Talk:William Herbert Sheldon

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
WikiProject Biography / Science and Academia (Rated Start-class)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Biography, a collaborative effort to create, develop and organize Wikipedia's articles about people. All interested editors are invited to join the project and contribute to the discussion. For instructions on how to use this banner, please refer to the documentation.
Start-Class article Start  This article has been rated as Start-Class on the project's quality scale.
Taskforce icon
This article is supported by the science and academia work group.
WikiProject Psychology (Rated Start-class)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Psychology, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of Psychology on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
Start-Class article Start  This article has been rated as Start-Class on the project's quality scale.
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the project's importance scale.

Add debunking studies[edit]

It'd be good to have some details of the debunking studies. matturn 11:56, 2 October 2005 (UTC)

That sounds like the talk of an ectomorph: don't just talk, man, act!
I doubt there are any. The reference ot the claim that Sheldon's work was dismissed is an article from a newspaper, which in turn does not reference anything. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:19, 20 October 2013 (UTC)

Temporary bio data for article until completed[edit]

He was born in 1898 and had a brother: Israel Sheldon.

Recent Times article[edit]

The Great Ivy Leage Nude Posture Photo Scandal Shinobu 02:40, 8 August 2007 (UTC)

Source for quackery text[edit]

Why this revert? The source (which is the New York Times) clearly and unequivocally states that Sheldon's "work has long been dismissed by most scientists as quackery." So where do you get the idea that this is "incorrect" or "unsupported by the source"? Please elaborate. MastCell Talk 05:32, 2 December 2011 (UTC)

And, while we are at it, I question the basis for this revert. According to WP:Sources, "reliable, third-party, published sources with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy" are acceptable - specifically listing "mainstream newspapers" as an option. I think the New York Times falls within this definition. Butwhatdoiknow (talk) 14:01, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
I have no intention of reverting anyone's edits at this article, but I agree with the editor who removed the NYT reference that an NYT article isn't a good source to use here. The NYT isn't a scientific journal, and the article's reference to "quackery" is vague and unsupported. "Quackery" isn't a precise term or a term with a proper scientific meaning; it's a term of abuse, and it's not proper to describe something as "quackery" in Wikipedia's voice. If Sheldon's work isn't considered scientifically valid, then find a better source for that, and explain it in suitably neutral terms. Polisher of Cobwebs (talk) 18:02, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
The New York Times is a good source, by this site's standards. In fact, it's the only decent source in the article at present - the only independent, reliable secondary source. It is a fact that Sheldon's claims are no longer taken seriously by the scientific community. That fact is properly sourced. By failing to present it, we're failing the reader, and I'm not sure why. We're not in the business of "watering down" reliable sources because we personally find them "abusive". The Times used the word quackery - a word with a strong but specific meaning. MastCell Talk 19:22, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
Give me a break. Wikipedia's policies shouldn't be followed slavishly for their own sake, and they aren't set in stone - they can be changed, like anything else on Wikipedia, if editors decide that that's appropriate. We should use common sense in deciding what sources to use, and if need be change policy accordingly. The fact that there currently isn't a better source than the NYT article doesn't make it a good source (it's a second-rate or third-rate piece of journalism), and though I'm not about to remove it, doing so would be a perfectly reasonable editorial decision. I have seen sources such as the BBC News removed from articles when editors judged that they were junk or saying something that was just wrong. And I stand by my judgment of "quackery" - though often used pejoratively to describe things that aren't scientific, it is itself an unscientific term, so it should hardly be used to represent the views of scientists. Polisher of Cobwebs (talk) 21:26, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
Remember too that just because a source says something, that doesn't mean we automatically have to repeat it in articles. For example, you could probably find a source saying that most scientists see Sigmund Freud's work as quackery, but that doesn't mean that we would have to quote it in the article on Freud, or stuff the "quackery" bit in the lead (I've worked hard trying to improve the Freud article, and keep it neutral, and would be strongly against such a thing). There's more reasonable and sensible criticism of Freud out there, and obviously the Freud article needs to reflect the best-quality criticism of Freud - same should go for Sheldon. Polisher of Cobwebs (talk) 21:26, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
Hmmm. If you really feel that it's inappropriate to cite the New York Times piece as evidence of the reception of Sheldon's work by mainstream scientists, then the next step is probably to solicit outside input, for example at the reliable sources noticeboard. While I agree that Wikipedia's policies are not to be followed slavishly, I fail to see how that mandates removing the lone independent, reliable source in the article. MastCell Talk 21:59, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
Here is the "reliable" phrase from the article:
"Mr. Sheldon has since died, and his work has long been dismissed by most scientists as quackery."
It is an outright weasel phrase and as such must be deleted on sight. There is nothing to discuss about it. The Wikipedia guideline says that "Phrases such as these present the appearance of support for statements but can deny the reader the opportunity to assess the source of the viewpoint."—Editor75439 (talk) 13:42, 4 December 2011 (UTC)
Say, I like a good argument as well as the next person. But isn't this one now moot?

I read it in the Times[edit]

It is a direct quote from the New York Times, so it cannot be a weasel word. I have restored the quote in the citation. Readers need to see how strongly or weakly worded the New York Times says his work has been refuted. --Richard Arthur Norton (1958- ) (talk) 04:50, 7 December 2011 (UTC)

I have a great deal of respect for the New York Times. That said, I don't think it has elevated the art of reporting to such a level that anything that appears in its pages is beyond question. Wikipedia is not bound to quote verbatim everything the NYT says. We give folks the cite and they can go look at the article if they want to read more. Butwhatdoiknow (talk) 12:32, 7 December 2011 (UTC)

Disproof - or proof - of scientific concepts[edit]

The scientific community cannot refute a concept just by saying that its author is a coin thief and his theory is quackery. A scientific concept can only be disproved by experimental evidence. All known experimental studies undertaken to test Sheldon's findings have produced supportive evidence for his position:

Sheldon maintained that the person's somatotype is genetically determined and causes people to develop and express personality traits consistent with their body builds. For example, he hypothesized that endomorphs (high in fatty tissue) would be sociable, complacent, and capable of easy communication of feelings. He thought mesomorphs (high in muscle tissue) would be adventurous, bold, competitive, aggressive, and energetic, whereas ectomorphs (low in fatty and muscle tissue) would be inhibited, introverted, hypersensitive to pain, and secretive. He tested these hypotheses by having observers rate individuals on these trait dimensions and found empirical support for his ideas (Sheldon, Hartl, & McDermott, 1949, pp. 26–27). Although this study has been strongly criticized on methodological grounds (Sheldon himself made both the physical and psychological ratings), more methodologically sound studies—in which investigator bias was minimized by having one investigator rate the somatotypes and having the study participants independently rate their own personality traits—have also produced supportive evidence for Sheldon's position (Child, 1950; Cortes & Gatti, 1965; Yates & Taylor, 1978).

Ryckman, Richard M. Theories of Personality Ninth edition, Cengage Learning, 2007, p. 260 (talk) 05:49, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
Please see the Talk page for Somatotype and constitutional psychology. BTW, I would be happy to see Polisher of Cobwebs (talk · contribs) or someone else taking a look at the "discussion" so far to try to salvage something out of this mess, using all available references (including, IIRC, one that Editor75439, who is likely the IP-address poster above, at first cited but dropped after someone pointed out that going on slightly further in the text indicated that the author actually disagreed with Sheldon). I'm too tired of all this. Allens (talk) 10:56, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
Ryckman disagreed with Sheldon by expressing a conjecture (not supported by any experimental evidence!) that the correlation between somatotypes and psychotypes is explainable by instilled cultural stereotypes. But this conjecture is an obvious absurdity because it implies that the sensitivity to sleeping pills, which in cerebrotonics is thrice lower than in viscerotonics, is a result of cultural stereotypes. — (talk) 11:50, 7 December 2011 (UTC)

Regarding the premise that "[a] scientific concept can only be disproved by experimental evidence": At what point does a "hypothesis" become a "concept" such that this rule applies? (And, while we're at it, what IS a "scientific concept"?) Butwhatdoiknow (talk) 12:41, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
It's basically a back-asswards rendition of the scientific method. In reality, a scientific concept must be proven by experimental evidence in order to be accepted. The burden of proof is on the person proposing a novel hypothesis. One very common hallmark of nonsense and quackery is that its proponents make a claim and then demand that science conclusively disprove it. MastCell Talk 19:26, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
I would not quite call it the burden of proof - it's more like the burden of showing that you've tried to disprove it and failed. (The "tried to disprove" efforts need to include attempts to show if any alternative reasonable hypothesis is more congruent with the evidence - or, to be precise, less noncongruent with the evidence.) But, yes, the burden is certainly on those trying to claim something. (This is one reason the precautionary principle is not scientific, incidentally - it removes the burden of proof from those making a claim, namely a claim of danger.) Allens (talk) 22:02, 7 December 2011 (UTC)


A "new" editor (who, having just started editing November 30, seems unusually adept at citing Wikipedia guidelines) seems to be removing any negative information from this article. This person has already had trouble complying with Wikipedia rules. I have restored the negative text. If that editor wants to re-write it so as to soften the impact, that is one thing. But removing it altogether seems to be censorship by someone who has an ax to grind. Butwhatdoiknow (talk) 16:52, 4 December 2011 (UTC)

An update: Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Enforcement#Editor75439 Butwhatdoiknow (talk) 19:03, 4 December 2011 (UTC)

Three more articles regarding Sheldon[edit]

The following may be of interest:, do a "find" for "Sheldon" - on his coin-collecting misdeeds, as is on a court decision regarding Sheldon that should be locatable (for an even better reference); and - a journal article on Sheldon that looks to be well-referenced if perhaps with some left-wing bias. Allens (talk) 08:07, 5 December 2011 (UTC)