"I hope no one believes what I say just because I say it" Charles Darwin
"In order to get people to believe you, you have to lie to them?" I Love Lucy
"Humankind can never have peace if it has not accomplished its task of learning." Francois Girambe, chairman of the national survivors group (for Rwanda genocide) called Ibuka
"There is a common saying in journalism, The first casualty of war is the truth. I disagree the first casualty of war is always the children." Jimmie Briggs author of Innocents Lost
"Those who spend to much time glorifying the past have a hard time learning from it." Sign hanging over the stage at Jonestown Guyana maybe.
"I really do love big brother" famous final words of Winston Smith as he awaited a bullet to the back of his head.
My best guess is that no one woke up thousands of years ago and said to themselves "I'm going to make massive monuments out of stones weighing well over 10 tons today and tomorrow I'm going to start a war with anyone who does the same thing and either kill him or be killed by him leaving no records of either of us."
Tomorrow there probably won't be many people that wake up and say "I'm going to do my part to destroy the biggest natural wonder (8,000 miles in diameter) ever today"
- 1 Direction of Wikimedia/pedia proposal
- 2 Preventing school violence controversy
- 3 Wikipedia POV
- 4 References
- 5 Bibliography
Direction of Wikimedia/pedia proposal
I have made a proposal that wikipedia and related wiki projects set a better example for the Mass Media. This would involve putting more emphasis on things that should be higher priority than what the Mass Media reports. The Mass Media spends too much time on trivial things like OJ, Monica etc. and ignore much more important issues. They routinely ignore the basics of just about every issue they report on. In many cases there is better information in the library or other credible sources than what the Mass Media uses. By relying on the public to choose the agenda wikipedia can do a much better job than the Mass Media if the editors take the time to think things through and recognize how the Mass Media is failing to cover some of the most important subjects properly. For more about this proposal see the following page: http://strategy.wikimedia.org/wiki/Proposal:Set_better_example_for_Mass_Media
Preventing school violence controversy
I have recently tried to provide some information from qualified professionals on how to prevent school violence. This has run in to a lot of controversy for reasons that I don't consider legitimate. One of the explanations why my edits were inappropriate was that it involved advocacy which I don't deny however advocacy is much more common than many people on wikipedia admit. In this case they deleted one form of advocacy based on academic sources about prevention of violence and allowed another that involved arming teachers. This is clear advocacy for the gun rights organizations. Similar arguments can be made for claims that wikipedia is neutral. Neutrality is a good goal but difficult if not impossible to achieve. Any attempt to come close to neutrality requires reasonable discretion. I don't believe much of that has been used in this case. If you are interested in more I have created a subpage to prepare for a time when I intend to rediscuss it:
The most important thing should be to try to get as close to the truth as possible without omitting relevant information. In some cases this may include theories if there isn't sufficient information to come to final conclusions but care should be taken not to present this as conclusive facts. If the rules help achieve this goal then they should be enforced but if the rules wind up defeating the purpose a reasonable amount of discretion should be used. When there is something simple enough for most people to figure out and confirm but often is forgotten without a reminder it might be a good idea to include it with or without a reference. Simple principles should stand on there own merits regardless of the source. Ultimately this will not work any better than the people working at it.
Wikipedia and Democracy
Wikipedia claims that it isn't an experiment in democracy. This isn't entirely true. The rule about coming to a consensus is partly democratic and until something better comes along it should be. However when it comes to hard facts they should not be based on a popularity vote but on the evidence. Wikipedia can also be an important tool to advance democracy if it is done right. In order to have a democracy that works best the public has to have the information and education necessary to make intelligent choices instead of relying on hype and propaganda from demagogues. Also by participating in wikipedia many shmucks can develop and understanding of how the "truth" is discovered and what kind of biases can potentially distort it. This may initially decrease the trust in experts but at the same time it will actually bring people closer to understand the process and realize that some of the things presented as absolutes may only be theories and sometimes flawed ones at that.
Some wikipedians have claimed there is no censorship at wikipedia. I wouldn't quite go that far, if everyone shouts at the same time no one is heard and everyone is censored. It should be more a matter of whether the right priorities are chosen. An individual that claims to be opposed to censorship then demonstrates it by deleting information that he disagrees with and attempts to evade reasonable discussion is clearly only opposed to censorship when it is used against him. If misleading information or advertisements are censored so that the educational content that this is supposed to provide gets the top priority this would be reasonable IMO. The difference between reasonable and unreasonable censorship should be whether it is educational and accurate or not. Censorship for political or financial reasons should be unreasonable. Judging political reasons may not be that easy though. If a political reason involves distorting the truth so that a special interest benefits at the expense of the majority this would be unreasonable. If however some people push the truth for reasons that benefit the majority without distorting or misrepresenting things this may not be considered politics or at least not bad politics and reasonable discretion should be used. This could easily be labeled as politics just like anything else but it wouldn't be bad politics since it would be honest. There has been a common trend developing that when someone disagrees with something they can just call it politics and ignore the fact that the individual making the statement is also using politics. This could also apply for advocacy. There are people who have claimed that advocacy isn't allowed on wikipedia and if this rule is applied reasonably I wouldn't object but if it is only used to delete material someone is opposed to for political reasons this is wrong. An example is the issue raised above about preventing school violence where material was deleted on the grounds of advocacy but opposing advocacy was left alone simply because they didn't call it advocacy.
The organization of information is underestimated by the majority of the public. This includes simple things that many of us take for granted. This isn't just limited to wikipedia one of the most important things is simple indexes which a surprising number of books don't even have. Summations with hard facts that can be confirmed are also helpful. Organized source notes are helpful but they are often not done in reader friendly way. Sometimes many books include notes that should be in the text in addition to sources so you have to go back and forth which makes it harder for the reader. Chronologies, Acronyms, bibliographies and casts of characters are also helpful. If the publishers wanted to educate the public in the most efficient way possible they should already know this and they should already be doing a much better job. Yet they aren't either because they aren't trying enough or something else. Wikipedia actually does a better job organizing information that the professional scholars in many cases. Part of what I do on wikipedia is to improve organization when I can even though I know there are others better than me at it but they don't seem to be doing it as well as I think they should.
Show the work
A better effort often needs to be made to show the work to explain how the experts come to their conclusions so that people can understand it better and if there are more than 1 expert with different claims if people can look at the work they can develop there own opinions. This is especially true in history where "History is written by the victor." In order to deter main what kind of potential biases the writer may have it is important to know who he is. For example according to the recent Battles BC show about Vercingetorix vs. Caesar they said there was an enormous amount of information written by Caesar but they didn't mention any backup. In order to know how accurate this account is it should require backup since glorious leaders often distort the truth to accomplish their goals.
This is also true in construction and other fields. Explaining how things are built with ancient technology could go a long way to understand history. I have seen several cases where people have made claims and then showed the work and the work they cited often contradicts the claims being made sometimes in obvious ways.
Chain of Evidence
The chain of evidence is a phrase used in courtrooms to tell how the evidence was handled and prove its legitimacy. The Equivalent in the academic world would be to cite sources and if you go to the source they should be able to show how they came to their conclusions. This should be well known in the academic world but the majority of the public is almost certainly unfamiliar with this process. As a result the public often winds up trusting the experts without understanding how to hold them accountable. In many cases members of the public may not have any idea how to tell the difference between legitimate scientific sources and pseudo scientists or fringe theorists. Also in some rarer cases many members of the public may have a hard time understanding when traditional scientists are overlooking obvious simple facts that disagree with their theories. This is much rarer than when fringe theorists use hype and propaganda to get their points across but it does happen on occasion. This could be addressed with a better education program to let the public know more about how scientists come to their conclusions and understand the basic principles behind each scientific field.
Fringe theories are often a phrase used for people outside of the scientific community that don't use appropriate scientific procedures. If this is the way it really is that is fine, but if it is just a way to discredit those that disagree with the mainstream it shouldn't be trusted. Ideally whether a theory is fringe or not should be based on whether the evidence backs it up. In many cases one expert or another may not do an adequate job showing the work behind their theory. In some cases they do show the work but there are obvious flaws in the work or the conclusions. When this happens it would be legitimate to call it a fringe theory. This shouldn't be based on chosen beliefs but on what the evidence indicates. Fringe theories are less likely to show the sources for their conclusions or they may choose bad sources including other fringe theorists or they may misrepresent their sources. Traditional scholars presumably publish their work for peer review within their own field as well as other fields that may be related. Unfortunately they don't always do as good a job explaining to the public how this works. Part of the reason the fringe theorists have such a large following for flawed ideas may be because traditional scholars don't always do as good a job getting the publics attention and explaining the process. Part of the reason for this is because the public is often more receptive to hype and propaganda than to tedious facts.
Pseudo or Rational skepticism
The difference between pseudo skepticism and rational skepticism is whether or not scientific methods are used. Rational skepticism would be if you doubt something is true but don't completely rule it out without evidence. This may lead to research to find out what is true if the subject is important enough or if not just continued doubt. In a simple example like a perpetual motion machine it can easily be disproven. Cold fusion is beyond my comprehension so I doubt it until I see reputable people put it into practice. According to a recent 60 minute special someone claims to be close to making it work so I would recommend further research in this case but without understanding it I wouldn't contribute.
Pseudo skepticism would be any skepticism that doesn't use scientific methods. An example of this would be if someone were to make a negative claim that doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Other examples would be if someone used censorship stood in the way of research to prevent people from discovering undesirable facts that don't fit ones beliefs. If someone needs to use the same fallacies that pseudo-scientists or religious cults use to prove his skepticism that would indicate probable pseudo-skepticism. This includes ridicule. This is one of the most common tactics used by demagogues and pseudo-skeptics. Another tactic would be to rely on the expertise of the researcher without showing the work behind the research starting with the basics. The scientific method would involve explaining the basics to the public and if there isn’t time to go much further provide sources so the public could do their own research if they so desire.
Rational-skepticism takes time. It should be followed up by requests for research to find out what is true. This should be done by organizing the facts in the best way possible and then confirming or refuting them regardless of where the research leads. If people label a subject fringe and then label anyone who attempts to use normal research methods as a fringe researcher and unreliable that would be an example of pseudo skepticism. If the fringe subject really is false then the research will back that up if it is done in an honest manner, there is no need to develop preconceived ideas before doing the research then trying to prove those preconceived ideas. To decline to look at the applicable information because a subject is considered fringe would be pseudo-skepticism.
One thing pseudo skeptics have in common with fringe pseudo scientists is that they both decide what is true first and then do research to prove their decision is right and use distortion tactics to make their case instead of thinking things through carefully. They both use hype propaganda and ridicule to make their case. They both avoid organizing their facts in the most efficient way possible. Rational skeptics don’t need to use these tactics but they may often not come to hard conclusions, instead they may say they doubt something is true but don’t rule it out completely.
For the wiki definition see Pseudoskepticism. This was merged with Marcello Truzzi which I consider inappropriate since it implies that an individual should have virtual copyrights to a word. This is false; the word is a simple combination of a prefix and the word skepticism. That should mean that a rational person doesn't need to look it up but there was intense debate about it anyway. To see the independent wiki definition: Pseudoskepticism history Talk:Pseudoskepticism
- User:Zacherystaylor/preventing school violence
- User:Zacherystaylor/The Fatima UFO Hypothesis
- User:Zacherystaylor/The Problem of the Media
I rarely if ever read a book without mistakes. So my choice is either cite work from books that make mistakes or nothing at all. I try not to repeat the mistakes. Most aceptible scholars make a smaller percentage of mistakes. Alternate scholors often make much more but sometimes they might get things right that traditional scholors get wrong. In the case of ancient wonders of the worlds involving moving colossal stones traditional scholars often ignore inconveniant facts however caution should be used when using alternate scholors since they are usualy even worse. When it comes to the size of colossal stones that can easily be measured it shouldn't be that hard but there are a lot of contridictary numbers out there and a lot of obvious math mistakes if you bother to check them even from leaders in the field like Zahi Hawass. If there is evidence that dozens of blocks well over 100 tons were moved by the ancients but modern experiments can't move more than 30-40 tons if that with ancient technology then refusing to consider differant ideas is almost as foolish as jumping to conclusions without sufficient information. If traditional scientist ignore inconveniant facts they become the psuedoscientists that they are often trying to debunk. They also make the psuedoscientists seem more credible by default. Presenting things in the most organized manor is the best way to tell them apart.
- Bernstein, Josh: Digging for the Truth 2006 (based on the history channel series)
- Coe, Michael, Dean Snow, and Elizabeth Benson: "Atlas of Ancient America" 1986
- Davidson, Basil: "African Kingdoms" 1966 Time-Life Great Ages of Man series
- Edwards, Dr. I.E.S.: The Pyramids of Egypt 1986/1947
- Fouts, Roger: Next of Kin: what chimpanzees have taught me about who we are. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1997
- Lehner, Mark The Complete Pyramids, London: Thames and Hudson (1997). ISBN 0-500-05084-8.
- Murray, Dr. Joyce: Cultural Atlas For Young People: "Africa" 1990
- Oliphant, Margaret: "The Atlas Of The Ancient World" 1992
- Peters, Elizabeth and Khristen Whitebread editors: Amelia Peabody's Egypt 2003
- Readers Digest: "Mysteries of the Ancient Americas" The New World Before Columbus 1986
- Romer, John: Ancient Lives Daily Life in Egypt of the Pharaohs
- Scarre, Chris editor "The Seventy Wonders of the Ancient World", (1999) Thames & Hudson, London
- Siliotti, Alberto, Zahi Hawass, 1997 "Guide to the Pyramids of Egypt"
- Stewert, Desmond and editors of the Newsweek Book Division "The Pyramids and Sphinx" 1971
- Walker, Charles, 1980 "Wonders of the Ancient World"
Time Life Lost Civilizations series:
Africa's Glorious Legacy (1994)
Ancient India: Land Of Mystery (1994)
Aztecs: Reign of Blood and Splendor (1992)
Celt's: Europes People of Iron
China's buried Kingdoms
Egypt: Land of the Pharaohs (1992)
Greece Temples, Tombs and Treasures
The Holy Land
Incas: Lords of Gold and Glory
The Magnificent Maya
Mesopotamia: The Mighty Kings. (1995)
Mound Builders and Cliff Dwellers
Pompeii: The Vanished City
Ramses II: Magnificence on the Nile (1993)
Rome: Echoes of Imperial Glory
The Search for El Dorado
Southeast Asia: A Past Regained (1995)
Sumer: Cities of Eden
Vikings: Raiders From the North
Wonddrous realms of the Aegean