Dr. Duane Gish and Debating Evolutionists

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen 

Dr. Duane T. Gish was born one hundred years ago today, and was referred to as "creation's bulldog". Thomas Henry Huxley was "Darwin's bulldog [1]", and C. Richard Dawkins was nicknamed "Darwin's Rottweiler [2]". The bulldog monikers refer to tenaciously advocating viewpoints.

Dr. Duane Gish has a specious debate tactic named after him. This is demonstrably false, but misotheists and evolutionists use such things themselves.
Original image furnished by Why?Outreach
Today is the 100th anniversary of Dr. Gish's birth. He was involved in the foundation of the Creation Research Society and the development of the Institute for Creation Research [3]. He was 92 when he passed away in 2013. Here are some tributes and biographical sketches [4], [5], [6] ). Duane gave many lectures, as well as writing numerous books and articles. Many fish-to-Gish evolutionists and atheists with knowledge and life experience know of him from his 300 or so debates where evolutionists chose to slap leather with him.

The Infamous "Gish Gallop" Trope

Unfortunately, a pejorative called the "Gish Gallop" was conjured up. According to Wikipedia (that bastion of unbiased scientific integrity and truth written by anonymous people): "During a Gish Gallop, a debater confronts an opponent with a rapid series of many specious arguments, half-truths, and misrepresentations in a short space of time, which makes it impossible for the opponent to refute all of them within the format of a formal debate [7]". This essentially describes a very similar tactic known as elephant hurling [8], and something that really takes the rag off the bush [9] is how atheists and evolutionists use it freely (Bill Nye used it against Ken Ham [10], [11], for example). The fact that these folks don't call each other out on that makes this child wonder about their intellectual honesty and character.

It is interesting that the term "Gish Gallop" was coined by anti-creationist Dr. Eugenie Scott, but a researcher is hard-pressed to find actual examples of this unjustified ad hominem. It also raises the thought that it was a damage-control tactic, as Dr. Gish had a reputation for winning the debates [12]. Indeed, Scott also advised against debating creationists, and they have several excuses for not doing so [13]. Wouldn't it be prudent for evolutionists to shut down biblical creationists with incontrovertible evidence if they have what they claim?

Many Debates, No Registered Complaints

Dr. Gish had a large number of his debates on university campuses before large audiences [14], several times with people he had debated previously [15]. While the usual false claims of quote mining and other "tactics" were leveled against creationists [16], there are apparently no known complaints that fit the "Gish Gallop" mischaracterization.

In a formal debate setting, it is not only important to stay with the topic, but also to deal with the strong points of the opponents [17]. The format is generally agreed upon in advance or a common type is used. An article by an anti-creationist discussed the Winning the Creation Debate videos that Gish was involved in making did not say he advocated dishonesty or overwhelming the opponent [18], so no mention of deviating from debate protocols. Dr. Gish presented scientific evidence, but the claim that he was using rapid-fire misleading or deceitful tactics does not appear to have any foundation; we don't need to be bamboozled by this buffoonery. See this rather passionate video refuting the "Gish Gallop" falsehood [19].

I would do lousy in a debate, opening fire on logical fallacies and distracting myself. 

The Making of a Mythology

The hands at the Darwin Ranch (out yonder by Deception Pass, but not the one in Washington State) have built up the mythology surrounding the debate tactic quite handily, but there is no evidence upon which it is based. These sidewinders say that creationists win debates by using the Gallop. Someone who does an internet search on "Gish Gallop" will find a wagon train-load of material passing along the disinformation, but no records or first-hand accounts to verify their position. There may be creationist debaters who use elephant hurling, but I seriously doubt that they represent respectable creationist ministries.

Although its origin is based on false claims, the term is being used. A leftist accused Mitt Romney of using the Gallop during a 2012 debate with B. Hussein Obama [20]. There was another leftist who praised Joe Biden in his debate with Paul Ryan [21]. Did Romney and Ryan display the Gallop as it is portrayed, with elephant hurling and dishonesty? Probably not, considering the vituperation and logical fallacies the authors used undermines their credibility.

"If it's not true, why do they use it, Cowboy Bob?"

There are several possible reasons, likely a combination. One is that people don't care about its untrue origins. Another reason is that it is used to describe a debate tactic, and the name stuck — but for the wrong reasons. Third, many atheists and evolutionists have antipathy toward Christians and creationists, so if it libels a decent man, that is an additional reason to use it.

Let's think about the accusation of lying and see if it passes a simple smell test. Why would creationists lie to refute evolution and convince unbelievers that they need to humble themselves, repent, and make Jesus Christ the Lord of their lives, but God hates lying? Such an accusation is risible all by its lonesome. It decisively failed the smell test.

Something else to get cognating on is that the secular science industry has a reproducibility crisis [22] in that papers were written, passed peer review, cited by other writers — but the results were not duplicated. Similarly, there is a problem with retracted papers that are still being utilized [23]. Maybe it's human nature to use statements and papers from others in support of their own views, even if those are not credible. This may be similar to what has happened when attacking Duane Gish.

Reversing the Gallop: Gish-Doolittle Debate

Formal debates are used for each side to plead their case and to confront the strong points of the opponents. A common format consists of opening statements from each side, then shorter rebuttals, additional trade-offs that become shorter as the event progresses. Many have direct exchange segments that are often called cross examinations but those were not used in the following example. Civil behavior is expected, as is the use of logic. Duane Gish was gentlemanly in his presentations. At the end of his debate with Dr. Russell F. Doolittle (get the "talks to the animals" jokes out of your system), they shook hands and parted friendly.

Dr. Doolittle (stop that snickering, I say) immediately struck me as an elitist who condescended to venture down to Lynchburg, Virginia (against advice, no less) to have a debate. He actually insulted the audience, implying that they were a bunch of hicks that could not understand proper science. Russ even played the noble martyr, appealing to emotion; he was "worried about the future of education in America" because some people have the audacity to dare question the "factual nature of evolution".

He used the hoary canard that evolution is science, but creation is religion. That is false because evolution has strong elements of faith and religion itself [24]. Then he proceeded to read out of a children's book that raised ire in Livermore, California in 1980. Dr. Gish pointed out that ICR wants creation science and evolution taught side-by-side to allow children to make up their own minds based on the evidence alone. The children's book that Doolittle was ridiculing had nothing to do with the science that ICR was advocating. 

In addition to the implicit appeal to emotion about indoctrinating children with unscientific religion ("unscientific" and "religion" because he said so, and misrepresented creation science), Doolittle drew from his naturalistic presuppositions, saying, "Any implication that dinosaurs lived a few thousand years ago is sheer gobbledygook". Ipse dixit — oopsie daisy! Plus he simply put down creation science material without using any of the strong points in all those books he was insulting. Actually, I did not see that he referenced them at all.

Duane accurately described evolutionary beliefs, and pointed out that not all scientists accept evolution. In fact, there are many outside of biblical creation science fields who have doubts or even reject universal common descent. Gish also pointed out that materialistic indoctrination in public schools is not science. The bulldog came out when he stayed with science and logic but pointed out some false claims by Doolittle. Evolutionists are often startled when they encounter creationists who are knowledgeable about evolutionary beliefs and the accepted facts of science. No Gallop here, Hoss.

Like so many others, Doolittle insisted on the imagined differences between science and religion. Then he parroted something that has been said by others before (and is said even now): the blind faith that even though there is no evidence for certain things such as transitional forms, the questions would be found someday. That's blind faith, old son, not science. It can also be called futureware [25]. To use his own reasoning, such "science" does not belong in the classroom.

Providentially, I received a message while writing this article that provided some related information. There is a new book from the Intelligent Design movement that has not yet been published by Eric Heden and the atheist cancel culture [26]. Some people claim that ID is creation science in disguise, but that is clearly false. While they have good material that refutes evolution, they have serious limits [27] and do not go far enough in my view [28]. That said, Professor Heden was censored by atheists because they said ID was religious and does not belong in a university [29]. So much for intellectual and academic freedoms — which are two of the reasons Question Evolution Day exists [30]. One atheopath implied that Heden is a bad man for presenting evidence contrary to evolutionary dogma [31]. This kind of thing fits our discussion about defaming Dr. Gish and the worldview of Dr. Doolittle and many others.

A couple of disagreements I have is not only the use of thermodynamics (although evolution requires added genetic material and goes uphill while everything does indeed go from order to disorder), but his evidence-only and let people decide for themselves. Yes, facts are on our side, and we have more facts against evolution and in favor of creation than we did when Dr. Gish was roaming the earth's debate auditoriums, but to take "neutral ground" is wrong [32]. Many of us do not want creation science taught in public schools, but others say it would be a good thing. We cannot and should not force it through legislation [33]. If you study on it a bit, the idea of forcing an atheist to teach evidence for creation could be disastrous.

Related Debates and Discussion

Gish and Donahue

Many people use the word debate quite loosely, but there is not much in common between an online squabble, two people having a discussion, and a structured debate. One of these alleged debates was between Dr. Gish and Phil Donahue on the Feedback television program in 1982 [34], [35]. It was more like a discussion. Donahue freely admitted that he is not a scientist (his only degree is Bachelor of Business Administration [36]). Phil is charismatic and an accomplished talk show host who knows how to work an audience. Although a professing Roman Catholic, his expressed views sound more like Deism than anything else, and he claimed that evolution glorifies God.

While Phil was appealing to emotion and asserting unsubstantiated opinions (annoyed when Duane corrected him that Darwin was not a Christian and that Stephen Jay Gould was an atheist), Gish was asking pointed questions about balanced treatment of science and evolution in schools. As is typical of Darwinian votaries, Donahue used red herrings and arbitrary assertions, including how creation is religion and evolution is science. Dr. Gish pointed out some of the faith nature of evolution. When given hard questions, Donahue dodged. (Can we promote the expression "Donahue dodge"? Asking for a friend.) Like the Gish-Doolittle debate, they shook hands and parted friendly.

Dr. Ian Plimer

Here is a mountebank who was embarrassing even to atheists. In my research on Duane Gish, I saw that Dr. Gish had a 1988 debate with Dr. Ian Plimer in Australia. Although I did not watch the entire three-hour event [37], I watched Creation Ministries International's retrospective Facing the Fire [38]. (I wonder if he got permission from CMI to rip the video and post it.) He was irrational while Gish was calmly trying to stay on topic despite Plimer's antics and atheopathy.

Plimer may have anticipated Saul Alinski's Rules for Radicals, which is used today beyond community activism, it's original purpose [39]. One of Alinski's ideas was to make the enemy live up to its own rules. Ian said that Duane is Satan, and, "He wants God to bless him for the devil's work". That is an ad hominem and an arbitrary assertion, and the absurdity is compounded because Plimer is an atheist! I had a criminal cyberstalker atheist who kept telling me I was going to Hell for lying, and he misused the Bible to "prove" his claim. With both Gish and myself, we received hateful invective for its own sake and nothing was proven to be lies. Some folks refuse to distinguish lies from disagreements, hurt feelings caused by inconvenient truths, or simply dislike of the facts.

Did Duane and Ian shake hands and part friendly?

Interesting that Dr. Plimer posted these videos where he tied his credibility to a post, lit it on fire, and threw it off a bridge into the Murray River. CMI has had encounters with Plimer's secular jihadist proclivities [40]. It is interesting that Ian is a "climate change denier" [41] (note that such pejoratives are used to poison the well), but his attacks on creationists in his book Telling Lies for God (which have been proven baseless [42]) could be a hindrance for him today. That is a reminder for Christians to keep good reputations in the eyes of both God and people.

Worldviews are Important

It is ironic that people who accuse creationists of being disingenuous are often antagonistic, condescending, elitist, attempting to influence people with arbitrary statements and insults their ownselves. They frequently utilize logical fallacies and straw man arguments to misrepresent not only their debate opponents (whether in formal debates or simpler discussions), but creationists and Christians in general.

These stem from a fundamentally flawed worldview based in atheistic materialism. Biblical creationists, however, are motivated to present the truth as accurately as possible. This is not only to win minds and hearts of people, but to glorify God.

I hope the thoughts and resources presented here will benefit readers and seekers after knowledge. Doing this research has certainly been a helpful experience for me.