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Meet Dr Gish
Dr Colin Groves

The person who is, or was, regarded by 'creation scientists' as their most prominent activist is Dr Duane T. Gish, formerly a professional biochemist, now Vice-President of the Institute for Creation Research. His Evolution? The fossils say no! (1979) was the source-book for 'creation science' until its replacement by a successor in 1985 which is, in effect, just a new edition of the 1979 book. Gish is also a cunning and slippery orator, and in the l970s and '80s would floor prominent 'evolutionists' in public debates, until the scientific world realised that the issue was not really science at all, and by meeting him on his own ground began to show him up. One of the first to get his measure in a public debate was Ian Plimer, Professor of Geology at Newcastle University (now at Melbourne University), in 1988.

The Gish technique, rather than tackling the substantive issues, is to take quotes out of context from the writings of noted scientists and, often by cutting them short or otherwise doctoring them, makes them appear to be admitting that something is dreadfully wrong with evolution. In his chapter on human evolution (Gish 1985:130-228), apart from quoting many passages from authorities from the 1960s to show that certain key transitional stages do not exist, he uses more up-to-date ones very selectively. Thus, the late Professor Lord Zuckerman is much quoted on how the australopithecines are merely 'apes', without giving the reader any inkling of what an isolated position this was: where Zuckerman was coming from will be clear to anyone who has read his autobiography (Zuckerman 1970), with its intemperate and totally uncomprehending lashing out at anyone who disagreed with him, on australopithecines or anything else. This is followed by extensive quotes of the arguments for arboreal adaptations in Australopithicus afarensis. implying that these creatures were some sort of chimpanzee and with no in-depth analysis of the nature of australopithecine terrestrial bipedalism.

If not the inventor of this technique, Gish was certainly the first to use it so widely that it became virtually a substitute for actual attempts at argument; its use can, of course, be construed as an admission that there is no argument to be made.

Gish's star appears of late to have fallen somewhat in creationist circles. A recent creationist book on human evolution (Lubenow 1992), while barely mentioning Gish, puts totally opposite views to Gish's at almost every turn. In a review (Groves 1993) I contrasted the two: Gish, for example, dismisses the 'Java Man' and 'Peking Man' fossils as apes or monkeys, Lubenow finds them fully human; and there are other instances where Lubenow has evidently decided that Gish's writings are of such low quality that they can safely be ignored.

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