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Re: Theos-World Finesse, access, and scholarly ethics

Sep 07, 2004 06:00 PM
by Eldon B Tucker

At 05:27 PM 9/7/2004, you wrote:

The sad truth about religious studies scholarship is that access to
resources can depend on implicit promises not to question truth claims
associated with belief systems ...

This seems unfair in the sense that restrictions are put on the information that may be shared with you. When someone says, "We'll let you know this secret if you promise not to tell anyone," it makes it seem better to find out from someone else that doesn't extract such an unfair promise.

Other restrictions I don't like are when someone collects certain materials and then imposes a usage restriction on them. Say someone came to me and wanted to copy an article out of the 1889 volume of LUCIFER. If I were to say that the person needed my permission to use and publish that article, that would be extortion, yet I've heard of archives imposing such restrictions on materials that are, I suspect, in terms of copyright, in the public domain.

As a courtesy, I'd acknowledge in a citation that a particular picture or article came from such-and-such an archive, but I do not think that it's fair for an archive to impose conditions on the use of the materials once they have been shared.

From the standpoint of the free flow of information and the right of
people to think for themselves, I also can appreciate the feelings that people may have when sharing archives. If I was working to promote a specific belief system and heavily involved in an organization that promoted it, I would hesitate to provide free access to materials that would provide ammunition to critics. But that would only be the case if I were closed-minded, and were unwilling to allow myself sufficient objectivity to accept that my viewpoint is just that -- a viewpoint -- and should exist side-by-side with the equally legitimate but sometimes different viewpoints of others.

-- Eldon

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