Douglas Wilson apologizes for plagiarized work

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josh p's picture

Booth is taking the fall on this one. Teflon Doug shall not be touched. 

Larry's picture

Moderator

Booth is taking the fall on this one. Teflon Doug shall not be touched. 

Taking the fall for what? Booth admitted that the plagiarism was his. Wilson confirmed that his contributions to the book were not plagiarized. 

Nonetheless, Wilson took responsibility for it and apologized. What else would you like?

 

Bert Perry's picture

josh p wrote:

Booth is taking the fall on this one. Teflon Doug shall not be touched. 

I will confess that I had something of the same response as Josh, seeing as this is the second time a book with Wilson's name on it that has been found to have plagiarized materials (the first was "Slavery as it was", co-authored with Steve Wilkins).  However, I think in Christ we really ought to be gracious enough to admit that we do not have the proof that Wilson was responsible.  You would need to have an accusation from the co-author or someone else intimately familiar with the production of the book to entertain that, really.  

Statistically speaking, you've got really a 25% chance that Wilson did neither instance of plagiarism.  Standard cutoff for statistical significance is 5%.  Null hypothesis ought to be retained here. I know that Wilson is accused by many of some heavy-handed tactics, but we shouldn't stoop to the same in criticism of him.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

josh p's picture

It is plagiarism to have ones name on a book that contains plagiarism. It doesn't matter if he wrote the sections or not. He edited a book that contained plagiarism. I should have chosen a better phrase than "taken the fall," that was a poor choice/unloving phrase. What I should have said is that Booth will have significant consequences while Wilson will have little or none. 

Larry's picture

Moderator

What I should have said is that Booth will have significant consequences while Wilson will have little or none. 

What should happen? What would you like? The book has been pulled from publishing. Wilson has apparently been cleared of plagiarism in his parts. Perhaps he should have done more work in checking, or maybe they needed a better editor or publisher. But what should happen to Wilson?

josh p's picture

I guess this really hinges on one's view of what constitutes plagiarism. I would say that he plagiarized (again) and that academic integrity is important enough that He should also be removed from the board of the several academic institutions that he is on. To my way of thinking this is just another example of celebrity pastors that get a pass because they are funny/cool/wordsmiths. I realize other people may not see what he did as plagiarism.

Bert Perry's picture

josh p wrote:

It is plagiarism to have ones name on a book that contains plagiarism. It doesn't matter if he wrote the sections or not. He edited a book that contained plagiarism. I should have chosen a better phrase than "taken the fall," that was a poor choice/unloving phrase. What I should have said is that Booth will have significant consequences while Wilson will have little or none. 

Josh, this is simply false.  Plagiarism is the practice of taking another person's work and passing it of as one's own.  Now in the case of a book written by a team of writers like this, each person's writing stands or falls based on their own work, not that of other team members.  

Now if you said that it would be wise if Canon Press and Pastor Wilson took a few more measures to protect themselves, I would agree with you 100%.  They need to do the same kind of thing that Rachel Miller did as a routine technique.  If you suggested that Wilson's writing is distinctive, and therefore a good textual analysis might suss out who actually wrote the passage, I would be amenable to that approach.  But if you're going to argue that we need to blame every author of a book written by a team (like a lot of the engineering journals I read in my work) for one author's plagiarism, then I think your standard is going to effectively end that entire practice.

It would simply take too much work for each author to do this.  Yes, this does stain Wilson's reputation, but no, I don't think you or anyone else now has the evidence to credibly accuse Wilson of plagiarism.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Greg Long's picture

Wilson said he won't cowrite books anymore, at least not in this same way.

I think it does speak to the larger issue of using celebrity pastors to "co-write" books which means put their name on it so it sells more. Yes, I know that Wilson actually contributed to the book, but I'd be curious to know how much of it was actually his contribution. I'd be surprised if the majority of it wasn't written by Booth.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Larry's picture

Moderator

I guess this really hinges on one's view of what constitutes plagiarism.

I don't think it hinges on that at all. The idea of plagiarism is not confusing (though I think Rachel Miller made a couple of mistakes).

I think it hinges on the idea of culpability: Is a person responsible for the wrongs of someone else who does it without their knowledge or approval and who would not approved of it they had known? The answer to that is clearly No, at least in biblical terms. You don't punish the sons for the sins of the father or the author for the sins of a coauthor. You have an idea of culpability that is mistaken I believe.

I imagine you have some sort of axe to grind with Wilson which intensifies this. I don't care one way or the other about Wilson. I find him an interesting writer and that's about it. But there is no evidence that he plagiarized nor that he approved someone else's plagiarism. Wilson's parts of the book were not plagiarized and as far as I know, that has not been disputed. 

So I think Canon Press did the right thing and Wilson did the right thing and Booth did the right thing. Why should Wilson suffer for the sins of someone else?

Greg Long's picture

I haven't read the book. It is clear which parts of the book are his and which are Booth's? For example, in some co-authored books, the specific author of each chapter is clearly labeled at the beginning of the chapter. In others, the authors make it clear in certain sections who is writing.

I'm not suggesting this is mandatory for co-authored books, but it goes back to my larger point about celebrity pastors co-authoring books. Yes, it may be acceptable in the publishing world, but it can lead to this very kind of problem. Which Wilson realizes, leading to his decision not to do it this way anymore.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

josh p's picture

Larry, I don't have "an axe to grind" with Wilson. I disagree with his theology but I don't have much to say about him. You said, "Is a person responsible for the wrongs of someone else who does it without their knowledge or approval and who would not approved of it they had known?" Do you know this for a fact? That would seem difficult to prove but if they do-author a book then I would say yes. 

If his work is not adequately distinguished from Booth's then it is plagiarism. This is a fact. Maybe I am wrong and he only wrote clearly delineated sections but that is not my impression from reading about it. 

Bert, see above. An academic journal is not comparable to a co-authored book especially if it is not clear in the book who wrote what. Another poor analogy, but probably closer, might be a married couple's credit. If one spouse paints the town red such that the credit cards go into default it effects them both since they share the credit. Wilson and Booth, to the extent that each authors work is not clearly delineated, share the credit for the book as well as the plagiarism. 

Edit: I found the book and made sure my understanding of the co-authorship is correct. The contents have no delineation of who wrote what. I checked the chapters themselves and neither do they. If anyone is interested here is the link: http://canonpress.com/content/G-112.PDF

Pay particular attention to footnotes that use the first person plural pronoun such as "We mean here..." It is clear that there is no distinction between who wrote what. A simple Google check will demonstrate that in this situation both authors are guilty of plagiarism. Unless I need to answer for something that I have said I am done with this discussion. If a person wants to somehow believe that Wilson is not guilty of plagarism than I guess that's their prerogative. Academia, which is the field that concerns itself with plagiarism, says he did. As I said I have no axe to grind with Wilson. If I did there is much more egregious stuff to work with. I encourage anyone who wishes to hear an interesting perspective on plagiarism to read Wilson's own blog post regarding Mark Driscoll. 

J. Baillet's picture

I would suspect that a contributing factor is the nature of Canon Press, which is not an independent publishing house subject to meaningful editorial oversight, but rather, an arm of Doug Wilson’s ministry. Federal Vision proponents turned to such means to propagate their doctrine when legitimate publishing companies may have scrutinized and substantially edited or even rejected their works. “Many [Federal Visionists] make use of private presses (Canon, Athanasius), which enable swift and prodigious dissemination of book-length material.” Guy Prentiss Waters, The Federal Vision and Covenant Theology: A Comparative Analysis (P&R Publishing Co.: Phillipsburg, New Jersey 2006), at 4. “[Doug Wilson’s] influence has come, over the last decade, through his magazine, Credenda/Agenda, and his press, Canon Press, which has published not fewer than two dozen of his books, as well as those of Peter Leithart, Ralph Smith, Steve Wilkins, and Mark Horne.” Id., at 9. Therefore, by employing his own private publishing company, Doug Wilson has intentionally placed himself at greater risk for these types of missteps.

JSB

Larry's picture

Moderator

All of that is technically true. I think more checking should have been done. I think better editorial services should have been employed. I think more care should have been taken. I also think it is likely unreasonable to expect someone to be totally familiar with every resource another person uses. 

But again, what is the appropriate consequence? What should happen? Should he lose everything he has (job, school, books, positions, etc.) because of what someone else did? I tend think not since he wasn't directly at fault and I have not been convinced to the contrary. You seem to think yes. 

One of the ironies of our modern moral culture is that responsibility has become distorted. We don't want to hold people responsible for what they do but we are all too willing to hold people responsible for someone else does. 

In this case I think the right thing was done. The book was pulled and apologies were given both publicly and to the individuals. Booth apparently had more fallout because he was the guilty party. 

And yes, I think it is evident that Wilson would not have approved if he had known. He said that.  

J. Baillet's picture

I tend to agree with Larry.  I do not discern any wrongful intent on the part of Doug Wilson.  He appears to have taken the appropriate actions once the matter was brought to his attention.  My point is that his decision to publish books through a company which is essentially under his control has increased the likelihood of these types of mistakes.  Even though his church sold Canon Press in 2012, and additional editorial precautions appear to have been adopted, it is still in essence his publishing house. (See https://dougwils.com/books/outfitters-of-the-reformation.html).

JSB