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20.1 Quote Mining

The term “quote mining” 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.

Quote mining is use of the fallacy of quoting out of context, repeatedly employing misquotation in an attempt to skew or contort the meaning and purpose of the original author regarding a controversial topic. The quote miner’s purpose can be to make the author or speaker look incompetent or mistaken or to use an author or speaker’s own words to undermine their argument.

The term quote mining is pejorative. “Quote miners” are often accused of contextomy, misquotation, and illegitimate use of ellipsis in an attempt to represent the views of the person being quoted inaccurately. Quote mining is a distinct form of misquotation because none of the words are changed or transcribed improperly, but it can have a similar effect.

As a means to criticise mainstream science, creationists have been known to quote, at length, scientists who ostensibly support the mainstream theories, but appear to acknowledge criticisms similar to those of creationists. However, in most cases these have been shown to be quote mines that do not accurately reflect the evidence for evolution or the mainstream scientific community’s opinion of it, or highly out-of-date.

Quotes for quote mining are often taken from authoritative literature or speeches, dissected, or presented so as to appear in error or without the context that elucidates their intended meaning. Minor errors or inconsistencies, normal internal disagreements or outdated information are often used to question and to try to overturn a field of work. Quote mining also takes advantage of author’s use of a common rhetorical device, that of playing devil’s advocate to one’s own viewpoint, to produce quotes giving the exact opposite of the author’s intention.

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