Why Gauger’s green-screened ‘lab’ is an appropriate target of ridicule

| 30 Comments

Douglas Axe and Ann Gauger, both of the BioLogic Institute, have put out a series of videos summarizing some of the content of “Science and Human Origins.” They attempt to undermine the case for common descent, and in particular the descent of humans from non-human ancestors. John Harshman, in comments on my posts on the use of a commercial stock photo of a lab as a background for Ann Gauger’s blather about “… a hidden secret in population genetics and in evolution,” argued that the focus on the green-screening diverts attention from the real issue, which is her mangling of the science (see here for an example). While John is right that setting the record straight on the science is important, it’s also the case that the green-screening is but one aspect of a larger effort on the part of the Disco ‘Tute to erode public confidence in ‘mainstream’ science. And that effort is what underpins the newest strategy of the Disco ‘Tute and its fellow travelers, which is to promote legislation embodying so-called “academic freedom” for public school teachers who want to teach creationism and intelligent design (see here for an overview and here for a Barbara Forrest video on it).

The “science” in the Axe/Gauger/Luskin book “Science and Human Origins” was eviscerated by Paul McBride (see here for pointers to the six posts of McBride’s evisceration). Commenters on several blogs have critiqued the representation of the science in a couple of the videos. But is the green-screen issue irrelevant? Nope.

It’s obvious that the target audience for the videos featuring Douglas Axe and Ann Gauger is not composed of professionals in biology. Gauger says:

There’s no time. Population genetics equations for humans or primates–the population size, the mutation rate, all the factors that are known–say that it takes six million years for for one mutation in a DNA binding site to arise. That’s published in the literature. One mutation in a DNA binding site in six million years. (Here at 0:15 ff)

She’s not speaking to professionals, who would laugh her out of the room. Her remarks addressed to lay people in the pews, to school board members, and to state legislators, and they’re designed to show just how deluded those materialistic Darwinists are to think that chimps and humans share a common ancestor. Just one mutation in a DNA binding site every six million years? Those Darwinists must be crazy to believe that humans and chimps have a common ancestor!

It’s plain that the intent of those videos is purely rhetorical, not scientific. It is to throw up a smokescreen of sciency-sounding blather to provide school boards and state legistatures with cover to sneak creationism into public schools. It is aimed at eroding support for real science by employing the forms of science without its content. If it looks sciency enough, those legislators and board members will feel quite justified in opening public school science classrooms to what John Freshwater’s pleading (pdf) to the Ohio Supreme Court called “competing academic theories.” Two such “academic theories” named in a subsequent document (pdf) he filed are creation science and intelligent design. Freshwater is making an academic freedom argument for teaching creationism and/or intelligent design in the public schools. And Gauger is participating by lending her purported scientific authority to publicizing the scientific misrepresentations that bolster Freshwater’s case in particular and the “academic freedom” strategy in general. Again, Gauger’s target audience is not professionals, it’s lay people and the legislators and school board members they elect.

Given that the intent of the video is rhetorical, the stage setting is not an irrelevant factor to consider. The stage setting in which an actor performs influences the perception of the actor’s role, and in critiquing a performance (which is what Gauger is doing–performing), the set design is a completely legitimate object of consideration. When commenters on Youtube, Sandwalk, and here looked at it, they found that the stage setting was not what it appeared to be in the video, Gauger’s lab in which she was being sciency, but was a commercial stock photo masquerading as Gauger’s lab. That, of course, immediately gave rise to speculations, some of them going well beyond any evidence. But looking at the stage setting for Gauger’s remarks is not inappropriate.

Gauger, we are told, has a real laboratory at the BioLogic Institute. In a post whining about the ridicule Gauger’s video evoked, David Klinghoffer offered us a photo of it, showing some shelves with bottles and Gauger herself peering intently at a Petri dish. I fully believe that Gauger has a lab at the BioLogic Institute, and that it has shelves with bottles on them, Petri dishes, and some appropriate equipment for the work she does there. That would have been an appropriate backdrop for Gauger’s video remarks; it’s an authentic credential, and green-screening her talking into a photo of it would have been unproblematic. But the DI chose instead to use a stock photo, a fake credential. And that’s why the green-screened background is relevant: It’s a fake credential presented as though it were genuine. Why the DI opted to use a fake credential rather than an apparently real one is unknown, but that it did so speaks to its mindset, and calling attention to the use of a fake credential to lend specious authority to Gauger’s words is entirely appropriate.

30 Comments

Right on, brother! The fake lab goes along with the fake research, fake results, fake journals, inflated credentials and all the rest that goes into building a propaganda facade.

Ann’s real target is phylogenetic analysis because that’s killing the Tooters. They hate it. Can’t get around it. Ann has access to the same data we all do in the public domain but has she or Axe ever proposed an alternative to the trees we see all the time. No. Why? Because they can’t, obviously. So, they throw up smoke screens, misrepresented data and concepts and all in front of a green screen which perfectly captures the total essence of the Tooters: fake.

Gaugergate, best story of 2012!

See here is the thing, her argument is complete nonsense. She says, if you remove the assumptions you don’t get the result you want. If you don’t assume that a tree exists, you won’t get a tree! Really? Really? That’s what you are going with?

Well what about a data set that has a very low probability of homoplasy? What about a data set that doesn’t rely on any tree building assumptions? Here is a reference on primate SINE insertions:

PNAS 100:12787-12791 (2003)

It shows a nested hierarchy of SINE insertions with humans most similar to chimps. The exact same answer you get form mitochondrial DNA and the fossil record and lots of other data sets. And you can see the pattern right in the gel photographs before the tree is even drawn!

Gauger has no idea whatsoever what she is talking about. You can laugh about her green screen shenanigans all you want, why not? But in the end she just outright lies about the science. Crucify her for that.

Or how about this if you like silly arguments. I have a lab and a PhD in population genetics. I say that cell adhesion is a crock. There ain’t no such thing as anyone can plainly see, Cells don’t stick together, ifin they did, your heart would be a stickin to your lungs and your liver would be astickin to your stomach. So as anyone with half a brain can plainly see by lookin at the green screen behind me, I’m an expert and all this cell adhesion nonsense is just a sham. Take that Annie. You has a wasted your life on a lie straight from the pit of hell. How do ya like them apples?

Just Bob was prescient last week when he wrote on my earlier post

But the way the shell game works is that the marks (lay creationists) haven’t heard the term, so it can be played as a “deep dark secret,” and it sounds all sciency and stuff. Whom do you think her audience is, after all?

Gauger now claims that she meant precisely that:

3. About homoplasy being a hidden secret: it’s hidden from non-specialists. The technical literature is aware and trying to deal with it.

Good prediction, Just Bob!

… which all goes to show that there are real issues, that they can be addressed, and that the green-screen issue is a sideshow. If they can show that they really do have a lab, that does not allow Gauger to evade the real issues. So John Harshman was right.

Hidden? Google yielded 182 000 in 0,21 sek. including

Evolution By Design: Problem #2: Convergent Evolution (Homoplasy) createdevolution.blogspot.com/…/problem-…

9 May 2011 – Evolutionists use convergent evolution (homoplasy) to support evolution, but they ignore the fact that convergent evolution is better evidence for …

14 Google pages on homoplasy. Some secret.

Research is a word they’ve only heard.

So John Harshman was right.

Uh oh, Joe, now you’ve gone and done it!

Richard, the Discoveroids’ green-screened lab is much more than an “appropriate target of ridicule.” It’s a very good metaphor for the entire intelligent design movement. The Ann Gauger lecture is a trivial episode in the long history of pseudo-science, but the undeniably false setting symbolically demonstrates that ID, which is mere creationism, has been metaphorically green-screened onto a false facade so it can masquerade as a scientific enterprise.

After I give this some more thought, I may start using “green-screen” as a standard phrase, the way we use “quote mining.”

Richard B. Hoppe Wrote:

They attempt to undermine the case for common descent…

Unless they mention Michael Behe by name and state unequivocally that has been wrong all along, the simplest explanation is that they know that common descent has no viable alternate “explanations,” and are only pretending so to throw a bone to the Biblical literalists in their audience.

Richard B. Hoppe said:

Just Bob was prescient last week when he wrote on my earlier post

But the way the shell game works is that the marks (lay creationists) haven’t heard the term, so it can be played as a “deep dark secret,” and it sounds all sciency and stuff. Whom do you think her audience is, after all?

Gauger now claims that she meant precisely that:

3. About homoplasy being a hidden secret: it’s hidden from non-specialists. The technical literature is aware and trying to deal with it.

Good prediction, Just Bob!

Huh? How can something be hidden from non experts? How can it be hidden from anyone if it’s in the literature? What the frack is she talking about? So she admits that the experts know about it and are dealing with it! So what the frack is the problem? This is the most dishonest bunch of crap I have seen since at least last week.

And of course she meant that the mutation rate was too slow for non experts as well I suppose. It’s not like real experts know what the actual mutation rate is. It’s not like anyone has ever thought to ask if the mutation rate is fast enough to allow for evolution! Who does she think she is trying to fool? Oh … right. We’ve already established that.

No wonder a green screen was good enough. After all, it only has to fool non experts.

Annie your researches is a crock. I done hitted a opossum within my car and its cells was not adheared to nothin! There ain’t enough mutations in the whole universe to make them there cells adhere no how. Even me, bein a non specialist can see that plain as the nose on your face, which is bound ta fall off any minute on accunta the severe lack of adhesiveness. It’s a deep dark secret that only them what is initiated in the black arts of adhesiveness is allowed to know.

I don’t deny that the green screen is a valid target for ridicule. And it is indeed a fine metaphor for the whole DI exercise (though I really like “cargo cult science”). I had two points:

1. There’s been too much attention to the green screen in proportion to its importance. This may be because it’s a subject for which those who don’t know much about the biology feel free to contribute. It might be that the green screen is equally understandable and meaningful for the ignorant public, and so should be emphasized, but I don’t think that argument is a strong one.

2. Many of the posters on the subject have made untrue conjectures, particularly the notion that they didn’t pay for the photo or that they don’t have an actual lab they could have used. That’s where the Jesuit triumphantly produces the live dog.

It isn’t just in SINEs that there’s very little homoplasy in hominid evolution. The proportion of homoplasy in simple SNPs is low enough that ignoring it entirely still gets you the correct tree. And this is true even if you use fast-evolving sequences like mtDNA. Lineage sorting is a bigger problem, though only for the African ape trichotomy, and you can ignore that too if you concatenate as few as 5 or 6 genes.

My 2c in the pot.

If you are addressing those knowledgeable and educated, then certainly John is correct. Evidence and facts will rule.

However, if you are focused on the general public who are neither knowledgeable nor educated in the sciences, then the sound bite approach is more effective. Real science and math is way too deep, time consuming and too often makes their heads hurt. All they need is an example of documented fakery and they will associate everything else from that group with that image.

Heaven knows the DI has exploited the sound bite technique extensively with great results. Makes it so easy to avoid any real science.

Bobsie said: However, if you are focused on the general public who are neither knowledgeable nor educated in the sciences, then the sound bite approach is more effective. Real science and math is way too deep, time consuming and too often makes their heads hurt. All they need is an example of documented fakery and they will associate everything else from that group with that image.

Heaven knows the DI has exploited the sound bite technique extensively with great results. Makes it so easy to avoid any real science.

You seem to be suggesting that adopting the sound bite technique is reprehensible on the part of the DI but just fine on the part of its opponents. I think you’re half right.

Richard B. Hoppe said:

Just Bob was prescient last week when he wrote on my earlier post

But the way the shell game works is that the marks (lay creationists) haven’t heard the term, so it can be played as a “deep dark secret,” and it sounds all sciency and stuff. Whom do you think her audience is, after all?

Gauger now claims that she meant precisely that:

3. About homoplasy being a hidden secret: it’s hidden from non-specialists. The technical literature is aware and trying to deal with it.

Good prediction, Just Bob!

It helps to have the soul of a conman to spot a con being worked ;)

Re: Gauger’s claim that homoplasy is “hidden” from non-specialists -

I am a master’s student in evolutionary biology and teach a VERY introductory biodiversity and evolution lab class for non-biology majors. We talk about homoplasy in the first lecture of the semester and bring it up again many times thereafter. It was also discussed rather extensively in my undergrad courses as well.

I will be charitable and assume that Gauger simply has no idea what’s she is talking about…

It’s got a lot to do with money and funding. I think the Biologic institute is being run on donations. So Ann Gauger and co. have to keep churning out more pseudoscience to keep the money coming, no matter what the consensus in the field is. Their goal is to confuse the non-experts and thereby garner more support.

I find it difficult to believe that Gauger can have a PhD in anything related, and still be able to sit there on camera making claims she cannot help knowing are completely false. I’m aware that Devout Belief can trick the mind to the point where, as Dawkins says, there is no sensible limit to what it can believe against any amount of contrary evidence. But presumably someone who has earned a legitimate PhD knows something about her field, and something about research, and something about making claims that can satisfy a knowledgeable audience.

If mind-melting belief isn’t the answer, then the green screen makes perfect sense, because Gauger is well aware that she’s engaging in deception for the purpose of misleading those who don’t know better. And so anything that contributes to that deception is fair game - the fake background, the big words she can claim are “secrets” because they are specialized and sound sciency, the demonstrably incorrect assertions made because a demonstration comprehensible to her audience would take far longer than anyone’s attention span in that audience.

But if someone has decided to dedicate their lives to lying for Jesus, knowing perfectly well they’re lying, why bother to go to the effort to get a genuine PhD in the first place? There are plenty of fake ones for sale much faster and cheaper, and more consistent with the whole Potemkin village of fake science. Perfectly adequate to trick the yokels into abusing their children into a lifetime of ignorance. Who could ask for more? I’ll probably never understand these people.

I think the Biologic institute is being run on donations.

Every aspect of the DI is run on donations of some sort.

The budget is millions of dollars a year.

The donors probably write off their deductions. However, if the donations are personal, that just means that they don’t pay tax on the money before they give it away. If someone gives a million dollars to the DI and is able to write it off, that is still a million dollars - minus whatever taxes he or she might have paid - less to spend on something else. Or just a million dollar donation that could have gone to something like feeding hungry people or financially helping the families of children with cancer (*in the US of course, in other rich countries, a child’s cancer cannot financially ruin a family*).

The donations are useless for the goal of sneaking creationism into schools. The DI approach has already failed. They do, however, create financial problems downstream for school districts, when DI inspired creationists make failed efforts to insert sectarian dogma into science class. Like termites that eventually succumb to the exterminator, ID/creationists may not achieve their ultimate goal, but they do a lot of expensive damage in the attempt.

harold said:

I think the Biologic institute is being run on donations.

Every aspect of the DI is run on donations of some sort.

The budget is millions of dollars a year.

According to the most recent available IRS Form 990 (registration probably required), in 2010 the BioLogic Institute had total revenues of $378,648, of which $360,050 came from “contributions and grants,” and $18,598 came from rentals. The source(s) of the “contributions and grants” is(are) not specified. Its expenditures that year were $311,818, $225,752 in “salaries, other compensation, and benefits,” and the remainder in “other” expenses.

John Harshman said: You seem to be suggesting that adopting the sound bite technique is reprehensible on the part of the DI but just fine on the part of its opponents. I think you’re half right.

I don’t disagree with you at all John. But the point is, if you want the change any opinion of the masses, you must use the Madison Ave techniques that give you traction. Otherwise you’re a blindsided sitting duck.

I’m not saying abandon the academics, but its limited audience is not endangered. However, it has long been apparent this isn’t an academic battle at all; it’s a political battle. We can’t just wait for the masses to get educated.

IMO, there will be no significant general population progress without deploying political tools and techniques. We criticize and complain what our trolls post here but their simpleton sound bites get traction everywhere else.

I know, this is a disappointment for those of us who are evidence based, but it is a fact of political life.

Moving on the the Disco ‘Tute, in 2010 its total revenues were $4,323,149, virtually all of it from “contributions and grants,” and its total expenses were $4,425,565. Of the expenses, $524,467 was paid out in a category labeled “grants and similar amounts paid.”

So they were $102,416 in the red. Dang, I thought it was only them tax-and-spend librulls that did that unAmerican deficit spending stuff.

Just Bob said:

So they were $102,416 in the red. Dang, I thought it was only them tax-and-spend librulls that did that unAmerican deficit spending stuff.

Well now, there are non-negotiables, like a high yearly salary for Stephen Meyer.

Good talent is hard to find. You’d have to look pretty far, like a block or two, to find people who could sling the s**t like the DI “scientists” can.

Glen Davidson

Flint said:

But presumably someone who has earned a legitimate PhD knows something about her field, and something about research, and something about making claims that can satisfy a knowledgeable audience.

That is not a presumption that I would make. I have personal (though second hand) knowledge of a PhD who knew nothing about research.

My wife worked for a time as a lab tech in a neurobiology lab at SRI. The PhD leading the study she was helping with was perfectly happy using control “groups” with single individual rats from which to draw conclusions. She only had a BS in biology, but even she knew you could not draw statistical results from a dataset of size “1”. She could never figure out how this person had earned his PhD.

Well they sure as hell aren’t running on grants. They would actually have to propose experiments for that.

I don’t disagree with you at all John. But the point is, if you want the change any opinion of the masses, you must use the Madison Ave techniques that give you traction. Otherwise you’re a blindsided sitting duck.

I will split the difference here.

When dealing with people who can be persuaded, it makes sense to use techniques that are effective for persuasion. There is nothing inherently dishonest about being persuasive.

The good news is that the more reality is on your side, the less you have to resort to manipulation and superficiality to persuade. When reality is on your side, 90% of being persuasive is just not doing things that cause even reasonable people to become resistant.

Of course, some people can’t be persuaded. It’s important to deal with those people in a different way. My personal take is that showing how they are wrong, but trying to do it in a calm and rational way, helps to win over third party, persuadable observers.

When dealing with creationists, there is a significant subset that will respect and retreat from angry insults, but that will take calm responses as a sign of weakness. However, when dealing with hard core creationists, the idea is not to persuade or dissuade them. That would be impossible. The best way to deal with them is to point out their errors in a way that impacts on third party observers.

harold said:I will split the difference here.

Actually nothing to split. I agree with everything you’ve posted.

The point I believe is valid is that for those whom the science is beyond their interest or comprehension (a majority of the public, I believe), they do understand fraud and the implications of fraud. Thus they will act on the green screen fraud before ever intellectually touching the bad science.

Like I said, it’s my 2cents worth.

The sad part is that they have recent pictures of Ann in what appears to be a real lab. It isn’t a spectacular lab, it isn’t a magnificent lab, but at least it is real. I would at least tip my cap if they would have used the real lab instead of the fake one. Obviously, they did some protein and enzyme work for the biomolecular crocoduck paper that they wrote, so why not show the lab that they did that work in?

What is sad is that the DI can’t even be humble when it would serve them best.

emcindoo said:

The sad part is that they have recent pictures of Ann in what appears to be a real lab. It isn’t a spectacular lab, it isn’t a magnificent lab, but at least it is real. I would at least tip my cap if they would have used the real lab instead of the fake one. Obviously, they did some protein and enzyme work for the biomolecular crocoduck paper that they wrote, so why not show the lab that they did that work in?

What is sad is that the DI can’t even be humble when it would serve them best.

What is really sad is that they have to pay some charlatan to lie to people about the science, hoping they won’t know any better or that anyone who does know better won’t speak up. Humble wouldn’t even begin to make up for dishonesty such as that. But they somehow missed that boat too.

emcindoo said:

The sad part is that they have recent pictures of Ann in what appears to be a real lab. It isn’t a spectacular lab, it isn’t a magnificent lab, but at least it is real. I would at least tip my cap if they would have used the real lab instead of the fake one. Obviously, they did some protein and enzyme work for the biomolecular crocoduck paper that they wrote, so why not show the lab that they did that work in?

Probably one of two things, either 1) deep down in their rotten, shriveled up mummy hearts, the DI staff fear that, should they show Gauger working in the real “Discovery Institute’s real laboratory,” everyone, both their target audience and their enemies, will see how the Discovery Institute does not can not do science, or 2) it didn’t cross their minds to use a “real laboratory,” or 3) they found it unfeasible to use a “real laboratory” for their little propaganda film.

What is sad is that the DI can’t even be humble when it would serve them best.

Con-artists do not know how to be humble, ESPECIALLY those who are Con-Artists for Jesus, as they have received a divine mandate of “Holier than thou”

They can sometimes attempt to pretend to be humble, though.

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This page contains a single entry by Richard B. Hoppe published on December 23, 2012 8:46 PM.

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