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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


More in:

Comments [210]

Jake from Kansas City

I Signed up as a donor at BeTheMatch after listening to your podcast.

Mar. 06 2018 10:56 AM
stephen bongiorno from MI

Hello RadioLab! I seldom post on anything, but I had to post on this. Just wanted to say that I so appreciate the objectivity you display in your podcasts! You always approach every topic as if you're viewing it for the first time, without any bias. Please keep it up!

Feb. 17 2018 12:25 AM
Jon from Sweden

I just wonder. Don't you have to turn it around? I´ts not one chance in eight millions to match. It is eight million possibilities to match?

Feb. 02 2018 04:42 AM

As a former bone marrow transplant nurse and nurse practitioner this story was topical and interesting, but also problematic. One question I would have wanted to ask is about long term complications of stem cell transplants and the risk of relapse. What does Jim and or Janell do with that possibility? Sometimes donors are asked to provide more cells in the future. Sometimes/often late onset graft versus host disease can wreak terrible havoc on the body causing chronic disease states that are life-impacting and or life threatening. Would this change Jim's perception of her as his savior? Would it feel 'less divine' if the physical cost of the treatment were heavy. I kept waiting for the not-happy-ending which is so very common in the transplant world.

Jan. 18 2018 04:25 PM
TWW from Chicago

Thank you for this piece. The fact that it has generated such strong reactions from listeners (on multiple sides of the question of faith) is perhaps a testament to what a powerful piece of radio journalism it is. Stories like this one are quite complicated to tell as they bring together questions of the individual, the collective, belief, faith, and science. That you allowed both persons involved to tell their own story as they understood it, and that you helped them to do so, is laudable. Another segment of Radiolab that caused me to stop what I was doing and just sit, and listen.

Jan. 17 2018 10:15 PM
Chuck Hughes from Lewis, NY

A few issues came to mind as I listened to your program on the bone marrow donner. First, I had to wonder why the man receiving the donation didn't also praise the doctors, nurses and other health care workers who made the whole thing possible. Not to belittle the sacrifice of the donor, but there were more people involved than just her! And expanding on that point, why was he contributing his "salvation" to God when it was science and the medical profession that was truly responsible?
Also on that point - I wondered how many of the people sitting in his audience believed in evolution and other finds of science that might contradict their religious beliefs. That would have been an interesting question.
Finally, I do have some religious back ground, and I was surprised that the man receiving the bone marrow equated his experience to Christ's crucifixion and resurrection. Christ was crucified on a Friday evening and rose on a Sunday morning. Two days - 48 hours. Sunday is the third day if you count Friday as the first, but not three days later. As I understood the recipients math, he counted April 20th to the 23rd as his period of "resurrection". By my count he's off by a day.

Jan. 16 2018 01:07 PM
Michael Morphis from NYC

Lamest radiolab ever. Could have done a something just on bone marrow that would have spun circles around that.

Jan. 15 2018 09:05 PM
The Truth from Yo house

YET ANOTHER story in the media about how backwards Christians are, and how cool, smart, and intelligent atheists are.
The same old tired story.
I'm tired of it.

Jan. 15 2018 07:54 PM
Sherry from Florida

I was very disappointed in this story. I thought it would be about BONE MARROW DONOR and RECIPIENT, not what we heard from the egotistical recipient who I think missed the whole point and thought the whole world wanted to hear about how religious and great he is, etc. Secondly, as a volunteer who tirelessly goes out searching for a donor for my 9 y/o grandchild who needs a life-saving transplant, your comments were not appreciated. Per the host' comment, they do not "jab a giant needle in the center of your bone and suck out marrow"! In that type of donation, the patient is put to sleep and feels nothing during the process! We work very hard to dispel the notion that it's horribly painful for the donor. The process is explained thoroughly to any donor, but not in the exaggerated terms used by you and your donor. In the most common donation process an IV is placed into each arm (like what is used when you donate plasma). Yes they withdraw some blood, the amount depends on the size of the recipient and while that takes place the donor rests comfortably in a chair or bed, can watch TV or read or just rest. They do not suck out all your blood and take what they want and then give back what they don't want, as stated by the donor in the interview. They extract several ounces, filter out the needed cells and return the blood to your body. Those who are horrified about about getting stuck with needles and a little discomfort during the donation process and possibly mild discomfort for a few days should realize what a recipient patient goes through. Most are critically ill and a transplant is their only hope of survival. They are usually hospitalized for a long, long time, have exhausted all other treatments and hope and most have gone through chemo and/or radiation, tests, biopsies,surgeries, etc,. Much more than the discomfort a donor experiences. Think about patients (many, many of whom are children) and what they go through and have a little compassion---they just want a chance to live! I was so hopeful when I heard this program would air that you would talk about the good things about being a donor (and of course a recipient), not hear about the recipient's ego, religions beliefs,card playing, etc. I admit, I didn't listen to the whole telecast...I was disappointed and turned it off. Thank you to the donor for giving a stranger a chance at life, but please, think about what you say and how you say it and how you could discourage another donor if you only talk about the negative aspects of donation and describe it in unrealisting terms.

Jan. 15 2018 07:30 PM
George D from only habitable planet

" I think the idea of humility and, as Jim might even say grace, is absolutely essential, no matter your tenets of belief. And that’s really what’s going to get you through conflict…" Jennell Jenney. Thanks, RL, for facilitating another fascinating conversation.
I dig Soren's comment, "So this was rock music and good deeds brought together."
Listener comments remind me of the story of the Tower of Babel.
How fortunate are we, to have this resource?
Thanks, Radiolab.

Jan. 15 2018 06:16 PM
Andy from MA

Jim’s supposed Christianity was the ultimate Gob Bluth level narcissism. Bad things happen and he can’t impose a logical narrative, so there is no god. Then a good thing happens to him, and he is able to project a magical narrative on to his experience, and suddenly god is real and amazing. Either way, Jim is at the center of the narrative.

Jan. 15 2018 02:21 PM
tldr from whoville

What's not mentioned in this story regarding good & evil, the idea of a grand 'card dealer' (aside from the fact that however he does the magician is creating an illusion and/or stacking the deck) is the nature of the disease & the cure:

Was the cancer 'evil' or a medical disease, and what of the unsung researchers who developed the immune therapy itself, which was hardly some divine intervention but took rigorous scientific method by generations of investigation, experimentation & labwork?

They, as well as the workers who procured, databased & arranged the match played pivotal roles in this.

This act of altruism & the deliverance from certain death hardly happened by a single stroke of a divine wand or ordained set of events, many hands & lives were devoted to having enabled this match & cure.

Jan. 15 2018 02:17 PM
Jessie Lee from San Diego, CA

I stumbled upon this story during my daily commute and immediately connected to it, for one, Jim in the story received his transplant on my birthday; and for another, I was a PBSC donor just like Jenelle:
I haphazardly registered via the A3M/BeTheMatch booth at a crowded street fair back in early 2007; got matched and donated in 2012 right when I lost my job; and in late 2014, had the extraordinary experience of meeting my recipient, who did not match with any of her relatives nor anyone else in the international registry; but, like me, happened to also live in the Southern California region. She is very religious while I am mostly Atheist. We can both agree on the marvels of modern medicine and her amazing compassionate doctors who propelled this transplant that saved her life. I don’t seem to hear many stories about marrow donating in the media, so I appreciated this personally relatable story, and would love to find a way to advocate for more donors, too. My own experience has shown me that: Life is very precarious; embracing science and its advancements is more important than ever before in this truth-distorting political climate that we are in now; and that sometimes, life offers us opportunities to be a part of some astounding effects, so long as we recognize them just by the sheer willingness and empathy that comes from within.

Jan. 15 2018 01:02 PM
Shankar Arigela from Bellevue, WA

I heard the enthusiastic voice Jenelle just about to step out from my car in my car in Fred Meyer parking lot. But stayed in and got out only after the story is complete :).

Thanks to Jenelle & Jim for coming forward to this story. They both share one thing - There isn't anything that is right or wrong. If the everyone realizes this, the world would be a better place for all to live.

I read some comments written who are taking sides on this. This shows the immaturity that still exists and people don't yet get the point being conveyed by this story. You believe in god - God guide one to help all people. If you don't believe, agree that GOOD human guide/help all others. There isn't a difference between GOD or GOOD.
For me Jim & Janelle are Good/Gods (whatever one chooses) because they are the greater force driving all others to help the world in their own way.

I'll end here & register myself as a Donor. Thanks Janelle & Jim!

Jan. 15 2018 12:23 PM
Maggie Milne from Fort Wayne, IN

Thoroughly enjoyed this! I enjoy each Radio Lab hour I listen to on WBOI.

Jan. 15 2018 11:20 AM
MC from Maryland

I'd like to sharpen a point that was made in the show and by several commenters already. Early on, both Jim and Janelle thought the 1 in 8 million chance of a match meant that the odds for survival are 7,999,999:1 against. Those odds are so poor that people can be forgiven for believing that this requires a supernatural explanation. But it's incorrect; Jim's chances of survival were always better than 50:50 given modern technology and the current pool of marrow donors. No supernatural explanation is needed. Now that Jim knows that, it's unethical for him to continue to play on people's innumeracy to make the misleading argument for religion.

I give credit to Janelle. She's trying to do a truly good and selfless deed -- get people to sign up as bone marrow donors in order to make this world a better place -- despite being used as a pawn in somebody else's game. Good on her, but shame on Jim.

Jan. 15 2018 10:39 AM
J.C. from Atlanta

The devil is in the details.

Jim made a self-serving choice as to how he allowed Jennell to tell her story. He minimized her presence to a small group of people that were far away from his core audience. He may say that it is not his place to judge, but he judged her story as something that would take away from his show. He really did not see that there was an equal place in God's grace for Jennell. As someone that Jim agreed was GOOD (underlined), he judged that since Jennell was not a believer she had no place in his show other than to serve his agenda. This is the ultimate act of narcissism and hubris. Think about it: Do you think Jim would have allowed Jennell, the person who saved his life, a more prominent place in his show if she were a Christian and could further his message? Defnitely yes and worthy of a voice! Think about it: Do you think Jim would have said that he was the one who made the choice that Jennell would be the one to save his life? I think his answer would be that it was God's choice that Jennell came in to his life on and it was on God's terms. But now that his life has been saved, Jim makes the choice as to how to use Jennell, which, unless she has complete free choice as to how to be present, is merely as a prop for Jim's agenda. Why not let his audience see Jennell as Jennell? Because, unless she is a Christian, Jennell is unworthy in Jim's true kindom and can only be allowed a special place in Radiolab pergatory.

As Jim says, there is the dirt that makes things grow. But there is also the dirt that Jim will not allow to sully his self-serving message with his adulating crowd and $ponsors. I would say that because of his reluctance to bring Jennell's story into full light, he does really think of her as the latter definition of dirt.

Indeed, he is such a skilled magician that perhaps, along with everyone else, he even has himself fooled. The only evil out there is our inescapable penchant for objectifying our brother's and sister's, and some even do it in Jesus' name.

Jan. 15 2018 08:37 AM
Twincbs from San Francisco

Beautiful story! No matter your religious affiliation or Non- affiliation,...I was so moved by Janelle's decision to be a bone marrow donor. Cancer intertwined these 2 beautiful people and cancer didn't win!!! Am so thankful for BeTheMatch and the database that exists because of people like Janelle! Signed up after listening to your podcast.

Jan. 14 2018 10:19 PM
M from MN

the media can unite as well as divide

Jan. 14 2018 06:26 PM
Sharon Alexander from Torrance, Calif

I think you all missed the mark in your attempts to tell the marrow donor’s point of view. The issue when you attribute a miracle to Jesus or any other religious belief is that you imply that deserving people get helped. The implication is thus that those who don’t receive the miracle are less deserving. That is what made the donor uncomfortable but she could not articulate it, and your team didn’t help. Sorry. You blew it.

Jan. 14 2018 04:47 PM
Andy O

I guess it's a nice story of how people with different viewpoints can get along. But still a departure from being science-based. I can appreciate someone like Jim getting emotionally wrapped up in an ordeal like that and it's resolution. But extremely low odds don't equate with impossible, lots of momentary combinations are highly unlikely to ever occur again, and using the Biblical story as a sort of proof-by-proxy doesn't fit well with a scientific approach. If the scribes (or the interpreters of their work) got the details wrong, I'm assuming things wouldn't seem as impressive.

A mostly emotionally intriguing human interest story (as we see every five minutes in fully commercial media), yes. But not very scientific, for those looking to stimulate other parts of the brain.

Jan. 14 2018 04:35 PM
Aaron King from Ohio

Jim and his statement adopt not judging is spot on and more Christians need to keep in mind.

Jan. 14 2018 02:58 PM
Brenda S Wills from Greenfield, Indiana listening to KLCC from OR

OUTSTANDING story on Bone Marrow and MAZE and Honoring the Atheist perspective. I am a Progressive retired clergy and got a little uncomfortable as you told JIM's evangelism story, and worried that JEN would be "converted" but then you helped her tell her story with power and integrity and your story concluded --- in my view --- honoring both the religious/Christian perspective AND the athiest/humanistic perspective. WELL DONE

Jan. 14 2018 02:09 PM
Rick Ellis from Coppell TX

Great show today! I loved the way that you showed how Christians should (and many do) act toward people of different beliefs. Jim is is not his to judge. And Janell showed that love and generosity is a trait of many humans, not simply the faith-based believers.
Most moving was the love these two have for one another despite radically different eternal life views. Why can't we behave this way with our politics!

Jan. 14 2018 02:08 PM

I was truly disappointed in today's program. if i wanted to listen to a religious program i would have tuned to one. Unfortunately a follow up with the many unsuccessful donor recipients would not be feasible, a good friend of mine being among them.

Jan. 14 2018 11:46 AM
Phievalon from Washougal WA

Thank you for a thoughtful and sincere piece that honestly conveys the stories of such diverse humanity with the intact complexity of differing perspectives. Its real and it's good and it's productive. So nice to see how, regardless of perspective or beliefs, good is coming from the kindness and efforts of the ones who lived through this experience and who now share this unique relationship. Such stories are enjoyable because they are human.

As an entertained admirer of the apparently unconsciously smuggled god-of-the-gaps faith so inherent to a modern militant atheism, I find this piece particularly refreshing. I often wonder if these bitter atheists who must derisively comment on every religious article they cross even recognize their own hypocritical bias; "We find no physical evidence of a spiritual being um...Science!" They fill the gaping hole in their intentional incomprehension of an immaterial aspect or dimension to ultimate reality with immaterial concepts supporting immaterial conclusions from an immaterial philosophy in an immaterial mind that only material reality that can be physically test can ever be trusted. The obvious goodness and sincerity of this piece, along with the results these people are having in the lives of others as a by product of their own lives is inspiring and must really bother them. So silly.

Great programming!

Jan. 14 2018 10:54 AM
Bill Kurland from NY

The problem I have with stories like this with 'kumbaya' endings is that, in all humility, there either is a supreme being or there is not. The main problem is that scientific inquiry can not speak to the supernatural because it is premised on the idea that the observable, natural world can be known and understood; it has nothing to say about the supernatural. That means science can not prove there is or is not a god. But only one of those premises can be true. And science can make every orthodox religion I know about sound somewhat silly.

I think this helps explain why so many people move away from traditional orthodoxies and create for themselves a faith system that makes more sense. But these systems, to the extent they make claims about the natural world, are just as vulnerable to rigorous scientific examination. Faith really has no use for mundane facts; it is only when it is confronted by a culture dominated by rational scientific argument that it clothes itself it the language of science.

And, at the risk of being pedantic, my dictionary says humility comes from the Latin word humilis meaning low, lowly, small, insignificant. No dirt involved. I mention it because it is a good example of how the religious world view often sees connections where none exist. Besides, metaphor is not evidence.

Faith can be a very powerful force for coping with a seemingly hostile universe, but it's origins are in a dark past where human beings were overwhelmed by the incomprehensible. Today,sadly, faith often works to obscure and obstruct more reasoned and effective solutions to our problems.

Jan. 14 2018 04:01 AM
Jane Asher from Bar Harbor, Maine

As a person of deeply held Christian beliefs for many years, I found this episode very compelling, interesting, and, well, wonderful. Thank you, Radio Lab! I was hanging on every word.

In a world that feels increasingly hostile and derisive toward Christian beliefs (as evidenced in so many of the comments already posted here), it was refreshing to hear a story that, in my opinion at least, gave my faith a fair hearing. Someone said "Jesus" on NPR, and it wasn't to swear. Honestly, I was so pleasantly surprised by this whole episode.

I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop toward the end-- you know, a segment where we find out the Christian is a fraud or acts like a jerk, and we're "allowed" to dislike and criticize him and reinforce our contempt for Christianity in particular and faith in general, but I didn't have that feeling at the end. I felt that the listener could like both the Christian and the atheist, whatever his or her own personal beliefs may be.

I know this should be the rule and not the exception, but I think as a society we are getting worse and worse at "agreeing to disagree" and "disagreeing without being disagreeable." Many of the comments posted here mentioned the perceived lack of a point or an arc to this story, but this, to me-- the idea of deeply disagreeing about a topic as big and defining as one's faith, and remaining friendly and respectful-- is the point. In our current age of biting, razor-sharp social media posts that come at the speed of light, it's something we desperately need to see modeled, as Jim and Jennell did so well.

I say "Well done, Radio Lab," and, "More, please."

Jan. 13 2018 11:58 PM

I stumbled upon this piece while I was driving today and was riveted, for so many reasons. One was how refreshing it is to hear of two people being able to respect and genuinely care for each other while at the same time being candid about their differing and deeply held perspectives. This is clearly hard for some people to handle. But as someone who has grown so weary of the scathing antagonism between people of faith and non-believers, my heart was encouraged, enlivened and challenged. Bill and Jenelle, you guys inspire me. Thank you for sharing your story.

Jan. 13 2018 10:51 PM

This was an interesting, heartwarming, and thought provoking piece. I enjoyed listening. I did wonder about one thing: why did the host not challenge the erroneous "date math" of referring to the 20th to the 23rd being on "the third day?" Clearly Christian date math counts the first day as the date of the initial event: Easter Friday, Saturday of nothing much, Palm Sunday on the "third" day. Using this method of counting days the 20th to the 23rd is clearly the fourth day.

Jan. 13 2018 08:37 PM
RJ from Illinois

This episode brings to mind a story I read recently, which is something like this: (I am not Jewish, and I don't know if it is important that the story uses Judaism, but this is as I remember it...)

A young man asked his Rabbi why an all powerful God would allow atheists to exist. The Rabbi responded, "To keep people of faith humble."

When the young man did not understand this answer, the Rabbi continued, "A person of faith may do good deeds with the notion that this will ease the transition to the "world to come" but an atheist has no such expectations. An atheist does good deeds because they are the right thing to do."

Whatever the motivation, Jim and Janelle are doing a lot of good. I enjoyed the episode, and the thinking it inspired.

Jan. 13 2018 08:25 PM
Chris from New Jersey

An excellent and thought-provoking piece. I am fascinated by the comments on this episode, and see that the commenters raise many interesting points. To those who wonder what this episode has to do with science and math, etc., I think the answer is at the end, in which everyone seems to agree that there is an element of contingency in any interpretation of the sequence of events and ultimately a sense of humbleness is part of an honest appraisal of anyone’s storytelling that leads to an attribution of meaning to the sequence of events involving Janelle and Jim. That sense of humbleness and that recognition of contingency are key elements of any legitimate scientific inquiry, but also of any honest spiritual journey. Thanks to Janelle, Jim, and Radiolab for presenting their stories in a respectful, and even loving, way.

Jan. 13 2018 08:08 PM
Paul Mazur from Northport, Maine

This episode is reminiscent of Loren Eisley's essay, "The Star Thrower".
The young man who tossed beached starfish back out to sea, when confronted that saving one, or a few, could make little difference to all the many others who were beached at the same time, hurled another out over the waves, saying, "It made a difference to that one."

Jan. 13 2018 07:46 PM
C from New Hampshire

I'd like to know what Ann from Virginia would like to know. Why does Jim think he was saved while others have not been saved? My beautiful, worthy husband was not so lucky. A bone marrow match was never found for him, and he eventually succumbed to the lymphoma that destroyed his body. However, the cancer could not destroy his deep love of life, his love for his two daughters and his love for me. It never destroyed his intense will to live. He was young, and not ready to die. He fought vigorously to stay alive. People have asked me if I believe things happen for a reason and I find that question disturbing. For example, does Jim think he had a more important reason to live than my husband did? What good reason would there be for a man, like my husband, to be torn away from his children just as they were entering their young adult lives and possibly needed him most? My husband was an excellent, loving father and his daughters and I miss him daily. We have lost so much. I guess it gives some people comfort to believe that people suffer and die as part of an overall plan. But this belief does not take away intense pain. It hurts when people suggest that some lives were saved for some greater, unknown reason, or even that some people won their battle against cancer because they fought harder. It's like rubbing salt in a deep wound. Are they actually suggesting that other lives are worth sacrificing for some reason? How about innocent children who lose their lives? That idea is insulting to me since nothing can justify the fact that my children lost their beloved dad, I lost my best friend, and he lost a life worth living. I get strength from realizing his gifts to us will never die, not from some possibility that his death was part of an overall plan. Cancer happens, and sometimes life just isn't fair.

Jan. 13 2018 06:23 PM
eoline from Missouri

Jim feels like his life was saved by grace. Jenelle feels uncomfortable with Jim's definition of grace, i.e. "proof" that Jesus saved his life.
Reconsider your definition of grace.
Sri Ramakrishna said, "The breeze of God's grace is always blowing. Hoist your sail to catch the breeze."
Jenelle relates to the random, scientific aspect of the lottery of grace: "I'm donating this marrow hoping that someone might live, but equally, they might die." Jim relates to the personal, chosen, devotional and desirous aspect of grace therefore he feels compelled to state a reason for his luck.
But both Janelle and Jim had to exercise self-effort. Jenelle donated and Jim prayed—and lived, which takes some effort.
Together they hoisted a sail and caught a breeze.
Just call it grace. It doesn't have to have a Christian label or even a God label.

Jan. 13 2018 05:29 PM
Nick from Pittsburgh, PA

Thanks for sharing the website to join the registry. It went quick at the end so I thought it wouldn't hurt to post it here again:

I just registered, it was very easy. Maybe I'll help someone, too. Thanks again!

Jan. 13 2018 05:16 PM
David Marcello from Milwaukee , Wisconsin

A great story and we all learn from stories whether they be real or false.

Jim experienced a 1 in 8 million life saving match that we can marvel at.

Is it possible that scientists and medical providers are doing God's work irrespective of whether the individuals involved are aware of it? Yes is an expression of faith while not sure is not necessarily a rejection of the idea. No is another answer. Interesting how people of faith are denied the good will by some of these comments to express
that faith.

The bias against christians was evident in the way radio lab tried to put Jim and by extension all people of faith in the interview's bias box. My Muslim friends and I are more similar than we are different because of our faith in God.
God is a loving and merciful father no matter what we small and humble people believe or don't believe.

In the end God is not religion. Jim and Jannelle are amazing people who resist the urge to be right. Unlike the arrogant amount us. Jim is a transformed person. He testifies this transformation was not of his doing but something which was at work in him. If you want to discover something truly amazing, turn off the noise and look inside yourself.

You can deny God is present, but you cannot deny the miracle of the human body.

in Love with the infinite spirit of God.

Jan. 13 2018 04:16 PM

I had just finished reading Jonathan Haidt's "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion" when I listened to Jennell and Jim's story. For the first time in a long time I have some hope that we might respectfully get along despite our differences.

Jan. 13 2018 04:13 PM
Jan from Ohio

As an atheist myself, I am pleased that Janelle was clear about her views, and held firm, rather than feeling pressured to back down. I also give credit to Jim for his comments about not judging non-believers. Sadly, too often people use religion to justify hate and violence.

Jan. 13 2018 04:11 PM
Scott from Greensboro N C

Surprised no one raised the Biblical arithmetic issue. Jesus died on the first day ( Good Friday ) and was reborn on Easter Sunday on the third day. Thus TWO days ( 40 hours ) . The Christian magician by Biblical arithmetic was reborn on the Fourth day - April 20-23.

Jan. 13 2018 01:55 PM
Richard from New York City

I spent much of the show, thinking, then speaking out loud, several times: "If they are a 1-in-8-million match, how are they related?" I kept waiting for that shoe to drop in the narrative. I must agree with the comment from Randolph W. Lievertz, M.D. from Indianapolis, Indiana: HOW ARE THESE PEOPLE RELATED?? CHECK THEIR DNA !!

Jan. 13 2018 01:21 PM
Jay Ray from Earth

Civilly, Tying a fictional deity to a real scientific, medical process is insulting to everyone's intelligence.

Jan. 13 2018 12:27 PM
Randolph W. Lievertz, M.D. from Indianapolis, Indiana - WFYI-FM

Considering the good bone marrow match and the similar phenotypes, blonde & blue eyed etc., the excellent outcome, and the easy rapid DNA analysis available, were DNA Analyses, both nuclear & mitochondrial, done to determine if there was a close relationship between these 2 individuals such as one or more common ancestors ? If so, how much separation was there between them ? Has this changed the relationship between Jim & his wife changed with the addition of Jenelle to their relationship ?

Jan. 13 2018 12:03 AM
John Jacobson from Brandon, Manitoba Canada

I admire how you put the Jigsaws of your story into place... it's in there as one of good examples of American Storytelling... and very riveting. Radio is recovering a lot of what Facebook has eroded but desperately and dearly needs. It pulls at me for calming the fear of the rapid disappearance of human qualities: Consideration. I have several stories pushing at me for a way out that have been danced into life through listening to Jim & Genaille.

Jan. 12 2018 01:07 AM
Bon from Melbourne

This Ep left me feeling alienated as a listener. What was the goal of this episode? I think time to unsubscribe until you find your way back to more relevant, interesting content, not mediating a story with an unclear intention.

Jan. 12 2018 01:02 AM
Ann from Virginia

Dear Radio Lab,

Next time a Christian says "It's not my place to judge," please call them on that crap. The follow-up question is "What does your religion teach happens to non-believers?"

"It's not my place to judge" is a prevaricating response meant to cover up the fact that they think atheists are going to hell--however they define it.

But the numbers who attended the events show how easy it is to awe people who believe in miracles. And, like others, I want to know why Jim thinks he got saved and countless others didn't.

I despise delusions.

Jan. 11 2018 08:07 PM
Just from Amsterdam

Loved the show. Jennell seems absurdly courageous and kind!

Question: would anybody like to be put in a metaphysical savior role to be shown to the masses? I would feel quite uncomfortable with that. Could this also explain her growing discomfort?

Jan. 11 2018 02:26 PM
John from US

You guys are low on ideas, aren't you?

Jan. 11 2018 10:12 AM
Gary from California

I've seen Jim's show, and I was a marrow donor. I really enjoyed this deeper insight into the thoughts and feelings of a transplant donor & recipient. I'm not Christian, but I understand's their feelings.

Jan. 08 2018 10:37 PM
Dena Larsen from Washington

I just watched Dave Chappelle's latest Netflix special and he talked about the reasons he left showbiz. He discussed this book called "pimp" from the 40's, written by a real pimp, supposedly. According to this guy, the best way to keep a woman working for you is to beat the hell out of her, then offer her an aspirin and a warm tub to make her feel better.

It occurred to me listening to this story that that is exactly what God did to Jim, first giving him the cancer, then curing him of it.

Jan. 08 2018 07:15 PM
Wendy Carlisle from Sydney, Australia

Bravo Radio Lab!
What a terrific piece about probability and god and what you take from it all. I just loved this. the mastery and craft in the story telling and the sheer humanity and respect. The way you guys introduced the killer questions at the end was beautiful and can I say again, full of respect.

Jan. 03 2018 05:49 AM
scott from nz

Did Jim ever explain why God gave him cancer in the first place? Or why there are millions of kids who die of cancer every year who God decides not to save?

Jan. 02 2018 03:54 AM
Jesse from Raleigh, NC

You guys need to put a disclaimer on what appears to be a science piece that gets twisted into religious propaganda. Bait and switch: religious brainwashing 101.

Dec. 25 2017 04:55 PM
kristinalab from nashville, tennessee

As a Northeast transplant to Nashville, I was not surprised at the Christian perspective from Jim in Texas. If it were me giving new life to Jim through a bone marrow transplant, I would have a problem with the exploitation of the donation to reinforce and publically promote his belief in god. It muddied up the purity of Jenelle's action and demanded that she justify her point-of-view. This was unnecessary and made me mad. A thank you would have been sufficient.

Dec. 15 2017 07:52 PM
Jes from London

Jennell, what you did and continue to do us profound. I don’t want to shake anyone’s faith because sometime people need it. I am not religious but I grew up around some very strong Christians. I think it can be a little frustrating when God or religion becomes the reason for all things and all good. I think you might have felt a bit like an imposter because you’re validating beliefs you don’t agree with yourself, but just because those individuals have a different perspective does mean it’s the right one or the only one. I think the perspective you have, and what is probably shared by so many RL listeners is that your act - human kindness - can be the end all be all too. Those two perspectives don’t have to be in conflict for me, I know for some religious individuals they will have to be in conflict. That dogmatism has unfortunately brought about a lot of pain too. I think your human kindness, and continued kindness in joining these shows and allowing the beliefs of others, in order to encourage more individuals to sign up, is all the inspiration I need. Thank you.

Dec. 15 2017 08:17 AM
Dan from North Carolina

I'm hooked on Radiolab!Great work on this story!

Dec. 14 2017 11:47 AM
Jim from Australia

I’ve listened to dozens and dozens of episodes of radio lab and have always thought it did a fantastic job of popularising/communicating stories of science, fact and reason. While the story was very touching and raised awareness for an excellent cause, this episode has done a disservice to those who support the show and it’s purpose.

Dec. 13 2017 04:25 AM
Guhen from Back of your mind

Save Jenelle.

Dec. 13 2017 03:54 AM
john seegers from Anderson, SC

First time I have ever been disappointed in a RL story!

Considering I have been listening for something like 10 years I guess I can let one slide...

Get back to science please - let's leave the fairy tale stuff where it belongs.

Dec. 11 2017 07:15 PM
Charles from Brooklyn NY

I have a suggestion for Jennell. All respect and love for you and Jim -- for what you've done, and what you continue to do to expand the bone marrow registry. I don't ever want to undermine that. But Jennell, you are also a spokesperson for good Americans who are not Christian. You are a literal representative not of the savior but of the fact that someone who is non-Christian -- even agnostic -- can be a good and moral person. One of the arguments from some people of faith is that without religion people have no morals. People won't know right from wrong. If you and Jim are ever involved in future events like the podcast that followed one of his shows (on this podcast), you might point this out. I was also a bit disappointed that RadioLab didn't address it.

Dec. 03 2017 04:40 PM
Sachi R Pollard from Brooklyn

YAY for not dying because of kind people! This story inspired me to register to become a Bone Marrow Donor. I sent back the cheek swab yesterday :) Thanks Radiolab. I love you, guys!

Dec. 02 2017 06:07 PM

I must agree with commenters who found Jim to be self-centered and arrogant, not just because he equates his personal story with proof of God (not to mention that focusing on his donor as a savior minimizes the efforts done by medical professionals to perform the procedures successfully) but because how he makes so little room for Janelle to live her truth/reality. She clearly and painfully has to minimize her experiences to make way for his. He railroads over her, a so-called friend that he views as unable to do wrong. Even as he said he didn't judge her, couldn't judge her, it rubbed me wrong. The words sound kind, but something in his tone wasn't. I felt so bad for Janelle.

Janelle is a bigger, stronger person than I could be in this situation, perhaps because she focuses on the bigger picture of using these events to save more lives. And that's laudable, absolutely. I lost a sister to a blood cancer, so maybe I could do the same to encourage more matches.

Clearly, this episode affected many people in myriad ways. Interesting that it also fell so flat for some. It certainly could have ended more satisfactorily, but that's on Jim.

Dec. 01 2017 10:13 AM
Faith from Vermont

PS -- Jim's observation that our desire to be right gets in the way of our ability to be in the world in a healthy way is an observation of extraordinary wisdom. I will be meditating on that for some time to come.

Nov. 30 2017 06:25 PM
Faith from Vermont

As a writer whose work often deals with the intersection and conflict between science and faith, I really appreciated this episode.

As a human being, I appreciated Jim's apology for the way too many Christians appoint themselves as judges of others. He's a class act.

As to the dilemma that Jenelle feels she has, I don't think whether or not she believes makes any difference. Everyone gets to interpret the story through their own worldview. As someone in the show said (Jim, I think), it is what it is.

Thank you for a great show.

Nov. 30 2017 06:19 PM

I am an analytical chemist and a pastor. In this day and time that may seem like an unlikely combination, but that is the reality and I have been doing both for over 20 years. I am also a fan of Radiolab. I appreciate the stories you tell, and this one was another one that was well done. It goes to show that when we do not objectify in order to dehumanize people we can still love each other in the midst of serious disagreement and differences in worldview. It is a timely reminder and one would only hope world leaders might take note.

I also find it very interesting to read the comments of so many who seemingly have missed the point. The reason they didn't press Jim on resolving how he can believe in a God yet love this woman who doesn't believe in God was that being right was not the most important thing...being at peace was. I wonder why the intellectual polytheists and atheists find it so easy to immediately associate every Christian with the terrible examples in order to objectify and dehumanize so that they might justify their rightness. I'm sure some of you have already questioned the quality of my degrees and of the value of my scientific capabilities in order to disqualify my opinion. Be honest. I used to do the same thing.

As a scientist, I can see that it is quite possible that this is a random event. I also believe that the fact that it is calculable at all is of God. As a Christian, of the evangelical sort, I would argue that God used this random event to crystallize the faith of Jim, and perhaps has caused Jennell to question hers. And I also think it might be possible that God orchestrated portions or even all of it for purposes still unknown, that go beyond Jim or Jenell. He, at least, is not surprised by any of it.

Nov. 29 2017 09:30 AM

It never ceases to amaze me how humans take the coincidental and turn it into "faith". From the dawn of time when the shaman claims that it didn't rain because you didn't pray hard enough... it seems to never end.

Nov. 29 2017 08:32 AM
Mickey Jones from NH

Content aside, this was an excellent production effort by the Radiolab team. The flow of the piece was artful, the story segments compelled the listener to the next seamlessly and the wrap up was perfect for the topic. Well done.

As for the content, this story make a profound statement about the way the faithful and non-faithful can, and should, interact. As an atheist, it demonstrates far better than I could ever say a way to deal with the stress that all relationships with the faithful seem to generate. Both Janelle and Jim are to be commended for the strength of their personal beliefs, and their willingness to respect the others view without a requirement to “buy in”.

Nov. 29 2017 06:59 AM
Bret Gum

I have been a listener of RadioLab for years, and this episode struck a chord with me like no other. It masterfully tackled the conundrum of religion vs. atheism without being heavy-handed and/or choosing sides. I've shared it many times and will become a contributing member. Just fantastic.

Nov. 27 2017 04:47 PM
T. Magurk

@ Sally from Colorado

So true. My son had 58 matches on the bone marrow registry. Dr.'s picked the best 4, 3 of them said yes and came in for testing and then the best of those 3 was picked to be the donor.

Being a match means that the HLA markers on the end of your 6th chromosome are the same as someone else. Other DNA does not need to match. If you match on HLA, other factors that make the transplant more favorable are looked at like similar age, similar blood type, similar body size, and similar status of a virus called CMV (1/3 of the population has had this and if you have antibodies for it you are CMV+).

Nov. 27 2017 08:48 AM
Graham from Australia

Thanks for a great episode. Maybe there could have been some mention of they history of this medical field and them many years that doctors and scientists have perfected this treatment using the scientific method to get to this position where Jim's life could be saved. Also much credit should be given to the system which has been developed to test and match the donors and to market the idea to healthy people at the rock concert and get them to sign up. I feel a bit sad that Jim did not seem to be grateful for this.

Nov. 27 2017 01:43 AM
Dan from NYS

I felt that this was an incredibly weak episode and is the only time I can remember regretting spending my time on the podcast. This may have been a solid episode if it had been cut in half, but the entire forced nature of the "conflict" between the two friends and the forum was contrived and a waste of time. This episode felt like it was C-grade material that was used because there wasn't anything better to talk about. It reminded me of being a student when I needed to write a 10 page assignment but only had 6 pages of material, time to bring out the filler.

Nov. 27 2017 12:43 AM
Sally from Colorado

I'm afraid this entire show is based on the false premise that Janelle was the only donor on the planet that was a perfect match. HLA matching for bone marrow transplantation is not like DNA matching at a crime scene. There are many possible matches. Perhaps Janelle was the first on the list to say yes, but she was certainly not the only match in the registry. "The liklihood of finding a donor for white patients is 93%" (according to the registry). Often, a slight mismatch actually gives you a better chance at achieving a graft vs tumor effect (the donated bone marrow attacks the tumor). I like you, Radiolab, but your science stories often skip over the details for the sake of the story.

Nov. 26 2017 10:47 PM
Val from Dover, NH

I would like to really commend the Radio Lab folks for handling the on-stage discussion between Janelle and David with such grace and compassion. Poorly done, that discussion could have torn them apart. Clearly there is a lot of love between them, but few issues are more decisive and I am thankful that Radio Lab was wise enough to recognize it and killed enough to navigate safely. You were able to have the discussion and ask some very thoughtful and difficult questions, but provide them enough space to answer the questions in their own way, quite beautifully, I might add. Well done.

Nov. 26 2017 04:02 PM

After listening to Match Made in Marrow I became a monthly contributor for the first time. An extraordinary show. Thank you.

Nov. 25 2017 09:08 PM
Relativityboy from Minnesota

Listening to this podcast right now, there was a question asked of Jim "You have to love the judge that may not love the woman that saved your life." that question makes so many assumptions about Jim's beliefs and Christianity... it sounds as though you're treating christianity in the same way that the stereotypical far-right/ "redneck" folks in the USA think of Muslim beliefs.

While it might make for engaging radio, you are showing your listeners how to think about others. Sowing divisive thinking is un-cool.

The coming together message should have been stronger, and longer.

Disappointed in MN.

Nov. 25 2017 01:02 PM
Russel from Seal Beach

Hello!! I'm with Music Saves Lives. It was our Organization that signed her up.

Music Saves Lives travels across the nation with tour and our largest tour is the Vans Warped Tour. We have registered over 30,000 during the Vans Warped Tour. This is a story repeated over and over! Love to tell them all for you!

Please register. We work with DKMS and during this time we registers over 100 people a day.

Nov. 25 2017 12:25 PM
Bob R from Columbus

Belief and Unbelief

It is a 2000 year old discussion.

John 12:13

“Although Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still did not believe in Him.”

Nov. 24 2017 01:02 PM
Nick from Hong Kong

May be I’m cynical, but Jim is a really smart guy, and he is a magician. Like can’t do baseball no more, full time magician. He was an atheist before. Sure he almost died, but how easy is it for him to lie about this whole faith thing and greet all that money from the believers? Magicians are masters of deception and manipulation, I know I for one would totally be able to pull this off if I were in Jim’s shoes. But I won’t do it coz that’s too evil.

Nov. 24 2017 05:16 AM
Outis from Elsewhere

As always, nice joh RadioLab! I appreciate the opportunity you always provide to consider things from multiple perspectives, thereby giving me another opportunity to consider and challenge my own perspectives.

I am agnostic; I don't know.

One of the things that stood out to me is that, from a certain perspective, her atheism--the fact that she wasn't doing this based on dogma, or to throw a few more cents on the get out of "Hell" scale--bolstered my hope for humanity. Rather than hoping for divine intervention, she took action to foster the kind of world she wants, here, now. Not trying to leverage what she thought might happen after life. She took responsibility and followed through. One can argue from a perspective of faith and say that "god" used her and she was just a tool, or from a philosophical, psychological, and perhaps biological perspective and say that she had no free-will, etc., but the bottom line is that she did it. We could get lost in the arguments of context, but still, she did it, without expectation of any benefit to herself. If I were a Christian (which I used to be), her act would make the whole thing all the more remarkable, and all the more faith affirming.

And his personal story aside--his personal life aside--what has been the outcome? Her act, and his testimony of it, has inspired perhaps hundreds of people also to take action--for whatever reason--that may benefit others.

I rather doubt this will ever be read by anyone, but I thought I'd put this though out there.

Now, back to prepping the ingredients for a Thanksgiving apple pie!

Nov. 22 2017 08:03 PM
Vlad from Montreal

Three comments:
1) Is this the first and only time someone saved the life of another person through this procedure? Why did Radiolab omit going down this rabbit hole?

2) As pointed out in prior comments, during the forum the producers are trying to spark a conflict between faith and atheism, only to be let down by the anti-climactic agreeable nature of the protagonists.

3) I am left with the overall impression that people of faith expect atheists to convert, but not vice versa. This is what I am taking away from this episode. Thank you.

Nov. 22 2017 06:20 PM
Steve Rein from Coastal California ... I can see the ocean from my house!

I am surprised at how negative some of the comments here are.

I would have hoped that RadioLab listeners wouldn't be so judgmental.

The presumption that God doesn't act through people who don't claim belief in Him is an interesting ... but clearly ... common assumption. I just don't understand it.

But ... whatever ... please, if you feel the need to criticize another person's point of view, at least do it graciously and in full awareness that we all make mistakes ...

Nov. 22 2017 09:14 AM
Tobi from New Zealand

Amazing story. Two truly lovely people Janelle & Jim. As an atheist myself, Janelle you are my hero (I'd love to send you a Dallas Cowboy's hat and some pizza!) All the best to all.

Nov. 21 2017 08:38 PM
Eldad from Vancouver

Listening to Jim and his belief I am amazed of how self center he is. The idea that god exists is based on HIS experience.

How many Sirian kids have died from gas poisoning in the last year? How much suffering is out there for Jim to ignore and look at the whole world only from his point of view?

If god saved him but refused to save everyone else, what does it say about god?

Nov. 21 2017 08:24 PM
Adrian X from UK

It's a story, that's all. You don't need to believe in god, just listen to the story and take out of it what sticks with you. Why so but hurt?

I enjoyed it, don't need to believe in god or anything.

Nov. 21 2017 05:30 PM
Sharo Addis from Phone

How do I get this crap off my phone?????

Nov. 21 2017 01:56 PM
Brian from San Francisco

I've never been more annoyed by a RadioLab story! It strikes me as incredibly arrogant and self-absorbed to assume that because your life was saved, you must have been touched by the HAND OF GOD! It's a miracle! No. No, it's not. You were saved because thousands and thousands of scientists working for centuries have built up a body of knowledge and technique that created a cure for a dreadful disease. You benefited from that, but the only thanks you give are to an invisible paleolithic sky god. Honestly, Jad and Robert, I would have expected you to at least raise the issue! While I'm glad you at least pointed out how virtually *everyone* has a mistaken idea how probability mathematics work, I really wish you had taken the opportunity to point out that medical science is the very *opposite* of a miracle. It's bloody difficult, painstaking, and mostly thankless work done by countless people who's efforts are rarely lauded. And no, I'm not a scientist, but I certainly admire those who are.

Nov. 21 2017 01:06 PM

Who best displayed Christ-like ideallic behavior. The Christian or the Athiest?

Nov. 21 2017 12:08 PM
Jo Find from Dallas

So if this had been a Muslim magician from Michigan would you have aired this show? Why did you feel the need to tell Janelle that the joke was on her because she saved a Christian from Texas. Maybe this story would have been different if she had been the one that was about to die. There are no atheists in foxholes.

Nov. 21 2017 12:23 AM
Robert from Alaska

Egads, that "forum" part was tedious. Krulwich seemed hell-bent on forcing a confrontation that didn't exist.

And then you actually had to say, "We thought there would be more of an edge to this."

Why? Two people shared a close experience, and you thought you'd pull them apart by putting them into a tense situation. I think both Christians and atheists can agree: That's a lousy thing to do.

Nov. 21 2017 12:18 AM
T. Magurk from Ohio

I am the parent of 14 year old who just got a bone marrow transplant about 6 months ago. I haven't listened to the episode, mostly because the description alone already has me angry. If my son's donor acted the way she does and brought religion into it - I would be livid. How dare Jennell promote religion when Jim is recovering.

I was not a believer before my son got cancer, but his experience has confirmed everything I thought about god. Mainly, he isn't real, and if he is, he either can't or won't do anything to help people. Praying is nothing more than a binky that makes people feel better.

Cancer treatment for children is barbaric torture and much more intense than treatment for adults. Bone Marrow transplant is even more so. If the doctors and I had done the exact same procedures on my son and the purpose was not to heal him, it would be called a crime against humanity.

I've sat through meetings with Dr.'s talking about which procedures we should try, weighing which paths are probably least likely to kill my son. Post transplant, his GI tract was so damaged from the radiation he had to be on a morphine pump for weeks and lived off IV nutrition. He could not speak, spit, eat or swallow. He would pull out the lining of his mouth, vomit up his stomach lining while making futile efforts to unhook 8 IV"s to rush to the bathroom in time b/c the diarrhea was so bad. He is still severely immunocompromised and not able to go to school or go anywhere in public. He has permanent, very painful damage to his bones from cancer treatment and will most likely never run again. His treatments have made him sterile. He is a vastly greater risk for a secondary cancer. In a month or so he is getting a neuropsych exam to see how much of his IQ he lost with the chemo and radiation. He has been thoroughly traumatized physically and emotionally. But we are the lucky ones, he is still alive.

His treatment is not a miracle or an act of a loving god. That is science (and childhood cancer research is shamefully under funded) doing the very best it can to save our kids. Any being that could stop childhood cancer with the wave of a hand and doesn't is not loving - he's a barbarian.

Jennell did a kind and generous thing donating marrow, and I do give her credit for that. But the credit for any match, any transplant, any treatment goes to the thousands of doctors, nurses, researchers, donors and the transplant patients who suffered and died before us so that we could learn how to save my son. They are the real miracle and I will be forever grateful.

Nov. 20 2017 08:50 AM

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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