APG-L ArchivesArchiver > APG > 2009-03 > 1237763550
Subject: Re: [APG] Mormon News
Date: Sun, 22 Mar 2009 18:12:30 -0500
References: <05FC3A32-1608-411F-B742-65A032C7F161@keyconn.net> <49C3B044.email@example.com> <003501c9aa99$8716daf0$954490d0$@net><49C5CB9A.firstname.lastname@example.org>
>Maybe I am behind the times, and my BCG standards manual is outdated,
but the first item in the Genealogist's Code says: "I will not publish
or publicize as fact anything I know to be false, doubtful, or unproved;
nor will I be a party, directly or indirectly, to such action by
others." Has this been changed in recent years or fuzzed-up and made
more vague in order to accommodate familysearch?
Your _BCG Standards Manual_ is not outdated and no one has "fuzzed-up" the
standards to accommodate any entity. The standards remain as they were when
codified in 2000, and the code you cite follows the same principles as when
BCG first wrote that code in 1964.
The problem here lies not with the standard, but with the present
application of it. For those of us who have signed the code, that provision
is a moral imperative we agree to live by. It is a standard BCG encourages
others to follow. It is not a club to use to bludgeon everyone else who
falls short of our hopes or our own standards. In my opinion, we all fall
short of perfection. We all make mistakes. And none of us can be the final
arbiter of all that is factually right or wrong. As much as I wish that the
International Genealogical *Index* was perfect, I am glad there is no
Decider in Chief at work 24 hours a day bleeping out everything someone else
thinks is wrong.
When I was much younger and much more naïve, I thought it a quite simple
thing to root out the errors in history. One merely did thorough research,
found good evidence, and wrote up the proof in a credible way; thereafter,
the whole world would clearly see what the "facts" really were and then
abandon the errors of thought to which they had subscribed. Rather soon, I
realized that many people are quite content to believe what they want to
believe, and that even more of them think my concept of "due rigor" is
ridiculous. Eventually, it sunk in that highly respected practitioners of
whatever discipline can actually disagree as to what constitutes the
benchmarks of "thorough research," "good evidence, and "proof"; and that the
"corrections" others made on the basis of those principles weren't
"corrections" I agreed with. Sometimes, their evidence and arguments even
convinced me that I was wrong. More often, I've found myself laboring to
improve my own argument and to make the original evidence available so
"thinking people" could decide for themselves.
When we set out to correct all the errors we find in history, we end up
playing the role of Sisyphus--that mythical king "compelled to roll a huge
rock up a steep hill, [even though] the rock would always roll back down
..., forcing him to begin again" (to quote that great font of common wisdom,
Wikipedia). Wikipedian editors also pointedly note: "The maddening nature of
the punishment was reserved for Sisyphus due to his hubristic belief that
his cleverness surpassed that of Zeus."
The legion of new people coming into genealogy and perpetuating the errors
they find---not only in the IGI but in works put out by academic presses and
everything else in between---is far greater than we can combat. We could
shut down the IGI and every university press tomorrow, we could ban every
previously published book off the library shelves, and that information
would continue to perpetuate itself from private research notes and PCs.
Where you and I differ is not our frustration with errors, it's just our
concept of how the problem is best overcome. IMO, singling out certain
entities for attack divides us, rather than unites us in a common quest for
excellence, and it lowers the level of the discourse.
Far more productive, IMO, is an emphasis on standards and best practices
from which newer researchers can learn---discussing why each is essential,
why no source or assertion can be taken at face value, and why each of us
should adhere to rigorous standards in the material we create. In that
process, the well-intentioned and quite intelligent information-providers
also learn from the discourse and take measures to improve their offerings.
It has already happened. It will continue. With mutual respect, it will
happen a lot sooner.
Just my two bits worth, for whatever that amounts to in today's currency.
Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG
APG member, Tennessee
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