Talk:Richard L. Thompson/Archive 3
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Appropriate identification of sources
I have restored the identifying information for Morrow and Tarzia.
I have not tried to denigrate them. "Layman" is a neutral term. (If I were looking to denigrate, I could have said, for example, that Morrow has "no known scientific credentials." But my understanding of Wikipedia's ideals is that we're supposed to strive to be informative, neutral, and objective.)
As for Tarzia, I supplied the credentials by which, on his own website, he prefers to identify himself. It's hard to think he's indulging in self-denigration. The information I supplied is neutral and objective and comes from what I'd say, for identifying information, seems a highly reliable source, the man himself. Do you think there's something wrong with using the self-identification Tarzia himself provides?
Is there a reason why readers of this article should be deprived of the opportunity to know the credentials of the sources quoted and to use their own judgment in deciding how much credence to give them?
Could selectively suppressing minimal, neutral identifying information for sources used be an appropriate editorial approach for a project that aims at neutrality and objectivity?
With my respects to the other editors, for these reasons I have reverted.
- Hi, IRWolfie-. I notice you haven't answered any of the objections I articulate above. Could I ask you to do me the kindness of responding to them?
- As I said, the identification I gave for the sources is neutral and objective. Of course, I grant you that a reader informed of what credentials these sources bring to the subject might wonder (much as I did) how these sources could here be considered suitable. But that's not my fault; it's not due to any undue slant. Is it therefore right for us to solve the problem by making sure we keep the reader in the dark about who these sources are?
- I understand the term "original research," but I don't see precisely how it would apply here. Would you like to clarify what you mean?
- Ok, let's be neutral and objective. The important thing is not the authors but the publisher, so we can drop the names and just mention that one (Morrow's) is in a NCSE report and the other in their journal Creation/Evolution. I don't know Morrow's qualifications, but Thompson's a layman from an archaeologist's point of view, right? Dougweller (talk) 17:34, 17 March 2013 (UTC)
In our "References" section we have this:
- Rothstein, Mikael (2003), "UFO Beliefs as Syncretistic Components." UFO Religions, London; New York: Routledge, pp. 256–273, ISBN 0-415-26324-7
This doesn't relate to anything discussed in the article. If no one objects, I'll delete it.
Accurately citing Tom Morrow
Our article inaccurately reported what Tom Morrow said. I have revised the text so that now it's faithful to Morrow.
For your convenience, here's the relevant section of Morrow's article:
For all its densely technical discussions of archaeological anomalies, many critics complained that Cremo and Thompson bombarded readers with abundantly useless data. For example, FA devotes 400 pages to analyzing anomalous stone tools depicted in obscure literature over the past 150 years. Worse, these specimens no longer exist. So FA compensated by providing page after page of drawings taken from their original sources. But in his reprinted review on page 103, Kenneth Feder frets that these illustrations are absolutely useless because it is impossible to determine whether these Paleolithic tools are drawn to scale or accurately rendered.
Morrow (reliable source?) wrongly cites Feder, putting words in Feder's mouth (Feder doesn't say "absolutely useless"). But I have left that as is, pending discussion. Now, at least, our article rightly reports what Morrow wrongly says.
Comments cited from Tom Morrow
The current version said, "In what Tom Morrow referred to as a publicity stunt Forbidden Archeology was mailed, unsolicited, to a large number of paleoanthropologists, prominent paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey responded. . ."
I had intended to restore the previous version, with the following reasons in mind:
The objectively available information (presuming it's accurate) is this: When the book was mailed, unsolicited, to a large number of paleoanthropologists, Dr. Leakey sent the quoted response. (That's what the previous version said.)
But Tom Morrow presumes to know more: He knows why the book was sent. He knows the senders' motives. How does he know this? He cites no hard evidence. And presumably he's not gifted with paranormal powers (especially since his review disparages them). So his assertion seems no better than a guess, a speculation. That his guess is a "reasonable explanation" does not make it true. Alternative explanations, equally reasonable, are available: Perhaps Cremo and Thompson genuinely wanted the feedback of the scientists to whom they sent the book. Perhaps they were acting from a combative nature and wanted to get into an intellectual fight. Perhaps, consistently with the way the article portrays them, they were acting out of evangelistic zealotry, sending the poor, benighted scientists The Truth. These explanations might also be considered "reasonable." And I see no reason why Morrow's should be entitled to any special privilege.
Apart from that, judging from the rest of Morrow's review, his characterizing the mailing as a "publicity stunt" has all the signs of a sneer, a put-down. We might call it a speculation-cum-sneer. And this is not the stuff for an objective encyclopedia.
Those were my original reasons. I now have another one.
I had assumed that Tom Morrow was a credentialed scientist, perhaps a paleoanthropologist himself. Since he would presumably be well-networked with his colleagues, this would entitle him to special knowledge about who had received the book ("a large number of paleoanthropologists").
But when I look at "About the Author(s)" at the end of his review, I see only his name and his address -- no institutional affiliation, no special credentials. He's just Tom Morrow, from Washburn, TN. Nothing whatever to qualify him as an expert. (And elsewhere on the same site, authors who have special credentials have them mentioned.)
Moreover, his review appears on the website of the "National Center for Science Education." On closer inspection, the Center turns out to be "a not-for-profit, membership organization providing information and resources for schools, parents, and concerned citizens working to keep evolution and climate science in public school science education." "Our 5000 members," the site tells us, "are scientists, teachers, clergy, and citizens with diverse religious and political affiliations."
In other words, it is not a professional scientific organization but a special-interest group, of which some members (an unspecified proportion) are scientists.
I have therefore deleted not only Morrow's presumptions about why the book was sent but also his unsubstantiated statements about whom it was sent to.
Earlier in the article, an opinion from Tom Morrow is quoted. I will deal with that separately.
I have now deleted the earlier citation from Tom Morrow, as well as that from Wade Tarzia.
As mentioned above, we have no evidence that Morrow has any relevant professional credentials. Moreover, the article here doesn't accurately represent what Morrow said. "Tom Morrow, citing an earlier review of the book by archaeologist Kenneth Feder, states that a large proportion of the book is devoted to 'absolutely useless' analysis of outdated and poor-quality documentation, in obscure literature, of archaeological specimens that no longer exist." But what Morrow actually said is this: "FA [provided] page after page of drawings taken from their original sources. But in his reprinted review on page 103, Kenneth Feder frets that these illustrations are absolutely useless because it is impossible to determine whether these Paleolithic tools are drawn to scale or accurately rendered." By inaccurately citing, the article overextended what Feder said.
Now we come to Wade Tarzia. Here again, we see no evidence of professional qualification in the relevant disciplines. According to his own website, he is "Associate Professor of English, Naugatuck Valley Community College." Apparently he has a doctorate in comparative literature and folklore. Not more than that.
Moreover, the article published by Dr. Tarzia appeared not in a scientific publication but in Creation / Evolution, published by the above-mentioned National Center for Science Education, a nonprofessional citizens organization which Cremo describes as "a small and highly partisan anticreationist group" that has "ambitiously" given itself that title.
We ought to rely on better sources.
- Requiring that all sources have specific qualifications is rather arbitrary. See WP:RS. The material was published in a presumably reliable journal, thus we can presume it is reliable, IRWolfie- (talk) 13:02, 16 March 2013 (UTC)
- Hi, IRWolfie-. I've read [[WP:RS] (thanks for that). And I agree that we should not impose arbitrary qualifications on our sources.
- On that page you've recomended, I see, "Reliable sources may be published materials with a reliable publication process, authors who are regarded as authoritative in relation to the subject, or both. These qualifications should be demonstrable to other people."
- As I've mentioned above, neither for Morrow nor for Tarzia do we have evidence that they "are regarded as authoritative in relation to the subject." And we know nothing about the reliability of the publication process for the ambitiously named "National Center for Science Education." We do know, however, that it's not a scientific journal, leave aside peer reviewed, nor (correct me if I'm wrong) is it known for being an authority in the relevant fields.
- Moreover, we find that Tarzia has inaccurately represented the statements of Dr. Feder (who does have relevant credentials). This speaks poorly both for Tarzia's reliability and for the reliablity of his publisher.
- I also see, "The reliability of a source depends on context." Albert Einstein may be an authority on physics but not on lovemaking, Albert Ellis an authority on lovemaking but not on physics. Taking context into account, I don't see how being an associate professor of English at a community college or being a resident of Washburn, TN, makes one a reliable source regarding the subject of this article.
- Also, you have restored the inaccurate attribution to Dr. Feder and the garbled syntax of the sentence concerning Dr. Leakey.
- Would you be willing to reconsider?
- I wouldn't be. The statement by Tom Morrow is clearly attributed (a change I made), and the National Center for Science Education is a reliable source. Look at its officers, staff and supporters. Its president is the "Sir William Dawson Scholar at McGill University, where he also holds the Tomlinson Chair in Science Education and is both founder and Director of the Evolution Education Research Centre." It is associated with the American Association for the Advancement of Science. It played a key role in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case where it acted as consultants for the plaintiffs. Are you still unhappy with the Leakey quote? If so, why? Dougweller (talk) 13:53, 16 March 2013 (UTC)
- Your info on the NCSE makes clear that the organization has more weight than I thought. Thanks for that. I'm in fact delighted with the Leakey quote. It's clear and colorful, and it comes from a top expert in a centrally relevant field. Gold standard. More on Tom Morrow on some other occasion. Cordially, O Govinda (talk) 10:56, 25 March 2013 (UTC)
Back to Tom Morrow. He appears in two places. Easier to deal with them one at a time. Let's start here: "Tom Morrow says that, in what he refers to as a publicity stunt, Forbidden Archeology was mailed, unsolicited, to dozens of paleoanthropologists and that Leakey wrote the above assessment in response to a request for a book blurb."
What's written here is true: Morrow did say that.
Now let's look at the content of what he said. Morrow offers three assertions. Going from last to first: (1) Leakey wrote his statement in response to a request for a book blurb. (2) FA was mailed, unsolicited, to dozens of PA's. (3) The mailing was a publicity stunt.
I don't think this adds much to the article. And for most of what he says, I doubt he has a reliable way to know. Some of it, too, is probably wrong.
Let's look more closely.
As for (1): How does Morrow know that Leakey wrote in response to a request for a book blurb? We don't have any record that either Thompson or Cremo or their publisher said this, nor that Leakey said it. Nor could I find any other source through Google. Nor does Morrow cite a source. And for T&C to write Leakey for a blurb, though possible, seems doubtful.
A reliable source is, in essence, someone we can depend on to know what he's talking about. And here I see no sign that the source does know, or even has a way to know. And no other source verifies the statement. So I'd think we're looking at a statement unverifiable, low on reliability, and most likely false.
As for (2), I don't know how Morrow would know how many paleoanthropologists the book was mailed to. (Maybe it was "a buzz" going around?) Still, I think (2) is likely true.
As for (3) -- the assertion that the book was sent as a "publicity stunt" -- I've talked about this above, in a previous posting. Morrow's statement seems to be just a sneer, a put-down. In which case: So what? When someone like Leakey disparages a book about human origins, that's news. When Mr. Morrow or my grandma does, that's not.
We could say, "The material was published in a presumably reliable journal, thus we can presume it is reliable." But I don't think that's in line with WP policy (WP:Verifiability). The type of work, the publisher, and the writer can all affect reliability.
I suggest we delete this line as doubtful, unverifiable, and feeble. Leakey's quotation is powerful. This line from Morrow only weakens the article and its credibility.
- Take it to WP:RSN. Others may agree, I don't know. I don't think we will. Dougweller (talk) 11:25, 29 March 2013 (UTC)
I asked on RSN about Morrow's reliability. Two editors offered opinions.
Regarding Morrow's assertion about the "publicity stunt," the mailing of FA to dozens of paleoanthropologists, and the request from Leakey for a blurb. . .
WhatamIdoing (talk) replied, in essence, that the assertions are all plausible and that we don't care how the source came to his conclusions. I don't see how that answers the question of whether the source is reliable -- whether we can depend on him to reliably know what he's talking about -- but that's what she said.
TFD (talk commented, "I think WP:NEWSORG applies - it is an opinion piece and therefore we should not rely on factual information. I do not see the importance of explaining the circumstances that led to Leaky's comments." This makes sense to me.
Regarding Morrow's misquoting Feder (in fact, putting words in Feder's mouth), WhatamIdoing (talk) said, "We are not responsible for fact-checking Morrow. Morrow gives us Morrow's interpretation of Feder's view. We do not decide whether Morrow's view is right or wrong. We accept Morrow's view as being Morrow's view."
For me this doesn't compute. By such logic, if Morrow had said that Lincoln began his Gettysburg Address by saying, "Two score and seven years ago. . . ," we would accept it because we're not responsible for fact-checking Morrow. Morrow would be giving us Morrow's interpretation of Lincoln. And so we wouldn't decide whether Morrow's view is right or wrong. We would just accept Morrow's view as Morrow's view. Anyway. . .
What I propose:
For the reasons given by TFD, I propose we delete "Tom Morrow says that, in what he refers to as a publicity stunt, Forbidden Archeology was mailed, unsolicited, to dozens of paleoanthropologists and that Leakey wrote the above assessment in response to a request for a book blurb."
For the other stuff from Morrow: Even though he badly misrepresents Feder, I'd leave it alone for now, as sort of a placemarker for negative opinions, pending an overall improvement of the section, which I will propose in a new section below on this Talk page.
How does this seem to the other editors?
Improving the section on "Forbidden Archeology"
I think the section on FA deserves improvement.
It could have more substance to it, it could be more specific where it is now vague, and it could be better sourced. The criticisms could be expanded, made more pointed, and better articulated. And the arguments could also be made more balanced.
Much of the crticism now relies on writings published by the openly partisan NCSE and written by two men whose credentials are contextualy embarrassing. (And one, Morrow, puts his own words in the mouth of a credentialed source.)
As time allows, I'd like to replace much of this material with evaluations and criticisms from well-credentialed scientists -- such as Feder, Murray, and Wodak & Oldroyd -- writing in peer-reviewed journals.
And of course the juicy quotation from Leakey has to stay.
Does this seem all right?