Quote mining is the practice of using the words of partisans against them to undermine support for the viewpoint held by the partisans. Quote mining does not refer simply to taking a quote out of context, as there is already a well-understood phrase for that. Rather, the charge of "quote mining" reflects an objection to quoting someone for criticizing his own belief system, on the theory that if he still believes in the system then it is somehow unfair to quote his criticism of it.
Another objection sometimes made is that it is wrong to ignore evidence which supports a partisan viewpoint when evidence which disproves it is found. This is clearly an anti-scientific notion, as it violates the modern principle of falsifiability: no amount of evidence in favor of a scientific theory has merit if even a single counterexample can be found (see Thomas Kuhn).
Evolutionists are notorious for expressing objection when their quotes are used against them. This reveals the dogmatic nature of their faith, because real scientists always welcome evidence which contradicts mainstream theories (see scientific method). While the entire fields of law and politics encourage quoting an adversary to discredit him, evolutionists do not feel their quotes should be used to criticize evolution, and have invented the term "quote mining" to criticize that practice. They have tried to make quote mining a pejorative term, but the neologism has yet to be recognized by major dictionaries
- 1 Intelligent Design Journalist Denyse O'Leary on False Charges of Quote Mining
- 2 Origin, in TalkOrigins.org
- 3 Is Quote Mining Wrong?
- 4 Quote mining and the creation-evolution controversy
- 5 References
- 6 External Links
- 7 See Also
Intelligent Design Journalist Denyse O'Leary on False Charges of Quote Mining
|“|| Generally, the professional gatekeeper who controls the information members of the public receive is becoming redundant. There are many streams of information, increasingly free.
Here is an example: When ID folk point out that there are many examples in the professional literature of tax-supported Darwinian evolutionist talking honestly about the flaws, defects, or lack of evidence for Darwinian evolution (natural selection acting on random mutation) in their professional journals, Darwin lobbyists accuse them of "quote mining."
The Darwin lobby is a splendid illustration of old media thinking. "Quote mining" is just telling the public what the privileged, salaried, tenured elite admit to each other - and always assumed that the public that supports them would never find out.
Origin, in TalkOrigins.org
According to the pro-evolution site TalkOrigins.org, quote mining is "the use of a (usually short) passage, taken from the work of an authority in some field, 'which superficially appears to support one's position, but [from which] significant context is omitted and contrary evidence is conveniently ignored.'"
Quotes that illustrate self-contradiction are thereby considered, by the inventors of the term, to be quote mining whether the self-contradiction is real or not.
The term seems to be used to suggest or claim that people have deliberately or negligently taken facts material to a quote out of context, with the result that the quote no longer stands for its original proposition. Allegations of quote mining are controversial, since it implies scienter - that is, either intent to deceive, or disregard to the possibility of deception. This distinguishes quote mining from more general, run of the mill, quoting out of context; while the latter involves no misrepresentation of facts material to the quote's meaning, the former does.
The origins of the term are unknown, but it appears to date from the late 1990s. It is not recognized by any dictionaries. Its most common use is by evolutionists who claim that creationists misrepresent quotes from scientists.
A common reason why TalkOrigins.org makes claims of quote mining appears to be that they choose make a false claim of quote mining when noted evolutionists have moments of candor and point out the various significant deficiencies of the evolutionary position rather than admit the weakness and/or falsity of the evolutionary position.
Is Quote Mining Wrong?
This section discusses merely whether quote mining is wrong, not whether it exists or has been practiced by any individuals.
Many people, especially in the legal and political fields, use quotes by others against them. There is nothing objectionable about this practice, and the term quote-mining could apply to nearly every legal proceeding and political campaign.
Fact: Defining Quote Mining
While quoting relevant parts of judicial decisions is indeed widespread, and lawyers and politicians often quote one's own arguments against them to show a contradiction, "quote mining" as used is something else entirely. Quote mining implies selective quotation that, either negligently or purposefully, omits relevant parts from an argument. For example, consider the following invented quotation from an imaginary legal case.
- "In the State of Commonwealth, it is well-settled principle of securities law that a corporate officer may not trade on insider information." Smith v. Jones, 129 Commonwealth Reporter 332 (Commonwealth 2008).
Now let us consider two quotations of the case.
A deceptive quotation uses an ellipsis to camouflage a point of authority that goes against one's argument.
- However, Party X was completely within his rights to trade on this information. After all, "it is well-settled principle of securities law that a corporate officer may... trade on insider information."
An honest argument still quotes the authority source, but quotes all relevant parts.
- However, Party X was completely within his rights to trade on this information. After all, "it is well-settled principle of securities law that a corporate officer may not trade on insider information," but Party X was not a corporate officer.
This should demonstrate that an accusation of "quote mining" is not merely an indictment for appealing to authority, a well-settled tactic indeed - the accusation is of appealing to authority in a selective manner, so as to distort and confound the actual meaning of the authority.
Fact: The Law on an Attorney's Quote Mining
Attorneys are under a well-settled duty not to misrepresent authority to a court of law. In essence, they may not "quote mine." By way of example, a Federal Circuit Court in 2003 disciplined an attorney for selectively quoting elements of a court opinion. The attorney, faced with a charge of contempt of court for delaying filing a motion by twelve days when the court ordered her to do so "forthwith," explained that, by settled law, "Forthwith means immediately, without delay, or as soon may be accomplished by reasonable exertion." She neglected to cite the following sentence, which explained that "forthwith" generally means, "within twenty-four hours," apparently hoping that, without this qualification, the court would read "forthwith" as implying no time constraint other than necessity.
The court which received the attorney's brief was not amused. In censuring the attorney, they wrote,
|“||The effect of Walser's editing of this material and ignoring the Supreme Court decision that dealt with the issue - a decision that seriously weakened her argument - was to give the Court a misleading impression of the state of the law on the point. She eliminated material that indicated that her delay in filing the motion for reconsideration had not met the court's requirement that she file "forthwith," and presented the remaining material in a way that overstated the basis for her claim that a "forthwith" filing requirement meant she could take whatever time would be reasonable in the circumstances. This distortion of the law was inconsistent with and violated the standards of Rule 11.||”|
Rule 11 forbids attorneys from arguing in a misleading manner. Clearly, this federal circuit thinks that "quote mining" is a reprehensible act contrary to intellectual and academic rigor. There is indeed something objectionable about the practice, and the term "quote mining" ought not "apply to nearly every legal proceeding and political campaign."
Quote mining and the creation-evolution controversyScientists and their supporters used the term quote mining as early as the mid-1990s in newsgroup posts to describe quoting practices of certain creationists. It is used by members of the scientific community to describe a method employed by creationists to support their arguments, though it can be and often is used outside of the creation-evolution controversy. Complaints about the practice predate known use of the term: Theodosius Dobzhansky wrote in his famous 1973 essay "Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" that
Their [Creationists'] favorite sport is stringing together quotations, carefully and sometimes expertly taken out of context, to show that nothing is really established or agreed upon among evolutionists. Some of my colleagues and myself have been amused and amazed to read ourselves quoted in a way showing that we are really antievolutionists under the skin.
The Institute for Creation Research (ICR) described the use of "[a]n evolutionist's quote mistakenly used out of context" to "negate the entirety of [an] article and creationist claims regarding the lack of transitional forms" as "a smoke screen".
Both Answers in Genesis (AiG) and Henry M. Morris (founder of ICR) have been accused of producing books of mined quotes. TalkOrigins Archive (TOA) states that "entire books of these quotes have been published" and lists prominent creationist Henry M. Morris' That Their Words May Be Used Against Them and The Revised Quote Book (published by Creation Science Foundation, now AiG, and available from the AiG website) as examples, in addition to a number of online creationist lists of quote-mines. Both AiG and ICR quote mine Stephen Jay Gould on intermediate forms.
Stephen Jay Gould on intermediate forms
The fossil record with its abrupt transitions offers no support for gradual change. All paleontologists know that the fossil record contains precious little in the way of intermediate forms; transitions between major groups are characteristically abrupt
The context that immediately follows demonstrates that this view is articulated only in order to reject it: "Although I reject this argument (for reasons discussed in ["The Episodic Nature of Evolutionary Change"]), let us grant the traditional escape and ask a different question."
Gould was scathing on such misleading quotations: "Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists -- whether through design or stupidity, I do not know -- as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. The punctuations occur at the level of species; directional trends (on the staircase model) are rife at the higher level of transitions within major groups."
"Absurd in the highest degree"
Since the mid-1990s, scientists and their supporters have used the term quote mining to describe versions of this practice as used by certain creationists in the creation-evolution controversy. An example found in debates over evolution is an out-of-context quotation of Charles Darwin in his Origin of Species:
"To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree."
This sentence, sometimes truncated to the phrase "absurd in the highest degree", is often presented as part of an assertion that Darwin himself perceived his own theory of evolution as absurd. However, Darwin went on to explain that the apparent absurdity of the evolution of an eye is no bar to its occurrence.
The quote in context is
"To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.
Yet reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a perfect and complex eye to one very imperfect and simple, each grade being useful to its possessor, can be shown to exist; if further, the eye does vary ever so slightly, and the variations be inherited, which is certainly the case; and if any variation or modification in the organ be ever useful to an animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, can hardly be considered real."
- For example, the TalkOrigins.org Quote Mine Project documents many fallacious quotes, but the classification is controversial.
- According to TalkOrigins.org, the first known use was in 1996.
- The attorney cited City of New York v. McAllister Brothers, Inc., 278 F.2d 708, 710.
- Precision Specialty Metals, Inc. v. United States, 315 F.3d 1346 (Fed. Cir. 2003).
- The Quote Mine Project, John Pieret (ed), TalkOrigins Archive
- The Revised Quote Book, E.T. Babinski (ed), TalkOrigins Archive
- According to the Quote Mine Project at TalkOrigins Archive, the first record of the term in talk.origins was a posting by Lenny Flank on March 30, 1997, with a February 2, 1996 reference in another Usenet group, rec.arts.comics.misc
- Forrest, Barbara; Paul R. Gross (2004). Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195157427. Retrieved on 2007-03-09. “In the face of the extraordinary and often highly practical twentieth-century progress of the life sciences under the unifying concepts of evolution, [creationist] "science" consists of quote-mining — minute searching of the biological literature — including outdated literature — for minor slips and inconsistencies and for polemically promising examples of internal arguments. These internal disagreements, fundamental to the working of all natural science, are then presented dramatically to lay audiences as evidence of the fraudulence and impending collapse of "Darwinism."”
- "The Counter-creationism Handbook", Mark Isaak, ISBN 0520249267 p 14
- Quote-Mining Comes to Ohio, Glenn Branch
- Does Convincing Evidence For Evolution Exist?
- The Word Downloads, Answers in Genesis
- The Quote Mine Project, John Pieret (ed), TalkOrigins Archive
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- The Quote Mine Project, John Pieret (ed), TalkOrigins Archive
- Selected Creation/Evolution Quotes
- Creation Quotes list from Answers in Genesis
- (Talk.Origins) Quote-mining - CreationWiki
- The Quote Mine Project - hosted by the talk.origins archive