24 October 2021

Science isn’t the only one fighting recommendation algorithms and bemoaning education

This article about crises in American evangelical churches resonates with crises we see in science communication.

The churches’ problems? People aren’t getting enough education and social media’s recommendation algorithms are too influential.

“What we’re seeing is massive discipleship failure caused by massive catechesis failure,” James Ernest, the vice president and editor in chief at Eerdmans, a publisher of religious books, told me. Ernest was one of several figures I spoke with who pointed to catechism, the process of instructing and informing people through teaching, as the source of the problem. “The evangelical Church in the U.S. over the last five decades has failed to form its adherents into disciples. So there is a great hollowness.” ...

“Culture catechizes,” Alan Jacobs, a distinguished professor of humanities in the honors program at Baylor University, told me. ... Our current political culture, Jacobs argued, has multiple technologies and platforms for catechizing—television, radio, Facebook, Twitter, and podcasts among them. People who want to be connected to their political tribe—the people they think are like them, the people they think are on their side—subject themselves to its catechesis all day long, every single day, hour after hour after hour. ...

(W)hen people’s values are shaped by the media they consume, rather than by their religious leaders and communities, that has consequences. “What all those media want is engagement, and engagement is most reliably driven by anger and hatred,” Jacobs argued. “They make bank when we hate each other.(”)

And wow, does that ever sound familiar.

The clergy bemoaning the lack of education in religious instruction puts a twist on the long-running arguments about teaching creationism in public schools. It suggests the reason some fundamentalists fought so hard on those issues because at some level they saw their own catechesis was failing.

Related posts

Recommendation algorithms are the biggest problem in science communication today

External links

The evangelical church is breaking apart

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