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Match Made in Marrow

Thursday, November 09, 2017 - 09:25 PM

You never know what might happen when you sign up to donate bone marrow. You might save a life… or you might be magically transported across a cultural chasm and find yourself starring in a modern adaptation of the greatest story ever told.

One day, without thinking much of it, Jennell Jenney swabbed her cheek and signed up to be a donor.  Across the country, Jim Munroe desperately needed a miracle, a one-in-eight-million connection that would save him. It proved to be a match made in marrow, a bit of magic in the world that hadn’t been there before.  But when Jennell and Jim had a heart-to-heart in his suburban Dallas backyard, they realized they had contradictory ideas about where that magic came from. Today, an allegory for how to walk through the world in a way that lets you be deeply different, but totally together.


This piece was reported by Latif Nasser.  It was produced by Annie McEwen, with help from Bethel Habte and Alex Overington.

Special thanks to Dr. Matthew J. Matasar, Dr. John Hill, Stephen Spellman at CIBMTR, St. Cloud State University’s Cru Chapter, and Mandy Naglich.


Jennell Jenney and Jim Munroe

Produced by:

Annie McEwen


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Comments [120]


Wow! After listening to this episode and Jim's compelling story, I was thoroughly convinced of God's existence due to his saving of Jim's life. Miraculous. Out of curiosity, though, I headed over to and learned that "At least 3,000 people die each year because they cannot find a matching donor," so - thanks to Jim's helpful logic! - am now thoroughly convinced that God does not in fact exist.

I'm willing to indulge in Robert's Devil's-Advocate-spiritualism to a certain point when listening to Radiolab episodes, but this one, pitting grade-school-level thinking against a truly selfless and heroic act, without challenging that thinking in the slightest, made for a pretty depressing listen.

Nov. 20 2017 01:50 AM
skeptic17 from Nashville, TN

So glad to hear about this successful match.

Now for some things I thought about when I heard this episode.
1) The matching of the immunological genes (HLA) does not imply "matches" of all the other thousands of genes - wondering whether they were similar to each other physically, etc., doesn't necessarily follow based on the relatively few immunologically related matches.
2) Even if we assume the existence of a god, why should we assume the Christian god is the correct god or that Christianity is the correct religion? And using the Apr 20-23 dates/ resurrection mythology doesn't necessarily lead to Christianity-
the 3 day resurrection mythology predates Christianity and is part of other religions. Why not pick one of those other religions?
3) With respect to the blade of grass and the golf ball, it highlights a confirmation bias - along those lines, I would guess for every successful transplant involving Apr 20-23, there is, unfortunately, an unsuccessful one. For every coma patient that went into a coma on Apr 20 and came out of the coma on the 23rd, there's likely one that died, etc.

Nov. 19 2017 09:48 PM
Robert from Planet Earth

Great episode on the greed of Christians. What's so interesting is the Christian's life who was saved is thanking the women who won "his" genetic lottery by being a match and not the science (doctors, scientist and drug companies) who actually saved his life. When he knew he had cancer why did he not trust his God and the power of prayer? When he has cancer he trusted science over God. Then once science saved his life he ignored and thanked God.

Wasn't the best part of the episode learning how he's marketing his show to Christians. And when RL and the women who "saved his life" wanted to have a discussion at the end of his performance he refused fearing he would lose sponsors and money.

Nov. 19 2017 06:42 PM
Grace from New York City

Just a few quick medical comments: 1) Bone marrow donations are not always about transplanting immune systems. Certain diseases if red blood cell formation, like thalassemias, are also treat with BMD. 2) You don’t trick the new body (the recipient) into thinking that the immune aystem is “them” - the new immune system is “fooled” into thinking it’s still in it’s original donor body.

On another note, I recently donated bone marrow (the old-fashioned way, with a big needle in my pelvis), and found it an incredivly rewarding experience, though perhaps not (yet) in the way that Janelle did. The way that people (who donate or receive) interpret their experience shouldn’t be open to people’s opinion. Thank you, Jim and Janelle, for sharing your story-I hope this process brought both of you peace, and I hope people take it as an example of how two people with fundamentally different views of the world can agree to disagree. I can only hope I get the opportunity to meet my recipient, and that we can get along as well.

Nov. 19 2017 06:24 PM
Helen McConnell from Portland

Thank you for another great episode!

I get why people don't like hearing "Jesus" and "God" in a scientific podcast. I used to feel that way, too. Those two used to make me so uncomfortable. But what I've come to see, and what was so beautifully shared in this episode, is that even if we have differences, we can love others unconditionally, and it's not my place to judge, or theirs. That concept is what will save Humanity.

Beautiful, beautiful compelling story.

Nov. 19 2017 02:28 PM

Whew! First I'm a regular RadioLab listener, but I'm a regular listener of many podcasts and thus will not be using my comment here to threaten to unsubscribe simply because you used the "J" word. Ironically I listen to many podcasts I don't agree with and do not unsubscribe from those because I do not agree with all they share...that's actually why I listen and why this particular podcast was so compelling to me.

You see, I'm right in this thick of this one. I've been on the "Be the Match" registry as a donor for 20 years, long before I was an oncology nurse practitioner helping to take care of folks like Jim, many of whom through no fault of their own ended up with a terrible disease called cancer. I've seen some live and sadly some not, some incredibly too young and some not, and I am on the front lines of seeing human action to provide the tools to cure cancer on a daily basis. So, I hear, see, and are well aware of the human part of this story.

I disagree of the nitpicking of both Jim and Janelle's stories (in cancer day 3 is technically the 4th day, we don't count day 1 until the day after transplant, but really not in any way a valid argument, just nitpicking...and there are comments here with Janelle's point of view nitpicked as well)'s ironically why I enjoyed this story so included simply questions and answers by two honest people with differing viewpoints who still have love and gratitude and respect for each other even with their differences. It's what we need so much more of today. And it seems your listeners as well have been peaked by this episode as there are many more comments on this episode than many of your others.

But guess what, after all of that you would imagine I was clearly an independent, science minded, atheist...but I'm not. I'm a follower of that "J" guy (I'm sure typing the word would deem me "crazy and delusional" to the other commenters). But that's my point, and the reason this podcast WAS thought provoking! Because it didn't comment, it didn't lean one way or the other. It simply presented two viewpoints, two lives, and two people just trying to do life in the best way they know how...and guess what is great. Science and medicine and human interaction brought them together and intertwined their lives, and I'm a part of that, what a privilege I have! How about we just appreciate the story and their lives for what they are rather than being so critical of one or the other? Because neither Jim nor Janelle were, even with their differences...

Thanks for the story, I for one appreciated it.

Nov. 18 2017 01:50 PM
GT from Seattle

Thank you Janelle for speaking up about being an atheist. So many of us just shut up and say nothing when people say they will pray for us or that its all gods will. I think some people just get it without god and some need religion to tell them whats right.

Nov. 17 2017 06:53 PM
Tom from Abbotsford

What a respectful show. Both people of faith and agnostics would benefit from the way these two cooperate with and treat each other. It was brave of you to do this. I'm so glad you gave her a voice.

Nov. 17 2017 06:27 PM
David Robert Schroeder

What an awful awful episode

Nov. 17 2017 10:47 AM
M.Mills from Planet Earth

I just unsubscribed. This is getting pathetic: Krulwich’s IneffableMysteryLab.

Nov. 17 2017 06:26 AM
Darcy from Irondale, WA

Oops! Just posted with a link to join the registry for free, and then the end of the episode played and I heard the special Radiolab code to join free at Be The Match as well! That's just how inspired this episode made me -- before it was even over, I had joined the registry!

Nov. 17 2017 01:13 AM
Darcy from Irondale, WA

Great episode! Inspired me (and my husband too) to sign up immediately to be potential donors. If you have the funds, sure, do the one where you pay a little, but we do not, and we found that (thanks to wonderful monetary donors), we could join the donor registry for free at . BTW, we're atheists! <3

Nov. 17 2017 01:10 AM
Annalisa from Washington

This podcast has heavy religious tone, but I don't believe in any way that is what this podcast is about. Its about overcoming differences and thats what makes this beautiful. Our society tends to lean towards conflict and saying I am right, you are wrong. However we can coexist by being humble and appreciating people for who they are without conditions. We live in a society that is divided and diverse and this is a story of how to bridge that gap. Their relationship is an example of "how to move through the world and hold your differences and still be one."

Nov. 16 2017 05:26 PM
Alex from US

I'm pretty disappointed to see the many negative comments here. As one of your longtime patrons and someone who fully loves the science coverage on Radiolab (and, since it's relevant in this context, a long-time atheist) this is one of my favorite episodes in the entire lifetime of the show. It's an incredibly powerful story and I'm so glad you guys were able to tell it. Please continue to make ambitious stories that continually push the limits of radio journalism. Thank you to all who worked on this episode.

Nov. 16 2017 03:52 PM
AL from Arizona

There's a missed opportunity to consider Plato's Noble Lie, where an atheist acquiesces to a Christian stage show for the sake of getting people to donate to an important cause. Instead the moral seems to come off as Atheists should just keep quiet and let Christians do whatever they want for the sake of harmony and a good cause.

I get the need to tell a compelling story. Jenelle pointed out that this story hits home across all religions and philosophies because it's a story of how human kindness overcame impossible odds and adversity. That whole message was lost because Jim's faith has to be railroaded in.

However, this episode is just another in a long string of Radiolab shows where the the advertised science takes a back seat to someone's crisis of faith. It's almost always Christian, and almost never someone finding comfort in another religion, or atheism. The whole podcast just comes off as an evangelizing cudgel. It's not that any singular episode is to blame, but it's the repetition of the same old Christian story that gets suspicious. It's episodes like this that leave me very disappointed.

Nov. 16 2017 02:41 PM
JJ from East Coast USA

Thanks Radiolab for all the great podcasts. I have to admit, I was let down that - per usual in society - faith and science are seen as incompatible. Your portrayal of Christianity tends to be one that makes the Christian worldview look naive or based only on faith.

As a devout Catholic, it is clear that science and faith are inseparable and go hand in hand. I've been disappointed by your take on Christians before and this episode (while not entirely your fault, since you are not the people interviewed) was no exception. I'd like to see you tackle an story where faith and science went hand in hand.

Nov. 16 2017 02:41 PM
JJ from East Coast USA

Thanks Radiolab for all the great podcasts. I have to admit, I was let down that - per usual in society - faith and science are seen as incompatible. Your portrayal of Christianity tends to be one that makes the Christian worldview look naive or based only on faith.

As a devout Catholic, it is clear that science and faith are inseparable and go hand in hand. I've been disappointed by your take on Christians before and this episode (while not entirely your fault, since you are not the people interviewed) was no exception. I'd like to see you tackle an story where faith and science went hand in hand.

Nov. 16 2017 02:40 PM
DF from Iowa

My perspective comes from having a T Cell Lymphoma and waiting for the inevitable day when I am ready for a stem cell transplant. I was on the Be The Match registry for years before my diagnosis without being needed. When I was profiled as part of advance prep for the stem cell procedure I received a letter from Be The Match telling me that I was a match with someone who needed me. Unfortunately, I was my match. I am a believer in science and not religion. Does this mean to religious folks that because to them I am wrong it makes a difference in whether I live or die? Radiolab often does not come up with an "ending" but usually leads the listener down a path to one conclusion. However, I am not sure how to end differently than showing the issue, the two perspectives, and no more. It might have added something to also find people in the reverse situation, meaning the donor is religious and the recipient is not. In any event, the comments indicate that it caused some folks to sign up. To the rest, please do. My life might depend on it.

Nov. 16 2017 02:28 PM
Eileen Murray from Atlanta GA

This episode is absolutely beautiful. God is in all of us.

Nov. 16 2017 11:17 AM
Jay from Tennessee

Disclaimer: I am a Christian and my brother is an atheist.

Episodes like this is exactly why I listen to Radiolab. This is excellent storytelling from start to finish, and with any good story, they leave it up to the listener to make their own decision. I throughly enjoyed hearing both Jim & Jennell stories and life experiences. And in my life, I've seen similar things play out with both me being a Christian and my brother who is an atheist.

In the end, you have to look at the information, and decide for yourself. Nobody can force you otherwise. Hearing how they both handled the delicate balance of communicating and sharing with someone who believes completely opposite of was very encouraging. Above all, I appreciated how both of the individuals were very honest with each other.

Brave storytelling like this is why I'm a proud monthly supporter of Radiolab. Keep it up!

Nov. 16 2017 09:42 AM
Cade A Simon from Marengo IL

As a long time listener and a devout christian I was very glad to see radiolab discuss religion, rather than more or less ignore it as they have done in the past.
I thought Joe handled the situation very well under such scrutiny, and I wholeheartedly agree with his statement about humility and the tendency of many Christians to judge while it is not their place.
Two thumbs up radiolab a very brave story on such a touchy subject.
Before this episode I had started to slowly stop listening to the show for various reason, but this episode has me back at it.

Nov. 15 2017 09:28 PM
Julie slipka

Thank you Radiolab, St. Cloud State, Jim & Jennell!!

Nov. 15 2017 07:58 PM
Mark from PA

This was crap. More science please.

Nov. 15 2017 06:14 PM

As an atheist who's been married to a Christian for 5 years now (going to church roughly every other Sunday for those 5 years with her), I enjoyed the episode. I signed up for the marrow registry just now.

Jim Munroe knows talking about Jennelle's beliefs may destroy his show, but he still engages with it in anyway. He just posted the podcast on his twitter feed. His unwillingness to bring up atheism in the show due to loss of sales is revealing, but honest. You know that Radiolab could have edited that out if they were actually trying to be bias. To me this all seems pretty honest, even if I don't like the message or messenger.

True, Radiolab could've done a better job disproving Jim's points, but to what end? None of us will change our minds based on that. Radiolab is a podcast that focuses on commonality and what unifies us as humans, not that breaks down each religion point-by-point. This is not a shock to anyone who actually listens to the show.

For the atheists upset about this episode, Penn Jillette (from Penn & Teller) recently talked about his own bone marrow registry experience from his perspective and it was quite good (with more swearing). If I remember correctly it was in one of the two part podcast with Professor Abigail Marsh. Either one of those episodes or an adjacent episode. They talked about altruism and her research into fear and empathy. Penn's Sunday School podcast.

Nov. 15 2017 04:56 PM
Jeanell Krupnick from Minneapolis, MN

Maybe it's because I share a name with the protagonist (and it's uncommon so I'm not used to this), but this compelled me to sign up for Be The Match. I'm terrified of being matched because Jennell's experience of donating is essentially my worst nightmare. But I'm a mother and I wouldn't care how awful it was for the person donating, I'd still want them to do it if they could save my kid's life.

Ironically, as a Christian, Jim's story/belief about this was not super compelling for me. But I loved this episode.

Nov. 15 2017 04:21 PM
Kristopher from California

I just wanted to say that I appreciated the editing. The eerie and unsettling musical tone that played a lot during the end of the episode was conspicuous, but I really liked it. You tried and succeeded in creating a message of... not sure how to phrase it exactly... some kind of "spiritual" ambiguity. This really served the story you were trying to tell - the relationship these two people have and the amazing experience they went through. I'll be thinking about this one for a long time.

Thanks for another great episode, and keep up the good work!

Nov. 15 2017 03:23 PM
Molly from New haven, ct

Hi radiolab! Long time listener here, and thank you so much for sharing so many fantastic stories over the years. I think this was a very thoughtful and provocative episode - well done.

My comment is mainly for the Jim Munroe’s of the world: how dare you?! You talk so much about how some invisible man in the sky has saved you, but clearly fail to appreciate that every good thing that happened to you was the result *human* action, and requires no further explanation. In fact, it is insulting and ignorant to so thoroughly discount the life’s work of so many people that went into your story- from the scientists who discovered your disease and it’s cure to the doctors, nurses, administrators and donors who worked tirelessly to cure you. Not to mention the many brave patients who went before you in clinical trials. How dare you then turn around and give credit to your imaginary friend? These people did these things not because your imaginary friend forced them to, but out of their own human goodness, the only force in the universe with the power to do so. I noticed in your speech that you assume human nature to be bad- that people “fail” to live up to your ridiculous religious standards all the time, and yet the only thing that stood between you and certain death in that moment was basic human decency.

Nov. 15 2017 01:22 PM
Jane from NJ

This episode was so amazingly well done that I can't believe people were turned off by it. It reminded me of old
school radiolab from back in the day when episodes weren't as biased and political.
I agree that I miss the episodes that focused more on science, but radiolab wasn't always only
about science and that was what was so great about it; that it could be multidimensional and show all points of view without secretly trying to push the listener in one direction or another.
This episode not only did a great job shedding light on bone marrow transplants but moreso touched on taboo subjects in a way that truly skillfully managed to not disrespect anyone, and if listeners didn't get that then unfortunately I think they came in with an already biased and closeminded view and missed the whole point of the episode. It allowed both points of view to coexist to work towards a greater good and a more accepting and open minded world where others ideas aren't attacked or ridiculed because they "contradict" each other. Maybe this is because I am not on either side and am still trying to figure out what I believe in, but I do think especially in this day and age that we could use more open and honest discussions like what was broadcast in this episode, and show that things don't have to end in hate and divide or even "agreeing to disagree." It can end in respect towards one another, a better idea of someone else's point of view, and REAL unity.
Thank you Radiolab for this episode and to both Jennell and Jim for your courageousness and loving acceptance towards everyone, and the positive impact you are working towards despite your differing viewpoints.
Radiolab thanks for wheeling me back in!!! Bravo for all
your hard work, I hope this helps you feel like it is worth it!!!

Nov. 15 2017 12:10 PM

Radiolab: I encourage you to go listen to your own (fantastic) episode from several years ago, Stochasticity. You tell the story of two British girls who have an eerie amount in common meeting because of a balloon. Certainly a beautiful tale, but then backed up by important scientific logic that humans look for patterns in a random world and are then amazed when they find a "lucky" coincidence that is statistically inevitable. Everyone is entitled to see the world as they do, and it is happy for Jim now that he believes in a greater power due to a lucky chance. However, it is sad to see such a great show stoop to such levels of reporting.

I've been a listener since the very first episode and keep coming back hoping Radiolab would come back to focus on scientific stories. Sadly unsubscribing after this episode.

Nov. 15 2017 11:36 AM
Sam from Bonn, Germany

Radiolab, more SCIENCE please. The direction of this piece was all wrong. I think I am giving up on this podcast actually.

Nov. 15 2017 09:48 AM
J from New England

Thank you for creating this story. As a long time listener I have enjoyed every episode. The way Jim and Jenelle disagree yet can still love each other is a beautiful portrait of how things could be. As a christian it was refreshing to hear Christianity represented without being characterized or edited to the point of emptiness. It was very profound what Jim said about being judgmental, proving your right, and humility. Radiolab constantly stretches my mind with other world views and ideas. I hope the same can be said to anyone who disagrees or discovers this subject matter.

Nov. 15 2017 09:30 AM
Grant from 89015

Thank you for telling this story. It takes balls these days to have content that includes the "J word". Again, thank you.

Nov. 15 2017 03:44 AM
James from SoCal

I've been a zealous radiolab fan and promoter from the beginning. We've listened to every episode, savoring and discussing so many of them, re-listening to others, but sadly have felt that the show has been sliding downhill the last couple of years. What happened to the tight editing, big subjects, big questions? The ridiculous details of self-promoting "christian entrepreneur" Jim, linking his "3rd day story" to the easter story for instance, had no place on radiolab and was insulting to us in the audience. If this story had been on This American Life I could've accepted it, but on Radiolab? Ridiculous. I'm glad Jad has kept the fire burning with More Perfect, but Radiolab needs some work.

Nov. 14 2017 11:56 PM
Adrian from Australia

Fantastic article about different approaches to doing "good", respect and humanity.

I love the comment from Robin from USA:
"It IS about how to treat each other as human beings even when your beliefs are very different."

Here in Australia we've just finished our same sex marriage survey and a lot of the debate was about how Yes voters and No voters can find a way to get along when there are such fundamental differences in how they think sexual orientation should affect a person's rights.

The conclusion of this story made a lot of sense and I think there are going to be a lot of similar moral battles here where best friends and family have to find a way to see past their different beliefs and remain close. There's a massive potential for beliefs to destroy relationships.

Is it denial, or mutual respect that keeps them together?

Nov. 14 2017 09:53 PM
Uralriver from Los Angeles

The story is amazingly beautiful and inspiring. I went online to the "Be A Match" website, created a profile, -surprise!, it's a $100. donation to get your donor swab packet. I ordered the kit. A life is worth $100.00.

Nov. 14 2017 07:11 PM
Ashley from California

So... Man doesn't understand math, therefore Jesus must exist? Free promotion for his magic show? Ugh, what a waste. I listen to radiolab to learn scientific concepts, not to hear a ridiculous explanation for how God found a transplant donor just for Jim. If God does exist, then she'll make this a one-off.

Nov. 14 2017 06:36 PM

In an amazing stroke of ”luck “my wife came across this podcast. I have chills and am mesmerized . I am the founder of the organization that added her to the registry. The conduit that matched these two. For the past 10 years The love hope strength foundation has been adding donors at concerts and music festivals around the world including the Warp Tour. To make this story even deeper you can see the story of the co founder and fellow leukemia survivor Mike Peters from the rock band the Alarm and the organization in the documentary Man in the Camo Jacket. I founded the organization after my own battle with acute leukemia and marrow transplant from a German (former East German) donor. Thank you for bringing this issue light. There is still a massive need for donors. If you go to our website we will send you a free at home kit.

Nov. 14 2017 06:06 PM
Kris Fuehr from Seattle, WA

Janelle is a hero for many of us.
I connected so closely with Janelle, who is so brave for speaking her mind and completely share her perspective. I might pose that because Janelle believes in something BIG with a capital B that she is actually an agnostic. It is how I explain myself. I too share the belief that there is something bigger than Jesus but dare not remark outwardly. Maybe there will be a "coming out of the closet" reveal for folks like us. We are still good folks. I've been called a "dry Mormon" before since I have strong principles but no named god.

The statistical example of a golf ball on a blade of grass makes sense since in 2008 I had a similar statistical anomaly (related to Lyme diagnosis for my mom, long story), I too felt that there was something BIG involved, but I have not connected to the Christian belief set.

I too came from the midwest so maybe it's the practical and independent way of thinking we were raised with, but I would love to sit down and chat with Janelle one day. She has made a big difference in a lot of people's lives on BOTH sides of the aisle and has opened the door to making it okay to speak up.

I also want to commend you, Radio Lab, for keeping both sides of the political aisle engaged in your stories. You are among the only things I can listen to any more since I am also a political agnostic. I appreciate your perspective in the pure interest of the STORY and not any particular agenda. Bravo. Like our midwest hero, Prince wrote in his lyrics for "Colonized Mind" -- The two-party system, the lesser of two dangers, an illusion of choice. Like Janelle, we need not pick sides, but rather believe what we believe without shame.

Nov. 14 2017 04:56 PM
Donna from Norfolk, NE

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this podcast. I agree with Dan from Massachusetts. Radio Lab is a liberal news/podcast. So I feel that if they chose to do a Podcast about something pertaining to God and Jesus then they should. I feel like they have the right to do whatever kind of Podcast with whatever kind of subject.

I do hope that Radio Lab does do more podcast like this. It was good and refreshing.

One part that I loved about Jim's podcast was that he used the connection of Jesus dying on the cross and raising from the grave 3 days later to how his bout with cancer.

Nov. 14 2017 02:39 PM
Anonymous from Canada

This is so incredibly sad that the once “science and technology” podcast with the likes of Oliver Sacks as guests is now making shows about a guy whose own egocentric reasons changed his perception of the world from “God doesn’t exist because there is rape in the world” to “God must exist because he’s sending me signs of his existence through one woman but yeah screw all other thoughts about the bad in the world because look it I’m still alive and that’s GOT to be a sign of God’s existance.” What about science Radiolab that btw is still in your description. I was once donated money to Radiolab and was a proud listener and now I’m longer will I let you waste my time on earth. Goodbye and good luck to you.

Nov. 14 2017 01:30 PM
Steve St.Claire from Asheville, North Carolina

Thank you! As a person of faith, I am used to Christians being portrayed as mindless idiots for believing in God. But to be fair, I think church-goers can often times demonize "non-believers" as evil and depraved. This episode was especially powerful because both characters in the story seem like genuinely wonderful people (who happen to disagree about God.) Bravo to both guests for showing such obvious humility (it was evident and it was beautiful) and bravo to you for telling their story.

Nov. 14 2017 09:09 AM
Maura from Pittsburgh, PA

What about the medical science and technology that made this possible? Therein lies the true miracle. Great show. Buckets of admiration for Jennell, who should feel no regret for her atheism. She is in possession of her reason and honest about it.

Nov. 14 2017 05:49 AM
John Faiman from Sydney Australia

Jim lost me when he said " Sponsors " . Not that I believe in the religious part of this story any ways but it seems to me Jim found a way to make a good living for himself like a lot of Evangelist's do by finding his niche market . Good luck to him but i think you have to respect Jennelle's views too . He calls himself the Christian magician .However after hearing this i have told my wife that we are both going o the registry . Good will come out of this and Im sure many lives have been saved by Jim's show .

Nov. 14 2017 05:07 AM
Stefan from Brisbane, AU

Thanks for airing this story, Radiolab.

Jim: Well done in including this story in your show to make people aware that there is a God and we need a personal relationship with Him to continue living beyond this earthly life.

One of the interviewers said something to the effect of: Jennell did this wonderful thing but there is a god out there who hates her so she will end up in hell.

This view his wrong in that the God out there loves Jennell *so* much that He gave His life for her so that she might live. But as long as Jennell rejects the bone marrow transfusion that Jesus offers her, she is, unfortunately, condemning herself to hell. 2 Peter 3:9 says: "The Lord ... is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." Repentance is the equivalent of accepting the bone marrow transfusion that Jesus offers us. Without it we *will* all die.

Jennell: *Please* reconsider. You have already received far more than most Christians in the line of "revelation" of God at work. Please do not harden your heart.

Nov. 14 2017 12:14 AM

As several people have pointed out, even by the strained logic of a true believer, Jim stretched credibility. It's clear to me that he wanted desperately to believe what he knew logically wasn't true. His chose to interpret these events as a proof that wasn't actually there. There is no justification for treating his insane beliefs with respect they clearly don't deserve.

Nov. 13 2017 11:12 PM
Paul from Missouri

I am shocked that nobody (in the show or in these comments) has pointed out one of the most obvious mistakes of "reasoning" thatJim used to conclude that God was speaking to him.
He talks about how on April 23rd he was reborn- 3 days AFTER his birthday of April 20--"THE THIRD DAY!!!!!""

uh, April 23 is the FOURTH day after April 20. If he is citing the Easter story- rising on Sunday on the 3rd day after Good Friday--then the first day is April 20, the second day is April 21 and the THIRD DAY is April 22.

People find patterns where they WANT to. Even bending time and reality to force fit it to their own desired narratives.

Nov. 13 2017 10:28 PM
Matt from Atlanta, GA

I agree with Otilia's take. I am an atheist myself but we meet people of all beliefs and faiths in our walk through life. We need to treat one another with respect. I think Radiolab handled it well.

Nov. 13 2017 09:37 PM
Tim from San Diego

Not one of your best.

Nov. 13 2017 09:37 PM

"I don't respect stupid beliefs. I do however respect a person's right to have them. I also defend my right to find them ridiculous." - Ricky Gervais

i think too much respect and not enough ridicule was given to jim's story. i found this episode to be awful.

as many have said or alluded to - at best, jim is a naive, self-absorbed ("look! god chose me!!) ignoramus who doesn't understand anything about statistical probabilities and how they work; at worst a willfully ignorant, self-serving charlatan, who i'd say is more like the moneychangers in the temple that jesus threw out than any kind of true disciple of christ. i'd say the latter as it sure seems he fancies fancies himself as very clever. in fact, janelle is more christ-like than jim in all of this. although i find her a bit suspect in getting radiolab to publicize her story, though i don't want to disparage her for her initially apparently altruistic act of being a donor.

i also agree that it's insulting and dismissive to all the people who worked so hard to figure out all that goes into the bone marrow transplant process, to say it was "god."

this isn't the first terrible episode that radiolab has done, but it might be the one that nudges me to unsubscribe.

Nov. 13 2017 08:49 PM
MName from New Orleans

It was the first episode where I seriously thought about unsubscribing from Radio Lab. The odds of finding a donor are very low and lots of people die while waiting so I guess God hates them...the match wasn't a miracle just an outlier. Why was this obvious point completely ignored or buried deep in the episode? I only could listen to about half of it.

Nov. 13 2017 05:09 PM
Daniel Rush

The Latin root of "humility" is not -humis, it is humilis, and it does not mean dirt.

Nov. 13 2017 03:33 PM
David Flusche from Iowa

Everything fits everyone's narrative because whatever you put your attention on will grow in your life. The more that you know about a subject then the more possible connections that you can make to that subject. There is nothing especially spiritual about these coincidences.

Using this story to promote Christianity is naive, nonsensical, and boring. There is a whole world of more intelligent and interesting narratives that are more worthy of attention than Christianity.

Nov. 13 2017 02:48 PM
Ken from Los Angeles

I think radiolab was dupped. The message I got from both parties was they both have very large egos, esp Jannell. Then she asked Radiolab to pursue it so she gets the attention.

Nov. 13 2017 02:16 PM
Dol I from Massachusetts

During this episode I heard ONE word that Jim uttered which hit me like a brick. "Sponsors"... This word brought to mind your episode "Blood". What I want to know is; Who is profiting monetarily? I suspect that the National Bone Marrow Registry is and I highly doubt Jim is doing this volunteerily. It seems to me that Jim found his "religious calling"...the love of money. As a former victim of Christianity I am aware of the ten commandments. If he is a true believer, how can Jim justify disobeying one of those commandments (Thou shall not take the lord thy god's name in vane) (vein ;) in such a blatant way?
I understand Janelle's feeling that she is helping recruit bone marrow donors. She seems genuinely kind-hearted. If she is not profiting from this fiasco perhaps she might consider that she is being manipulated in the name of Jim's "god". I hope she is getting paid WELL for her part in this scheme.
To me, Jim's "magic show" is akin to the smarmy traveling side show preachers who rake in the cash by performing "miracles" with one exception; instead of Jim "laying of hands to perform a miracle on the staged blind person in the audience", he has..TA DA! Janelle! Is she a pawn in this charade? To me, it's just one more reason to question religion.

Nov. 13 2017 02:03 PM
Paul from Missouri

I am shocked that nobody (in the show or in these comments) has pointed out one of the most obvious mistakes of "reasoning" thatJim used to conclude that God was speaking to him.
He talks about how on April 23rd he was reborn- 3 days AFTER his birthday of April 20--"THE THIRD DAY!!!!!""

uh, April 23 is the FOURTH day after April 20. If he is citing the Easter story- rising on Sunday on the 3rd day after Good Friday--then the first day is April 20, the second day is April 21 and the THIRD DAY is April 22.

People find patterns where they WANT to. Even bending time and reality to force fit it to their own desired narratives.

Nov. 13 2017 01:58 PM
Scott from San Francisco

I enjoyed the episode, and I have had thoughts of exactly this thing happening to me; I am on the bone marrow registry and I've wondered how I would feel if my recipient held political or social or religious views that I strongly disagreed with. The show didn't discuss this much, but there is a good reason for the waiting period before donors and recipients can meet.

While I was listening though, I wondered how the story would be different if the roles were reversed, and I imagined a Christian donor being disappointed or even angry if his sacrifice were to save the life of an atheist who didn't accept that a miracle brought them together.

Nov. 13 2017 12:49 PM
E from Brooklyn, NY

I have no idea what religious beliefs if any the reporters and hosts ascribe to, although their lines of questioning seem tinged with an atheistic slant. However, I appreciate and admire how persistent and consistent they were challenging both Janelle and Jim on their beliefs and how they impact their relationship with each other. One beautiful part of this whole story to me was Jim's response to I believe Robert's question about how we Christians believe we find salvation through Christ, and how a common refrain from many is that non-believers will not be saved. Jim gave the most Christian answer I've heard from born-again/evangelicals in a long time.

Christianity is a continuum, like many other things in this world. There are those of us that believe in hard science, in the inherent contradictions in faith and our realities, and would never ascribe to a worldview that places us above another group of people. Unfortunately our voices are always drowned out by the louder, more hateful groups of purported Christians that practice the exact intolerance our faith abhors. As a "liberal" I feel at odds with my faith at times, because the face of our faith is angry, it's white, and it's intolerant.

For those out there who are skeptical of people of faith (any religion), it is well deserved, but faith is a personal journey that many are still trying to complete in their lifetimes. For Christians who find themselves disagreeing with what I have to say, I won't say that I'm right or that I"m wrong, this is just what I believe and how I have taken my journey through Christ. I would like to think that we all believe that we should be tolerant, understanding, loving people who are willing to listen to others as we expect them to listen to us.

Nov. 13 2017 12:27 PM
Jon from Warszawa

Is Jim a fraud?

He knows the statistic nature of big numbers (very well, in fact), he knows what happened to him is nothing out of the ordinary in terms of probabilistic cause and effect - like his own example with any given combination of cards; Each combination is virtually impossibly to predict, yet certain to happen.

And yet he ueses exactly this “conundrum” as the prime argument for Devine intervention... as he in his preach said this is equivalent to being hit by lightening and eaten by a shark at the same time...

I submit, he is a fraud who uses his story to convince the uneducated mind.

Nov. 13 2017 12:11 PM
Javier Isassi from Maryland.

The complete picture.

Janelle got tickets to fly around the US to play part of a Christian show. Did she got paid for it? How much is a ticket to Jim's show? I know this appear to be unrelated but we are humans and if Radiolab goal is to not be partial and make an effort to unravel the reasons behind human actions, well, present the complete picture. The moment that Jim opt-out from Janelle declaring her believe tenets during his show, well then, reality hits, it's a show. There was too much pre-packaging to this story to pontificate rather than explore. Reality hits again.

Nov. 13 2017 11:45 AM
Kathryn from Austin

Radiolab, this episode was maddening.
I especially disliked the take that either Jim's religion is "true" and this is all God's plan for him OR that Jim's being saved is a matter of random chance. It's neither--he was saved by SCIENCE and by his ATHEIST DONOR.
Scientists have worked for decades--not randomly, but using the scientific method--to figure out how to cure Jim's leukemia. For Jim to narcissistically take this scientific work and declare it to be the handiwork of supernatural beings with a grand plan for Jim is breathtaking in its obtuseness.
And no one ever points out that Jim's own analogy between religion and magic is an excellent one--illusion is entertaining, and it's a great moneymaker, but it is empty of mystery and divinity--what it requires is skill and manipulation, and an audience willing to be manipulated.
What is NOT empty or manipulative is the actual goodness and altruism of Janelle, who did what she did not because she needs Jesus to keep her from doing evil or to encourage her to be kind, but because she's a good human being who did what she did out of her own humanity.
Want to talk about bone marrow? Let's talk about its remarkable function in the body, the scientists who have made marrow transplants possible, the lives that marrow transplants and stem cell transplants have saved, and other wonders of science and medicine. Let's not use it as an excuse for a long evangelical episode with a deferential atheistic footnote.

Nov. 13 2017 10:16 AM
Ryk from Colorado

I was disappointed with this episode since most of it had to do with two people talking about their differing opinions (or trying to reconcile them) on religion. It offered nothing I haven't heard a hundred times before, and of course, with no resolution because there can't be one.

Nov. 13 2017 10:08 AM
Frank Turk from Little Rock, AR

[Written briefly to stay inside the 2000-character limit]
Hi RadioLab -- With whatever criticisms I have about this episode, in secular-ish media, those who are religious are treated unfairly. Usually, a caricature of a religious person is trotted out (like: the pastor-dad on Footloose; the nondescript priest or nun; the crazy person who hears voices, etc). Your treatment of Jim Munroe was pretty fair and balanced, and kudos for that. Also, your treatment of his message was also quite fair, letting him say what he means to say, which is again rare. Nice work.

However, I have a critique, and then a comment.

CRITIQUE: RadioLab has a blind spot when it comes to its own point of view, and that spot is never more obvious than when it is deconstructing other points of view. Here are three ways you can test it for yourselves: (1) How many people do you know as neighbors or co-workers who would disagree with your own interpretation of the story you tell in any given episode (2) Have you ever changed your mind about the metaphysical/philosophical editorial slant you build into any given episode of RadioLab prior to your piecing together of the episode (3) Does it surprise you when you find others who can answer "yes" to both 1 and 2 above so that you cannot believe they actually walk around all day thinking that way? The way you portrayed the editorial opinions of the staff in this episode as somehow "objective" as opposed to both Jenney and Jim says to me that maybe the staff needs to unpack its own way of thinking a little to see if there is something there which could improve the way you build these stories.

COMMENT: If Jesus is a real person, and He is as Jim describes Him (by which I mean, the way any faithful Christian would describe him), there is nothing better than him in spite of Jenney’s assertion otherwise. There isn’t enough space here to flesh that out, but here’s my short attempt. We know that people are not basically good for this reason: the world is the way it is because we have made it this way. Jesus died so that we don’t have to be good enough to fix the world, but rather that we can know what love is because God loved us first, and so that we can, therefore, share the love we have already received.

God bless you. It is my hope that you can find Him as He really is.

Nov. 13 2017 09:02 AM
Nate from Sadorus, IL

I just want to leave a comment applauding the end message of tolerance and living together even when we disagree. I'm a Catholic Christian so I agree with much but not all that Jim had to say. I LOVE the part where he says something like real Christians aren't in a place to judge. I think that the majority of Christians and non-Christians can live with each other believing different things without a problem. The extremists on both sides are the message we are most often told and the one that leaves a bad taste in our mouth. I applaud RadioLab for telling their story. It seems more of us could stand to hear this message more often.

Nov. 13 2017 08:30 AM
Sean from San Diego, CA

I enjoy radiolab very much. I differ from most views held on this podcast in that I am Catholic and I tend to try to be independent or conservative in politics. Pigeon holing listeners isn't my favorite thing to hear. Let us remember that we are all human beings at heart and, as the podcast said, we do not like being told we are wrong. Finally, we all enjoy a good story, regardless of race, creed, nationality, etc.

Nov. 13 2017 05:04 AM
Evan from Tucson

Smart apes figure out how to cure diseased ape by squirting blood from nice healthy ape into diseased ape who then gets confused about who cured him. There, I fixed it.

Nov. 13 2017 01:12 AM
Joanne from Massachusetts

Jim found a perfect marrow match in Janelle and was cured of cancer. The message he took away was that a loving God caused that to happen and therefore deserves his faith and fealty. I once knew another young man who had cancer and needed a bone marrow transplant. His little sister was the match. But his body rejected the transplant and though his cancer was cured he became and still is completely paralyzed. A) Jim - what is the message in this case? And B) radiolab why on earth didn't you ask this pretty obvious and pretty critical question in the show?

Nov. 13 2017 12:31 AM
Dan Swinton from Albany, NY

This was a really thoughtful show (they always are) and I appreciated the respect shown the story tellers. They let them tell their story, in their own way without trying to sanitize or condescend toward the subject matter. From listening to previous episodes its probably safe to say Robert and Jad are more on the skeptical bent, although I don't know for sure. Rather than simply challenging the protagonist's experience as many in this comment section are quick to do the hosts just let it play out. That is good storytelling and it was refreshing.

Nov. 12 2017 09:14 PM
Emily Miller from Omaha, NE

My freshman year of College (5 years ago), I attended the MAZE Magic show that was talked about in this story. After staying for the "second act" of the show, I left feeling extremely misled, judged and angry. The Marketing for this show included nothing about how half of the event would be pushing Christian values down your throat. Just to be clear, I have nothing wrong with people wanting to share their ideas and beliefs but, the way this show was marketed and the narrow option to leave midway through was slimy in my opinion. After the show, I searched online for other people who felt this way about the show, with few results.

It was really a sigh of relief to hear this story. Even after 5 years, I would think about that "magic" show at times and feel used and lied to. Hearing the statistics and learning that Jannell doesn't share the same views as Jim, almost gave me a sense of justice and relief - however wrong and egotistical those feeling may be.

Nov. 12 2017 09:13 PM
Marc from Pompano Beach, FL

This was all very interesting. Maybe, it’s me, but when
Jim said “ he was really a very good baseball player,” it seemed that he was a little cocky and full of himself. He folks were Opticians, and he had a preppie sort of attitude. He came from the right
side of the tracks. He wanted to keep his friend’s followers, Christians, to keep attending his shows. He pulls in a lot of people and, with Jennell’s story, he made more money, and so did she, for a time she was on the show with him. She is the genuine article and totally agree that she thought her participation seemed like she was an imposter.
The medical part of the story was what interested me, not the Christianity part, as right now my relative has just begun her first week of chemo, for AML. Jennell was a perfect match. Apparently that meant that she 10 for 10 of the necessary criteria for a superior result. If one had only 6 of 10, would the risk be worth it?
The reviews from other listeners were excellent. The medical field seemed to be left out of any credit. Jim is lucky things worked out, but were it not for Jennell, it was curtains for Jim. The story is interesting, but it seemed that Jennell got used in some degree and she had a hard time with it, especially bringing religion into the mix. She did a beautiful thing, so let’s leave it at that, without religion,
which, to this day, has caused the most deaths since the beginning of

Nov. 12 2017 07:09 PM
Robin from USA

I don’t think this one was about science or religion! Lots of you missed the point. It IS about how to treat each other as human beings even when your beliefs are very different. Those of you choosing to attack Radiolab should take the time to get your own podcast, and you can make it about whatever you want. You listened to it. You could have just as easily turned it off.

Nov. 12 2017 06:39 PM
G. K.

This episode was extremely disappointing. What could have been a story about the advancement of science instead ended up highlighting individual religious beliefs. Stories about individual people definitely have merit, but the fact that after Jim realizes that he gets a second chance at life he then chooses to believe it was "God" instead of the generosity of a fellow human being really promotes the notion that when someone doesn't get that chance they are somehow not as valuable in "God's" eyes. The earbuds came out at the point at which it was announced "Janelle would become Jim's biggest magic trick"-- what an arrogant and self-serving way to diminish her personal sacrifice by fitting it into a gimmicky religious narrative. It is not lost on your audience that organized religion has been wielded as a tool to hold back scientific advancement for thousands of years, let alone modern stem-cell research. Why would you choose to focus your science podcast on personal beliefs which have no scientific basis, and which belong to a much larger and oppressive tradition of stamping out the very opportunity for one human to save another? You lost a listener.

Nov. 12 2017 06:11 PM
Terri from Hudson, WI

Yeah Jim's gonna build a nice bank account off of this. Nice magic shoe Jim. Too bad you're not advocating for better science funding which was the thing that trully saved you.

Nov. 12 2017 06:04 PM
Nicole from Miami

This show has gone from science to politics to religion. All the fascinating things in science right now, especially in space with the colliding black holes etc and Radiolab decides to go religious.

Well, it's been a fun run, time to bail for a real science podcast.

Nov. 12 2017 03:38 PM
Avi from Israel

As a religious person who believes in science and rational thought and does not believe in Christian tenets of faith, I identified with both Jim and Jenealle.

I thought their ability to respect each other despite their differences was inspiring and I appreciate the balanced approach you took.

Thank you for sharing this

Nov. 12 2017 11:46 AM
Tyler S from Phoenix

I just wanted to share that your story inspired me to join the National Bone Marrows Registry. Thank you.

Nov. 12 2017 10:47 AM
Sandman from TN

Jad. FYI, while you were out making More Perfect, Krul turned the show into Radiochurch. His dogged determination to be fascinated by mystery is a mystery to me. Can you sell him to Krista Tippett?

Nov. 12 2017 07:49 AM
Sean MacLean from Seattle

When we grow up we figure out Santa Claus doesn't really exist. Nor the tooth fairy, nor any other "higher power" invented by humankind to explain our universe. The scientific method is the only method that arrives at "truth" the truly humble way: by trying, and gloriously failing much of the time, to show a consistent result to an experiment, regardless of "belief." All progress in Civilization was due to this kind of thinking. All backward slides are due to 'belief.' The faithful are proud of their trust, their blind trust. Proud of being blind? What does that say about the intellectual value of faith?
When we have outgrown our need for superstition, hundreds of years from now, we'll be embarrassed that this story needed to be presented as if Jim's belief was worthy of equal consideration and weight to Jenelle's much more "humble" recognition that Jesus -- guess what, --- doesn't select bone marrow matches.

Nov. 12 2017 04:18 AM
Yoav from Israel

I'm very disappointed. A science show becoming a god preaching show. Where's the skepticism, the critical thinking, the scientific thinking?

Nov. 12 2017 01:32 AM
Joy from Washington

I echo the comment below that the fact that Jim and Jennell can find space for the other and not judge in order to build on the common is a great narrative and key part to this story! For one ( Jim ) , orders the random events through a lens he knew and subscribes meaning from. For Janelle, it seems she does not find meaning in the evangelical output of the events- but perhaps more in the collective action outcome ( seeing student sign up to register as bone marrow donors). In the current political climate that has been more divisive and hurtful then collective and healing - it seems like a great story to find the collective common: one in which Janelle tells the reality of how prvledged white Caucasians are ( even through a registry data base to find a donor). And that the Christ Jim follows came to serve the least of these and make a place for the outcast—

Nov. 11 2017 01:58 PM
C Myers from PNW

Jennell is a shining example of how a person can be virtuous without espousing religion. The rest of the story just kind of shows why we still have religions in the age of information - religious organizations mostly try to do good things.

Nov. 11 2017 01:44 PM
CT from Ohio

I love how the end of this story focused on respect for each other's views & humility- and then I scroll down to the comment board and find it full of hubris and antipathy. The hatred towards Christians in general, and Jim in particular, is incredible. Did no one learn anything from this episode? Jim was not denying the role of science in this, and his holding Christian view does not mean he has every answer to every question.

This really reminded me a lot of the movie "Signs", and "Life of Pi" a bit as well- events and 'random chance' coincidences can be perceived different ways by different people. It honestly is similar to the use of statistics in science- at what point is the p-value low enough for you to think your result wasn't just random chance? In Jim's case, all of the coincidences convinced him of the divine- in Janelle's case this is just what happens in life, and by chance was bound to happen to someone.

I did find it interesting Janelle spoke of Good with a capital G- which seems a very un-atheistic thing to believe in.

Thank you, Radiolab, for an interesting episode- I hope your message sinks in with people more than the comments here indicate.

Nov. 11 2017 01:25 PM
Patti from Rosemount

a great story. people can be "good" and can get there either by asking for help from a higher power or holding themselves to a high standard. I was struck with the kindness Jenelle and Jim had in their conversation, openly stating their beliefs to each other without expecting acquiescence.

Nov. 11 2017 11:58 AM
Madelyn from New York

Unlistenable. Stopped at minute 40. A man obsessed with the performance of his own narrative taking anything in the way with it... Sounds like he's somewhat traumatized from all he's experienced and he's revved up to manufacture meaning from it.

Nov. 11 2017 11:27 AM
MMA from Pennsylvania

Radio lab does not do enough stories that emphasize Christianity. So this story is encouraging for me in that way. Too bad that people want to subvert Christianity for their own glory, not God’s. The magician is perfectly correct in his expression of his Christian beliefs in the face of strong secular pushback.

Nov. 11 2017 10:56 AM
Nick from Manchester, UK

Imagine hearing this story, but set in a totalitarian dictatorship. Jim has lost his faith in the Party. He develops cancer and is saved by a bone marrow transplant from a woman in another country (a democracy). The experience rekindles Jim's belief in and love for the Party, especially when he learns that Janelle commemorated her marrow donation with a tattoo in the exact same spot where the glorious leader is known to have a birthmark.

As a result of his ideological re-awakening, Jim begins to tour the country spreading propaganda on behalf of the regime. Janelle feels uncomfortable, but agrees to get involved on the basis that people are encouraged to sign up for bone marrow donations after the show.

Would Radiolab have entertained a discussion where Jim's point of view- that he owes his life to the munificence of the glorious Leader- was given greater weight than the obvious point that Jim's story is actually not in the least bit improbable and that his beliefs depend on confirmation bias?

There are the materials here for some interesting explorations, for example on the psychology of interpreting coincidences. The story is also related to the anthropic principle, which might make for a great Radiolab episode. But please, no more of these 'is it science or religion? Let's split the difference' episodes. Nothing wrong with a science show discussing religion, but it needs to subject it to scientific scrutiny, just as would happen with claims about ghosts, magic or any other supernatural phenomena.

Nov. 11 2017 07:22 AM
Dan from Massachusettes

This was a good episode and fairly well balanced. I'm a Christian and I'd like address a few things:
1. Janelle kept alluding to some sort of "greater meaning" in the fact that she was the 1 in 8 millionth person to match Jim's marrow. Clearly she believes in the supernatural.
2. Jim was not 'using' Janell to proselytize as many of the comments here claim. She agreed to it.
3. Robert Krulwich misrepresented the Christian God when he said God may not love those he judges. God loves all but allows people their freedom to choose not to believe. God is all loving but also just.
4. What makes Jim's case a good argument for the existence of God is that it has patterns along with high improbability which is the criteria intelligent design theorists use to identify intelligent design. For example, in a poker game any deal of cards is equally and highly improbable, but if you find that every time a certain player deals he gets all four aces, you can bet this is not the result of chance but of design. The pattern of the Jesus themes, the 3 days, etc all can arguably be asserted as intelligent design.
5. If Jim believes this was an act of God, that in no way diminishes his thankfulness of Janelle or everyone else invloved in his recovery
6. It may have been science that saved Jim, it may have been doctors that administered that science, it may have been Janelle that offered her bone marrow, but that in no way disproves that it may have been God who caused it to happen as such
7. The fact that other people still die of cancer also does not disprove God. Neither suffering nor evil disproves God. It's possible God has sufficient reason for allowing evil and suffering.
8. Why doe people get upset when Radiolab tells a Christian story but not when they tell a story about Islam or another religion?
9. I find Janelle's assertion that people are inherently good paradoxical. How can good exist if there is no God? For good to exist, there must exist an objective standard of morality. If objective morals exist, there must exist an objective moral giver. Who better to fit that role than God?

Nov. 11 2017 05:34 AM
Renee from California

What bothered me most about this story was the inherent lack of gratitude in Jim. Jenelle selflessly took hardship to save his life. Instead of simply accepting a friendship, he uses her as a tool to proselytize his personal message about God to gain a following of not only believers, but sponsors, which benefit him financially. I cringed when he would utter “and SHE is here today!” And bring her on the stage. He made her a sideshow freak in his religious circus. It’s grotesque. He very well knew her opinions and never considered them, it was all about him. I find that incredibly selfish for a Christian man. When she wanted a chance to have her voice, he wouldn’t allow it on his “show”.

Nov. 10 2017 11:52 PM
Roger from Australia

This story is a great example of the all-to-common human trait of confirmation bias. Jim’s story is one of great bravery, mental and physical toughness and the triumphs of medical science. It is a shame that Jim has chosen to make his story an opportunity for cheap proselytizing.

Janelle is right when she said this is ‘bigger than Jesus’. This is about triumph in the face of the rigors of the human condition and our shared humanity.

Nov. 10 2017 11:17 PM
Sheldon from San Francisco

The word humility comes from humilis, which means low, not dirt. Then again, never trust a magician preacher to educate you about language.

Nov. 10 2017 10:38 PM
Roger, Australia from Australia

With every narrative there is a fine line between a powerful story and an overblown story. Unfortunately, this story crosses that line.

It is an amazing story, but in no way is it a convincing proof of God’s existence. I am always amazed when the faithful so eagerly ascribe to the divine what, to the more honest observer should more fairly be ascribed to the miracles of science and technology. But that’s the human psyche for you!

Nov. 10 2017 09:50 PM
Sheldon from San Ramon, CA

Janelle seems like the kind of person I would love to be friends with. She is awful and kind, as well as selfless. But she also holds to our believes, regardless of the pressures around her. It’s sad to me that the young man in the story how to interpret this as some sort of religious experience. I say sad, because there are so many people he could have thanked, including all of the doctors and scientists who made his bone marrow transplant possible, The people who created the registry and run it, not to mention Jenelle herself. I wonder if he ever stop to think about why that the God of his didn’t just cure his cancer with magic? I also wonder whether he stop to think about the millions of people, including my own mother, who have died from cancer? Were they simply not worthy of a miracle?

Nov. 10 2017 09:16 PM
Matthew DeGroot from Vermont

I can't really argue with some of the comments already posted, to the effect that the episode felt a little directionless.

That said, the ending note on "humility" as the essential element, in permitting two people with different worldviews to co-exist as deep friends and cosmically intertwined allies - that rang so true.

Of late, I've been mulling how the most terrible thing that can befall a person, or a society, is victory - vindication. The sense that we have triumphed, and hold sway over the vanquished. It's elemental to Christianity, the sense that heaven goes to those who were right all along, while their enemies are so satisfactorily consigned to damnation. But also to the United States, following the fall of the Soviet Union and Fukyama's ostensible "end of history." And to today's social media click bait echo chambers, where enemies are "destroyed" or "obliterated" or "owned" by a few seconds' worth of simple questioning or facile rhetoric, packaged so as to be final and irrefutable.

Our most cherished virtue these days seems to be self-righteousness, the sense that we are really right, justified, while the other side is wrong, misguided, deluded, ignorant, duped. I found the willingness of the episodes' protagonists to co-exist, and even to co-participate, in each other's journeys, welcome and refreshing.

It seemed to me that for all its inability to articulate it succinctly, this episode of Radiolab was on to something vital about contemporary American society.

Nov. 10 2017 08:44 PM
David O from Chicago

What a seriously flawed, nonsensical episode, cute story.
However, this story is the type of (Insert your own adjective here - puffery, chicanery buffoonery that keeps a populous, ignorant and prejudiced; all the while, lurking in the background, it was science at the reins, from the donor location point, to the medical procedure and follow-up. In addition, I have no doubt, passing the collection plate, exploiting the beliefs and pocketbooks of the poorly educated - two thumbs down - Radiolab you can do better, If you would like, I would be glad to help with a legitimate story on RANDOMNESS .

Nov. 10 2017 07:02 PM
Calvin from NYC, NY

Reconciling both the 66-93% matching rate AND the 1:8 million statistic is actually pretty easy: for Jim (white), there was a 93% that ANY matching donor would be found. The odds that the donor was specifically Jenelle, however, is 1:8 million. But the 2nd statistic doesn't matter because Jim had no prior relation with Jenelle, and would have done well whether the donor was she, Michael, Yolanda, Xing Ming, Abdullah, etc.

The 1:8 million only becomes significant if Jenelle was somehow special to Jim for other reasons besides being his donor.

This was pure random chance. Jim exhibits the very human tendency to seek meaning in randomness. (see:

Nov. 10 2017 06:21 PM
Jack from Cleveland, OH

With all the fact checking and mentioning of numbers, I was dismayed that Jim's "on the third day" math wasn't questioned. Since Easter Sunday is the 3rd day, that makes Good Friday the 1st (the authors of the Gospels didn't understand the concept of the 0th day). By that ancient logic, April 23rd is the _fourth_ day, relative to April 20th. If someone is looking for patterns in random chance, they will see them.

Regardless of the above, I still find Radiolab stories compelling and moving! Just try to remember the difference between 1-based and 0-based counting, and keep up the good work!

Nov. 10 2017 06:05 PM
Tom Rutenbeck from Port Townsend, WA

Very interesting program.

Looking at both segments of Jim's performance, it is clear that his livelihood, his passion and his faith all depend on suspension of disbelief -- his own and his audience's.

Jennell, while astonished by the technique and craft, remains aware of the curtain and which side she is on.

Nov. 10 2017 05:39 PM
Reina from Utah

Does Janelle feel like her sacrifice is being minimized by Jim?? To me it’s like she sacrificed twice— once giving the marrow and a second time when the recipient praised God for the sacrifice that was actually hers. I know she didn’t give to receive thanks, which is great because it seems to me that she’s really not getting the appreciation due her. (Of course nor is the donor program or the scientifists etc.)

Does Jim feel that through these events, he regained a connection with his best friend? He had powerful psychological motivation to find a story to reconnect him to his best friend and get him out of depression. That’s the only way he could deal with the loss— try to make meaning and purpose from it in a way that makes his life better. I can’t fault him for that, at the same time, his vulnerability to a story seems apparent to me. As someone who struggles with depression, I consciously try to develop belief in stories that will lift me, knowing their power as a former believer. In some ways I envy that he can do it so effectively for himself.

The show’s conclusion— that both can find oneness by finding space for the other and not judging— is beautiful. But I find it impossible to not judge while yet holding on to beliefs. I learned that in college in a simplistic way. A quick story everyone can relate to: I ‘believed’ people should always do their dishes after eating. It therefore bothered me when my roommates did not. For a while, i just cleaned my own dishes, but I’d be bothered by the still-dirty sink. I tried doing their dishes as well as mine, but that would make me frustrated too. So next, I stopped doing my dishes and joined their lackadaisical habits, but I felt I like I was becoming a worse person by going against what I ‘believed’ should be done. Unless my beliefs changed about what ‘should’ be done, I could never win. But then, beliefs can’t be entirely eliminated, so judgement will always exist.

Nov. 10 2017 04:33 PM
Susan from Moreno Valley

Incredible story. Thank you for sharing. I felt very encouraged & enjoyed listening to every single minute of it.

Nov. 10 2017 03:49 PM
Marg from Kaneohe, HI

Jim sounds like he makes a boatload monetizing on this story.

Nov. 10 2017 03:22 PM

A miracle? There's nothing miraculous about this story, nothing at all. That guy is alive because of the work done by scientist and doctors, the supernatural has nothing to do with it. Is Radiolab out of ideas? Are they pandering to a Christian American audience? I'm tapping out and I think unsubbing for a while.

Nov. 10 2017 02:26 PM

I've been eyerolling so hard during this episode I'll probably strain something by the end if it continues.

Nov. 10 2017 02:21 PM
Roger from Pittsburgh, PA

I respect both donor and recipient.

I feel disappointed that the show neglects some glaring issues.
Jim asking for converts, says to his customers something like:
"are you willing to begin living for others and stop living just for yourself?"
This is a destructive hateful meme,
that a nonbeliever is just a pleasure-driven automaton.
I've seen no evidence of this in my long life.

And, what is this now, Radiolab lets it go unmentioned that this life-saving technique
is the result of the work of thousands of scientists and engineers,
doing basic and applied research over decades?
Driven by intense curiosity and the drive to help sick people?
Most of them atheists?
(And just brief mention of the personnel that carry out the marrow program.)
But no, it's all god when good things happen.

BTW no matter how humble you are, if you're proud to be humble,
how humble are you really?

Nov. 10 2017 01:04 PM

Holy cow this episode is driving me insane.
I work for the NMDP (but my words here are in no way as a representative of them or of their mission, etc... Just my words with my opinions, etc...), and I work daily with the people who wrote the algorithm which matched these two folks, I personally work on supporting the websites that the employees and public use to do the work needed to match and manage cases of donors and recipients, and I worked on the applications around bringing in the data for potential donors that the gal used to sign up for on the registry.
All of that is to say that as much religion as one person wants to wonderful for them and their life. But it wasn't god or jesus who matched these two, it wasn't god or jesus who facilitated the donation, and it wasn't god or jesus who did the transplant. It was the hundreds of professionals who work at the NMDP, the Donor Centers, the Transplant Centers, and all throughout the process. Those are the people who should be thanked.

Nov. 10 2017 01:03 PM
Jamie Neilson from Los Angeles

I lost a brother to acute lymphoblastic leukemia a year ago. I was identified as "a perfect match," and donated a liter of my marrow (extracted the old-fashioned way). Unfortunately, despite the match, graft vs. host disease (GvHD) set in, and my immune system literally killed him. As these things sometimes go. He was my little brother, and though I am 56, this is a heartbreak that I will never be able to put down.

I am also a Christian, though not of the evangelical stripe. I found Jim's belief that his circumstance was a reflection of the will of God or Jesus to be presumptuous and simplistic. Does this mean that my brother and I were being punished? Was it God's or Jesus' will that I bear this wound for the rest of my life? If so, why?

Jim makes much of the long odds against his finding a match. In fact, for a Caucasian person in the registry, the odds are about 75%. They decline as one looks at minority groups: Middle Eastern people have about a 46% chance, Mexican and Japanese patients, just 37%, and African American folks a daunting 19%! Are these long odds--which many clearly do not overcome, the result of which may be death or great suffering--another expression of God's plan or Jesus' will? What divine message should we read into these narratives of pain, loss, and death?

As a Christian and a citizen of the world, I am troubled by Jim's use of the story. I am grateful that Jennell insists on telling her version of the tale. Jim claims to be averse to judging others, but the story the way he tells it is itself a judgment--favorable to him and the white Evangelicals who comprise his audience, and damning to those of us whose stories are more complicated. It is bad enough to experience the loss of my brother--a married man of 45 with three daughters, a truly beautiful person--but listening to Jim's blithe claim of God's favor makes me experience the heartbreak afresh in a small way.

Nov. 10 2017 11:49 AM

I am in the middle of this podcast and I am cringing so hard (not as bad as the Cathedral episode though, phew!).

I expect more from RadioLab - There's so much going on in science and technology with human interest - I am at loss as to why this was given the platform instead.

Nov. 10 2017 11:34 AM
anonyny from Los angeles

generally an avid listener of radiolab (one of my favorite podcasts) but I have to say...I didn't get the point of this at all. I listened to the episode in it's entirety and was hoping there would be some arc that ties it all together but found there really wasn't. I guess I understand that Janelle felt like an imposter since she isn't Christian and doesn't believe but not really sure what her "side" of the story is other than...she doesn't believe. okay. and then what? what difference does it really make? Also not sure why there was such a focus on evangelism. Like with any religion, you'll see "signs" if that's what you want to do.

Nov. 10 2017 11:30 AM
Sam from Tokyo

I cringed many times as I listened to this show. It felt righteous and self-congradulatory to barge in to a Christian magic show to point out to the audience the fallacy of their religious thinking. It was as interesting and meaningful to me as listening to a show where a doctor lectures to a group of alcoholics on the dangers of their life choices. It’s sort of like RL listeners feeling good about ourselves for bringing culture and clear thinking to a group of backwards aborigines.

Now, I totally agree with what RadioLab is saying, and I think the golf-ball-on-the-grass analogy is wonderful. But I kinda hoped RadioLab would try to educate all of us, including the delusional people who perhaps need it most, on science, the math of probability, etc., but do it for a general audience, including the delusional, so that none of us fall for religion and magical thinking to begin with. Raise the bar of society as a whole, rather than target the backwards people and then make a feel-good show about it, you know? I kept saying to my radio “Leave those poor religious people alone! Let them feel good and support a greater-than-Jesus-cause!” It just felt like it’s in poor taste.

Nov. 10 2017 11:26 AM
Matt from Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Great story guys as always. I found the dichotomy of the Jim and Janelle's beliefs to be so interesting. Jim in his profound confidence stemming from his faith and Janelle's reluctant defense in her belief in nothing. The point was made that we can exist despite these differences and we can find common ground.

The only thing missing: I wish Jim would have really answered the question about his god and Janelle's plight being a non-believer. He skirted this and dodged the question with his answer. If he really believes the only way to be saved is through Jesus, how is he not conflicted with her non belief if he has such great affection for her??? I wish he would have taken that head on...Love this show. I'm going to donate now.

Nov. 10 2017 11:08 AM
Hannah from Santa Rosa Beach, FL

Really enjoyed this episode!! GREAT JOB Radiolab!

Nov. 10 2017 11:02 AM
Kris Munden from YOW

Lovely story. I just called Canadian Blood Services (where I've been a donor for a couple of decades) to make sure my contact info was up to date.

It only takes a minute to save someone's life.

P.S. When I got a parking ticket for providing blood, the city of Ottawa was happy to forgive the ticket, for the greater good. :-)

Nov. 10 2017 10:45 AM

As a non-believer I'm getting tired of hearing so many Christian-centric stories on Radiolab. I've been a listener for years and have noticed a shift away from interesting sociological/scientific topics to these human interest stories that toe the line to evangelism.

Jenelle was selfless and generous, Jim to some extent silences her because he's worried about his bookings? Who better displayed Christ-like behavior?

Nov. 10 2017 10:10 AM
Elliot from Dallas, Tx

Definitely one of the least enjoyable radiolab podcasts that I’ve heard. I still don’t know what the point was that the producers were going for. I was left with the message that when push comes to shove in the search for truth you push gently and then give up if you start to feel like you might disturb someone’s feelings. I look for more from Radiolab. I would have enjoyed more focus on the scientific themes in the storyline and less on the magical and unprovable.

Nov. 10 2017 09:41 AM
Nigel Trusssington Foxfoeth

Typical Christian: show them the multiple absurdities prevalent in the core of their beliefs and they conpletely surrender their critical faculties and fall back on 'faith'....
so because you were told so it must be true.

A mobius strip of nonsense.

Nov. 10 2017 09:20 AM
Jeff Martin from Austin, TX

I know its not the point of Radio Lab to dispute religion or religious beliefs, but I feel like a great opportunity was missed here to speak more about the stats like 50% of people find a match, but also to discuss the point that Jesus and God didn't create the bone marrow registry. People did. Jesus and God didn't develop the science that allows the transfer of bone marrow from one person to another, People did. I am grateful to causes that bring more people into the registry and I think that in an of itself is Good. (with a capital G), but giving your agency over to Jesus or any magic man, takes away the thought that Humanity needs to solve these problems, because praying isn't gonna do it.

Nov. 10 2017 09:18 AM
Iain Mitchell from London

What an Podcast!
I listened, I cried, I signed up!

Thank you RadioLab for expanding my mind and my daughters Maddie for the last two years

from Iain London UK

Nov. 10 2017 04:44 AM

Man, I really feel for Jenelle. What you did out of pure human kindness is being used as literal proof of somebodies god, but at the same time, it can actually encourage people to potentially donate and save lives.

Krulwich brought up a very good point when he said that, "You have to love the judge that may not love the woman who saved your life". Although I think some Christians would say that god loves everybody, even the people that do bad things or don't believe in him, I think it's still a valid point. A non-believer who helped save not just one life, but led to further lives being saved down the line, is either going to suffer in hell, or stop existing (and therefore not being able to spend eternal bliss in heaven with god), whether or not god loves her, and as a Christian, you have to be fine with that.

Jims answer is pretty typical and amounts to, "It's His plan, how can I say anything about it?". But she'll literally suffer for eternity or stop existing (depending on your particular beliefs), despite her selfless act that saved your life. It reminds me of praise for god when one child survives a plane crash, but everybody else dies a horrible death. God gets praised for the good thing that happened, but everyone shrugs and it's "all part of the plan" that everybody else died.

Also, nice false dichotomy, Jim, with the whole shark lightning vs god thing.

Nov. 10 2017 01:23 AM

". Approximately every 9 minutes, someone in the US dies from a blood cancer. This statistic represents approximately 160 people each day or more than six people every hour. Leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma are expected to cause the deaths of an estimated 58,300 people in the US in 2017."
Please ask what"humility" leads one to believe that Jesus choose him to live and 58,000 others in just the US to die this year alone.

Nov. 10 2017 12:10 AM
Bejan Abtahi from New Zealand

Robert Hill I logged on to make the same comment. Thanks for saving me a minute.

Nov. 09 2017 11:55 PM
Robert Hill from Marysville Michigan

Fantastic story. It truly is great that Jenelle was able to be so selfless as to save another’s life. I don’t fault Jim for having such profound faith, especially having to deal with what he has been through personally. However, I ascribe to the random chance aspect of this. Jenelle should be given 100% credit for doing something selfless. I work in the healthcare field, unfortunately I see many people that die with afflictions such as this—it is especially difficult when a child is involved. Are we somehow supposed to believe that God chooses the life of Jim and others over the the life of the four or eight-year-old that gets cancer and dies? Of course not, it is random chance and luck of the draw. Jim is lucky that Jenelle donated her marrow and that science has advanced in a way so as to understand such a thing. He’s actually lucky there eMarysville Michiganven is a bone marrow registry. Just a few decades ago he would’ve perished. No miracle before these medical advances were made. Why can’t we just let it be a great story without even dealing with the religious aspect of it. However, if Jim show gives people hope then so be it, I guess good for them.

Nov. 09 2017 11:13 PM

I love this story. Radiolab was able to be a mediator for two very close people. I love the understanding and respect that each of them have for one another.

Nov. 09 2017 11:02 PM

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