The Gish Gallop (or “baffle them with bullshit”)

February 5, 2011 at 10:13 am 3 comments

Real Climate is spot on the money, as usual. Good mix of “real” science, by people at the coal face, and those who’ve got the scars on their backs from trying to communicate the science to the public and policy-makers. Here’s something I was familiar with but didn’t have a name for… [excerpted from a Jan 6 2011 post]

Bell uses the key technique that denialists use in debates, dubbed by Eugenie Scott the ā€œGish gallopā€, named after a master of the style, anti-evolutionist Duane Gish. The Gish gallop raises a barrage of obscure and marginal facts and fabrications that appear at first glance to cast doubt on the entire edifice under attack, but which on closer examination do no such thing. In real-time debates the number of particularities raised is sure to catch the opponent off guard; this is why challenges to such debates are often raised by enemies of science. Little or no knowledge of a holistic view of any given science is needed to construct such scattershot attacks.

Yep, you end up playing whack a mole, and that’s if you’re lucky. And by the time you “win”, you’ll have lost the audience, who’ll have taken home the message that there’s still a real “debate” going on about the science. Either way, the denialist nutjobs win…


Entry filed under: framing, stupidity.

Chocolate fireguards… Everything Old is Jung Again…

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Antonio Dias  |  February 9, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    Good One!

    This is what George Monbiot did to Dougald Hine last May at the Dark Mountain Festival. The delusion that we can afford to play around with figuring things out by turning a conversation into a debate is a profound expression of entitlement over the recognition of our vulnerability. It’s a class thing more than a right wing thing. Of course by class I don’t mean traditional English Caste, and by not only Right Wing I mean the whole support of the status quo is essentially authoritarian even when dressed in a Green cloak.

    • 2. dwighttowers  |  February 10, 2011 at 2:19 am

      Hi Tony,
      please expand. I thought that Monbiot was listening to Hine’s points and disagreeing on points of substance, not just throwing out irrelevancies. BUT, by then I was very very fed up, and so the red mist may have descended and I wasn’t seeing the world arights… I’ve gone back and re-read my write up. and it seems I was of the opinion that Monbiot was indeed debating. But that’s not always a bad thing – bad ideas and phony assumptions do need exposing. But I am sure that you agree with that, and that I am missing a deeper point from you. (Though in passing, I would say the spectacle of two white middle-aged middle-class privileged men on a platform being passively watched by several hundred meant that whether it was a conversation or a debate or something else, it was still a massive failure. They claim they’re going to do better this year. That remains to be seen (but not by me).

      • 3. Antonio Dias  |  February 10, 2011 at 3:57 am

        Th red mist had descended on me that day too, though with a slightly different take perhaps.

        I can’t claim a perfect record on profundity! My “point” here was a stretch and weakly put.

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