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.

15 thoughts on “Wilson Responds

  1. Eric says:

    I’m hardly surprised that he uses the stock spiel I’ve heard every single time I’ve seen someone caught plagiarizing. “Yes, the words may be the same as this other book, but that doesn’t mean I plagiarized!”

    He fails to grasp the simplest possible principle of citation: The difference is not between “Columbus discovered America in 1492” and “America was discovered in 1492 by Columbus,” but between that and “According to some historians, ‘Columbus discovered America in 1492’ (Blaine 1892, p.45)” with a full citation in the bibliography.

    (“Columbus discovered America” is also a classic textbook example of sloppy historiography, but that’s perhaps beside the point. )

    Plagiarism is a “citation problem” in much the same way that embezzlement is an accounting problem.

  2. rosejhuskey says:

    This description is all to familiar to those of us who know or know of Doug Wilson.
    Source: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/narcissistic-personality-disorder/basics/symptoms/con-20025568
    Rose Huskey

    “DSM-5 criteria for narcissistic personality disorder include these features:

    Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
    Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
    Exaggerating your achievements and talents
    Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
    Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people
    Requiring constant admiration
    Having a sense of entitlement
    Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations
    Taking advantage of others to get what you want
    Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
    Being envious of others and believing others envy you
    Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner”

    • Dash says:

      I’m one of those outdated, old-fashioned stick-in-the-muds who happens to believe that Doug Wilson’s NPD is perfectly curable. It’s just that, to date, no one has yet made a serious or earnest enough attempt to beat it out of him.

  3. elizabeth kerr says:

    Doug Wilson sure has a lot of excuses. Does he ever take responsibility for things he does incorrectly or sinfully?

    • Terri Rice says:

      Short answer,
      NO.

      What person who plays at being a pastor would ever brag about the need for a ” page as a central clearing house for my controversies.” That is so twisted. And then as you read down the list you realize that the page is simply a central place for clearing himself of ever, ever, ever, ever, ever. Ever. Ever, ever, ever. Ever being flat out sinfully wrong about anything. Ever.

      These are what you will find:

      Douglas Wilson will be real sorry you are an idiot and misunderstood his wordsmithy-ness, real sorry about that.

      And Douglas Wilson will be real sorry that accidents happen, like the “accident” in the Phantom of the Opera, “Ladies and gentlemen, please remain in your seats.
      Do not panic.
      It was an accident … simply an accident.” Says the theater owner desperate not to not lose ticket sales when the Phantom purposely crashes the monstrous chandelier to the floor during a performance.

      And Douglas Wilson will say his sins “happen because my foes haul something up.” It couldn’t be because he lied, cheated, stole, abused, finagled or character bashed; no, being caught is because his “foes are busy hauling something.”

      And concerning the Omnibus plagiarism:

      The Omnibus Graduate Wikipedia posting the Omnibus material onto wiki is akin to the tales a toddler spins thinking it will save his bacon when instead he’s just spiraling down, sounding crazier and crazier. Omnibus Graduate Wikipedia Posting Scholar. That is rich.

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