Talk:Ghost/Archive 9

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Is the Paranormal pseudoscience

A discussion has been started at Wikipedia_talk:Categorization#Is_the_paranormal_pseudoscience.3F. Unomi (talk) 05:52, 20 March 2010 (UTC)

"Spiritualist movement" section

The section on Ghost#Spiritualist movement shows Spiritualism and Spiritism as the main articles, but does not summarize these articles. It is a fork. I propose to a) make sure any content here is copied to the appropriate place in one of those articles and b) replace this section with the lead sections of those two articles, which appear to provide reasonable summaries. Then we can periodically check for significant changes to the leads of those child articles and update this parent article to reflect those changes. We should avoid adding content to this section that is not in one of the child articles - it should summarize them. Comments? Aymatth2 (talk) 13:26, 24 March 2010 (UTC)

  • The above proposal seems uncontroversial. I will wait a day or two, and if no objections are raised will go ahead. It is in line with policy, and I think will be a real improvement. Aymatth2 (talk) 16:55, 30 March 2010 (UTC)

I have made the change. Good to get rid of a fork. See the discussion of the next proposal: Spiritualism and Spiritism do not seem to be about ghosts in the conventional British sense of hauntings or apparitions. The ghosts are mobile but not visible, communicate only through table tappings and ouija boards, and seem to have no malevolent intent. They just answer questions and give advice. But in the broader sense of spirits of the dead communicating to the living, I think the topics are relevant. Aymatth2 (talk) 01:00, 1 April 2010 (UTC)


At present this article is heavily biased towards a European (largely British) view of the subject. European culture is important, since with the Americas it covers more than 20% of the world population, but ghosts in other cultures should be given reasonable coverage as well. Belief in ghosts is probably strongest (and most sophisticated) in areas where it is part of the accepted religion. The present structure of Terminology – Typology – History – By culture – Depiction in the arts is awkward to maintain if other traditions are given equal weight. I propose to rearrange the content by region:

  • Typology
  • Middle East (Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, Arab world …)
  • Western tradition
    • Terminology
    • History (Antiquity, Middle Ages, Renaissance to Romanticism)
    • Modern period (Spiritualism, Spiritism, Scientific scepticism)
  • Asian traditions
    • Early Vedic beliefs
    • Hindu beliefs
    • Buddhist beliefs (India, Tibet, China, Japan) ...
  • Pre-Colombian Americas (Inca, Maya, Aztec, Navajo …)
  • African traditions (Yoruba, Igbo …)
  • Other traditions (Voodoo, Australian aboriginals, Polynesia …)
  • Depiction in the arts …

I put the Middle East ahead of Europe because of the influence that the Mesopotamian and Egyptian beliefs had on Greek and Roman beliefs. The existing content would be preserved under the new headings, and the new sections can be started with summaries from existing articles such as Chindi. Comments? Aymatth2 (talk) 16:55, 30 March 2010 (UTC)

E.g. pretas, which are often called ghosts, but don't really fit in with the description in the lead. Peter jackson (talk) 17:10, 31 March 2010 (UTC)

I would include pretas. The lead describes European-style ghosts, and emphasizes visibility and solitary haunting. I prefer a more general definition, something like: "the spirit or essential being of a person who lives on after death, and continues to interact with the living". Those attributes are found in most cultures. A hungry ghost would fit that definition, as would ghosts in Babylonian, Egyptian, Navajo etc. beliefs, none of which are visible. Haunting is common to several cultures, but is also by no means universal. In some cultures ghosts roam around freely, and in others they live in a netherworld and exert their influence remotely. To me, the similarities and differences between different ghost concepts would make the article much more interesting. Personally, I find European-style ghosts rather dull. They mostly just hang around aimlessly, acting spooky. Aymatth2 (talk) 18:28, 31 March 2010 (UTC)

Even that doesn't really fit pretas. They're just 1 of the realms of rebirth. You're no more & no less the same person if you're reborn as one than if you're reborn as something else. Peter jackson (talk) 09:26, 1 April 2010 (UTC)

There must be some way to word it... The general idea is that the soul or spirit leaves the body, continues to exist in a different state from that of living people, and can interact with people. It gets worse. See Dreaming (spirituality) and Dreamtime. This seems vaguely similar to Buddhist views of rebirth, but more abstract. I think it belongs too. My instinct is to not worry much about the lead until the article has more content on different cultures, then work out a formulation that fits them all.

I suppose a radically different approach would be to say that "Ghost" is an English word, and describes a British cultural concept. Chindi, Goryō, Hantu, Ikiryō, Obambo, Preta and so on describe different concepts in different cultures. All mention of non-British ghost-like concepts should be stripped from the article, as should Spiritualism and Spiritism, and all non-British articles should be removed from the "ghost" category. I can't see that being accepted. I would have no problem with an article specifically about British ghosts, but think we have to have an umbrella article covering related concepts around the world, and Ghost is the natural title. Aymatth2 (talk) 14:42, 1 April 2010 (UTC)

The English language isn't confined to our country, & I don't think you'd get consensus to exclude Americanisms. Do they have a particularly different idea of ghosts anyway?
"The general idea is that the soul or spirit leaves the body, continues to exist in a different state from that of living people, and can interact with people." But in Buddhism that isn't confined to ghosts. Peter jackson (talk) 17:00, 1 April 2010 (UTC)

American ghosts may be a bit more diverse than British ones, given the many origins of the people there, although I suspect they are mostly similar. I think India has the largest English-speaking population, and India is full of a vast variety of ghosts, some of which are not at all British. Anyway, I am sure it is not practical to exclude non-British ghosts from the article, and would be against doing so.

I see your point on Buddhism. I am no expert, and maybe this is hair-splitting, but I had the sense that after a period of confusion the spirit is either reborn in this world, goes to one of the heavens or hells, achieves Nirvana or becomes a ghost. It is only the ghosts that interact with people. Maybe there are different Buddhist schools with different beliefs. One solution is simply to give a rough definition in the lead, followed by a clarification of Buddhist beliefs, and perhaps other beliefs that do not quite fit the rough definition. But do you agree that the article should be expanded and restructured to cover un-British ghosts better? And is the regional breakdown correct? At first I was thinking of breakdown by school of thought, so Vedic, Hindu and Buddhist beliefs would be in one group, and perhaps West African, Caribbean and Brazilian in another group. But that gets very tricky with cross-fertilization issues. Another way would be by type of ghostly existence: tied to place of death, underworld, mobile, stage in rebirth cycle. But that gets into original research and lumps together totally unrelated cultures. I think regional is simplest. Views? Aymatth2 (talk) 19:31, 1 April 2010 (UTC)

Your sense is basically correct, except that the period of confusion you mention, the intermediate state, is recognized by Mahayana but not Theravada, & contrariwise the Mahayana but not the Theravada recognizes another possibility, the asuras. Your general suggestion sounds constructive to me. Peter jackson (talk) 09:44, 3 April 2010 (UTC)
However, the next sentence isn't correct. There are plenty of stories in Buddhist literature of people interacting with gods, for example. Peter jackson (talk) 09:46, 3 April 2010 (UTC)

If there are no objections in the next day or two, I will go ahead with the rearrangement, which should encourage editors to expand the article to give a more global view. I will not drop any content, but will shift content to fit the new heading structure, and will add some summaries from existing articles as a starter. The result will still be heavily biased towards British ghosts, but should at least encourage addition of content on ghosts in other cultures. To make the change easy to follow (assuming no objections) I will do the job in a series of steps. Aymatth2 (talk) 00:12, 6 April 2010 (UTC)

The approach of changes that "should encourage editors to expand the article to give a more global view" is inheretly flawed, as I have pointed out before. It tends to turn a perfectly structured article into listcruft just out of a misguided drive for "globalization". What we should do instead is let ourselves be guided by other good tertiary sources on the topic.

I find the present article structure is well thought-out, except for the "by culture" section, which remains a bit out of place (and invites listcruft). Of course your proposal is driven by the same observation, but your proposed solution of raising the "By culture" section to h1 level, as it were, imho will only make things worse. Perhaps I misunderstand your intents, and perhaps you should prepare your version in a workpage so it can be commented upon, but I remain opposed to any approach that has an unreflected ideal of "globalization" for its own sake. Our chief guideline is WP:DUE, which does not require "globalization" but weight relative to notability. As a guideline for notability, we should look at the best examples of discussions of "ghosts" in tertiary sources. If you have a good example of such an article structured along a "by continent / by culture" layout, perhaps you can point it out and we can base further discussion on that example.

Perhaps this would be a good time to direct our attention to the spirit article, which is rather underdeveloped. Now "spirit" is a much wider concept that "ghost", and if there should be a "globalized" discussion anywhere, it probably belongs there. --dab (𒁳) 09:59, 6 April 2010 (UTC)

Undue weight?

Thinking about Dbachmann's comment on WP:DUE, it strikes me that it does not all apply. The assertion "An article should not give undue weight to any aspects of the subject but should strive to treat each aspect with a weight appropriate to its significance to the subject" is hard to dispute. But the next assertion "How much weight is appropriate should reflect the weight that is given in current reliable sources" is probably aimed more at cases where there is a dispute between different opinions on a single topic than cases where there are several independent topics, as is the case here. The article on Solar System gives roughly equal coverage of each planet, even though the amount written about Earth is vastly greater than the amount written about any other planet. A straight comparison of Google book result counts will give a misleading sense of relative importance. I suppose we could look for books on comparative ghost lore and see what emphasis they give to the different cultures. My guess is that they will vary wildly depending on the author's interests, but will generally give a much more global view than this article.

Another way to assess relative importance could be by number of people who hold each belief. I checked the article on major religious groups, which gives average estimates:

Religious category Ghosts? Millions of followers
Christianity No 2,150
Islam No 1,450
Hinduism Yes 1.014
Folk religion / Deism Yes 500
Buddhism Yes 450

The column on Ghosts? is my own addition, based on my understanding of whether ghost belief is inherent in the religion or not. If, as seems plausible, ghost beliefs are strongest when they are sanctioned by the official religion, this points to the article giving much greater weight to ghosts in Hindu, Buddhist and folk religions.

Christianity and Islam present a problem. Presumably many Christians and Moslems have some belief in ghosts, but it is likely a residue of beliefs that existed before these religions were introduced. The Philippines and Poland are both largely Christian, but I doubt that their ghost beliefs have much in common. Similarly, ghost beliefs in Morocco and Malaysia are probably quite different. But ghost beliefs in the Philippines and Malaysia may have much in common.

The 2008 World population gives another way of judging relative importance.

Region Population
Asia 4,054
Africa 973
Europe 732
Latin America and Carribean 577
North America 337
Oceania 30

If we assume that ghost believers are fairly evenly spread around the world, two thirds of the article should be about Asian beliefs. Numbers cannot be the deciding factor of course. The Solar System article does not concentrate on Jupiter because of its size, but tries to give a balanced survey of the planets and other aspects of the subject. There are many ways to consider balance in the article. But it seems clear that this version is extremely unbalanced. British ghosts should not take up over half the space. Aymatth2 (talk) 20:36, 6 April 2010 (UTC)

I think if we are going to base content on percentages or numerical strength, then perhaps only 5% of this article should be in English, or the rest of "English" language Wikipedia for that matter. Native English speakers after all only account for 5% of the world population. There is an inherent bias in an English-language "pedia" toward Anglo-centric concepts and objects, which is why British ghosts take up over half the space. I'm OK with that. Eastcote (talk) 23:29, 6 April 2010 (UTC)

An article such as this that describes a global phenomenon should give a global view. Similarly, the articles on religion and major religious groups are not and should not be mostly about British religious sects. Aymatth2 (talk) 01:28, 7 April 2010 (UTC)

I like your thinking. To give the article a global perspective while also giving each culture, country, language, whatever, due consideration, it might be a good idea to create topic fork articles for each group and then summarizing them in short sections here. That way they all get more or less the same coverage here, and each article can be of widely varying sizes. Does that make sense? I guess what I'm suggesting is that you don't hold back. If a section gets too large in relation to the others, then just split it off into a separate fork and leave a summary here. -- Brangifer (talk) 02:59, 7 April 2010 (UTC)

That is what I would prefer. Make this article a balanced global overview, pointing to articles like Ghosts in Tibetan culture or Ghosts in British culture that give more detail. The sub-articles can grow freely depending on editor interest. But clearly splitting out any content is going to be controversial. It is probably easier to first expand to give more balance, then discuss splitting when the article starts to get unwieldy. But if I take a day or two to work up ten or twenty paragraphs on, say, Chinese ghosts, do I spread them out into the sections on Terminology, History, By Culture and Depiction in the Arts? Ditto with Hindu ghosts. The effect would be chaotic. I would much prefer a structure that keeps together the culture-specific material. Aymatth2 (talk) 12:26, 7 April 2010 (UTC)

Rationale for "by culture" breakdown

The difficulty with the current structure is that the sections on Terminology and History reflect a largely British-American view. Terminology could, it is true, be expanded to cover other cultures. I made start adding the para that begins "Gwai (鬼) is the general Chinese term for ghost..." but realized that the section would turn into an incoherent jumble of definitions, so did not continue. The section on Antiquity is o.k., covering several ancient cultures. After that, the history is purely western. Again, it could be expanded to discuss evolution of ghost concepts in Buddhist etc. cultures, but that seems awkward. And then there is the jumble of random material under "By culture". The real choice, to me, is between a structure like:

  • Terminology (Britain, China, India ...)
  • History (Britain, China, India ...)
  • By culture (Britain, China, India ...)

Or a structure like:

  • Britain (terminology, history, beliefs)
  • China ...
  • India ...

The first structure will become increasingly incoherent as more global material is added, jumping back and forward from one culture to another, where the second structure allows for a more flexible treatment, with some cultures that have rich ghostlore treated in more depth, and others just given a short summary. I think there is room for a paragraph on Chindi, for example, but only a paragraph. Would that belong in the Terminology section? Seems awkward.

Another approach, which would have very little impact on the flow, would be to

  • Remove the History L1 heading
  • Bring Antiquity up to L1
  • Add an L1 heading after Antiquity called Western Culture
  • Add an L1 heading before Asia called Non-Western ghostlore (this is where the new content on Tibetan, Malayan, Philippine, Polynesian etc. ghosts would go)

I don't particularly like it, because a structure "Western - Other" seems a bit biased but would be o.k. with it. All the content remains the same, in the same sequence, but the headings are renamed to accurately reflect the material that follows them, which seems unexceptionable.

As for notability, there are huge numbers of sources discussing ghosts around the world. Obviously there will be more discussion of British-American ghosts in the English-language sources, but there is plenty of discussion of other cultures written in the English language. See this example. In deciding how much emphasis to give each culture we need some balance that considers extent and complexity of a particular set of beliefs, and brings out unusual and interesting beliefs. Reader interest is relevant, but we have to remember that many people in India, Africa and other parts of the world use the English Wikipedia. Clearly there should be much more coverage of Buddhist and Hindu beliefs, for example, probably as much as there is of Western beliefs, since the concepts are highly developed and basic to major world religions.

I am not so much interested in presenting a more global view just for the sake of it, although that is perhaps valid, as because there are many interesting non-western ghost beliefs, some widespread and highly developed, and adding this content would make the article much richer.

There is overlap with the spirit article, and I am not sure how best to deal with it. My view is that ghost are simply spirits that interact with living people. The ghost article should mainly discuss the interactions, while the spirit article should be more about beliefs about the experience of the spirit in the afterlife. That is a complex subject, and I don't have a fixed opinion. Aymatth2 (talk) 13:51, 6 April 2010 (UTC)

You make an important distinction which should be used to decide which content is appropriate for this article. Much of the current content isn't appropriate here, but is appropriate in the spirit article, or other related articles. -- Brangifer (talk) 14:48, 6 April 2010 (UTC)
pretas are often described as ghosts, but can't properly be called spirits as they have bodies. Peter jackson (talk) 15:22, 6 April 2010 (UTC)
  • I suppose a spirit could be clothed in a body... But this is straying far from the subject of whether the article should be restructured before being expanded to give a more global view, or whether the new content should be slotted into the existing structure. Aymatth2 (talk) 15:35, 6 April 2010 (UTC)

I just cobbled together Ghosts in Chinese culture, a rough start on a rich and complex subject. I was sort of tempted to spread out the material into this article under the terminology, history etc. headings - it is in the same sequence - but that would be childish. There should be a summary in this article though. Where? Aymatth2 (talk) 16:50, 7 April 2010 (UTC)

Ghosts in Chinese culture

Should Ghosts in Chinese culture be tagged as pseudo-science? I seem to have started on a series of "Ghosts in X culture", and Japan is probably next. I would like a standard agreement on the categories I should use. "Ghost" obviously, but what about "Pseudo Science"?

Off topic comment: many years ago I read Lafcadio Hearn's In Ghostly Japan. All I can remember is a tale of someone who has to climb a mountain. Hour after hour he gets higher and higher, getting more and more tired, and still there are endless slopes to climb. He asks his guide how much higher he has have to climb, and at the same time notices that the mountain is made entirely of human skulls. The guide explains that all the skulls are his, from previous existences. Ignore that. Nothing to do with the discussion. Aymatth2 (talk) 03:05, 8 April 2010 (UTC)

Start OR reasoning and personal belief... Personally I'd think that most of the subject's historical aspects would be merely beliefs of a superstitious and religious nature held in the prescientific era and thus probably shouldn't be labelled as pseudoscientific beliefs. Such labelling is more appropriate for the modern expression of such beliefs, maybe even in that article. For something to be a pseudoscientific belief, it needs to be held because of muddled thinking that ignores or fails to understand scientific facts and thinking. That wasn't really a possibility in ancient times, but the label would be appropriate in modern times. End OR reasoning and personal belief.
Per policy, if a RS labels such ancient beliefs "pseudoscientific beliefs", it would be appropriate to cite it with due attribution, but unless it's from a national scientific body, it wouldn't justify placement of the whole article in Category:Pseudoscience. Note that our policies as stated in NPOV and the Psi ArbCom apply here. Application of these policies trumps personal beliefs and places our content on solid ground.
Per those policies, if a RS from a national scientific body made such a statement, then both mention and categorization would be required.
Personally I'd like to reserve categorization for modern day beliefs, rather than ancient beliefs. The Ghost article would have had much more to say about modern day pseudoscientific beliefs if such content had been allowed, but it's been kept out in violation of NPOV. That's why dividing the whole subject up, as I believe you've been doing very nicely, might be the best solution, even if it violates NPOV. Deal with the ancient beliefs as such in their own articles, and the modern beliefs in their own articles as pseudoscientific beliefs. BTW, I think much of what you're doing (I haven't examined it closely) seems to be a very valuable contribution to the encyclopedia. Keep up the good work! -- Brangifer (talk) 04:02, 8 April 2010 (UTC)
Oh yes, of course. Discussing pseudoscience at length in ghost would not be a violation of WP:UNDUE, and not doing it is a violation of NPOV? By arguing in this way you are merely exposing your obsession with pseudoscience. You should certainly notify the editors of Britannica. [1] E.g. here is their full Kids Encyclopedia article on the topic: "soul or specter of dead person capable of returning to world of the living; belief in ghosts based on notion that body and spirit are separable and spirit may live on after body’s death; ghosts thought to take many forms, sometimes as vague likeness of deceased or as if still alive; haunting of places or people by ghosts is thought to be connected with spirit’s strong past emotions in life, such as fear or remorse; in many societies funeral rites are believed to prevent spirits from returning to haunt the living; ghost stories still an important part of folklore worldwide, often told with grisly detail in dark or gloomy settings."
Our article automobile doesn't have its main focus on agricultural applications (tractors), computer isn't primarily about Apple computers, and the present article should not concentrate on pseudoscience, no matter what farmers, Apple fans or die-hard (anti-)spiritists may think. Hans Adler 15:50, 9 April 2010 (UTC)

The beliefs are old, I suppose. Certainly older than Christianity. But they are held by several hundred million people today, who continue to practice the rituals. In that sense they are modern. Is religion pseudo-scientific? Aymatth2 (talk) 15:48, 8 April 2010 (UTC)

The parts of it that make falsifiable claims that actually defy (aren't merely "beyond") our current scientific knowledge are potentially pseudoscientific.
Ultimately, as far as Wikipedia goes, it really makes no difference. Wikipedia doesn't judge such matters. Our job as editors is to document what is said in V & RS regardless of conflicting editorial opinions about the "truthiness" of the statements. Such opinions are essentially OR.
What's interesting is that the God of Christianity is usually defined in unfalsifiable terms, IOW lots of circular reasoning where the goalposts get moved as necessary to protect the beliefs of believers. Apparently one of the rules of the "game" is that it's not allowable to "pin God down". Face-wink.svg According to the Apostle Paul, "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Heb. 11:1) Once one has "seen" something, it's no longer faith. It's evidence-based. It's fact. Ergo, belief in God is by faith and not by a falsifiable claim of "fact", so such belief isn't pseudoscientific or scientific, but non-science, religious, and metaphysical. -- Brangifer (talk) 03:21, 9 April 2010 (UTC)

RfC announcement: Using the National Science Foundation as a reference at NPOV

See: Wikipedia_talk:Neutral_point_of_view#RfC:_Using_the_National_Science_Foundation_as_a_reference

Please weigh in THERE on whether a statement by the National Science Foundation is a reliable source to use as an illustration for a portion of an ArbCom statement used in the NPOV policy. This is especially important for members of the Arbitration Committee, since it relates to an ArbCom ruling.

I'm announcing this here since it is very relevant to the RfC we have just held here. Please do not discuss this here. -- Brangifer (talk) 08:06, 5 March 2010 (UTC)

Lead (NSF again)

(continued from #RfC: Context of NSF statement about belief in ghosts; see the Talk:Ghost/pseudoscience archive)

I've not been involved in this before, so I'm sorry if it has been talked to death already, but I want to say that the sentence citing a webpage from the National Science Foundation, and calling this "pseudoscientific belief" is really not appropriate for the lead. If you read the source, it's using the term "pseudoscience" broadly and inconsistently, and includes people thinking they have lucky numbers. Its own definition of "pseudoscience" is "claims presented so that they appear [to be] scientific even though they lack supporting evidence and plausibility." So if I were to claim that seven is my lucky number, it seems I would be "presenting a claim that appears to be scientific ..."

I think the authors meant "superstitious," which is not quite the same thing. The source is making an argument, rather than writing in an informed and disinterested way, because it's engaged in advocacy. In citing it so prominently our lead is also so engaged. And please don't interpret that to mean I think ghosts exist or that seven is a lucky number. :) I just think we need to limit the sprawl of the word "pseudoscience," because it's often used in ways that are meaningless, and this is one of them. People who won't walk under ladders or who read their horoscopes aren't making scientific claims in the first place. SlimVirgin TALK contribs 11:22, 21 March 2010 (UTC)

That's very interesting OR and personal opinion, none of which are becoming for an editor, or especially an admin, to use as substitutes for "verifiability, not "truth". Try some policy-based arguments, rather than assuming the supreme scientific organization in the USA made a mistake. That's a pretty bold assertion, and definitely OR. Also, when articles quote sources that are advocating a position, the article is not advocating, it's just following our sourcing policies. The quote must be attributed and framed properly, but this is perfectly proper. Since this is a subject governed by WP:FRINGE and WP:WEIGHT, it is especially proper to give the mainstream POV prominence in the lead.
I really doubt that their use of the phrase "pseudoscientific beliefs" was a mistake they made every other year since 2000 (!), when "The National Science Board Members were closely involved in all phases of the preparation of this report." As Gwen Gale wisely put it (above), "Editors should keep in mind, reliable sources may not be true and often may be lacking, but en.Wikipedia is not about truth, it's about verifiability." That was immediately after stating that the "National Science Foundation is a reliable source." Now that's an opinion based on policy, and I can respect that.
Note that this discussion is totally muddled because the discussion focuses on the rigid, black/white definition of "pseudoscience" (which is a correct definition), but the NSF quote under discussion was about "pseudoscientific beliefs", which aren't exactly the same thing as "pseudo-science", even if related to it. Undocumented topics are "beliefs", and if they are held because of a lack of scientific insight or critical thinking, they are "pseudoscientific beliefs". (This is a relatively modern phenomenon, since "pseudoscience" couldn't really exist in the pre-scientific era.) Read the whole 2006 report where they discuss why people end up believing wierd things. That's why. A false belief cannot be a pseudo-science, but it can be a pseudoscientific belief. There's a difference, and the apparent lack of understanding of this difference is confusing this discussion.
The 2006 NSF report dealt with this commonly used expression ("pseudoscience" coupled with "belief" in various forms), using it numerous times. They understand the wider nuances of this subject, nuances which aren't covered in the rigid, black/white definition. It's a broad topic. My talk page has a discussion about this, and you're welcome to join in. -- Brangifer (talk)
BullRangifer, you are seriously overstating the relevance of this document, in particular with reference to the topic of pseudoscience.
  • The document itself does not claim to speak for the NSF, it is written by the National Science Board, a body that is somehow associated with the NSF and consists mostly of statisticians. These statisticians have written the SEI 2006 as an executive report about science-related statistics, for politicians. Detailed questions of whether a belief is a "pseudoscientific belief" are well outside the scope of such a document, and well outside the professional competence of the chapter's main author. (Melissa F. Pollak of the Division of Science Resources Statistics; results ofmy Google Scholar searches suggest she is not normally interested in anything relevant for the pseudoscience debate [2].)
  • There is nothing in the paragraph + footnote that you are relying on to suggest that the NSF, or even just the (unqualified) NSB want to put their authority behind the claim that these beliefs are "pseudoscientific beliefs". They are just drawing this connection casually.
  • The SEI has an influence on the funding of science in the US. If the NSB wants to get money for fighting pseudoscience (i.e. creationism), they have an interest in overstating how prevalent it is by treating subjects that most of the politicians won't like (e.g. for religious reasons) as if they were pseudoscience. It is not appropriate to take a political statement out of its original political context and present it in a scholarly context as if it was a serious contribution to scholarly debate – not even with attribution, because along with attribution we would need a discussion of the political context, giving the whole matter about a hundred times the weight it deserves. We simply can't fill our articles with careful exegesis of casual remarks in our sources, exegesis that surpasses the original remark in length.
  • I think I am beginning to understand your careful distinctions regarding "pseudoscientific belief": Since it's not a well-defined term, it can be regarded as very fuzzy, allowing it to be potentially much more general than "belief in pseudoscience or belief that is held because of pseudoscience". This idea makes your sourcing slightly more reasonable, but it also makes the resulting claim even less relevant to all those articles where you put them.
Ultimately, Wikipedia is about truth. We use reliable sources for approximating the truth. A fundamentalist approach of following the sources when we all agree that they are wrong would be unethical. In particular, given X (e.g. ghosts, reincarnation) which is generally not regarded as pseudoscience, it is extremely misleading and verges on lying, to say that some high authority has called belief in X "pseudoscientific belief". The readers will draw the conclusion that therefore X is pseudoscientific, especially if we link the word "pseudoscientific" to the pseudoscience article or fail to explain that nobody actually calls X itself pseudoscience. (And we can't do that because we have no sources for that. It wouldn't be desirable anyway, especially for X which does have some marginal aspects that are pseudoscientific without any doubt.) Hans Adler 10:42, 22 March 2010 (UTC)
Furthermore, we need to maintain historical perspective. Pseudoscience has appeared only recently on a historical scale, and it has been connected to our traditional, folkloric and religious heritage because some people tried to explain those in a pseudoscientific manner, but it's actually only a very small aspect of those subjects, to which we should not give undue weight. The NSF source on the other hand was only concerned with the modern aspect of those and interpreted them narrowly in the context of pseudoscience, which we should definitely not do ourselves. It termed those beliefs 'pseudoscientific', but it can't be accurate, and plenty of sources have discussed those beliefs in depth and never termed them in this way, those are traditional, religious or superstitious beliefs, and still nowadays. I'm sure that only a small minority of the respondents actually believe in their pseudoscientific explanations, or are even aware of them, so this really can't be termed pseudoscientific belief (and the same goes for other items like reincarnation, astrology and so on, although the pseudoscientific aspect may be more important for some; on the other hand, beliefs that could definitely be termed pseudoscientific are those in brain gym, radionics and co). Cenarium (talk) 20:51, 21 March 2010 (UTC)

BR, there are two issues here:

1. You wrote, "Undocumented topics are 'beliefs', and if they are held because of a 'lack of scientific insight or critical thinking, they are 'pseudoscientific beliefs'." I don't know what an undocumented topic is, but to argue that any belief held because of a lack of critical thinking (which applies to most of our beliefs most of the time) can be classed as pseudoscientific is clearly false. The benefit of having a large vocabulary is that one can draw useful distinctions with it, such as the distinction between superstition, irrationality, and pseudoscience. You're asking us to proceed as though we can't understand that those concepts differ.

2. What matters is whether the source is appropriate for the lead of this article. The article is about ghosts. The source is not an expert on ghosts. If you were writing about The Holocaust, you wouldn't use some webpage as a source in the lead unless it was written by an expert on the Holocaust. And if someone objected to it as inaccurate, you would hopefully ditch it and go to the library instead. What you're doing here is deciding for yourself that ghosts fall under pseudoscience, and that therefore a source you see as an expert on pseudoscience (though I question that too) is an expert source on ghosts. But that's cheating; it's OR. And I'm not arguing that the sources have to be ghost hunters—there are philosophers, historians, sociologists, and psychologists who've written about the origin and function of beliefs like this. Instead, someone has found a government-related webpage with no byline that mentions ghosts in passing. It's being used not to bolster an uncontentious factual claim (e.g. x percent of adults in America say they believe in ghosts), but to impose a value judgment (ghosts are pseudoscience), with the value term so poorly defined that you may as well be saying ghosts are blah.

We should be using the most appropriate sources, scholarly ones if we can find them, to write an educated article in a disinterested tone. SlimVirgin TALK contribs 14:39, 22 March 2010 (UTC)

The prefix pseudo is from a Greek word meaning false. Something can only be false science if it pretends to be science. Religious beliefs, superstitions &c don't usually make any such claim so don't count as pseudoscience. Where they do, as in The Science of Creative Intelligence, they do. Peter jackson (talk) 11:10, 24 March 2010 (UTC)

Sorry, can't find a link under any variant of that. Something to do with ISKCON or some such. Peter jackson (talk) 11:13, 24 March 2010 (UTC)

Well, Prabhupada did write a book called The Science of Self-Realization. That would be an example. Peter jackson (talk) 11:17, 24 March 2010 (UTC)

Resumption of discussion about NSF and RfC

(This section has been moved from above where it threatened to get an existing thread off-track. This is a separate issue and should be dealt with separately. -- Brangifer (talk) 04:07, 7 April 2010 (UTC))

  • This war was restarted recently by BullRangifer when he found a weak source that contradicts common sense and does not agree with any other reliable sources, and then added it to the leads of many articles. See User:Hans Adler/NSF disruption for the extent of the problem. Hans Adler 05:11, 6 April 2010 (UTC)
  • Hans, don't bring that issue into this one. This is forum shopping. The source I found was published on the National Science Foundation's website and authored by the National Science Board. That's hardly a weak source. Two RfCs (one on this page) have resoundingly approved of the source and the manner in which the content was phrased. You have now resumed your edit war against that source and somehow it's my fault? Stop the forum shopping, personal attacks and character assassination. -- Brangifer (talk) 06:08, 6 April 2010 (UTC)
  • No, Bullrangifer, you abused the source, mangled and misinterpreted the two RfC's, and edit-warred this pure balderdash in all over the project. you should be ashamed of yourself, but you're not. that says (IMO) all that needs to be said. --Ludwigs2 06:35, 6 April 2010 (UTC)
  • Your (both of you) objections remind me of a saying we once had where I once worked. Our supervisor was bipolar (and she regularly failed to take her meds) and would often curse, swear and yell at the top of her lungs in front of patients. Needless to say there was constant tension in that workplace until she ungloriously "left"! We wished we could say to her "Since when has YOUR lack of planning become MY emergency?" Well, Hans and Ludwigs2, "Since when has YOUR lack of understanding of the subject of pseudoscience, YOUR failure to abide by "verifiability, not truth", YOUR attempts to use personal OR disagreements with the actual statement they made, YOUR refusal to abide by the clear and overwhelming consensus in two RfCs on the use of this source, and YOUR edit war against the NSF/NSB, become MY problem?" The NSB/NSF said what they said, and that's a Verifiable fact. That you don't like it is not a policy-based reason to war against it. -- Brangifer (talk) 14:30, 6 April 2010 (UTC)
  • Pot calling the kettle black. you're failure to appreciate the basics of scholarly reasoning is noted, and I have offered to work with you on it to improve your understanding. the offer still holds. --Ludwigs2 16:44, 6 April 2010 (UTC)
  • BullRangifer, you really need to stop lying about the outcomes of the two confusing RfCs that you started. They both established that the NSF is a reliable source for saying something if it bothers to say it. They did not establish that the NSF actually said anything in any meaningful sense. Hans Adler 23:12, 6 April 2010 (UTC)

<-- Hans, don't make such accusations. That's a gross violation of policy. You may not believe me, and even though I've read and understood what you've said many times and still don't believe you (so don't accuse me of IDHT), that doesn't equal "lying". Keep it civil.

The RfC above makes it pretty clear who's telling the truth here, including the closing admin's conclusion:

I'm closing this RfC as National Science Foundation is a reliable source for stating that "belief in ghosts and spirits" are "pseudoscientific beliefs." Editors should keep in mind that the NSF position on this is meaningful, notable, reliable and scientific. This does not mean that other verifiable and widely, reliably published outlooks cannot be cited, so long as WP:UNDUE has sway. Likewise any assertions as to current scientific consensus. The consensus may be wrong (research on how people come up with notions about ghosts may not be deeply understood), but en.Wikipedia is not about truth, it's about verifiability. Gwen Gale (talk) 15:40, 15 March 2010 (UTC)

Rfctag 1. Please weigh in on whether the National Science Foundation is a reliable source for stating that "belief in ghosts and spirits" are "pseudoscientific beliefs".

2. Also please discuss whether their expressions can be considered to represent the current scientific consensus (in the USA) on that subject. -- Brangifer (talk) 16:52, 27 February 2010 (UTC)

The resulting consensus overwhelmingly supported both points in my proposition, which is why I could then state that it was considered to represent the scientific consensus. (The consensus had stated that it was the scientific consensus.) The closing admin summarized it very nicely.

I'm not lying, but in light of what is written above, I'll let others decide whether you are being disingenuous.

Why should YOUR lack of understanding of the subject of pseudoscience be MY problem? Why should YOUR refusal to accept the consensus be MY problem? Well, it's not my problem, but you're disrupting Wikipedia by making such an issue of it, and that makes your behavior a problem for Wikipedia.

Gwen Gale summarized the key issue quite succinctly in both RfCs:

  • "en.Wikipedia is not about truth, it's about verifiability" (above)
  • "I'm closing this as National Science Foundation is a reliable source. Editors should keep in mind, reliable sources may not be true and often may be lacking, but en.Wikipedia is not about truth, it's about verifiability." [3]

That has been my contention all along. Whether what the NSF/NSB says is true or not is totally immaterial to the real issue here. We are to follow our policies and guidelines, and we must base our content on verifiable sources, and this is clearly verifiable content. Your placement of a "failed verification" tag at Pseudoscience was obviously totally off-base, and its removal by an other editor (not myself) was perfectly proper, and his edit summary was based on the verifiability policy. -- Brangifer (talk) 03:59, 7 April 2010 (UTC)

Collective stupidity is not actually better than individual stupidity, you know. the fact that you confused people into voting for the wrong thing and then misinterpreted their responses in your favor destroys any validity the RfC's might possibly have had. and even if (by some wild stretch of the imagination) I might have bought that the RfC's were valid, I would automatically {{wp:IAR|]] any such RfC that produced such a mind-bogglingly unsupportable claim as the one you keep making. sorry. --Ludwigs2 05:41, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
Well, that pretty much sums up your approach all along. You IAR, assume bad faith, make personal attacks, ignore the consensus, IOW you admit you are disruptive. Thanks for putting it so clearly. -- Brangifer (talk) 05:45, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
I'm starting to get the impression that the real problem here is loose use of language by "reliable sources". You often come across this in the humanities, but here we seem to have a scientific example. Peter jackson (talk) 11:03, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
In what sense do you mean that? (Note that I'm well aware that Wikipedia's definition of a RS includes and covers more than the usual definition in society. Here it's used as a policy.)
The real problem here is a failure to admit "verifiability, not truth". Personal objections (that the NSF/NSB were wrong, IOW "untrue") are being used to demand that a statement in a V & RS, made by the supreme scientific body in the USA, not be used. Gwen Gale recognized this was a key policy-based issue and pointed this out in both RfCs, and numerous other editors have done the same. The verifiability policy is carefully written in that manner to prevent V sources being rejected based on editors' conflicting personal beliefs of the truth or falsity of a statement. It's simply a fact of life that editors frequently disagree on such matters, so "truthiness" is not a legitimate argument in this situation.
I obviously believe the statement is clear and true, and will take the word of the illustrious members of the National Science Board, who claimed close involvement "in all phases of the preparation of this report", over the objections of two fringy editors. ("The National Science Board Members were closely involved in all phases of the preparation of this report.") They totally failed to convince a large number of editors who !voted against their arguments in two RfCs and approved of the source, the formulated statement (using the exact NSF/NSB quote), and that it represented the scientific consensus in the USA. Read the comments of those who approved. They are right up above on this page. Hans Adler and Ludwigs2 lost two RfCs and still stubbornly refuse to abide by them. Their actions since then constitute disruption.
No, the objections of these two editors don't cut it. Gwen Gale was right:
  • "I'm closing this RfC as National Science Foundation is a reliable source for stating that "belief in ghosts and spirits" are "pseudoscientific beliefs." Editors should keep in mind that the NSF position on this is meaningful, notable, reliable and scientific." (Emphasis original.)
Brangifer (talk) 14:02, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
Gwen Gale later clarified that she only meant the closure to mean that the NSF is a reliable source for this statement if it actually makes such a statement. Your RfC was begging the question. It simply assumed that your source makes this statement and, starting from this assumption, asked whether the NSF is good enough. That was ridiculous. It doesn't matter whether someone is "illustrious" and qualified to say something if the real question is whether they actually meant to say it in the first place.
BullRangifer, are you really unable to see the difference between the following two situations?
  1. The NSF creates a scientific committee for deciding what is pseudoscience and what isn't. On the committee there are several leading philosophers of science as well as established researchers from various scientific fields. They publish a report with the title "The Pseudoscience Demarcation Problem – Some Example Cases Decided", whose main finding is: "We found the following 10 fields to be examples of pseudoscience." The bibliography of the report reflects the committees careful examination of the existing scholarly literature. Any apparent contradictions to the existing literature, and to a plain reading of established definitions of pseudoscience is justified by means of careful discussion.
  2. The NSB, a body of the NSF whose main purpose it is to produce bi-annual reports for politicians about science policies, mentions pseudoscience marginally in two or three of these reports, each time citing Gallup polls or similar third-party polls, whereas in the main part of the report they use data from polls that they commissioned themselves. The Gallup poll cited is actually about paranormal, and most of the ten fields used by Gallup as proxies for belief in paranormal fail the "purports to be science" aspect of all all respectable definitions of pseudoscience, including the one that the report has cited itself (from a popular, not scholarly, book). The main author of the chapter in question is a statistician with hardly any publications, and it is not clear who else worked on it. (But most authors are statisticians.) There is no attempt to explain why a list of ten paranormal fields is treated as if it was a list of ten pseudoscience fields – consistent with a confusion between paranormal and pseudoscience which, for the purposes of the report, is justified, but for the purposes of encyclopedic articles about pseudoscience or any of the ten fields is not justified at all. The claim that belief in any of the 10 fields is pseudoscientific belief is implicit in the report, but is not made explicitly.
Seriously, if you are unable to see the difference between these two situations, and why the report in the first example would be useful but the one in the second (the one we are in) is not useful. And if you think the weakness of the source can be overridden by an abuse of Jimbo's "verifiability not truth" dictum (which said that some truths may not be included because they are not verifiable, not that some untruths may be included because they are "verifiable"), excessive spamming of the claim to the leads of roughly 15 articles for none of which it is particularly relevant, and generally disruptive behaviour. – Then I must tell you that a cooperative project to build an encyclopedia may not be the best choice of hobby for you simply because you lack the most basic instincts required for such a scholarly endeavour. Hans Adler 14:43, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
1. Please provide the exact quote and diff for what you claim to be Gwen's "clarification" ("if it actually makes such a statement"). The NSF/NSB's exact quote is their exact quote. Period! It's as simple as that (and your words "if it actually makes such a statement" explicitly deny they made their exact quote). You and Ludwigs2 are the only ones who dare to make such a mind-bogglingly ludicrous assertion. It simply defies all logic. Gwen would never do that. Please provide a diff for that "clarification", because I now have enough (disappointing) experience with your thinking and debating tactics to know that the context needs to be examined carefully before ANYONE can even begin to entertain your statements (in more and more regards) as being remotely connected with the truth. I really doubt that she would have made the very clear statements she actually did make, and then contradict herself, and I think you should apologize to her and us. Don't make her a part of your disruption. I suspect any statement she made is being taken way out of context.
2. Your statement ("whether they actually meant to say it in the first place") is at least closer to the truth, because it actually implies the truth (that they did make the statement), but that you have personal OR concerns about their intentions. Well, lacking any other statements by them to the contrary (and we have none), we shouldn't assume their intentions contradict their plain statement, so we are thus obliged to take their statement at face value.
3. As to your claim that the RfC "simply assumed that your source makes this statement", that's obvious nonsense. With the exception of yourself and Ludwigs2, no one would claim a direct quote is not a direct quote. What part of their quote was not part of their quote?! Please enlighten us with yet another interesting example of your twisted hermeneutical skills. (Believe me, it is truly entertaining to collect these examples.Face-wink.svg)
As to your "two situations", you start off with a condescending false assumption ("Seriously, if you are unable to see the difference"), when I obviously can "see the difference" (without getting fooled). In this latest example from you it's like the classic trick question: "When did you stop beating your wife?" It's a deviously worded juxtaposition you've set up. How can I take you seriously when you speak condescendingly, use straw man arguments, etc.? Only respectfully stated arguments based on facts, and above all policy, will do.
1. Your first example would sure be nice to have, but it will likely never exist, IOW you're setting the bar conveniently too high (convenient for defenders of fringe POV). Scientific bodies rarely ever mention pseudoscience, so, per WP:FRINGE and the FRINGE ARBCOM, on the rare occasions when they actually do they should be taken seriously. Their failure to write much about it should not be used to undermine what they actually do say, but that's what your whole campaign against the NSF/NSB has been doing.
2. Your second example is simply a straw man argument based on gross misrepresentations of the facts.
If you wish your arguments to be taken seriously you'll have to be completely honest, stop using straw man arguments, and drop the condescending tone. It reeks of WP:PA and a failure to AGF. I know you can do better than this when you wish to and aren't so emotionally involved in the issue. You're grasping at straws, but you've pulled out so much straw from the straw man that he's getting pretty skinny! This leaves you little left to do but to be more and more "creative". In case you don't understand the irony of me lecturing you about your typical condescending tone while engaging in a small bit of it myself, well, I've gotten so tired of it that I thought you deserved to feel a bit of what it's like to be on the receiving end. Call it "pointy" if you will, but you've been asking for it for some time, and Ludwigs2 even more so. I hope it gives you a bit of understanding of how you're coming across and will reform. An apology for all of it would be appreciated. -- Brangifer (talk) 02:34, 8 April 2010 (UTC)
Re your first 1: "There is a consensus that NSF is a reliable source. There may not be a consensus as to how you want to cite that source" [4]
Also see User talk:Gwen Gale/archive17#RfC closure on Talk:Ghost for context, where she was still confused about the context and probably thought I was pushing a POV, and said the same thing with guarded language to protect against that. Only when you started complaining to her did she understand that you were trying to overstate the RfC result by far, as I had predicted, and said it more directly. Hans Adler 06:18, 8 April 2010 (UTC)
Does Gwen Gale understand that the NSF is a beaurocratic government funding agency, and not ipso facto a reliable source, if you know anything about them? Statements by their 25 person board of directors (The National Science Board) are a reliable source when they're speaking as the Board ex cathedra, if you will, but that's about it. It would certainly be nice if the people who opined on these things knew something about them. Has Gwen Gale ever applied for an NSF grant? Met any NSF people? SBHarris 16:32, 8 April 2010 (UTC)
Thanks for providing the diff. That does indeed reveal that your statement isn't supported by her words. She's speaking of a totally different matter. She doesn't in the least intimate that "if it actually makes such a statement". Not in the least. In fact it continues to back up her previous statements confirming that they did make the statement. You are conflating two very different matters. -- Brangifer (talk) 14:01, 8 April 2010 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── And why is it that we're considering that every last word published by the NSF, no matter what its purpose, is to be considered an official statement of the NSF, as though it had ITSELF been carefully reviewed by the National Science Board that directs the NSF, who had officially signed off on it, and so on? Remember, most of what the NSF does is simply act like any government agency, doling out money for projects and writing. Even their own publications aren't reviewed by their entire board of directors, and if they occasionally say something that seems to be definitional, in the service of some other pursuit (as here, where the object is in trying to see what fraction of Americans are superstitious) that doesn't necessarily mean it's an official finding of the National Science Board. The NSF per se is not NIST or a relevant part of the National Academy of Sciences. Only the NSF Board has any real scientific cred, and even there, it very much depends on the issue.

I'll bet a quarter if you wrote to the NSF and confronted them with this particular statement, they'd say: "Look, you can't take us that literally about everything we print. Give us a break." The author of THIS article ended up quoting Michael Shermer of SKEPTIC magazine for the definition of "pseudoscience," and then didn't end up following it! Come on! SBHarris 03:54, 8 April 2010 (UTC)

Ugh, this is such a textbook case for why wp:BURO is so important. Brangifer has basically created a mire of misapplied policy, malformed and misleading RfC's, and etc., and is tendentiously clinging to these procedural points in order to hammer through an absolutely inane and unsupportable misconstrual of the NSF's document. If it were a joke, it might be funny, but as a reality it's just sad. unfortunately, I suspect there is nothing in this universe that will make him back down and see reason at this point (he's far too committed to the cause). How do we deal with an editor who has simply sacrificed rationality to achieve a goal like this? --Ludwigs2 06:47, 8 April 2010 (UTC)
Bull, you asked what I meant. The answer is rather simple. I have to say first that I haven't carefully studied the enormous word count on this topic in various fora, so my impression may be mistaken. However, that impression is that the NSF called these things pseudoscience but didn't really mean it. Obviously, as a matter of common sense, it's absurd to call Buddhism, Hinduism & fundamentalist Protestantism pseudoscientific simply because some people claim to have scientific support for some of their ideas. It's those claims that are pseudoscientific: psychical research, reincarnation research & "creation science". The NSF is a proper authority for that, but not for the other. Unfortunately they don't seem to have made that distinction clear.
So, as a matter of common sense I tend to agree thus far with the other 2. However, there's no law of nature that says Wikipedia policy must accord with common sense. Your interpretation may very well be correct, though there's always IAR. Peter jackson (talk) 17:19, 8 April 2010 (UTC)
You say "However, that impression is that the NSF called these things pseudoscience but didn't really mean it." The NSF didn't call anything anything unless it did so policy-wise, which would mean the National Science Board, which directs them, did it officially. Otherwise, their editorials and side-statements are rather informal, and have to be. This whole discussion is sort of like finding some statement in the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano and deciding that, due to its source, it's authoritative and must represent an infallible teaching of the Roman Catholic church. SBHarris 18:04, 8 April 2010 (UTC)
@ Sbharris: exactly. --Ludwigs2 18:20, 8 April 2010 (UTC)
Peter and Sbharris, it's so nice to have a reasonable discussion without all the personal attacks! I can respect that. Thanks. It's appreciated, and I understand what you mean.
Peter Jackson, you're right that the NSF/NSB statement didn't make the distinction very clear. That's true, and it would have been nice if they had. I still have no problem with the statement because I (following the rules of hermeneutics) interpret statements so that internal consistency is maintained. The whole page on which the pseudoscience section is found discusses the reasons why pseudoscientific beliefs exist and are accepted uncritically, and I interpret the list in that light. They seem to be referring to current beliefs, not ancient superstitions. While they only use the words from the Gallup Poll list, IOW a very simple wording, each word can be interpreted, and I believe they should be interpreted so that they make sense in the context. When they mention witches, they are obviously not referring to little children in Halloween costumes, but to the very real beliefs in the power of witchcraft held by some modern Wiccans and others. Even our article recognizes this and the word witch redirects to witchcraft. There are definitely modern individuals, who because of lack of critical thinking and lack of scientific knowledge hold to such beliefs, and their belief in witches can rightly be labelled "pseudoscientific beliefs". The other words that are questioned should be parsed in the same manner. As to your mention of "Buddhism, Hinduism & fundamentalist Protestantism", they don't go there and neither do I, so in this context it raises a straw man example that should best be left out of this discussion. I do appreciate your well-reasoned comments and welcome them. Please continue.
Sbharris, our policy regarding RS doesn't require that all sources be policy statements. I don't believe, have never claimed, nor even intimated that this was some kind of policy statement. It's a V & RS statement from a notable scientific organization. They publish the SEI document every other year. That's all it is and it doesn't need to be anything more than that to be usable. What's notable about it is that it's the only place on the NSF website that uses the word pseudoscience, so, per FRINGE and the FRINGE ArbCom it's notable enough for use and should be taken seriously. As to infallibility, nothing in science is infallible, and we constantly use fallible statements from RS. Is it a violation of the RS policy to use fallible statements? I think not. "Verifiability, not truth" means that statements from RS must be verifiable, but not necessarily even true, since one editor's "truth" is another editor's "error". Wikipedia doesn't sit in judgment, it just reports, and it can report this statement. On that basis there is no reasonable cause for eliminating the source and statement from Wikipedia as Hans Adler and Ludwigs2 seem intent on doing in such a disruptive manner. Ludwigs2 has even expressed a desire to "dispose of the word pseudoscience entirely" in our editing at Wikipedia! That tells us where he's coming from, but fringe advocacy editors don't deserve support for such a mission. In fact, such a mission violates the whole idea of this encyclopedia. In this regard Ludwigs2 and the banned User:Martinphi are pretty much twins in their thinking, mission here at Wikipedia, and their attempts to tweak and change our most fundamental policies in favor of fringe and paranormal ideas (often correctly labelled "pseudoscience"). Sbharris, I enjoy your comments and hope you will continue to discuss and enlighten. This is the only way toward a meeting of the minds. -- Brangifer (talk) 01:17, 9 April 2010 (UTC)
Well, I never see anybody use the phrase "verifiability, not truth" (which is not in any current policy), without them defending some oddity which is of verifiable provenance, but of dubious truth! Our citation sources per WP:RS are supposed to be "reliable" and that MEANS "likely to be true," so it's not a "this, not that" thing. In this case, the question before us is the "true" definition of a word. Who do you go for, to get reliable definitions? So what would our reliable sources be, here? This is not really a scientific word. The word does not fall under the authority of the International Committee for Weights and Measures, nor is it defined by (say) IUPAC. So who do we go to? The [5] Glossary of the American Council on Science and Health says that "pseudoscience" is "Any activity, practice, system, methodology, or theory that simulates science, or that is described as science, but lacks a scientific basis." Well, that wouldn't be simple belief in ghosts. My own friend Michael Shermer of SKEPTIC mag, a well known authority on pseudoscience (having published many books on the subject), says much the same. says the word dates from 1844 and is: "a system of theories, assumptions, and methods erroneously regarded as scientific." Okay, that leaves out simple belief in ghosts. In fact, the only place I've been able to find that assumes that the belief in ghosts is "pseudoscience," is the NSF publication you're using.

Okay, so how about we do this for our NPOV exercise. You take the first ten dictionary entries you can find for the word, and say something like: "Although the simple belief in ghosts is not "pseudoscience" in the following list of ten sources and dictionaries, one article published by the NSF considers it so: "NSF stuff". And then go on.

That will fix your article writing problems, but not your categorization problems. Unfortunately, that is not as ammenable to two-valued thought, because you have to pick one thing or the other. So that leaves you kind of stuck. NPOV doesn't work when it comes to the internal syntax WP works by, because this often cannot be fuzzy. However, this is WP's problem, not mine. I didn't make up the silly rules around here. I personally would have done it differently. SBHarris 03:24, 9 April 2010 (UTC)

I'm not sure what your whole point is. It seems to be a new discussion, rather than a response to my comment. I will comment on one thing. "Verifiability, not truth" is pretty fundamental to our Verifiability sourcing policy: "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth—what counts is whether readers can verify that material added to Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source (see below), not whether editors think it is true." That's what this boils down to. Gwen Gale cited this in her closing of both RfCs. Of course we strive for truth, but since editors often have totally differing opinions about what is the truth of a matter, as in this case, Wikipedia withholds judgement and just cites V & RS. -- Brangifer (talk) 04:31, 9 April 2010 (UTC)
You are missing the word "threshold" here. Verifiability is the threshold that something needs to cross before it can be included. It doesn't follow that we have to mention everything that is "verifiable" in our technical sense. Especially if it's neither notable nor correct, as in this case, we simply leave it out. It's not the purpose of an encyclopedia to spread non-notable misinformation. Hans Adler 15:54, 9 April 2010 (UTC)
"Non-notable misinformation"? You have a very short memory:
I'm closing this RfC as National Science Foundation is a reliable source for stating that "belief in ghosts and spirits" are "pseudoscientific beliefs." Editors should keep in mind that the NSF position on this is meaningful, notable, reliable and scientific. ... en.Wikipedia is not about truth, it's about verifiability. Gwen Gale (talk) 15:40, 15 March 2010 (UTC) (All emphasis original.)
The majority of editors in two RfCs and the closing comments by Gwen Gale all disagree with you. -- Brangifer (talk) 07:18, 10 April 2010 (UTC)
Wrong. The NSF is a reliable source for stating such a thing. Nobody doubts that as far as I am aware. Gwen Gale later clarified that she did not mean to say that your particular NSF NSB source actually states this. And in fact it doesn't. Your RfC begged the question. If this was an acceptable technique I could simply start an RfC on whether disruptive spammers and misquoters should be banned (giving you as an example without stressing that that is what it's really about), with the predictable result that yes, they should be. And then claim that all the time it was clear that the RfC is about you. It doesn't work that way, and it shouldn't. You will be banned or topic banned the proper way, but it's going to take time and effort. Hans Adler 07:41, 10 April 2010 (UTC)
@ brangifer: you know, I'm still amused at how you can accuse someone of attacking you, and turn right around and attack them in turn. have you ever hear the term noblesse oblige? You can accuse me of being a Fringe advocate all you like - any time I need to I can demonstrate (as I have before) that I have a far better understanding of scientific reasoning and scientific practice than you do. That is a matter of demonstrable fact. I'm sorry that you are so convinced of the rightness of your position that you can no longer appreciate proper scholarly reasoning, but that is not my problem. --Ludwigs2 04:11, 9 April 2010 (UTC)
Pot. -- Brangifer (talk) 04:31, 9 April 2010 (UTC)

I'm not sure what distinction you're trying to make here.

  1. Reincarnation is
    1. part of traditional Hindu & Buddhist doctrine
    2. claimed by some people to be susceptible of scientific investigation/proof
  2. ghosts are
    1. part of traditional Buddhist cosmology (not sure about Hinduism)
    2. part of folklore &/or "superstition" in many cultures
    3. claimed by some people to be susceptible of scientific investigation/proof
  3. the creation of the world a few millennia ago is
    1. a dogma of many Protestant fundamentalists
    2. claimed by some people to be susceptible of scientific investigation/proof

Now, which of these do you think count as pseudoscientific & which not, & why? Peter jackson (talk) 13:47, 9 April 2010 (UTC)

Here is the answer according to BullRangifer: 1 and 2 are pseudoscientific because he found a super-turbo excellent source for this (more precisely: belief in 1 or 2 is pseudoscientific according to the source; I must say it in this way because otherwise BullRangifer would attack me for being imprecise), but not 3 because he doesn't have such a source in that case.
Of course what really happened is that in the Bush era the NSB tried to get money out of US politicians for fighting against creationism. It wouldn't have been wise to say that clearly, so they just talked about pseudoscience in general, and instead of giving the most obvious example they listed some paranormal topics as if they were all pseudoscience – presumably in the hope that even fundamentalist Christian politicians would not be opposed to fighting belief in ghosts and reincarnation. Hans Adler 15:29, 9 April 2010 (UTC)
Hans, don't speak for me. I hadn't gotten around to answering that, and I wasn't even sure whether I should since it isn't about building the article, but is about personal beliefs. We've all indulged in that too much and it looked like a trick question. It's also about whether these are "pseudoscientific" (something which has a clear definition), not whether they are "pseudoscientific beliefs" (something that is much broader), which is a slightly different topic. This whole debacle isn't supposed to be about "truth", or whether anyone of us believe or don't believe in ghosts, but about whether the NSF/NSB said what they said. That's what editors are supposed to focus on, not whether they agree with the source. Did the NSF/NSB's exact quote state what it stated, or was it deserving of your inaccurate (downright false) "failed verification" tag? It was properly removed with the edit summary stating "the list of ten items is clearly in the cited reference." Your overreaction to that removal is what got all this started again. I hadn't touched the subject for some time. -- Brangifer (talk) 07:11, 10 April 2010 (UTC)
The "failed verification" tag was my proposed compromise, to give you time to understand that you are wrong and it is in fact a misquotation. What we normally do with misquotations is remove them altogether. I had assumed, incorrectly it seems, that by now you had cooled down and were seeing things more clearly. Obviously I was too optimistic.
By the way, do you have any comments regarding the latest news about your infallible oracle? See #NSF. Hans Adler 07:21, 10 April 2010 (UTC)

Why is this discussion being "resumed", or kept alive? Brangifer has had ample opportunity to demonstrate his exasperating cluelessness. Nothing of interest will come from this. At some point, it is best to just let it be. --dab (𒁳) 18:14, 9 April 2010 (UTC)

Thanks Dbachmann. I've been wondering the same thing, but it was resumed by Hans Adler. His inaccurate tag was removed by another editor, he overreacted by removing the entire section, and now we're here. -- Brangifer (talk) 07:11, 10 April 2010 (UTC)
That's easy to answer. it's being kept alive because otherwise brangifer will continue to push this silliness into more and more areas of wikipedia (if you think this stops with 'ghost', you're mistaken). Ignoring the symptoms is fine if you're convinced the cause will go away in time, but that seems unlikely in this case. --Ludwigs2 18:34, 9 April 2010 (UTC)
I hadn't touched the subject for some time. This all started again when Hans overreacted to the removal of his inaccurate tag by another editor. -- Brangifer (talk) 07:11, 10 April 2010 (UTC)


Each of the following of the Science and Engineering Indicators refers to belief in ghosts explicitly as a pseuoscientific belief.

"SEI is prepared by the National Science Foundation's Division of Science Resources Statistics (SRS) under the guidance of the National Science Board (Board). It is subject to extensive review by outside experts, interested federal agencies, Board members, and NSF internal reviewers for accuracy, coverage, and balance."

2002 Chart from 2002 2004 2006 Chart from 2006

Forgive me if these are already referenced. Perhaps spend a moment to read them. Guyonthesubway (talk) 21:43, 9 April 2010 (UTC)

It's not as if this hasn't been discussed before. See User:Hans Adler/NSF disruption to get an approximate idea of the extent of the disruption caused by BullRangifer spamming this source to more than a dozen articles. See User:Hans Adler/Science and Engineering Indicators for my analysis of the 2006 source – an extremely poor one for the statement you want to use it for. The other two aren't better. Hans Adler 21:50, 9 April 2010 (UTC)
Bravo Hans! You, Ludwigs2 (and others) are tremendously kind to devote such time and effort. Well done and thank you.—Machine Elf 1735 (talk) 22:14, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
The document is subject to "extensive" peer review and clearly references ghosts as a pseudoscientific belief. Case closed. (btw, I'm not interested in your opinions of another editor, thanks.) Guyonthesubway (talk) 22:01, 9 April 2010 (UTC)
The three documents don't claim to be establishing novel claims about philosophy of science, and the claim that ghosts are pseudoscience is obviously false when taken out of the original context (where it is merely sloppy) and doesn't appear anywhere else. Case closed. Hans Adler 22:04, 9 April 2010 (UTC)
PS: Thanks for the links to the two charts. I was not aware that these charts are part of the NSB's SEI reports. They clearly (and correctly) put certain ghost-related beliefs under paranormal beliefs, which is obviously correct and not contentious at all. What is contentious (surprisingly, as it is so obviously goofy) is the claim that belief in ghosts is a pseudoscientific belief. In most cases it has nothing to do with anything that could be confused with science, so this is obvious nonsense. One can say that something is nonsense without scientific foundation and not stretch the word for a particular type of such nonsense beyond all reason. The English language is rich and allows us to express nuances. Encyclopedias are among those places where it is most important to get these nuances right. Hans Adler 22:16, 9 April 2010 (UTC)
Yup, the Gallup organization terms this beliefs as 'paranormal' while the NSF terms them Pseuoscientific. So it would be correct to say 'Gallup terms these beliefs as paranormal' just as it would be correct to say 'NSF terms these beliefs as pseudoscientific'. The more reputable source on terminology here whould be NSF, the science body, as opposed to the consumer polling company. Unless you think Gallup is a better authority....Guyonthesubway (talk) 22:24, 9 April 2010 (UTC)
Guyonthesubway (talk) 22:24, 9 April 2010 (UTC)
They are both V & RS which we often cite. While Gallup can only be cited as stating they are paranormal, the NSF can be cited for stating that these paranormal beliefs are pseudoscientific beliefs, which makes sense. -- Brangifer (talk) 07:41, 10 April 2010 (UTC)
The SEI is not a magical document that is somehow right about everything, including things far outside its focus. It is created under time, resource and political constraints: [6]. This incident also demonstrates that if something disappears from SEI, this may well have a reason such as the NSB thinking it shouldn't have been there in the first place. The pseudoscience section of SEI currently talks only about belief in astrology. Hans Adler 03:54, 10 April 2010 (UTC)
According to an NSB member, the pulled questions that the report is about were "flawed indicators of scientific knowledge because the responses conflated knowledge and beliefs". I am not sure I can agree with the NSB in this specific instance, but they had previously pulled the paranormal stuff from the "pseudoscience" section in 2008 [7], and they did in fact suffer from the described problem by conflating Buddhists etc. with pseudoscience believers. Hans Adler 04:33, 10 April 2010 (UTC)
I'll just note, so no one gets confused, that your comment is regarding the failure to mention evolution and the big bang in the 2010 SEI report, not anything about pseudoscience or the current subject. -- Brangifer (talk) 07:31, 10 April 2010 (UTC)
The news report I cited is about the NSB withdrawing language it used in earlier SEIs, because they now consider it incorrect. They would not normally have made this public, but someone noticed a paragraph was removed from the draft, didn't like it, and brought it in the news. This shows that your infallible source isn't actually infallible and that removal of information from the SEI, from one version to another, may be a sign of the NSB noticing problems in the earlier version. As people keep telling you. But it would have been a misquotation even in 2007, i.e. before the 2008 version without the list of 10 paranormal items came out. But of course to see this a scientific, rather than pseudo-scientific quote-mining mind is required. Hans Adler 09:34, 10 April 2010 (UTC)
Our job is to follow the sources. If you find a RS that documents this OR of yours, the situation will change and we'll document it. Until then we use what we have, regardless of whether you think it's "true" or not, per WP:V. -- Brangifer (talk) 05:42, 11 April 2010 (UTC)
yes, our job is to follow the sources, not misrepresent them. that's the point you keep missing, BR. --Ludwigs2 06:45, 11 April 2010 (UTC)
"Misrepresent them"? In what way is using the NSF/NSB statement to document that the NSF/NSB wrote what they wrote a misrepresentation? That's my main concern. That's about as NPOV a manner to use the statement as I can think of, and neither of you will allow that NPOV usage. Take a look at the way it's used at Pseudoscience. It's attributed properly so it's presented as their opinion. What's wrong with that? -- Brangifer (talk) 15:42, 11 April 2010 (UTC)
As I explained at WP:RS/N#Science and Engineering Indicators 2006 the problem is that (1) it's not at all clear that it's actually their opinion, because it only appears in passing in a report about something completely different, and (2) even if it was an opinion, it would still be an extreme violation of NPOV to put it in the leads of our articles, because that gives it a lot more significance than the NSB itself gave it. Encyclopedias summarise the published facts and opinions. If you think we are in the business of inflating published opinions then you are confusing Wikipedia with a blog. If you want to respond I suggest that you move this discussion to WP:RS/N, so that we finally get a centralised discussion. It's no fun to repeat the same things over and over again because the same questions keep coming on different pages. Hans Adler 15:57, 11 April 2010 (UTC)
There is now a centralised thread at WP:RS/N#Science and Engineering Indicators 2006. I suggest continuing all discussions there. I also suggest that those of us who are already heavily involved give fresh eyes a chance to judge the situation. I think the major arguments have already been outlined by BullRangifer and me. Hans Adler 08:27, 11 April 2010 (UTC)
I share your interest in centralizing the discussion, but I disagree about the location as that's not the purpose of RS/N. It is only for discussing whether a source is a RS, not for whether a statement is true. (Keep in mind that even patently obvious lies, as established by the majority of RS, are used here at Wikipedia simply because we use them to document that a POV exists. Their framing is of course very imporant.) What other step in DR would be appropriate? -- Brangifer (talk) 18:02, 11 April 2010 (UTC)
I thought I had made it clear that the question I put before WP:RS/N was whether the SEI 2006 is a reliable source for what you are attributing to it (or rather the NSF/NSB). Of course the original context and the Wikipedia context cannot be ignored for this purpose. However, I would not object to moving the discussion to a subpage of WP:Centralized discussion and advertising it as an RfC or something in WP:CENT. It doesn't seem to get much attention in its present place anyway. Hans Adler 18:12, 11 April 2010 (UTC)
Maybe I have misunderstood you, so I'll ask you a question. What do you mean by "for what you are attributing to it"? It's not a trick question, but an attempt to make sure we are "on the same page." -- Brangifer (talk) 22:31, 11 April 2010 (UTC)
I mean the things you are putting in the leads of articles. If, for example, you make the lead of the ghost or pseudoscience article say "According to the NSB, belief in ghosts is belief in pseudoscience", then the context is set as follows:
  • ghost = the subject of ghosts in its full generality, including all its cultural connotations
  • pseudoscience = pseudoscience in the technical sense as defined in the article: "a methodology, belief, or practice that is claimed to be scientific, or that is made to appear to be scientific, but which does not adhere to an appropriate scientific methodology, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, or otherwise lacks scientific status."
This is not something they have said explicitly. They merely assumed it, even though they are not using a single source that claims it. It's also absurd, which makes it especially important not to misquote them. Note that in RationalWiki, for example, or in a book called something like "dictionary of pseudoscience", the situation is different because the context is explicitly set up so that the pseudoscientific aspects of all things are in the focus. In such a context Hamlet and other literary uses of ghosts are a marginal distraction, while in our context they are one of the main aspects, and certainly not pseudoscientific.
There is also the issue of what it means that the SEI 2008 and 2010 don't have the relevant section any more, especially in the context that they have pulled similar material as incorrect, for a reason that might apply here as well, but didn't publish that reason proactively. Hans Adler 05:12, 12 April 2010 (UTC)
As a related issue, see WP:LINKING#General points on linking style: "Items within quotations should not generally be linked; instead, consider placing the relevant links in the surrounding text or in the 'See also' section of the article."
The reason for this rule is that linking a term in a quotation often constitutes a misquotation, because in the original context the word did not have (necessarily) exactly the same meaning. Putting a literal quotation that uses the words ghost and pseudoscience in the lead of the ghost or pseudoscience article has the same effect as linking it and therefore can also constitute a misquotation. Hans Adler 05:18, 12 April 2010 (UTC)
Your first line contains a quote that you attribute as my doing. Did I really write something like that? Where did I do it? That doesn't look right as it's not their quote. I don't recognize that. If I did it I'll gladly fix it. -- Brangifer (talk) 05:23, 12 April 2010 (UTC)
Your last paragraph about linking (I assume you mean wikilinking) is something I vaguely remember. It can be problematic, so if there's a place where it creates a problem, let me know and I'll take a look. Thanks. -- Brangifer (talk) 05:26, 12 April 2010 (UTC)

Random break 1

<- I don't quite get the motivation here. There are a lot of people attempting to discredit a source to avoid the use of a single term.... Guyonthesubway (talk) 00:28, 12 April 2010 (UTC)

Fortunately it's not really "a lot". It just seems that way because Hans Adler and Ludwigs2 have been making lots of noise. It's basically lots of repetition, and when two do it the result is twice as much as my replies, which gives a false impression. Rereading the two RfCs is very interesting. Not only have these two been repeating arguments that were shown to be fallacious back then, some of the other opposers in the RfCs seem to have not even understood the issue (i.e. don't understand basic English), including one admin, and yet they mouthed off and revealed their confusion. That's really sad. The other admins, and even an ArbCom member, understood very well and supported the RfCs. The fact that these two remain a distinct minority should be raising red flags in their minds, but apparently not. Everyone else is wrong, and they only are right? Hmmmm.....-- Brangifer (talk) 02:15, 12 April 2010 (UTC)
As I said above, I agree with those 2 to the extent that I'd say that their view is the common-sense one. Whether it's also in accordance with WP policy I'm not going to bother arguing about. Peter jackson (talk) 10:50, 12 April 2010 (UTC)
And then there is also Dbachmann, who initially was involved in the issue at this talk page, and now also DGG and SlimVirgin at WP:RS/N. Hans Adler 12:28, 12 April 2010 (UTC)
I would fight in exactly the same way against anyone trying (with my knowledge) to force a quotation concerning "a river of orange juice" into our article river. This is about accuracy of the encyclopedia and normal (not even especially strict) academic citation standards. The only way in which the whole pseudoscience/scepticism debate is important to the dispute is that it makes some people automatically assume the worst about anyone who doesn't agree with them. Hans Adler 12:28, 12 April 2010 (UTC)
Ok.... but nither of your opinions of what is or isn't common sense are permissable here. NSF clearly sees ghosts within pseudoscience. Its right there in your face. The source is persmissible. It clearly says Ghosts are pseudoscience. I'm going to leave the interpretation of the term up to the people that do that sort of thing for a living. I can only assume that you're trolling, or attempting to inject your definition of the word into the article. Neither is laudable. Guyonthesubway (talk) 13:29, 12 April 2010 (UTC)
I can only assume that you are trolling or lack any ability or experience with scholarly work. But these personalisations really don't help. Hans Adler 13:47, 12 April 2010 (UTC)
What does this have to do with contributing here? Please show me the guideline that restricts editors to those that persue 'scholarly work', or gives your opinion any more weight under your scholarly abilities. I guess I thought it had something to with 'verifiability' and 'no original research'. You're giving your opinion weight over a good source, therefore either you're pushing a point of view or you're trolling. Cloaking yourself in 'expertdom' would tend to suggest POV, maybe you're not a troll. Guyonthesubway (talk) 15:40, 12 April 2010 (UTC)
Ah.. read the various RFx... you're a POV pusher, and this has already been decided. Guyonthesubway (talk) 20:48, 12 April 2010 (UTC)
No, it hasn't. Confirmation bias at work. The RfCs were closed basically with "NSF is a highly reliable source", which is unrelated to the dispute itself. This happened because BullRangifer didn't formulate the questions appropriately and instead chose to beg the question.
However, it is true that there was a lot of cluelessness, failure to actually read the source, and assumptions of bad faith in both RfCs, leading some editors to fully agree with BullRangifer, and explicitly so. But not enough for a consensus. Hans Adler 21:08, 12 April 2010 (UTC)
Hans, you can basically disregard anything Guyonasubway says - I've run into him before, and his only real purpose in life is to stir up aggravation. If you ignore him politely, he goes away, so wp:DNFTT. --Ludwigs2 21:54, 12 April 2010 (UTC)
My problem is a lack of time, same reason I don't read half of the condescending nonsense that comes out of either of you. Guyonthesubway (talk) 23:48, 12 April 2010 (UTC)
If you don't have the time to read the sources that BullRangifer is abusing, then don't abuse those who do. Hans Adler 05:49, 13 April 2010 (UTC)
There is nothing to indicate he hasn't read them. In fact, some of those who objected in the RfCs gave evidence that they hadn't read them, and SlimVirgin and DGG possibly as well. -- Brangifer (talk) 06:21, 13 April 2010 (UTC)
GS, it's not Hans's definition. Here's the Wiktionary definition:

Any body of knowledge purported to be scientific or supported by science but which fails to comply with the scientific method.

Does anyone seriously claim that Buddhism, folklore & "superstition" purport to be scientific or supported by science in their belief in ghosts? Peter jackson (talk) 09:39, 13 April 2010 (UTC)
Ghosts are an explanation for perceiving something.

Science (from the Latin scientia, meaning "knowledge") is comprehensive information on any subject, but the word is especially used for information about the physical universe

You heard/saw/smelled X, and you explain X with by saying "there is something that can defy the laws of physics, and it is the spirit of the dead". Ghosts are explanation of a physical phenomenom, but lacking a scientific grounding. "That chair just moved because of a ghost" is the spontaneous appearance of energy with no source. If we put this same conecept in a lab, it might be cold fusion, or perpetual motion. Ghosts are just older and steeped in tradition. So we have "science" (information about the physical universe) and "fails to comply with the scientific method" The NSF sure seems to think so.... Guyonthesubway (talk) 13:45, 13 April 2010 (UTC) Sorry...irrelevant original research. It's hard to suspend the "this is common sense let me explain" reaction. Guyonthesubway (talk)
Ha ha! Very understandable. It's hard not to reply to OR without using more OR. All of the objections refuse to follow our V & RS polices, but are instead based on personal belief objections about the truthfulness of the statement. -- Brangifer (talk) 14:00, 13 April 2010 (UTC)
BullRangifer, you are practising WP:IDIDNTHEARTHAT. I will say it for the last time, and the next 150 times I have to say the same thing again because you again prove that you didn't listen, I will simply create a section heading here and link to it:
Original research is perfectly proper when it is done for the purpose of evaluating the fitness of a source for presentation in Wikipedia, as opposed to putting the result of the research in an article.
Hans Adler 18:11, 13 April 2010 (UTC)
I listen, but I don't agree, just like all the other editors who have previously refused to be fooled by your specious arguments. There's a vast difference. When I referred to OR I was referring to your OR personal opinions for disagreeing with the consensus in the two RfCs. I'm not talking about typical OR. You have been using your own reasoning in the absence of RS which mention and disagree with the NSF/NSB's statement. Such use of personal opinion to reject a source is a form of OR POV pushing. It violates "verifiability, not truth". Your idea of truth must not be used to deny the verifiabilty (the threshhold for inclusion) of the statement. You have even gone so far as to use a "failed verification" tag on the statement! That was truly bizarre. By doing so you directly invoked the verifiability policy and violated it because your addition of the tag was based on your lonely POV on the truthiness of the statement. If you had V & RS that expressly commented on the exact 2006 SEI statement and questioned it, then we could at least cite that at the same time, thus documenting that there was a disagreement among RS, but you don't even have that kind of source to back up your POV. It's just your idea of truth, while others have their ideas of truth. None of those ideas trumps verifiability. -- Brangifer (talk) 01:59, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
BR, this is a poor source for the claim, period. V not T doesn't mean that every single source must be used in every WP article to which it could possibly apply, no matter how inappropriately. It looks like a press release (is it? does anyone know who that specific webpage is aimed at?) with no byline, citing some Gallop polls and someone's unusual opinion that walking under ladders and having lucky numbers is pseudoscience, which is silly. If it's not silly, please find some other reliable sources who make that claim. If there's no difference between pseudoscience and irrationality, then we may as well use the latter and be done with the former. If the former is going to retain any meaning, it shouldn't be used as loosely as this. SlimVirgin talk contribs 02:07, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
SV, as an admin you should be ashamed of yourself for using such a mixture of blatent straw man arguments, all in one paragraph. You're also ignoring the consensus in two RfCs. You disagree with Gwen Gale, Coren, and several other admins, as well as the majority in both RfCs. That's just plain disruptive and tendentious editing against the consensus. You are aiding and abetting disruption and should think twice. You have been advised of this before and I'll also note this absurd, policy-ignoring comment of yours as another piece of evidence for future use. Note that your adminship is on the line. -- Brangifer (talk) 05:47, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
I paid for an argument. This is not an argument, it's just contradiction. [8] Hans Adler 05:36, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
That's a very aggressive way to approach things, BR. I'm far from ignorant about policy. I've not looked carefully at the RfC you mention (it's hard to keep up with things, and the latest one says the opposite so far as I can see), but I'm betting you didn't phrase the question quite correctly. Any experienced editor familiar with policy would hesitate to use that source in the way you're using it. Could you explain why you're so keen on that particular source, given the trouble its use is causing? Can you look for others instead? SlimVirgin talk contribs 05:56, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
You did ask a misleading question. "Please weigh in on whether the National Science Foundation is a reliable source for stating that 'belief in ghosts and spirits' are 'pseudoscientific beliefs'. The source is in fact a chapter, or summary of a chapter (I still can't work out what this is), with no byline in Science and Engineering Indicators 2006 that summarizes some polls. [9] And that says or implies that things like having a lucky number are pseudoscience. Had you asked the question carefully and neutrally I think you might have had a different response.
Guys, this is a poor source and an odd issue to be causing such upheaval over. If the issue isn't contentious there will be better sources for it out there. If there aren't that will tell us something. So please look for other sources. SlimVirgin talk contribs 06:03, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
You really should study both RfCs, especially the one about this article. Gwen Gale did it enough to make a very clear conclusion, one which was an echo of the overwhelming consensus. Other admins (except for a couple fringy ones) supported them, including Coren, an ArbCom member. This is about the verifiability of a statement from a very notable RS, and other speculations and personal beliefs need to be kept out of the discussion. It is especially on that last point where you are ignoring policy. "Verifiability, not truth" is designed to keep such arguments from being used to exclude good sources. The reason there has been trouble is exclusively because of two editors who have refused to abide by the consensus. They are the ones you should be blocking for their disruption over the last two months. I'm the one who has acted in good faith, and they are the ones whom you're protecting? Very odd indeed. -- Brangifer (talk) 06:24, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
First, who is an admin or ArbCom member makes no difference; we're here as editors. Secondly, you asked the wrong question, in my view so the RfC is undermined. Third, the more recent RfC is deciding against labelling this as pseudoscience, which I know is yet another question, but it's not unrelated. But can you tell me why you won't look for another source? That's the standard thing to do when something is challenged. Look for another source to support it. The more sources you produce that say the same thing (so long as they're not just mirroring the first), the less anyone can argue with you.SlimVirgin talk contribs 06:43, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
First, I agree that it shouldn't make any difference if a !voter is an admin, but the consensus was clear and has been ignored.
Second, I started with the right question because the process of adding material to Wikipedia starts with making sure the source is verifiable and reliable, then making sure the proposed addition is worded properly. That's why I started with that wording. Since I got a resounding "yes", I acted in good faith and applied existing policies (the Psi part of NPOV from the Psi ArbCom decision regarding how we treat pseudoscience, and the FRINGE guideline) to make use of the approved content. That's the proper way to do things. Always follow policy. IF the objectors had used policy-based arguments I would have listened, but they used their own personal beliefs instead. Thus their arguments had no weight with me. I try to follow our sourcing policies.
Third, yes, that is another question, but since I chose to follow the existing policy, I didn't read the other RfC carefully since a local RfC cannot overturn a major policy and ArbCom decision. From what I did notice from casual observations of that RfC, it too was based on personal beliefs rather than authoritative sources and policies. I do agree that much of the subject of ghosts isn't pseudoscience, but some of it is (most notably the basis for believing in them). Regardless of that point, it is still proper to note what RS say about the matter. When someone as notable as the NSF/NSB makes such a statement, it is totally NPOV to write that they say it. The statement was attributed properly and not added in a manner that made the article say that belief in ghosts was pseudoscience. All it said was that the NSF/NSB believed that such beliefs are pseudoscientific beliefs. There is a vast difference. Apparently NPOV statements from notable sources aren't allowed anymore.
I'm not refusing to look for another source. I just have other things on my mind right now. Right now I'm still in shock after learning that the consensus in an RfC has no binding weight. I thought that RfCs were part of dispute resolution and that they had binding weight. It should be made plain in the instructions regarding RfCs that they may be an exercise in futility as the consensus of an RfC has no binding weight, IOW it is something that can be ignored with complete impunity by anyone who disagrees with the result, even to the point of edit warring, lying about the one who started the RfC, failing to AGF, calling what they say "lies", continually making nasty comments, calling them "stupid", etc., etc., all done without any admin stopping them and blocking them for disruption. (Oh, actually Ludwigs2 DID get blocked, but was promptly unblocked when he promised not to edit the Ghost article. His attacks got so bad I had to ban him from my talk page, a very rare thing for me to do.) I thought consensus was very important around here, but apparently not.
Have you gotten around to reading the sources and the RfCs yet? I am very disappointed that you made so many strong statements as you did without doing so. You have chosen a side and made remarks based on ignorance of the conflict at hand and the sources involved. That's not very wise. Such actions have seriously undermined my confidence in you as an admin. That you chose the side you did was no surprise since you have often sided with fringe POV and are known as a defender of fringe subjects and the often disruptive editors who push them (just like one member of the ArbCom), but as an admin you should know better than to lend the weight of your position in making statements (as an admin) about something which you admit to not having studied. That's been a very shocking and disappointing thing to witness. Otherwise I generally trust you to be a good admin. Remember that. But in this case I believe you have blundered big time. I truly wish to regain confidence in you, but I'll need to see some change of MO. Please don't express yourself on matters before you do your homework, and don't let personal beliefs override our sourcing policies. -- Brangifer (talk) 01:10, 15 April 2010 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Point is, BR, that you seem to have become an online activist about adding the word "pseudoscience" to articles. It's causing a fair bit of trouble, and tens of thousands of words of debate, so please stop. There are better ways of making the same point, where it needs to be made. SlimVirgin talk contribs 01:13, 15 April 2010 (UTC)

Random break 2

<-Peter, none of those things are mentioned in the quote and no one is questioning the standard definition of "pseudo-science", which, BTW, isn't the only definition. The Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience (right here beside me) makes it clear that the concept is a broad one with no absolute definition and it's used in many different ways.

That's not what this is about. This is about what the source actually says, not whether we agree with it. Our verifiability policy explicitly disallows our personal beliefs about the truthiness of a statement being used as a reason for excluding it, especially when its truthiness is hotly disputed by only a few editors who lost two RfCs which determined the statement was true and proper. Hans Adler's claim about the way the RfCs were "basically closed as" is totally false. The RfCs were closed very explicitly as the statement was true and the source reliable for making that exact statement:

I'm closing this RfC as National Science Foundation is a reliable source for stating that "belief in ghosts and spirits" are "pseudoscientific beliefs." Editors should keep in mind that the NSF position on this is meaningful, notable, reliable and scientific. ... en.Wikipedia is not about truth, it's about verifiability. Gwen Gale (talk) 15:40, 15 March 2010 (UTC) (All emphasis original.)

Note that the quote under discussion is about "pseudoscientific beliefs" (a broad concept related to faulty thinking), not "pseudo-science" (a more narrowly defined concept related to claims). They're related, but not exactly the same. The source page quotes arch skeptic Michael Shermer's definition favorably. It's an excellent definition with which I fully agree. The page also liberally discusses pseudoscientific "beliefs" and expresses deep concern for the causes of such beliefs: lack of scientific insight, lack of critical thinking, in short just plain muddled thinking. This is discussed at length. The use of the term "pseudoscientific beliefs" is no accident, and it isn't in conflict with the definition of "pseudoscience" since it's a slightly different concept. If you forget that, the discussion becomes muddled and confusing.

The quote is an exact quote (with the necessary added attribution) published on the National Science Foundation website in the 2006 SEI Report prepared biennially by the National Science Board, whose membership is rather illustrious. Just follow the verifiability and reliable source policies without getting into OR discussions about the truthfulness of the statement. It makes a huge difference if one seeks to understand the statement in the context of the page, or whether one seeks deliberately, as is being done by the objectors, to make it look like the writers hadn't a clue and were internally inconsistent. If one follows the standard principles of hermeneutics, one should seek to interpret everything on the page in a manner that maintains internal consistency, IOW one should bend and twist one's own understanding, rather than bend and twist the source. That's where the learning really happens! -- Brangifer (talk) 13:49, 13 April 2010 (UTC)

BullRangifer, you are practising WP:IDIDNTHEARTHAT. I will say it for the last time, and the next 150 times I have to say the same thing again because you again prove that you didn't listen, I will simply create a section heading here and link to it:
The quotation is literal and a misquotation. Yes, that's possible. And yes, that's what you have done.
Hans Adler 18:07, 13 April 2010 (UTC)
That's your lonely opinion. -- Brangifer (talk) 02:02, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
Is it? It would appear that the average creationist is more likely to agree with you than the average scientist. Hans Adler 05:12, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
By the way, sorry for being so strict with you. I notice that you recently wrote: "[e]diting here can be a very learning experience" [10], and although that was on April Fools Day you seemed to be serious. So perhaps we should all give you a few more years for learning how Wikipedia works, rather than picking too much on you when you are unintentionally introducing problems into our articles. Hans Adler 05:44, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
Not that it proves anything, as you seem to imply, but I've been here about two years longer than you and have about twice as many edits. My current (often pared) watchlist description: "You have 4,311 pages on your watchlist (excluding talk pages)." Big deal! Let's leave that stuff out of this. No matter how long we are here, we should be able to learn something. I think we can agree on that. -- Brangifer (talk) 06:29, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
Don't evade the question. Did you or did you not write: "Editing here can be a very learning experience"? You can claim as much as you want that you didn't mean it. I merely quoted your words literally. If you want I can start an RfC on the following question: "Is there any reason to suppose that when BullRangifer wrote 'Editing here can be a very learning experience' he wasn't serious?"
More seriously, by misquoting you in this blatant way I hoped to make you protest against the misquotation in words that you will understand when I apply them to your misquotation. It was an attempt to resolve our obvious communication problem, but you avoided addressing the appropriateness of the literal quotation, which I had of course taken from one context to a different context where it causes the wrong associations, and instead focused on other things. What a shame. Hans Adler 08:38, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
Evading what question? I don't get your point. Were you or were you not intimating that by admitting that it's a learning experience I was admitting I didn't know everything? If so, of course that's true. I don't, and neither do you. In your book, is admitting one doesn't know everything a sign of weakness? If so, I feel sorry for you. That would be a foolish attitude. Your associated comment right after it seems to back up my analysis even more. It very clearly intimates that such an admission indicated I was ignorant, more so than you, of how Wikipedia works, and that you'd give me some more years to learn (to catch up with your supposed superior knowledge). I then straightened you out on that one, but also noted that your invocation of experience/inexperience isn't necessarily the right criteria and said we should leave that out of the equation. I figured we could agree on that, but apparently you had some other agenda that didn't assume good faith, whereupon you launched into this attack on me. Very strange... -- Brangifer (talk)

I am amazed to see that it is still discussed. Even if a statement can be reliably supported, it doesn't mean it should be included without regard to other policies. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, our article on Ghost should be written in a neutral point of view. The view of ghosts as a topic of pseudoscience is extremely minor in a historical perspective and adding this would be pushing it. For this reason and others which have been given in prior discussions, we should not include it. Cenarium (talk) 13:10, 14 April 2010 (UTC)

In principle I agree. There are many criteria for inclusion and exclusion. In this case I was really in doubt because of the original objections of Ludwigs2, Hans Adler, and a couple known pushers of fringe POV. Since the arguments of such editors don't carry much weight because of their specious nature and failure to understand policy, I decided to get more input. I did what is recommended in such situations. I started an RfC on the matter and got a resounding "yes" that I was correct. In another RfC on the same matter, but for a different reason (a specific way to use the statement), I got another resounding "yes". In both RfCs these two objectors repeated their arguments which were repeatedly debunked by many others. A number of admins and at least one ArbCom member agreed with me. The RfCs were closed with very strong endorsement of the correctness of the statement for the proposed use. My actions from then on were based on a consensus regarding that source. Since the ending of the RfCs they have refused to abide by the consensus in those RfCs. All the while I have acted in complete good faith.
Even though the statement was properly sourced, exactly quoted, properly attributed, and from an impeccable source, IF they had used proper arguments based on policy, they might have quickly convinced me that there were indeed some situations where the statement should not be used in the way I proposed, but they didn't. Instead, they invoked their own beliefs regarding the truthiness of the statement (in violation of "verifiability, not truth"), without using a single RS that mentioned the NSF/NSB statement which criticized it. Now that would have been a new factor to consider, but I've never heard of such a critical source.
Here is the real kicker, they also repeatedly made a fatal blunder by denying that the exact quote even said what it said, which is of course nonsense. Hans Adler even used a "failed verification" tag which was removed by another editor. Hans then removed the statement entirely, which restarted this whole debate. His overreaction to a proper removal of his false tag was yet another disruptive action. That's why this is still being debated. I had pretty much dropped the matter and not touched it for a while. If editors would stick to policy and not invoke their personal beliefs about the truth of the statement, we'd have a much better discussion I'd be glad to consider more seriously. They fail to realize that they are discussing the definition of "pseudoscience", when the statement is about "pseudoscientific beliefs", a related but not identical matter. If they stop shooting beside the target we'd get somewhere. -- Brangifer (talk) 14:01, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
This post earned you a reminder in addition to your civility warning. The last editor in whom I have seen a similar degree of clueless obstinacy is currently on a 1-year Arbcom-mandated holiday. Hans Adler 15:44, 14 April 2010 (UTC)


Brangifer, if I were going to add a paragraph to the lead about the science aspect, I'd use an academic source such as Susan Blackmore. I've added something based on a paper of hers, just as an example, though I reverted myself. I think it's more solid than the NSF paper. Or you could use the papers Blackmore cites. SlimVirgin talk contribs 11:22, 14 April 2010 (UTC)

NSF Blackmore
Beginning with 19th century spiritism, various attempts have been made to investigate ghosts through scientific methods, but such efforts are generally held to be pseudoscientific.[1] A National Science Foundation report in 2006 on a recent survey of public opinion in the US, referred to belief in the existence of ghosts as a "pseudoscientific belief."[2][3] A 1991 poll in the U.S. reported that a quarter of people believed in ghosts, a level of belief that psychologists Susan Blackmore and Rachel Moore argue stands in contrast with the scientific evidence for paranormal phenomena, which they say is controversial to non-existent.[4]

SlimVirgin talk contribs 11:28, 14 April 2010 (UTC)

That would be an excellent addition. Of course its use as a replacement for the NSF statement would satisfy the believers in pseudoscience who edit here and hate the word. Note that this word, just like the word quackery, exists in the real world, but there are editors who wish to violate the purpose of the encyclopedia and deny the use of those two words. Any time those two words are quoted from even the most impeccable sources, there are those who create disruption to keep us from quoting them. This is one of those situations. Usually such editors get blocked fairly quickly. -- Brangifer (talk) 14:08, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
This is not the complete retraction of your unfounded allegations for which I have asked on your talk page. If this continues you can expect a civility block. Hans Adler 14:47, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
If you know that people have problems with the word "pseudoscience," BR, it would make sense not to go around trying to force it into articles. There are less provocative and more meaningful ways of saying essentially the same thing, and more appropriate sources, so it would make sense to use them. Words like "quackery," "pseudoscience," "pseudohistory," "pseudoscholarship," "terrorist" are just ways of saying "We don't like this." Better to spend a bit more time finding an academic source who makes a meaningful point. SlimVirgin talk contribs 21:52, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
@ SV: yes, well put. --Ludwigs2 22:11, 14 April 2010 (UTC)

So, since we're not to use the word "pseudoscience" with reference to belief in ghosts or gods or the supernatural (where it doesn't really fit), we're not even going to use the word "pseudoscience" at all, out of politeness, in the places where it does fit? Even in the cases of people who (for example) claim that they can cure every known disease with electronic devices of their own manufacture, where the word "pseudoscience" is exactly applicable and more descriptive than any other simple term? See the article on Hulda Clark, which I see avoids it. Or is the problem with that article, that we simply don't have a source for calling Clark's methods "pseudoscience"?

I resist the idea that the difference between pseudoscience and real science is simply aesthetic (whether somebody "likes" it). The airplane or the bridge built with certain methods, either stays up, or it doesn't stay up. There is no "like" or "dislike" involved. It stays up for believers and nonbelievers alike. Engineering and technology ride on natural science, not pseudoscience. You can call a thing a "Practice which is claimed to be science by some, but which does not work, is not the basis for any technology, and which is nearly universally regarded as not-a-science", but that's a lot of verbiage, for which a nice word in the dictionary was invented to replace. SBHarris 00:55, 15 April 2010 (UTC)

The common-sense approach is really very simple. If something purports to be science, you find out what the scientific community thinks of that by looking at reliable sources. If they say it's pseudoscience, there you are. If they ignore it, maybe Wikipedia should too. But if something makes no pretensions to being scientific in the first place, but is just religion, folklore or "superstition", then calling it pseudoscientific is just silly. Peter jackson (talk) 10:44, 15 April 2010 (UTC)
Are ghosts a "practice which is claimed to be science by some"? Haunted houses? Reincarnation? Witches? For all these topics there are likely relatively marginal subtopics to which your description applies. But so long as they have no prominence for the main topics, the main topics cannot be pseudosciences because they lack the similarity to science.
(By the way, if you try to devise a definition of pseudoscience you had better be careful that it doesn't cover cooking, child-raising, swimming etc.)
There are some of us here who don't want to read nonsense like the following:

The play opens on a cold night at Elsinore, the Danish royal castle. Francisco, one of the sentinels, is relieved of his watch by Bernardo, another sentinel, and exits while Bernardo remains. A third sentinel, Marcellus, enters with Horatio, Hamlet's best friend. The sentinels inform Horatio that they have seen a ghost that looks like the dead King Hamlet. The scientific consensus, as inadvertently expressed by the National Science Foundation when they quoted a Gallup poll on paranormal as the closest thing to pseudoscience they could find, is that there is a fixed list of ten subjects belief in which constitutes pseudoscientific belief. Ghosts are one of them. None of the ten subjects is creation science. After hearing from Horatio of the "ghost"'s appearance, Hamlet resolves to see the "ghost" himself. [...]

This was of course not an actual quotation, but a parody for clarity of what it is that I am trying to prevent. Hans Adler 11:12, 15 April 2010 (UTC)
I thought it was an actual quotation. Sounds just like a lot of Wikipedia. Take out the NSF stuff and you have a totally in-fictional-universe description, which is against WP policy. SOFIXIT. :) SBHarris 16:50, 15 April 2010 (UTC)