The Gish Gallop is a skeptics' jargon term, named after creationist Duane Gish, for the debating technique of drowning the opponent in such a torrent of half-truths, lies, and straw-man arguments that the opponent cannot possibly answer every falsehood in real time. The term was coined by Eugenie Scott from the National Center for Science Education.
The debating jargon term for this is spreading. You can hear some mindboggling examples here. It arose as a way to throw as much rubbish into five minutes as possible. In response, some debate judges now limit number of arguments as well as time.
The gallop is often used as an indirect argument from authority, as it appears to paint the "galloper" as an expert in a broad range of subjects and the opponent as an incompetent bumbler who didn't do their homework before the debate. Such emphasis on style over substance is the reason many scientists disdain public debates as a forum for disseminating opinions.
It is often successfully combined with the "point refuted a thousand times" (PRATT). The gallop must consist of as many points as possible, and even old and worn out arguments are useful in overwhelming the respondent and bamboozling the audience. The technique also takes advantage of the one single proof fallacy, since if a respondent only manages to refute 99 out of 100 points there is still one point that proves the galloper correct. The galloper takes to heart Joseph Stalin's advice that "quantity has a quality all its own."
Argumentum ad tl;dr
A related distraction technique can involve swamping an opponent in long-winded screeds of text to artificially inflate the appearance of depth and quality of information presented - often enough, the actual content of several paragraphs can be summed in a sentence. While the Gish Gallop floods an opponent with many, but relatively short points, argumentum ad tl;dr flings text walls so massive and impenetrable that even Victor Hugo would blush. Both tactics, however, have exactly the same purpose; to bury and obfuscate the core points that need to be discussed under a quantity of superfluous information. A user might well think that these techniques show that they know what they're talking about, but in the end they act simply as distractions. Note that both are different (but not mutually exclusive) from argumentum ad nauseam, which bolsters the apparent credibility of the argument simply by repeating the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over again.
For example, Jason Lisle's blog posts and "research paper" about the anisotropic synchrony convention prattle on endlessly about relativistic physics, hiding the fact that his fundamental assumptions were, to say the least, a little far-fetched. Similarly, engineer Dewey Larson has written numerous books on his theories about matter, going on for pages and pages about the need for critical thinking and letting evidence fit hypotheses - yet what he actually proposes in these weighty self-published tomes can be summed up in a medium-length sentence. RationalWiki, meanwhile, has encountered more than enough of these.
Use by creationists
The evolution of living organisms is a large and complex subject, and even professionals cannot study more than a small part of it during their whole careers. Furthermore, while making a statement is quick and easy, convincingly refuting it takes time regardless of how inaccurate the statement is. Since many debates involve a three quarter hour presentation with a half hour rebuttal, correcting all the Creationist misinformation under these conditions is difficult or impossible. Generally creationists are more than willing to debate when the debating rules favor them in this way.
|Since they have no scientific model of their own to present, they will spend all of their time in what is known affectionately as the "Gish Gallop", in which they skip around from topic to topic spewing out an unceasing blizzard of baloney and unsupported assertions about evolutionary theory, leaving the poor evolutionist to attempt to catch up and correct them all.|
In responding to the Gish Gallop, where possible it is best to
|...narrow the debate down to a single topic--the age of the earth, or the fossil record--and then debate it through to its logical conclusion. This defeats the Gish Gallop, and also prevents the common creationist tactic of suddenly changing the subject whenever he or she gets uncomfortable.|
It is also important to challenge creationists whenever they make unsupported claims.
Use by bloggers
A variant of the Gish Gallop is employed by bloggers who post an endless series of dubious assertions - each of which can be countered, but to no effect, as it will be buried under the cascade of dubious posts.
The following show prime examples of the "Gish Gallop". They are usually characterized by being "lists", titled "100 reasons why..." or similar. Thus, the points raised in the gallop are often very short and non-specific. It takes a lot of effort to fully refute everything and it is far easier for the galloper to add another question than it is for the respondent to formulate a suitable answer, which is the point behind the tactic.
- - 25 mostly meaningless questions. Some of which are just the same thing repeated for a different example.
- - you read that right; even RationalWiki has a Gish Gallop on it.
- - Yep. 101 evidences. Countable nouns be damned!
- - 100 reasons, each reason with about 20 words in it!
- - Ray Comfort's attempt to gallop through as many apparent "facts" as possible.
YEC website owner Philip J. Rayment has been making full use of the Gish Gallop technique on A Storehouse of Knowledge. He has improved the technique even further by introducing an annoying green "quote template" to further fragment discussion.
- How Not To Argue With Creationists by Jim Lippard
- Debating Creationists: Some Pointers -- two articles at TalkOrigins.org
- A climate Gish Gallop of epic proportions
- ↑ "Debates and the Globetrotters" from Talk.Origins
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 http://web.archive.org/web/20090226071224/http://www.geocities.com/capecanaveral/hangar/2437/debate2.htm
- ↑ a fine example of Gish Galloping
| Articles about logical fallacies|
|Affirming the consequent||Denying the antecedent|
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