Thursday, March 02, 2006

Here Is The Complete Transcript Of Hugh Hewitt's Radio Interview With Daniel Peterson and John Butler Regarding DNA And Book Of Mormon Evidences!!

MP3 File

Here is the transcript:

HH: Welcome back America, it’s Hugh Hewitt, Last week, on February 16, to be exact, I opened up not a can of worms, but a can of chromosomes by getting on my program William Lobdell, Los Angeles Times reporter, who that day had a Page 1, above the fold story, Bedrock of a Faith Is Jolted: The DNA tests contradict Mormon scripture. The Church says the studies are being twisted to attack its belief. There ensued three wonderful segments of controversy and a mountain of e-mail. So with the help of some Mormons out there, I've located a couple of specialists to come on from the perspective of the Church, and I'm pleased to welcome Dr. Daniel Peterson. He's a native Southern Californian, he got his undergraduate degree in Greek, and philosophy from BYU. He got his PhD from the University of California at Los Angeles. He teaches at BYU now, where he's an associate professor of Islamic studies and Arabic. And he's also a member of the Center For the Preservation of Ancient Religions Texts, CPART, which has produced a computer digitized version of the Dead Sea Scrolls. I'm also joined by Dr. John Butler, who is a project leader at the Human Identity DNA Technologies Group, Biotechnology Division for the National Institute of Standards and Technology. I'm afraid to say anything, gentlemen. I'm going to sound dumb to you two. But welcome Drs. both. Dr. Butler, let me start with you. Obviously, this article in the Los Angeles Times made some assertions about the Mormon's faith connection to DNA. Was it accurately represented, that connection?

JB: Personally, I don't think so, and it's largely because that's the way often things happen in the media, is that we try, the things are tried to be portrayed very simplified. And so, these oversimplifications, sometimes you miss the true story of what's going on.

HH: And let me begin with you, Dr. Daniel Peterson. What does the Book of Mormon state about the population of North America, six hundred years before the birth of Christ?

DP: The Book of Mormon doesn't really talk about North America. We don't know exactly where the Book of Mormon story took place. Most people who study it now think probably in Mesoamerica.

HH: Where is that, for the benefit of people like me?

DP: Mesoamerica would be essentially Central America. We're talking Southern Mexico, Northern Guatemala, probably.

HH: Okay, and who was there, and who's the subject of the Book of Mormon, for people who are not Mormons?

DP: Essentially, there are three migrations that is described in the book. One migration of non-Hebrews, quite early. And then around 600BC, the most important one in terms of the Book of Mormon story, is a small migration of maybe two dozen, three dozen people at the most, who come from Jerusalem, roughly around 600BC, just prior to the Babylonian captivity.

HH: And how did they get here?

DP: How'd they get here? By boat.

HH: All right. And so, from those two dozen, three dozen, how many spring forth in the continents?

DP: Well, the figure at the very end of the Book of Mormon have battles involving, well, for example, 23 units of 10,000. Now whether those are ideal units or not, we don't know. So relatively large population after about a thousand years. We're talking toward the end of the 4th Century AD. But we don't know whether those groups had intermarried with other groups in the course of the history of the Book of Mormon. Most likely, they did.

HH: Okay, so if we have a quarter million descendants at least partially of Jews, Dr. Butler, what is the likelihood of there being DNA traceable Jewish DNA in some of the tribes of current Central America?

JB: Well, I think that kind of goes to...I read the transcript that you had last week with Bill Lobdell, where he says at the end, how could a group of people vanish without a genetic trace, when you're measuring...and again, what you're measuring with the studies that are being done now, are the Y chromosomes and mitochondrial DNA. Y chromosome is passed on from father to son. Mitochondrial DNA is passed on from mother to daughter. So it doesn't capture all of the genetic variation that's within our chromosomes. But, that being said, I believe...and there was a very interesting study a couple of years ago, which makes be believe that I think it is possible for a group to vanish without a genetic trace when you're measuring these types of markers. If I could go through and explain, I'll be happy to do that, or...

HH: Please, please. Take your time. We've got five minutes.

JB: Okay.

HH: We've got lots more than five minutes. We have five minutes to the break.

JB: Okay. In June of 2003, there was an article in the American Journal of Human Genetics, and I can give you the exact reference if you want. But it was published, it's American Journal of Human Genetics, 2003, Vol. 72, Page 1370-1388. And what happened in this article is, most genetic studies that are being done are...with human history tracing human history...involve just a few samples. That may be...a few is relative. That could be hundreds, even thousands of individuals. But you're looking at living individuals and comparing one group of people, let's say Native Americans, to people in Africa or Asia or somewhere else.

HH: Right.

JB: You won't have any detailed knowledge about the genealogy of the individuals being tested.

HH: Right.

JB: It isn't happening. However, in the study that was done in June of 2003, what they did is they used very extensive genealogies from the people of Iceland. And there's a company called DECODE Genetics, which actually has traced and got all the genealogy of the people in Iceland, and actually have the DNA of everybody that lives in Iceland today. And so, in this paper, what they do is they run 131,000 people from Iceland that are born after 1972. Then they go back and they say if we go back in time, 150 years, or 300 years, can we track and find out how many of those ancestors that would have lived then would have their DNA today. So I hope that makes sense to you and to your listeners.

HH: Yes, and so, what was the result?

JB: So this was a very surprising result, because as they examined...they examined the same Y chromosome and mitochondrial markers that are being done in other studies, and these 131,000 individuals that were studied, revealed a highly skewed distribution of descendants to ancestors. And this is a direct quote from the paper. "Within the vast majority of potential ancestors, contributed one or no descendants, and a minority of ancestors, contributed large numbers of descendants." In other words, a majority of people living today in Iceland had ancestors living only 150 years ago, that could not be detected based on their Y chromosome or mitochondrial DNA tests being performed. Yet, of course, they had the genealogical records showing that these people existed, and were their ancestors. So if you take this to the point at hand, if documented ancestors of 150 years ago can't be seen with Y chromosome and mitochondrial tests from modern Iceland, then why would we expect to see large amounts of Middle Eastern DNA from a people that were reported in the Book of Mormon to have migrated to the Americas 2,600 years ago.

HH: And so to use as a novice here, I want to borrow from the war debate, actually. The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence?

JB: Correct.

HH: And is that what that study proved?

JB: Exactly.

HH: And is there any DNA study, or evidence supporting the account of the Book of

JB: Well, even...there are...what's found in all the studies, and there's hundreds of papers that have been published today on the subject, where they've run groups of people from native America, and what they find is that most of the time, there are linkages to haplotypes is what they're called, or haplagroups, that are found in people primarily of Asian origin. So that means either that Native Americans, and of course, this is following the traditional hypothesis that people are modeling this to, is that people traveled across the Bering Strait.

HH: But we're going to break, but I am understanding you say there is actually no
DNA evidence of a previous Jewish tribe from Jerusalem, not implying from that...

JB: But again, part of the problem is, how do you calibrate? What is....what would be the appropriate DNA signature for someone that lived 2,600 years ago in Jerusalem. We don't know that.

HH: But one that you would consider appropriate has not been found?

JB: No.

HH: Alright, when we come back I want to continue the conversation with Dr. Daniel Peterson and ask you Dr. Peterson about other evidences of..... for the Book of Mormon and Dr. Butler, more questions about how tests might, in fact, continue that you would think would be useful. We return...fascinating conversation....I know the phone lines are jammed again, the Emails are pouring in, 1-800520-1234, connection to the Hugh Hewitt show.....

---------Commercial Break---------

HH: Welcome back America, Hugh Hewitt, joined this segment and next, by a couple of heavy hitters, Dr. John Butler, has a PHD. with the DNA Technologies group at the National Institute for standards and technology, his doctorate of course from the University of Virginia in chemistry analytical and Dr. Daniel Peterson has his PhD. from the University of California at Los Angeles in Near Eastern Languages and cultures.

HH: Dr. Peterson, it is very serendipitous that you are here on this day. I've just got to get your reaction to this. I'm receiving news reports that after the destruction of the 1,200 year old Shiite shrine this morning, in a terrorist attack in Iraq, 90 different Sunni Mosques have been attacked with 19 deaths. I don't know how close this is to your specialty, though you teach in a near Eastern area, how important was this act of terrorism today? And how significant the blowback?

DP: It's hugely significant. It’s was a terrible attack on the Shiites. It's a..It’s an attack on their symbolic heart, on...their piety is really focused on the, on the imams, leaders, the founders of the Shiite tradition. And to have attacked a Mosque like this was deliberately inflammatory. It was designed to drive the Shiites absolutely wild, and apparently, it has.

HH: The tomb, or it’s the place where the imam Mahdi went into hiding, or I'm not quite sure what it is. Can you expand a little bit? Is that within your range?

DP: You know, I haven't heard much of the story today, I confess. I've spent the day in meetings on other topics, and I just heard about it as you were doing the lead-in to your program. So I'm a little embarrassed by that, but I believe you may be talking about the Shrine of the Imam Ali?

HH: Yes. It's the golden shrine in Samara.

DP: Yeah...oh, in Samara?

HH: Yeah.

DP: Ahh. Then I'm less familiar with that one. Yeah a...there are several important Shiite shrines that are central to Shiite ideas of pilgrimage and so on. It's one of the things that bothers the Sunnis, and especially Wahabi-style Sunni Arabs, or excuse me, Sunni Muslims, who really tend to dislike saint veneration and that sort of thing, where Shiites...

HH: Well, I don't want to get too far afield. Maybe we could get you back later this week and go over this with you, Dr. Peterson. Now I'd like to go, and I'll be back to you in a second, Dr. Butler on the DNA stuff. The Book of Mormon has been studied, debated, criticized, debunked, attacked, upheld, died for, martyred over, the subject of persecution for years.

DP: Right.

HH: And now, at BYU, and my old friend Neal Maxwell would tell me, there was research going into the discovery of historical affirmation of its text. What's the strongest bit of evidence that the Church puts forward as validating its story?

DP: Well, I don't think the Church is really in the business of putting forward the evidence, but some of us scholars who are interested in this sort of thing have begun to do it on our own. And the Church doesn't endorse or denounce on the whole what we do or say, so we're left to advocate our own ideas. But here are some things that I see. Now we would say first of all, you're never going to have definitive proof of the Book of Mormon, or anything else really religiously significant, probably. Not in this life. You have to go by spiritual witness on those sorts of things. But, there are...boy, we could go on for this or with this for an hour or more. To me, some of the most impressive things are the testimonies of the witnesses who saw the plates, who remain faithful to their testimony for the rest of their lives, no matter what happened to them.

HH: That's familiar of Christian apologetics...

DP: Right.

HH: ...about the 1st Century martyrs. How about archaeological or anthropological?

DP: Yeah, there are many things. I point, for example, I myself, my background is somewhat of a philological background, so I'm really impressed with the sheer complexity of the text which was dictated at an incredibly rapid pace. It's peppered with what we call Hebraisms or Semiticisms, names that seem to be authentically Hebrew in ways that Joseph Smith couldn't have known, phraseology, Hebrew-style conditional sentences that aren't even good English in the original editions, but are very good classical Hebrew. And Joseph Smith couldn't have known that. He scarcely knew English in the late 1820's. Specifically, pre-exilic symbolism that shows up, that is before the Babylonian captivity.

HH: An example of that, Doctor?

DP: Yeah, in first Nephi 11, one of the earliest chapters in the book, you have an example of the representation of a divine, the mother of the Divine child, Mary, holding the baby Jesus. And she's equated with a tree. Now that's, I think, specifically tying into imagery that would have been familiar to the pre-exilic Hebrews, the authors of those first chapters, where...

HH: Has a structure been discovered, Dr. Peterson, similar to some of the structures of Old Testament and New Testament Bible, that are traced to, say, Jacob's well, or David's escape route? That sort of thing?

DP: Well, you could...our problem in the New World is the archeology is far less developed than in the old. We're talking about the pre-classic period. In most cases, we don't even know the names of the places we're looking at. The ruins are there. It's not that these people disappeared without a trace. It's that we don't know exactly how to recognize the traces. But you do have, in areas where the archeology is a little better, like in the Arabian Peninsula, we have found specific names that show up in the Book of Mormon, and now have been found in the Arabian Peninsula along the route that the Book of Mormon people would have taken. And they date to specifically that period.

HH: I’m coming back with my two experts, that was Dr. Daniel Peterson of...of the um..where are you teaching now....BYU?


HH: And Dr. John Butler of the DNA Technologies group at the National Institute for standards and technology, don’t go anywhere, more conversation and your calls coming up on the Hugh Hewitt show.

--------Commercial Break---------

HH: Welcome back America, Hugh Hewitt, updating the situation in Iraq from the blog, Iraq The Model- President Talabani has promised to make rebuilding of the shrine his personal responsibility-the Head of the Sunni endowment sheikh Ahmed al-Samarra'I announces that he will allocate $1.4 million for rebuilding of the shrine from Sunni endowment.-Huge demonstrations in many of Iraq's provinces tonight where thousands and thousands of people are joining up to condemn the attack.-The top 4 Shia Ayatollahs are meeting at Sistani's home to discuss-The Association of Muslim scholars and the Islamic Party have condemned the "criminal act".-Retaliatory attacks are growing but President Jafari, Prime Minister Jafari is calling for national unity and there are cooler heads attempting to keep the peace in Iraq, more as it develops. I’m joined by Dr. John Butler, project leader in Human Identity DNA Technologies groups, from the National Institute of Standard and Technology, and Dr. Daniel Peterson of the BYU faculty, where he is also deeply involved with the Islamic studies and Arabic department, as well as with the CPART, an effort to preserve ancient religious texts.

HH: Dr. Butler, I'd like to go back to you.

JB: Okay.

HH: What do DNA studies tell us about common human beginnings?

JB: What do they tell us about common human beginnings?

HH: Yeah. How many ancestors are there? Is it a Genesis narrative? Is there any support...or is DNA just off of the religious people's ability to deal with?

JB: Well, what's done traditionally with these human migration studies, which is what you're talking about here, is you make measurements between different groups of people that are living today, and there's a big project going on, the Genographic Project, where they're trying to collect 100,000 samples from various groups around the world, and then use those to try to fit with different models, where the people may have come from.

HH: And is it proving successful?

JB: They're collecting data, and the data, I think, is very interesting. What they do is they collect Y chromosome information, so they collect usually about a dozen different sites on the Y chromosome, and measure these different markers, which give you what's called a haplotype. And they also measure, they sequence little sections of mitochondrial DNA, which is passed from mother to daughter. And so you're able to show linkage between different groups. That doesn't show specific groups. Again, genealogically, it just shows general broad, broad strokes of a brush, basically.

HH: And in that research, is there anything to, as the Los Angeles Times put it, shake the foundation of a Mormon's faith?

JB: I don't believe so, because you don't...I mean, it's telling generally what's going on, in terms of history, with lots of assumptions behind that. But again, it's different than what...I work in forensic DNA. That's what I do. I've written the text that's used all over the world in forensic DNA. And so, in forensic DNA, you have basically a chain of custody, where you can trace a link between a DNA profile that's produced, that goes into court, from the original crime scene evidence. And it's a little bit different here, because you don't have that...there's no such chain of custody that exists, certainly for DNA from anybody that may have been in the Book of Mormon, or from any other ancient people. You...what they do...all the published migration studies simply report what the various groups of people living today, if they have various similarities in their

DNA. And from there, the scientists then extrapolate and interpret that these various groups must have had ancestors in common, which would lead to similar patters in their descendants.

HH: Now I want...before I go back to Professor Peterson, I also want to ask you about the research scientist, Southerton, quoted in the L.A. Times article. Is he reliable, in your view?

JB: Well, his background, from what I understand, having researched a little bit about what he's published, he's published a couple of articles. He does plant DNA or something. And certainly, he's read up on things that have happened with human DNA, but I’ve published 80 articles with human DNA, work for forensic science, and human identity studies with Y chromosome getting back to your question, I don't think that he sees the picture correctly with how DNA can be done, and primarily because you don't have a calibration point. You don't know...just like in forensic science, you have a suspect and you have evidence. DNA doesn't work in a vacuum. You get a result, you have to compare it to something else. So measuring all of the DNA of people today, you can make some assumptions, but you can't zero in and answer a definitive question about a specific person that lived many thousands of years ago.

HH: So Dr. Peterson, when Southerton says he found no trace of Middle Eastern DNA in the genetic strands of today's American Indians or Pacific Islanders, that does not upset you in the least, or cause you to wonder in the least?

DP: No, not even slightly. I don't expect to find Middle Eastern DNA.

HH: Not in the least?

DP: No, it would be nice if we found it, but if we found it, we'd wonder was this later pollution of the lines, in effect, from times after Columbus? We wouldn't know exactly what it was. And if we did find Semitic DNA, if such a thing can be said to exist, then that wouldn't necessarily prove the Book of Mormon, either.

HH: Alright, let’s go get a couple of calls in...Albert- Indiana...welcome to the program Albert, quick question please....
Albert: Yeah, I joined the Mormon Church about 30 years ago and I’m in the process of conversion to Roman Catholicism, my kids are..

HH: I’ve gotta get a question Albert..quick.
Albert: You know, based on the fact that there is no evidence at all archaeologically or linguistically for The Book of Mormon and now we have the DNA studies, it seems to me that this is just the nail in the coffin.

HH: Alright Dr. Peterson, your response

DP: My response would be um..look I just, you know, I just gave a few pieces of evidence I could go on for an hour or two, in fact I routinely do, um, listing other items of evidence, so to say that there is no linguistic or archaeological evidence for The Book of Mormon is simply untrue and an archaeologist friend of mine, a very eminent archaeologist, Mesoamerican specialist argues that in fact the archaeological evidence, the picture, the overall picture, is now moving strongly in the direction of The book of Mormon in terms of chronological parallels and so on.

HH: I’d like to get him, I’d like to talk to him here at some point. Joe in Tarzana, go ahead, be quick Joe.

Joe: Thank you guys for this show said that there is no chain of custody for the DNA and that’s like, like kind of prima facia obvious but um isn’t the assertion of the Mormon Church or Joseph Smith, that these people are descendants of the middle east, isn’t that the chain of custody?

HH: Joe, thank you for the question, let’s go to you Dr. Butler

JB: Yes, yes that is the assertion, that the people today are descendants, but I made the point earlier that you can loose a genetic signature based on dilution over time and loss and I illustrated that through that one paper that was published, a very interesting paper, but more importantly, we don’t know what the genetic signature would..would look like from someone that lived that long ago and so we have no calibration point so we don’t have anything you can scientifically test.

HH: Dr. John Butler of the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, Dr. Daniel Peterson, thanks for staying up late on the East Coast, Dr. Butler, and in Utah, Dr. Peterson. I appreciate your spending the time and getting equal time in, and we'll do it again. And send me the archaeologist thing. I'm fascinated by it. I just gotta go back to the news, Dr. and Dr., thank you, it is the Hugh Hewitt show. Coming right back.


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