NCSE and the "Gish gallop" in the Los Angeles Times

Eugenie C. Scott and Kenneth R. Miller.

Eugenie C. Scott, NCSE founding executive director, left, and Kenneth R. Miller, NCSE board president.

A column in the Los Angeles Times (July 19, 2023) arguing against the usefulness of debates quoted both Eugenie C. Scott, NCSE's founding executive director, and Kenneth R. Miller, president of NCSE's board of directors, on the so-called Gish gallop.

"The Gish gallop is the debate equivalent of Phil Spector's wall of sound," Robin Abcarian wrote, "but instead of being produced with musical instruments, it's accomplished with lies, half truths and obfuscation."

Coined by Scott, the term takes its name from the Institute for Creation Research's preeminent debater, Duane T. Gish. Gish galloping, Scott explained, is when "you spew out a ton of information, accurate or not, that your opponent has no possibility of refuting in the time available," adding, "It's an effective if ultimately shallow and misleading debate trick."

In general, Scott suggested, "Debate is a sport. ... It is not a way of informing the audience or the public of the accuracy of an opinion. It is played by rules that are different from those of logic and empirical evidence."

The column ended with a tale of Gish himself having been on the receiving end of a Gish gallop from Kenneth R. Miller in a creationism/evolution debate held at the University of Arizona in Tucson on February 12 — Darwin's birthday! — 1982.

Glenn Branch
Short Bio

Glenn Branch is Deputy Director of NCSE.