Archive for February, 2015

The Galloping Gish Rides Again

Posted in Uncategorized on February 12, 2015 by sometimesafoggynotion

Today is Darwin Day when I’m posting this, so much like last year, I’ll have another posting related to the scientific theory of evolution, in this case a personal story from wayback in the year 1988.

The Gish vs. Saladin Debate II  (May 10, 1988, at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama)

While in college at Auburn University, an event showed up on the activities schedule for a evolution vs. creationism debate. I’d never seen such a debate before and the mere idea intrigued me. Although I attended a Catholic high school (despite not being Catholic or, before graduating, a follower of any of the breakaway franchises it spawned), the science classes in it were truly science-based, so we learned about evolution without any religious doctrine being crudely inserted into it. I was already firmly in the evolution camp and didn’t see any real alternative to it.  So my thought going into the debate was: what the hell was the other side even going to say? Also at the time I had no idea who either of the men were, so the names “Kenneth Saladin” and “Duane Gish” meant absolutely nothing to me.  Only when the debate started did I find out who was on each side and that Gish was a creationist.

The debate was held in a student rec center that was sometimes used for presentations and concerts (the floor was a wooden basketball court and all the seating were temporary plastic chairs). The debate itself was time limited with each side granted a certain amount of minutes to give a presentation followed by an equal amount of time for the other side. While watching it, I thought Gish was just terrible, while Saladin did a fantastic job and completely destroyed him. I thought it was a complete and total rout of Gish by Saladin (I remember that I likened it to a score of 222-0 which ws the final score of the most lopsided game in football history when Georgia Tech beat Cumberland College).

But after the debate, I ran into a couple of friends there and talked to them about it.  They thought that both sides made good points (huh?!) and scored the debate as even (what?!!). And they thought that both sides should be taught in schools in a sense of fairness (wow?!!!).  I was so surprised by their views that I had no comeback then, although now looking back it shows that I was well along on the critical thinking road already back then.

Here’s a link to the transcripts of the debate ( LINK: ) with some good notes as to the length of each side (I forgot that they each got 45 minutes at the beginning. Wow, the debate was a lot longer than I recall).  I do recall each side had a lot of slides and I thought Saladin’s were the best and mixed in a little good humor at times.

As for the infamous “Gish Gallops”, those had absolutely no effect on me and so I didn’t even notice anything like that in the debate.  Only years later did I even find out that was a style he used to “win” debates by throwing out a long list of claims so that the other side can’t counter all of them in the allotted time.

Looking back, I’m glad I was able to attend a Duane Gish debate at least once and, for me, it has been a key point in time of my life where I found out my viewpoint could not be easily swayed by talk alone. I need good evidence.