QUESTION: I've heard that White Estate claims only 2%-3% of EGW's writings were plagiarized? Is that true?
Few people have the time and energy to devote to a thorough analysis of the sources Mrs. White used in her writings. Therefore, we are somewhat dependent upon the findings of Walter Rea, Dr. Fred Veltman, and other researchers. Veltman found over 30% of the Desire of Ages was copied, while Rea believed that up to 90% of certain sections of Mrs. White's writings may have been copied. On the other side of the fence, according to Roger Coon, a research project undertaken by an employee of the White Estate found that, with the exception of five of her books, Mrs. White's borrowing amounted to about 3% per book, and the uncredited copying in the Great Controversy amounted to only 5%. What is the truth? Is it 3%? 5%? 30%? 90%?
First of all, no one has ever asserted Mrs. White copied heavily in her testimonies. It is true, there were some portions of the testimonies that were copied, but for the most part, she wrote out specific testimonies written to specific individuals dealing with specific problems. The majority of the copying took place in her other books.
Secondly, there is always a little subjectivity involved in comparing source material to EGW's books. In my opinion it would be very easy for someone with a strong bias for Ellen White, such as a paid employee of the White Estate (an organization whose sole purpose for existing is to foster belief in EGW) to come up with a favorable research report, minimizing the amount of material which was said to be copied. It is akin to the Tobacco Industry scientists coming up with research reports from their own high-paid scientists promoting the health benefits of smoking tobacco!
Let it be understood that this is not an exact science. For example, one person, such as a White Estate employee, may consider copying to mean only the use of the exact words that were in the original, while another person may consider copying to include passages where the original author's thoughts were brought over into the EGW book, but the wording in the EGW book may be slightly different. So, since there is no agreement on the criteria that should be used to judge her copying, we see divergent views on how much was copied, with some saying up to 90%, and others saying 3% or 5%. From what I have personally seen, I would tend to agree with Robert Olsen, former director of the White Estate, who wrote:
"There was no question in Ellen G. White's mind about the over all inspiration of The Great Controversy, although possibly 50 percent or more of the material in the book was drawn from other sources." (Ellen G. White's use of historical sources in The Great Controversy, by Robert Olsen, Adventist Review, February 23, 1984.)
Now get this: Robert Olsen, of the White Estate said possibly 50% or more was copied. When the most ardent defender of EGW is willing to admit to us that 50% or more has been copied, then I would tend to think the real figure is probably "or more"!