Top 10 Posts for 2016

2016 was a very interesting year. As I compiled the following list of my top posts for the year, I reflected on the hot topics. Doug Wilson and plagiarism was again in the top 10, although a different set of books from 2015. Not surprisingly, several Trinity debate posts also made it to the top 10. I’m so thankful for all those who spoke up to defend Trinitarian orthodoxy. There is still much work to be done.

Thank you all for your support and encouragement. May God bless you all this year.

10. A Reflection and Some Lingering Concerns after the RTS Trinity Conference

This continued insistence on ESS/EFS/ERAS by Grudem and Ware worries me for both complementarianism in general and CBMW in particular. And for these reasons I was not as reassured by Ligon Duncan’s talk as I would have liked to have been. I am extremely glad to hear that both Dr. Duncan and RTS are Pro-Nicene, but that really wasn’t in doubt, was it?

9. “Rules for Thee and Not for Me”

These are merely six examples, one from each volume. Each of these examples is mostly word for word. None of these are from open sources like Wikipedia. The only difference between the Omnibus examples and the Driscoll ones is that there are more of them from the Omnibus. I’m honestly not sure why the “rules” that applied to the Driscoll plagiarism don’t apply to the Omnibus.

8. The Grand Design: A Review

In The Grand Design, Strachan and Peacock ground their understanding of the complementarity of men and women on a relationship of authority and submission in the nature of the Trinity. The result does damage to the doctrine of the Trinity, distorts the gospel, and damages the understanding of men and women and how they should interact.

7. Tim Keller, Redeemer City to City, and the Rise Campaign

Why do Keller and Redeemer want to plant churches and train leaders? To see New York City flourish:

We’re doing this for our city. Our longing is to see New York—and everyone in it—flourish. We believe the best way to serve the city is to embody the gospel in every neighborhood. The gospel doesn’t just change individual lives; it advances the common good. The increase in philanthropy, mercy, justice, racial reconciliation, integrity, and hope that occurs when more and more people live out the gospel is good for all of society, not just the body of Christ.

6. Wilson’s Influence on “Classical Christian Education”

Doug Wilson’s views on theology, history, slavery, patriarchy, marriage, sex, etc. are present in materials that many CCE schools, programs, and homeschools use. In doing my research, I focused on the six-volume Omnibus produced by Veritas Press. Veritas Press is owned by Marlin and Laurie Detweiler who were members of Wilson’s CREC denomination.

5. CBMW’s Blog Series on the Eternal Subordination of the Son

In my previous article on CBMW and the Eternal Subordination of the Son, I gave many examples of why it’s not accurate to say that CBMW is neutral in the current debate. But it is also not accurate to say that CBMW only has the one post on the Trinity. A quick search on CBMW’s website for “eternal subordination” will return a number of hits. There are several posts responding to or reviewing books by egalitarians who have written against ESS/EFS/ERAS. There is also an interesting series of posts specifically on the Eternal Subordination of the Son.

4. Wilson Responds

Let me take these one by one. First, of the almost 70 original sources cited in my post, fewer than 20 of them are from Wikipedia or other “open source” sites. When I cited Wikipedia as the source, I was careful to use the Internet Archive: Wayback Machine to verify that the Wikipedia information existed before the publication of each Omnibus volume. You can click on any of the Wikipedia links to take you to the archived page from a particular date that is older than the Omnibus publication date. So, unless time travel is an option, the Wikipedia sources predate the Omnibus volumes.

3. A Justice Primer: The Investigation

Before I published my article on the plagiarism, I presented my findings to 5 seminary and university professors. I wanted to know what they thought of the significance of what I’d found. All of them said it was plagiarism. They said that if they had done it, they would have been in trouble with their university/seminary/academic community. They also said that if one of their students had done the same the student would face disciplinary action including expulsion. Plagiarism is serious business.

2. Eternal Subordination of the Son and the ESV Study Bible

Given the recent debate over ESS/EFS/ERAS, I thought it would be worthwhile to demonstrate the influence this teaching has had in possibly unexpected places. The following are quotes from the ESV Study Bible study notes on various Bible passages. The page numbers are from the ebook version. The Scripture passages are all from the ESV translation.

  1. Plagiarism, Wilson, and the Omnibus

As these example show, the plagiarism in the Omnibus volumes is extensive and pervasive. These are only a small portion of the more than 100 instances I found.

Christian Publisher Addresses Plagiarism Allegations, Withdraws Books from Print

Last week, Eerdmans released a statement on plagiarism allegations they had received regarding three volumes of New Testament commentary by author Peter O’Brien. Given the wide variety of responses to plagiarism allegations by various publishing houses, I thought it worthwhile to commend Eerdmans for their excellent work. Several aspects of their response are worth noting.

First, the time frame is commendable. According to the statement, Eerdmans investigated and responded to the allegations within six weeks. I’m very glad to hear that they took the allegations seriously and sought to investigate and respond quickly.

Second, the process of the investigation appears to have been well done. The editors compared the text to various secondary sources and had external experts verify their findings.

Eerdmans editors compared the text of The Letter to the Hebrews (Pillar New Testament Commentary, 2010) with various secondary sources and submitted findings to external experts for verification.

Eerdmans’ conclusions are also admirable. The editors determined that the commentaries use of secondary sources did not meet acceptable standards.

Summing up the findings, Editor-in-chief James Ernest said, “Our own editors and our outside consultants agreed that what we found on the pages of this commentary runs afoul of commonly accepted standards with regard to the utilization and documentation of secondary sources. We agreed that the book could not be retained in print.”

Even though two of the volumes had much fewer problems, the editors determined that all three volumes could not remain in print.

Examination of the same author’s Letter to the Ephesians (PNTC, 1999) and Epistle to the Philippians (New International Greek Testament Commentary, 1991) found them less pervasively flawed but still untenable.

The author, Peter O’Brien, acknowledged his fault and apologized for his unintentional plagiarism.

The author, Peter T. O’Brien, was presented with the findings and provided the following response: “In the New Testament commentaries that I have written, although I have never deliberately misused the work of others, nevertheless I now see that my work processes at times have been faulty and have generated clear-cut, but unintentional, plagiarism. For this I apologize without reservation.”

Lastly, I am very pleased by the steps Eerdmans is taking regarding the plagiarized work.

● Ceasing sales and pulp stock of all three volumes, placing them out of print.
● Offering credit to individuals and trade partners who have purchased the above three volumes.
For detailed instructions on how to pursue this option, please write to commentarycredit@eerdmans.com.
● Discussing best practices for quality control with press editors, series editors, and authors.

It is very encouraging to see a publishing house take such a serious stand on the issue of plagiarism. There was no attempt to downplay the severity of the allegations. There was no shooting or discrediting of the messenger. The plagiarism was investigated and the books were removed quickly. I hope that other publishing houses will follow Eerdmans’ lead in the future.

“Rules for Thee and Not for Me”

A few years ago Mark Driscoll got into trouble over plagiarism in his books. One of the books, Trial: 8 Witnesses from 1-2 Peter, had paragraphs taken from New Bible Commentary, edited by Gordon J. Wenham, J. Alec Motyer, Donald A. Carson, and R. T. France . The book was eventually pulled because of the plagiarism. 

After the plagiarism was discovered and before the book was taken off the market, Doug Wilson wrote a blog post with his thoughts on the controversy. Wilson said:

All that said, at an objective minimum, there is a gross citation problem in Driscoll’s book Trial, which needs to be acknowledged, owned and corrected. Looking at the two relevant sections, side by side, we know that there is a citation problem. What we don’t know is why or how it got there, about which more in a little bit. But regardless, however it got there, it needs to get out of there. The problem should be owned and corrected, in public, by the author and the publisher. The same goes for anything comparable. (emphasis added)

He also said:

The production of a book involves numerous people who handle the words prior to publication, unlike a term paper. How could something bad get in? Well, think about research assistants, copy editors, copy editors who think they should have been the author, copy editors who think they should have been the fuehrer, content editors, politically correct content editors, and so on. Just a few weeks ago I had the experience of opening a book I wrote only to have my eyes light upon something that I could never have possibly written, and which some helpful editor (or gnome in the printing press) had inserted for me. It was quite embarrassing, but I didn’t do it, although this leads to the next point. I am nevertheless responsible for it. My name is on the cover.

And:

This is a good argument for only using researchers who are extremely honest, competent, and reliable, and with a system of cross checks in place. But with all said and done, the person whose name is on the cover of the book is responsible to put things completely right if a problem surfaces.  (emphasis added)

Given the nature of his comments one could easily suppose he was talking about the plagiarism in the Omnibus. Unfortunately, these quotes are considerably different from his current response to the plagiarism in the Omnibus volumes.

But maybe the examples from Driscoll’s book, Trial, were more extensive or different in some way? Well, here are the examples of the plagiarism that I could find.

MD2

MD1

These are certainly strong examples of plagiarism. You can see that the examples are mostly word for word, but with some modifications. In fact, these examples are very similar to many of the examples of plagiarism from the Omnibus volumes. Consider these:

Volume I page 526

James, pg 526 (Bruce Etter) This is from the text of the Omnibus essay on James. The material is from the commentary in the NKJV, The Open Bible’s introduction to James, page 1269.

Volume II, page 113

The Rule of St. Benedict, pg 113 (Gregg Strawbridge) This example is from the text of the essay on The Rule of St. Benedict. The original source is an entry in the Catholic encyclopedia, New Advent.

Volume III, page 155

Reflections on the Revolution in France, pg 155 (Douglas Wilson, Natali H. Miller) This example comes from the text of a session following the essay “Reflections on the Revolution in France.” The material was taken from the Internet Modern History Sourcebook. The French text of La Marseillaise is public domain, but the history here and the English translation are copyrighted. The copyright information says, “No permission is granted for commercial use of the Sourcebook. © Paul Halsall Aug 1997.”

Volume IV, page 366

Gospel of Mark, pg 366 (Bruce Etter) This example comes from the text of the essay on Mark. The source is from an article, “The Use of εὐθύς (“immediately”) in Mark,” by Professor Rodney J. Decker. It was published in the Journal for Ministry and Theology in 1997.

Volume V, page 17

The City of God, pg 17 (Douglas Wilson, Graham Dennis) This example is from an image caption. The image and the text come from a book, Light at Ground Zero: St. Paul’s Chapel After 9/11, by Krystyna Sanderson. The Omnibus volume gives image credit to Sanderson as the photographer.

Volume VI, page 342

The Sun Also Rises, pg 342 (Nathan Tillman) This is from the text of a session after the essay on The Sun Also Rises. The English translation of the German text is by Mimmi Fulmer and Ric Merritt and is copyrighted. Neither author was cited in the Omnibus text. The copyright says, “To reprint and distribute this author’s work for concert programs, CD booklets, etc., you must ask the copyright-holder(s) directly for permission. If you receive no response, you must consider it a refusal.”

These are merely six examples, one from each volume. Each of these examples is mostly word for word. None of these are from open sources like Wikipedia. The only difference between the Omnibus examples and the Driscoll ones is that there are more of them from the Omnibus. I’m honestly not sure why the “rules” that applied to the Driscoll plagiarism don’t apply to the Omnibus.

I’ll close with a quote from Wilson regarding the plagiarism from A Justice Primer:

In such circumstances, when plagiarism is detected, the one who finds it has every right to look at the cover and decide right on the spot who is responsible. The names on the cover are the ones with the authorial responsibility, which is the primary responsibility according to contract, and the editorial imprint is the one with the publisher’s responsibility, also specified by contract. Further investigation might reveal where particular culpability lies, but the responsibility for the project flows (according to God’s design) to the names on the cover.

 

Wilson Responds

Doug Wilson has written on his blog regarding the plagiarism in the Omnibus. I will quote his points and give my response below.

Omnibus

And a controversy about alleged plagiarism in the Omnibus textbooks just occurred, so some of these observations may be expanded and modified as we learn more. I know Veritas Press takes such allegations very seriously and they are looking into them as appropriate. For the present, we can say this much:

1. The overwhelming number of these alleged instances occurred in captions and inserts, which were included in the textbook in the production process, after the edited manuscripts were submitted and edited. Thus the attachment of particular names to these problems was entirely reckless.

I am glad to hear that Veritas Press is taking this seriously. Doug Wilson confirms what I stated in my note yesterday. The captions and inserts were added to the textbook after the authors wrote their essays. The authors’ names listed in my post are there for citation purposes, as I said from the start. Proper citation is not reckless, but a requirement of publication:

How to Cite an Essay Online in MLA

This is similar to a chapter in a book or anthology. Cite the author of the essay, the name of the essay, the name of the collection, the editor of the collection, the publication information, and the page number(s) of the essay. (emphasis added)

Moving on to Wilson’s second point:

2. The process used by Miller to tag such problems is unreliable, and is prone to false positives. If Wikipedia says “Columbus discovered America in 1492,” we are not much edified by a color coded “America was discovered in 1492 by Columbus.”

I think Wilson is saying here that the highlighted sections were merely similar and not word for word because some words occasionally were put in different order. This might be worth noting, except for the fact that most of the examples in my post are line after line of text taken from other sources with almost no alteration and no citation.

As I noted in my post on the definition of plagiarism, if you move the words around some, but the words still clearly reflect the original, and you don’t cite the source, it’s still plagiarism. From Harvard University’s website on plagiarism:

Inadequate paraphrase

When you paraphrase, your task is to distill the source’s ideas in your own words. It’s not enough to change a few words here and there and leave the rest; instead, you must completely restate the ideas in the passage in your own words. If your own language is too close to the original, then you are plagiarizing, even if you do provide a citation.

Wilson’s 3rd point:

3. It appears many of the tagged problems were from open-source sites. Since Wikipedia is constantly changing, we will have a hard time determining what came from what. In other words, did an Omnibus contributor lift something from Wikipedia in 2005, or did an Omnibus graduate contribute to a Wikipedia article in 2012? Second, even assuming a problem in the production of the textbook, with open source material it would be more a problem with terms of use, and not copyright. More background information can be found here, here, or here.

Let me take these one by one. First, of the almost 70 original sources cited in my post, fewer than 20 of them are from Wikipedia or other “open source” sites. When I cited Wikipedia as the source, I was careful to use the Internet Archive: Wayback Machine to verify that the Wikipedia information existed before the publication of each Omnibus volume. You can click on any of the Wikipedia links to take you to the archived page from a particular date that is older than the Omnibus publication date. So, unless time travel is an option, the Wikipedia sources predate the Omnibus volumes.

Second, the rule of citation is: Did you write it? No? Then you have to cite it. While I don’t recommend Wikipedia as a source for academic work, it still has to be cited. From Wikipedia’s terms of use:

Re-use: Re-use of content that we host is welcome, though exceptions exist for content contributed under “fair use” or similar exemptions under copyright law. Any re-use must comply with the underlying license(s).

When you re-use or re-distribute a text page developed by the Wikimedia community, you agree to attribute the authors in any of the following fashions:

i. Through hyperlink (where possible) or URL to the page or pages that you are re-using (since each page has a history page that lists all authors and editors);

ii. Through hyperlink (where possible) or URL to an alternative, stable online copy that is freely accessible, which conforms with the license, and which provides credit to the authors in a manner equivalent to the credit given on the Project website; or

iii Through a list of all authors (but please note that any list of authors may be filtered to exclude very small or irrelevant contributions).

And from Wikipedia on how to cite Wikipedia:

MLA style

Citation in MLA style, as recommended by the Modern Language Association:

“Plagiarism.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 22 July 2004. Web. 10 Aug. 2004.

As to whether Wikipedia holds copyright, Wikipedia says the following:

The licenses Wikipedia uses grant free access to our content in the same sense that free software is licensed freely. Wikipedia content can be copied, modified, and redistributed if and only if the copied version is made available on the same terms to others and acknowledgment of the authors of the Wikipedia article used is included (a link back to the article is generally thought to satisfy the attribution requirement; see below for more details). Copied Wikipedia content will therefore remain free under appropriate license and can continue to be used by anyone subject to certain restrictions, most of which aim to ensure that freedom.

Wilson’s final point is:

4. Any genuine citation problems that Veritas Press confirms will be dealt with honestly and with full integrity.

Plagiarism as extensive and pervasive as the examples from the Omnibus volumes are much more than “citation problems.” I hope that Veritas Press will continue to take this seriously.

Plagiarism, Wilson, and the Omnibus

[Note: Please note that the name of the author of the essay does not mean that the author is the one responsible for the plagiarism. This is especially true of the image captions and side bars (large text inserts). Typically those parts of books are added by others after the authors have already written their essay text. I’m sorry for the confusion.]

As was the case in Omnibus I, numerous experts have contributed to this monumental work. –Veritas Press

Your final product will, of course, differ from the example given (if it does not, you might want to start over and confess the sin of plagiarism). (Omnibus II: Confessions, G. Tyler Fischer, pg 45)

How do Google, Wikipedia, and other online sources affect the value we place on information? While things like Google and Wikipedia can be an enormous blessing, they do tend to devalue information. Because we do not have to quest for knowledge, but can get pretty much anything we need in a few seconds online, we sometimes cease to see the value of thinking through difficult concepts or reading through difficult books. (Omnibus V: Le Morte d’Arthur, Rick Davis, pg 413)

When I was researching the Omnibus Curriculum for my posts on Doug Wilson and Classical Christian Education, I noticed that Steve Wilkins and Randy Booth had both written essays. Wilkins and Booth were Wilson’s co-authors for two books that were pulled for plagiarism. Wondering if they had plagiarized any text in their Omnibus essays, I decided to check Wilkins’ essay on Of Plymouth Plantation by running sections of the text through a commercial plagiarism checking software. I found that portions of text were unoriginal and without citation. In other words, I found plagiarism.

I noticed that there were large text captions on the images throughout the essay. I checked a couple of those and found that there were significant amounts of text taken from other sources and not cited.

At that point, I began to wonder if other essays had similar problems. I started by looking at various image captions. I found several examples of plagiarism. I also looked at portions of essays and large text inserts as well. What follows is a representative sample of the over 100 instances of plagiarism that I found. There are examples from image captions, essay text, end notes, sessions text, and text inserts. There are many more examples that I found, and given the size of the volumes, I was not able to search everything. I would also like to note that all of the research here was done exclusively by me.

A caption explaining the example appears on each image. To view the caption, hover over the image. I have included the names of the editors and essay authors for citation purposes. I do not know who is responsible for the plagiarism in each example.

Clicking on an image below will open a gallery for that volume. Each of the images can be viewed full sized by right clicking. The legend for the image is as follows. Each image is a comparison of the Omnibus text and the original source material. The plagiarized text is usually highlighted in yellow. In some examples, more than one source was used. In those cases, a different color of highlighting is used to represent each source. A dark green line is used to separate the separate sources the text was taken from. Some examples have text that was rearranged in a different order from the original source. In those cases, the moved text has been highlighted in a different color, usually light blue. A dark red line indicates that there is a break in the text.

Omnibus I: Biblical and Classical Civilizations, ed. Douglas Wilson, G. Tyler Fischer; Veritas Press, 2005

 
Omnibus II: Church Fathers through the Reformation, ed. Douglas Wilson, G. Tyler Fischer; Veritas Press, 2005

 
Omnibus III: Reformation to the Present, ed. Douglas Wilson, G. Tyler Fischer; Veritas Press, 2006

 
Omnibus IV: The Ancient World, ed. Gene Edward Veith, Douglas Wilson, G. Tyler Fischer; Veritas Press, 2009

 
Omnibus V: The Medieval World, ed. Gene Edward Veith, Douglas Wilson, G. Tyler Fischer; Veritas Press, 2010

 
Omnibus VI: The Modern World, ed. Gene Edward Veith, Douglas Wilson, G. Tyler Fischer; Veritas Press, 2011

As these example show, the plagiarism in the Omnibus volumes is extensive and pervasive. These are only a small portion of the more than 100 instances I found.

The Very Definition of Plagiarism

Since I wrote my response to Canon Press’s investigation into the plagiarism in A Justice Primer, there has been a continued discussion of what constitutes plagiarism. I thought it might be useful to go over some basics. There is a very comprehensive article from Harvard University on “What Constitutes Plagiarism.” It has many helpful explanations, especially as it explains how to integrate the use of source material into your own work without plagiarizing.

Let’s start with the basic definition of plagiarism from the Harvard paper:

In academic writing, it is considered plagiarism to draw any idea or any language from someone else without adequately crediting that source in your paper. It doesn’t matter whether the source is a published author, another student, a Web site without clear authorship, a Web site that sells academic papers, or any other person: Taking credit for anyone else’s work is stealing, and it is unacceptable in all academic situations, whether you do it intentionally or by accident. (emphasis added)

That’s right, folks. Plagiarism is plagiarism whether or not it was intentional. No matter how many times people repeat the claim that the plagiarism in A Justice Primer was unintentional, it doesn’t matter.

One type of plagiarism is Verbatim Plagiarism. This would be when an author copies source material word for word without giving a proper citation. Notice that whether you put the source material in quotation marks or paraphrase it, you still have to provide “a clear citation.” Good examples of verbatim plagiarism would be the two examples of copying from Creation.com that I gave in my last article. (As a side note, it appears that Randy Booth has since taken down those two posts from his blog.)

Another interesting form of plagiarism is Mosaic Plagiarism. This would be when an author quotes or paraphrases from one or more source and doesn’t adequately cite the original material. Mosaic plagiarism would be like the chapter in A Justice Primer on Shimei that weaved material together from two sources with original material.

The Harvard article on plagiarism also covers Inadequate and Uncited Paraphrase. These would be when an author changes words somewhat but either doesn’t change them enough (inadequate paraphrase) or doesn’t cite the source material of the paraphrase (uncited paraphrase.) An example of these from A Justice Primer would be the section taken from Gary North. The original material has been paraphrased some, but a portion is still word for word, and none of it is cited.

One final type of plagiarism that I want to consider today is Uncited Quotation. The Harvard article defines it this way:

When you put source material in quotation marks in your essay, you are telling your reader that you have drawn that material from somewhere else. But it’s not enough to indicate that the material in quotation marks is not the product of your own thinking or experimentation: You must also credit the author of that material and provide a trail for your reader to follow back to the original document.

This particular type of plagiarism is very interesting to me. In my last article on the Canon Press investigation, I included an instance of this kind of plagiarism by Doug Wilson from his book, Fidelity:

mag-1

After my article ran, I read various explanations for why this was not an example of plagiarism. One said that it wasn’t plagiarism, it was simply a similarly worded translation. But last week, someone asked Doug Wilson about it on Facebook. He replied that it was not plagiarism because he put it in quotation marks. He later clarified and called it an “amplified uncited quote.”

plagiarism wilson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not exactly sure what an “amplified uncited quote” is. I’ve never heard the term before, but uncited quotation is the very definition of plagiarism. Carl Trueman commented that my last article was “a combined lesson on Basic Research Methods and Plagiarism 101.” After what I’ve read this last week, I think maybe there are many who would benefit from more instruction on research and plagiarism.

A Justice Primer: The Investigation

Late last week, Canon Press released a statement with the findings from their investigation into the plagiarism in A Justice Primer. To refresh our memories, the original statement they released back in December was:

Canon Press has investigated the charges of plagiarism and improper citation in A Justice Primer, and it is abundantly clear that the editor and co-author, Randy Booth, plagiarized material in multiple instances from a number of different sources. Such negligence and editorial incompetence is a gross breach of contract and obviously does not meet Canon Press’s publishing standards. As such, we have discontinued the book, effective immediately. Refer to the author statements below for more information. We would like to specifically thank Rachel Miller for bringing this to our attention so we could take the necessary steps to immediately correct such a serious error.

Apparently they have now changed their minds about portions of this statement. There are three main points that they make in the new statement. First, they claim I had help with my original article that I didn’t cite. Second, they claim that my colleague and I have a personal animosity towards Doug Wilson and that bias negatively affected the research. And third, they claim the plagiarism wasn’t intentional, was mostly citation errors, and was really not such a big deal after all. I would like to address each of these points in turn.

First, Canon Press has “discovered” that Valerie Hobbs helped me with my research. Valerie and I have worked and published together in the past, and I did ask her to help me.  I did all of my own research, and the material I published in my article was my own work and my own findings. Valerie had a small, but much appreciated role in my research.

Here’s how the research process went. While preparing to write a review of the book, I discovered some passages that seemed odd. I decided to check if they were original to the book or from some other source. Because the book is only available as a hard copy book, and not electronically, I had to type up the quotes I wanted to search. Then I ran various quotes from the book through a commercially available plagiarism software. When I discovered plagiarized material in A Justice Primer, I wanted to be careful that my research was accurate.

Because large portions of the book were taken from Wilson and Booth’s blog posts, I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t missing something. I didn’t want to say it was plagiarism by Wilson or Booth and have it actually be that someone had plagiarized their work. So, I discussed my findings with Valerie. She offered to run the quotes through the academic/research software she has access to as a professor and researcher. She did not turn up any additional plagiarism. What she found was consistent with what I had already discovered.

So there’s the big secret. Valerie double checked my work for accuracy. Since the findings were truly mine, I didn’t see any need to cite her assistance. But I am very grateful for her help. If Canon Press had bothered to ask me during their investigation, I would have happily supplied that information to them.

Second, Canon Press now seems to believe that because I have a history of writing things critical to Doug Wilson my findings are suspect. Doug Wilson himself addressed that very issue when he publicly thanked me back in December. He noted that while we have had our disagreements, he was thankful for my work in this matter.

It was no secret that I read A Justice Primer with the intention of critiquing it. I said so in my original post. It is absolutely true that I disagree with Doug Wilson on many theological matters. That doesn’t change the facts that I presented in my article. I was very careful in my discussion of the plagiarism not to speculate who had done the plagiarizing. Canon seems to think that I knew Booth was responsible and didn’t say so so that I could implicate Wilson. That is not true.

As I’ve said before, much of the book was taken from blog posts that Wilson and Booth had written over the last 10 years. However, there were large portions of the book that did not seem to come from either blog. The book itself gives no indication who wrote which portions or that Booth was the editor. When Canon released their first statement that Booth took full responsibility for the plagiarism, I agreed that Booth was likely the one responsible. But, because I could not know for certain who wrote what at the time of my post, I refrained from speculating. It would have been unfair to either author to do otherwise.  And ultimately, as Doug Wilson has said regarding plagiarism:

But with all said and done, the person whose name is on the cover of the book is responsible to put things completely right if a problem surfaces. He may not be guilty, but he is always responsible — as basic covenant theology teaches us.

Lastly, the recent statement by Canon Press appears to say that the problems in A Justice Primer aren’t really that bad. It was unintentional. There were “citation errors.”

Let’s consider that for a moment. Before I published my article on the plagiarism, I presented my findings to 5 seminary and university professors. I wanted to know what they thought of the significance of what I’d found. All of them said it was plagiarism. They said that if they had done it, they would have been in trouble with their university/seminary/academic community. They also said that if one of their students had done the same the student would face disciplinary action including expulsion. Plagiarism is serious business.

What do universities say about plagiarism? Here are a few university statements. I’ll start with the one from Greyfriars’ Hall, the ministerial program in Moscow. New Saint Andrew’s uses a very similar statement:

Students must avoid plagiarism, misrepresentation, misappropriation of the work of others, or any other form of academic dishonesty, whether intentional or the result of reckless disregard for academic integrity (see “Plagiarism” in Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers, sixth edition, p. 74 [5.2]). Such academic dishonesty may be grounds for disciplinary action by the instructor and Greyfriars’ Hall administration up to and including dismissal from Greyfriars’ Hall. (emphasis added)

This one is from the University of Sheffield:

Plagiarism(either intentional or unintentional) is the using of ideas or work of another person (including experts and fellow or former students) and submitting them as your own. It is considered dishonest and unprofessional. Plagiarism may take the form of cutting and pasting, taking or closely paraphrasing ideas, passages, sections, sentences, paragraphs, drawings, graphs and other graphical material from books, articles, internet sites or any other source and submitting them for assessment without appropriate acknowledgement. (emphasis added)

Here’s one from Duke University on what constitutes “unintentional plagiarism“:

Unintentional plagiarism is plagiarism that results from the disregard for proper scholarly procedures.

Examples of Unintentional Plagiarism:
Failure to cite a source that is not common knowledge.
Failure to “quote” or block quote author’s exact words, even if documented.
Failure to put a paraphrase in your own words, even if documented.
Failure to put a summary in your own words, even if documented.
Failure to be loyal to a source.

Or this one from Baker College on the difference between intentional and unintentional plagiarism:

Intentional plagiarism is copying someone’s words or ideas without citing them, in order to pass them off as your own (in other words, cheating).

Unintentional plagiarism is accidentally leaving off the required citation(s) because you don’t understand the rules of citation and plagiarism.

Going back to Canon’s statement, I didn’t speculate in my article as to whether or not the plagiarism was intentional. It’s certainly possible that Booth unintentionally plagiarized in places. In his own statement, he said he wasn’t aware that he had to cite dictionary definitions. And failure to put Tim Challies’ words in quotation marks or as a blockquote could also fall under this category, since there was some attempt at citation near that passage.

However, the chapter on Shimei is still hard to explain. Whole sentences and paragraphs were taken from the two sources and weaved together without any indication where the material came from. It’s hard to understand how that happens accidentally. But either way, intentionally or unintentionally, all of these are still plagiarism, by definition.

According to the academic statements above, if a student commits plagiarism, he or she will face discipline whether the plagiarism was intentional or unintentional. No one but Randy Booth knows if he intended to commit plagiarism or not. And in the end, it doesn’t matter. Either way the material was plagiarized.

For example, it’s plagiarism if an author takes information from another website and publishes it on his own blog without linking or attributing the original source:

Booth-Creation

Left column: Randy Booth Right column: Creation.com

And again, material taken from another website without attribution is plagiarism:

Booth--Creation

Left column: Randy Booth Right column: Creation.com

It’s also plagiarism to take words from another source, change them slightly, and use them as your own without citation:

mag-1

The left-hand side of the image below comes from page 130 of Doug Wilson’s book, Fidelity, published in 1999. The right-hand side comes from page 777 of the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery edited by Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, Tremper Longman III and published in 1998.

 

I hope that Canon Press and the authors involved will be more careful in the future with their citations. I also think it would have been wise for Canon to have kept to their original statement on the plagiarism in A Justice Primer. It was clear and concise. I don’t believe their current statement has done them any favors.