Saturday, December 24, 2011

Margaret Wente, Math and Christianity: More factual/attribution errors?

Wente writes that Christianity is the “fastest-growing religion in the world today”. “By 2050, Christians will outnumber Muslims 3 to 1.”

She claims that this comes from a “new report on global Christianity from the Pew Research Center.”

A pdf of the report is here, and if anyone can find anything suggesting that “By 2050, Christians will outnumber Muslims 3 to 1”, please advise. My search turns up no 2050 projections at all, and Muslims are not mentioned except in a footnote on Russia.

Wente goes on to describe a 2002 book by Philip Jenkins, offering similar points and the identical selected quote found in this book review:

There, another Jenkins quote appears: “Soon the phrase “a White Christian” may sound like a curious oxymoron…By 2050, there should be about three Christians for every two Muslims worldwide”.

The “should be” looks like it’s followed by a proviso – confirmed when Jenkins notes that while the percentage of Christians worldwide has remained the same for the past 100 years, Muslim numbers have surged from 12 or 13 percent in 1900 to just under 25 percent today.

Unlike the Pew Report, Jenkins does offer 2050 projections, writing: “Christians in 1900 outnumbered Muslims by 2.8 to 1. Today the figure is 1.5 to 1, and by 2050 it should be 1.3 to 1.” (Philip Jenkins, “The Next Christendom”, page 203)

Last month, Wente picked up an unsuspecting "John" and erroneously turned him into the “face” of the Occupy movement. She’s also been known to turn scientists into fishermen. These mishaps usually occur through a failure to attribute, which is a fairly common occurence. Here she attributes statistics to a report, but the claims don’t seem to be there. Did she make up a billion extra Christians, or subtract a few million Muslims? Did she accidentally turn Jenkin’s 2050 ratio of “1.3 to 1” into “3 to 1”? And why did she claim that these figures come from the Pew Center?


  1. Mags is quickly losing the last few marbles left in her game.

    Perhaps the editors feel sorry for her as she's only a columnist after all and not required to observe journalistic rigour - though this does discredit whatever dubious creds the Globe still has.

  2. I must say, I've been rather stunned by the Christmas columns in the major papers. Over in the National Post, my own favourite punching bag, Lawrence Solomon, is claiming that "godless societies" are doomed to collapse and "godly" ones are superior.

    It's possible she's making this claim because there's an additional, middle source you've missed, which she is using rather than doing her own research. We've seen that happen before.

  3. @ Sixth Estate: That would be valid, except that Wente specifically says that the Christianity is the “fastest-growing religion in the world today” claim and “By 2050, Christians will outnumber Muslims 3 to 1." claim are found in the “new report on global Christianity from the Pew Research Center.”

    Neither of those statements, or anything resembling them are in the report. That's now been confirmed by one of its authors.

    Maybe Wente found them somewhere else - if so she should have identified where.

    But surely it's completely unacceptable to attribute to a report claims and statistics which the report emphatically doesn't contain. Especially a legitimate body like Pew. Imagine if journalists started doing that - saying figures comes from StatsCan when they don't, or what have you.

  4. Great work. Anyone earlier in their career would have been fired for this garbage. How does she get away with this?

  5. Read "Death of the Liberal Class" by Chris Hedges and you'll see why the media is publishing so much utter shite.

  6. In this stuff even creating the only real picks with respect to cash will become serious, if not intolerable. And sadly, the business, and place on the economic cash advance loans in fresno climate has created it several and much of serious for people to access the assistance they have from banks.

  7. The key issue to remember is not to borrow quite you'd like. The day loan clerk might even be a salesman; just because he/she states you will borrow up to $1000 does not imply you would like higher to simply settle for it. Borrow entirely what you need!!! And if they supply you the monthly payment prepare cash advance chicago don't fall for it; confine mind their job is to sell therefore as that they're near manufacture further money.