involving machines and wheels.
I was not able to correctly identify the specific WNG (WORLD News Group) podcast episode, where Michelle’s critical comments were read on the “The World and Everything In It” program. The hyperlink in Michelle’s post did not isolate the exact episode for me. Does anyone know the exact day of that episode?
Laura mentioned their coverage of the vaccine debate. I think they tried to be fair… sort of… but they err’ed a good bit in giving the anti-vax perspective too much legitimacy.
Just this week, WNG ran a story on global climate change. They interviewed a spokesperson for ICR (Institute for Creation Research) and Hugh Ross at Reasons to Believe. So, I was not surprised that they failed to interview someone coming from a more BioLogos perspective.
Because the “Almighty Science?” commentary was published in WORLD magazine in addition to being broadcast on their “World and Everything in it” podcast, I not only called their “listener feedback” line, as mentioned in my essay, but also wrote a letter to the WORLD magazine editor. They excerpted part of my comments in the “mailbag” section of their most recent, September 14 magazine issue:
I was pleased to see that others had also written in and that WORLD published a couple other pro-scientist comments in the August 31 magazine issue, as well:
I really appreciate how they try to air a balance of different reader viewpoints in that mailbag part of the magazine
Thank you, Dr. Ols, for sharing your response to the World News article here. I’m not familiar with them as much as I am CT, but I agree that even for those publications that may lean toward some intrinisic science/faith hostilities, it is nonetheless encouraging that they don’t prevent challenges from being aired among their mailbag responses. May voices like yours be ever more present out in those highways and bi-ways.
I agree with Laura and Clarke about the vaccine coverage by World News Group.
Vaccine stories were big again with the recent measles outbreak this year. Here is a transcript of a podcast episode from May 28, 2019. While I concede that this report from Salem, Oregon was intended to be about religious freedom, I fear that it instead promoted skepticism about medical science. I believe that it is the responsibility of good journalism to prevent the spread of misinformation. However, they interviewed a number of vaccine skeptics in this podcast, without giving a clear discussion about the rationale for the proposed vaccine bill and the importance of vaccination for public health:
Then they did a follow-up vaccine / religion story a week later on June 6, 2019, which highlighted the fact that most people using “religious freedom exemptions” aren’t really religious. However, that story was still soft on science and interviewed a scared mom. To respond to the fears of the mother, they should have also included an opinion from a medical professional, who could have spoken about the rare risk of vaccines inducing febrile seizures.
In contrast, I was very pleased and helpfully informed by this excellent piece published in WORLD magazine by Emily Belz from their May 11, 2019 WORLD magazine issue. This vaccine story gave clear and factual information on the benefits of vaccination while answering questions I had about why some people claim religious objections. I appreciated reading about how the orthodox Jewish community has been responding to the recent measles outbreak in New York, the perspectives of a Christian pediatrician and the statement from the about Christian Medical and Dental Association about how “accepting these vaccines does not endorse or encourage abortions being done today.”
Again, their podcast listener feedback and magazine editor mailbags filled up with responses from both the pro-vaccine and vaccine skeptic perspectives:
Friday, June 28 World and Everything in it, listener feedback segment:
June 29, 2019 WORLD magazine issue, mailbag section
We’ve had an outbreak here in Michigan of measles; rather concerning that one can get the disease just from breathing the air in the room where someone was recently. It’s definitely a deadly disease for many folks. Thanks.
I am sadly not surprised by the fact that the story you critiqued was done by Joel Belz. I do not know who he his, but this is not the first time he has published pieces on “The World and Everything in It” that displayed a degree of short-sightedness on scientific topics.
I am not a regular listener, but whenever I have heard pieces that make me cringe, on scientific matters, I have typically found his name attached to those pieces, in the show transcripts. Thanks for being willing to take the time and the energy to give WORLD some constructive feedback.
My sense is that Joel Belz, and the folks at WORLD Radio, do mean well, and they do want to help Christians develop an informed, Scripture-centered view on contemporary affairs. So, for that, Belz and team should be commended for their evangelical commitments.
But the whole narrative that evolutionary creationists are trying to drag the church kicking and screaming into the demonic clutches of Charles Darwin (as Dennis Venema recalls above!!!) is quite an unhelpful caricature.
Here is a link to that issue of the magazine, that Dennis above mentions:
I do like the idea that WORLD Radio is trying to be like an evangelical alternative to National Public Radio. I know plenty of Christians who have given up on NPR and listen to WORLD Radio instead. But if they are really intent on producing a high quality news show like this, it would greatly benefit their listening audience to hire a genuine science correspondent.
World magazine has complained in the past that Biologos excludes contrary perspectives on science topics. As anyone who follows the rough and tumble of this forum, that is almost funny. Try finding any similar wide open discussion on Answers in Genesis or the other creationist sites. World magazine is silent as to the controlled messaging in those organizations.
Are we supposed to trust God and His design for our bodies to fight off infection, or man’s attempt to vaccinate us?
That excerpt from the World mailbag is a pretty good summary of what they’re up against, not just with vaccines but with any kind of science writing – the “God/nature vs. man/science” false dichotomy is alive and well in their readership, and in some authors’ opinions as well, it would seem.
Good example. It’s interesting how we read certain things as trusting God, and others as not a problem. By the same argument, we should not give penicillin, cut out a tumor, or fix a broken bone! Paul Offit has an interesting book called “Bad Medicine” in this vein, about how we misunderstand faith and medicine’s interaction.
It’s an interesting conundrum in a way–and not only in medicine. Apparently, years ago the Holland, MI Dutch settlers refused to buy insurance because they thought it demonstrated lack of faith in God–till much of the town burnt down. That changed their opinion.