Thursday, January 28, 2010

Beware the Google Scholar, Redux

Some time ago I wrote a piece called Beware the Google Scholar, warning of the dangers of unsubstantiated information passed around on the Internet. Well I recently took part in a discussion over on the Speak Your Mind forum. Upshot of that is that I came away kicking myself for entering into the discussion at all. Also convinced that there are many subjects that just should not be discussed in such forums. To quote The Honeymooners: "Will you tell me one thing, please? How do you get us into these fixes?

Very simple. Very simple Norton........Because I have a BIG MOOOOOOOOUTH!"

But on a specific note, I got caught being a GS. Not entirely a GS--I actually read the quote in a book (does that make me a BS'er?) In Iota Unum (pp. 9-10), Pope Paul VI is cited as saying, on Nov 23, 1973: "[T]he opening to the world became a veritable invasion of the Church by worldly thinking. . . . We have perhaps been too weak and imprudent."

Now, did I follow my own advice and really vet it before dropping it into the forum? Nope.

It appears that this quotation is actually from a general audience on Nov 21, 1973. Okay, two days off, but still an inaccurate citation. And although the author of Iota Unum does indeed at least question whether the Holy Father makes a general observation ("we") or applies the statement more specifically to himself ("We"), the context indicates pretty strongly the former. So the quotation, which has been picked up in certain circles to indicate a self-criticism by the Pope, really should not be deployed in such a way. And so, as I said before:

And such are the dangers of the Google scholar. Lesson: always, always, always check your sources for accuracy, but especially if you got the information from the Internet.

Mea culpa.