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Quote mining

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Quote mining is the practice of using the words of partisans against them to undermine support for the viewpoint held by the partisans. Quote mining does not refer simply to taking a quote out of context, as there is already a well-understood phrase for that. Rather, the charge of "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.

Another objection sometimes made is that it is wrong to ignore evidence which supports a partisan viewpoint when evidence which disproves it is found. This is clearly an anti-scientific notion, as it violates the modern principle of falsifiability: no amount of evidence in favor of a scientific theory has merit if even a single counterexample can be found (see Thomas Kuhn).

Evolutionists are notorious for expressing objection when their quotes are used against them. This reveals the dogmatic nature of their faith, because real scientists always welcome evidence which contradicts mainstream theories (see scientific method). While the entire fields of law and politics encourage quoting an adversary to discredit him, evolutionists do not feel their quotes should be used to criticize evolution, and have invented the term "quote mining" to criticize that practice. They have tried to make quote mining a pejorative term, but the neologism has yet to be recognized by major dictionaries

Intelligent Design Journalist Denyse O'Leary on False Charges of Quote Mining

Intelligent design journalist Denyse O'Leary wrote concerning false and spurious charges of quote mining by evolutionists:

Generally, the professional gatekeeper who controls the information members of the public receive is becoming redundant. There are many streams of information, increasingly free.

Here is an example: When ID folk point out that there are many examples in the professional literature of tax-supported Darwinian evolutionist talking honestly about the flaws, defects, or lack of evidence for Darwinian evolution (natural selection acting on random mutation) in their professional journals, Darwin lobbyists accuse them of "quote mining."

The Darwin lobby is a splendid illustration of old media thinking. "Quote mining" is just telling the public what the privileged, salaried, tenured elite admit to each other - and always assumed that the public that supports them would never find out.[1]

Origin, in

According to the pro-evolution site, quote mining is "the use of a (usually short) passage, taken from the work of an authority in some field, 'which superficially appears to support one's position, but [from which] significant context is omitted and contrary evidence is conveniently ignored.'"

Quotes that illustrate self-contradiction are thereby considered, by the inventors of the term, to be quote mining whether the self-contradiction is real or not.

The term seems to be used to suggest or claim that people have deliberately or negligently taken facts material to a quote out of context, with the result that the quote no longer stands for its original proposition. Allegations of quote mining are controversial,[2] since it implies scienter - that is, either intent to deceive, or disregard to the possibility of deception. This distinguishes quote mining from more general, run of the mill, quoting out of context; while the latter involves no misrepresentation of facts material to the quote's meaning, the former does.

The origins of the term are unknown, but it appears to date from the late 1990s.[3] It is not recognized by any dictionaries. Its most common use is by evolutionists who claim that creationists misrepresent quotes from scientists.

A common reason why makes claims of quote mining appears to be that they choose make a false claim of quote mining when noted evolutionists have moments of candor and point out the various significant deficiencies of the evolutionary position rather than admit the weakness and/or falsity of the evolutionary position.

Is Quote Mining Wrong?

This section discusses merely whether quote mining is wrong, not whether it exists or has been practiced by any individuals.


Many people, especially in the legal and political fields, use quotes by others against them. There is nothing objectionable about this practice, and the term quote-mining could apply to nearly every legal proceeding and political campaign.

Fact: Defining Quote Mining

While quoting relevant parts of judicial decisions is indeed widespread, and lawyers and politicians often quote one's own arguments against them to show a contradiction, "quote mining" as used is something else entirely. Quote mining implies selective quotation that, either negligently or purposefully, omits relevant parts from an argument. For example, consider the following invented quotation from an imaginary legal case.

"In the State of Commonwealth, it is well-settled principle of securities law that a corporate officer may not trade on insider information." Smith v. Jones, 129 Commonwealth Reporter 332 (Commonwealth 2008).

Now let us consider two quotations of the case.

A deceptive quotation uses an ellipsis to camouflage a point of authority that goes against one's argument.

However, Party X was completely within his rights to trade on this information. After all, "it is well-settled principle of securities law that a corporate officer may... trade on insider information."

An honest argument still quotes the authority source, but quotes all relevant parts.

However, Party X was completely within his rights to trade on this information. After all, "it is well-settled principle of securities law that a corporate officer may not trade on insider information," but Party X was not a corporate officer.

This should demonstrate that an accusation of "quote mining" is not merely an indictment for appealing to authority, a well-settled tactic indeed - the accusation is of appealing to authority in a selective manner, so as to distort and confound the actual meaning of the authority.

Fact: The Law on an Attorney's Quote Mining

Attorneys are under a well-settled duty not to misrepresent authority to a court of law. In essence, they may not "quote mine." By way of example, a Federal Circuit Court in 2003 disciplined an attorney for selectively quoting elements of a court opinion. The attorney, faced with a charge of contempt of court for delaying filing a motion by twelve days when the court ordered her to do so "forthwith," explained that, by settled law,[4] "Forthwith means immediately, without delay, or as soon may be accomplished by reasonable exertion."[4] She neglected to cite the following sentence, which explained that "forthwith" generally means, "within twenty-four hours,"[4] apparently hoping that, without this qualification, the court would read "forthwith" as implying no time constraint other than necessity.

The court which received the attorney's brief was not amused. In censuring the attorney, they wrote,

The effect of Walser's editing of this material and ignoring the Supreme Court decision that dealt with the issue - a decision that seriously weakened her argument - was to give the Court a misleading impression of the state of the law on the point. She eliminated material that indicated that her delay in filing the motion for reconsideration had not met the court's requirement that she file "forthwith," and presented the remaining material in a way that overstated the basis for her claim that a "forthwith" filing requirement meant she could take whatever time would be reasonable in the circumstances. This distortion of the law was inconsistent with and violated the standards of Rule 11.[5]

Rule 11 forbids attorneys from arguing in a misleading manner. Clearly, this federal circuit thinks that "quote mining" is a reprehensible act contrary to intellectual and academic rigor. There is indeed something objectionable about the practice, and the term "quote mining" ought not "apply to nearly every legal proceeding and political campaign."


  2. For example, the Quote Mine Project documents many fallacious quotes, but the classification is controversial.
  3. According to, the first known use was in 1996.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 The attorney cited City of New York v. McAllister Brothers, Inc., 278 F.2d 708, 710.
  5. Precision Specialty Metals, Inc. v. United States, 315 F.3d 1346 (Fed. Cir. 2003).

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