User talk:MastCell

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Welcome to Wikipedia![edit]

Dear MastCell: Welcome to Wikipedia, a free and open-content encyclopedia. I hope you enjoy contributing. To help get you settled in, I thought you might find the following pages useful:

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Hi MastCell. I responded a bit impulsively today in the heat of the moment in the thread that alleges misrepresentation of sources. I sort of wish now that I'd held off, since I really appreciate your suggestion that we get back to the process we started. I think that's a good suggestion. TimidGuy (talk) 00:29, 29 April 2013 (UTC)

OK. But since you're here, I want to ask you something. Our content on the purported health benefits of Transcendental Meditation is heavily influenced by editors affiliated with the TM movement. Do you think that raises questions about bias (either conscious or unconscious) in our coverage? I think the best practice (one that is recommended, but not demanded, by WP:COI) would be for editors with close connections to the movement to participate in talkpage discussion, but for independent, unaffiliated editors to manage the actual editing of article content.

I'm not a big fan of analogies, but let's say that our coverage of an antihypertensive drug from Merck were dominated by a small group of single-purpose accounts closely affiliated with Merck. That situation would rightly raise concerns about our ability to present accurate and unbiased medical information. I see a similar problem on the TM articles, at least as far as they intersect with medical claims. Do you?

Finally, I'm sort of disappointed in the lack of restraint shown by TM-affiliated editors. Frankly, there are a number of Wikipedia articles, both medical and biographical, which I avoid because I want to manage any potential conflicts of interest on my part. These are areas where I believe I could undoubtedly improve our coverage, but I recognize that my connections (which are not financial, but rather personal or professional) would potentially bias me. So I don't edit those articles, as a simple but healthy form of self-restraint. I sort of wish that some level of introspection would take place here so that people wouldn't need to beat the drum confrontationally about it. MastCell Talk 17:53, 29 April 2013 (UTC)

Explanation for RfC post..[edit]

I think perhaps you misunderstood my statement but I appreciate your invitation to discuss it elsewhere. I hope it's ok here. My superscript is interspersed:

  • [1]: I stated: We've seen the malpractice often enough in cases like Michael Jackson, etc. but what about the following NPR report? [2] Things keep getting crazier.
  • [3]: You replied, Yes, you're proving my point. Michael Jackson's treatment was grossly negligent and his physician lost his license as a result. He's an outlier who transgressed his fundamental professional responsibilities. 👈 I intentionally proved your point and agreed with you. To point to him Not just him, there was an "etc." is analogous to saying that the actions of Andreas Lubitz invalidate the entire profession of commercial airline piloting. Malpractice, by its definition, implies that there is a professional standard of care to which physicians must adhere, and physicians are punished if they fail to uphold these standards. I'm not aware of any such concept, nor any such level of regulation, in homeopathy, for instance.I know little of homeopathy Off-label prescription is a complex topic which I think you've grossly oversimplified, but I'd be happy to discuss it elsewhere. MastCell Talk 12:05 pm, Today (UTC−4)

As an old school journalist/writer (before the pundits inundated the internet, well actually before the internet) I believed journalistic integrity was of the utmost importance. I also employed a common sense realist approach that was surpassed only by my skepticism. Sorry, but I cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that the legal profession and insurance industry built empires on medical malpractice. You focused only on the MJ case which, on the flip side, was a gross oversimplification but let's just chalk it off to brevity and be done with it. I'm not trying to lessen the importance of science or mainstream medical opinion, the latter of which was actually one of my beefs with a few editors who kept misrepresenting my intent. However, we cannot ignore the fact that big pharma dangles (💰) in front of medical practitioners and researchers all the time. They are also relentless in their attempts to bypass laws and the FDA which was part of my reason for including the off-label prescription article. The number of times big pharma has been convicted and fined for illegal activity is also significant but none of this is really in my area of interest. The world has changed and values we once held in the highest regard, such as journalistic integrity and the Hippocratic Oath, have all but fallen by the wayside, [4]. Granted, alternative medicine practitioners don't undergo the extensive schooling and training of MDs but they do have some licensing and regulatory requirements as exampled below:

  • In all 50 states and the District of Columbia, chiropractors must be an accredited Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) and must pass special state exams, exams administered by the NBCE, or both.
  • Only 17 states and the District of Columbia license naturopathic physicians. In general, licensure requires graduating from an accredited 4-year naturopathic school and passing a postdoctoral board examination.
  • Most states regulate massage therapists by requiring a license, registration, or certification. However training standards and requirements for massage therapists vary greatly by state and locality, but most states that regulate massage therapists require a minimum of 500 hours of training. [5]

Your comment about professional standards and the like is what led me to this information. Atsme ☎️ 📧 22:35, 12 May 2015 (UTC)

If you were agreeing with me, I must have misunderstood your comment. Regarding the medical malpractice system in the US, it is deeply flawed on pretty much every level. At the same time, it is the only real mechanism for people to seek redress if they're harmed by medical care. So I'm always suspicious of "tort reform" proposals which limit the ability to sue without providing some alternate means of redress. There have been sporadic efforts to do things better; the example I'm most familiar with is the so-called "Michigan model", initially developed at the University of Michigan.Reminding me that the pharmaceutical industry expends immense resources to influence physicians is like reminding me that the Sun rises in the east every day. I'm well aware of that fact—much more so than most of the people who bloviate about Big Pharma on this site—so there's no need to try to convince me. The pharmaceutical industry's track record is atrocious—if you're interested, recommended reading would include White Coat, Black Hat by Carl Elliott and Bad Pharma by Ben Goldacre. But usually, when people bring this up in the context you've done, they're implicitly trying to make the point that we should look more favorably on "natural" remedies. After all, you brought up the evils of Big Pharma in response to my attempt to draw a distinction between physicians and homeopaths. Right?So put on your critical-thinking hat for a moment. Alt-med is a $33 billion industry in the US. The top-selling dietary supplements often generate as much revenue as widely used pharmaceuticals. The difference, of course, is that the alt-med industry (in particular, the supplements industry) operates with zero regulatory oversight. As bad as pharma can be, they have to spend the money to develop and test a compound and prove its efficacy and safety before they can make a dime. In contrast, there is no requirement that dietary supplements are shown to be safe or effective. There isn't even a requirement that the supplement actually contains any active ingredient (many don't). So I think it's completely legit—and in fact essential—to critique the pharmaceutical industry, but if you want to claim the mantle of critical thinking, "integrity", "common-sense", "realist", "skeptic", etc. then you need to apply the same level of scrutiny to the alt-med industry. And trust me, it will fare even more poorly than Big Pharma.Off-label prescribing is a complex issue. To take one example, there are, to my knowledge, no drugs that are FDA-approved for use in bone marrow tranpslantation. None. So every drug used in a bone marrow transplant is being used off-label. Now, these drugs have a track record and extensive medical evidence supports their use, but the manufacturers have not sought nor has the FDA granted an approval. If not for off-label prescribing, we in the US would have to stop doing bone marrow transplants until a lengthy, expensive, and completely redundant and unnecessary approval process could play out. People would be harmed and resources would be squandered. So in this instance, off-label prescribing is operating as intended, by allowing physicians to use their judgement and the medical literature to use approved drugs off-label. Off-label prescribing is not always simply a matter of greed and abusiveness, and to present it as such is incredibly simplistic and misguided. MastCell Talk 17:56, 13 May 2015 (UTC)
My preferred model is to treat them all alike: if most people who buy and take X are trying to prevent or treat a medical condition, then it's a drug for regulatory purpose. It doesn't matter if it's "natural" like Premarin or "synthetic" like most Vitamin C pills, or how the company marketed it: how people use it should determine regulatory status. WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:13, 13 May 2015 (UTC)
Hopefully this isn't considered bloviating, but FDA-approved and regulated drugs are the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. - and that's when taken according to doctors' orders. From Harvard:
Few people know that new prescription drugs have a 1 in 5 chance of causing serious reactions after they have been approved. That is why expert physicians recommend not taking new drugs for at least five years unless patients have first tried better-established options, and have the need to do so.
Few know that systematic reviews of hospital charts found that even properly prescribed drugs (aside from misprescribing, overdosing, or self-prescribing) cause about 1.9 million hospitalizations a year. Another 840,000 hospitalized patients are given drugs that cause serious adverse reactions for a total of 2.74 million serious adverse drug reactions. About 128,000 people die from drugs prescribed to them. This makes prescription drugs a major health risk, ranking 4th with stroke as a leading cause of death. The European Commission estimates that adverse reactions from prescription drugs cause 200,000 deaths; so together, about 328,000 patients in the U.S. and Europe die from prescription drugs each year. The FDA does not acknowledge these facts and instead gathers a small fraction of the cases.
Why does WP reserve its heavy duty skepticism for alt med drugs? Besides potentially cutting into pharma profits, are they more dangerous than those we've been told are safe? I love healthy skepticism, but it isn't healthy unless applied with a NPOV showing no favoritism. petrarchan47คุ 18:23, 15 May 2015 (UTC)
@Petrarchan47: Not bloviating at all; thanks for your comment. I agree with the statement about newly approved drugs. When a drug is approved, it has typically been tested in several hundred patients. Some of the most serious side effects of many drugs occur at rates of 1% or less, so it is unlikely that they'll be identified with that sort of sample size. In contrast, if a drug is used by 1 million people annually and has a serious adverse event risk of 0.1%, then you'll have 1,000 serious adverse events a year. That sort of signal is much easier to identify. So yes, I share the recommendation that it is unwise to jump on a newly approved medication unless there are no good alternatives, because it likely takes years of post-marketing surveillance before side-effect profiles are fully understood. But do you see the underlying problem? How do you identify rare but serious side effects that occur in 1-in-1,000 or 1-in-10,000 without exposing millions of people to a medication? I mean, this isn't solely a matter of greedy doctors and evil drug companies; it is a serious challenge.The question of drug-related hospitalizations and deaths is a tricky one, in my view, and my experience leads me to discount gaudy numbers or black-and-white thinking. To take one hypothetical example: suppose a person has atrial fibrillation, a relatively common arrhythmia which predisposes to the formation of blood clots in the heart and subsequent strokes. We know that the stroke risk can be reduced by treating people with anticoagulants, but these drugs obviously carry a risk of bleeding. The risk/benefit ratio has been worked out relatively well, so we can say with some confidence that if we anticoagulate 100 people with high-risk A-fib, we are helping them in aggregate because there will be more strokes prevented than bleeding events caused. But when an individual patient on a blood thinner falls, hits his head, and develops a fatal intracranial bleed, that person is chalked up as a casualty of the medical-industrial complex, greedy docs, Western medicine, and so on—even though his treatment was correct based on the current state of human knowledge. (In contrast, if he'd gone without anticoagulation and had a fatal stroke, it would be viewed as an unfortunate but natural occurrence, even though he was technically a victim of malpractice). Contrary to the piece you quote, I think that both the FDA and many physicians acknowledge these realities, but a lot of other commentators don't.To repeat a book recommendation above, I'd strongly recommend you check out White Coat, Black Hat by Carl Elliott. He's an ethicist (and non-practicing physician) at the U. of Minnesota, and he writes thoughtfully and very critically about academic medicine, the pharmaceutical industry, and the relationship between the two. (He's also currently supporting an investigation of his own university for ethical violations in psychiatric clinical trials, which is an interesting and sad story in its own right). I think you'd find what he has to say congenial and thought-provoking. MastCell Talk 18:46, 15 May 2015 (UTC)
I remember when remoxipride came out - had a really good side effect profile and patients tolerated it well...aaaand then it disappeared quick-smart because of its side effect of aplastic anaemia....Cas Liber (talk · contribs) 21:37, 15 May 2015 (UTC)
My mother was killed by Vioxx. Just sayin'. The idea that all science editors are pro-drug schills, anti-alt-anything, and all alike is just pig-headed. I've done plenty of quackery in my time ! More importantly, Cas, did you get the morchella pics ? SandyGeorgia (Talk) 21:42, 15 May 2015 (UTC)
Yes I did - they were very nice and I am jealous. I am sure they tasted nice too.....Cas Liber (talk · contribs) 00:15, 16 May 2015 (UTC)
@MastCell, as always, I so appreciated your measured, informative response. @Sandy, after some time away I've come back, realizing that I expected too much of WP editors, and of WP as a whole. We are all imperfect and full of our own innate POV, with our personal histories playing a large role in the way we view the world, and ultimately how we edit. There are indeed editors here who are up to no good. But the majority of us are just doing our best to follow PAGs without being tripped up by our own biases and blind spots. Ultimately, I am finding that staying clear of dichotomizing is the best way forward. I would not be on this earth were it not for pharmaceuticals and Western medicine. I had a very serious accident which should have ended my life, but heroic actions by people in the medical field, as well as the copious use of pharmaceuticals, reversed the inevitable. I have a gratitude for those in the field that cannot be put into words. As an editor, however, none of that can play into my evaluation of sources and claims we wish to include in WP articles. That is a challenge we all share, and I now appreciate that it is in the sometimes heated conversations that our blind spots and biases are addressed, and hopefully a more NPOV is attained for the benefit of the reader. petrarchan47คุ 21:25, 19 May 2015 (UTC)

MastCell, thank you for your response, and for the book recommendation. I'll check it out. You said, After all, you brought up the evils of Big Pharma in response to my attempt to draw a distinction between physicians and homeopaths. Right? No, actually, not quite. I had just seen an article about criminal actions filed against some of the big pharmaceutical companies, and couldn't understand why there aren't a whole bunch of CEOs spending time behind bars. You had also mentioned professional standards and that you weren't aware if alt-med practitioners (like homeopathy) were held to as high a standard, so I looked it up for you and posted the results. I have no clue who you are professionally so I'm not aware of what you are exposed to on a daily basis or I would have been more careful to not inundate you with more of the same. I am very happy to hear that you are suspicious of tort reform - it's the worst thing that could happen in the US because all it does is hurt victims worse than what they've already been hurt. If we must have tort reform it needs to focus on the frivolous lawsuits filed by prison inmates every year: [6]. --Atsme📞📧 01:53, 20 May 2015 (UTC)

Americans don't put CEOs in prison. It's just how we roll. Did any CEOs go to prison for the Deepwater Horizon spill? Or the 2007-2008 financial meltdown? We (as a country) apparently believe that Justice requires 5- to 10-year mandatory minimum sentences for possession of 5 grams of crack (about enough to fill a sugar packet), but also that CEOs who preside over immensely negligent human and environmental catastrophes can't be held accountable. Although we do occasionally put a few people from middle management on probation for these sorts of things. The irony is that the outrageous trends in CEO compensation are usually justified by invoking the degree of responsibility that CEOs assume, but in reality they aren't accountable or responsible in any measurable way. That is true of, but not unique to, the pharmaceutical industry.

As to professional standards, the mere existence of licensing bodies means nothing. I can form a licensing body tomorrow and incorporate it tomorrow, and then start licensing people to use crystal energy to cure cancer. The real question is how these licensing bodies operate. Do they have an investigative arm to handle complaints? Do they hand down sanctions for unprofessional conduct? Are they publicly accountable? For example, you can go to pretty much any state medical board and find a mechanism to handle public complaints, a a clear description of how complaints are handled, and a full and public listing of disciplinary actions taken. (I used the Michigan Medical Board website, but you can pick a state of your choosing). Do the boards you mentioned provide this level of oversight and accountability? Because licensing alone doesn't mean anything without some sort of enforcement of professional standards. MastCell Talk 21:21, 20 May 2015 (UTC)

ROTFL. Medical boards are accountable? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:46, 23 May 2015 (UTC)
Yes. In my view, state medical boards provide an important layer of accountability for physicians—a layer which is either non-existent or comically ineffectual in alternative-medicine fields. Do you have anything intelligent to say about that? MastCell Talk 04:20, 25 May 2015 (UTC)

MastCell - I really do want to learn both sides of the argument and hope you will be generous enough of your time to help me understand. The questions you posed motivated me to do the research in that direction (in between laptop crashes and having to work on my iPad). I came across the following and was hoping you could provide input with regards to the organization: [7]. Legit from your perspective, or not? --Atsme📞📧 20:49, 23 May 2015 (UTC)

MastCell, your question "anything intelligent to say about that" was inserted above the question I asked you two days earlier so I hope it was directed to the IP who made a stupid comment and interrupted our discussion. Firstly, I am seeking knowledge and secondly, I actually do need to know the answers to my questions in order to grow as an editor, especially in areas considered to be controversial. I am not here to create disruption, mock, debunk, promote or annoy. My purpose as an editor is to contribute factually accurate information to the project and to help however I can to improve and expand what I perceive to be a remarkable undertaking in education on a world-wide scale. I have the utmost respect for the medical community and the regulatory/governing organizations that serve to protect us. I came to you because you initially invited me to participate in further discussion regarding this topic. I apologize if I've done anything to make you think otherwise. It was certainly not my intent. The topic I am trying to better understand involves WP's position on CAM which is a highly debated topic that breeds disruption to the point TBs are imposed, the latter of which I wish to avoid. I am somewhat confused over what is happening and am now looking to you as a highly respected and knowledgeable administrator with remarkable expertise in the medical field to help me learn a bit more. My confusion over WP's position on CAM is rooted in the conflicting information we're finding in RS and how that information and sourcing is treated when used in an article. It appears we agree that state medical boards provide an important layer of accountability but what I find confusing is your belief that it doesn't apply to alt med practitioners and that is what I'm trying to understand. In April 2002, the House of Delegates of the FSMB adopted the following guidelines for CAM in medical practice which includes all health care professionals, presumably those licensed by State Medical Boards which would include MDs, DOs, and CAM practitioners, correct? See the following: [8]. What it tells me is that alt med is regulated by FSMB and that there are medical guidelines in place that all licensed practitioners are expected to follow. Right or wrong? --Atsme📞📧 12:48, 25 May 2015 (UTC)
My comment was directed at the IP editor, and wasn't meant to suggest anything negative about you at all; please don't interpret it that way. To answer your post, I don't think that there is any actual conflicting information here. The FSMB is an umbrella organization representing state medical boards (the practice of medicine in the US is regulated at the state level, by individual medical boards which are arms of state government). These medical boards have jurisdiction over physicians (and usually over allied healthcare providers such as PAs, nurse practitioners, nurses, and DOs). They do not have any jurisdiction over homeopaths, naturopaths, or other alt-med providers. Those providers are poorly regulated, if they are regulated at all.

State medical boards are in charge of issuing medical licenses to physicians, and the ultimate sanction that they can impose is to revoke a physician's medical license. For a physician, this is basically equivalent to being excommunicated from the profession, so it's a serious sanction. But since alt-med practitioners don't have medical licenses in the first place, the FSMB and state medical boards can't regulate them. The CAM guidelines apply to physicians who choose to offer complementary modalities as part of the their practices. (The document to which you linked makes this clear; it states upfront that it applies to physicians who either use CAM themselves or who work in partnership with CAM practitioners).

If that's tl;dr, the short version is: no, CAM practitioners are most definitely not regulated by the FSMB or by state medical boards, unless they also happen to be licensed physicians. MastCell Talk 03:38, 26 May 2015 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Thank you, MastCell. Your explanation was well-received on my end, and your time and patience are much appreciated. --Atsme📞📧 18:57, 26 May 2015 (UTC)

Possible impersonator[edit]

It appears someone may have created the account User:MasfCeII to impersonate you. Do you think that is the case? Everymorning talk 02:37, 1 June 2015 (UTC)

It's always a promising sign when a new user's first edit trivially bluelinks their user page and their second edit trivially bluelinks their talk page. Short Brigade Harvester Boris (talk) 02:39, 1 June 2015 (UTC)

American politics 2 arbitration proposed decision posted[edit]

Hello. The proposed decision for the American politics 2 arbitration case, which you are listed to as a party, has been posted. Thank you, --L235 (t / c / ping in reply) via MediaWiki message delivery (talk) 03:32, 1 June 2015 (UTC)

User:MastCell/Daily Mail links[edit]

Hi MastCell! I came across this and realized it hadn't been updated for awhile. Would you mind sharing how you generated the list? I'd be interested in keeping it updated as a subpage of WP:MED. Thanks! :) Emily Temple-Wood (NIOSH) (talk) 19:43, 11 June 2015 (UTC)

Hello Emily; I apologize for the delay in responding to you. I just haven't felt much like checking in or editing for awhile. To answer your question, I wrote a short Python script to generate the list - it basically just takes the list of pages with a WP:MED template, and the list of pages with Daily Mail external links, and calculates the intersection of the two sets. The entire script is as follows:
import mwclient
import sys

wp = mwclient.Site('')
wpmed_template = wp.Pages['Template:WikiProject Medicine']

url_usage_list = wp.exturlusage("*", namespace=0)
dailymail_links = set()
for dm_link in url_usage_list:

print "\nFinished collecting Daily Mail links..."

wpmed_articles = set()
for link in wpmed_template.backlinks():
print "\nFinished collecting WP:MED articles..."

link_articles = wpmed_articles.intersection(dailymail_links)
print "Performed intersection operation..."
print "Identified %d WP:MED articles with Daily Mail links..." % len(link_articles)

print "Listing them:"
for link in link_articles:
        print "* [[%s]]" % link
I hope that's helpful. Feel free to use or adapt it. It requires the mwclient Python library, which is freely available. Please let me know if you have any questions, and take care. MastCell Talk 17:23, 24 June 2015 (UTC)
Thanks so much for your response! I really appreciate it. All the best, Emily Temple-Wood (NIOSH) (talk) 19:35, 24 June 2015 (UTC)

Oversight and advice, please?[edit]

Hi MastCell - I've been doing my homework and believe I have a pretty good handle on how MEDRS works now thanks to your input here and at various TP and noticeboards. There is a discussion at Project Medicine regarding Kombucha (which is subject to DS) wherein I posed a few questions to Doc James who confirmed what I believed to be true regarding the sourcing of extraordinary claims. Unfortunately, despite the lengthy discussions at both Proj Med and the article TP, the editing conflicts continue primarily as a result of tendentious editing, repeated reverts by the regular CAM-haters due to the product's claims of health benefits, and the result is noncompliance with MEDRS, V, NPOV and UNDUE. Extraordinary claims have been made in the article linking consumption of kombucha products to toxicity and death based on a handful of anecdotal random (and rare) case reports (most of which date back to the 90s) but because those case reports are cited to RS (books) that published those same reports, the reverters believe they are correct. Moreover, attempts to add factually accurate information using intext attribution from a 2014 review are also being reverted.

The highest quality source regarding kombucha is a 2014 review in Comprehensive Review in Food Science and Food Safety published by the Institute of Food Technologies. Their conclusion states:

  • "Although kombucha tea cannot be granted official health claims at this time, it can be recognized as an important part of a sound diet. Not exactly a traditional beverage, kombucha tea is now regarded as a “health” drink, a source of pharmacologically active molecules, an important member of the antioxidant food group, and a functional food with potential beneficial health properties. Research on kombucha demonstrating its beneficial effects and their mechanisms will most likely continue to increase substantially in the next few years. It is apparent that kombucha tea is a source of a wide range of bioactive components that are digested, absorbed, and metabolized by the body, and exert their effects at the cellular level. Kombucha tea's current status as a functional food as summarized in this review, lends credibility to what has been believed by kombucha tea drinkers for a long time."

Also, a 2013 article by Scott Gavura at Science Based Medicine concluded:

  • "The bottom line - The best that can be said about kombucha is that it probably won’t kill you. There are no documented health benefits, so unless you really like the taste, there’s no clear reason to consume it. As I have written before, health decisions should be based on an evaluation of the risks and benefits. In the case of kombucha, the benefits, other than the subjective, are unsubstantiated. The risks are real, but also rare. So if that bet still looks attractive, kombucha may be for you. To each his own fermentation. As for me, I’ll stick with my own favourite fermentations: IPA and wheat beer, and pass on the moonshine panacea."

Considering there is a very small number of random case reports (most, if not all, of which are included in the 2014 review) all lacking in conclusive scientific evidence for causality, it appears to me the claims should be considered FRINGE per MEDRS, therefore not included in the lead but possibly mentioned in the body as long as it isn't given undue weight, correct? We should also use in-text attribution from the highest quality sources (the 2014 Review) that are up-to-date (not more than 5 yrs old). I don't see why Kombucha (natural ingredients) shouldn't receive the same consideration as articles like Red Bull (which is full of chemical additives) with regards to inconclusive case reports linking death and toxicity to the beverage. Your advice and attention to this matter will be greatly appreciated.  --Atsme📞📧 16:08, 13 June 2015 (UTC)

She makes a good point. Red Bull reads like a brochure for the drink, ignoring multiple linked deaths, whilst Kombucha has an entire gang working to cover the immense dangers of a 2,000 year old drink with one supposedly linked death.
Last of three paragraphs in Red Bull Lede:
Red Bull was criticized for health risks in the past; however, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded that the levels of taurine and glucuronolactone used in Red Bull and other popular energy drinks are safe.
Second of two-paragraph Kombucha Lede:
Although kombucha is claimed to have several beneficial effects on health, the claims are not supported by scientific evidence, and the drinking of home-brewed kombucha has been linked to a variety of adverse effects including muscle inflammation, poisoning, infection, and the death of at least one person.
petrarchan47คุ 22:30, 15 June 2015 (UTC)
Looking back at this conversation motivated me to go through the Red Bull health information, which I agree was very poorly done. The MEDRS appear to be predominantly negative, so the article now reflects that - the sources probably justify even more than I included. There's more information at the Energy drink article as well, which I also went through because it was in even worse condition. (No comment on the dispute which led to this being brought up.) Sunrise (talk) 05:28, 13 August 2015 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Case/American politics 2 closed[edit]

This arbitration case has been closed and the final decision is available at the link above. The following remedies have been enacted:

  1. Remedy 1 of the American Politics case is rescinded. In its place, the following is adopted: standard discretionary sanctions are authorized for all edits about, and all pages related to post-1932 politics of the United States and closely related people.
  2. Ubikwit (talk · contribs) is banned from any page relating to or making any edit about post-1932 politics of the United States, and closely related people, in any namespace. This ban may be appealed no earlier than 18 months after its adoption.
  3. MONGO (talk · contribs) is admonished for adding to the hostility in the topic area.

For the Arbitration Committee, L235 (t / c / ping in reply) via MediaWiki message delivery (talk) 19:41, 19 June 2015 (UTC)

Discuss this at: Wikipedia talk:Arbitration Committee/Noticeboard#Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Case/American politics 2 closed


Dropped you a note to your WP email address over the weekend (sent directly instead of through Special:EmailUser/MastCell, so I hope it's still your account). Not urgent, so feel free to respond whenever you have time. NW (Talk) 01:36, 6 August 2015 (UTC)

Read and responded; sorry for the delay. MastCell Talk 23:43, 13 August 2015 (UTC)

What happens when a homeopathy proponent becomes a Wikipedia administrator?[edit]

Perhaps it wouldn't matter. Nonetheless this was not far from happening a few months ago (RfA vote was split until the candidate withdrew). Personally I would regard belief in homeopathy to be a symptom of deeper issues. Such a believer would probably be in conflict with several of Wikipedia's core policies and principles, either knowingly or unknowingly.

There is a mantra that admins don't make content decisions, but in some cases they effectively do, though in practice it usually amounts to just keeping nonsense out of Wikipedia. If an editor is consistently making edits that are in clear violation of WP:PSCI, and other avenues of dealing with the editor have been exhausted, then an admin may apply discretionary sanctions. But wait -- how did the admin know that the edits violate WP:PSCI? An admin has to "get it", so to speak. My fear is that one day an admin who doesn't get it (such as a homeopathy advocate) will wield discretionary sanctions, making determinations that are opposite to what others would make.

(There's no particular reason I'm ranting here rather than elsewhere, except that I assume you know where I'm coming from.) Manul ~ talk 01:44, 9 August 2015 (UTC)

So if a homeopath admin closes a complaint as "no action" does that mean the user is indef blocked? (Sorry, some openings are just too obvious to resist...) Short Brigade Harvester Boris (talk) 04:03, 9 August 2015 (UTC)
In real life, I know some very intelligent and competent people who believe in homeopathy (or who, at least, refuse to dismiss it). So I don't think that a belief in homeopathy alone disqualifies a person from serious discourse on general topics. However (and this is the rub), I've found that Wikipedians who make a point of advocating for homeopathy do tend to have more serious generalized misconceptions about this site's policies and guidelines. As a generalization, Wikipedians tend to be much more obsessive and dogmatic than the sample of people I know in real life, so I'm consequently less willing to take a flier on a Wikipedian with a weird belief system. MastCell Talk 23:42, 13 August 2015 (UTC)
I'm pretty sure Manul is talking about me. My most recent RFA was split, but it was still far from being successful, which is why I withdrew (it was so obvious it was not going to pass). Everymorning (talk) 01:50, 14 August 2015 (UTC)
Saying homeopathy is pseudoscience is one thing. Saying anyone who thinks there is any scientific evidence to support it in reliable sources must have "deeper issues" is another thing entirely--almost a personal attack. Also, MastCell: The "ultra-obscure" journal you criticized on the homeopathy talk page is Drug Research (journal) (formerly Arzneimittelforschung). The journal has an impact factor of 0.701 and is Medline indexed. [9] If there's something about this journal that makes it unreliable, feel free to tell me, but it doesn't seem that bad a source to me. In situations like this I often wonder if any amount of evidence would suffice to overturn or at least credibly challenge the "consensus" that homeopathy doesn't work. Everymorning (talk) 01:55, 14 August 2015 (UTC)
Anybody who believes in homeopathy is fundamentally unreasonable, and anybody who takes an accommodationist stance towards homeopathy is a useful idiot. I'd see both as redflags for anybody with admin ambitions. Alexbrn (talk) 05:17, 14 August 2015 (UTC)
A long-growing problem with RfA is an obsession with box-checking and editcountitis, at the expense of more important but less easily-quantifiable criteria. It doesn't need to take ten thousand edits, a Featured Article, ten Did-You-Knows, one hundred TfD posts, five hundred AfD comments, an encyclopedic – nay, photographic – knowledge of arcane Wikipedia policy minutiae, and an assortment of shrubberies for an individual to demonstrate the qualities we should require from an admin.
Beyond a basic reading list of policies and guidelines, rote knowledge is less important than temperament and an awareness of the limits of one's own skills. A good admin doesn't need to know every word of every guideline. A good admin needs to know when he has reached the limit of his knowledge and what to do when that happens: when his current skills and experience are not up to the task he wishes to attempt, when to request assistance, and when to defer to more-experienced judgement. Any editor who jumps in with both feet to an area where he isn't fully competent can cause problems; doing so while using admin buttons has the potential to be particularly destructive.
In this instance, Everymorning, it looks like you're trying to read selected elements of WP:MEDRS as a checklist (""Medline...check!") that you can use to mechanically declare a source 'reliable' and thereby compel inclusion of content amenable to a particular fringe point of view. To an editor familiar with the scientific literature, a sub-unity impact factor is a big red flag, indicating that a journal is rarely cited by other scientists. (I'm surprised that you would call attention to it as part of your argument in favor of a source.) This journal isn't just part of the long tail, but right at the end of it, sitting in the bottom quartile or decile of related journals. Well-executed papers in such journals have results which are unimportant, unexciting, or hopelessly-narrowly-focused; papers which make substantial or significant claims are likely dubious—if their results were robustly-supported, the authors would have published in a higher-profile journal. Repeatedly bringing up this journal demonstrates that you don't understand the limits of your competence in this area.
The problem isn't your personal beliefs about homeopathy, whatever they may be. The problem is that when presented with something that is admittedly a very difficult task – trying to determine the credibility of a published journal article – you're stubbornly resistant to advice from others with more expertise. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 13:18, 14 August 2015 (UTC)

Everymorning, "deeper issues" was merely a segue into the next sentence, which suggested exactly what your response indicates: that you are in conflict with Wikipedia's policies. It would appear that your motivation for adding these sources to the homeopathy article is found here: I often wonder if any amount of evidence would suffice to overturn or at least credibly challenge the "consensus" that homeopathy doesn't work. It would appear that you are attempting to use Wikipedia as a tool for challenging the scientific consensus on homeopathy, which would be a misuse of Wikipedia. That you put "consensus" in quotes is alarming, the kind of evidence one would include in an AE request for a topic ban.

I don't mean to be harsh. Really. Ultimately I blame the educational system. Nobody should leave high school (I noticed your birthdate on your user page) without having some understanding about the distinction between science and pseudoscience. Not knowing can be deadly, literally. WP:FRINGE and related PAGs tend to be somewhat unapprehended for those lacking exposure to the demarcation problem. Whatever you do, please don't take the path of simply labeling others biased, parlaying ignorance into prejudice. Seek to understand the issue instead -- read The Philosophy of Pseudoscience or Nonsense on Stilts or whatever floats your boat. Manul ~ talk 03:42, 20 August 2015 (UTC)

  • I used to think homeopathy was bullshit. Then I looked for evidence that it is not and found a fair amount thereof. As for the "checklist" comment above by TOAT, I see it differently--as me trying to abide by objective measures of whether a journal is respectable (indexing, whether it's published by a reputable publisher, etc.) If it's true that "To an editor familiar with the scientific literature, a sub-unity impact factor is a big red flag, indicating that a journal is rarely cited by other scientists." then we should start a policy page about fringe journals that says something about very low impact factors being a red flag of some sort. Everymorning (talk) 11:24, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
The problem is that MEDRS tries to encapsulate some rules of thumb which some people over-interpret as iron-clad rules (see, for instance, the thread right below this one)—and creating another page of rules of thumb will tend to make that problem worse, rather than better. There really isn't a way to produce a one-page summary or flowchart to evaluate the reliability of papers or journals (especially where that evaluation must also include consideration of how those papers are intended to be used on Wikipedia). Knowing the various and subtle ways that flaws creep into the scientific literature is hard, and it takes years of experience in working with that literature.
Incidentally, the way that you chose to phrase the statement "Then I looked for evidence that it is not and found a fair amount thereof" is interesting. A problem with the literature is that it's almost always possible to find confirmation of something if you look hard enough. There's a lot of iffy and just-plain-bad science that appears in middling-to-poor journals. There's even some good science that was unlucky enough to get a spurious result. (The Green Jelly Bean problem.) There's the effect of selective publication (the file drawer effect), which can sometimes favor the publication of 'interesting' but wrong results. Then there are the dogs that don't bark—the literature results that you would expect to see in other fields and journals if a particular result were real rather than spurious. (For example, if homeopathic effects were real physical effects rather than placebo- and chance-driven, we would expect to see homeopathy incidentally affecting and being noticed in thousands of other biological and chemical experiments.) One of the reasons why we strongly favor robust secondary sources for medical content is as a partial patch over these sorts of gaps and errors, but it's an imperfect shield. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 16:01, 20 August 2015 (UTC)

← TenOfAllTrades speaks wisely, but I'd like to dig a little deeper into this question of the evidence on homeopathy, and how to interpret it. It's an excellent case study in Bayesian probability, clinical-trial interpretation, and common conceptual pitfalls in parsing clinical evidence. In fact, it's an example that I use didactically when I teach about these subjects. Let's start with a simple and (for now) hypothetical example.

  1. What is the likelihood that homeopathy works (or that it is, to use the vernacular, "not bullshit")? This is what a Bayesian would call "prior probability" or pre-test probability. Based on fundamental knowledge of physics, chemistry, and pharmacology, the prior probability that homeopathy is effective is, let's say, 0.001%. (I think this is ridiculously charitable, and a true prior probability would be much closer to 0% than to 0.001%, but we have to start somewhere).
  2. Now let's say you open the current issue of Lancet and read a well-conducted randomized controlled double-blinded clinical trial which finds that homeopathy is significantly more effective than placebo in treating some condition. (In technical terms, let's say that the study had 80% power to detect such a difference with an alpha of 0.05, as these are standard thresholds in clinical-trial design).
  3. Here's the simple, but essential question: having read the study, and assuming its results are valid and properly reported, how likely is it that homeopathy is effective?

There is a mathematical solution to this problem, of course, and we can talk about how to derive it. But the central point is qualitative. @Everymorning: I'd like to hear your thoughts. MastCell Talk 23:50, 20 August 2015 (UTC)

  • The main issue with the statement that homeopathy has little to no "prior probability" is the fact that a materials science perspective on homeopathy has been excluded from your question. As you and the other watchers of this page may know, I have added some articles to homeopathy pertaining to the proposed materials science-hoemopathy connection, which, to me, indicates that there may be a way it could work while remaining in line with scientific principles. See here, here and here for some of what I am referring to. Everymorning (talk) 00:02, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
    • If you're claiming that there is support in the mainstream materials science community for the principles of water memory or homeopathy, I'd say you're badly off-base. I'm pretty sure that if you ask a dozen, or a hundred, materials scientists about the plausibility of homeopathy, they'll come up with numbers like mine, or even lower. The papers you cite are beyond fringey, although apparently they were picked up by per your first link, a site which I categorically deny ever having visited regardless of what my browser history says... :P The one from BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine is particularly embarrassing, as it's a cringeworthy exercise in hand-waving that boils down to "because nanoparticles!!!!" These papers don't represent anything remotely close to modern thinking in materials science. MastCell Talk 01:04, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
    • Gorski has a post on the "because nanoparticles!!!!" paper. Manul ~ talk 02:04, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
      • Gorski who?? :P Just kidding. He's a smart fella. I couldn't have said it better myself. MastCell Talk 02:30, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
FWIW, almost any treatment will have very low prior probability to start with. How you choose the prior can vary, but a couple of options are "how likely is it that an arbitrarily chosen treatment will cure this disease?" and "how many treatments exist for this disease relative to how many have been tested?" For drugs, high-throughput screening means that millions of compounds are tested for every one that ultimately becomes a treatment, which would make the prior less than 1 in 1,000,000. This is true regardless of the proposed mechanism - it's the probability that the treatment is effective for any reason, whether plausible or not. We could start adding complexity penalties in such circumstances, e.g. from Occam's Razor, but it really isn't necessary. (Either way, I do recommend that you answer the question.) Sunrise (talk) 05:56, 23 August 2015 (UTC)
I honestly don't think I know enough about medical statistics to answer MastCell's question (I don't even have an undergraduate degree). I would probably give the paper published in the Lancet an exceptionally large amount of credibility because that journal is so highly regarded. But it does seem that, per MEDRS, the results of an individual primary study such as the one he described above may well be spurious, and it is better to look at meta-analyses instead. One study cannot prove that anything works or doesn't work. But one thing to bear in mind is the number of positive studies on homeopathy. In fact there were two published just last year. [13] [14] Everymorning (talk) 11:35, 23 August 2015 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── MastCell's comment illustrates how the extent to which you consider homeopathy plausible hugely influences the way you view the clinical trial evidence. But as Johnson et al. noted, "Basic science research appears to suggest that the use of extremely dilute solutions may not be as implausible as has been claimed." [15] Everymorning (talk) 11:58, 23 August 2015 (UTC)

Yes, the Johnson paper has completely overturned our prior understanding. Everyone is talking about it. It has been cited 13 times! Short Brigade Harvester Boris (talk) 14:23, 23 August 2015 (UTC)
As compared with Grimes' paper claiming homeopathy violates physics and chemistry [16] that has been cited exactly 0 times on Google Scholar? Everymorning (talk) 11:36, 26 August 2015 (UTC)
I'm not familiar with Grimes' paper, but it doesn't surprise me that it hasn't been cited. I wouldn't expect a paper demonstrating that the moon is not made of green cheese to garner a lot of citations either. The homeopathy proponents are hardly going to cite a paper which conclusively debunks the underpinnings of their treatment system, and the rest of us (speaking as scientists) don't really have a lot of need for citations demonstrating that homeopathy is nonsense. Who's going to cite the paper? In what context?

The fundamental cognitive error here—which I was trying to outline in my example above as well—is that you're treating the "homeopathy works" evidence and the "homeopathy is nonsense" evidence as if they're equally valid a priori. They're not. The former is an incredibly far-fetched extraordinary claim, which would overturn much of modern physics, chemistry, and pharmacology. You would need an exceptionally strong evidence base to even consider making that sort of claim credibly. In contrast, the view that homeopathy-is-nonsense is entirely consistent with multiple lines of evidence and basic, well-established laws of nature. It's like saying that the moon is not made of green cheese.

You can't apply the same level of scrutiny to those two claims and believe whichever one produces the better p values. I know that sounds like how science works, but it's not. What you're doing is more like rolling a 1d20 and deciding to believe in magical water if you happen to roll a 1. (Actually, it's more like rolling 20d20, and then pretending that only the rolls of 1 exist—this is the effect of publication bias and various other experimental biases in the homeopathy literature). There are useful summaries of this concept here and here (more technical), an explanation of why it's unscientific to test a completely implausible hypothesis in a randomized clinical trial here, and a specific deconstruction of the low quality of "basic science" research supporting homeopathy here. MastCell Talk 17:15, 26 August 2015 (UTC)

I'll add briefly to MastCell's comment with another XKCD comic, on the difference between frequentist and Bayesian approaches: [17]. (In a diagnostic test, it would roughly correspond to the difference between sensitivity and specificity.) TenOfAllTrades(talk) 18:15, 26 August 2015 (UTC)
Right, so 2d6 rather than 1d20... :) A minor clarification: both sensitivity and specificity are "frequentist" measures analogous to null-hypothesis significance testing; they do not take into account the underlying prevalence of the condition being tested for (that is, they ignore pre-test probability), but rather make an assumption about the presence or absence of disease and then describe the test's performance given that assumption. Bayesian measures of diagnostic test accuracy would include positive and negative predictive values. MastCell Talk 18:32, 26 August 2015 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I suggest that MastCell and the other editors watching this page look up the research of Anisur Khuda-Bukhsh and Paolo Bellavite. I'm not saying it will change your mind about homeopathy being nonsense, but their research does indicate that there are at least a few scientists who consider it a topic worthy of studying. Everymorning (talk) 01:07, 27 August 2015 (UTC)

Scientists study all kinds of things. Even Nobel Prize winners have been known to study and promote some very dubious stuff. Short Brigade Harvester Boris (talk) 01:22, 27 August 2015 (UTC)


Since you started this whole "Respect secondary sources" thing, I am inviting you to look at this Wikipedia:Identifying reliable sources (medicine)/FAQ#So if primary sources can be used in rare cases, what are those rare cases? and see if you can help expand the list.

(At some point we really do need to deal with the toxicology problem. As far as I can tell, there aren't any Cochrane reviews on LD50 levels, and that's still appropriate and encyclopedic information that we should be including.) WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:26, 13 August 2015 (UTC)

I really regret ever starting the whole "secondary sources" thing. There have been some benefits—we now have many fewer problems with people cherry-picking primary sources to create an alternative-reality narrative. But the intent was always to respect secondary sources, not to outlaw primary sources categorically. Unfortunately, but perhaps not unforeseeably, the clause has been interpreted in very absolutist terms. I personally don't have a problem with primary sources per se, as long as they're used judiciously. In fact, I've cited quite a few primary sources in the articles I've written (back when I used to write medical content). The problem only arises when people use primary sources in a misleading or unbalanced manner. If someone is objecting to including LD50 levels on primary-source grounds, then that's just silly. That said, while I appreciate the attempted guilt trip Face-smile.svg, I barely have enough remaining time/interest to log in here once in a while, and I definitely don't have the wherewithal to edit policy pages. MastCell Talk 23:38, 13 August 2015 (UTC)
As much as I hate restricting to secondary sources, I concede in medical articles is is the lesser of two evils. It is a way of gatekeeping a whole pile of crud from enthusiastic researchers of all persuasions. Looking though the history of schizophrenia, keeping that page manageable would have been a whole lot trickier, not just from antipsychiatry but a whole lot of folks in the medical field as well. Cas Liber (talk · contribs) 01:58, 27 August 2015 (UTC)
It's difficult. I basically agree with the "lesser of two evils" assessment, but our enforcement is inappropriately rigid. Failing to teach our zealous enforcement what exceptions are appropriate is part of the problem, and therefore fixing up this FAQ might make the result slightly less-bad.
Cas has reminded me that one of the things that ought to be emphasized is that rarity matters. Schizophrenia should be written from a dozen gold-plated reviews, maybe three widely used textbooks, a couple of good history-of-psychiatry, a couple of sociology or public policy books, and not much else. The whole thing ought to be possible with just two dozen carefully chosen, top-quality sources. (In practice, we have 168 sources, and I will be truly astonished if we ever have fewer than 100 again.) But when you're talking about diseases for which each year might see just one combined "Case study and literature review" article, then anything peer-reviewed in a decent journal should probably be embraced with open arms. WhatamIdoing (talk) 07:22, 2 September 2015 (UTC)

I'm thinking about this again. Is there anything about respecting secondary sources that is specifically about verifiability (narrowly defined), or is it really a DUE issue? It's possible that I'll start a draft of MEDDUE sometime this decade, and I need to figure out how to separate the two concepts. WhatamIdoing (talk) 01:29, 12 December 2015 (UTC)

Gwen Ifill[edit]

I fully ref'd that modest edition to the CNN article. How can it be a BLP violation? Capitalismojo (talk) 16:12, 4 September 2015 (UTC)

Damn. Apprarently the ref isn't there. I will re-add. Good catch. [18] Capitalismojo (talk) 16:15, 4 September 2015 (UTC)

A barnstar for you![edit]

Peace Barnstar Hires.png The Barnstar of Diplomacy
Well deserved. MONGO 03:51, 6 September 2015 (UTC)
Heh. I would say I'm definitely not feeling at my most diplomatic on Wikipedia anymore, but I appreciate the thought and the kind words. In all seriousness, while I don't doubt we disagree about various things, I have a lot of respect for you. Take care. MastCell Talk 15:10, 8 September 2015 (UTC)

Montanabw RfA[edit]

I'm saddened that you used your oppose vote to berate me, and I wonder if you have any idea of the sheer volume of attacks Montanabw made against me this year. She followed me everywhere I went, tried to recruit others to do the same, and smeared my reputation at every turn. I probably can never recover from the lies she spread about me, but I never bothered to collect all the diffs, because they made me sick to my stomach, and I just about quit Wikipedia to avoid her. Here's just the ones she made at my talk ([19]), after having been asked politely many times to stay away. I lost count of how many times she accused me of being a sock, but she never opened an SPI like she should have. Here's a sample of what she considered evidence against me: ([20]), ([21]), and here's an example of her terrible judgement in general when it comes to socks: Wikipedia:Sockpuppet investigations/ZuluPapa5/Archive. No matter how many people asked her to stop, she just kept coming. In fact at least nine editors asked her to leave me alone, but she persisted for months (diff available upon request).

I might have gone too far at the RfA, but if I did so it was less out of vindictiveness and more out of sincere concern for the community. The beginning was staged and timed to provide minimal challenge, and had others asked her difficult questions about her problematic behavioral patterns I would have stepped back sooner. Yes. She has lots of good qualities, but none of them pertain to adminship. I too hope she continues to create content and doesn't quit after this failed attempt, but until she stops taking sides and stalking people she is a terrible candidate for the block button, as bad as any I've seen here. RO(talk) 18:16, 21 September 2015 (UTC)

And this recent oppose: ([22]) comes from yet another editor who MBW harassed. In this case, for a full year! RO(talk) 20:22, 22 September 2015 (UTC)

Thanks for approaching the topic civilly[edit]

Thanks for taking such a generous, civil tone in the Talk section that you and I are communicating across. It seems to me that you might have maneuvered through these kinds of discussions before... SocraticOath (talk) 19:42, 21 September 2015 (UTC)

Hey MastCell, I know you've been involved in that article before... could you please take a moment and do a history review of my changes there from the last week or so? Thanks, (talk) 21:11, 22 September 2015 (UTC)

A barnstar for you![edit]

Administrator Barnstar Hires.png The Admin's Barnstar
I have participated on nearly 300 RfA and I know how hard it sometimes can be to make a decision. Your comment here is probably the most objective, thoughtful, and well expressed I've ever seen. Thank you. Kudpung กุดผึ้ง (talk) 01:00, 22 September 2015 (UTC)

Block log thing[edit]

The Spinningspark RFAR has been closed as declined, and I've annotated jps's log myself. (For talkpage stalkers: this message is in reference to this discussion on my page.) Bishonen | talk 14:48, 16 October 2015 (UTC).

Hah. You were much more charitable (to Spinningspark) than I would have been, so probably better that you performed the annotation. MastCell Talk 18:33, 16 October 2015 (UTC)
I had more to say, but there's only so much space in the log. I crammed it as tight as I could, given that I wanted a link (annoyingly, the log doesn't accept those shortened links). You see there's no full stop? I wrote one, but there literally wasn't room for it. Bishonen | talk 18:54, 16 October 2015 (UTC).
Oh, I think I only would have used three or four words. :) MastCell Talk 00:33, 17 October 2015 (UTC)

Undisclosed (to the casual reader) FCOI article edits - healthcare[edit]

You say on Jimbo's talk page (diff):

Let's start by acknowledging the obvious: no serious, reputable reference work on Earth would allow a member of a corporation's PR team to play a substantial role in drafting coverage of that corporation. That would be out of the question. The fact that this role is undisclosed to the casual reader makes the situation even worse.


If a reference work routinely allows a company's PR staff to play a substantial and undisclosed (to the casual reader) role in developing coverage of that company, I'd be very hesitant to extend credibility to that reference work.

In light of that, can you act on these edits (diff)? I've warned the user multiple times, to no avail. --Elvey(tc) 22:57, 17 October 2015 (UTC)

Update: Someone started a discussion here at COIN (diff) / WP:Conflict_of_interest/Noticeboard#Cleveland_Clinic. --Elvey(tc) 01:17, 18 October 2015 (UTC)

Interesting. You know, awhile back I made some edits to the biography of Eric Topol (edit | talk | history | protect | delete | links | watch | logs | views), the long-time chair of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic. Shortly thereafter, a new single-purpose account popped up to make an extensive series of promotional revisions to the biography, and it was clear in my view that the account was operated by someone closely connected with the subject. Not sure what to make of that, other than that the Cleveland Clinic appears to be fairly activist in terms of monitoring and attempting to influence its coverage here.

I feel strongly that accounts connected with the Cleveland Clinic (or any other such institution) should not be monitoring and "correcting" article content. Nor should our encyclopedic coverage of an institution be written largely or solely by that institution's PR department. These accounts should be restricted to making suggestions on the talkpage. Our conflict-of-interest guideline is quite clear about this, but no one pays any attention.

At the same time, I'm not interested in intervening here. For one thing, the community is utterly clueless about COI (in some cases out of well-meaning ignorance, and in some cases for less charitable reasons). That cluelessness extends all the way up to ArbCom, so getting involved in addressing a COI complaint isn't appealing. More to the point, I work in medicine and, while I don't work at the Cleveland Clinic, I have personal and professional connections there, as I do at a number of academic medical centers. For that reason, I generally avoid editing articles about these institutions, as a matter of practicing what I preach. Good luck, though. MastCell Talk 15:57, 19 October 2015 (UTC)

Request help incorporating material into an existing article[edit]

Hi {user:MastCell}, I recently came across a clinical guideline written about inducing fetal demise that mentions the incidence of unintended live birth in abortion patients, including D&E patients. Would you be willing to use the reference to add words to the [Abortion] article answering the question, "When does unintended live birth happen?" This is the publication: Thanks! - (talk) 16:16, 21 October 2015 (UTC)

Thanks for the note. I'm not sure exactly what content you'd like to add from the source, though. It doesn't give an incidence of unintended live birth, as far as I can see; it simply states that such births have been described in case reports. Could you clarify for me? Thanks. MastCell Talk 23:01, 21 October 2015 (UTC)
Right. It seems that doctors are faced with the decision whether to induce fetal demise before D&E abortions in the US because of the risk that the procedure won't comply with the "Partial-birth abortion ban act" of 2003, meaning that with D&E there's a small but not insignificant risk of live birth. In this context Philip Darney of San Francisco General Hospital (quoted here: says that he would rather incur legal risk while reducing the danger to the woman than change his practice and increase the danger to the woman, just to avoid the legal risk. This is not in the context of labor induction abortions but D&E abortions. I understand that the incidence may be very low, making it hard to estimate the risk--- but in a country repeating one procedure hundreds-of-thousands of times per year, a low incidence of a legally-different outcome becomes significant.
So I would suggest incorporating some background regarding this decision into the section on D&E, which right now doesn't mention anything about inducing fetal demise or any reason for doing so. Thanks, - (talk) 13:58, 22 October 2015 (UTC)
Here's another source, specifically addressing what happens if the procedure depends on inducing fetal death but it doesn't work: But most importantly, please see this study, in which there is quite a significant occurrence of live birth among abortion patients between 20 weeks and 23 weeks gestation: - (talk) 21:32, 22 October 2015 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)


You are terribly biased and to prove it I will share a diff of you taking the opposite position of the one you're supposed to be biased towards. O-kay then. --JBL (talk) 21:25, 26 October 2015 (UTC)

Yeah, that was a definite WTF moment, although par for the course around here. I've been accused of a lot of things, but rarely has the accuser bothered to refute their own accusation in the same sentence. :) MastCell Talk 21:56, 26 October 2015 (UTC)

Unblock request on User:Johnpacklambert[edit]

For some reason, it looks like I forgot to actually post to your talk page. There's a current unblock request at User_talk:Johnpacklambert#Second_Unblock_Request that seems to meet your requirements. Would an unblock or reduction in block length be acceptable? Keep in mind that actual arbitration enforcement could be used if the problematic behavior continues now that the user has been warned. --slakrtalk / 15:15, 13 November 2015 (UTC)

Thanks for the note. I personally came to the conclusion that he should remain blocked - his unblock proposals are superficial and make clear that he has a fundamental failure to understand where the problem actually lies. In my view, he's a disaster waiting to happen. (More accurately, he's a disaster that's already happened two or three times, and is waiting to happen again). That said, I recognize the rough consensus for unblocking with specific conditions, and I did specifically say I'd step back and let someone else unblock if they saw fit. (I've also been offline and thus not responsive). I hope you guys are correct about him and that he'll find a way to edit productively under the restrictions that are now in place. MastCell Talk 17:06, 23 November 2015 (UTC)

My head hurts[edit]

Thanks for this. I hope no small forest creatures were harmed after you read those edit summaries :) The best way to catch one is to cut a hole in the ice and place peas around the perimeter. Then when he comes to take a pea you kick him in the ice hole.ArtifexMayhem (talk) 12:10, 14 December 2015 (UTC)

My head hurts too facepalms after seeing stuff people are doing after the case. Thanks for this as well. It doesn't look like things are improving in the personalizing regard such as this talk header or RFC especially. In that RfC, we're getting accusations of wikihounding because a regular in the topic commented on the RfC.[23][24]. I'd rather not needlessly draw you in to the topic (not really interested in digging through more diffs myself either), but do you have thoughts on following through with your warning, or is it better for us to try to figure out how to handle it at WP:AE at this time? If you're personally considering whether action should be taken or not, that would save the effort of putting together a request (and drama in the process), so I'm mainly asking to get an idea of where things may need to go in the future. Kingofaces43 (talk) 15:20, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
As you've probably figured out, I'm not very active here at the moment. I will do my best to follow up on the warning to Prokaryotes, but I also think it would be reasonable to go through WP:AE if there's an acute issue that needs attention, since I can't promise a rapid response. My feeling is that discretionary sanctions are supposed to make it easier to deal with tendentious editing, rather than more cumbersome, and so clear-cut cases shouldn't have to go through a drawn-out process or WP:AE. But again, I can't promise anything with regards to availability. MastCell Talk 01:22, 19 December 2015 (UTC)

Totally unrelated to present drama[edit]

...but I did notice your comments here about my old RfA and went back to the bit you linked. I am sincerely curious about the issue (access to the block button) that tipped the balance for you and how to address that concern, which was echoed by a number of other people. I do plan to try again, probably in the spring, so how do I, in essence, prove a negative? While some of the other reasons folks !voted oppose were legit complaints, this is the #1 problem I don't know how to address - because it's not a problem! I said up front in my original statements that I truly believe in recusal where I would be involved, but how can I convince folks of what is a sincerely held value when it's a power I am asking for, not one I've used. Is there some way I can create an analogous track record or create a "contract" with other editors? One solution I thought of was to have an on-wiki list on a subpage of editors who I would not act upon based on prior content editing interactions (good and bad) but some might think that's an "enemies list". Another idea would be to be open to recall, but recall is totally voluntary and so in reality I think it is just drama fodder. Given that you and I will, most likely, disagree sometimes, perhaps strongly, yet I think you would agree that there is a desperate need for adult admins who have a lot of content editing experience, how could someone like me reassure someone like you on this issue? What are your thoughts? Montanabw(talk) 00:41, 16 December 2015 (UTC)

Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I hear you about proving a negative—it's not really possible. I think the problem at RfA is that once someone has the admin bit, it is nearly impossible to remove it, even for obvious cause. As a result, a lot of RfA participants (including me) get very conservative. I believe (and believed) that you have every intention of recusing in appropriate circumstances, but there is no mechanism to keep people accountable, so it's basically a question of trust. I don't think that you should put together a "list" of people whom you'd recuse from; as you mention, it will, at best, be open to gaming and at worst would be misconstrued as an enemies list. I generally don't pay much attention to recall pledges; there was a trainwreck years back where a candidate promised to be open to recall (it was this promise that put her over the top into the successful range), then refused to honor the pledge when she was actually recalled. It went to ArbCom, who basically told us that we were gullible suckers for believing the recall pledge in the first place... so, lesson learned.

Honestly, if you ran again I would probably support you. Every passing month I'm more depressed about the lack of sane adults here. You are a sane adult. I think the concerns have been communicated, and you've heard them, and I think (being that you're a sane adult) you'll bear them in mind. I can't speak to how to reassure others; RfA is an unpredictable process. The only thing I'd suggest is tackling the issue upfront in your next request for adminship. Acknowledging the concern goes a long way toward defusing it, and it's better to do it upfront; it's very hard to respond and be heard over the din once the actual RfA picks up steam. Best of luck and happy holidays. :) MastCell Talk 01:30, 19 December 2015 (UTC)

To be honest, I see admins resign the bit on a regular basis, particularly after their own behavior (wheel-warring, whatever) got them blocked. Even more just go inactive. What was interesting is that the leader of the din is now indef blocked... which is usually the case with people who go on a vendetta about me; I call them on their behavior, then they are outraged, I'm evil, but sooner or later, they ALWAYS pull the same stuff and get themselves blocked in situations -- often where I was not involved at all. (whining and sighing). Montanabw(talk) 00:54, 21 December 2015 (UTC)
But, back to the topic I think one reason I wanted to discuss my future AfD with folks like you who are also sane adults but !voted oppose the last time, is that I kind of am who I am (which is, among other things, over 50 and with a particular degree -- info already posted on my user page -- that suggests I'm pretty good at both advocacy and adjudicatory behavior, whichever is needed... <grin> ) so what I'm wanting to do is to do a better job of presenting that "sane adult" side as opposed to ... whatever it is that has people accusing me of various forms of nefarious evil. For example, you and I might have reasoned, good-faith disagreements on things like alternative medicine (I see good things happening with equine-assisted therapy, for example, but I share your concerns that quackery kills) or organic farming (hence my peripheral lurking at the GMO issues); but we have also learned how to (usually) discuss differences of opinion like rational adults. Montanabw(talk) 00:54, 21 December 2015 (UTC)

Please see "A question of identifying reliable sources and references"[edit]

Here: [25] Jdontfight (talk) 20:33, 30 December 2015 (UTC)

Hello, I asked for Dispute resolution here [26] best regards Jdontfight (talk) 21:28, 5 January 2016 (UTC)
Thanks, but I'm not interested in participating in that process. As a separate matter, please don't send me any more creepy, passive-aggressive emails. If you have something to discuss with me, do in on-wiki. MastCell Talk 01:23, 7 January 2016 (UTC)

Need some input[edit]

OK, you are one of the MEDRS gurus, and I would value input from a neutral person who hasn't been involved in this situation: I am trying to work out some difficulties at several animal- and equine-therapy articles. I feel that what I am presenting is being dismissed out of hand. Discussion is all over the place, (two user talk pages, the fringe theories noticeboard and five different articles) but the summary of the drama is here. I actually DO want to have properly balanced articles with good sources. But the usual personal attacks (I'm "owning" articles, blah, blah) are not exactly creating a collaborative environment. I actually agree with some of the other editors' assertions that the articles need improvement, but my concern is replacing one set of weak reasoning (breathless promotionalism) with another (it's all is "bogus" and "pseudoscience"). Equine-assisted therapies have legitimate concerns that studies have not been particularly well-designed, but I am concerned that the entire field of animal-assisted therapy is somehow being dismissed as having "no good evidence" to support that it is beneficial. (Obviously, some claims are pretty well established, but others are flaky; I get that). I'm particularly trying to figure out how to handle the equine-assisted psychotherapy topic (the medical benefits of therapeutic horseback riding are somewhat better studied and I think there is actual progress happening on that article). At this point, the discussion probably has come down to how we use MEDRS and related guidelines-- particularly when there are still mostly preliminary, early studies with the "more research needed" tag. Specifically, how do we use a fairly negative meta-analysis that looked at 14 studies (and they legitimately found problems, but I also think the writers nonetheless hit the panic button with their conclusions) against a broader and more favorable literature review that looked at 47 studies; and both referenced an earlier review of 14 studies that reached a cautiously optimistic conclusion. (FWIW, [27], [28] and [29] I'll end this now, it's getting tl;dr. Any input will probably help. Montanabw(talk) 09:55, 31 December 2015 (UTC)

Thanks for the note, and I apologize for the delayed response (as you can probably see from my contrib history, I'm not very active here these days). I would caution against viewing the second meta-analysis as "broader" on the basis of including more studies; more rigorous systematic reviews often end up including fewer trials, since many trials are excluded due to a lack of sufficient methodologic soundness. Without knowing anything about equine-assisted therapy or its evidence base, I would say that the negative meta-analysis (PMID 24953870) appears methodologically stronger than the other two—but again, this is a snap judgement on my part. Given my limited participation, I'm not looking to get involved in any disputes unless they're on topics that I care deeply about, so I'm going to sit this one out. I'm sorry I can't be of more help, but best wishes for the new year. MastCell Talk 01:20, 7 January 2016 (UTC)
Understood. My question is, basically, if the 2014 study completely invalidates the 2013 one or the 2015 literature review. The dispute on the articles is basically if this stuff is "bogus" or "pseudoscience" (which seem a fuzzy word here -- some crew on WP described psychology itself as a pseudoscience) and I think it is not—my view would be to discuss each within the article with an explanation of their relative strengths and weaknesses. My own view is that the 2014 study took the most conservative approach, but even it stated that these therapies appear to do no harm and that the famed "more study is needed". The other two were more favorable, but each did acknowledge that there is a lack of really good quality studies out there. Thoughts? Montanabw(talk) 15:18, 7 January 2016 (UTC)
I think that the 2014 systematic review (PMID 24953870) is significantly stronger (from a methodologic perspective) than the other two sources. Whether it "invalidates" them, or whether the "pseudoscience" label is applicable, I don't know. Personally, I prefer to use strong terms like "pseudoscience" sparingly, for belief systems that present themselves with scientific trappings but are completely unfalsifiable (for instance, intelligent design, or climate change denial)—so I wouldn't use it here. MastCell Talk 01:12, 12 January 2016 (UTC)
You and I do appear to agree on the "psudoscience" question. Words like "fringe" vs. "new" or "cutting edge" have similar problems. If you want to take a look at the discussion consolidated at Talk:Equine-assisted therapy, a comment on the pseudoscience-versus-new-field-of-adjunct-treatment distinction might ratchet down the drama. I keep saying that I have no real objection to putting something in the article about each of the three studies and discussing their relative strengths and weaknesses; that is, IMHO, an appropriate form of "teaching the controversy." Studies of Animal-based therapies are probably a challenge to create because real-life critters aren't as customizable as lab rats, but given that there apparently are dozens of studies out there, but limited systemic/literature reviews, perhaps some tips as to what amongst the reported studies might be good to touch upon as additional sources could be useful. Montanabw(talk) 23:21, 13 January 2016 (UTC)

Rubio and climate[edit]

Accepting arguendo your characterization of Rubio's position (which I believe is mostly true), I thought I might try, perhaps vainly, to help you comprehend the incomprehensible: Disagreement with a portion of X does not constitute disagreement with all of X. The strength of the connection between human activity and climate change is a portion of the modern scientific understanding of climate change, but it is does not constitute the entire such understanding. Therefore, I would have no problem with a statement that "Rubio believes that part of the modern understanding of climate change is unproven." None at all. And a statement that "Rubio believes that part of the modern understanding of climate change is false" would be, to me, pushing the envelope slightly, but only slightly. But the actual statement in the article is another matter altogether. That's the problem. CometEncke (talk) 22:05, 19 January 2016 (UTC) Also, I put this in the edit summary, but I want to put it into the edit -- this is not intended as a nastygram. It's simply an explanation. My experience with threaded discussion in RfC's is that it is worse than useless. So I'm putting it here.CometEncke (talk) 22:07, 19 January 2016 (UTC)

The scientific understanding of climate change is that it's driven by human activity. If you don't accept that (which Rubio doesn't), then you don't accept the scientific understanding of climate change. Rubio basically says that maybe the climate is changing, but he doesn't believe that humans are the cause. That's like saying you're willing to believe that electrons exist, but you don't believe in electricity—in other words, acknowledging some basic aspects of shared objective reality but rejecting anything resembling the modern scientific understanding of the topic. Sure, there is some disagreement among scientists about how much warming we're likely to see, but that window of uncertainty is very far away from anything that Rubio, or any Republican politician, is willing to accept. It's not like Rubio's position is somewhere within the bounds of modern scientific debate—he's way outside of it.

(Separately, Rubio is in an interesting political position with regard to climate change. He backed a cap-and-trade proposal back in 2008 or so, when the Republican Party was more open to the reality of climate change, and at a time when cap-and-trade was part of Republican orthodoxy. But then Obama embraced cap-and-trade and, predictably, it went from the Republicans' favored public-policy solution to absolute anathema. Now Rubio has to distance himself from his 2008 support of climate change, much like Romney in 2012 had to distance himself from his earlier advocacy for health-insurance mandates—which underwent a similar rapid transition from Republican orthodoxy to anathema. I'm not sure whether these were intentional strategies on Obama's part, but they've definitely put many of the Republican candidates in an awkward situation. But I digress). MastCell Talk 00:45, 20 January 2016 (UTC)

But . . . if that's your criterion, you could just as easily say that the IPCC doesn't accept scientific reality. They do not make any prediction as to the impact of rising CO2 on worldwide agricultural production. But the impact is obviously going to be positive, and dramatically so; the evidence for this is just as strong as it is for temperature. This comes out of all sorts of experiments and is not even remotely debatable, as anyone who's purchased a CO2 generator for their greenhouse knows very well[30]. But actually saying so would get in the way of all the doom and gloom on the issue, so they say something incomprehensible, instead of coming right out with the obvious facts as they do on warming. In that sense, Rubio and the IPCC are equally failing see that which is obviously real (and, I might add, in the case of plant growth, is a consensus among those who have studied the issue, though perhaps not among scientists as a whole, many whom likely have never thought about it.) — Preceding unsigned comment added by CometEncke (talkcontribs) 14:26, 20 January 2016 (UTC)
Oh good lord. Yes, Rubio is totally just like the IPCC, that sounds totally plausible and well thought out. --JBL (talk) 14:37, 20 January 2016 (UTC)
@CometEncke: That's disappointing; I thought we were on the verge of a serious conversation, but now you've taken a wrong turn toward crazytown. You must think I'm an idiot, or incapable of critical thought. Yes, CO2 increases plant growth rates. Increasing CO2 levels, in isolation, might increase crop yield. But the CO2 increases we're experiencing are, and will be, accompanied by numerous other effects, including extreme temperatures, drought, floods, and so on—all of which will disrupt and lower crop yields. Not to mention the obvious: increased CO2 levels will also lead to more rapid growth of weeds, fungi, and pests, which would fuirther reduce crop yields. Finally, the scientific community has addressed the impact of climate change on agriculture, at great length. I suspect you are well aware of this and are feigning incomprehension, which isn't a good look for you. MastCell Talk 00:55, 21 January 2016 (UTC)
The IPCC does indeed make predictions about "impact of rising CO2 on worldwide agricultural production." See Chapter 7 of the Working Group II report. Shock Brigade Harvester Boris (talk) 04:55, 21 January 2016 (UTC)
I'm sorry I came across that way. Thank you for continuing to respond seriously, even though you believed I was not writing seriously. Yes, I'm aware that's how the IPCC says it, and I'm also aware that the viewpoint gets a fair amount of traction. But think about what you are actually asserting for a moment. Depending on a whole host of factors, carbon enrichment studies with a doubling of the CO2 level, while holding everything else the same, typically show a growth response of 10-50%, frequently with a decrease in water consumption. If we take carbon sensitivity of three degrees, that's implying that a three degree increase in temp. would have to be accompanied by other effects that overwhelm that signal. Such as . . . rising temperatures causing less plant growth? Yet if you compare the agricultural productivity of equatorial regions with that of cold regions, the relationship is the opposite. Similarly if we compare the productivity of temperate regions int he Summer and the Winter. Such as . . . drought? But at higher CO2, plants need less water, so even if predicted decreases in precipitation come to pass (I'm unclear on what the data [as opposed to models] say about whether they have been or not), it's difficult to credit that this will overwhelm such a dramatic impact. I'm curious if you still think my thoughts are crazy. CometEncke (talk) 07:24, 21 January 2016 (UTC)
Do you understand why people might not want to take seriously reasoning of the form, "Marco Rubio is just like the IPCC because he rejects the consensus of scientists on humanity's role in causing climate change, while the IPCC doesn't accept the following one-paragraph blog argument"? You have pretty strong feelings that certain controlled experiments mean the world behaves a certain way; do you agree that this is maybe not comparable to a broad consensus of the majority of scientists in a large field? --14:47, 21 January 2016 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by JBL (talkcontribs)
Above was JBL again. First of all, JBL, thank you for contributing a direct response. It may surprise you to know that I am also a math person, just as you appear to be. I do understand that, though in great likelihood, differently than you do. If one is used to thinking about a certain question in a certain way, it is tempting, and easy, to disregard a contrary case, particularly if one regards the person making it as an opponent. But my understanding that many will view it as unserious is, to me, less important than my desire to follow the evidence, wherever it may lead. I would suggest that the phrase "certain controlled experiments," while accurate, tends to hide the strength of the actual evidence. There are greenhouse experiments, FACE experiments, and the human/natural "experiment" of actual worldwide food production. I realize that the increase in the last is also driven by all sorts of other factors -- some with even greater impact than CO2 increase -- and yet, in a way, it is the most important experiment of all. All three types of experiments produce the same general trend, and dramatically so. Is food important as important for humans as temperature, more so, or less? As such, in discussing CO2 issues, does the growth issue deserve equal billing, less or more? Should the fact that the people bringing up the growth issue tend to be ones a person regards as opponents impact one's answer to that question? So, yes, I can see that, but, to me, the more important question is, should one follow reality wherever it leads, or not? CometEncke (talk) 15:49, 21 January 2016 (UTC)
OK, let's talk about reality. You assert that climate scientists ignore the beneficial effect of rising CO2 on plant growth. That assertion is false; Boris pointed out above that the IPCC addresses this issue head-on. Likewise, the US EPA addresses the positive impact of higher CO2 on crop yields, although in much more nuanced terms than you've used (i.e., it's not as simple as more CO2 good: [31]). Climate scientists have looked at the CO2 question in context (as opposed to in isolation, as you're treating it), and concluded that there will be regional variations in crop yields but that the overall effect of climate change on agriculture is likely to be strongly negative. You're not acknowledging the reality of what climate science actually says on the subject, which makes it sort of rich for you to claim the moral high ground as a realist. You're certainly free to disagree with the scientific understanding of the impact of climate change on agriculture, but not to deny that any scientific understanding exists. There are all sorts of unflattering names for what you're doing, because it's fundamentally dishonest. I understand that you've been polite, but honestly, I find it sort of creepy when people repeat obvious falsehoods in a calm, reasonable tone. The juxtaposition of a rational tone of voice with totally irrational claims is off-putting. MastCell Talk 16:45, 21 January 2016 (UTC)
(edit conflict) I don't have any interest in a general discussion about whether you understand the impacts of increased CO2 in the atmosphere better than the IPCC. This discussion began with Marco Rubio, remember? --JBL (talk) 16:55, 21 January 2016 (UTC)
Totally irrational? Let's take this from first principles. Ignoring interaction effects for the moment, CO2 is, on the whole, beneficial to plants. CO2 has obviously been rising. Again ignoring extremes and variations for the moment, water is, on the whole, beneficial to plants. Global precipitation has been rising, on the whole, though not by much [32]. The picture with warmth is more ambiguous. Up to 15 degrees C or so, there are few cases where it hurts. From 15-30 degrees C, effects are mixed, depending on species. Above 30 degrees C, it is for the most part harmful, though there are a few exceptions. The range of temperatures in most places on earth, at most times, is something like -20 C to 40 C. There are exceptions at both ends (Antarctica, Death Valley), but in the big picture, that is accurate. Within this range, there are more temperatures where more warmth would mostly help (<15) than where it would mostly hurt (>30), and also more places and times at <15 than at >30. So from rising CO2, we have three factors which, on average and in isolation, are mostly helpful. I understand that details do matter and could push things in the opposite direction. But saying that a combination of three generally positive factors will produce a positive result -- is irrational? To the point where it is creepy? Really? I realize that's a broad, high-level overview, which of necessity has left out a lot of detail. But irrational? CometEncke (talk) 11:22, 26 January 2016 (UTC)

Admin related question[edit]

I was wondering if I could bounce some thoughts off you? I've seen that you've been involved in climate change and other science articles that can get a bit controversial. In many of those articles, a statement that there's a scientific consensus always seems to draw a huge push from those wanting to support the fringe point of view claiming there isn't a consensus. We get into behavior territory when editors consistently try to push those points of views pretty well characterized by WP:ADVOCACY to the point it's a significant drain on other editors. That's tough to manage from an admin or ArbCom perspective because it's behavior closely tied to content instead of personal attacks, etc. that are more obvious to those uninvolved.

If we do end up at ArbCom with GMO-2 (which I hope we don't) I'd like to potentially set up a proposal for dealing with this nuance (decent chance of flopping, but worth addressing). I've been thinking that the climate change cases would have some good precedent on how they deal with this specific kind of behavior related to scientific consensus and general advocacy. There's a lot to sort through though, and I haven't found centralized discussion on this as most cases and remedies deal with long hanging fruit like battleground, personal attacks, etc. Are you aware of any focused cases on this or someone else I should ask that has some good history and recall in the topic? No worries if you don't. Thanks. Kingofaces43 (talk) 19:47, 31 January 2016 (UTC)

(talk page stalker)One thing to keep in mind is that there is a significant difference between the degree of "scientific consensus" on climate change versus that on GMOs. The climate change consensus is so overwhelming that it really is ridiculous flat-earth thinking to claim otherwise, though the folks on the other side do create straw man arguments to mischaracterize debate around the edges of various nuances as being a controversy over the central issue where they are not. (They do this with recent creationism too; finding disputes between evolutionary biologists to claim that there isn't a consensus on evolution, broadly speaking, where clearly there is). In contrast, the GMO issue is far more legitimately controversial; the field is newer, there are a significant number of studies that look good on the surface, except that they have corporate backing that calls their objectivity into question, the "anti" side has much newer preliminary studies to look at, and so on. I compare some of these to where climate science was in the 1990s (evidence trending in present direction, but not as strongly supporter) or, more to the point for the GMO issue, the tobacco lawsuits, where that industry successfully suppressed a great deal of information showing that cigarettes were harmful and that tobacco companies were jiggering nicotine levels in cigarettes. (I'm old enough to remember the old tobacco company claims that there was "no scientific proof" that cigarettes "caused" cancer -- I'm even old enough to remember cigarette ads on television) In contrast, most of the corporate-funded studies opposing climate change ARE the fossil-fuel industry-funded ones, and it is that very funding issue that was one thing that called their objectivity into question. I don't really want to personally wade into the GMO quagmire too far, but I do want to point out that we don't have an exact comparison here when it comes to the consensus out there. Montanabw(talk) 02:55, 1 February 2016 (UTC)
Unfortunately you're dealing with a lot of the misconceptions the public has on the science (some of that fueled by another industry, but a lot just more politics and misunderstanding). I came here to ask MastCell their opinion though, not for your standpoint on GMOs. I'd ask that you respect that. Kingofaces43 (talk) 03:25, 1 February 2016 (UTC)
I'm sure MastCell will weigh in and answer your question eventually, and we always have to deal with public misconceptions on both/all sids of most issues that get politicized. I'm commenting because there's way too much nastiness over in the anti-pseudoscience arena and it is important to separate reasonable people with disagreements from tinfoil helmet wearers. And frankly, though they are frustrating (I periodically must tangle with recent creationists at evolution of the horse and occasionally have fallen into snark there) even the tinfoil helmet people need to be removed from the room gently unless they initiate the bad behavior that necessitates calling the men in the white coats. Contempt is not appropriate on-wiki. Montanabw(talk)|GO THUNDER! 23:56, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
I'm only commenting philosophically along the lines that there is a scale of consensus-versus-woo on various scientific matters, not a black and white bright line. (For example, flat earth = zero, the sun rising in the east every morning = 10) You and I probably agree that anthropogenic climate change is at least a 9 and recent creationism is about a 1; the carcinogenic nature of cigarettes probably at least an 8 and that weird toxic mushroom remedy a 2. But there is a lot more room to disagree on where the weight of current science places the belief that GMOs are utterly and completely harmless on the "proven fact" scale, and that's my only point. You might say the jury is in and declare it a 10, I might say the jury's still out and give it a 5, but we can discuss it like civilized people. Maybe later we all will bump it into the realm of safety with reasonable certainty, or maybe it will turn out like tobacco (once advertised as healthy), do a collective facepalm and say, "what WERE we thinking?!" But in the meantime, let's all be civil to each other and not dismissive of reasoned debate by intelligent people of goodwill who disagree. In law, we have a saying that the degree of certainty or consensus goes to "weight, not admissibility." But over to Mastcell... Montanabw(talk)|GO THUNDER! 23:56, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
Just a note that I have seen these comments, but am currently trying to find the time and wherewithal to respond thoughtfully. MastCell Talk 20:09, 5 February 2016 (UTC)


Hello MastCell you recently topic banned me. However you base your decision on, as you wrote:

pattern of disruptive editing on the part of Prokaryotes is clear and continuing. This pattern includes disruptive stonewalling on talkpages, misuse of sourcing guidelines, edit-warring, personal attacks, and so on

Besides EdJonhnson suggested 3-7 day ban, without my 1RR revert. I am unaware of disruptive editing, what you call stonewalling, sourcing guidelines, edit warring, and personal attacks. As long as i am on Wikipedia i was never accused of a personal attack, stonewalling, or misuse of sourcing guidelines. Also you are the first to claim my edits are disruptive or that i edit war in the current talk page discussion. Therefore i ask you to provide difs so i can follow up on your reasoning. And because i think you are wrong, therefore ask you to reconsider your admin decision at Arbcom. Thanks. prokaryotes (talk) 21:02, 5 February 2016 (UTC)

Dude, I accused you of misuse of sources like 2 minutes ago. The Quixotic Potato (talk) 21:07, 5 February 2016 (UTC)
I looked. I disagree. Your objections to Prokaryotes' edit have no meritmake no sense. Please feel free to argue it there. I am not interested in arguing it here. --David Tornheim (talk) 22:08, 5 February 2016 (UTC)
Just because you do not understand something, doesn't automatically mean that it therefore doesn't make sense. The Quixotic Potato (talk) 22:14, 5 February 2016 (UTC)
I have revised my statement. It is not from lack of understanding that I disagree. --David Tornheim (talk) 22:26, 5 February 2016 (UTC)
@David Tornheim: Are you sure? Jonathunder and Mike Peel are both admins, and they both seem to be on my side... Weird. The Quixotic Potato (talk) 22:34, 5 February 2016 (UTC)
  • I support Prokaryotes' appeal. Prokaryotes has not been disruptive, certainly not to the level of his accusers which I clearly explained at the action. In fact, Aircorn (who was not an accuser) admitted to the initial mistake that started the dispute, and so did Prokaryotes admit to the 1RR, and the two worked together to resolve the problem. Such cooperation is supposed to be valued at Wikipedia. There is no reason to take such a strong measure against Prokaryotes without taking similar action against his/her accusers who were equally guilty and did not admit to their error. In addition, I have not seen ad hominems from Prokaryotes, but his/her action describing ad hominem attacks from his accusers (supported by numerous editors, including those who were not involved) showed plenty of evidence of such a problem by his accusers. This ruling is an injustice and needs to be reversed. --David Tornheim (talk) 21:41, 5 February 2016 (UTC)
My mistake was that instead of changing Davids edit to the articles body I changed the exact same sentence in the lead. If I had done things as I intended (i.e. reverted Davids edit directly), I believe the dispute would have continued along much the same paths. AIRcorn (talk) 09:48, 6 February 2016 (UTC)
@David Tornheim: Actually, Prokaryotes is being disruptive right at this very moment. Please read WP:CIR. Thanks in advance, The Quixotic Potato (talk) 21:45, 5 February 2016 (UTC)
Please stop with the ad hominems. Prokaryotes' edit was fine and your objections there make no sense. If you want to see WP:SYN and WP:OR, look here: here, here and here. I am not interested in arguing with you here about Prokaryotes' edits at Arnnon Geshuri. Prokaryotes has said all that needs to be said about your objections. --David Tornheim (talk) 22:08, 5 February 2016 (UTC)
Are you inviting me to join the GMO discussion? Bad idea... The Quixotic Potato (talk) 22:12, 5 February 2016 (UTC)
Why is it a "bad idea"? Because you are biased? Are you threatening to be disruptive? --David Tornheim (talk) 22:26, 5 February 2016 (UTC)
OF COURSE I AM BIASED ABOUT GMO I AM A POTATO.... The Quixotic Potato (talk) 22:34, 5 February 2016 (UTC)
LOL. --David Tornheim (talk) 23:21, 5 February 2016 (UTC)
@David Tornheim: Sorry for shouting. I think you'll understand that this is a very sensitive subject for us potatoes, and so I refuse to join the GMO discussion. The Quixotic Potato (talk) 23:28, 5 February 2016 (UTC)
  • @Prokaryotes: The edits to Arnnon Geshuri (edit | talk | history | protect | delete | links | watch | logs | views) are outside the scope of the sanction; I didn't look at them and they have no bearing on it. To your point, I don't believe that this is the first you're hearing about problems with your editing. Evidence was presented in the GMO ArbCom case to the effect that your editing was tendentious. The Arbs took this evidence seriously enough to consider a finding against you; in the end, they deadlocked 5-5, although even the Arbs who opposed the finding said things like: "I'm seeing evidence of serious POV-pushing on the part of Prokaryotes" and "Prokayotes' behavior has gotten close to warranting a FoF". That narrow escape should have been a wake-up call, but evidently it was not. On top of the ArbCom proceedings, I warned you previously about your habit of casting aspersions, so to say that you were "never accused of a personal attack", ever, during your Wikipedia career is pretty clearly false. So that is the background for the sanction.

    The edit-warring is obvious; among other things, you violated the 1RR restriction and then, when called on it, responded combatively by attacking other editors on the page rather than acknowledging the error (to your credit, you ultimately chose to self-revert after being urged to do so). There was evidence presented, primarily by Tryptofish, in the case request of your inappropriate and tendentious approach to sourcing. I believe you when you say you are "unaware" that you are doing these things, which is a big part of the problem. I don't see any evidence that you have insight into why your editing causes problems, despite getting that feedback from ArbCom, from your fellow editors, from admins, and so on. All of those things, taken together, led me to issue the topic ban.

    Given the behavioral issues in this topic area, we should be demanding and expecting best behavior from its editors, rather than making endless excuses for them. I don't think it's even anywhere near a borderline call to say that you have been a long-standing negative influence in the topic area. That is not to say you're the only editor contributing to the problem, but your presence has clearly worsened the situation at virtually every turn. Hence the topic ban. You are welcome to raise the issue with other admins or at WP:AE, and I'll go along if others think the sanction was disproportionate. But your defense—which basically boils down to refusing to admit the existence of any concerns about your editing, ever—is not exactly persuasive. MastCell Talk 01:53, 6 February 2016 (UTC)

In all the comments in regards to my "behavior" concerning the current incident I made it very clear that i was referring to my contributions since 2016. If you want to discuss earlier edits then you need to be more specific. Yes, I am aware that i made comments in a short period, following the verdict of the GMO case last year, at the announcement page, that carried to much emotions. Sorry, about that. prokaryotes (talk) 04:26, 6 February 2016 (UTC)
I think you need to understand that your actions are evaluated in context. It seems unreasonable, to say the least, to disregard completely everything you've done outside the last 30 days or so. I don't see that you've ever acknowledged that your edits before 2016 were problematic in any way, with the possible exception of your non-apology immediately above. And I don't see any clear change in your behavior that occurred with the new calendar year; it looks to me like a continuation of the same. MastCell Talk 05:13, 6 February 2016 (UTC)

"among the most challenging on Wikipedia"[edit]

"… and to help shoulder the workload, which is among the most challenging on Wikipedia".[33] Tell me about it. The technicalities, which one would think ought to be nothing, the weight of a feather, are vultures hacking at the liver, they're malignant living things. Check out this. You don't have to find the time and wherewithal to respond thoughtfully, just scream. Bishonen | talk 21:23, 5 February 2016 (UTC).

Yeah. WP:AE is the worst-implemented idea on Wikipedia, which is saying something. The principle is that admins need more discretion to act decisively in areas that are trouble-prone. The practice is that case requests devolve into endless mini-Arbcom litigations. In other words, the practice not only doesn't serve the principle, but is actually completely counterproductive to it. I don't understand the thought process behind it at all. MastCell Talk 01:40, 6 February 2016 (UTC)
(talk page stalker) So, hypothetically, if it were going to be reorganized in some way, how would you do it? Opabinia regalis (talk) 02:01, 6 February 2016 (UTC)
In an ideal setting, there would be a critical mass of clueful admins there, so that requests could be dealt with quickly. I think most admins, including myself, are loathe to be seen as acting hastily or unilaterally on these requests, so we tend to state our opinions and then wait for additional input. This approach works well if we have a lot of admins active at WP:AE, but it founders when there are only a small handful, as in the case above. I also think we should actually empower admins to use their discretion, rather than emphasizing the wiki-legal side of the process and turning into a mini-ArbCom (long, drawn-out, deliberative, adversial, litigious). A general rule is that WP:AE should at least be no less efficient than our other existing processes—for example, even simple 1RR/3RR violations take forever to resolve on WP:AE, whereas they're often handled within 6 hours or less at WP:AN3. Even the much-maligned WP:AN/I probably has a better track record of rendering speedy and fair judgements in uncomplicated cases than does WP:AE. But in the end I think a big part of the problem is the lack of intrepid admins (I plead guilty here as well, in that I don't have the stomach or on-wiki time for lengthy forays to WP:AE anymore). MastCell Talk 02:11, 6 February 2016 (UTC)
Do you see that as an organizational problem or a cultural problem? I completely agree with you on there being an insufficient number of clueful administrators (period, or at AE). But there's nothing in policy that prohibits the first administrator from taking action. It just for some reason is culture there to not do that. I'm as guilty as anyone regarding this practice, but it's perfectly changeable. There's a request that I asked for more information about earlier today; in retrospect, I really ought to have just closed it as declined. There was enough input there already. NW (Talk) 02:19, 6 February 2016 (UTC)
There are a few times I've seen a WP:AE request that clearly had merit and simply acted on it as the "first responder". Needless to say, the amount of pushback I got was substantial. I think we should create a culture where clearly valid AE requests are dealt with rapidly by the first admin on scene (as at WP:AN3, WP:RFPP, etc), but the current culture leads people to feel like they're entitled to mount a lengthy campaign in their defense and then wait on the judgement of a panel of admins, even for obvious topic-ban or 3RR violations. MastCell Talk 02:24, 6 February 2016 (UTC)
Don't you medical types have a principle of "first, do no harm" or some such? Since WP:AE clearly is doing far, far more harm than good, rather than being "reorganized" it should be deleted, blown up, nuked from orbit, shitcanned, deleted with fire, sent to the Great Beyond, or whatever tired cliche it takes to get rid of the damned thing. Shock Brigade Harvester Boris (talk) 02:26, 6 February 2016 (UTC)
Oh, a philosopher! :P The "do no harm" principle is usually understood to balance the harms of acting with those of not acting (if any potentially harmful intervention were forbidden, we would have neither surgeons nor oncologists; we'd just have homeopaths). I guess the question is whether it would do more harm to get rid of AE (and have even fewer mechanisms for dealing with chronic problem areas and editors), or to keep it and try to improve it. I don't know the answer. MastCell Talk 02:31, 6 February 2016 (UTC)
AE works OK on simple cases, as does WP:AN3. At least, AN3 closures don't take a huge amount of time. At AE there are many submissions that would take 15 minutes to an hour or more to come up with any reasonable admin vote. There are features of AN3 that make the admin work easier, like the possibility of 24 hour blocks, and the short horizon for action. Anything more than 24 hours in the past is often considered stale and doesn't need to be reviewed. At AN3 you don't have to evaluate someone's entire editing record to properly close out a report. EdJohnston (talk) 04:05, 6 February 2016 (UTC)
There is also the problem that people at AE tend to be self-selected survivors of contentious arbitration proceedings and the degree of argument and challenge after decisions is utterly heartbreaking. That acts a real deterrant to being involved as not only do you need to be ready to do really detailed research but you also know that you are guaranteeing twice as much time and effort defending your decision afterwards. AE has to be streamlined and made less combative somehow. I wonder whether removing the peanut gallery all together might help kept the requests simpler? Just the person lodging the AE and the person accused might be a lighter more workable format? Spartaz Humbug! 14:28, 6 February 2016 (UTC)
Peanut galleries definitely haven't been helpful, but there are cases where an editor has issues on multiple fronts. An example could be editor 1 reporting due to edit warring in their interactions, and editor 2 reporting personal attacks. My general thought would be to restrict comments only to evidence on the reported editor instead of restricting editors. That gets tricky though too because sometimes the person reporting actually needs the boomerang (other editors help here to outline the reporter's behavior), while other times the calls for boomerang as just involved editors out for blood regardless of merit. Your idea could be an overall net positive, but I'm curious how it would handle the former boomerang situation when someone being reported is dealing with an editor that should be boomeranged without making themselves look like they are just lashing out at the report. Maybe it could work. Kingofaces43 (talk) 16:57, 6 February 2016 (UTC)
I am shocked to learn that a Wikipedia process is not functioning well because of a chronic shortage of clue and an excess of petty complaints. Shocked, I say! Opabinia regalis (talk) 07:31, 7 February 2016 (UTC)

← What's happening now, in the WP:AN thread on Prokaryotes' appeal, is a perfect illustration of the problem. The appeal itself is a foregone conclusion: when has a deeply entrenched battleground editor ever passed up a chance to argue? At a glance, about 80% of the verbiage in the appeal comes from partisan GMO editors, most of whom already had their say at disruptive and disputatious length in the original WP:AE thread. There is uninvolved input, but it's hard to see amid the same yelling from the same people.

I suppose I should go defend myself, but I really don't want to. I don't want to reward this system. This is why admins don't act on WP:AE, and why they especially avoid decisive action on difficult cases involving entrenched battleground editors. Prokaryotes and his enablers will never give up on fighting this. I will be responding to appeals for the foreseeable future, and defending myself against all manner of poorly-thought-out and unsupported accusations. If I choose not to respond (the most reasonable choice, I think, in the circumstances), then I'll be accused of failing to be "accountable". You can see that one GMO partisan, Minor4th, already raised the specter of hauling me in front of ArbCom to pay for the crime of sanctioning Prokaryotes.

The charge of acting unilaterally is particularly laughable; the thread sat open for more than a week with no other admin input, and I finally closed it out of a sense of fairness to both the accuser and the accused (they deserve speedier resolution of the complaint). If I wanted to act unilaterally, then I wouldn't have begged for other admins to comment and then left the thread open for more than a week. I don't know why any sane person would want to deal with this system as it exists now. MastCell Talk 20:24, 8 February 2016 (UTC)

I just read that AN thread and I swear I used to have more brain cells than I do now. Maybe I've been eating too many toxic GMOs? Thank you for having waded into this, ridiculous though it is. Now I'm looking through the open AE requests and I see no admins have responded to the one about SageRad yet, submitted 9 days ago, and only one on the two-week-old CFCF request. I hadn't realized the shortage was quite that bad. (In true Peter principle fashion, I can't recall having ever used AE myself.) Never mind the problem of who "enforces" - why isn't anyone (admins, gnomes, those people who like to flit about dispute resolution pages, etc) pointing out the word limits? Some of those walls of text are impenetrable. Opabinia regalis (talk) 09:09, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
Honestly, the word limit is a minor issue from my perspective. I have sort of a mental word limit anyway, after which I'm much less likely to consider what a person has to say. If someone is making a cogent, well-supported argument, then I'm happy to read 500 words, or 1,000, or more in order to understand his or her point. On the other hand, if they're blathering incoherently, then I might not even get to 500 words before I stop following. In some ways, that's a bias in favor of people who can communicate clearly and effectively in writing, but then again, communication skills are an essential tool in an online collaborative encyclopedia.

I've also seen a lot of arguing about people exceeding the word limit in ArbCom cases. These arguments seem to spring from the misconception that more words are inherently more convincing. Personally, I've always found the reverse to be true. We don't really need clerks to enforce word limits; the penalty for writing walls of text is that people stop paying attention to what you have to say.

Regarding the open cases, I don't think I'm directly "involved" with CFCF, but we do overlap in a lot of topic areas (as well as on WP:MEDRS), so I'm leaving it for someone else. Likewise, I don't think I'm formally "involved" with SageRad, but since his main motivation for coming to Wikipedia was perpetuate a feud with David Gorski by inserting BLP violations into his biography, I steer clear and let others handle him. MastCell Talk 15:58, 9 February 2016 (UTC)

Having been deeply immersed in this excrement storm myself, I've been thinking a lot about these AE issues too (to the point of having done my best Jonathan Swift (Taylor's brother) imitation when I began to feel like no one was taking responsibility for the AE complaint I had filed, the one discussed just above). One thing that is absolutely clear to me is that MastCell has been superb throughout all of this, and merits my deepest thanks. Yes, there is a need for more admins to be active at AE, and to watch one another's backs. But I think a big part of the cultural problem does reside with that peanut gallery, and I tend to think it's something where ArbCom, themselves, need to take more of a role. (I wonder, is anyone currently on ArbCom watching this thread, whom I might influence? Hmmm...) Last year's committee got tripped up over one kind of peanut gallery in the Kevin Gorman case. And in GMO-1, I felt like I was talking to a committee from something written by Kafka, when I pointed out the need to take strong action against the prominent members of the genetically-modified peanut gallery. Last year's committee largely botched GMO-1, and as a result, we are stuck with a peanut gallery that no herbicide can suppress. There is going to be some form of GMO-2 sometime, count on it, and this next time, ArbCom needs to finish the job. --Tryptofish (talk) 18:13, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
Ha, I wasn't trying to drag you into those other cases, MastCell; you've already done more than enough of this stuff :) Just thinking out loud.
I'd rather see more words (and less arguing about word limits) in cases, and fewer words elsewhere. In a case, there's a captive audience of people committed to sorting through the evidence, and that audience can set its own deadlines (though hopefully with more promptness and predictability than has happened in the past). AE is not anyone's obligation, so capturing volunteer attention is the key to getting an issue resolved there, and some basic parameters that boil down to "have some respect for other people's time" seem more useful.
Well, I participated in the original GMO case, so I am recused as an arb from matters directly arising from it, so I can say this out loud: we are seeing the effects of turfing stuff back to AE instead of handing deserving users their sanctions straight from arbcom. That case needed several more topic bans. I suspect that kind of thinking has real appeal, where the evidence is complex, the decision is late, and arb time is scarce, and it may then seem like the eventual topic ban will be more "community-driven". But on the other hand, it makes AE admins the targets of the inevitable bickering and complaining which would be properly directed at arbcom. Part of the trouble with AE is that the last two times enforcement actions have come to arbcom's attention, the trigger was an individual admin taking a decisive enforcement action that proved unsustainably controversial. Opabinia regalis (talk) 00:14, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
Heh. So Spartaz (talk · contribs) closed Prokaryotes' topic-ban appeal as unsuccessful ([34]). Prokaryotes, in his inimitable fashion, then reverted the administrative closure of his appeal so that he could continue to argue some more ([35]). I'm not sure whether I'm more amazed by his chutzpah or appalled by his terminal level of argumentative cluelessness. Either way, I should probably just restore the close and block him, but that would only lead to a dozen more pointlessly interminable appeals. Thanks for punting this one, ArbCom. MastCell Talk 04:52, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
And off to ARCA already, I see. Next stop Jimbotalk? Opabinia regalis (talk) 19:41, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
No doubt, per rule #6. MastCell Talk 20:20, 10 February 2016 (UTC)

Biostats link on homeopathy talk page[edit]

It's not easy to do this poorly on a multiple-choice test...

Thanks for the link - it has inspired me to dig in and start reviewing my stats! EditorFormerlyKnownAsPuddin' (talk) 01:45, 6 February 2016 (UTC)

No problem. The things you find in the International Journal of Magical Effects of Inert Water! Of course, as you probably saw from the linked JAMA article, medical residents' performance on the statistical exam wasn't stellar. But the virtually complete lack of anything resembling basic statistical knowledge on the part of homeopaths was sort of shocking, if not totally unexpected. I mean, you would think that 25% of examinees would get the 4-answer multiple-choice questions right if they guessed randomly, so the scores of 0%-8% suggests an amazing level of active ignorance. I mean, a random-number generator would have outperformed the homeopaths by a significant margin. I guess the take-home point is that when it comes to interpreting clinical evidence, you're better off trusting a random-number generator than a homeopath. :P For the benefit of talk-page watchers, we're discussing this article. MastCell Talk 01:59, 6 February 2016 (UTC)
Can't say I'm too surprised by the performance of med students, but the homeopaths appear to be right on the money as far as living up to expectations. I mean, they completely eschew the scientific method, ignore demonstrable facts, have arbitrarily redefined the notion of cause and effect in their "provings", and prattle on about the imagined health benefits of concoctions that amount to nothing more than unicorn piss. Is it any wonder that they are entirely incompetent in the world of epidemiology? EditorFormerlyKnownAsPuddin' (talk) 03:55, 6 February 2016 (UTC)

@EditorFormerlyKnownAsPuddin': Since we're talking statistics, I was curious to quantify exactly how badly the homeopaths did on this multiple-choice test. At right is a simple binomial distribution modeling the outcomes if one were to simply guess randomly on the stats quiz that was administered to the homeopaths. (There were 20 questions; nine of them had 5 possible answers, and the remaining eleven had 4 possible answers, so the overall probability of guessing the correct answer on a given question is 0.2275).

The homeopaths, as a group, got 5% of the questions right (that is, 1 out of 20). As you can see from the binomial distribution, if one were simply guessing at random on every question, there's only a 3.9% chance of doing that badly (in other words, the cumulative probability of getting 0 or 1 answer correct is 0.03946).

In layman's terms, when it comes to tests of statistical know-how and sophistication, a homeopath will lose to a random-number generator 96% of the time. Put another way, when a statistical question arises, you would be much better off trusting a random-number generator or a coin flip than trusting a homeopath. MastCell Talk 19:54, 8 February 2016 (UTC)

Spectacular. EditorFormerlyKnownAsPuddin' (talk) 20:11, 8 February 2016 (UTC)