JAMES: "Now that I have heard Dr. Peterson's comments regarding the illustrations from his Ensign article ("News from Antiquity", January 1994) I think it only fair that I publish his defense along with my criticism on my web site. (If Dr. Peterson wants to edit or make additional comments on his behalf he can easily write me before I make such an addition to my web site. It will probably be a week or so)."
PETERSON: Feel free. I don't know if I will get around to making any editorial changes or additions. Realistically, probably not.
JAMES: "As Dr. Peterson is well aware the typical practice for a scientific publication"
PETERSON: The Ensign is not a scientific publication. It is a popular, mass circulation magazine.
JAMES: "is for the author to review the proofs very carefully. Apparently the Ensign does not have the same standard of review."
PETERSON: I DID review the proofs. But the proofs did not contain or refer to illustrations. The illustrations were not a part of the article.
JAMES: "The Ensign is certainly not a peer reviewed publication."
JAMES: "However, I am concerned that such an educated person, who has a lot of experience in academics, would not review the illustrations that went with the article."
PETERSON: The illustrations, as I have painfully tried to make clear, did not "go with" the article in any significant way. They had nothing to do with the article except to make the pages attractive and visually interesting. I didn't see them before publication, and I scarcely paid them any attention after publication. And I still don't think they merit much attention. No claim hangs upon them. No point in the argument refers to them. They are there largely to be pretty.
If I had written a scientific article with charts and graphs and photographs, I would certainly have wanted to review those and ensure their correctness. I had, however, written an article without illustrations. The magazine, however, which is aimed at a popular audience, always tries to make its pages more attractive. That is their prerogative. It didn't (and doesn't) interest me in the slightest degree.
Incidentally, for what it's worth, during the period when the article was being readied for publication -- it takes a surprisingly long time for such things -- I was living in Jerusalem. E-mail had not become so dominant then, and I was in only sporadic contact with the editors in Salt Lake City.
JAMES: "The article certainly attempted to portray a scientific nature with twenty-nine references, which is not all that common in Ensign articles."
PETERSON: That was MY doing. It had nothing whatever to do with the art staff or the illustrators at the Ensign.
JAMES: "Unethical? I think yes."
PETERSON: I think no. I really can't see the importance of this.
JAMES: "Also, the illustrations of the facsimiles are presented in such a fashion that they appear to be authentic to the untrained eye, in my opinion."
PETERSON: They look like cartoonish magazine illustrations to ME. I can't imagine that anybody would think them real, and I can't see what difference it would make if anybody DID.
JAMES: "Do you think that the illustrations may confuse a reader enough to believe that the images are authentic?"
PETERSON: I suppose it's remotely conceivable. What harm would it do if they did? I can't think of ANYTHING.
JAMES: "Perhaps you should look at it this way... Do you think it would be unethical for a Mormon critic to publish an image that gave a wrong impression to some readers?"
PETERSON: It would depend on whether that "Mormon critic" did so with deliberate intent to deceive. And my level of moral indignation would depend very much on how significant the deception was. In this case, I cannot think of anything at all to be gained by anybody via the kind of "deception" that you seem to be seeing. I see no deliberate intent to deceive, and I can't see any significance in such confusion as might have occurred with you and a handful of other people. Nothing hinges on the illustrations. Even someone who assumed them to be the real thing would not be harmed by that mistake, or misled in anything worth considering. And I can't imagine that decisions to deceive are turned over to the magazine's illustrators. I really, once again, cannot see that there is any issue here at all.
JAMES: "Is it O.K. to publish images that would provide a completely different impression if a more appropriate written explanation accompanied it?"
PETERSON: This question is opaque to me.
JAMES: "Do you think I am being dishonest when I tell you that I was confused by the illustrations in your article?"
PETERSON: No, probably not. But I don't see why your confusion here should be of any lasting interest to anybody. It hasn't harmed a soul. Not even yours, I would guess.
JAMES: "Should my opinion be disregarded because I am considered a Mormon critic?"
PETERSON: With all due respect, I have never heard of you before. And, no, your opinion shouldn't be disregarded merely because somebody (perhaps you yourself) considers you a critic of my faith. But it is conceivable that one's hostility to a church or a faith could lead one, consciously or not, to make a mountain out of a very microscopic molehill. And that, it honestly seems to me, is what you are doing here -- though I am not privy to your reasons or motivations for doing so.