Here’s the most ludicrous criticism of intelligent design that I’ve come across so far this week. Richard B. Hoppe at Panda’s Thumb is echoed by Casey Johnston at Ars Technica in jeering that a video I highlighted — Biologic Institute’s Ann Gauger speaking about population genetics — was filmed in front of a green screen. In a post-production effect Ann was given a more relevant backdrop, a stock photo of a lab.
Shock! Horror! Yes, it’s true. I confess.
Writes Miss Johnston in full snark mode:
As a think tank focused on intelligent design, the Discovery Institute presumably has no need for physical laboratories — its research is mostly imagination-based. So it seemed odd to Richard Hoppe of Panda’s Thumb when he saw a video of one of the Institute’s researchers spouting all sorts of bad science from a lab setting.
The sequence was pretty obviously green screened, and Panda’s Thumb has the stock image of a biology lab from Shutterstock to prove it. Instant credibility! Or not.
Yes, it is obviously green screened. And what’s wrong with that?
Nothing! 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. Many other times, in other contexts, we have similarly used backdrops where, to get to an actual locale, it would require travel not to mention complicated, time-consuming setup and many other headaches. Going with a green screen makes sense for an organization that operates under a constrained budget.
The photo above is of Ann Gauger in her actual lab, which doesn’t look all that different from the stock photo.
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.
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. Only someone who was technically unsophisticated and totally uninterested in what Dawkins has to say would get seriously caught up in questioning the authenticity of the background.
By the way, for your own stock-photo needs we recommend the fine services of Shutterstock and Fotolia.
It’s hard to believe that Miss Johnson, who writes for Ars Technica (“a trusted source for technology news, tech policy analysis, breakdowns of the latest scientific advancements“), is unaware of these things. So too Richard Hoppe. The most likely explanation for their posing at the game of “Gotcha!” is that they can’t answer Dr. Gauger’s arguments, which are given in full in a recent brief book co-authored by Gauger, Doug Axe and Casey Luskin, Science and Human Origins. We would be happy to send a review copy to Ars Technica.
Gauger, a PhD in developmental biology who was a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard, has the science on her side. It’s a typical Darwinist feint: When you don’t have the arguments and you don’t have the science, change the subject and pile on the red herrings. Casey Johnson, who dismisses our little video as a “nonsensical rant,” can’t reply to Dr. Gauger on the merits. If she could, she would.