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Gish Gallop: When People Try to Win Debates by Using Overwhelming Nonsense - Effectiviology

https://effectiviology.com/gish-gallop/

effectiviology.com

Gish Gallop: When People Try to Win Debates by Using Overwhelming Nonsense - Effectiviology

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The Gish gallop

The Gish gallop

It is a rhetorical technique that involves overwhelming your opponent with numerous vague arguments, with no regard for accuracy, validity, or relevance of those arguments.

The Gish gallop is a misleading rhetorical technique, rather than a logical fallacy because it doesn't represent a pattern of flawed reasoning.

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Examples of Gish gallops

A classic example is when a proponent of some pseudoscience bombards an expert with many weak arguments and start a new argument each time the expert successfully refute one of them.

But Gish gallops also appear in less formal contexts. E.g., someone who wants to support an unfounded stance on social media might post a huge list of irrelevant sources that they didn't actually read.

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Arguments within a Gish gallop

When responding to specific arguments within a Gish gallop, you can use certain techniques to respond effectively to the flawed arguments.

  • When someone states there is support for their stance, you can ask your opponent to list the specific evidence they claim support their view.
  • When responding to generalised claims, show that they contradict the scientific consensus on the topic.

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How the Gish gallop is implemented

  • In live debates, a person using the Gish gallop will fire off arguments one after another to attempt to overwhelm the opponent.
  • In online discussions, Gish gallopers will list a large number of sources that supposedly support their stance. They will search for relevant keywords, then list all the sources regardless if the sources support their stance. It works to some degree since many people won't bother with the list of references and just assume they're valid and relevant.

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History of the Gish gallop

The Gish gallop technique was first known by names such as 'argument by verbosity', 'proof by verbosity', and 'shotgun argumentation.'

Professor Eugenie Scott used the term 'Gish gallop' to describe the debate technique of Duane Gish, a Young-Earth creationist, who was "allowed to run on for 45 minutes or an hour, spewing forth torrents of error that the evolutionist hasn't a prayer of refuting in the format of a debate."

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The Gish gallop and logical fallacies

Arguments in a Gish gallop often contain various logical fallacies, such as the strawman fallacy which attacks a fabricated argument, or appeals to nature, which claims something is good because it is perceived as natural.

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Who uses Gish gallops and why

The Gish gallop technique is used for two main reasons:

  1. It is often easier to raise weak arguments than it is to refute them.
  2. People generally prefer simple arguments and not complex refutations. The Gish gallop often contains these arguments which offer a compelling argument.

The Gish galloper will often use a prepared list of arguments that they can fire off rapidly. They then appear well prepared because a person is unlikely to refute every single point.

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How to respond to Gish gallops

  • Full rebuttal. Go over every point made by your opponent, and refute each of them individually.
  • Sample-based rebuttal. Select a representative sample of your opponent's arguments, either randomly or based on some criteria, then refute only those arguments.
  • Thematic rebuttal. It consists of identifying the main theme of your opponent's arguments and arguing against that.
  • Group-point rebuttal. Dividing the opposing arguments into distinct groups, then addressing each group separately.
  • Best-point rebuttal. Addressing only the strongest piece of evidence presented by your opponent.
  • Worst-point rebuttal. Addressing only the weakest pieces of evidence.

Different techniques will work better in different circumstances based on who your opponent is and what your goals are.

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Calling out the use of the Gish gallop

Regardless of which technique you use, you can generally point out that your opponent is using the Gish gallop, especially if you need to explain why you cannot provide a full, point-by-point rebuttal.

Explain how your opponent is using this technique and why it is problematic.

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The strength of the Gish gallop technique

This technique's strength is that it frames the course of the debate and can create a false appearance of credibility and control.

  • Because it gives an advantage to the Gish galloper, your best course of action is to avoid playing their game.
  • Don't allow the opponent to establish this type of rhetoric. However, this is not possible in online discussions.
  • If your opponent already used the Gish gallop, ask them to defend specific pieces of evidence.

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Straw man arguments

A straw man argument is a misrepresentation of an opinion or viewpoint, designed to be as easy as possible to contradict.

The only purpose is for it to be easy to expose. I...

Hollow man arguments

This is a weak case (similar to the Straw man arguments) attributed to a non-existent group: Someone will fabricate a viewpoint that is easy to contradict, then claim it was made by a group they disagree with. Arguing against an opponent which doesn’t exist is a pretty easy way to win any debate.

People who use hollow man arguments will often use vague, non-specific language without explicitly giving any sources or stating who their opponent is.

Iron man argument

It is designed to be resistant to attacks by a defier.There arguments are difficult to avoid because they have a lot of overlap with legitimate debate techniques.

A person using an iron man argument will most likely make their own viewpoint so vague that nothing anyone says about it can weaken it. They’ll use jargon and imprecise terms. This means they can claim anyone who disagrees didn’t understand them, or they’ll rephrase their argument multiple times.

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Win Debates Without Being Unfriendly

Normally, any debate has the potential to turn into an ugly match, due to the fact that both the sides are trying to win. The problem is that one person will win the debate, and tw...

The Common But Wrong Strategy Of Debating: Logic

Logic is not the best strategy for winning a debate. Any logic has plenty of counter logic waiting to pounce on it.

A simple NO can wash over:

  1. Any overwhelming facts and proof explaining why one is right.
  2. Any valid counterpoints to the other person’s arguments.

We falsely assume that our explanation is bulletproof, and forget that the other person has a choice to not agree with us. We could say the sun exists, and the earth is round, but the other person can simply say ‘No’.

How To Win An Argument: Changing Premises

Instead of trying to persuade someone that they are wrong, try to create a different premise. You can debate to learn something, or to see the other person’s viewpoint, understanding why they disagree. You can also politely put on the table what you think about the topic, not waiting for them to change their mind.

The fun part is when you are not trying to win an argument, you usually do.

Cherry picking

It is a logical fallacy and it happens when we choose and focus only on evidence that supports our views and arguments while ignoring anything that may contradict us.

The problem with cherry picking

  • It fails to take into consideration all the available information
  • It presents information in a misleading way.
  • It might lead to improper analysis and might cause someone to paint a misleading picture of a certain outcome.

The principle of total evidence

Also referred to as Bernoulli’s maxim, it states that, when assessing the probability that a certain hypothesis is true, we must take into account all the available information.