Talk:John B. Cobb/GA1

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GA Review[edit]

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Reviewer: Jburlinson (talk · contribs) 00:42, 5 December 2013 (UTC)

I'll be glad to review this article. I'm sorry you've had to wait so long for a response to your nomination. Comments to follow in the next 1-7 days. I'm no expert in Cobb's work, so bear with me if I ask some elementary questions as to content. Thanks in advance for all your work! --Jburlinson (talk) 00:42, 5 December 2013 (UTC)

I'll certainly be happy to answer any questions and address any concerns that you might have. Thanks much for taking on the GA review. The article has indeed been languishing on the nomination list for quite some time. But I know that reviewing well can also be time-consuming and fairly thankless work. Don't think it's not appreciated! Joseph Petek (talk) 01:51, 5 December 2013 (UTC)

Sorry for the delay in getting my initial comments out there. I think this article has many good points; it's clear, concise, well-written, stable and apt images have been chosen and properly notated.

I've made a few minor wording changes. If anyone objects to any of them, feel free to revert.

Your changes all look fine to me. Personally, I think the original "useful in order to mutually transform both parties" rather than "useful in order to transform both parties mutually" sounds better, even though it's a split infinitive (much like "to boldly go where no man has gone before" sounds better than "to go boldly where no man has gone before"!). But I'm fine with the "proper" usage here, and there's really nothing at all in what you did worth quibbling over. Joseph Petek (talk) 02:03, 19 December 2013 (UTC)

Here are some specific points to consider:


  1. The final paragraph states a relationship between the Center for Process Studies and the 23 centers in China that isn't clear from the reference or from the section at the end of the article. I have no doubt that the CPS has a direct institutional connection with the IPDC, but this isn't made explicit in the article. I'm thinking this level of detail might be a little better in the section on "The influence of Cobb’s thought in China" than in the lead.
I added a reference that says CPS and IPDC are affiliated. I can still remove "including 23 centers in China," but since 1. this constitutes the majority of the additional centers, and 2. this is unexpected since Cobb is American and process theology as a whole is viewed as primarily American, I don't think it hurts to mention it in the lead. It's only five little words. Joseph Petek (talk) 02:03, 19 December 2013 (UTC)


  1. "Hoping to reconstruct a Christian faith more compatible with scientific and historical knowledge, Cobb entered the University of Chicago Divinity School.[17] He was successful primarily with the help of Daniel Day Williams and Charles Hartshorne." -- This seems to get close to a POV statement by the editor to the effect that Cobb succeeded in reconciling faith with science/history. Is there a way to re-word in a more neutral way?
Changed to "He was successful in restoring his personal faith primarily with the help of..." Joseph Petek (talk) 02:03, 19 December 2013 (UTC)
  1. "This organization holds biennial conferences, the tenth of which Cobb is organizing in Claremont in 2015." -- A little unclear. Would it be better to say something like: "...the tenth of which Cobb plans to hold in Claremont in 2015."?
Changed to "...the tenth of which will be taking place in Claremont in 2015." I suppose if they want to know that Cobb is the primary organizer, they can look at the reference. Joseph Petek (talk) 02:03, 19 December 2013 (UTC)
  1. There should probably be a mention of Richard McKeon's influence on Cobb.
Done. Joseph Petek (talk) 02:03, 19 December 2013 (UTC)
  1. It might be worth mentioning Cobb's brief time as a part-time pastor in Georgia.
Hmm. Where did you find this? If you can provide a good reference, I'd be happy to put it in. But all is see is one tiny line in Griffin's biographical article, which reads thus: "Having to take whatever position he could find close to Atlanta, Cobb served seven mountain churches and taught in a junior college." That's pretty vague. I don't see anything specifically about "part-time pastor." Joseph Petek (talk) 02:03, 19 December 2013 (UTC)
I'll check back and see if I can find the source that mentioned this. Would you have any problem if I added it myself? --Jburlinson (talk) 20:59, 19 December 2013 (UTC)
Not at all. Add away! Joseph Petek (talk) 23:42, 19 December 2013 (UTC)

Constructive postmodern philosophy

  1. "Cobb was motivated by Alfred North Whitehead's philosophy to see both nature and human beings as more than just purposeless machines." -- This is a little unclear. Was it Whitehead's philosophy that held that "nature and human beings as more than just purposeless machines" or did a study of Whitehead lead Cobb to formulate this insight?
Changed to "Cobb was convinced that Alfred North Whitehead was right in viewing both nature and human beings as more than just purposeless machines." Joseph Petek (talk) 02:03, 19 December 2013 (UTC)

Revitalizing Christianity in a pluralistic world

  1. "As the gap between the policies of the American government and Christian teaching grew wider,..." -- suggest changing to "As the perceived gap ..." to maintain NPOV.
Done. Joseph Petek (talk) 02:03, 19 December 2013 (UTC)

The influence of Cobb’s thought in China

  1. "Together with Zhihe Wang, Cobb founded the Institute for Postmodern Development in China (IPDC) in 2005 and is currently the president of its board of directors." -- This might be a bit of faulty parallelism. Suggest, "With Zhihe Wang, Cobb co-founded the Institute for Postmodern Development in China (IPDC) in 2005, and he is currently..."
Done. Joseph Petek (talk) 02:03, 19 December 2013 (UTC)

General concerns

There are some aspects of the article that might pose a problem for considering it ready for GA status at this time.

  • I'm concerned that the article is based so heavily on primary sources, Cobb's writings and publications from his Center. Adherence to the policy on reliable sources is one of the GA criteria -- WP:RS. This urges editors to base material on secondary sources and minimize use of primary sources. Please see WP:WPNOTRS for further discussion. Sections that are exclusively reliant on primary sources include:
  1. Constructive postmodern philosophy
  2. Biology and religion, and
  3. Revitalizing Christianity in a pluralistic world
I would be happy to talk further about this, and I can certainly try to find other references for some of these sections. But the policies you cited say: "Secondary or tertiary sources are needed to establish the topic's notability and to avoid novel interpretations of primary sources." Clearly "establishing notability" is no problem in this case, so it is the second concern that is the potentially worrying one. The policy has this to say: "Unless restricted by another policy, primary sources that have been reliably published may be used in Wikipedia; but only with care, because it is easy to misuse them.[4] Any interpretation of primary source material requires a reliable secondary source for that interpretation. A primary source may only be used on Wikipedia to make straightforward, descriptive statements of facts that can be verified by any educated person with access to the source but without further, specialized knowledge." Obviously, whether a statement is only a "straightforward, descriptive statement of fact" is a judgment call, one that tends to have lots of shades of gray. I do not believe that I have been "interpreting" Cobb in these sections, only restating his position.
Moreover, I would venture that philosophers (or indeed any person who is famous primarily for his/her ideas) tend to be somewhat of a special case in this area. Unlike most biographies in which a subject's statements about himself/herself might justifiably be viewed as not entirely objective or trustworthy, biographies of academics tend to be about their ideas rather than the life and accomplishments of the person. Cobb is not writing about himself, he is writing about theology. Perhaps a specious distinction, but I tend to think that it is within the bounds of Wikipedia's guidelines and GA criteria to use a lot of primary sources here, as long as there is no "interpretation" going on. For what it's worth, the featured article on Hilary Putnam references works written by Putnam himself 29 times across 14 different citations. (Also, philosophers are a contentious and sometimes unreliable lot when talking about each other, and process thinkers in particular are often misread.)
I hear what you're saying, but I'm just trying to be faithful to the GA criteria. There are a number of secondary sources that support the readings provided in the article, which I agree are not "interpreted" in any biased or idiosyncratic ways. Would you be OK if I supplied a few of these references? --Jburlinson (talk) 20:59, 19 December 2013 (UTC)
Please do go ahead and supply additional references if you feel the urge. Additional references never hurt anything. Joseph Petek (talk) 23:42, 19 December 2013 (UTC)
  • In addition, there are a number of statements that lack attribution and seem to be based on the judgement of WP editors, thus making them OR or synthesis. WP:OR Some examples:
  1. "Although Cobb is most often described as a theologian, the overarching tendency of his thought has been toward the integration of many different areas of knowledge"
Referenced Dorrien. Joseph Petek (talk) 02:03, 19 December 2013 (UTC)
  1. "Later, when the French deconstructionists (such as Jacques Derrida) began to describe their thought as “postmodern,” Whiteheadians changed their own label to “constructive postmodernism.”[25] -- The cited reference doesn't mention Derrida or specifically french thinkers.
I have removed "French" and "Derrida," but really, this seems a little too nit-picky to me. The referenced article does talk about "deconstructive" postmodernism as the dominant strain. The lead of the Wiki article on deconstruction says that it is a theory derived from the work of Derrida, and the lead on postmodernism identifies it with deconstruction and post-structuralism, which itself is described as "a label formulated by American academics to denote the heterogeneous works of a series of mid-20th-century French and continental philosophers and critical theorists who came to international prominence in the 1960s and '70s." Saying that postmodernism is identified with French philosophers and that Derrida is an example is somewhat like saying that dogs are also mammals. I'm not sure how important it really is to have a reference backing up such basic facts. Joseph Petek (talk) 02:03, 19 December 2013 (UTC)
  1. "In short, Cobb does not conceive of dialogue as useful primarily to convert or be converted, but rather as useful in order to transform both parties mutually, allowing for a broadening of ideas and a reimagining of each faith in order that they might better face the challenges of the modern world."
Referenced. Joseph Petek (talk) 02:03, 19 December 2013 (UTC)
  1. "Cobb has also been active in formulating his own theories of religious pluralism, partly in response to another Claremont Graduate University professor, John Hick."
Referenced. Joseph Petek (talk) 02:03, 19 December 2013 (UTC)
  1. "Cobb's pluralism thus avoids the criticism of conflating religions that are actually very different (for instance, Buddhism and Christianity) while still affirming the possible truths of both."
Referenced. Joseph Petek (talk) 02:03, 19 December 2013 (UTC)
  1. "Cobb believed that through at least the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century, American Protestant theology had been largely derivative from European (specifically German) theology." -- There are a number of other similar type statements in the section "Revitalizing Christianity in a pluralistic world"
I referenced this example, and also went through and added references to some other statements that might be considered problematic. Joseph Petek (talk) 02:03, 19 December 2013 (UTC)
  1. "Cobb has taken a leadership role in bringing process thought to the East, most specifically to help China develop a more ecological civilization—a goal which the current Chinese government has written into its constitution.[52]" -- The reference discusses the constitution but does not mention Cobb or his putative influence.
Added an additional reference. Joseph Petek (talk) 02:03, 19 December 2013 (UTC)

I'm planning to put the review on hold to give editors some time to ask questions or to respond to these comments. I appreciate everyone's hard work in developing this article so far. It's definitely moved well beyond its current "Start class" status. It may not, though, be quite there as far as GA goes. Thanks for your consideration. --Jburlinson (talk) 22:30, 18 December 2013 (UTC)

Thanks for your work on this. Please be aware that I will be leaving for vacation on the night of the 21st, and will return on the 27th. If this nomination is still on hold at that time, I would request a bit of leniency in addressing any further issues before the review is closed. I may be able to still work on it a bit during this period, but I will be away from my books and so will not be able to address most referencing concerns. But maybe, hopefully, it will be done before then... 02:03, 19 December 2013 (UTC)
I appreciate your quick response to the comments. As I've mentioned above, I might add a little bit to the article while you're away: mostly just additional references to secondary sources that likely won't change the text in any substantial way. Do you see a problem in that? When you get back, you'd certainly be in a position to revert anything that looks suspect to you. Have a good vacation and don't worry about this. I think this is a fine article that might only need a few references to reliable secondary sources to get over the hump. --Jburlinson (talk) 20:59, 19 December 2013 (UTC)
Thanks much. As mentioned above, I don't mind at all if you or others change the article, especially when it comes to adding additional citations. Of course, I do feel some ownership over the article, since I wrote the majority of it from scratch (the "Life" section was mostly there already). But what is very clear to me, and what I appreciate about your review, is that you have obviously researched Cobb quite a bit by yourself in order to be better able to evaluate the article. I mean, after you had said "I'm no expert in Cobb's work, so bear with me if I ask some elementary questions as to content," you come back with the suggestion of adding McKeon as one of Cobb's influences. That's not a suggestion that comes from a reviewer who has neglected to do their own background research. So I am confident that any changes/additions you make will most likely be good ones.
But also, please don't feel an onus to add a bunch of new references yourself if you don't really have the time to spare. It shouldn't be the reviewer's burden to him/herself edit an article he/she is reviewing up to the GA standard. I won't try to talk you out of it if you're inclined to do so, but if not, please let me know where I can do additional work. I will probably spend some time tonight providing additional citations myself. Joseph Petek (talk) 23:42, 19 December 2013 (UTC)
FYI, I have added some additional secondary references. I will probably not add any more until after I'm back from vacation, if more are still needed.
Also, I wanted to mention what a great picture that was that you found of CST (I don't generally added images to Wikipedia myself, as the rules tend to confuse me). The one on the CST Wikipedia article itself was obviously sorely outdated (by over a century!), and the pic goes great with Cobb's article as well. Perhaps it should simply replace the Claremont City Hall picture? I only used that pic because I didn't have one of CST itself. Joseph Petek (talk) 03:23, 21 December 2013 (UTC)


Rate Attribute Review Comment
1. Well-written:
1a. the prose is clear and concise, it respects copyright laws, and the spelling and grammar are correct. Spotchecks show no evidence of copyright issues.
1b. it complies with the manual of style guidelines for lead sections, layout, words to watch, fiction, and list incorporation.
2. Verifiable with no original research:
2a. it contains a list of all references (sources of information), presented in accordance with the layout style guideline.
2b. all in-line citations are from reliable sources, including those for direct quotations, statistics, published opinion, counter-intuitive or controversial statements that are challenged or likely to be challenged, and contentious material relating to living persons—science-based articles should follow the scientific citation guidelines.
2c. it contains no original research.
3. Broad in its coverage:
3a. it addresses the main aspects of the topic.
3b. it stays focused on the topic without going into unnecessary detail (see summary style).
4. Neutral: it represents viewpoints fairly and without bias, giving due weight to each.
5. Stable: it does not change significantly from day to day because of an ongoing edit war or content dispute.
6. Illustrated, if possible, by images:
6a. images are tagged with their copyright status, and valid fair use rationales are provided for non-free content. Image tags ok
6b. images are relevant to the topic, and have suitable captions.
7. Overall assessment. Pass as GA

Thanks to all contributors for the time and effort that's gone into making this a GA article. Keep up the good work! --Jburlinson (talk) 22:39, 28 December 2013 (UTC)

And thank you for your thorough review. Best, Joseph Petek (talk) 23:40, 28 December 2013 (UTC)