Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The "Gish Gallop"

When I was writing about the vaccine meeting, there was a term I wanted to use but it escaped me at the time. I remember it now. It is the "Gish Gallop", named after a Creationist douchebag named Duane Gish. The term was coined by NCSE director Eugenie Scott to describe Gish's propensity to rapidly switch from topic to topic, while never rebutting any criticisms of his ideas.
Duane Gish, Creationist Douchebag

To put it more generally, the "Gish Gallop" is the phenomenon where a denialist -- whether it be a Creationist, an anti-vaxer, a homeopath, a 9/11 truther, a Holocaust denier, or whatever -- can throw out fallacious arguments, or even make up facts out of whole cloth, faster than any rational person could possibly rebut.

At the vaccine meeting, there were a number of claims made which I was almost certain were either completely false, or else a misunderstanding or misrepresentation of some other fact. Some of them I was able to rebut in real-time using my enV2, which has a totally shitty web browser, so if I can rebut your claim using that thing that's gotta tell you something... but for the majority of these claims, I just had to maintain a skeptical posture and move on.

I suppose I could have just made shit up too, but ultimately that undermines the whole point. I am not an activist, I merely can't stand when people make statements that are false or misleading. I suppose a pro-vaccine activist might lie to promote vaccines, but that is not my agenda. Can I lie in order to insist on the truth? No. It is inherently self-defeating.

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