2011 Yearbook - "Tracing All Things with Accuracy", p.9-13
Jesus said that the faithful slave would be discreet in giving the domestics "their food at the proper time." Christ thus indicated that those who dispense this "food" would be conscientious, prudent, and discerning in providing spiritual food for the household of faith.-Matt. 24:45-47.
In our time, Christ's anointed brothers use the Writing Department in Brooklyn, New York, to provide spiritual information in the form of magazines, brochures, books, and other printed and electronic material. This spiritual food, like physical food, has to be well prepared. Even Bible writers, who were directed by holy spirit, made sure that they recorded information that was thoroughly researched and accurate. Luke, for example, spoke to many eyewitnesses and "traced all things from the start with accuracy."-Luke 1:1-4.
The Writing Department follows the pattern of 'tracing all things with accuracy'. But where can reliable information be found? While the Internet is a convenient and quick source of vast amounts of information, our researchers do not rely on blogs or poorly documented Web entries written by unidentified or unqualified persons. For example, Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, warns that some articles on its own site "contain significant misinformation, unencyclopedic content, or vandalism," adding that "users need to be aware of this." Thus, the Writing Department looks to standard reference woks, articles written by recognized experts, and books produced by respected publishers.
The Writing Department itself has a comprehensive library with thousands of books. Additionally, our researchers make use of nearby public and academic libraries. They can also obtain specialized material from other sources by means of interlibrary loans. One of the large university libraries that our researchers use has some five million books, 58,000 periodicals, 5.4 million microforms, and thousands of electronic databases. The Writing Department also maintains a large archive of clippings, experiences, and historical information that is constantly being updated with material from local sources as well as from our branch offices around the world.
Of course, it is as Ecclesiastes 12:12 reminds us: "To the making of many books there is no end." Even reputable sources may contain false information. So how do we check for quality, accuracy, and reliability?
Take, for example, the following statement in the brochure Was Life Created? about spider silk being one of the strongest materials on earth: "If enlarged to the size of a football field, a web of dragline silk 0.4 inch thick with strands 1.6 inches apart could stop a jumbo jet in flight!" Although the source for this statement was a reputable science magazine, it was not the original source, and the original source was ambiguous. Therefore, it became necessary to contact the researcher who made the original statement and check how he reached this conclusion. Our researchers also had to find the formula and the information needed to calculate for themselves what impact a jumbo jet may have on a spiderweb the size of a football field. Many hours of research and meticulous calculations eventually confirmed the accuracy of this astounding piece of information.
At times, though, even a seemingly reputable source may fail to corroborate details adequately. For example: Gandhi has been quoted as saying at his ashram (religious retreat) to Lord Irwin: "When your country and mine shall get together on the teachings laid down by Christ in this Sermon on the Mount, we shall have solved the problems not only of our country but those of the whole world." However, a thorough investigation of this statement revealed that there is no evidence that Lord Irwin ever visited Gandhi at his ashram, raising unanswered questions about where, when, and whether Gandhi made this statement. Hence, our publications do not use this particular quote anymore.
Or you may have read about the incident involving Sir Isaac Newton and a model of the solar system. Reportedly, a visiting atheist asked: "Who made it?" When Newton answered, "Nobody!" the atheist replied, "You must think I am a fool!" Newton is then said to have told the atheist that his puny imitation of the much grander solar system proves there there has to be a designer or a maker. As appealing as this account may be, historical sources, as well as Newton scholards and biographers, cannot provide evidence that this conversation really occurred. Interestingly, the earliest reference to this incident appeared in the early 1800's using, not Newton's name, but the name of German scholar Athanasius Kircher. Consequently, our Writing Department no longer uses this account in our publications.
Sometimes even minor statements require additional research to confirm their accuracy. For instance, a brother may say in his life story that he was born in Czechoslovakia in 1915. But Czechoslovakia did not come into existence until 1918. So, where was he born? Settling the question might require examining old maps or historical records.
Then, too, a brother may state in his experience that he was baptized in San Francisco on a specific date. Careful scrutiny, however, might reveal that there was no convention or assembly on that date in that city. How can such a discrepancy be reconciled? Individual memories can at times be fragile. While the brother would probably not get confused about the place of his baptism, he might not accurately recall the date of the event. It is usually possible to confirm the accuracy of the details by cross-checking various sources of information.
In summary, the Writing Department insists on using only material that is accurate and truthful, even regarding seemingly insignificant details. As a result, "the faithful and discreet slave" can consistently supply spiritual food that brings honor to "The God of truth," Jehovah.-Ps. 31:5