Talk:Quote mining

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Usage of the term?

I'd never heard it before. Some Googling and a look at the corresponding Wikipedia article give me the distinct impression that it is commonly used by evolutionists against creationists, but that it is not commonly used in any other context. It also seems to be a fairly recent coinage.

Thoughts? Dpbsmith 06:55, 8 March 2007 (EST)

I have heard this term before, but only ever used by evolutionists as an attack on creation researchers. It was apparently coined on the evolutionist discussion group Talk.Origins. CreationWiki has a response to this. Perhaps for balance, the sample "mined" quote could be changed from Darwin to an example of an evolutionist quoting, say, Dembski, out of context? Dr. Richard Paley 07:55, 8 March 2007 (EST)
Surely 'balance' would be having both? Tsumetai 08:01, 8 March 2007 (EST)
Not if it's really used only in one direction. Dpbsmith 08:38, 8 March 2007 (EST)
Good point. Tsumetai 08:54, 8 March 2007 (EST)
Maybe we could change it to a more abstract (and made-up) example that emphasizes the point while at the same time simply telling the context in which the term is often used (Evolutionists accusing Creationists of doing so, possibly with the reply by Creationists as Richard gave it - I haven't checked that link)? The quote strikes me as needlessly complicated, especially for an example that is supposed to make a point clear. --Sid 3050 08:33, 8 March 2007 (EST)
Actually, what triggered my comment was that I was planning to find or concoct an example that did not involve either evolution or creationism, but if I'm correct that the phrase is used only in the evolution/creationism dispute—and, as Dr. Richard Paley notes, only in one direction—such an example would be misleading, because it wouldn't be illustrating the actual way the term is used. Dpbsmith 08:35, 8 March 2007 (EST)
(MAD Magazine once had a very funny article about the way in which movie advertising takes reviewers' quotes out of context.) Dpbsmith 08:37, 8 March 2007 (EST)
I suspect you're right; while the phenomenon is fairly ubiquitous, the 'quote mine' tag seems to be a neologism more or less unique to this case. Tsumetai 08:54, 8 March 2007 (EST)

I attempted to solve some of the issues here by using a quote where the subject, Dembski, wrote a response to being accused of quote mining. Are people more comfortable with this arrangement or should we keep looking for another solution? Tmtoulouse 13:16, 8 March 2007 (EST)

No, I don't think that Dembski story solved anything, because you have done a little quote mining yourself in order to tell it the way that you did. You ran together 2 quotes that are really 5 pages apart. RSchlafly 13:49, 8 March 2007 (EST)
It was the only reliable source that had responded to a quote mine so I ran with it with out realizing that they were separated, my mistake, I have reverted to the old quote and weaved in your information, removing the now irrelevant text. Tmtoulouse 14:02, 8 March 2007 (EST)

But the new example isn't an example of "quote mining," it's an example of plain old "quotation out of context." Unless you can find a reference that says it's ever referred to as "quote mining" outside of, CreationWiki, and other discussions specifically of evolution/creationism. Dpbsmith 14:35, 8 March 2007 (EST)

Yea, yea, but quote mining is the collection of "out of context quotes" but I know what you are getting at though. I do not think there is anyway to save this page on conservapedia, all the material will be way to tendentious because of the dichotomy of creation/evolution. So I say we just nuke the whole darn thing!

Now I am not convinced that its not salvageable at wikipedia but I will take that up there :) Tmtoulouse 14:54, 8 March 2007 (EST)

(In case people don't understand: I nominated "Quote mining" for deletion on Wikipedia on the grounds that it's not yet in dictionaries or what Wikipedia considers to be reliable published sources. Tmtoulouse or you or I can do some original research and confirm that it's widely used in a few specific places, such as the USENET newsgroup, and that it's used primarily in the context of the evolution/creationism debate, but I don't think you can find that information in a published source meeting WIkipedia's reliable source guidelines. I could well be wrong...) Dpbsmith 15:01, 8 March 2007 (EST)
There is also developing a more general use. It is perhaps rather bold to start with the most contentious topics, but the two examples show how it can be used to support various types of argument. If it is an invalid method of argument, and yet creationists use is, where can they be shown this is a more friendly place than here?DDG 23:58, 12 March 2007 (EDT)

I think that there may be a misunderstanding concerning quote mining. Quote mining is a concept that has existed ever since books, papers, and intellectual journals have been written. One of the primary determinants of an accurate and honest work is the avoidance of quote mining, as it is tempting to skew sources to support whatever the writer would like to say. Anyone can find dozens of sources to support even the most ridiculous of notions. I think that the is no legitimate reason for this article to be deleted. It has nothing to do with the imaginary war between science and religion. It's about good, factual writing.

So I guess that you would argue that no accurate and honest work would ever use Bartlett's Familiar Quotations. RSchlafly 16:10, 15 March 2007 (EDT)
It is one thing to pull out a quote to add flavor to opinion piece (something on love on Valentines day). It is quite another to use out of context or partial quotes to try to support an argument - especially when that quote when in context says the opposite of what the out of context part says. --Mtur 16:20, 15 March 2007 (EDT)
Yes, those are different, but which is "quote mining"? I don't think that the term has any generally-agreed definition. Thumbing thru Bartlett's sure seems like quote mining to me. It also seems like quote mining when the press digs out old quotes from presidential candidates, even if the quotes are presented in context. RSchlafly 18:09, 15 March 2007 (EDT)

I'm confused by the George W. Bush quotation. How are the bold words taken out of context?

The excerpt removes the antecedent to "they", changing the meaning. RSchlafly 15:33, 12 April 2007 (EDT)

Why is this article up for deletion? It's neutral and balanced in its current form.

Middle Man

...and now, 4 hours later (21:14, 28 April) it isn't anymore... You've got to admire such efficiency.

Middle Man

Indeed; Aschlafly did a hatchet job on the into. An Out of context quote might be accidental, but Quote Mining reflects a deliberate and often systematic misrepresentation. To say "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." is disingenuous; consider the Darwin quote. We can mention that the term was coined by people discussing evolution, but it has moved beyond that. -- Limulus 16:59, 30 April 2007 (EDT)

Liberal Bias

How can this article have a liberal bias to it? There is nothing political at all about quote mining. Staple 23:15, 28 June 2007 (EDT)


I had a professional responsibility CLE about ethical citation today, and they touched on this. I thought it my duty to correct the misconceptions accordingly.-PhoenixWright 22:48, 3 March 2008 (EST)

Thanks for your contributions, although I'm not happy with some of it. I will revert one change, but I'll also raise a few points here.
There is a problem in that there is no dictionary definition of the term, so we can't say with any degree of certainty exactly what it means. The term itself suggests to me that it refers to someone going and looking for quotes to support their cause, as though that is somehow bad. But although I can't see the idea being conveyed by the term itself, it does appear that taking the quotes out of context is part of it. There are a few definitions floating around, such as the one quoted in the article, but who's to say that everyone who uses the term is using it according to those definitions?
If the alleged "crime" of creationists is simply taking quotes out of context, why not just say that? The use of a different term indicates something more or different than simply taking a quote out of context. So I'd argue that "quote mining" is not synonymous with quoting out of context. The rest of my post assumes that point is true.
The sentence "However, this is simply the fallacy of taking a quote out of context." was removed and replaced by "The charge is that of taking a quote out of context.". I can't see what was wrong with the original wording; it seems to me (and I did write it!) that it makes the point more clearly that the definition provided is simply the definition for an out-of-context quote, and as such, is inadequate.
Andy included a bit about legal and political "quote mining". Whether or not it is quote mining depends on just what "quote mining" means. If "quote mining" is simply looking for quotes to support an argument, then it is quote mining. If it means taking them out of context, then it's not quote mining.
Most of the added material under the "fact" headings is merely talking about taking quotes out of context, not quote mining, and therefore should be removed.
Philip J. Rayment 23:28, 3 March 2008 (EST)

I thought I made it very clear in the first paragraph - "The term seems to be used to suggest or claim that people have deliberately taken quotes out of context" - that deliberately is clearly an element of the charge. I actually think it's "deliberately or negligently" - at least that's how the actual case law discusses it - so I've changed it. The issue with quote mining is that it's a slang term for something with a longer name - "negligent misuse of authority." Should I include that?-PhoenixWright 23:33, 3 March 2008 (EST)

I just clarified this point.-PhoenixWright 23:34, 3 March 2008 (EST)
Okay, I accept that the distinction of it being deliberate or not is something I omitted to discuss above. I'm still not convinced, however, that "deliberately taking a quote out of context" is all that is usually meant by those that use the term, and you've offered no evidence that your understanding is the correct one.
I accept that deliberately taking a quote out of context is different to "ordinary" quoting out of context, but how is negligently taking a quote out of context different to "ordinary" quoting out of context? Surely if one is quoting out of context, one is doing so either deliberately or negligently? Or are you using the word "negligent" in a legal sense that may be narrower than the everyday use of the word?
I still think that the legal examples are unnecessary in this article, but perhaps we'll settle other points first.
You said in an edit comment that you will discuss your reversion of my edit. Please do.
Philip J. Rayment 00:04, 4 March 2008 (EST)
I just clarified that aside from negligence/intent, the other distinction is mistatement of material elements of the quote (I am using negligent in the legal sense of "culpably negligent"). And I think the examples in the bottom part make it clear, and give it content to ensure that people see the difference.
And, I changed your wording because it wasn't neutral ~ it presumed that the creationists were right without citation, so I pulled the inference. Maybe it'd be better to just remove the reference to who's right or wrong completely?-PhoenixWright
Thanks for the clarification on "negligent". Sometimes the facts favour one side over the other, so won't be "neutral". Your substituted sentence is not neutral either, as it effectively says that the quotes are fallacious. I think that I could agree with taking the footnote out completely. Philip J. Rayment 00:13, 4 March 2008 (EST)
Very fair! I've removed it so you can inspect it. I appreciate your civility. I hope I've made the distinction quoting and quote-mining clear.-PhoenixWright 00:16, 4 March 2008 (EST)
You removed more than I meant (although of course I was agreeing to your proposal, so I guess that you removed what you meant!). I had no problem with the bit that I've reinstated; the footnote was an example of that, not a reference for that, so in effect the statement was unreferenced anyway, and it remains so, but I doubt that anyone really disputes it. Philip J. Rayment 00:25, 4 March 2008 (EST)
Thanks! Oops. Yeah, I erred on the side of pulling too much out... okay now I'm actually going to bed. In the morning/after work I'll have to work more on the securities category.PhoenixWright 00:27, 4 March 2008 (EST)

Another point

I'm not trying to imply that quote mining is done by creationists. I'm merely trying to clarify the term. I just want to make sure you know that this isn't a political issue for me; it's simply unethical use of authority. No matter who does it, it's wrong (and I haven't read the books TOA cites, so I don't know if creationists do it). Further, I was a recent quote mining victim. Representing a client, our opponent's appellate brief used an ellipsis to hide a "not." So it went something like "it is settled law that party Y can... do activity Z." The real quote from the case was "it is settled law that party Y can not do activity Z." I was stunned.-PhoenixWright 00:34, 4 March 2008 (EST)

I'd be stunned too. I actually thought that your example in the article was rather contrived, as nobody would quote out of context so blatantly. Very few if any of the quotes used by creationists are claimed to be as blatant as that, and in most cases it's very hard to show that quoting out of context was deliberate. That's one of the issues that I have with claims such as those of TalkOrigins. Their "showpiece" example of Darwin talking about the evolution of the eye has been taken out of context in the past by creationists, but creationists acknowledge this and don't use it any more, and point out that the "context" in this case is remote from the quote so it was quite easy to inadvertently take it out of context. Yet anti-creationists like to beat creationists over the head with it, and include it in quote mining lists, claiming it to be deliberate.
But weren't you going to bed? :-)
Philip J. Rayment 00:42, 4 March 2008 (EST)

Modifications made without discussion

PhoenixWright, you're introducing too much liberal bias into this. It should remain clear and factual. Please raise objections here first.--Aschlafly 10:41, 4 March 2008 (EST)

I think you're neglecting who's the one intruding here. Philip and I had a nice draft, and I don't appreciate changes that disturb our compromise and hard work. I see you're somewhat important here, so I won't revert it, but perhaps you could explain yourself here. I've fully explained myself above.-PhoenixWright 10:52, 4 March 2008 (EST)
AmesG, this is a wiki. It's a collaborative process open to many people. If you object to my plainly factual edits, then state why. If you prefer liberal bias, then try Wikipedia. Thanks.--Aschlafly 11:20, 4 March 2008 (EST)
You've stated now that my additions were "liberal bias," while yours were "factual." However, all you've done to support this is to restate your conclusion, twice now. You may know that arguments do not become facts by your ipse dixit. Please support your arguments; otherwise, I can't see why I wouldn't be entitled to revert them. You say that I should state my objections to your edits; if you had followed and courteously contributed to the discussion between myself and Philip Rayment, you'd probably see that your obvious concerns had been answered and addressed. Please take the time to read the discussion between us before blowing apart our work. You seem to be going directly against the "collaborative process" you (correctly) define as central to a wiki-environment... unless your definition of "collaborative process" is "the unilateral foisting of my opinion onto yours."
Next, this is the second time you've insulted me by misstating my user name, the first by omitting its latter half; the second by substituting for it what sounds like a diminutive girl's name. If this is some kind of cruel joke, I don't get it. If it's some kind of veiled accusation, I still don't get it. Either way, it's uncalled for and uncivil. I hope that we can work past this uncivil episode. When I come back later in the day, I hope to see your constructive criticism and an apology for the unnecessary insult. I would enjoy working with you but not in this tone.-PhoenixWright 16:31, 4 March 2008 (EST)
PhoenixWright, you do not come here to push your agenda on this site; you do not force that agenda down our throats. You want to enjoy working here, then you will respect this site. Karajou 16:46, 4 March 2008 (EST)
No respect at all, right Karajou? Always pushing their own, liberal agenda. Feebasfactor 18:01, 4 March 2008 (EST)
Okay, I get it. Having seen the casualties that resulted from this exciting incident, I think I'm seeing Unwritten Commandment #11 - "Regardless of the intellectual merit of your argument, don't ever disagree with Karajou. Pretend he's right even when he's not."
So I'll drop it.
I had hoped that I could debate with and learn from people here. You can imagine my disappointment. But I can't imagine yours. To have to win arguments by force rather than intellect... how sad. Anyways, you win this round. So much for collaboration.-PhoenixWright 16:45, 5 March 2008 (EST)
The sad part here is you insist on picking fights. Last warning. Karajou 23:36, 5 March 2008 (EST)

Not How the Term is Used

The new definition inserted here is not how the term is used, and is not a concise, clear explanation. The prior definition clearly and succinctly explained what this term is:

Quote mining is a pejorative term, not recognized by dictionaries, which expresses objection to using someone's quotes against him. While the entire fields of law and politics encourage quoting an adversary to discredit him, evolutionist do not feel their quotes should be used against them and have invented the term quote mining to criticize that practice.

The content page should be reverted to this definition unless there good reasons can be provided not to.--Aschlafly 08:51, 25 August 2008 (EDT)

Your definition isn't objective. Your definition is how people /view/ the terms use, not how it's actually defined. Indeed, it isn't recognized by dictionaries yet, but that's because the term is rather new (originating primarily through discourse on the internet in the mid- to late-90's). Also, as cited elsewhere on the page, the field of law doesn't advocate quote mining. As to politics, that is more an ancillary side-effect of an inherently corrupt and sinful environment than it is an advocated practice. Also um, law and science are two different fields, so why you even bothered to mention them puzzles me. Jirby 09:24, 25 August 2008 (EDT)
The definition should address how the term is used, and if it were a legitimate term then it would be in dictionaries by now.--Aschlafly 09:40, 25 August 2008 (EDT)
But again, that's how /you/ feel the term is used, which is not encyclopedic. Also your belief in the dictionary as the ultimate authority on language is flawed: language flows from the people into dictionaries, not the other way around. You also fail to take into consideration the obscurity of the term: except for here on the internet, I've yet to actually here the term used; this really is the only environment where quote mining is prevalent (due to the ease of use) to warrant calling it anything. We ought not use your definition, which isn't in any dictionary that I can find either...Jirby 09:52, 25 August 2008 (EDT)
"It is commonly viewed as pejorative term, which expresses objection to using someone's quotes against him in an allegedly deceitful and misleading manner." this is far mroe objective and accurate if you insist upon its inclusion in the article. I must also voice my objection to your revision of this article; no consensus was at any point reached, in fact I disagreed with you /before/ you went ahead and revised the article, yet you went ahead anyway. Jirby 09:57, 25 August 2008 (EDT)
No, the allegation of "deceitful and misleading" is not central to the use of the term. Evolutionists use the term to object to any use of a quote against an evolutionist, even when there is no doubt that the quote is accurate and that the speaker intended to say it.--Aschlafly 09:59, 25 August 2008 (EDT)
Yes it is. Why else would evolutionists bother to objecting to being quoted if those quotes are used in an accurate and informative way? Jirby 10:02, 25 August 2008 (EDT)
Because they don't like that their statements can be used to support creationism. Although I've never been totally comfortable with Andy's version of this article, on that particular point I will agree with him, as I've often seen it myself. Philip J. Rayment 10:58, 25 August 2008 (EDT)
Well that's... completely reasonable. If you don't support something yet someone uses your words in a way that contradicts that sentiment, would you not be a little annoyed? Indeed, I have witnessed (for I used to be active in the evolution/creationism debate before I realized that God must have been displeased with such a waste of energy) evolutionists cry foul when they are found to have said something that is legitimately contradictory, yet to say that this is the underlying impetus behind the terms origins and its current use is sillier than most 9/11 conspiracy theories and assumes much bad faith on your part.
Indeed, would you like me to actually /ask/ a published evolutionary scientist (any field, I care not) why they are against quote mining? I guarantee you it will be because they find the practice deceitful and misleading.Jirby 14:09, 25 August 2008 (EDT)

Bad reference to lawyers

The article is wrong insofar as it relates to lawyers. Quote mining is selective quoting. Lawyers acting ethically do not selectively quote. A lawyer's first obligation is as an officer of the court. For example, when I am in court I have an obligation to advise the court of all relevant cases, not just those that might assist my client. Furthermore, I cannot misrepresent an opponent's position by selectively quoting them. Any lawyer who selectively quotes and, by doing so, misleads a court, has failed in their ethical obligations. I am happy to take a stab at a rewrite if no-one has any objections. --TCochrane 18:43, 16 December 2008 (EST)

I'm not sure what happened there. I posted the above entry and no-one objeected. I changed the article (for the better in my view) and it was reverted without explanation. What gives? --TCochrane 23:42, 17 December 2008 (EST)
Unfortunately, that's the way things often work here. Having said that, however, I do have a problem with your edits (which were not, as implied above, to do with the legal aspects), in that they define quote mining as being the same as quoting out of context. If this is what quote mining is, why the new term for it? Philip J. Rayment 21:33, 18 December 2008 (EST)

General and specific

In the general sense, quote mining means finding evidence within the very words of one's adversaries which contradict their own position. Partisans who are dishonest would naturally object to this. "Hey, no fair proving me wrong with my own words!" This is like a nanny who secretly beats or molests your children, getting caught on videotape; she then objects to having been videotaped surreptitiously as if your efforts to protect your children were an even greater offense than her own crime. Possibly this objection derives from the exclusionary rule, which was instituted to prevent the planting of false evidence, but it is unrelated to public writings and speeches.

In the specific senses, quote mining sometimes means a false interpretation of the words of one's adversaries. The typical defense here is, "Yeah, I said that, but it doesn't mean what you think it means." Environmentalists have tried to explain away Stephen Schneider's scary scenarios statement this way. Evolutionists frequently say that the doubts various pro-evolution scientists have about some aspects of evolution should not be taken as evidence of scientific controversy. However, this is specious reasoning designed to cover up the existence of scientific debate.

The position of science educators who doubt evolution is that the Theory of Evolution should not be taught as a "fact" (like gravity) but merely as the best explanation found so far by physical science. It should not be taught as unassailable doctrine, but as a tentative theory. Science, unlike religious faith, is not entitled to promulgate dogma. --Ed Poor Talk 06:36, 18 December 2008 (EST)