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Taking science by the throat

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Further to: Slate has discovered why you shouldn’t use Wikipedia as a source (In other breaking news, pigs don’t really fly faster than light), we now read, once again, a story like:

The sad tales of the Wikipedia gang war regarding WUWT

This illustrates the most basic problem with the reliability of Wikipedia in any entry where human opinion is involved. There are roving gangs (and sometimes individuals who appear gang-like due to their output level, such as disgraced Wikipedia editor William Connolley, who will no doubt wail about this note, and then proceed to post the usual denigrating things on his “Stoat, taking science by the throat” blog) and individuals who act as gatekeepers of their own vision of “truth”, regardless of whether that truth is correct or not. Some of these people may simply be paid political operatives, others may be zealots who have a belief that they are part of a “righteous cause”, something we know from Climatetgate as “noble cause corruption“. Many of the people involved don’t even use their real names, so of course hide behind that anonymity. In my opinion, it’s truly an irresponsible and cowardly way to define “truth” with no responsibility for your actions attached.

The reason Wikipedia’s formula promotes ignorance is that absolute levelling sounds wonderful to a lot of people in principle but devolves into gang warfare in practice.

Because the lowest common denominator is gang warfare. And the gang member is simply better at it than the scholar.

Keep that kind of garbage going long enough and we will have ourselves a new dark age.

Note: As for Slate, see also:

Real Clear Science slams Slate science reporting

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3 Replies to “Taking science by the throat

  1. 1
    TimT says:

    Ah, Wikipedia. I looked over an essay my son was doing for school some years ago about peanut butter. In one section he had “peanut butter is a favorite food of homosexuals.” I said, “Where did you get that information?” He said Wikipedia. I went to Wikipedia and found the line had been changed, so he didn’t even have a disreputable source anymore.

    And I like how you write something for Wikipedia on a subject you are an expert in, and within a day you find it has been changed to something wrong by someone whose sole expertise seems to be able to change Wikipedia entries.

  2. 2
    mahuna says:

    I generally only mess with History-related Wiki pages, although I’ll fix a comma or verb on anything I read.

    My personal gripe is that Wiki has chosen to use the word “refute” to mean “reject” or “deny” or simply “disagree with”. As in “John refuted Mary’s statement that chocolate is better than vanilla”.

    Although this usage of “refute” may be technically correct, I believe that most people who use “refute” intend the meaning “prove the statement to be in error with facts and logic”.

    In many issues in History, there is a HUGE difference between having PROOF that, for example, Oswald acted alone and being of the OPINION that he was part of a conspiracy. Disproving a conspiracy is practically impossible because the people who are cited as NOT being in any conspiracy might simply have been excluded from the small group who WERE conspiring.

    ULTRA Secret was like that. It was routinely denied for decades that the Allies had broken the German codes right up until one of the code breakers spilled the beans. Then EVERYBODY said, “Oh, yeah, sure. We’ve been lying.”

    I generally use Wiki to get the correct spelling of names, specific dates, and lists of standard sources. Then I check a couple of the sources. It’s wonderful for that. Why, just yesterday, Wiki told me that “Hackel” is spelled “Haeckel”.

  3. 3
    ppolish says:

    “Don’t Discuss Religion or Politics” is an old wise saying.

    I find wiki useful. Lot of information there. But if the information/topic can be influenced by a political/(a)theist viewpoint, BS alarms ring and I’m a bit more careful.

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