This really belongs on "General Topics", but I just can't bring myself to start this discussion over there when we've got this Southern board.
Ok, I'll throw out the first ball with a few proposed grounds for agreement/disagreement:
1. your average wood/coal barbecue beats your average gas barbecue nearly every time
2. the very best wood/coal barbecue beats the very best gas barbecue nearly every time
(and here's the part where I type fast then run and hide under the covers to await the gunfire)
3. somebody really good at using gas (especially if he has long experience with wood/coal) can make really good barbecue that way. Perhaps not QUITE as good as if he'd used traditional methods, but respectable nonetheless.
4. Good gas 'cue beats mediocre traditional 'cue.
I'll offer for evidence: Little Pig in Columbia, South Carolina. There are few people in the country with better 'cue credentials and deeper roots in the culture than the proprieter of this place. He uses gas. And his barbecue is top notch.
i've had other good gas 'cue, too. The owner of Mississippi Barbecue Shack, which for a few blessed years was making barbecue up here in Queens (in a shack on a vacant lot near the airport with no running water), that was the equal of much of the finest 'cue I've eaten in the South used a WEBER for crying out loud. But he knew what he was doing, and he believed in what he was doing. And those two factors are the most important thing when it comes to barbecue.
But, like any 'cue fan, I'm greatly saddened to see the old tradition being lost. And since, on average, gas is less worthy than traditional, the average level of 'cue is falling....and that's a slippery slope.