1. Attention people of Twitter, ladies, dudes, and enbys, children of all ages (ok actually not for kids)! Embark with me on a journey into a bizarre parallel world often hidden in plain sight, a dark dimension whose denizens seek to transform our own. Let us enter: #TheJesusZone https://twitter.com/C_Stroop/status/1101569709563150337
2. This is going to be a primary-source-based thread focusing on the evangelical children's book Dinosaurs: Those Terrible Lizards, by creationist Duane T. Gish, who got a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Berkeley in 1953 and died in 2013. But before I dive into it, some background.
3. Most of my threads I write more or less spontaneously from ideas I've worked out in my head to varying degrees. This one I've actually been working on, on and off, for weeks. Taking pictures of the book and organizing them, reading up on the history of creationism in the U.S.
4. The relentless Christian Right drive to push "creation science" on children (and adults!), however and wherever possible, has had a significant harmful impact on not just many individuals like myself, but on U.S. society and politics.

#Exvangelical #ExposeChristianSchools
5. For that reason, I wanted to make sure I did this thread right, and Duane Tolbert Gish is one of the founding fathers, as it were, of the American (and international) creation science movement. If you've never heard of him before today... Uh, lucky you? #Exvangelical #Resist
6. One of the best things to come out of the #ExposeChristianSchools/ #ExposeChristianHomeschooling discussion has been a proliferation of threads on primary sources that get people to look at what right-wing Christians actually teach the children in their care. #TuesdayThoughts
7. Exhibiting primary sources--along with our reactions as those directly affected--may be the single most effective way to give people who weren't raised evangelical/fundamentalist just a glimpse of what it's like on a visceral level, and thus to expose Christian Right extremism
9. I also think it's important that, as we examine primary source materials from evangelical subculture, overtly "educational" and otherwise, it will be most effective if we do what we can to provide big picture context to help people situate them beyond the visceral reaction.
10. So, before I get back to Gish, and to start here with the biggest of big pictures, the promotion of "alternative facts" is an authoritarian tactic. It has always been associated with fundamentalism, as fundamentalists refused to accept modern knowledge they felt threatened by
11. Those of us who grew up in the Christian Right were indoctrinated in such "alternative facts"-- #ChristianAltFacts, I call them--from the time we were born. The more credence a wider society lends to such "alt facts," the more an authoritarian group undermines shared truth.
12. When such a group of authoritarians devoted to a set of "alternative facts" is ultimately able to mobilize politically and to gain power, the results are disastrous. Here's a thread on how and why this is such a powerful tactic:


#Exvangelical #Resist
15. If #ChristianAltFacts have broken America, one of the people we have to thank for it is Gish, who was born in 1921, at the height of the modernist/fundamentalist controversy and just a few years before the Scopes "Monkey" Trial would drive fundamentalists into the wilderness.
16. American fundamentalists didn't stop caring about power or about influencing "the world" almost entirely after the Scopes trial, as the standard narrative had it before Matthew Avery Sutton's American Apocalypse. But they were outside the mainstream.

18. It was precisely during the Cold War that our evangelical antihero, Duane T. Gish, made a name for himself in association with the Institute for Creation Research (est. 1970). After working in pharmaceuticals, Gish became a founding member. #Exvangelical #ChristianAltFacts
19. Creation Ministries International boasts that Gish was "known to many as the foremost creationist debater in the world." That's... not exactly false, but of to "normal" people it makes Gish a ridiculous figure. Which he was. But from inside #TheJesusZone things look different
20. The merits of legitimate scientists debating creationists are debatable, but there has always been a small group willing to do so. And there is actually a (highly shady) debate tactic that is named for our antihero Duane, the "Gish gallop."

21. "Gish gallop" means throwing as many arguments as possible--with no regard for their strength--at the wall, in the hopes that your opponent will be overwhelmed trying to debunk them. Flooding the zone like this is post-truth in action. Russia did this with MH17 narratives.
22. Aside: The person who coined the term "Gish Gallop," Eugenie Scott, is a scientist and science educator who deserves our highest respect for her efforts over the decades to fight the teaching of creationism and "intelligent design" in public schools.

23. So, what's the deal with Gish's book Dinosaurs: Those Terrible Lizards, first published in 1977? Creation Ministries International says:

"His book, Dinosaurs: Those Terrible Lizards, was published when there was very little creationist literature available for children."
24. Note the shady fundamentalist emphasis here on reaching children. Anyone who grew up in evangelical subculture will tell you they are obsessed with reaching the kids while they're young and impressionable


#Exvangelical #ExposeChristianSchools #Resist
25. Presumably this was key motivation behind the publication of a colorful children's book--full of awesome trippy 1970s illustrations (seriously the best thing about the book)--about a subject perennially popular with kids. Every secular "temptation" needs a Christian answer.
26. Some family friends gave me Dinosaurs: Those Terrible Lizards, as a present for my birthday in 1987. I have a summer birthday, I was headed into first grade that fall. I loved dinosaurs.

#ChristianAltFacts #Exvangelical #EmptyThePews #ExposeChristianSchools #TuesdayThoughts
27. I don't know how many copies Dinosaurs: Those Terrible Lizards sold, but it was first published in 1977. I got a copy from its 7th printing (1986). It's out of print and has surely been supplanted by slicker books from Answers in Genesis. But it was popular in #TheJesusZone.
28. I was not given this book to read in Christian school, but I'd be surprised if there wasn't a copy in the school library. I'd be curious--does anyone remember reading this book specifically in a Christian school setting or as part of homeschool curriculum?

29. In any case, I still want to file this thread under #ExposeChristianSchools, because I was subjected to Gish videos in science classes at Heritage Christian School in Indianapolis. I remember a hilarious one where he discussed dinosaurs, but I couldn't find it on Youtube.
30. I did, however, find some footage of Duane T. Gish, and if you really want to get a feel for the man's public persona, I'd suggest watching it. There are debates available. Also this, from the 1980s:

#Exvangelical #EmptyThePews #TuesdayThoughts
31. Allow me one more digression before diving into the wonder that is the creationist children's book itself. Did you catch who that was introducing the video above? That's right, Ken Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis, the "ministry" behind The Creation Museum in Kentucky.
33. A couple takeaway points. This is all part and parcel of fundamentalists' need to produce a parallel set of institutions and facts to hold up against those of "the world" and the realities they fear. Creation museums have been around for a long time.

#Exvangelical #Resist
34. The Institute for Creation Research had a museum of its own, the Museum of Creation and Earth History, but when ICR moved from California to Dallas, Texas, it sold the Museum to Light and Life Foundation. The U.S. is dotted with museums like these. Most of them are shitty.
35. I mean, they're all shitty in the sense that promulgating #ChristianAltFacts is harmful, but the Creation Museum in Kentucky is as far as I can tell visually impressive and on the whole spectacular in comparison to the others, which makes it even more dangerous.
36. I have not been to the Creation Museum in person yet, but I probably will go one of these days. Anyway, the second takeaway point: When you look at Ken Ham's dubious achievements in connection with the broader Christian Right, you're looking at the culmination of something.
37. Gish was a big part of building that something--the #ChristianAltFacts infrastructure, that through evangelical/fundamentalist Christian schools, homeschooling, books, music, TV, movies, board games, toys, etc., adds up to #TheJesusZone, the American I grew up in.
38. The leading denizens of #TheJesusZone, as authoritarians, will try to impose their power wherever they can, transforming the whole country to the extent that we let them. They use militant, eliminationist rhetoric. And they mean it.


38-a. For more on that mentality and its dangerous rejection of pluralism (without which democracy cannot function), see this old thread of mine:


#Exvangelical #ExposeChristianSchools #ExposeChristianHomeschooling #EmptyThePews #Resistance #Resist
39. Alright then, let's now go back to our primary source, Gish's Dinosaurs: Those Terrible Lizards. 1987, the year I was given it, was also the year Edwards v. Aguillard was decided, banning the teaching of creationism in public schools and causing the culture wars to ramp up.
39-a: Little me loved learning about animals and nature, so having this creationist literature as well as my mom’s old “secular” natural history book and a subscription to Ranger Rick Magazine causes a lot of cognitive dissonance:


40. Okay, so let's look at Gish's book. The inside cover tells us he was associate director of the Institute for Creation Research when it was published and mentions his Ph.D. and "many years of scientific research." It does not say this was mainly in pharmaceuticals.
41. Gish didn't have a serious record of peer-reviewed publications in his Ph.D. field, biochemistry. But he was still in a way more "qualified" than most "creation scientists" at least in terms of the credentials. Many have degrees in medicine or physics etc. #Exvangelical
42. Next, we learn in a little blurb that "A few folks even doubt that anything like a dinosaur really ever lived at all; but they did--long, long ago." Gish is telling us he's more reasonable than those who think Satan/God placed dinosaur bones in the ground to temp/test us. Lol
43. You can tell this is a super serious book because it has a table of contents. Never mind that there is not really any rhyme or reason to the particular order in which topics are presented. There is, however, one "logic" to the book that can be traced.
44. What "logic" is that? Our antihero, Duane T. Gish, creationist extraordinaire, establishes a seemingly "objective" approach to "both sides" of a (nonexistent among real scientists) "debate" at the beginning of the book, then shifts to making ever bolder Bible-based claims.
45. And now I have to break for lunch. I knew this was going to be a mega-thread, but I didn't know quite how mega. If you appreciate my educational efforts and can afford to, pledging a few bucks a month via Patreon to support it is greatly appreciated: https://www.patreon.com/cstroop 
46. To be continued...
47. Okay, back to Gish, who at the beginning of Dinosaurs: Those Terrible Lizards presents himself as "objectively" adjudicating between two competing schools of "science." He introduces us to "some scientists, who are evolutionists," more or less non-disparagingly.
48. But even here, there are tells. Only evangelicals/fundamentalists use the term "evolutionist." Evolution specialists in biology or paleontology don't call themselves this. It's a rhetorical device of creationists that helps to prop up the "controversy" they need to exist.
49. There's another tell here. Gish's hang-up on "many in-between forms," which he will later incorrectly insist, over and over, do not exist. This is also a simplified understanding of speciation, simplified in a way that is typical of evangelical creationist rhetoric.
50. This part's fun: "There are other scientists, called creationists, who believe that the scientific evidence shows that dinosaurs did not evolve, but that they were created by God, just as described in the Bible." AMAZING coincidence, eh? 🙃

#Exvangelical #ChristianAltFacts
51. Okay, so then Gish goes on to discuss a common creationist canard--these things continue to be repeated long after being debunked--that dinosaur and human footprints might have been seen in the same rock layer in bed of the Paluxy River in Glen Rose, Texas.
52. To his sort of credit, Gish does not say the stories of the sightings are true. He seems to lean toward them not being true. But he includes them, and he certainly believes humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time. (I don't know what those 1987 goobers on the page are.)
53. Now we really start to get into super fun time creationinst fantasy land, as on the next page, Gish tells us "The Bible gives us some other clues and Man and the dinosaurs lived at the same time." He cites the description of the behemoth in Job.
54. Why couldn't the behemoth be an elephant, as many commentators think? Well, elephants don't have a tail that "moveth like a cedar," you see. Obvs, then, the behemoth was a sauropod. Biblical literalism at its finest. This is what evangelicals teach their kids. 😆🤦🏼‍♀️
55. I won't spent much time on the next page, "What Did Dinosaurs Look Like?" Gish sets himself us to tell us about fossilization, and about different kinds of dinosaurs. He tells us they hatched from eggs.

#Exvangelical #ExposeChristianSchools #ExposeChristianHomeschooling
56. Gish decides to tell us about horned dinosaurs first, because, why not? He really wants us to know a few things. They were really tough, and there were definitely no transitional forms, you guys! Oh, also all dinosaurs get "he" pronouns.
57. See? Stegosaurus also gets he pronouns. There were no girl stegosauruses, you guys. Don't ask me how that worked.
58. So, throughout all this, Gish tells us about the "second brains" of large quadruped dinosaurs, the ganglia nerve centers in the hips that helped coordinate their movements, etc. Basic stuff. While throwing in the God and Bible and creationism stuff.
59. Now, there is no more of the false pretension Gish made to an evenhanded assessment of the supposed relative merits of the supposed competing "schools" of "evolutionism" and "creationism" Gish took care with in the beginning. Now it's "That's because God created them."
60. Gish moves on from the horned dinosaurs to the duck-billed dinosaurs, and in this section he discusses their crests at some length, wondering what they might have been used for. Boy does he have a bizarro answer he will come back to later. He hints at it now - dragons!
61. Notice how all the while Gish keeps harping on his misleading mantra of "no transitional forms!" Anyway, he's soon on to sauropods and predators, and personally I think it's funny he discusses Brontosaurus when the consensus of the time was there was no Brontosaurus.
61-a. Yes, I know that question has been revisited and that now the consensus has changed on the existence of a distinct sauropod known as Brontosaurus, but Gish in theory should have been on top of the best knowledge available at the time, don't @ me https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-brontosaurus-is-back1/
62. My favorite part of Gish's discussion of Tyrannosaurus is, "Scientists are not sure just what help these forelimbs were to Tyrannosaurus." Because, of course, the existence of holdovers, vestigial parts, convoluted bioengineering in life is evidence *for* evolution. 😆
63. My other favorite part is Gish going on about how in the Garden of Eden "all animals were to be plant-eaters only." So when did this change? "We believe it is very likely that some animals... became meat-eaters after sin came into the world." #ChristianAltFacts #Exvangelical
64. On to the "Big Plant-Eaters." In this section, our creationist antihero, Duane T. Gish, unironically casts people with "tiny brains" as "jerks." I don't know about the size of Gish's brain, but the dude certainly was small-minded.

#ChristianAltFacts #EmptyThePews
65. Gish's discussion of Brontosaurus is blithely illustrated with a child playing near one, but hey, remember, that Glen Rose, Texas thing with the footprints is unconfirmed. But also this totally happened. Also right after creation everyone was white, like Gish's audiences.
65-a. That second pictures a screenshot taken of a shot of the audience from this riveting 1980s production starring our creationist antihero, Duane T. Gish. I wasn't making up the white audience thing, in case anyone was wondering. #Exvangelical
66. Regarding Brachiosaurs, twentieth-century creationist antihero Duane T. Gish wishes to inform you that evolution could not possibly make nostrils migrate from the snout to the top of the head. Why? Because Gish says so, that's why. Also because God. #ChristianAltFacts
67. Okay. Gish now moves on to a discussion of Iguanodon for some reason--maybe because this is where he wanted to introduce the "theory" that Noah's flood is responsible for most of the world's fossils, and he has an "illustration" of that to use--23 Iguanodons found at one site
68. Soon after this excursion into "flood geology"--something I was also taught in science classes in Christian school--Gish moves to arguments he thinks debunk evolution. Spoiler alert: they don't. First up, Lizard Hips, Bird Hips. I love the trippy 1977 illustration. You?
69. Gish thinks the notion that quadrupedal dinosaurs' hips are more bird-like and bipedal dinosaurs' hips are more lizard-like debunks the possibility that dinosaurs evolved into birds. At least he says he does. Creationists are not the most intellectually honest people around.
70. But the next excursion is even more fun! Gish comes back to his suggestion that duckbilled dinosaurs might represent the truth behind our legends of dragons! They might have used their crests to "breathe fire"! This is totally the Levianthan from the book of Job amirite
71. I noted above that Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis worked with Gish at the Institute for Creation Research in the 1980s. I'd wager this is where he got his idea about gladiatorial battles of humans vs. dinosaurs.


#ChristianAltFacts #Exvangelical
72. Anyway, from here, Gish goes off on one of his favorite fantastical creationist trips, the tale of the bombardier beetle, and how its defense mechanism supposedly could not possibly have evolved. He sees a parallel to duckbilled dinosaurs as dragons because logic amirite.
73. On a more serious note, Gish's "argument" here hinges on what came, in conjunction with intelligent design, to be called "irreducible complexity." People who seemed to be more serious scholars, like Michael Behe, invoked the term:


74. To illustrate this, Gish tells a funny little story about "Beetle Bailey"--did he or the publisher pay for the permission to use the name I wonder?--trying to develop the bombardier beetle's defense mechanism in a way he sees as analogous to evolution.
75. Here we meet the only female character in this entire book--Beetle Bailey's mom--and get a lot of rambling about inhibitors and enzymes and chambers and combustion tubes. Anyone else here thinking "backpack for his applesauce"? I probably spend too much time on the internet.
76. Anyway, in all this discussion of supposed irreducible complexity, Gish hits on one fundamental point again and again in a very telling way--the idea that evolution suggests "everything just gets invented by a bunch of accidents." He is clearly threatened by this notion.
77. And it's here that we can see part of what's really going on psychologically beneath the whole #ChristianAltFacts edifice of creationism. There's a moral consequentialist argument hiding under pseudoscience, a dark view of human nature, a belief we cannot be good without God.
78. Sometimes "flood geologists" and creationists will admit as much. They'll say that both evolution and creationism work to explain the same phenomena, but if we believe evolution is true, we're accidents, and animals, so ofc we'll turn to nihilism and civilization will fall.
78-a. The image above is from a tract called "Beware of Killer Kids," not from Gish's book Dinosaurs: Those Terrible Lizards. I use it because it's a striking illustration of the way of thinking that Gish--and Ham, and other creationists--clearly exhibit. https://twitter.com/C_Stroop/status/1003379129004253190
79. This is what fundamentalists tell themselves is at stake in their refusal to accept modern science on things like evolution, psychology, sexuality, and gender. It's a lie, of course, and a typical one for authoritarian personalities and the movements they build. #EmptyThePews
80. When evangelicals and other fundamentalists who insist on the absolute Truth of "alternative facts" actually admit that this is what they're doing--not all will, and Gish doesn't in this book--they fall back on something called presuppositionalism: https://twitter.com/C_Stroop/status/1015242669780553729
81. Anyway, back to Gish. He pretty much wraps up the book here by telling us that climate change after Noah's flood killed the dinosaurs because there was no longer a water vapor firmament, lol, and studying dinosaurs is fun.

#ChristianAltFacts #Exvangelical #TuesdayThoughts
83. A lot of time and effort, as well as emotional labor, goes into a Twitter thread like this one, which I planned and prepped for for weeks, and spent hours on today. Thanks for reading! End thread.

#ChristianAltFacts #Exvangelical #ExposeChristianSchools #TuesdayThoughts
Addendum: In case you wondered, Gish did think it was possible to be a Christian and "evolutionist." He also thought that evolution "leads to a disastrous secularizing of society." A "good" Christian would clearly become a creationist, in his view. https://creation.com/is-it-possible-to-be-a-christian-and-an-evolutionist
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