The World and Everything in It — January 14, 2020

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!

The United Methodist Church is about to split over the redefinition of marriage. But that’s not the only divisive problem within the denomination.

NICK EICHER, HOST: Also federal law guarantees family leave for new parents, but some lawmakers argue that should be paid leave. 

Plus, scientist Michael Behe explains new discoveries that show how natural selection works, but in a way that undermines Darwinian evolution.

BEHE: The helpful mutations, overwhelmingly are ones which break or degrade pre-existing genes.

And commentator Andrée Seu Peterson on really seeing the miracle all around us.

REICHARD: It’s Tuesday, January 14th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Good morning!

REICHARD: Up next, Kent Covington has the news. 

KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Iran protest reportedly turn violent » Anger swelled once again in the streets of Tehran Monday as protesters demanded that Iran’s leaders be held accountable for the accidental shootdown of a passenger jet. 

Online videos appeared to show security forces firing tear gas and live ammunition to disperse the crowds. 

AUDIO: [Sound of Iran protests]

Protesters heard there shouting that a woman had been shot. 

Demonstrators once again condemned top Iranian officials for initially claiming a mechanical problem caused the crash. The government only admitted the truth days later in the face of mounting evidence. 

Iran is being more transparent now. Canada’s Transportation Safety Board Chair Kathy Fox said Monday that Iran has invited Canadian officials to help analyze the voice and flight data recorders.

FOX: In this investigation, and I want to be clear about this, we do not yet fully know what the scope of our role will be. 

But she said Iran is being cooperative. Nearly 60 of the 176 people killed in the crash were Canadian citizens. 

U.S. expelling Saudi cadets following shooting » The United States is expelling nearly two dozen Saudi military students. That follows a Department of Justice investigation into the deadly shooting last month by a Saudi trainee at the Pensacola Naval Air Station. 

Attorney General William Barr said they did not find that any other Saudi cadets aided the shooter in his attack, but…

BARR: We did learn of derogatory material possessed by 21 members of the Saudi military who were training in the United States.  

Officials said those trainees had jihadist or anti-American sentiments on social media pages or had “contact with child pornography.” 

Barr said the evidence showed the Saudi gunman in the December 6th attack was motivated by jihadist ideology. The attacker killed three U.S. sailors and injured eight other people.

Pentagon identifies soldiers killed in Afghanistan » The Pentagon has identified two U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan on Saturday. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin reports.

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: A roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan took the lives of 29-year-old Staff Sgt. Ian P. McLaughlin of Virginia; and 21-year-old Pfc. Miguel A. Villalon of Illinois. 

The Taliban took responsibility for the attack. A spokesman for the group said the attack happened in the southern Kandahar province.

More than 2,400 U.S. service members have been killed in Afghanistan. Last year was the deadliest for American troops since 2014 with 23 U.S. casualties.

The latest attack is likely to stall fresh efforts to restart the on-again, off-again peace talks with the Taliban.

U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been pressing the insurgents to declare a cease-fire. That would give a window in which the U.S. and the Taliban could forge an agreement.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin. 

Democrats prep for debate without Sen. Booker » White House hopefuls will face off tonight for the first time in 2020. 

But on the eve of the Iowa debate, the Democratic field got a little smaller. 

BOOKER: Today I’m suspending my campaign for president with the same spirit with which it began. It is my faith in us—faith in us together as a nation. 

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker pulled the plug on his campaign after failing to qualify for tonight’s debate. Booker announced his presidential bid last February, but it never really gained traction. In the latest national average, he was polling at about 2 percent. 

Only six Democrats will be on the stage this evening. They are former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Senators Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren, and billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer. 

CNN will broadcast the debate at 9 p.m. Eastern Time.

MLB lowers boom on Astros amid cheating scandal » Major League Baseball has lowered the boom on the Houston Astros amid a major cheating scandal.

A league investigation found that the Astros electronically stole the pitch signs of opposing teams during its 2017 World Series championship run and again in 2018. And Commissioner Rob Manfred on Monday announced consequences. 

The team will pay a $5 million fine and will lose its next two first- and second-round draft picks.

MLB also suspended General Manager Jeff Luhnow and Manager A.J. Hinch for one year. Following that announcement, the Astros fired them both. 

Team owner Jim Crane told reporters that Luhnow and Hinch were not involved in devising the sign-stealing scheme. 

CRANE: It really came from the bottom up. It’s pretty clear in the report how that happened.  But neither one of them did anything about it, and that’s unfortunate. And the consequences are severe. 

The league did not punish any players involved in the scheme, but the league may still punish other coaches

CFB championship » There’s a new king of the hill in college football. Louisiana State University dethroned last year’s national champs last night—beating Clemson at the Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

No. 1 ranked LSU started slow, but finished strong.

AUDIO: [Game call]

That touchdown pass from Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow put LSU up by the final score of 42 to 25. 

The victory gave the program its third championship since 2003. And it made LSU just the second team in more than a century to go 15-0 in a season. Clemson did it in 2018.

I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: the plan to divide the United Methodist Church.

Plus, a debate over paid time off for new parents.

This is The World and Everything in It.

MARY REICHARD: It’s Tuesday, the 14th of January, 2020. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up, the United Methodist Church prepares to dis-unite.  

Earlier this month, Methodist leaders crafted a proposal to divide the denomination into separate liberal and conservative ones. It’s not a done deal—not yet—the denomination’s General Conference first has to vote on the proposal, and that’s scheduled for May. But the plan does have the backing of both liberals and conservatives, as well as the bishops, so it seems likely to pass.

REICHARD: Joining us now to talk about the proposal and what it means for the denomination’s 13 million members is Mark Tooley. He’s president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, an organization that advocates for Christian orthodoxy.

Good morning, Mark!

MARK TOOLEY, GUEST: Good to be with you.

REICHARD: The main issue cited for the split in the denomination is same-sex marriage. But are there other issues of disagreement between the conservative and liberal factions?

TOOLEY: There are many, many, many issues of disagreement within the United Methodist Church—sexuality is only the superficial reason for the impending division of the denomination. But if I had to summarize what divides the two or more sides is that the traditional side sees the church as having a chiefly transformative role—evangelizing, winning new disciples to Christ, new birth, a changed heart, a changed mind, personal holiness and sanctification. The liberal side would see the church’s role as affirming people where they are, creating an inclusive community, and working for social justice.

REICHARD: Why are the conservatives the ones forced to form a new denomination under this proposal? Didn’t they win the last vote on this issue? It seems like they hold the majority in the current denomination.

TOOLEY: Conservatives are the global majority but in the U.S. conservatives have almost no political power because liberals dominate the church hierarchy, bureaucracy, and most American clergy are liberal. The conservatives generally don’t have a lot of interest in inheriting the liberal church bureaucracy, which many see as un-reformable and financially unsustainable. Whereas liberals tend to have a much higher regard and cherish the church bureaucracy that they have controlled for so many decades. 

REICHARD: I see. Well, we’ve already noted this isn’t a done deal yet. What could change between now and General Conference in May?

TOOLEY: Well, the only growing part of the church and the part of the church that is now almost a majority is United Methodism in Africa, which is why conservatives have a global legislative majority and have been able to maintain the official teachings about sexuality because of the growth of the church in Africa. But the Africans have not yet really spoken to the issue of schism and how it might work. So how they come down will certainly have an impact on the final outcome.

REICHARD: Assuming we do see some form of split like the one laid out in this proposal, how do you think it will shake out among churches in the United States and around the world?

TOOLEY: There are close to 13 million United Methodists around the world. About half of them in the U.S. Half overseas. Of the 6.7 million in America, probably the split will cause at least a half million just to leave altogether at least. That takes us down to 6 million. Of those 6 million I would expect 2 or 2.5 million to align conservative and 4 or 3.5 million to align liberal. And, of course, the 2 million conservative American United Methodists would align with Africa, which is 5.5 million. So you may end up with a conservative denomination of 7 or 8 million Methodists. 

REICHARD: This has been described as an amicable split because congregations leaving to join a new, conservative denomination will be allowed to keep their property. But you’ve predicted the process will be “messy and often tragic.” You also wrote that “many local congregations will divide and die.” Why is that?

TOOLEY: The vast majority of United Methodist congregations are not strictly liberal or conservative. Your average congregation probably has a slight right of center majority in the congregation and its clergy are usually left of center. The clergy overall are more liberal than the laity. But I think most churches are probably 60-40 one way or the other and I imagine of over 30,000 congregations in America, probably several thousand will be so divided and a division may be so acrimonious that they will never recover. 

REICHARD: That all seems quite sad. Do you see any upside to this, at all? 

TOOLEY: Well, this should be seen by traditional Methodists as an opportunity, unique in our lifetimes, to revive Methodism in America, which has suffered continuous decline since the early 1960s and the traditional Methodist church, newly organized, will have the ability—finally—to evangelize and to replant Methodism around America. Especially in those areas where it has imploded over the last century—in the major cities, on the West Coast, and in the northeast. And so it’s a very exciting time to be a Methodist.

REICHARD: Mark Tooley is president of The Institute on Religion and Democracy and a longtime advocate for renewal in the United Methodist Church. Thanks for joining us today.

TOOLEY: My pleasure.

MARY REICHARD: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: family leave, with pay, mandated by the federal government.

NICK EICHER: We already have unpaid family leave. President Bill Clinton, back in 1993, signed into law the Family and Medical Leave Act. It entitles eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for specified reasons. Things like caring for a new baby or dealing with medical problems. Under the law, it’s illegal for employers with 50 or more workers to fire employees on leave or hire someone else to do their jobs.

REICHARD: But now there’s a push for further entitlement: that of paid leave, beyond personal or vacation days. WORLD Radio’s Sarah Schweinsberg has our story.

SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: In December, Congress passed an annual defense authorization bill. Tucked into that bill was a measure that would fund 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for the nation’s 2 million federal employees.

AUDIO: [Sound of Senator Ted Cruz reading bill’s passage]

President Trump says he will sign the measure into law. 

The provision’s passage was a big win for presidential adviser and first daughter Ivanka Trump, who has advocated extensively for paid family leave. In an interview with Face the Nation, she said the federal government needs to set an example for the private sector. 

TRUMP: Today women make up 47 percent of the workforce yet we provide the vast majority of unpaid care for children and of course adult dependence and it is not acceptable that in America today 1 in 4 women go back to work two weeks after having a child, it’s just not acceptable. 

According to a 2017 Pew poll, 8 in 10 Americans support paid maternity leave while 7 in 10 also support paid leave for fathers. But Americans—and lawmakers—differ over how—or who—should fund that time off. 

Republican lawmakers have proposed several possibilities. The 2017 tax reform bill included a tax credit for employers offering paid leave to lower-income employees. 

Other Republican proposals include allowing parents to claim Social Security benefits during their family leave in exchange for delaying retirement collection later on.

And a new bipartisan plan would create a federal loan program. Parents could collect up to $5,000 from future child tax credits to pay for leave. The family would pay the loan back with a smaller child tax credit for 10 years.

Some labor advocates say these plans are flawed. Rachel Greszler is an economic policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation. She says depending on loans from tax credits or social security is a bad idea. 

GRESZLER: That’s not what social security and social services is supposed to be. It’s using an already bankrupt program, um, to expand benefits in a way that will not help the program. 

Others argue no Republican proposal addresses paid medical leave. That’s why some Democrats support the FAMILY Act. The proposed bill would create a new federal fund, financed by a payroll tax increase on employees and employers. The government would redistribute the money to fund 12 weeks of partly paid parental and medical leave. 

Michelle McGrain is a policy manager at the National Partnership for Women and Families. She says the new social insurance fund would allow smaller businesses to provide paid leave. 

MCGRAIN: There are so many small businesses that would really, really love to offer this benefit right now, but it’s just too expensive for them to do on their own.

Apartna Mathur is a labor economist at the American Enterprise Institute. She supports a modified version of the FAMILY Act. Only employees should be taxed. The government should finance just eight weeks leave. And it should only apply to new parents, not employees with medical problems. 

MATHUR: We do think that there’s a, you know, a bigger cost to employers if we start mandating or you know, saying that businesses have to allow employees to take the full 12 weeks off every year if they need it.

But Heritage Foundation’s Rachel Greszler argues the government should just stay out of it. For one, any federally funded program would be expensive. A Heritage study found that a maternity-leave program providing 60 percent of pay for 12 weeks would cost taxpayers more than $100 billion over a decade. 

And, as the economy strengthens and companies compete for labor, they are adding benefits like paid family leave on their own

GRESZLER: If you survey the workers who say they have a need for leave and those who have taken leave, you find that about two thirds of those who are taking leave are receiving pay while they’re on leave.

And, Greszler argues, letting companies determine their own paid leave policies is better for employees. 

GRESZLER: They’re able to offer more flexible and typically a lot more generous policies than would ever be possible under a one size fits all government program.

But the Trump administration seems poised to support at least some kind of government intervention in paid family leave and says it’s open to a bipartisan proposal.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg.

NICK EICHER: Students at Bullock Creek High School in Midland, Michigan have created their own little pyramid scheme.

Actually it’s a rather towering pyramid scheme that took 16 hours of effort from the 20-member school robotics team. Some stood on construction scaffolding to put the finishing touches on the top. 

Team captain, Maxton Herst told…

HERST: It was a crazy idea that just sort of came up out of the blue, and it eventually turned into – it could be a fundraiser and a publicity event for our robotics team. 

Here’s what’s even crazier—the materials they used.

HERST: We built the entire base all at once, and then we started making cuts in where we wouldn’t put toilet paper, where we could stand and build around them.

Yeah, forgot to mention that part. It’s made from rolls of toilet paper. To be precise, 27,434 rolls, and somebody had the job of making sure that count was accurate. 

Students hope that will be more than enough to secure the Guinness World Record for the biggest-ever toilet paper pyramid!

It’s The World and Everything in It.

NICK EICHER: Today is Tuesday, January 14th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: a conversation with Michael Behe, a proponent of Intelligent Design. He’s a professor of biochemistry and a well-known critic of Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Almost a quarter century ago, he wrote Darwin’s Black Box. In it, he argued that major evolutionary change requires dozens of small changes to happen simultaneously— and that’s a statistical impossibility. It’s known as “irreducible complexity.”

EICHER: Now Behe has written a new book: Darwin Devolves

It was WORLD Magazine’s 2019 Science Book of the Year. In that book, Behe explains that Darwin’s theory emerged during a time in which basic biological questions simply had no answers. Questions like “What is the nature of a gene?” or “How is genetic information physically passed to offspring?”

As scientific discoveries continue to demystify genetics, Behe says conventional evolutionary theory just can’t explain reality.

REICHARD: Managing Editor J.C. Derrick spoke with Michael Behe about his latest research. Here’s an excerpt of their conversation.

J.C. DERRICK, REPORTER: What did you find?

MICHAEL BEHE: Well, interesting thing is that Darwin’s mechanism does work. We’ve seen, organisms born that do do better in the environment. But up until recently it was real hard to track down exactly what the mutations were, exactly what the changes are in their DNA, to see what was underlying the biological change. 

People forget that mutations are actually changes in molecules in the DNA. But up until only about 20 years ago, it was pretty much beyond science’s ability to track down in sufficient detail those mutations. And it turns out that now we can do that. It turns out that the helpful mutations, overwhelmingly are ones which break or degrade pre-existing genes. They’re not making new genes or they’re not making new connections between genes. They’re just throwing things away. Some people say, “well, how does throwing things away help?” 

And one analogy I use is a, well, suppose you know, your life depended on your car getting a little bit better gas mileage. Now how could you quickly improve that and save your life? Well, one thing you do is throw out the spare tire, take off the doors, throw away the back seat, throw that away and lighten the load and you’ll get a little bit better gas mileage. Of course, those things are helpful in other circumstances, but if your life depended on the gas mileage, then that’s the way to go. And it turns out that if there’s any advantage in getting rid of something, then natural selection and random mutation will get rid of it without a moment’s thought, because of course they can’t think. 

DERRICK: So, can you give us an example? 

BEHE: Yeah. One example I start the book with is the polar bear. Polar bears, as we know, are very similar in shape to brown bears. Grizzly bears, they live close by. Their ranges are contiguous, and so for a long time, the polar bear was thought of as a great example of Darwinian evolution. The polar bears, thought to be descended from Brown bears, you know, a while back. And that’s likely true. 

But we, again, we didn’t know how or what changed within the biology of the polar bear to allow it to adapt to its cold, frigid region. But now we can. It’s interesting. About 10 years ago, the entire genome of the grizzly bear was sequenced. And about four years after that, the entire genome of the polar bear was sequence. And it’s really crazy. It was only in the year 2000 that the human genome was sequenced. But now it’s kind of like computers, this is getting faster and easier and, and so on. 

Well, the genomes of the polar bear and the brown bear were contrasted with each other and compared with each other. And it turns out that of the 17 most important changes, the 17 most highly selected genes, about three quarters of them broke or degraded genes in the ancestor in the brown bear. For example, one gene involved in making pigment in the brown bear, his coat was broken. And so the polar bear doesn’t have a pigmented coat. It’s white. And another one was involved in fat metabolism. Polar bears eat a lot of fat. A grizzly bear is not so much, and it turns out that by breaking one gene, the polar bear can tolerate much higher levels of fat. So it turns out the polar bear, was derived from the brown bear, not so much by evolution but by devolution

DERRICK: So in the book you take aim at this idea that natural selection could work through random mutation. What was the evidence, the prior evidence that random mutations could create? Or was that only really ever a hope? 

BEHE: Well, there was actually pretty strong evidence that random mutation, natural selection, could create complex things…it’s that, that’s what I was taught in graduate school and that’s what my professor said. So, you know, they can’t be wrong and, and everybody nods their head at everybody else and, and agrees this must be it. So you when you’re in this field, you get a real good appreciation for the sociology of knowledge that if everybody believes something, then you know, that is self-justification. 

But yeah, to be non facetious here, there was zippo evidence that, Darwin’s mechanism, it could build anything complex. People did see mutations and they did, help sometimes, but they confused beneficial mutations, helpful mutations with constructive mutations. But you can have a benefit from losing something or breaking something. So in the absence of science’s ability to track down those mutations at the molecular level, which is where the rubber meets the road and in science or in biology, people just assumed that it was constructing stuff and that their assumptions were being confirmed right and left. But if you look back skeptically, there never was any such evidence. 

DERRICK: Michael Behe, thank you so much for your time. 

BEHE: It’s been a pleasure.

REICHARD: That’s WORLD’s JC Derrick speaking with Michael Behe, author of Darwin Devolves. Excerpts of their conversation also appeared in the December 7th issue of WORLD Magazine.

NICK EICHER: Today is Tuesday, January 14th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard. Commentator Andrée Seu Peterson now considers the magnificence of dirt. This is from her book Normal Kingdom Business, first published in 2008.

ANDRÉE SEU PETERSON, COMMENTATOR: The year I was in landscaping after my husband died, a friend gave me a book titled Dirt, which landed on the shelf and has sat there since, collecting dirt. Why should I read a paean to compost rather than David McCullough’s John Adams? But almost as a dare, the gift has been dusted off now, a gauntlet thrown at the author’s feet: Go ahead, make dirt interesting for 200 pages.

While my husband was alive I had an adversarial relationship with soil: shoes were left at the door, in Korean style, the one rule of parenting I dug in my heels on. I nearly forgot what a love affair I once had with the stuff.

It was 1975 and I was saved, and the world was new and all, and Sally and I took old Mrs. Chesbrow’s half acre and turned it into a garden to make Nebuchadnezzar proud. It wasn’t our doing, or course, and that was the wonder of it. 

We gave the earth seed and it gave us back zinnias, and bachelor buttons, and snapdragons, which we delivered from a rumpled station wagon to wealthy Cape Cod dowagers by the sea who commanded fresh flowers in every room, changed every week. Man, how I loved being dirty.

But we were dabblers in miracles unawares, Sally and I; and even Mrs. Chesbrow, I dare say, could not have known the Promethean fire we held in our hands, this teeming, roiling thing we call dirt. 

Author William Bryant Logan ‘fesses up in Dirt’s opening pages, “The truth is that we don’t know the first thing about dirt. We don’t even know where it comes from. All we can say is that it doesn’t come from here. Our own sun is too young and cool to manufacture any element heavier than helium.”

The Lord would be pleased with the disclaimer, I think, He who through Job thundered, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.”

There is a painting in my house of a man and his wife bowed reverently over their rakes at evening. What are they praying? Are they thanking the Lord that in autumn, as Logan says, “within a day, the fallen tissue of flowers, leaves, and fruits…has been digested by the microbes and invertebrates growing in the ground. The acidity of the soil recedes, and it prepares for its slow, neutral, winter life, making an equilibrated medium to protect the roots until the spring”?

Hardly likely. Nor even that “an acre of good, natural Iowa soil burns carbon at the rate of 1.6 pounds of soft coal per hour.” They are saying instead, “Thank you, Lord, for another day of life, of health in our limbs, food on our tables, and a promise that when these mortal husks have fallen, “He who raised Jesus from the dead will also give life to our mortal bodies.”

The miracle of dirt will not even enter their minds.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Andrée Seu Peterson.

NICK EICHER: Tomorrow: It’s Washington Wednesday. We will talk about Middle East policy and how the latest flare-up with Iran changes things.

And, we’ll pay a visit to a clinic in Georgia that combines healthcare with a mission to immigrants and refugees. 

That and more tomorrow. 

I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard.

The World and Everything in It comes to you from WORLD Radio.

WORLD’s mission is biblically objective journalism that informs, educates, and inspires.

“Keep your life free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”

Go now in grace and peace.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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