This page is an essay on the role of Wikipedia.
|This page in a nutshell: If an Wikipedia article has an academic (scholarly) bias, it does not mean taking sides and it is no violation of WP:NPOV (articles should give an accurate picture of the academic balance in the field).|
The gist of the argument: scholars and scientists decide what is "true" for Wikipedia.
This is "The free encyclopedia that anyone can edit." It isn't an "anything goes" forum for crank science. This website is devoted to mainstream science and mainstream scholarship.
The role that academic opinion plays, or should play, on Wikipedia can occasionally be controversial. This essay discusses why Wikipedia has, and should have, a pro-academia "bias".
The questions that Wikipedia had to answer were: "How do you learn scientific facts if you are not yourself a scientist? How do you show unto others that you have learned such facts correctly? How do you show unto others that these facts properly belong to science?"
Some editors new to Wikipedia are somewhat surprised to find out that Wikipedia has a pro-academic bias. For example, Wikipedia does take the side of Charles Darwin and calls evolution a fact, or the paradigm of biology to use somewhat fussy language. Wikipedia does apply the pseudoscience label to creation science and intelligent design. How does Wikipedia know this? It knows it from biologists who live by publish or perish. The biologists have consensually agreed that evolution is valid and that creationism and intelligent design are awkward rubbish, insofar as we speak of science. (Creationism is theologically okay, but as far as it pretends to be scientific, it is labeled pseudoscience.)
Tolerance does not require refraining from calling a spade a spade. Wikipedia applies the label pseudoscience when it is consensually applied by the authorities in the field. See List of topics characterized as pseudoscience. That is not to say that creationist theology is rubbish, but when it tries to be science it does not get beyond pseudoscience. As biologist H. Allen Orr has explained, "Evolutionists are widely perceived as uncritical ideologues, devoted to suppressing all doubt about evolution. It's easy to see how this impression arose: evolutionists, after all, spend most of their public lives defending Darwin against endlessly recycled creationist arguments. So of course we appear hide-bound reactionaries. (So would physicists if the theory of gravity were dragged into court every other year.)" Scientifically seen, creationism "is not even wrong", it is not science any way one would look at it.
Articles are to be written from a neutral point of view. Wikipedia is not concerned with facts or opinions, it just summarizes reliable sources. This usually means that secular academia is given prominence over any individual sect's doctrines, though those doctrines may be discussed in an appropriate section that clearly labels those beliefs for what they are.
In any science or academic field there are winners and losers. Wikipedia simply does not side with the factions that have lost the scientific/scholarly debate.
Disinterested community of scholars
Heir to a great ideal of the disinterested community of scholars seeking truth for its own sake, the university has become a central institution of the modern era.— Peter Sheehan, Universities in the Knowledge Economy
From the already approved Wikipedia policies and guidelines it follows that Wikipedia often takes and should take the side of academia. It pertains to the basics of Wikipedia. Wikipedia editors don't create their own sort of knowledge, but render the viewpoints expressed by academics. In respect to present-day biographies, entertainment and politics, reliable press is also included. It seems obvious that Wikipedia has and should have a pro-academia bias. According to some scientific knowledge theory, knowledge is forged by the academic community, i.e. a "disinterested community of scholars seeking truth for its own sake".
This essay is about recognizing the importance of the university (or universities) for the buildup of human knowledge, which Wikipedia has to render. We know the boiling point of mercury, the chemical formula of water and we heard about Julius Caesar from people who got such information from scholars. So, scholars have created most of our explicit knowledge, at least the explicit knowledge of encyclopedic value. We have to recognize how dependent is Wikipedia upon the academe.
As Silver put it, it is the academic community that produces the science and history other information that is used in our articles. Peer reviewed academic sources are also the highest quality sources we can use. Being "pro-academic" essentially means being "pro-information". And, really, you could technically argue it means "pro-truth" as well, since academics sources are the most likely to be correct and accurate. ... we [Wikipedia editors] already have a "pro-academia bias". It's called our "proper sourcing bias". The only major difference between us and Citizendium is that they required experts to actually write their articles, while we don't (as that would constrain the creation and expansion of articles). But, other than that, we both still have the same types of sourcing.
To many experienced Wikipedia editors, this essay is superfluous since Wikipedia policies, guidelines and essays already support/affirm it. e.g., Surturz said: The concerns of the OP are adequately addressed by WP:V, WP:NPOV, WP:NOR, WP:RS, etc. and is (indirectly) a re-hash of the WP:VNT argument.
In this case, a pro-academia bias is no violation of WP:NPOV, but a straightforward consequence of how scientific research and philosophical/theological debate work. It is restating the obvious, but it is meant to have an educational (pedagogical) value, like "what matters is verifiability not truth"controversial, see WT:V archives has educated thousands of editors into prioritizing reliable sources over their own musings about what the truth is in the edited matter. There is no denying that the viewpoints contained in this essay could be gathered from other Wikipedia policies, guidelines and essays. The intent is, however, to give users a quick introduction into how the ball is played inside Wikipedia.
What Wikipedia does not discuss is whether the mainstream scholarly view is right or wrong. Wikipedia does not question the mainstream view, it just takes for granted that it is true or at least that it is the best approximation of truth available today.
For writing about the pop music star Justin Bieber, we may expect that the mainstream press gives us more information about him than articles published with peer-review in scientific journals. In fact, what academics are in respect to scholarship, journalists are in respect to everyday events. They are professionals with a reputation of fact-checking and their area of expertise consists of everyday events like political events, disasters, crime, entertainment, etc. Plato and Aristotle did not have a diploma, because it was not usual for people in those times to have such credentials; meanwhile academics and journalists became specialized professionals, i.e. their activity got standardized and professionalized. So, besides a pro-academia bias, Wikipedia has a pro-press bias, meaning that the publications of the independent press, those with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy, are a very important information source for Wikipedia.
Who is who in the academe
In order to be able to identify reliable sources, we have to have some rule of thumb for who is an academic and who isn't, about who is an authority in his/her field and who isn't. So, sooner or later, it is unavoidable to pass judgment about who's who in the academe. "I like how he/she writes and I believe him/her on his/hers word of honor that he/she has checked the facts" is too subjective for WP:RSN. In fact, we ask for no more than for recognition for what is being practiced daily at WP:RSN, it just has to get a formal acknowledgment which will end nonsensical discussions like "your pro-academia bias is a violation of NPOV".
Accreditation matters. We would not want to be taught by someone who got his/her diploma through mail order or got a PhD for writing three essays on alternative medicine. But we should not turn the requirement of proper accreditation into being scared of a global accreditation conspiracy meant to silence the politically undesirable. Credentials matter and accreditation is there in order to prevent fake credentials.
An academic has:
- Credentials (typically an earned PhD, another doctorate or a terminal degree from a properly accredited university);
- A paid position, typically as a full-time professor at an accredited university;
- Research output in reputable peer-reviewed journals (preferably ISI-indexed).
Rick Roderick was teaching a TTC course about Jacques Derrida and said that Derrida has been smeared with claims that he believed that all opinions are equal. Roderick said that Derrida does not believe that all opinions are of equal worth, nor anybody else, except those permanently committed to the insane asylum. Therefore, Wikipedia does not believe and should not believe that all opinions are equal. Deciding who to trust and who to ignore is of capital importance when writing an encyclopedia. There is plenty of room for pluralism, there is no room for rubbish.
Here is what a Christian has to say about who counts as a scientist:
The Bible is the voice of God, not the voice of scientists. If we want the voice of scientists, we ask the scientists. Most of them do advocate the Big Bang, abiogenesis, and evolution as the most visible means of how the world came to be. Whether or not this was God's doing is up to the reader to decide. If the scientists are mistaken, this has to be shown to them on their own grounds, which anti-evolution folks are not really doing, because they are not reading up on the same literature, they are not using the same standards and experiments, and they are not speaking in the same circles nor getting published in the same journals. If it does not walk like a duck, does not talk like a duck, and avoids ducks like the plague, there is little reason to assume its a duck. Or scientist, in this case. I'm not saying the anti-evolution folks are wrong, I'm just saying that they are not mainstream scientists. This is why they're not consulted for the voice of scientists. Now, they can be consulted for what they think if their views are notable.
The CHOPSY test
Judging from the viewpoint of an encyclopedia, scientific facts have broad mainstream scientific acceptance. If a scholarly claim is principally unworthy of being taught at Cambridge, Harvard, Oxford, Princeton, Sorbonne, and/or Yale then it amounts to sub-standard scholarship and should be never considered a reliable source for establishing facts for Wikipedia. Any claim which would be unequivocally ridiculed at those universities cannot establish facts for Wikipedia. To the extent that such claims are notable, they should be rendered inside Wikipedia, but always with attribution and duly stating that they are minority or fringe views.
My 'attitude', and that of Wikipedia (arrived at through consensus) is that we don't write about bullcrap except in articles on the subject of bullcrap - and when we do we say 'this is bullcrap' in big shiny letters...— AndyTheGrump,
The root cause of the problem is the false equivalence given to the views of anti-fluoridationists and the scientific community. The scientific consensus, by definition, incorporates all significant valid viewpoints. It develops over time in response to new data. In maters of science, the scientific consensus view is inherently the neutral point of view for Wikipedia purposes. To "balance" that with anti- views is to compromise fundamental policy.— Guy,
Scientism is a term I only ever hear from homeopathists and creationists. It's an understandable reaction to the fact that the scientific debate is over and they lost.— Guy,
No claim that academia are perfect
A final note: there is no claim here that academia is perfect, pure embodied perfection. However, academia has the capacity to learn, research and integrate new viewpoints. "Wikipedia is behind the ball – that is we don't lead, we follow – let reliable sources make the novel connections and statements and find NPOV ways of presenting them if needed." According to WP:GREATWRONGS, Wikipedia has neither the task of reforming academia nor of correcting its failures. If academia has systemic bias, Wikipedia can hardly redress it, since it would have to rely upon peer-reviewed sources published by scholars and by definition scholars are part of academia and part of such systemic bias. According to WP:NOT#OR, Wikipedia is not a platform for publishing original research, even if it is aimed at redressing some real or imaginary harm produced by academia. Nor is it a platform for giving undue weight to novel academical insights. The question is not whether academia has a systemic bias, but what Wikipedia could do about it? And the answer is: nothing, Wikipedia is constrained by its own policies and guidelines to be unable to do anything about it.
For the practical purpose of writing Wikipedia articles in nuclear physics it does not really matter if nuclear physicists are "truly" disinterested, nor whether employment for physics faculties is biased according to gender, theological or political opinion. They may matter in articles about the sociology of science, but they cannot change the way scientific articles in nuclear physics should be written. Theological bias is a subject in the history of science, e.g. describing the early reception of the Big Bang hypothesis by the physics community. But Wikipedia, were it available when the Big Bang hypothesis was initially stated, would have had no business of correcting the scientific consensus because it seemed theologically biased against what smacked of creatio ex nihilo.
Although currently accepted scientific paradigms may later be rejected, and hypotheses previously held to be controversial or incorrect sometimes become accepted by the scientific community, it is not the place of Wikipedia to venture such projections.— WP:BALL
According to Paulo Correa et al., Wikipedia favors Big Science. I am not sure if he means that WP:UNDUE and WP:FRINGE directly lead to such result, but anyway, Wikipedia does favor the mainstream views and the scientific consensus and more or less rejects the fringe views, except in articles exclusively devoted to notable fringe views. In itself, this is neither good nor bad, it is a choice which Wikipedia makes in selecting which sources to trust. Chaos would result if Wikipedia made the contrary choice. Wikipedia is not a search machine, so it does not index/render all sorts of papers "fair and balanced". It also isn't a PR outlet for each his/her own pet idea.
We're following Wikipedia's guidelines as close as we can here. The root of the complaint (although the complainers may not understand it) is that Wikipedia is heavily mainstream-science based. Since homeopathy is so widely rejected by the mainstream, there is really no chance that it's going to be treated in the way the proponents wish.
Like most of these kinds of debate, it all comes down to "What kind of encyclopedia is Wikipedia". We don't have to apologize for taking the mainstream science view...that's what Wikipedia is. The simple answer for people who don't like our rules is to set up their own encyclopedia with the rules they like...and indeed, there are several efforts to do exactly that out on the Internet.
The problem with that is that the pro-fringe folks realize that these other encyclopedias are getting very little readership...so they want to put their views into Wikipedia, where they'll be seen more widely. What they don't get is that the reason that Wikipedia is the fifth (or so) most popular site on the Internet is precisely because we have the rules and values that we do.
In effect, the public has voted for Wikipedia and against encyclopedias with different rules...and that's why we shouldn't change our rules...and if the rules don't change - then we're not going to change this article to be more friendly to the Homeopathists.
As for the page having two sets of rules, it doesn't: sources representing mainstream scientific thought have precedence over mysticism and fringe science. That should be a fairly simple rule to comprehend and abide by.— User:Kww,
"Wikipedia is heavily biased for mainstream science" (or mainstream anything) is exactly how I'd expect an encyclopedia to work. On science subjects, Wikipedia should present articles with a balance that is supported by reliable peer-reviewed sources that exercise proper editorial control and are based on accepted scientific method - mainstream science by definition.
Wikipedia is mainly a venue for expressing views supported by established science and peer-reviewed scholarship (and perhaps reputable press, for certain subjects). Editors are supposed to understand this, to wish this and be competent at doing this.
Supporting mainstream science and mainstream scholarship is, therefore, required of all editors. Failure to respect mainstream science leads to the loss of disputes, and may result in being blocked and eventually banned. Strong adherence to mainstream science and mainstream scholarship is what made Wikipedia one of the greatest websites. So, dissent from mainstream science and mainstream scholarship will be perceived as an attack upon Wikipedia itself. If you want to win a dispute, your claims must be backed by reputable science or peer-reviewed scholarship. If you cannot honestly do that, then you must refrain from making a particular claim. And remember, Wikipedia is just a mirror, mainstream science and mainstream scholarship exist outside of Wikipedia and cannot be changed through editing Wikipedia, Wikipedia merely reflects them. So if you want to change science/scholarship, you have to be a scientist or a scholar; Wikipedia is not the venue for revising scientific opinion.
Global POV vs. scientific universalism
Wikipedia has chosen for mainstream science. Fine, no problem with that. In large chunks of the world "homosexuality good, pedophilia bad" isn't seen as science, but as Western propaganda. Yup, now I understand those people who complain that acupuncture is pseudoscience according to Western science. You see, according to Chinese science, it isn't pseudoscience. I don't have a problem with Wikipedia's choice, but it has to be made explicit. Neither Wikipedia nor science operate in a moral void.
Wikipedia is a place where we kowtow to the academic mainstream. If you don't like doing that, you won't like it here. Wikipedia is not about you and your personal views, the sooner you learn it, the better. Wikipedia editors have the three rights stipulated at WP:FREE, for the rest they work as servants. If you are not an editor in order to serve Wikipedia, you are in the wrong place.
Clearly, publicly and unapologetically Wikipedia is wholly sold out to the academic mainstream. Therefore inside Wikipedia propaganda for extremist or marginal ideas is done by trolls, misinformed naives, fools and madmen. Such ideas cannot be appreciated by Wikipedia. Most edit wars arise from a profound incapacity to understand what Wikipedia is. Nobody here gives a *** about what you believe (or about what I believe, for that matter). This encyclopedia is based on knowledge, not belief. Nobody here has a problem with newbies, we do have a problem with cocky tendentious editors.
If you want a tongue-in-cheek definition, Wikipedia is academic OSINT: we can read the papers written by the most illustrious professors.
What Wikipedia is can be summed up in these memorable words: "We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile."
- Cf. William T. Jarvis Anthroposophical Medicine
- "Bias" within quotation marks, like we would say that humans have a breathing "bias".
- H. Allen Orr (1996-10-25). "Darwin v. Intelligent Design (Again)". Boston Review. Retrieved 2018-12-31.
This does not at all mean that we don’t in loose, rough and ready ways judge interpretations… all the time. And this does not at all mean that practically speaking that some interpretations are obviously slightly better than others. Let me return to familiar ones like the traffic light. If it’s red and you see it as green, the outcome can be disastrous; Derrida doesn’t deny it. You know, it’s a bad misreading… bad misreading. But this is a familiar mistake and it is made about a lot of Derrida’s work. Philosophers call someone a relativist by which they mean it’s a person that holds that any view is as good as any other view. My simple response to that is this: that is a straw person argument, no-one in the world believes it or ever has believed it. No-one – Derrida or anyone else – believes that every view is as good as every other view. That’s only a view we discuss in freshman philosophy class in order to quickly refute it. I mean no-one believes it. There are no defenders of the view and since this tape will be going out, if we run into one it will be interesting, but we will likely find that person in one of the institutions Foucault discussed rather than in some seminar, okay. That’s where we will find them, if anybody believes that. No, Derrida’s kind of slippage is to remind us that the text of philosophy is not fixed; can not be fixed. It is of the nature of the text of philosophy and its relation to language that we cannot fix it once and for all. In a way it’s like the leaky ship where we haven’t got anything to stop the leak so we just keep bailing. I mean, the leak is in the language.— Rick Roderick, 307 Derrida and the Ends of Man (1993)
- Cf. Syria: Brides for Sale on IMDb
- Star Trek - First Contact (1996) Moviesoundclips.net. Rikeromega3 Productions 1999-2013. Retrieved September 26, 2013.
- Wikipedia:Neutral and proportionate point of view
- Wikipedia:Wikipedia is a mainstream encyclopedia
- Wikipedia:Scientific consensus
- Wikipedia:Why Wikipedia cannot claim the Earth is not flat
- Wikipedia:Scientific point of view
- User:Guy Macon/Yes. We are biased.
- Wikipedia:Lunatic charlatans