The Olasky Interview: Ann Gauger

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Thursday, November 29th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: The Olasky Interview.

Today WORLD editor in chief Marvin Olasky speaks with Ann Gauger.

Gauger is a scientist for the Discovery Institute. She has degrees from Harvard, MIT, and the University of Washington. Her scientific work has appeared in Nature and the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

EICHER: Today we’ll hear excerpts of a conversation that took place in front of students at Patrick Henry College. We’ll pick up after Olasky asks about a break in Gauger’s career.

GAUGER: I already knew I doubted Darwin, and I became obsessed with the idea that evolution was pulling young people away from the faith. They were being taught that science pointed away from God. Evolution could explain everything. And I didn’t believe that fast forward to August of 2004, I had discovered that intelligent design happened during that window of time.

OLASKY: Happened in the sense of…?

GAUGER: Mike Behe’s “Darwin’s Black Box,” Stephen Meyer, Discovery Institute, Jonathan Wells, all this stuff had come out and I was delighted to find out there were scientists who thought the way I did. So a friend sent me an email from Discovery Institute called Nota Bene. It was announcing when Stephen Meyer had just published his article in the journal associated with the Smithsonian where he explained that the Cambrian Explosion was not possible to explain by Darwinian terms. Intelligent design was a better answer.

And it raised a huge ruckus, but the point was, for me, I decided to sign my name up for the newsletter. I signed my name Ann Gauger, Ph.D. And within 20 minutes, I get a phone call. To make the story shorter, within a couple of weeks, I was hired to do research and the rest is history.

OLASKY: I think the reason they responded so quickly is because there aren’t a whole lot of science PhDs, specially from MIT, Harvard, University of Washington, who are willing to come forward and be publicly identified with an intelligent design position since, for most jobs at universities, that’s a decree of career death at that point. 

And it does take a lot of courage, since people who disagree are often not seen as, “Well, we’re having a thoughtful scientific discussion here amongst scientists,” but, “Somewhere your brain is falling out.” That’s the reaction that you got from some professors, right?

GAUGER: “She used to be smart.”

OLASKY: To become a defender of intelligent design, does it depend on religious motives?

GAUGER: No, actually. I know several people who became convinced of intelligent design and became Christian, but they were atheists when they started out.

The most famous is Gunter Bechly just in the last few years. He’s a German paleontologist and he was asked to run an exhibit at Stuttgart Museum in honor of, I think it was Darwin’s 150th for the publication of “Origin of Species,” and he made one mistake. He set up an exhibit where he had a scale with “Origin of Species” on one side and ID books on the other, a stack of them. He had it like this to indicate that Darwin was more weighty, but he made one mistake. He read the ID books.

OLASKY: That can be harmful.

GAUGER: That can be dangerous. He contacted Stephen Meyer by email very secretly, and he ended up becoming a Christian and then he made a public announcement of his support of ID. And within a year, he was terminated from his job at the museum.

OLASKY: So, let’s talk about another thing. You’ve probably seen at some point in newspapers or magazines that science has shown that there could not have been special creation of Adam and Eve, one couple from whom all of us are descended. Game, set, match, couldn’t happen. Tell us what you’ve been exploring in connection with that.

GAUGER: I started with a paper by Francisco Ayala, who’s a very famous evolutionary biologist, and he wrote it with an agenda. He was mad about mitochondrial Eve.

Some scientists in the ‘80s sequenced mitochondria from people from all around the world. Mitochondrial DNA is a small circle of DNA. And they took that DNA and looked at its relationships between humans from different parts of the world and drew a map showing the pathway of sequence descent and it traced back to a single sequence in Africa.

Now, we inherit mitochondria mother to daughter, mother to daughter. So, everybody said, “Oh, look. Eve, mitochondrial Eve.” 

So, Ayala wanted to disprove it. So he took a gene called HLADRB1, and it’s one of the most variable genes in our genome. In this room, we may have 20 different versions of that gene. In the worldwide population, we know about 1,000 right now. So he thought it’s impossible to go from so many variants through a bottleneck of two.

He did some calculations and he came to the conclusion it had to be a variation of a total number of 32 variants at the time of our split from chimps. Thirty-two is too many to pass through Adam and Eve. The most you can get through is four, two from Adam, two from Eve, because we each have two sets of chromosomes.

I thought, well, that’s a pretty solid argument, but I kept looking and I found another paper Bergstrom, et al, published a few years later, said, “Dr. Ayala, you made a mistake. You chose a piece of DNA that contradicts the method you used, so we’re going to redo it with a neighboring piece of DNA that doesn’t have those problems.” They redid it and the number dropped from 32 to 7.

And I thought, huh, and I looked some more, and a few years later, there was another paper from the same group, and instead of using only a piece of the gene, they used the whole gene and the number dropped to four. And that made me think, four could pass through a bottleneck of two, and maybe there’s the possibility of a first pair, and it set me on a journey to explore other evidence.

OLASKY: The Templeton Foundation, which is a very well-funded foundation based in Philadelphia, gave Ayala its big award and so forth. They haven’t given you an award.

GAUGER: No, of course not. Well, I don’t even know if he’s issued a retraction on that paper, even though it was mainstream scientists that demonstrated he was wrong.

(Photo/Sy Bean, Genesis)

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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