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Ann Gauger on an Unlikely Challenge to Intelligent Design — Cancer

David Klinghoffer


On a new episode of ID the Future, biologist Ann Gauger talks with Sarah Chaffee about a remarkable new argument against intelligent design. It’s the argument from cancer, advanced in a BioLogos Open Forum discussion by Washington University’s Dr. S. Joshua Swamidass.

I have to hand it to Josh Swamidass. It takes some imagination and daring to offer this critique, which is so thoroughly counterintuitive. He’s not, as you might guess, talking about cancer or other terrible illnesses as evidence of dysteleology, that old chestnut. In other words, when life gives us wonders, that’s evidence of evolution at work. When it gives us horrors, because a designer wouldn’t do it that way, that’s more proof of evolution. (See “Thank Darwin for Dysteleology! Evolution Can’t Lose.”)

No, Josh argues that cancer disproves ID because it builds things without design:

[I]f (1) evolutionary genetic tools correctly infer the progress and history of cancer, (2) cancer regularly innovates with proteins of novel function, (3) regularly exhibits convergence at a molecular level, and (4) all the mathematical of machinery of neutral theory works so well, THEN what magically prevents all these things from being true at the species level?

This all cannot be true for cancer, but false for evolution. That is the real inconvenience here.

In truth, cancer destroys things by destroying them. But don’t take my word on that. Listen to Ann Gauger and decide for yourself.

Download the episode by clicking here:


This is the first part of an interview on the subject with Dr. Gauger. Regarding a couple of Swawidass’s points, Sarah Chaffee asks at one point, “Are those serious arguments?” “No, they’re not.” “Scary arguments?” You can hear Dr. Gauger suppress a laugh. “No.”

Photo credit: Tony Monblat [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

I’m on Twitter. Follow me @d_klinghoffer.

David Klinghoffer

Senior Fellow and Editor, Evolution News
David Klinghoffer is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute and the editor of Evolution News & Science Today, the daily voice of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, reporting on intelligent design, evolution, and the intersection of science and culture. Klinghoffer is also the author of six books, a former senior editor and literary editor at National Review magazine, and has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Commentary, and other publications. Born in Santa Monica, California, he graduated from Brown University in 1987 with an A.B. magna cum laude in comparative literature and religious studies. David lives near Seattle, Washington, with his wife and children.



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