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The Gish Gallop finally comes to a halt

A notorious old fraud has kicked the bucket: Duane T. Gish is dead. He was a true pioneer in the art of lying: he was infamous for his “Gish gallop” style in which he’d simply rattle off distortion after lie after BS at a rapid-fire rate, trusting that any intellectually honest opponent would never catch up with him. He mastered the Chewbacca Defense before it was even named.

The NCSE has a beautiful quote from Karl Fezer that summarizes the Gish style:

Gish will say, with rhetorical flourish and dramatic emphasis, whatever he thinks will serve to maintain, in the minds of his uncritical followers, his image as a knowledgeable ‘creation scientist.’ An essential component is to lard his remarks with technical detail; whether that detail is accurate or relevant or based on unambiguous evidence is of no concern. When confronted with evidence of his own error, he resorts to diversionary tactics and outright denial.

Yeah, that’s Gish through and through.

Comments

  1. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    “I did not attend his funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.”

  2. grumpyoldfart says

    In a hundred years from now the Creationists will still be printing his books and selling his DVDs. He’s a liar for Jesus; a hero to the cause; they’ll never let his memory die; not while they can make money from him.

  3. Cuttlefish says

    I saw Gish at Cuttlefish U. quite some years back; it was astonishing. I went armed with a book, many years old at the time, which addressed Gish’s claims from an earlier book/lecture/interpretive-dance/whatever, and which took the time and space that a book can to address his gallop thoroughly. It even specifically mentioned some of his rhetorical flourishes, like the slide of a monkey’s face where he says “oh, sorry, that’s my uncle!” (or close–this is from memory, quite some time later).

    His talk had not changed. It hadn’t needed to; in that whole hall, I got the feeling I was the only one who was seeing the big picture. The gallop worked; a biologist would stand up and say “well, I know you’re wrong on X, but I have a question about Y”; a physicist would say “I know you’re wrong about Z, but you mentioned this about W and I’d like to ask…” The overall impression was of a very successful and convincing talk, when the whole thing was utter bullshit.

    I wanted to arm people with buzzers and flashing lights, so that, say, a green light would go off when a biologist heard something that was untrue, a blue light when a chemist heard something untrue, a yellow light when a physicist, a red light when a philosopher heard an error in logic… I’d run out of colors before I could adequately address all the demonstrably wrong statements, but at least the audience would have some notion of how egregiously, willfully false he was.

  4. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    I like that light idea, a lot. Pass out a legend for the lights ahead of time so everyone understands.

    Like it a lot.

  5. wcorvi says

    I heard Gish speak a few times. He liked to call evolution the “Fish to Gish” theory. He had a real flair for making fun of the opposition. But the funny part was that he was VERY simian looking – sloping forehead, jutting jaw, snub nose, etc.

  6. says

    Cuttlefish’s description of Gish’s talk could be used word for word for a Gish presentation I attended at UC Davis, where the pious old fraud smoothly repeated oft-refuted claims and arguments with nary a hesitation or shadow of a doubt. Of course he had known for a long time that his comments about — for example — the second law of thermodynamics were bogus, but he ignored that, secure in the knowledge that most of his audience would not know that. The university’s Christian student groups were writhing in delight while the outnumbered biology, physics, and anthropology students (and at least one math student) were horrified. Gish smiled through the whole damned thing (and included that “uncle monkey” quip, too). The old propagandist is gone now, but at least he’s spared the knowledge that his god was as fake as he was. Believers don’t get an afterlife any more than we do, so they never discover how wrong they are.

  7. Akira MacKenzie says

    If I may borrow the opening line of H.L. Mencken’s obituary of William Jennings Bryan:

    “Has it been marked by historians that the late Duane Gish’s last secular act on this earth was to catch flies?”

  8. throwaway, promised freezed peach, all we got was the pit says

    He will be missed by those who cared about him. ‘Tis about the nicest thing I could say about him. And more than I could say about Jerry Falwell upon his demise.

  9. Ogvorbis says

    My condolences to his friends and family. They can be comforted by the fact that he will live on. As long as there are professional liars for Jesus, Gish will be remembered. As long as people refuse to accept reality, Gish will be remembered. As long as liars gallop, Gish will be remembered. As long as ‘throwing everything up against the wall and hoping it will stick’ works, Gish will be remembered.

    I never saw him speak but I have heard some of his minions echo his ‘style’ of nonargumentation. Though they may never have heard of him, though their subject matter may be completely unrelated, their refusal to allow reality to intrude into their world will continue to echo through the ages as the Gish Gallop.

    “He was a very humble man. And he had much to be humble about.”

    — W. Churchill

  10. omnicrom says

    As the saying goes I would never have wished harm upon him in life but I am quite pleased now to be reading his obituary.

  11. Akira MacKenzie says

    I’m no Cuttlefish, but…

    Ding Dong! The Gish is dead. What’s a Gish? It’s Duane Gish!
    Ding Dong! The Slimey Gish is dead.
    Wake up – he’s bit the dust. Of biologists, he did disgust.
    Wake up, the Lying Gish is dead. He’s gone the way that all flesh goes,
    A hole – a hole – a hole- a hole, let’s bury him now before he stinks and decompose.
    Ding Dong’ the merry-oh, blog it high, blog it low.
    Let all know
    The Wicked Gish is dead!

    (I cast PZ in the role of the Corernor.)

  12. Akira MacKenzie says

    Ogvorbis @ 13

    Personally, I liked Leo G Carroll’s line from “We’re no Angels:”

    “He had a number of good points, I’m sure. I just can’t think of any.”

  13. laurentweppe says

    In a hundred years from now the Creationists will still be printing his books and selling his DVDs. He’s a liar for Jesus; a hero to the cause; they’ll never let his memory die; not while they can make money from him.

    And 208 millions years from now, an evolved octopuss creationist will answer to the tentacled scientists showing Dish’s fossilized remain as proof that a somewhat intelligent life existed before them that of course, these paceful bipedals creature was certainly not capable of making tools and lived in the trees with Glouxib’Lakbrock -may the name of the Hallowed Ancestor remain praised for all eternity- probably as a pet.

  14. Akira MacKenzie says

    grumpyoldfart @ 6

    Actually, thanks to the twin cancers of capitalism and religion, a century from now civilization will have long since collapsed. The few dying remnants of humanity, living in a toxic greenhouse hell, will be too busy trying to collect shiny bits from the rubble of our once great cities to trade for what passes for food and praying for the sweet release of extinction to care about the late Mr. Gish.

  15. robro says

    Perhaps he will live on in the phrase “Gish Gallop” because it succinctly captures a particular rhetorical technique.

  16. Akira MacKenzie says

    Ugh, it’s too early in the morning (for me at least) to proofread. Need sugar and caffeine.

  17. Sastra says

    I once read something written by an evolutionary biologist who had done the unthinkable: he followed along with the Gish entourage throughout one of his speaking tours. He eventually befriended the people in the group — and even spoke and dined regularly with Gish himself. They knew he was an ‘evolutionist’ but apparently accepted his honest claim that he was only interested in observing.

    What he observed was something rather remarkable — and it took him a while to recognize it. Duane Gish apparently wasn’t aware that he was lying. He appeared to have an astonishing ability to compartmentalize which seemed to fool even himself — along with a memory hole which had no bottom. He would say something in one debate, be corrected, thank the person who corrected him and say he’d change his talk … and then not change his talk. Obvious lie. And yet personal discussions offstage — direct or overheard — slowly revealed that Gish didn’t remember any of it. He’d say things to people he must have known he could not fool and yet he’d say them anyway, blithe and comfortable and serene that he’d done nothing untoward.

    The Observer from the Realm of Science reluctantly concluded that the bullshitter had bullshitted himself. He wasn’t “lying for God.” You say what? No. He never said that, never heard that, never did that. Nope, didn’t happen.

    Following this guy around must have been like living in “Groundhog Day.”

  18. Pierce R. Butler says

    Hats off, flags to half-staff!

    Given that lies are the chosen medium of our era, it must be acknowledged that we have lost a Grand Master of the art.

    Duane Gish has given his name to a technique, a genre, in which he had many imitators but no peers. Neither Richard Nixon nor Ronald Reagan achieved such recognition!

  19. vaiyt says

    @16:

    Almost perfect, but I keep seeing an extra syllable in there, so I cut the last “a hole” =P maybe it’s because I can only hear this song in Klaus Nomi’s voice?

  20. Akira MacKenzie says

    vaiyt @ 26

    Yeah ,I had a little trouble with the middle. The original lyrics go:

    She’s gone where the goblins go,
    Below – below – below.
    Yo-ho, let’s open up and sing and ring the bells out.

    They essentially throw out the rhyme scheme with that last line and I was deuced to think of anything that would work well. That, and I hadn’t had my morning stimulants so I wasn’t at 100%.

  21. unclefrogy says

    I have had talks with people who can compartmentalize their minds maybe not to that degree but I always find in utterly amazing and astonished when I discover it. It is like they can think but have an idea and then just stop and never connect with the rest of their thoughts even when they are in conflict.
    If we survive the next 100 years with a civilization let us hope that creationism will no longer bother us. The Gish Gallop though will still be with us how ever it may have a different name.

    uncle frogy

  22. osmosis says

    “Gish Gallop finally comes to a halt”

    Don’t bet on it. I’ve seen Hovind Sr. do the Gish Gallop, and there’ll be more.

  23. Ichthyic says

    My condolences to his family and loved ones.

    if you really cared, you would have said that BEFORE the destructive idiot kicked it.

  24. Ichthyic says

    then not change his talk. Obvious lie. And yet personal discussions offstage — direct or overheard — slowly revealed that Gish didn’t remember any of it. He’d say things to people he must have known he could not fool and yet he’d say them anyway, blithe and comfortable and serene that he’d done nothing untoward.

    I’ve mentioned the psychology of Gish that was evidenced by that “tour”, to absolutely no avail to anyone, frankly.

    nobody in academia who criticized the man, nobody who takes the battle against creationism seriously, while they might mention in passing, or even jest, the common projection and denial exhibited by creationists, ever seems to acknowledge what this really means….

  25. Ichthyic says

    …likewise this mention of it will get interested nods, but in the end, nobody will acknowledge that this means there is a treatable personality disorder involved. In the end, Gish “wins”, and it all becomes about the content of what he said, instead of why he was saying it.

  26. Ogvorbis says

    My condolences to his family and loved ones.

    if you really cared, you would have said that BEFORE the destructive idiot kicked it.

    I should give condolences that someone is alive? What the hell is wrong with my writing today? I wasn’t trying to be funny or sarcastic or shitty. No matter how much of an ass he was, his family will still grieve and I offer my condolences.

  27. David Marjanović says

    I like that light idea, a lot. Pass out a legend for the lights ahead of time so everyone understands.

    Like it a lot.

    Seconded.

    nobody will acknowledge that this means there is a treatable personality disorder involved

    TRIGGER WARNING FOR DEPRESSION

    Treatable? Are you sure it’s treatable?

    I should give condolences that someone is alive?

    Technically, you wrote “friends and family” in comment 13; Katherine Lorraine wrote “family and loved ones” in comment 5, and that’s what Ichthyic quoted.

    The condolences would have been for the fact that he had turned… unreasonable.

  28. Stacy says

    treatable personality disorder involved

    I like the personality disorder hypothesis, but personality disorders, almost by definition, are highly resistant to treatment.

  29. theignored says

    Does anyone anywhere know of any writings, videos, etc that show Gish repeating the same stuff as fact, even after he’d been refuted?

  30. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Does anyone anywhere know of any writings, videos, etc that show Gish repeating the same stuff as fact, even after he’d been refuted?

    You’re making the naive presupposition that he would acknowledge he was wrong….Godbot’s doing testament for their imaginary deity are never, ever wrong, no matter what evidence you present.

  31. microraptor says

    I heard Gish speak a few times. He liked to call evolution the “Fish to Gish” theory. He had a real flair for making fun of the opposition. But the funny part was that he was VERY simian looking – sloping forehead, jutting jaw, snub nose, etc.

    Chucking feces all over the place…

  32. microraptor says

    Does anyone anywhere know of any writings, videos, etc that show Gish repeating the same stuff as fact, even after he’d been refuted?

    Donald Prothero said in Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters that he’d once debated Gish and, after receiving a tip from someone else had asked for and received the first and third quarters of the debate, then proceeded to refute all of Gish’s points before Gish had the chance to make any of them. He even preempted a few of Gish’s jokes. Gish apparently didn’t even notice.

    I’ve tried without success to find a video of the debate.

  33. paulburnett says

    Spread the rumor that Gish recanted on his deathbed and died a happy and intellectually honest man. (Thanks to harold at Panda’s Thumb.)

  34. Ichthyic says

    Treatable? Are you sure it’s treatable?

    treatable in the sense that once acknowledged, there are ways of working with it that don’t empower it instead.

  35. Azuma Hazuki says

    I am ashamed to say my first thought was “Yes! Finally!” It was followed literally milliseconds later (100-300) by “Of course, not to take pleasure in anyone’s death, it’s just good, if sad, that this particular loudmouth isn’t peeing in the meme pool any longer.”

    But as other posters have commented, the man’s ideas and technique live on :/

  36. rogerfirth says

    Wow, I thought he’d died a while back.

    His mind did, many years ago. His body just finally caught up.

  37. bovarchist says

    Damn, I was going to say literally word for word what Brett McCoy said in #1. Oh well, I’ll just say that liars and jerks lost a role model today.

  38. says

    Scanning the headlines without my glasses. I thought the quote was from Karl Rove, an appreciation of deceit from a master.

  39. esmith4102 says

    “Gish will say, with rhetorical flourish and dramatic emphasis, whatever he thinks will serve to maintain, in the minds of his uncritical followers…” Uh, sorta like Limbo the Walrus, Malkin the flippin Filipino, Hannity the vacuum head, and O’reilly the myth maker? Looks like we have lots of Gishes around serving lots of credulous folks.

  40. raven says

    What disorder would that be? It sounds more like brain damage–inability to form new memories. But perhaps I’m being too harsh. Narcissism?

    Gish was a meat robot. Just following his programming.

    Another example of fundie xian induced cognitive impairment. Michele Bachmann, internet trolls, WL Craig, Duane Gish, and many other data points.

  41. calladus says

    Cuttlefish, the idea of the light signals for errors in Gish’s speech is a good one, except…

    The beginning of the speech would have to include a seizure warning due to flashing lights.

  42. says

    Unfortunately, there are still plenty more con men out there pushing the same old crap. I used to have Gish’s books on my shelf for reference purposes, but when it came time to pack up and return to NZ (and needed to cut down on non-essentials to save on removal costs), I felt relieved to be able to throw them away.

  43. theignored says

    Well, I found some examples of Gish caught not correcting his “errors”:

    Some years ago, Curtis attended a conference in Austria where he heard that someone had found bullfrog blood proteins very similar to human blood proteins. Curtis offered an explanatory hypothesis: the “frog” which yielded the proteins was (he suggested) an enchanted prince. He then predicted that the research would never be confirmed. He was apparently correct, for nothing has been heard of the proteins since. But Duane Gish once heard Curtis tell his little story.

    This bullfrog “documentation” (as Gish now calls it) struck me as joke, even by creationist standards, and Gish simply ignored his alleged chicken proteins. In contrast, Doolittle backed his televised claims with published protein sequence data. I wrote to Gish again suggesting that he should be able to do the same. He didn’t reply. Indeed, he has never since replied to any of my letters.

    John W. Patterson and I attended the 1983 National Creation Conference in Roseville, Minnesota. We had several conversations there with Kevin Wirth, Research Director of Students for Origins Research (SOR). At some point, we told him the protein story and suggested that Gish might have lied on national television. Wirth was confident that Gish could document his claims. He told us that if we put our charges in the form of a letter, he would do his best to get it published in Origins Research, the SOR tabloid.

    Gish also attended the conference, and I asked him about the proteins in the presence of several creationists. Gish tried mightily to evade and/or obfuscate, but I was firm. Doolittle provided sequence data for human and chimpanzee proteins; Gish could do the same — if his alleged chicken and bullfrog proteins really exist. Gish insisted they exist and promised to send me the sequences. Skeptical, I asked him pointblank: “Will that be before hell freezes over?” He assured me that it would. After 2-1/2 years, I still have neither sequence data nor a report of frost in Hades.

    Shortly after the conference, Patterson and I submitted a joint letter to Origins Research, briefly recounting the protein story and concluding, “We think Gish lied on national television.” We sent Gish a copy of the letter in the same mail. During the next few months, Wirth (and probably others at SOR) practically begged Gish to submit a reply for publication. In response, someone at ICR (presumably Gish himself) pressured SOR not to publish our letter.(1) Unlike Gish, however, Kevin Wirth was as good as his word. The letter appeared in the Spring 1984 issue of Origins Research — with no reply from Gish.

    The 1984 National Bible-Science Conference was held in Cleveland, and again Patterson and I attended. Again, I asked Gish for sequence data for his chicken and bullfrog proteins. This time, Gish told me that any further documentation for his proteins is up to Garniss Curtis and me.

    I next saw Gish at noon on February 18, 1985, when he debated philosopher of science Philip Kitcher at the University of Minnesota. Several days earlier, I had heralded Gish’s coming (and his mythical proteins) in a guest editorial in the student newspaper.(2) Kitcher alluded to the proteins early in the debate, and in his final remarks, he demanded that Gish either produce references or admit that they do not exist. Gish, of course, did neither. His closing remarks were punctuated with sporadic cries of “Bullfrog!” from the audience.

  44. lippard says

    The bullfrog story is a good one. More complete details here: http://www.skeptictank.org/files/evolut/bfrog2.htm

    I’ve always been fond of this passage from Philip Kitcher (_The Advancement of Science_, 1993, Oxford Univ. Press, pp. 195-196), which I believe Gish inspired:

    The behavior of creation scientists indicates a kind of inflexibility,
    deafness, or blindness. They make an objection to some facet of
    evolutionary biology. Darwin’s defenders respond by suggesting that
    the objection is misformulated, that it does not attack what
    Darwinists claim, that it rests on false assumptions, or that it
    is logically fallacious. How do the creation scientists reply?
    Typically, _by reiterating the argument_. Anyone who has followed
    exchanges in this controversy or has read the transcripts of a series
    of debates sees that there is no adaptation to any of the principal
    criticisms. One important example among many is the creationist
    use of the second law of thermodynamics. For nearly twenty years,
    the major exponents of creation science have been declaring that
    the second law of thermodynamics is incompatible with the evolution
    of life. Creationists have been in the presence of people who have
    given lengthy critiques of their objection and there is substantial
    evidence that their eyes have wandered over some of the pages on
    which such critiques have been printed. How has their thinking
    adapted to these critiques? Apparently not at all, for they make
    no replies to them and continue to present their ideas in exactly
    the same way.