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The term Gish Gallop has been used a few times on the site, including by me. It is a useful term to describe a style of debating or writing that is troublesome to skeptics because it takes a lot of time to respond, giving the impression that the galloper has won the debate.

The trouble with the term is that it is an ad hominem attack against Duane Gish who is said to use the technique.

Has anyone got any suggestions for a non-ad hominem equivalent that is reasonably widely understood?

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    “it is an ad hominem attack against Duane Gish” – so? Fine by me. ;-) I’m also not sure whether this really is an ad hominem since it’s an accurate (factual) representation of some of his “arguments”. – Konrad Rudolph Jul 22 '11 at 12:29
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    The next argument that Gish makes may be completely sound and valid. The phrase (arguably?) suggests otherwise. Attacking the man (the source of the arguments) rather than the arguments themselves is the definition of ad hominem fallacy. The fact that you (and I both) aren't impressed by his past arguments isn't a good reason to stoop to fallacy. – Oddthinking Jul 22 '11 at 13:03
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    As long as Mr. Gish is not involved in the discussion, it isn't an ad-hominem argument. It is criticizing a discussion style, and a meta-discussion, but not ad hominem. – user unknown Jul 27 '11 at 2:58
  • @Oddthinking: were Gish to make a non-fallacious argument, that wouldn't be a Gish Gallop. A Gish Canter, perhaps, but not a gallop. – Joel Rein Sep 9 '11 at 8:40
  • Yes, there is a better term, Gore Gallup – Russell Steen Sep 14 '11 at 15:58
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    Ad hominem is considered wrong because it is a form of prejudice, arriving at a judgment before (or in lieu of) evaluating argument. People who have observed Gish so far (who may admittedly start telling the purest truth any time) have made a postjudicial evaluation that fed into the term Gish Gallup, which doesn't apply to Gish if he starts arguing truthfully. – Christos Hayward Sep 13 '15 at 19:00
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"Scattergun" fits nicely, and I forget where, but I've heard the term "scattergun debating" used almost synonymously with "Gish Gallop". It's not very common as a fixed phrase, but "scattergun" is widely used as an adjective:

referring to a way of doing or dealing with something by considering many different possibilities, people, etc. in a way that is not well organized

"The scattergun approach to marketing means that the campaign is not targeted at particular individuals."

The meaning of "scattergun debating" is fairly self-explanatory, unlike "Gish Gallop" which only makes sense once it has been explained.


I don't remember the context of the debate, but the debater responded to a Gish Gallop with something like:

Please don't engage in scattergun debating. Ten weak arguments, each with no evidence, adds up to a grand total of zero evidence. Please prove each point before moving on to the next one.

...which was very effective at nullifying the rhetorical value of the galloping, moving the debate back to evidence-based points.


Here are a couple of examples of "scattergun" used in this context:

A scattergun affair

Today’s PMQs [Prime Minister's Questions, a televised UK political debate] was a rather scattergun affair. Neither side of the chamber coalesced around a single issue.

And a shareable image (I would post it here but it's huge):

Is your debating strategy to scattergun out random points and never stick to a particular thread?

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I don't think the mere use of the term "Gish Gallop" to describe a particular rhetorical style constitutes an ad hominem attack against Gish or even a pejorative. It is simply that his name has become attached colloquially to that particular style of argument because of his well documented use of it. While I'm not certain he came up with this particular breed of argumentative style, he has certainly popularized it.

I would equate usage of the term with something more along the lines of describing things as Dickensian or Kafka-esque when discussing literature.

Referring to situations as "Orwellian" would be likely to fall into a similar category, in my opinion. Certainly any of these descriptions can be used with an implied negative connotation, but I don't find it to be implicit in the term itself.

A slightly more contentious argument as to whether "gish gallop" constitutes an ad hominem could be made by considering the use of the term "Social Darwinism" which certainly can be used with deliberately negative connotations, but does not always have to be.

I think it all comes down to the context in which the term is used, which can of course only be evaluated by examining each usage independently.

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When I was young, we have half-jokingly created categories of "false proofs" (fallacies). This one reminds me of

proof by length

Other category was:

proof by Lenin (if you did not visit a schools under a communist regime, insert any authority)

There were a few others, but I cannot remember them right now (and they would be off topic here anyway).

  • proof by exhaustion also works – Sklivvz Jul 23 '11 at 23:49
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The RationalWiki on Gish Gallops states:

Sam Harris describes the technique as "starting 10 fires in 10 minutes."

I had some question about whether it was broader or narrower than "Gish Gallop" in terms of application (i.e. whether either expression refers only to Creation "Science", or to inundation on any topic), but the referent appears to begin and end at pretty much the same place.

So "starting 10 fires in 10 minutes" avoids connotations of prejudice that a person or persons are wrong before they are heard out.

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