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Duane T. Gish dies

Duane T. GishDuane T. Gish

The young-earth creationist Duane T. Gish died on March 5, 2013, at the age of 92, according to Answers in Genesis's obituary. Born on February 17, 1921, in White City, Kansas, he served in the U.S. Army from 1940 to 1946 in the Pacific Theater of Operations, attaining the rank of captain. He earned a B.S. in chemistry from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1949, and then a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1953. After a stint as a postdoctoral fellow and then assistant professor of biochemistry at Cornell University Medical College, he returned as a researcher to the University of California, Berkeley, from 1956 to 1960, before joining the Upjohn Company as a researcher from 1960 to 1971. In 1971, he became the vice president of the Institute for Creation Research, founded in 1970 by Henry Morris. In 2005, Gish retired, becoming the ICR's Senior Vice President Emeritus. A prolific writer, his most famous book was Evolution: The Fossils Say No! (Master Books, 1973), entitled in later editions Evolution: The Challenge of the Fossil Record (Master Books, 1985) and Evolution: The Fossils Still Say No! (Master Books, 1995). His most recent book was Letter to a Theistic Evolutionist (ICON, 2012).

But Gish was famous, or notorious, principally on account of his debates with scientists, including such opponents as George Bakken, Kenneth R. Miller, Massimo Pigliucci, Kenneth Saladin, Michael Shermer, and William Thwaites. "If the mild-mannered professorial Morris was the Darwin of the creationist movement," wrote Ronald L. Numbers in The Creationists (2006), "then the bumptious Gish was its T. H. Huxley." Gish boasted of having engaged in over three hundred debates. He was certainly a lively debater, whose style involved a rapid delivery of arguments on widely varying topics; his debate style was dubbed the "Gish Gallop" by NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott in 1994. But scientists quickly concluded — in the words of Karl Fezer, writing (PDF) in 1993 — that "Gish will say, with rhetorical flourish and dramatic emphasis, whatever he thinks will serve to maintain, in the minds of his uncritical followers, his image as a knowledgeable 'creation scientist.' An essential component is to lard his remarks with technical detail; whether that detail is accurate or relevant or based on unambiguous evidence is of no concern. When confronted with evidence of his own error, he resorts to diversionary tactics and outright denial."