Posted by: Barry Bickmore | June 14, 2017

Giddyup! Dean Sessions and the Gish Gallop

 

This is part of a series of articles responding to the claims made in Dean Sessions’ Universal Model.  Click the link to see the introduction to the series.

Volume 1 of the Universal Model (UM) is long.  Really, REALLY loooooonnnnnnnggggg.  Over 800 pages long.  And supposedly there are two more volumes of similar size in the editing stage!  For people who aren’t accustomed to intellectual debate, this kind of thing can often seem impressive because, well… look at all that evidence!  Even those who are used to engaging in serious debate can sometimes be thrown for a loop by such an enormous flood of information. That is, even if you can easily tell such a collection of “evidence” is a giant pile of bullpucky, it can be daunting to contemplate the task of convincing others of that fact.  Where do you even start?  Dean Sessions is an expert at using this common debating technique, called the “Gish Gallop,” of deluging opponents with too much bullpucky to deal with.  In this post, I’m going to give an example of Sessions’ Gish Gallops, and explain how to recognize and effectively deal with such tactics.

What a Reasonable Argument Looks Like

When a reasonable person stakes out a position to argue, it’s usually hard to take it down with one or a few simple arguments (I call them “silver bullets”), because they have usually made some semblance of a good-faith effort to take into account any relevant facts they know of.  Since we (almost?) never have all the relevant information, it’s possible to come to different conclusions based on the same set of evidence.  That doesn’t mean any conclusion is possible, obviously, but honest thinkers have usually already ruled out the most obviously stupid ones by the time they take a stand.

A serious debate, therefore, is usually characterized by great attention to detail.  All the most important arguments for a given position are taken seriously, and if it turns out that one’s opponent has clearly found a way to neutralize or destroy one of them, an honest thinker will admit it and move on.  By “moving on” I don’t necessarily mean conceding total defeat, however.  Rather, most semi-reasonable positions will be supported by multiple arguments, and will be nuanced enough that their essentials can be preserved by making small changes to the details.  Thus, it is quite difficult or even impossible to definitively disprove such a position, and a debate between reasonable people will usually turn into a meticulous examination of all the individual arguments, followed by assessment of which positions seem most likely to be correct, and/or which details need to be adjusted to fit the facts.

In other words, the quality of individual arguments matters to honest debaters.  I have canonized this principle in two of Bickmore’s Laws.

Bickmore’s First Law of Being Reasonable

Reasonable people understand that good arguments can sometimes lead to false conclusions, and bad arguments can sometimes lead to true conclusions.

Bickmore’s Second Law of Being Reasonable

Reasonable people resist bad arguments, even if they agree with the conclusions.

The UM and Silver Bullets

Crackpots like Dean Sessions, however, generally see themselves as revolutionary geniuses, and all those “experts” as bumbling buffoons, so they very often claim to have a vast arsenal of silver bullets at their disposal to dispatch whatever prevailing theory they want to replace.  Consider this passage from the UM, discussing the prevailing scientific opinion on the origin of minerals like quartz in igneous rocks.  (Geologists hold that quartz crystals grow in a variety of ways, but Sessions claims they can only be grown from water.)

The origin of igneous minerals is described as follows:  “Many minerals are formed directly from the magma. Feldspar, mica and quartz, for example, form as the magma cools down, deep in the Earth’s crust, at temperatures from 1100 °C to 550 °C.”

In The Magma Pseudotheory, we learned why this statement from the Handbook [of Rocks, Minerals and Gemstones] is false. Natural quartz cannot come from a cooling magma and this is evident for many reasons including:

1. Quartz is not highly radioactive (the predominant theory of heat in the Earth Is radioactivity).

2. Quartz is not a glass (quartz has an ordered crystalline structure whereas glass does not).

3. The Quartz would not be piezoelectric (natural quartz loses this property when heated above 570 °C).  (UM, Vol. 1, p. 274)

It’s not just that one can make some reasonable arguments against the consensus view.  Oh, no!  According to Sessions, he has any number of arguments that prove the consensus view cannot be correct.

Piling it High:  The Gish Gallop

It turns out, however, that every single one of the arguments listed above is complete bullpucky, as I’ve shown before in detail.  1) Just because a certain thing is a heat source, it doesn’t follow that the source has to be present within every object heated by that source, because heat energy tends to spread out. 2) Quartz demonstrably DOES grow from molten rock. 3) Quartz regains its piezoelectric properties when it cools down again, but sometimes different domains are created in the same crystal with piezoelectric properties that cancel one another out, so natural quartz isn’t generally used for electronics applications.

I’ve tried to present some of this information over on the UM Forum, but I usually get the same kind of response from the UM Team.  That is, they refuse to acknowledge any specific flaws in their arguments, no matter how obvious, and claim I can’t possibly provide a competent critique of any of their arguments until I deal with some giant list of  even more “evidence” they then spew out.  Sometimes they even tell me it will all become clear when they publish Volume 3 of the UM.

When I pointed out that one of Sessions’ own sources, in the same paragraph Sessions quoted, directly contradicts the claim that quartz can’t be formed from a melt, I got a long, rambling response from the UM Team that included this.

Have you made quartz crystal comparable to natural quartz from a melted solution of silica? We can answer this question for you – you have not. Why? Because no one has and this is because quartz cannot form from only melted silica. The Hyprethermal environment from which natural quartz crystals grow can only be duplicated in a water environment. So you should have no problem with the fact that the UM has produced not only synthetic quartz, (see p266 of UM), on the next page under the title, “Indistinguishable” From Natural Quartz, we find the quartz that we have made indistinguishable from the real thing. The following quote from Gems Made by Man, by Kurt Nassau, which is the most authoritative book on this matter we were able to find, states:

“No consistent identifying features are known a present for the reliable differentiation of synthetic from natural quartz and the two types are so far indistinguishable.” (p267 UM)

This important statement supports the UM Identity Principle which states: Identical results come from duplicating processes found in Nature. This imperative statement of course relates to the HYPRETHERMAL environment in which quartz was made, which means being encompassed or grown from water under high pressure and relatively low temperature (350 C). It is similar to how we can literally watch salt grow out of water when a supersaturated solution is cooled. We will be explaining more about this in Volume III of the UM where we find water being the organizing crystalline factor of all natural minerals formed. Nevertheless, the mineral quartz is only formed under specific pressures, temperatures, in water and with some other factors, none of which involve a “melt”….

You then commented on this quote found on the same page of the UM, made by by Paul Hess (1989) Origins of Igneous Rocks, p70:

“Plutonic textures have not been duplicated in the laboratory, however. The complete crystallization of the interstitial liquid as large crystals has not been achieved in granitic melts.”

This statement confirms what the authors of Understanding Earth geology textbook stated above concerning the failure of Bowman’s theory and his experiments with granitic melts. However, the other passages from the same Hess paragraph you claim that we overlooked are noted here:

“Coarse-grained plutonic rocks are produced over several millions of years of slow cooling and crystallization. Nevertheless, experiments show that feldspars of the size and shape typical of plutonic rocks can be grown in a matter of days or weeks in the laboratory…. Peak growth rates of feldspar and quartz in hydrous granitic melts are in the range of 10^-6 to 10^-8 cm/sec, and growth rates of plagioclase, pyroxene, and olivine are even greater in more depolymerized melts. Even the slowest growth rates are capable of producing crystals several centimeters in diameter in a few years. The very slow cooling rates of deep-seated rocks are not necessary for the formation of large crystals.”

Once again you have shown that as long as “peer reviewed” quotes cite actual observations, they have supported the UM position. In this case, every time we see “million of years” needed for anything we can ignore it is only theory because it is not demonstrable and thus not observable and therefore NOT science as noted in this first sentence. The next sentence, mentioned that the experiment was in water (hydrous) and only needed days to produce very small crystals, but no details on temperature, pressure, or the nature of the mineral is stated and Hess is simply talking about what he thinks other researchers have done. It is the last sentence that includes what is important; on p161 of the UM, where the “very slow cooling rates of deep-seated rocks are not necessary.” The millions of years that Hess mentioned in the first sentence appears to let other geologists know he still follows the geological time mantra and won’t get in trouble for saying that rocks can be made in days. How many people know of a rock they can hold in their hand after observing its formation in one day? How many? No one among thousands we talk to, until they hear about it in the UM. Thus, teachers are not teaching the simple fact that natural rocks can grow out of water just as synthetic, or man-made rocks do; and they can be made in days.

In other words, quartz HAS BEEN grown from granitic melts, but the UM Team objects that geologists have not been able to use their very complicated, finicky high pressure and temperature simulators (that are called “bombs” for a reason) to create synthetic granite with quartz and other crystals that are EXACTLY the same in size as what you find in real granite.

This is actually a fair point, although a very weak one.  Certainly the evidence from experimental petrology would be stronger if scientists could produce synthetic granites with crystals just the right size, so it’s fair game to point that out.  But whereas the scientists have produced synthetic granites with just the right minerals, though with crystals somewhat too small, Dean Sessions hasn’t produced any synthetic granites.  That’s right–all he has done is produce large, pure quartz crystals from hydrothermal solutions that are indistinguishable from the kind of large, pure quartz crystals found in nature… which geologists also think are grown from hydrothermal solutions.  (See this and this.)

Yes, our intrepid Galileo has succeeded in demonstrating that quartz sometimes grows one way geologists think it grows in nature.  Brilliant.  And even though he hasn’t grown synthetic granite in a hydrothermal setting, he still thinks it’s A-OK to repeatedly make blanket statements that quartz CANNOT be formed from a melt, because the quartz crystals scientists grow from melts in synthetic granites aren’t as big as the natural ones.  This reasoning is not merely stupid–it’s perverse.  

But the long-winded excerpt of the UM Team’s response above is only a fraction of the whole.  They continued on, and On, and ON with stuff like the following.

Perhaps you could give the four pages that describe how Glass is NOT Quartz (p101-105 of the UM) to several people that have not had your geological training and see if they can’t see how simple it is to grasp. Then have them read pages 257-273, beginning with the Enhydro Evidence, and see if real water in rock examples do not make complete sense for the first time when we realize that ALL natural minerals were first formed from water. This is why the Earth is a sphere – it had to be a liquid in space when it formed, and the ONLY large amount of liquid in space is water! In fact, who has ever observed magma or a melt to take place in space? Answer: no one. But as subchapter 7.2 (p234) demonstrates, water is found all over our solar system and on every planet and even the Sun and in the Orion Nebula, “The birthplace of the Stars” (NASA) wherever we have taken the time to look. And this is just for starters. Wait until you read about all the water in the Universe in Volume III.

Over the decades that the UM has been in development, it helps to understand that critical responses not unlike yours have already been taken into account many times. Experts in their fields of study have a very difficult time jettisoning their favorite pseudotheories they have been teaching for so many years. It has ever been thus, change is difficult even when the truth is so plain as to be obvious. Indeed a wise teacher once quipped after quoting a well-known adage: “Yes, the Truth will make you free, but it will make you really uncomfortable first!” The science language you use every day has been confounded by the UM and we understand this.

With the UM now released to the public, you have a chance to be one of the first geologists to read Volume I and actually contemplate that what you are reading just might be real. No, it is not perfect, we certainly have never made any claim that it was and we expect that corrections will need to be made from time to time, but the overwhelming evidence must be considered by every truth-loving individual. We are assuming you believe that there is truth, right? Many scientists do not and we quote them throughout the UM stating as much. The UM is the first revolution in science in any of our lifetimes and has brought overwhelming excitement to literally thousands who have begun the UM journey and begun to see for the first time, the stunning body of empirical evidence that they can both observe and evaluate for themselves. This is causing many to completely change their previously held worldview. It is scientifically illogical to conclude that we originate from nothing – even though modern science says we did. And yes, the quotes of the modern scientists are there to read for yourself stating that each step of the Big Picture of Modern Science (that we come from nothing) is actually taught throughout the world.

We find a good example of how modern geology is coming closer everyday to the new discoveries found in the UM as relating to glass melt as we look at an article at phys.org that came out recently on May 5, 2017 and titled, New theory on how Earth’s crust was created. Note that the article points out a fact in the opening sentence which helps explain why the UM makes such a big deal about quartz, because, “More than 90% of the Earth’s continental crust is made up of silica-rich minerals, such as feldspar and quartz.” Thus, the first step we must take as investigators of Nature is to find out what kind of environment quartz can grow in – and it is not from a melt as the UM has shown, supported by  all the research we have examined. It clearly is NOT demonstrated in the geology textbooks or classrooms. The UM demonstrates it further by taking the “most abundant volcanic rock basalt” (as stated in most geology textbooks and on Google), which is, in fact, a quartz based rock – and simply melts it. See Fig 8.7.4 p567 in UM for an image of basalt that has been melted by a torch. The smooth black glass area not only looks totally different from the quartz-based basalt sample that supposedly came from a melted lava flow. Glass is 1000 times less heat conductive than quartz and breaks when dropped on the ground, whereas quartz and basalt are very durable. How do you explain this, Barry? Also can you explain why no-one that we could find (after an exhaustive research) has ever observed basalt coming from a volcanic lava ‘melt’, even though basalt covers vast areas of continents? Afterall, lava (not basalt) is seen cooling all around the world. Neither the public nor the geologist has been aware of this simple observational fact that the UM has exposed.

From what we have found, geologists must first acknowledge that in a laboratory, the only reproducible quartz ever grown of which you can hold in your hand, (several cm for instance), grew out of water in a hypretherm, indistinguishable from natural quartz. This process is actually observable in nature, growing right now in natural settings on the bottom of the ocean as seen at TAG Mound (see p608 and 651 in UM.) Please do your own research on this topic, but realize that if the science you talk about growing quartz from a melt is real (even if you use just 1% water), it has to be duplicatable and the quartz grown has to be shown to be “indistinguishable” from natural quartz.

Yep.  To make the point that quartz can be grown from a melt, I can’t just bring up reports of scientists growing quartz from melts.  I have to also address all those other nonsense claims, too.

This cheap debating tactic is called the Gish Gallop, for which there is a good description on the RationalWiki website.  Here is an excerpt in case you don’t want to click the link and read the whole article.

The Gish Gallop (also known as proof by verbosity) is the fallacious debate tactic of drowning your opponent in a flood of individually-weak arguments in order to prevent rebuttal of the whole argument collection without great effort. The Gish Gallop is a belt-fed version of the on the spot fallacy, as it’s unreasonable for anyone to have a well-composed answer immediately available to every argument present in the Gallop. The Gish Gallop is named after creationist Duane Gish, who often abused it.

Although it takes a trivial amount of effort on the Galloper’s part to make each individual point before skipping on to the next (especially if they cite from a pre-concocted list of Gallop arguments), a refutation of the same Gallop may likely take much longer and require significantly more effort (per the basic principle that it’s always easier to make a mess than to clean it back up again).

The tedium inherent in untangling a Gish Gallop typically allows for very little “creative license” or vivid rhetoric (in deliberate contrast to the exciting point-dashing central to the Galloping), which in turn risks boring the audience or readers, further loosening the refuter’s grip on the crowd.

This is especially true in that the Galloper need only win a single one out of all his component arguments in order to be able to cast doubt on the entire refutation attempt. For this reason, the refuter must achieve a 100% success ratio (with all the yawn-inducing elaboration that goes with such precision). Thus, Gish Galloping is frequently employed (with particularly devastating results) in timed debates. The same is true for any time- or character-limited debate medium, including Twitter and newspaper editorials.

Examples of Gish Gallops are commonly found online, in crank “list” articles that claim to show “X hundred reasons for (or against) Y”. At the highest levels of verbosity, with dozens upon dozens or even hundreds of minor arguments interlocking, each individual “reason” is — upon closer inspection — likely to consist of a few sentences at best.

Gish Gallops are almost always performed with numerous other logical fallacies baked in. The myriad component arguments constituting the Gallop may typically intersperse a few perfectly uncontroversial claims — the basic validity of which are intended to lend undue credence to the Gallop at large — with a devious hodgepodge of half-truths, outright lies, red herrings and straw men — which, if not rebutted as the fallacies they are, pile up into egregious problems for the refuter.

There may also be escape hatches or “gotcha” arguments present in the Gallop, which are — like the Gish Gallop itself — specifically designed to be brief to pose, yet take a long time to unravel and refute.

However, Gish Gallops aren’t impossible to defeat — just tricky (not to say near-impossible for the unprepared). Upon closer inspection, many of the allegedly stand-alone component arguments may turn out to be nothing but thinly-veiled repetitions or simple rephrasings of the same basic points — which only makes the list taller, not more correct (hence; “proof by verbosity“). This essential flaw in the Gallop means that a skilled rebuttal of one component argument may in fact be a rebuttal to many.

Reining It In

While reading the UM, I am constantly astonished by how much interwoven bullpucky Sessions can fit on almost every single page, all of it crying out to be refuted.  I have to simultaneously do deep breathing exercises to remain in my Zen state of serenity.  However, remaining in that state allows me to refrain from chasing all the pellets in their shotgun blasts, and instead try to hold their feet to the fire on specific, important points.

The idea that minerals can’t form from molten rock is brought up over, and Over, and OVER in the UM, to support all kinds of claims.  Sessions uses it to justify ignoring vast swaths of evidence geologists can produce to support their ideas about how rocks are made, because his silver bullets supposedly show those ideas cannot be right!  This one false claim is a tiny string of yarn in the sweater, but is so tightly interwoven with so many of the UM’s arguments that if we keep pulling on it, and other points like it, we can unravel much of the weaving that holds together the whole.  [Okay, so the sweater metaphor isn’t perfect, because it leaves us with a pile of yarn, which could be… you know… useful and stuff.  So think of a sweater made of strings of bullpucky.]

If you do decide to spend the time and effort to engage crackpots, there are almost no circumstances under which it is wise to be drawn into a live debate, rather than a debate written over weeks or months.  Intellectually dishonest debaters LOVE to engage in a context where they can Gish Gallop within a framework where source checking is difficult or impossible.  In fact, I just added a new entry in Bickmore’s Laws to extend this principle to debate audience members.

Bickmore’s Law of Debate

Debaters and their audience members who prefer live debates over written, sourced debates couldn’t care less about finding out the truth.

“But Barry, I’m one of those people who prefer live debates!” some readers might object.  Well, tough.  I’m calling you out for being intellectually lazy.  Repent!

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Responses

  1. If the gish is released, maybe the debate should be acknowledged as broken and the gish can be carried out in a refutation by verbosity.

    Just say that there are massive problems unsaid and gallop out a massive list of bullet points, with little to no regard for uniqueness, validity or accuracy or even relevance to the gish list it is aimed against.

    In a written case, neuter the gish by demanding that one point be selected, their best one. propose the first point, since it was the first one that they brought to mind so should at least be among the most valid, then just nail that one into the dirt.

    When it’s napping in the dirt, ask if there is any evidence of any of the others being any way more valid than the one they chose, because this one was false yet proposed, and the work done indicates the rest of the list will take more effort (which will be done), but that the claims have already been shown to have rested on at least SOME incorrect claims and still been held as true, showing that the truth of the points in support is not a given.

    That then lets you interrupt any gish with that debater with evidence for each and every claim in-line, or you can dismiss them all by pointing out that one point they made earlier was invalid but proposed as supported nonetheless, so the points have to be individually proven not to be likewise faulty before they can be accepted or debated.

    But in a verbal or public debate, just gish away with lots more claims. Let them go first, you get the last point. And if they’ve used the gish gallop, end on it, you ARE getting the last word in, and scores of “disproofs” will be uncountered, “Winning” the argument for those who will accept unsupported claim lists in lieu of boring debate.

    Or just reply with “That was a load of bollocks” and derail the gallop with a simple refutation and demand a detailed support of the wallotext.

    And, yes, use fruity language. It makes your point more noticeable and funny. Tone argument won’t work because you can point to the gish gallop as a similar failure to match structure and tone to an argument and pointing out that if bad tone were invalid, that box should not have been opened earlier.

  2. Even the samples he has available show that Dean is about to embark on Gish Gallops. Coherent arguments rarely start with kitchen sink statements.

    I’m still trying to figure out if Sessions is delusional or honestly believes he is brilliant.

  3. Just want to say that I’m super appreciative that you’ve taken so much time to dive into the details and refute this from scientific grounds. I have some family that has been taken by this and it’s been concerning to me to see it grow. So far it seems to have mostly stayed within the Mormon community, but the way they are marketing it has the potential to spread like wildfire within it. Before discovering this blog, I’ve been spending many hours researching each claim I’ve come across. I’m not a scientist by trade so it’s taken a lot of my time, so I was glad that someone reputable has taken on the mantle. Keep up the amazing work.

    • In all seriousness, do Mormons secretly consume some weird ass food, drink, or drugs, or is it just the massive inbreeding? They take stupid to a whole new level.

      I’m curious if there’s ever been any studies done on intelligence levels in the Mormon community.

      • This is not mainstream Mormon stuff. It’s fringe weirdo stuff even for Mormons.

      • Joe, ask yourself the same query about WASPs like yourself when you look at Fred Phelps. Or Alex Jones. Or Rush Limbaugh. Or Sean Hannity. Or Glenn Beck.


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