Trent Humanities in Medicine Lecture

Trust Science?
Political and Religious Polarization as a Public Health Problem

Emma and Molly headshots

Emma Green

The New Yorker

Molly Worthen

Historian and journalist
UNC-Chapel Hill
The New York Times

Thursday, February 16, 5:30-7:00 pm
Great Hall, Trent Semans Center

Reception to follow - Masks encouraged

Major public health challenges such as the COVID pandemic, the opioid crisis, and gun violence cannot be solved by clinicians and policymakers alone; they require ordinary people to work with each other in pursuit of common goods. But Americans find themselves more divided than ever, with partisan political differences reinforced and exploited by media ecosystems and correlated with geography, race, class, and religion. This political and social polarization erodes the trust required for broad-based collective responses to health crises, undermines the power of public health officials and institutions, and challenges clinicians’ ability to speak with patients around politically controversial topics.

In a moderated discussion, journalist Emma Green (New Yorker) and historian and journalist Molly Worthen (UNC, New York Times), considered how today’s religious and political polarization is a public health problem and ways that clinicians, health systems, and public health officials can respond. They helped us to understand the dynamics of the polarization, to envision ways that clinicians and health systems can work to build trust and to be trustworthy, and to explore ways of speaking and listening that lead to shared commitment to the health of our neighbors and to the common good.

See a recording of the lecture.  

This talk was co-sponsored by the Civil Discourse Project, Kenan Institute for Ethics, and Theology, Medicine, and Culture at Duke University.