Behold! The Legendary Intelligent Design Creationism Research Laboratory!


The Discovery Institute released a video of one of their stars, Ann Gauger, explaining the flaws in “population genetics” (I put it in quotes because it wasn’t a description of the field of population genetics that any competent biologist would recognize). Larry Moran points out the errors.

But then, someone noticed something else: the video was fake. It was Ann Gauger, all right, talking in a “lab”. Again, the quotes are because she was actually talking in front of a green screen, and a stock photo of a lab was spliced in behind her. Oops. It adds comic absurdity on top of the egregious errors in her babbling.

But of course that’s exactly what the DI wants. They can’t answer for the stupidity of her comments, but they can wave their hands and shout, “We do too have a lab! A real lab! And it’s sciencey and everything!” Because, after all, when you’re doing cargo cult science, the props are all important, and the substance doesn’t matter.

So, yeah, the indignant DI released a real photo of their real lab, with Gauger gazing at a petri dish. And here it is:

Annlab

Errm, are we supposed to be impressed? I could give you an equivalent photo of a few shelves in one of our student labs — it would look similar, just messier. A petri dish, a few orange-top bottles, a small hood in the background—all they needed to make it really sciencey were a few bubbling bottles of colored water. D. James Kennedy did a better job in “Darwin’s Deadly Legacy”.

kennedylab

See? Now that’s a lab!

But seriously, the furniture does not make the lab — the work being done in it does. When you think it matters that you can pose with a petri dish, you really are doing cargo cult science.

Comments

  1. Louis says

    OH.MY.LACK.OF.GOD!!!!!!!!

    The IDiots have managed to make a positive contribution to science. Seriously. I am not kidding.

    That photo reminded me I need to go down to the stores and get more Parafilm.

    Well, it seems the sun shines on every dog’s arse some day!

    Louis

  2. says

    Now that’s some good lulz.

    And y’know, that ‘do too have a lab!’ picture, that’s got caption contest written all over it…

    My entries…

    ‘Yeah… I dunno… I think this thing’s too big for the goal slots in the air hockey table.’

    ‘I just don’t get this stuff at all. Really not tasty. Makes no sense to serve it by itself in its own, special dish, either, but y’know foodies, gotta have the champagne flute, the red wine glass, the bread plate, so of course there’s a special dish for ‘petri’, too… Hey, maybe if they put it in a savoury soup? Tofu’s pretty okay that way, anyway.’

    ‘Look at me… I’m sciencing!’

  3. says

    Having both a microscope and a telescope is wretched excess. Really. It all depends on which end you look in, so all you need is one!

  4. Louis says

    Tony,

    One lab per scientist? That’s a luxury! Someone’s wasting money on their props methinks.

    Louis

  5. didgen says

    From the way she’s looking at that petri dish she obviously needs a new rx for glasses. ” damn, I can’t read anything on this thing” I’ve seen that look before.

  6. moarscienceplz says

    Nope, everybody knows all real labs have Jacob’s ladders in ‘em. ESPECIALLY if you working in the so-called “Life Sciences”. How ya gonna make “life from non-life” without lots of electricity?

  7. raven says

    Xpost from PT:

    My latest hypothesis is that fundie xianity causes serious cognitive impairment.

    There is a huge amount of data on this.

    1. Michele Bachmann. Two degrees, on in law, passed the bar. These days she shouldn’t even cross the street without her minder.

    2. Creationist and fundie internet trolls. They never, ever seem very smart, educated, or even sane.

    3. Even the statistics show it. Fundies score low on IQ and achievement tests.

    Ann Gauger is another data point for my hypothesis.

    She has a respectable scientific past. Degree from U. of Washington and a postdoc at Harvard.

    These days she gets confused and mangles basic population genetics and systematics. Her scientific career consists of babbling in front of faked laboratory.

  8. dobby says

    I work in a real analytical lab. Almost all solutions commonly used are colorless. That all of the solutions in the photo are green or blue or other colors is a dead giveaway.

  9. Reginald Selkirk says

    I actually clicked through to the evolutionnews site. I noticed a bunch of stuff about C.S. Lewis, a religious apologist. So I guess all that “ID is science and has nothing to do with religion” stuff is over.

  10. skephtic says

    “I like that Kennedy’s lab has both a microscope and a telescope. I feel so…inadequate.

    Err, well, sometimes it’s hard to tell if things are small or really far away, so it pays to be prepared for both :-o

  11. Sili says

    I like that Kennedy’s lab has both a microscope and a telescope.

    What kind of doctor of science would he be without?

  12. dianne says

    Next time someone says that MDs are easily wooed by woo and only PhDs can be real scientists, I’m going to mention Ann Gauger.

    Sadly, it appears that not even good training in science protects the brain against woo it really wants to believe.

    As for the photo, if she’s doing something with sterile agar, it likely involves bacteria and she should be proving evolution in a couple of generations. At least I never could keep the damn things from evolving out from under me…antibiotic selection? Who needs a transgene to be abx resistant?

  13. Abdul Alhazred says

    I’m not a sciantist, but I worked in a laboratory once.

    Show me a room and I will make it look like a loboratory for $50,000.

    Just tell me what kind of lab you want: plausible or Doctor Frankenstein’s.

  14. Larry says

    But the blue gloves! If that doesn’t just scream “caution – real science being done here”, I don’t know what does.

    Either that, or they’re for a proctology exam.

  15. skephtic says

    I love their excuses:

    “Typically, filming in a genuine location like this would be troublesome for us and bothersome for others who work there — a distraction for all involved, including viewers, when the intent is to focus on the argument. “

    Yes, yes, I’m sure filming in the DI “laboratory” would be distracting to the hoards of scientists working their, or the person who answers the DI’s phones in the same room. And it would be so distracting to viewers. Wait, to viewers?

    “Here is Richard Dawkins interviewed by Bill Maher with Dawkins in front of a backdrop depicting London’s River Thames and the London Eye ferris wheel.

    Nice photo. Would anyone actually entertain the idea that Dawkins was filmed in front of a huge picture window through which we may observe this scene in real time? Most viewers wouldn’t think about it for a moment — the interest is in Dawkins’s words not the picture behind him.”

    Er, yeah, except Dawkins isn’t pretending he owns the Thames river and the London Eye, unlike DI who pretended to own and work in the lab in the stock photo.

  16. says

    The way she is posing with the petri dish is just so weird. This photo just hits you over the head with the message that she’s doing “research” in her “lab.” It’s just so forced. Most of the photos I see of scientists in their labs feature them just sitting there with their labmates, with no need to appear to be “sciencing.”

  17. Rodney Nelson says

    It’s a genuine photograph of a generic laboratory she’s standing in front of. And she’s wearing gloves when handling the petri dish. How more sciency can you get?

  18. fastlane says

    Katherine Lorraine, Chaton de la Mort@24:

    PZ, do you have tubes filled with colored liquids in your lab? Maybe that’ll help.

    Maybe even a sciency looking thing with buttons.

    Just not the red button. Whatever you do, don’t push the red button.

  19. d.f.manno says

    @ raven (#15):

    Another data point: Andy Schlafly, of Conservapedia infamy. Degree in electrical engineering, yet claims e = mc^2 is “liberal claptrap.”

  20. Reginald Selkirk says

    I just did a Web Of Science (database of scientific publications) search on Gauger. She had something in New Scientist in 2007, along with Douglas Axe and Brendan Dixon titled “Good science will come.
    I looked up the reference, and it was a letter to the editor, not a research article.
    That was 5 years ago, so I guess it’s a long time coming.

  21. otrame says

    Hey I know where there is a very sciencey machine with lights and knobs and buttons and dials and a roll of old continuous computer paper coming out of it. It was built by a now-deceased geologist to measure thermoluminecense on prehistoric artifacts back when getting such a machine from the manufacturer cost mo bunch monies. It worked too.

    True, it has been completely obsolete for more than 20 years and the lab keeps it around as a sort of memorial to that very much beloved old man and as a sort of sciencey decoration in the area we use as outreach for elementary school kids.

    But they are very hard up for cash, and if the DI offered them enough for it, they might be tempted.

  22. otrame says

    Katherine,

    You remind me of a remark in some fan fiction: The one thing you can always count on in this life is that there will be fingerprints all over the button marked Do Not Touch.

  23. otrame says

    Me @43

    Which, now that I think of it, is a sign of both the idiocy and the genius of humankind.

    @Katherine,

    I’ll check out the website and see it a photo happens to catch it.

  24. says

    Typically, filming in a genuine location like this would be troublesome for us and bothersome for others who work there…

    Atheists just want to spook the Designer. So damned hard to coax out to magic the DNA, too…

    See, now you’ve disturbed it by forcing a photo of Gauger while trying to get it to do supernaturally stuff, and it’s going to disappear for another 2000 years. Your fault!

    Glen Davidson

  25. Ichthyic says

    So, yeah, the indignant DI released a real photo of their real lab, with Gauger gazing at a petri dish.

    It looks like the stock room for a fucking doctors office. seriously.

    what does she think she’s doing with that petri dish? It didn’t come from the stock, there’s absolutely no reason for it to be anywhere near those shelves…

    man, these people REALLY love lying. It’s pathetic.

  26. mikee says

    But the blue gloves! If that doesn’t just scream “caution – real science being done here”, I don’t know what does.

    Either that, or they’re for a proctology exam.

    I suspect blue gloves are necessary when you spend most of the time pulling ideas out of your arse

  27. Gnumann+, nothing gnu under the sun (but the name sticks) says

    What? There’s no disco balls in the disco’ ‘tute labs?

  28. Ichthyic says

    She has a degree in developmental biology.

    So does Jonathan Wells.

    I’m feeling bad for my discipline.

    there’s no need to feel bad.

    THEY DON’T PUBLISH.

    thus, they contribute nothing to the field at all, for good or ill.

    the question is not about them having PhDs and thus somehow being a problem for any science field. The question is: WHY do we let these clowns get them in the first place? I knew Wells, and he WAS a clown. In the MVZ at Berkeley, the only reason we could figure that Molecular and Cell Biology even allowed him into the degree program to begin with was his Daddy Warbucks (Read: the now deceased, thankfully, Reverend Moon)

    so the discussion of course shouldn’t be about their impacts on science, post degree, because they have none. The discussion should be about what to do when you discover a PhD candidate is deliberately lying to your department about wanting to do science to begin with.

    Now, I can understand that there should be absolutely nothing to debate regarding an UNDERGRAD trying to game the system; we figure at least they might learn something. But that is not the purpose of graduate training.

  29. Ichthyic says

    Her scientific career consists of babbling in front of faked laboratory.

    that’s just it. She abandoned her scientific career for a career in marketing.

    that’s all this is.

    marketing.

    and she gets paid for it, and feels good that somehow, in some twisted, heavily rationalized, way she’s also ‘spreading the gospel’, and fighting against ‘materialism’.

    I agree with everything else though. It is very likely that extreme cognitive dissonance is what supports such heavy rationalization.

  30. fernando says

    About the colored solutions in the “laboratory”: should not be more safe, in a real laboratory, if the solutions had diferent colors, to prevent acidents by mixing or using the wrong solution?

    It is a honest question, maybe can be a stupid question for someone that work in a laboratory, but im no specialist in that kind of thing.

  31. says

    Listen, you guys can fun of them and their lab all you want but she must be a scientist; she has a lab coat and rubber gloves! They don’t just give that shit away.

    (I work in a medical clinic and I could come close to reproducing that photo with about 5 minutes of effort.)

  32. says

    Heh. Re the doctor’s office/hospital supply room vibe, I think I’ve been in actual examining rooms looked a lot like that…

    Soooo… Appending to my entries:

    ‘Well then, good news! It’s a suppository!’

  33. kemist, Dark Lord of the Sith says

    It has no cake.

    Don’t they know you can’t do science without cake ?

  34. busterggi says

    Sure, go ahead and laugh.

    Ed Wood would have killed to get such a fantastic lab in one of his films.

  35. says

    But the blue gloves!

    Two by two, hands of blue, two by two, hands of blue, two by two, hands of blue, two by two, hands of blue…

  36. tricycle says

    Microscope AND telescope in a single lab. Hah! I have both a microwave and telephone in mine.

  37. Menyambal --- son of a son of a bachelor says

    Yeah, right.

    In the original vid, the speaker was well off-center, and the lab was centered in the frame—they were emphasizing the lab.Oddly, she wasn’t wearing a lab coat in the vid, but a very nice scarf—what was that about?

    In the “real” lab they show in the photo, there isn’t enough room for more than a second person, so their original excuse about not disturbing the other workers goes right out the window. I’ve run a water-quality lab that was bigger than that, and it could only usefully accommodate two people—it had a stockroom that was more like the photo.

    Seriously, they couldn’t stop lab work long enough to film a vid, nor find any time when the lab wasn’t busy? Hint: The stock photo was labelled “lab at night”.

    I have examined many a petri dish, and have never held one up like that to do so. Possibly there is some issue with distance vision, there, but the light just isn’t at any useful angle.

    They’ve done something wrong, then tried to cover it up, then blown the coverup. Now, of course, they are claiming that the whole fuss is because nobody can touch their science.

  38. says

    I just retired a couple months ago, from 40 years in the lab. Her pic looks sort of realistic to me. A low cost PCR hood in the background, various protocols and recipes taped to the shelves. The Petri dish with E. coli, the blue nitrile gloves. All standard fair in a basic lab. What’s counts though is what you do with these materials and WHAT YOU PUBLISH in peer reviewed journals. She has the look but not the pubs.

  39. Lofty says

    That telescope, I think Toyworld have them for $16.99. The only thing you can do with them is spy in your neighbour’s bedroom. That’s proper creation science you know, observing how other people mange the ass-pulling techniques without getting their hands dirty. The first product developed from this branch of science was blue plastic gloves.

  40. brandthardin says

    Here in TN, they have taken steps though new legislation to allow creationism back into the classroom. This law turns the clock back nearly 100 years here in the seemingly unprogressive South and is simply embarrassing. There is no argument against the Theory of Evolution other than that of religious doctrine. The Monkey Law only opens the door for fanatic Christianity to creep its way back into our classrooms. You can see my visual response as a Tennessean to this absurd law on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/04/pulpit-in-classroom-biblical-agenda-in.html with some evolutionary art and a little bit of simple logic.

  41. A. R says

    That last photo is suspicious. No lab doing actual biology is that clean unless its a BSL-3 or 4 facility.

  42. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    My question is why is someone looking at a petri dish without at least a HEPA dust mask on to prevent inhalation/contamination?

  43. jonmoles says

    The explanation for both a telescope and microscope in the lab is rather simple: telescopes are for observing macroevolution while microscopes are for observing microevolution. Duh!

  44. Ogvorbis: useless says

    My question is why is someone looking at a petri dish without at least a HEPA dust mask on to prevent inhalation/contamination?

    Because the petri dish is empty. Just came out of the envelope in which Amazon delivered it.

  45. Sili says

    About those blue gloves. In my experience those are nitrile rather than latex. Do you really need those in biology? Chemists use them because they’re a tad more resistant to organics, but that’s about it.

  46. frankb says

    The blue gloves are probably powder free nitrile gloves. Many labs have them to avoid the problem with employees who are alergic to latex or the powder.

  47. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    The blue gloves are probably powder free nitrile gloves. Many labs have them to avoid the problem with employees who are alergic to latex or the powder.

    I tend to use thicker green nitrile gloves as the thin blue nitrile as shown are prone to solvent leakage. My two cents.

  48. simulateddave says

    I’m trying to imagine a laboratory that could properly investigate the well-formulated theory that an unobserved intelligence, through means that we don’t understand, at an unknown time and place, did something (we don’t know what), for a reason (that we can’t guess), that resulted in our existence. These people seem woefully under-equipped.

    Maybe if the DI people put together a list of the equipment they need, along with an explanation of what the equipment would be used for, we could properly allocate the necessary resources. Perhaps a network of orbital particle accelerators to sweep for cloaked spaceships? Ground-penetrating radar to search for hidden, 4 billion year old genetic engineering facilities far below the surface of the earth? A handheld deity detector? Just tell us what you need. We must support the scientificish community.

  49. Sili says

    I tend to use thicker green nitrile gloves as the thin blue nitrile as shown are prone to solvent leakage. My two cents.

    My point was surprise that biologists use organic solvents.

  50. johnmarley says

    …she was actually talking in front of a green screen, and a stock photo of a lab was spliced in behind her.

    Wait. Really? How can those goobers not understand how the Internet works? A little effort to make their own fake lab background, and they’d never have been caught. But a stock photo? Not one of them knows about Google image search? Morons.

  51. says

    Chas @12:

    Here she is pipetting stuff at the same bench.

    Not only at the same location; the two photos were almost certainly taken at the same time. Purely staged publicity shots — “using a pipette”, “staring at a petri dish”… I bet there’s a “looking into a microscope” shot to complete the set.

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with having staged publicity photos… provided there’s also some evidence of you actually doing the work you’re portrayed as doing.

    From the article:

    Using a green screen is a totally standard technique that you’ve seen countless times on TV and in videos, especially documentary filmmaking. It’s a convention. You want to protest the convention and make a fuss? Be my guest, knock yourself out. Here is Richard Dawkins interviewed by Bill Maher with Dawkins in front of a backdrop depicting London’s River Thames and the London Eye ferris wheel.

    Do they understand why it’s a convention though?
    It’s a visual shorthand to say to the viewer, “this person is in London“. Drop some clearly identifiable regional landmarks behind the subject to remind you that they’re not in the same room as the interviewer, but they’re doing it via satellite. It’s not intended to represent the literal truth of a view over the subject’s shoulder, but it conveys useful information.

    “I am giving this interview from London.”
    “I am reporting from the nation’s capital.”

    What is a fake lab backdrop intended to convey?

    “I am in a lab.”
    (No. You are in a studio.)

    “I am a real scientist doing real science.”
    (This is undermined by being a photo of somebody else’s lab, rather than your own.)

    What does it actually convey?

    “I am trying hard to look like I do science without having to back it up.”

  52. Cate Dee says

    As anyone taken stock pictures in a lab? Trust me, they all either feature the most expensive equipment (all the way down to the UV-VIS) or are candid shots of people doing things they shouldn’t be in a lab (such as sleeping in a hood). If their most important piece of equipment is that petri dish or the micropipette in the other picture I’m going to have to doubt the existence of their “lab”. Most breweries/wineries have better stocked labs than this picture indicates.

  53. Ichthyic says

    most productive lab I ever worked in:

    was nothing but a bunch of writing tables with comfy chairs, and a lab bench with a PCR machine sitting on it.

    samples go in, data comes out.

    you CAN’T EXPLAIN THAT!

    ;)

  54. Ichthyic says

    what I learned from the Dishonesty Institute:

    Casey Luskin (isn’t he a lawyer?) spent time work at the Scripps Instituteion

    Now I just need to know what the fuck an Instituteion is.

  55. Ichthyic says

    cue obvious answer:

    an Instituteion is where CDesign Propenentists go do do their research, of course.

  56. ibbica says

    My point was surprise that biologists use organic solvents.

    Um… don’t be surprised. Plenty of organic solvents are used (for example) in tissue processing for microscopy, or extractions for assays ;)

  57. A. R says

    My point was surprise that biologists use organic solvents.

    I use 95% ethanol, 99% isopropanol, Triton X-100, acetone, methanol, and ether all of the time in my lab. Also, about the no mask thing, if that’s an E. coli plate, I’m not surprised she’s not wearing one. I don’t, and neither does any other molecular biologist I know. And we have a real population geneticist at my institution. None of the issues with the equipment matter though, because cargo cult science doesn’t require perfection. It just has to look like science is being done.

  58. A. R says

    But in a real lab, those papers taped to the shelving would be water damaged, and the tape would not be the same color on every one of them.

  59. Menyambal --- son of a son of a bachelor says

    When I ran a water-quality lab, I grew bacteria cultures in petri dishes. I never wore a mask. I do not remember all the solvents, but we used alcohol for sterilization, and I got to take home an old carboy of acetic acid (I diluted it to vinegar and used it for cleaning). The lab I see her in looks a lot like that little lab, not a high-powered research laboratory.

    Whatever the “Tute is doing, it isn’t serious.Their “Biologic” is bilge.

    I say again, look at the video, and see where she is in the screen. The center of her face is centered in the left half of the screen—one-fourth of the way in. Hardly any of her reaches the center of the screen. There is a rule of thirds, that might excuse having her off-center, but not that far. The fake lab predominates in the shot, and the real lab is a joke.

  60. hypatiasdaughter says

    #77 Ogvorbis: useless
    I heard they were offered quite a bit of money to do the promo for the DI but turned it down on principle.

  61. kouras says

    About the colored solutions in the “laboratory”: should not be more safe, in a real laboratory, if the solutions had diferent colors, to prevent acidents by mixing or using the wrong solution?

    It is a honest question, maybe can be a stupid question for someone that work in a laboratory, but im no specialist in that kind of thing.

    I can sort of see what you mean, but it’s not a common practice (at least in the UK, and from what I’ve seen as a student). I guess it could work, but only in those situations where colourants wouldn’t interfere with the work (dyes can be reactive too), and everyone can see and understand the colour differences (colourblindness, lab visitors and so on could limit such a system’s usefulness).