Media Science

Slate has discovered why you shouldn’t use Wikipedia as a source

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In other news, pigs (don’t really) fly faster than light.

Wikipedia is amazing. But it’s become a rancorous, sexist, elitist, stupidly bureaucratic mess.

No really, you shouldn’t use it. Yes, it’s free, but:

Given the anarchy at work, it’s impressive that article quality should reach as high as it can, even if it’s still not reliable. Yet the nature of the beast makes quality control inconsistent. Recently, an adequate and fairly neutral page on “Cultural Marxism,” which traced the history of Marxist critical theory from Lukács to Adorno to Jameson, simply disappeared thanks to the efforts of a single editor. Rather than folding it into the narrower but deeper “Critical theory” page, the editor replaced the page with one on the “Frankfurt school conspiracy theory,” which obsessively and somewhat offensively dwells on the Jewish presence in these schools of thought and the right-wing and borderline anti-Semitic conspiracy theories around them. (The reason the editor dwelled on these irrelevant conspiracy theories instead of the thinkers themselves is unknown, but the changes are certainly troubling.) After bewildered complaints, Wales restored the original page and asked for an extra week’s debate on the sudden and drastic shift, sparking outrage from a cabal of editors who favored the change. Whether the change will win out will be determined less by truth and more by the stubbornness and comparative popularity of the editors and the administrators backing them.

In spite of all this, Wikipedia remains a seminal, important project, precisely because it has tried—and in many ways accomplished—something that’s never been done before. …

Actually, it has been done before. It’s called suppression of factual information, anti-Semitism, and the fact that anarchy generally produces more anarchy.

The obvious problem is that while anarchy, much celebrated these days, can produce quality by chance, it cannot do so reliably. See, for example, “Do random mutations never increase information? Ever?”: “Sometimes they do. A single mistake might be neutral or beneficial.” But that is assuming rare, random mistakes in generally accurate transmission of information. Not directed changes, maintained in place by intention and protected by anarchy – which can, by definition, do more damage.

As the example above shows, from any continued rebellion against this fact, darker powers are certain to emerge …

If you feel you must use Wikipedia, at least source what you are trying to establish at a responsible medium as well. And “responsible” doesn’t necessarily mean “big.” Cf Rolling Stone. It means being accountable to standards.

See also: Wikipedia hacked by elite sources now

Mathematician complains Wikipedia is promoting “pseudo-science” of multiverse (Surprise us again, will you?)

Wikipedia’s Darwinized Lincoln was historically impossible, it turns out

Wikipedia shocked!, just shocked!! … that some editors act for pay to promote stuff. Or detract it, maybe?

Most of its core articles fail its own standards

To the extent that Wikipedia celebrates anarchy, it will forever be in the process of “cleaning up,” and never getting on with the job, not the way a body with more organization and discipline would.

But as long as all people want to say is that they consulted The Source Everyone Else Uses, it can just wiki on regardless.

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20 Replies to “Slate has discovered why you shouldn’t use Wikipedia as a source

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    OT: Here is Casey Luskin’s final podcast on the fossil record of Human origins
    podcast – Casey Luskin – On Human Origins: What the Fossils Tell Us, part 4
    http://www.discovery.org/multi.....l-us-pt-4/
    Here are parts 1 thru 3 for those who missed them
    podcast – Casey Luskin – On Human Origins: What the Fossils Tell Us, part 1:
    http://www.discovery.org/multi.....s-tell-us/
    podcast – Casey Luskin – On Human Origins: What the Fossils Tell Us, part 2:
    http://www.discovery.org/multi.....l-us-pt-2/
    podcast – Casey Luskin – On Human Origins: What the Fossils Tell Us, part 3
    http://www.discovery.org/multi.....l-us-pt-3/

  2. 2
    Robert Byers says:

    I love wiki. its a great thing for quick reference on anything.
    its written by humans and so likewise is right or wrong as other humans see it. including me.
    I see wrong things and right. creationism gets a bad rap but they all do this.
    Without wik I would not know so much that I know now after a few years of using it.
    Its making people smarter and is a anti establishment tool. Knowledge for the people is dangerous to the bad guys.
    There is no such thing as anti-semitism.
    Thats a word invented to discredit critics of Jews.
    The critics can be evil or good or right or wrong.
    however its just within a ordinary relationship of commentary and accusation from one to another.
    if jews are prominent in some thing designed to have influence then its fair and square to question this even if wrong or with bad motives.
    Are not jews uniqyely accused because they uniquely are prominent in high things??
    if the WASP or WHITE or MALE or EUROPEAN or MARXIST or CAPITALIST was in like manner accused as this case here of the Hews it wOULD BE OKAY.
    it would not be a different species of relationship in mankind.
    Anti-semetism is no more real then sexism, homophobiaism, racism, ageism, lookism, religious bigotry, or anti-robertbyersism.
    yes there are right or wrong ideas and good and evil but only ON THE MERITS OF EACH CASE.
    There are conspiracy’s. Those denying conspiracy’s are in effect saying there are conspiracy’s to invent conspiracy’s.
    We can do better then our ancestors.
    Accuse but back it up. Defend but back it.
    Allowing ‘ismolgy is the origin of so much trouble in our civilization.
    its just censorship and dictatorship against free thought and speech.
    Creationism is attacked by the same methods used against any target of ‘ismology.
    I suggest , insist, all the ‘isms are hictorical frauds even if there was some good points.
    They must go before we are free to bring truthm justice, and equity to our nations and civilization and mankind.
    anti-semetism is just one more to go to the ashheap of history of false ideoloy’s striving to control ideas.

  3. 3
    rvb8 says:

    I always use Wiki, as a starting point. I never reference it or suggest others do the same. It is enormously helpful in understanding history, science and other areas, but only as a starting point. Usually the information needs no further corroboration, but be careful.

    The articles about various contributors, editors, and ‘experts’ from Uncommon Descent, as well as their articles on Intelligent Design and Specified Complexity are spot on.

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    many times Darwinists will try to cite Wikipedia as a reliable source for information, yet the fact is that Wikipedia is not reliable as a source for information especially when it comes to the Intelligent Design/Evolution debate because of the problem of censorship within Wikipedia:

    Wikipedia’s Tyranny of the Unemployed – David Klinghoffer – June 24, 2012
    Excerpt: PLoS One has a highly technical study out of editing patterns on Wikipedia. This is of special interest to us because Wikipedia’s articles on anything to do with intelligent design are replete with errors and lies, which the online encyclopedia’s volunteer editors are vigilant about maintaining against all efforts to set the record straight.
    You simply can never outlast these folks. They have nothing better to do with their time and will always erase your attempted correction and reinstate the bogus claim, with lightning speed over and over again.
    ,,, on Wikipedia, “fact” is established by the party with the free time that’s required to wear down everyone else and exhaust them into submission. The search for truth (on Wikipedia) yields to a tyranny of the unemployed.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....61281.html

    Wikipedia: where truth dies online – April 2014
    Excerpt: Wikipedia has been a massive success but has always had immense flaws, the greatest one being that nothing it publishes can be trusted. This, you might think, is a pretty big flaw. There are over 21million editors with varying degrees of competence and honesty. Rogue editors abound and do not restrict themselves to supposedly controversial topics,,,
    Sock puppets are a big problem for Wikipedia because so many of its editors are anonymous. This makes it almost impossible to verify bona fide users. Wikipedia literally has no idea who many of its editors are. ,,,
    One columnist for The Times has likened Wikipedia’s reliance on consensus ahead of accuracy to an interminable political meeting with the end result dominated by the loudest and most persistent voices. Jaron Lanier, a computer scientist writing for an online publication, Edge, described Wikipedia as a ‘hive mind’ that is ‘for the most part stupid and boring’.
    http://www.spiked-online.com/n.....2KB0Vc9iSq

    Of related note:

    Internet Trolls Really Are Horrible People – Narcissistic, Machiavellian, psychopathic, and sadistic. – By Chris Mooney – Feb. 14, 2014
    Excerpt: The research,, sought to directly investigate whether people who engage in trolling are characterized by personality traits that fall in the so-called Dark Tetrad: Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others), narcissism (egotism and self-obsession), psychopathy (the lack of remorse and empathy), and sadism (pleasure in the suffering of others).
    It is hard to underplay the results: The study found correlations, sometimes quite significant, between these traits and trolling behavior.
    http://www.slate.com/articles/.....pathy.html

    Even Wikipedia itself says that Wikipedia is not a credible source for information due to the fact ‘anyone can edit the information given at any time’ i.e. censorship:

    Wikipedia: Academic use
    Excerpt: Wikipedia is not considered a credible source. Wikipedia is increasingly used by people in the academic community, from freshman students to professors, as an easily accessible tertiary source for information about anything and everything. However, citation of Wikipedia in research papers may be considered unacceptable, because Wikipedia is not considered a credible or authoritative source.[1][2]
    This is especially true considering anyone can edit the information given at any time.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W.....ademic_use

  5. 5
    rvb8 says:

    Narcissism exhibits itself in many ways. For example constantly posting screeds of information nobody reads, on an obscure website that is largely ignored, on subjects discredited by scientists who actually do stuff, rather than talking about doing stuff, could be described as narcissism.

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    HMMM why did you take it personally?

  7. 7
    rvb8 says:

    How did you identify yourself as the aim of my last post? It could have been anyone; right?

  8. 8
    bornagain77 says:

    HMMM??? I asked you, Why did YOU take it personally?

  9. 9
    Joe says:

    The articles about various contributors, editors, and ‘experts’ from Uncommon Descent, as well as their articles on Intelligent Design and Specified Complexity are spot on.

    Spot on incorrect. Wiki lies about ID and SC. It lies about natural selection and genetic algorithms. And I can prove it…

  10. 10
    groovamos says:

    You would have to be heavily involved in a STEM field to appreciate what I’m about to say. I’m writing a thesis and it has been a years-long project. I have pulled much information, terminology, background, and such from a huge area where Wikipedia excels.

    Years ago I was getting such help from Mathworld (by Wolfram/Mathematica), which is very good at formalism in mathematics. But now Wikipedia is by far the best resource for me on the web when it comes to math and statistics. The conciseness and accuracy of this huge collection of articles is amazing, as is the level of formalism exhibited. Many of the contributors are in electrical engineering like myself. For example I can look at the talk pages of an article like this one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross-correlation

    There I can see the amount of discussion among the contributors and the excruciating efforts to align the article according to definitions in textbooks (one of which I have). And to make the article consistent with definitions in related articles in Wikipedia. This is nothing short of genius, the way that this website is set up in order to accomplish this for the STEM fields. Dilettantes are not tempted to come into the area and screw them up like in many other subject areas on the site, because they have no clue as to what is being discussed.

    rvb8: The articles about various contributors, editors, and ‘experts’ from Uncommon Descent, as well as their articles on Intelligent Design and Specified Complexity are spot on.

    See friend, when you use single quotes in that fashion, you may think it clever, but truthfully you come here in order to insult. This is the elephant in the room, how you guys just can’t seem to resist this site and come here to denigrate because it is all you have when you get pushed against the wall. You post to denigrate the people here and the thinking that goes into what we here have to say, and not to engage in honest debate. And the fact that you guys get to feel all giddy inside after such behavior is pathetic. Now I am a financial supporter of this site as well an expert in my field here in Houston, Texas. My spot on advice to people like you is to live with it and grow some respect.

  11. 11
    kairosfocus says:

    Groov, Yup, Wiki often delivers on its promise once the ideologues don’t get loose. It is also often a quick place to get things that are otherwise very hard to find . . . I get the feeling many a good term paper has been fed into a Wiki article. (Try this, on Wm Knibb, who in my view should have gone to the next level, National Hero (and yup, there IS an error there OM is not quite the top honour): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Knibb ) Unfortunately, there are too many ideologues who have disregards to truth, accuracy, fairness and limitations who mess up far too much. My thought is, we need to teach people critical thinking skills and techniques to detect undue bias and manipulation — spin not substance. I wish Wiki would clean up its act. KF

    PS: RVB8, some time ago I was asked to review the Wiki article on ID. It is a hatchet job, and if you cannot spot that, you have been sold a bill of inferior goods. A much better article is here: http://www.newworldencyclopedi.....ent_design

  12. 12
    Querius says:

    I’ve found Wikipedia spotty. It should not be used as an academic source.

    Non-controversial articles are generally reasonable, however, more controversial topics seem to be carefully managed by an elite. For example, I’ve found that even well-documented, first-person (“I was directly involved”) contributions are quickly rejected.

    So, your satisfaction with Wikipedia will depend on the subject, your level of expertise, and your ideological persuasion.

    -Q

  13. 13
    bonhoeffer says:

    I do not allow my students to use Wikipedia. They will not get credit for any paper that uses Wiki as a source. Good news is that most of them already knew that Wiki is a joke and has a clear agenda.

  14. 14
    rvb8 says:

    ??? Your question merits three question marks. It must truly be significant.

    groovamos, I don’t think you are my friend. False praise, and undeserved kow-towing to non-laudable demi-achievement appears to be an heritable trait.

    kairosfocus, I went to wikipedia to learn about the newworldencyclopedia and it tells me that it is a project started by that marvellously balanced thinker the right reverand Sun Myung Moon. I won’t get into a discussion of the quality of your research, suffice to say, don’t trust wiki, and don’t trust Sun, both have a tendency to place too much importance on their own importance.

  15. 15
    phoodoo says:

    Querious @12

    I would say I was really shocked and outraged when I learned more about just how underhanded and dishonest Wikipedia works. I perhaps give them even less credit than you, because I know that the bias they project is not accidental or unavoidable, but rather it is encouraged and a core part of their organization. They basically are a “scientific skeptic” organization.

    Anybody who knows how skeptic societies work, knows that being skeptical is not really what they are. In fact what they are are just a group of atheists who share all the same way of thinking about a core set of ideas. So be it climate change, evolution, GMO foods, conspiracies, after death experiences, vaccines, or alternative theories, they all hold exactly the same opinion, even if they never have studied the particular area of interest. Ask a skeptic who killed Kennedy, they don’t need to know the facts, the answer is obviously it was Oswald alone. Are GMO foods safe, of course, because all skeptics so say, even if they have no idea.

    When I learned about how it is their mission to distort Wikipedia (and not just Wikipedia, but all sources of public science knowledge) I was even more disgusted by their lack of curiosity and intellect. Any group that has to be so dishonest in allowing fair discussion, surely can’t be trusted.

    So because of them, you get guys like Bill Nye (an engineer who knows nothing about evolution) crowing on and on about how people who don’t believe in evolution are so poorly educated. This is what skeptic societies make the public believe, its a settled issue, and only idiots don’t accept evolution. So every average Joe, who knows nothing about the subject, assumes because a nice guy like Bill Nye says evolution is true, well of course it must be. Do they need to know details, heck no, its a wrap.

    So where do people go to get truthful, unbiased information about evolutionary subjects? Well, that’s tough, because everyday in mainstream news radio, newspapers you are bombarded by information that is really just written by skeptics who are not skeptical at all, they are just people on a mission to make more people as incurious as them.

  16. 16
    Silver Asiatic says:

    groovamos

    See friend, when you use single quotes in that fashion, you may think it clever, but truthfully you come here in order to insult. This is the elephant in the room, how you guys just can’t seem to resist this site and come here to denigrate because it is all you have when you get pushed against the wall. You post to denigrate the people here and the thinking that goes into what we here have to say, and not to engage in honest debate. And the fact that you guys get to feel all giddy inside after such behavior is pathetic.

    Exactly. So much is exposed when we see that kind of behavior. They come here to denigrate and ridicule and they accomplish what? Make themselves giddy? That’s about it. Their view only looks more pathetic among an audience that already opposes it. If your only challenge to ID is to insult people, then that really says something.
    If ID is supposedly useless, easily ignored and of no value, then just ignore it and go somewhere else.

    But instead, why are they drawn here and compulsively moved to try to ridicule people who they obviously don’t understand (or even want to understand)?

    That’s one of the mysterious things that make this topic so interesting to me.

    ID is going to continue to convince people whether you ignore it or ridicule it. If you want to stop ID, then come up with good, reasonable, convincing and respectful arguments against it. In other words, just falsify the inference and show us the great power of natural forces to produce complex functional information, as it they claimed to do.

  17. 17
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Robert Byers 2

    There is no such thing as anti-semitism.
    Thats a word invented to discredit critics of Jews.

    There are people in the world who hate and want to wipe out people for no other reason than they are Jewish.

    If you want to deny this fact, then I would call that denialism.

    If you can accept this fact, then it’s a mere function of telling the truth to classify this group of people who exhibit this pattern of hatred with a name. We call it anti-semitism. We could use some other name. “Jew-hating” would work.

    You may feel that hating and wanting to destroy Jewish people is merely a question of being a “critic of Jews”.
    Or perhaps you actually do hate and want to kill Jews.

    If so, you should just say that and not hide behind the euphemism.

  18. 18
    rvb8 says:

    You might be right about coming here to denigrate. However you do make for easy targets. For example I enjoy PandasThumb very much and often creationists go there to denigrate the ideas espoused. They fail dismally, and more often than not when presented with arguments from ‘real’ scientists usually are reduced to apoplexy.

    So I suppose I am asking a simple question; where is your evidence for design? Perhaps it is so convincing that one day it might be taught in schools. Reduce me to apoplexy.

  19. 19
    Mung says:

    rvb8:

    So I suppose I am asking a simple question; where is your evidence for design? Perhaps it is so convincing that one day it might be taught in schools. Reduce me to apoplexy.

    Why does anyone need to give you evidence for design? Dawkins admits the evidence is everywhere.

  20. 20
    rvb8 says:

    At what point do you make the statement, ‘this is irreducibly complex and is therefore designed.’ The flagella used in this sites heading failed the defendants in Dover. The flagella has many proteins maybe one or all of those are irreducible. At what point do we introduce the designer.

    Dembsky has said that Design theory doesn’t need the ‘pathetic level’of detail produced by evolutionary biologists to work as theory. Any detail could be a starting point.

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