Wikipedia:Fringe theories/Noticeboard

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A user with an - ahem - idiosyncratic view of WP:NPOV and WP:RS, has returned, after an absence, to continue adding contentious fringe content to Psychokinesis (edit | talk | history | protect | delete | links | watch | logs | views). More eyes needed, please. Guy (Help!) 23:54, 15 January 2016 (UTC)

I reverted to the last "clean" version which appears to be that of jps. If I was over-bold in reverting, no worries about cleaning up my mess and mea culpa if I trashed a couple good edit in the process. Montanabw(talk) 02:31, 16 January 2016 (UTC)
There seems to be a repeating loop of WP:IDIDNTHEARTHAT and WP:REHASH by a user who insists that a minimally notable parapsychologist is actually a respected academic whose fringe opinion deserves prime space in the article. I'm done engaging, he's worn me out. - LuckyLouie (talk) 03:01, 16 January 2016 (UTC)
  • "Actually a respected academic": professor of philosophy at the University of Maryland, written several books on the subject, dozens of articles published in academic journals. Yes, that sounds exactly like a respected academic.
  • "Prime space in the article": actually, one paragraph in the appropriate section.

User:Montanabw, maybe you should state a reason for your revert. No one has done so yet, other than WP:IDONTLIKEIT. This is under discussion at Talk:Psychokinesis#Stephen_E._Braude. zzz (talk) 03:24, 16 January 2016 (UTC)

I'll grant you he's respected among fringe proponents. - LuckyLouie (talk) 04:15, 16 January 2016 (UTC)
This is a typical "response" from you. You just claimed that he's not a respected academic, which he clearly is. So, you are wrong, then, yes? Or are you going to pretend you were saying something else? Like [here], at the talk discussion, when you pretended you hadn't just claimed that Noûs is an "obscure" publication, which it clearly isn't. zzz (talk) 04:41, 16 January 2016 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Not my circus, but Signedzzz, you really don't understand that a philosopher is not the same as a scientist... two different fields. Respected academics in one field can still be crackpots in another. Montanabw(talk) 04:51, 16 January 2016 (UTC)

Montanabw, the connection is philosophy of science. You can't claim on the one hand that PK is purely scientific, and unconnected with philosophy, and at the same time that it is completely unscientific ("pseudoscience"). This respected philosopher is making no scientific (or pseudoscientific) claims, he is looking at PK from a philosophical perspective - his field of expertise. And this positive review[1], in a respected peer-reviewed journal, of a book he wrote on PK demonstrates that he is not regarded as a "crackpot". zzz (talk) 05:04, 16 January 2016 (UTC)
  1. ^ Patrick Grim (March 1989). "Reviewed Work: The Limits of Influence: Psychokinesis and the Philosophy Of Science. by Stephen E. Braude". Noûs Vol. 23, No. 1, pp. 126-136. Retrieved 22 December 2015. 
So far, the only policy-based reason to exclude this has been User:LuckyLouie asserting that it is an "obscure" publication (which he later seemed to have changed his mind about anyway), when in fact it is plainly obvious that it is a WP:reliable source. zzz (talk) 05:29, 16 January 2016 (UTC)
Also, could the admin User:JzG (Guy) please explain exactly how my view of what is or is not a WP:reliable source is "ahem - idiosyncratic"? See, I am claiming that this peer-reviewed academic journal is in fact a WP:reliable source. If that is wrong, please explain here why you think that. If you don't think I'm wrong, then what did you mean? zzz (talk) 05:35, 16 January 2016 (UTC)
I could explain again, but I doubt you'd listen this time either. You are in a minority of one. Guy (Help!) 09:13, 16 January 2016 (UTC)
What a surprise: you cannot back up your personal attack. You have not explained how this peer-reviewed academic journal is not an RS, and to suggest otherwise is obviously a lie. This kind of crap is what I would expect from a troll or vandal. I find it worrying that it is an admin casting aspersions and then lying about it. zzz (talk) 11:27, 16 January 2016 (UTC)
WP:STICK. And stop digging. Guy (Help!) 21:55, 16 January 2016 (UTC)
WP:IDIDNTHEARTHAT too! jps (talk) 03:32, 17 January 2016 (UTC)
I removed a bit of vandalism from Stephen E. Braude that included the word "ignorami" (sic). The word is from the Latin ignoramus "we do not know." The English plural is "ignoramuses." Roches (talk) 00:57, 18 January 2016 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I wish that people would speak plainly without citing numerous essays all the time. What's the journal in question, and what are the positions on why it's not reliable or why it is? SageRad (talk) 15:14, 19 January 2016 (UTC)

The journal in question is Noûs (see the ref, above). Because it's a peer-reviewed academic journal, I believe it is an RS. However, User:LuckyLouie has stated on Talk:Psychokinesis that it is "obscure". JzG/Guy is apparently also claiming here that it's not reliable (but hasn't explained why). For about a month now, a handful of users have been insisting that the "Belief" section of the article should describe in detail stage magicians, fraudulent mediums, and the like, but not mention this (apparently) respected academic who has published articles and several books on the subject (one of which is reviewed in the journal in question). zzz (talk) 15:34, 19 January 2016 (UTC)
This is a lot more complicated than either side is letting on. No journal is "reliable", full stop, without qualification. The answer to the question "Is X reliable?" must always be "For what?" Then, if we establish that the journal is reliable for some particular statement, we need to figure out whether that statement merits inclusion in the context of the article. It would be helpful if there were a clear, concise statement of the wording that the reference is meant to support. The Traveling Boris (talk) 02:19, 20 January 2016 (UTC)
2nd paragraph of this section. Please note the context of the article, which goes on to devote a paragraph each to over a dozen stage magicians and the like. The paragraph has the cite to Nous and to another book about psychokinesis by the same author that discusses Carl Jung's theory of synchronicity. zzz (talk) 03:23, 20 January 2016 (UTC)
OK, that is helpful. I think the argument reduces to WP:WEIGHT: is Baude sufficiently prominent in the field for his views to merit inclusion? This could go either way. What is clearer is that any such mention needs to be qualified by stating that Baude's writings are held in very low regard by other academics. For example a review of one of his books states "I would be surprised if any reader with the slightest tendency towards critical thinking would find the evidence for psi presented in this slim volume to be anywhere near compelling." As I said before, this is complicated. The Traveling Boris (talk) 03:56, 20 January 2016 (UTC)
Thanks for looking into it. The reviewer in Nous describes Braude as "the most philosophically sophisticated among clear advocates of the paranormal" and states that "this book - like Braude's work in general - [is] well worth attending to." I would agree with adding more criticism. zzz (talk) 04:18, 20 January 2016 (UTC)
What they basically mean is that while he may be a crank, he is not an obvious loon. His views do not change the scientific consensus that PK is bollocks, and we do not, for obvious reasons which you nonetheless seem to have difficulty grasping, "balance" mainstream scientific consensus with the opinion of lone cranks. See WP:PARITY / WP:WEIGHT. Guy (Help!) 13:38, 22 January 2016 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────My apologies for the vulgarity and the able-ist language, but "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king." That's the extent of the praise Braude is getting. It's much like saying, " Russell Humphreys is the most sophisticated young-Earth creationist who claims to rectify his faith with the observed age of the universe." One might even say that Humphreys ideas are "well worth attending to" if for no other reason than to see what the high-water mark for sophistication is so that when you encounter creationists you can dispatch their claims with relative ease. This, however, is not justification necessarily for including Humphrey's ideas on pages about religious cosmology for example because Wikipedia's remit is to explain the notably WP:MAINSTREAM treatments of human knowledge. That means you have to find reliable independent sources that show that his ideas are seriously connected to the larger subject, keeping in mind such principles as WP:PARITY, WP:ONEWAY, and WP:NFRINGE. jps (talk) 13:36, 21 January 2016 (UTC)

I don't buy your interpretation. If you read the review, it's clear that it means what it says - not "if for no other reason..." The same journal has published work by Braude, in any case, thereby confirming the reviewer's evaluation. And it is also quite clear that it's a reliable independent source, as required by WP:PARITY and WP:ONEWAY, since it's a peer-reviewed academic journal. WP:NFRINGE is about whether a fringe theory is notable enough to qualify for a separate article, so not relevant. Except where it states: "Theories of Booth's escape – The page on John Wilkes Booth includes descriptions of conspiracy theories contending that Booth eluded his pursuers and escaped. However, they are not notable enough for a dedicated article." The same principle should apply here. zzz (talk) 17:18, 21 January 2016 (UTC)
I'm not interested in pretending that psychokinesis is real or worthy of serious consideration. WP:MAINSTREAM. jps (talk) 12:31, 22 January 2016 (UTC)
Leaving aside your personal interests, which part of that essay are you referring to? Presumably not the part that supports what I've been saying: "Wikipedia gives the most space and prominence to descriptions of a subject that conform to the expert understanding while marginalizing in space and prominence the minority understanding, or even excluding some descriptions or issues that have no reliable sources." zzz (talk) 12:47, 22 January 2016 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────It is simply a fact that psychokinesis does not exist. Wikipedia will represent this fact plainly in our article on the subject and will not be distracted by cranks. jps (talk) 14:45, 22 January 2016 (UTC)

So according to you, the professor of philosophy at the University of Maryland is "a crank", and as such, must not be mentioned. I think you should leave your personal opinions about respected academics aside when judging what can and cannot be mentioned in articles. As a side-issue, User:JzG, please refrain from editing my comments. zzz (talk) 15:02, 22 January 2016 (UTC)
Anyone who advocates PK as if it were real, is, by definition, a crank. And as noted by several others, we do not "balance" scientific consensus with individual people whose contrary views we happen to like. This is not restricted to PK or other fringe topics, it applies everywhere. It's called false balance and it's a failure of WP:NPOV. And any editing of your comments was entirely accidental. Guy (Help!) 16:05, 22 January 2016 (UTC)
The article describes in detail over a dozen stage magicians etc who have "advocated PK as if it were real". Since that is the case, the only reason I can see to exclude the views of this respected academic is because his views are more difficult to ridicule. In other words, to use Wikipedia to promote your skeptic POV, against policy. zzz (talk) 16:15, 22 January 2016 (UTC)
Assuming there's no answer to this forthcoming, I'm going to go ahead and delete the Psychokinesis#Belief section, as per Talk:Psychokinesis#Remove_.22Belief.22_section. zzz (talk) 18:04, 22 January 2016 (UTC)
Your argument makes no sense. The only explanation that makes sense to me is that you believe psychokinesis is real and are offended by those of us who point out that such is a cranky belief to which equal validity will not be extended at Wikipedia. Do you believe that psychokinesis is real? Just curious. In any case, I see you've already been reverted by another. jps (talk) 18:19, 22 January 2016 (UTC)
Yes, someone has removed the POV tag, apparently because Template:POV#When_to_remove doesn't apply here. I believe in correcting obvious bias in articles, and obviously I find it somewhat offensive when users revert my corrections and refuse to address the problem. I repeat: The article describes in detail over a dozen stage magicians etc who have "advocated PK as if it were real". Since that is the case, the only reason I can see to exclude the views of this respected academic is because his views are more difficult to ridicule. In other words, to use Wikipedia to promote your skeptic POV, against policy. Would you agree with this, and if not then explain. zzz (talk) 18:24, 22 January 2016 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Repeating your poorly argued statement does not make it more convincing. No one agrees with you because the argument makes no sense. I'm sure I can find many people who believe in psychokinesis. That does not mean we need to use the page as a soapbox for the peculiar views of a marginalized academic who believes likewise. jps (talk) 18:37, 22 January 2016 (UTC)

It's a question, not a statement. What is the reason to exclude the views of a respected academic who "advocates PK as if it were real" from Psychokinesis#Belief when the section describes in detail over a dozen stage magicians etc who have "advocated PK as if it were real"? I have indicated the obvious answer, above. Your refusal to address the question is revealing. zzz (talk) 18:44, 22 January 2016 (UTC)
The answer to your question is that reliable sources identify stage magicians as pretending as though psychokinesis is real. Reliable sources do not identify this marginalized academic as having a prominent opinion on this topic. jps (talk) 19:09, 22 January 2016 (UTC)
Not only has this "marginalised" long-standing professor of philosophy at a major university been published in dozens of reliable sources, but the reference above in a peer-reviewed academic journal - ie. a reliable source - identifies him as "the most philosophically sophisticated among clear advocates of the paranormal" and states that "this book - like Braude's work in general - [is] well worth attending to." So how is that less "prominent" than the examples currently in the article, which begin with, for one example, a long paragraph about Angelique Cottin (ca. 1846) known as the "Electric Girl" of France (who is not notable - "prominent" - enough for a Wikipedia article)? In other words, your reply is obviously wrong. But thanks for at least pretending to reply. If only to confirm the blatantly obvious, that you are indeed intent on abusing Wikipedia's policies to promote your skeptic POV. zzz (talk) 19:20, 22 January 2016 (UTC)
To be clear, your claim can only be that the source mentioning Braude's nonsense makes him prominent (self-citations don't count). Others, including myself, have indicated why this isn't the case. Find a better source that indicated Braude is a prominent source for explaining belief in psychokinesis. Until you do, you're going to be drummed out by the rest of us. You can complain that about the "skeptics" winning this argument as much as you want, but it's not a convincing whinge. jps (talk) 20:00, 22 January 2016 (UTC)
  • Quick note... Philosophy is not the proper field to be considered an expert on psychokinesis. Neurology would be the most applicable field. If a respected philosophy professor supports psychokinesis as a real phenomenon, then with regards to neurology, that professor is indeed a crank. MjolnirPants Tell me all about it. 19:27, 22 January 2016 (UTC)
  • Quick reply: Philosophy of science is indeed the "proper field" to address this issue. As this particular professor of philosophy also clearly believes, as well as others in the field. If you disagree, you need to get your opinion published in a peer-reviewed philosophy journal. zzz (talk) 19:32, 22 January 2016 (UTC)
  • Um. No, "philosophy of science" answers no questions as to whether psychokinesis has been demonstrated. You have lost, zzz, and will continue to be reverted until you give up and move on. jps (talk) 20:00, 22 January 2016 (UTC)
  • So, a couple of skeptic Wikipedia editors are now authorities on philosophy of science, and actual philosophers and philosophy books and journals will be ignored on the subject on Wikipedia. Oh, and I've been warned not to edit the page, so your POV is now de facto official Wikipedia policy, in place of WP:RS, WP:NPOV etc. So, you're right, I have lost - congratulations.zzz (talk) 20:14, 22 January 2016 (UTC)
  • This is not what is happening, but if it makes you feel more comfortable with the situation and encourages you to stop disrupting the page, feel free to angrilycomplain about this off of Wikipedia. I hear that the Huffington Post entertains such rhetoric from time to time. jps (talk) 20:25, 22 January 2016 (UTC)
@Signedzzz:Quick reply: Philosophy of science is indeed the "proper field" to address this issue. No, it isn't. A Philosopher of Science is not the same thing as a Scientist. WP:RS makes it clear that the expert cited needs to be speaking to their field of expertise. It takes science to answer such questions, and even if you were correct and this person were eminently qualified: They're still making claims which do not reflect the scientific consensus. MjolnirPants Tell me all about it. 20:51, 22 January 2016 (UTC)
User:MjolnirPants, I obviously need to explain the relevance of philosophy of science. Braude is not disputing the scientific consensus, which is that no scientific evidence has been found. If laboratory experiments find no evidence of something, does that mean that anyone who says they have seen compelling evidence outside a laboratory on many occasions, for example Carl Jung, is either delusional or lying? Science doesn't address that question. According to Braude, it's a philosophical question about the limits of science. But currently the consensus for this article is to keep it simple and follow the "skeptic" approach by just describing such "prominent" individuals as Angelique Cottin (ca. 1846) known as the "Electric Girl" of France and James Hydrick, an American martial arts expert, etc, etc so that's my last comment. zzz (talk) 01:19, 24 January 2016 (UTC)
@Signedzzz: Whether or not psychokinesis is a real phenomenon is an empirical, not a philosophicalquestion. Questioning the limits of the scientific method is the job of a philosopher of science. Questioning the results of science is either science (such as if the questioner is qualified and asks specific questions that have not already been answered, and can be answered) or crankiness (such as if the questioner is not asking scientific questions, but philosophical questions intended to undermine the validity of the science's results). What you described clearly falls into the latter category. MjolnirPants Tell me all about it. 01:47, 24 January 2016 (UTC)
I can't tell if you're being serious or not. Please read my comment again (I specifically mentioned: "Braude is not disputing the scientific consensus"). Questioning the results of science - which "results of science" is Braude questioning, in your opinion? I know I didn't just describe any! 02:23, 24 January 2016 (UTC)
This example of a reply being casually ignored or misrepresented is depressingly familiar at this point - it seems as though it is a deliberate strategy. Braude is a professor of philosophy who writes about philosophy, including books about the philosophy of science with respect to PK: Wikipedia's Skeptic users don't like his philosophy and don't want it mentioned in the PK article, I get it, but endlessly repeating that you don't like it and calling him a "crank", achieves nothing. Although, I don't know, perhaps this also is a deliberate strategy, intended as a smokescreen. Whatever, its a massive waste of time and energy. zzz (talk) 13:53, 24 January 2016 (UTC)
::sigh:: Okay, let me explain this to you, because you seem confused about what you're saying, in addition to what I'm saying. I'll admit that I wasn't making everything completely clear, but I really thought it wasn't necessary. I thought you had thought through the implications of your own argument, but you apparently haven't. So I will lay it out for you. I'm sorry if this is very long, but you really seem to need me to explain everything.
  • Until there is evidence for it, we must assume it does not exist according to the principles of empiricism.
  • The scientific method is the best method we have for finding evidence of any phenomenon.
  • Many people have searched for evidence of it using the scientific method, and found nothing.
  • People who believe anyways have proposed conditions that might have explained why no evidence was previously found.
  • New tests -again using the scientific method- have been done to see if those proposals had any merit, only to find that they did not.
  • Many natural explanations have been proposed which would explain the non-scientific evidence which has been proposed.
  • All of those natural explanations have been shown to be valid, applicable, and likely.
  • The scientific consensus has thus been not that there is no evidence of psychokinesis, but that there is no evidence, there is no theoretical framework, all evidence and theories thus far proposed are best explained by human error, and there is no reason to suspect that there will ever be evidence or a sound theoretical framework.
  • If this person is making any argument whatsoever that this phenomenon is real, they are contradicting the scientific consensus. (Note, I have perused their work since I first saw you mention this, and I know for a fact that this is the case.)
  • If this person is making any argument whatsoever that science isn't a valid way to answer this question, then they are both demonstrably wrong, and a crank (in their own field, no less).
  • If this person is not making the argument that psychokinesis is real, then bringing them up is completely irrelevant.
Do you understand now? Either this person is is conflict with science (making them a crank), or you are bringing them up as a red herring. Your belief that it is possible to dispute an empirical claim with nothing but reasoning is, itself, a hallmark of crankiness. No offense intended, I'm just telling you what you sound like. MjolnirPants Tell me all about it. 18:22, 24 January 2016 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────I explained why this professor of philosophy believes philosophy of science is relevant, per WP:Reliable Sources. Your response is to state your opinion that this philosopher is a bad philosopher, and that philosophy is actually not relevant. However, you are not qualified to offer an opinion, and even if you were, that would be WP:Original Research, and therefore still irrelevant. The other fundamental error is that a Wikipedia user is actually describing their own beliefs when describe those of someone else. I have stated all of this several times, but nevertheless every editor opposed to including this has repeatedly made exactly the same basic, fundamental errors. Yet still no one has answered my question about WP:Weight, how the disputed material is less relevant or "prominent" than the material currently in the article about Angelique Cottin (ca. 1846) known as the "Electric Girl" of France and James Hydrick, an American martial arts expert, and a dozen others like them. I have asked this several times also. I have to accept that I'm not going to get an answer, and that the same fundamental errors will continue. I said I wouldn't comment further, but I think it's worth pointing out that, regardless of the rights and wrongs of including the disputed material, which isn't going to be discussed anyway, the success of this "discussion" strategy makes a total mockery of Wikipedia's model of WP:Consensus. zzz (talk) 14:53, 25 January 2016 (UTC)

You would be better served in your goals by encouraging high-quality outside sources to take Braude's work seriously. Get someone who isn't a believer in psychokinesis to publish a laudatory evaluation that frames his work as equally valid. As it is, right now we have no indication that his work is anything but too marginal to include anywhere but on his own page. jps (talk) 15:43, 25 January 2016 (UTC)
The book review referenced above evaluates the philosophy as valid, though "deeply unpopular". You could be right about weight, it's hard to say, and maybe not that important. zzz (talk) 20:00, 28 January 2016 (UTC)
@Signedzzz: Your response is to state your opinion that this philosopher is a bad philosopher No, that was not my response. You are misinterpreting what I said. However, given the facility with which you've read everything else I wrote, I am neither surprised nor inclined to correct you. I don't think you're capable of understanding why you're wrong. Suffice it to say that it's clear you're arguing against consensus. MjolnirPants Tell me all about it. 20:15, 28 January 2016 (UTC)
No, my summary was accurate. zzz (talk) 21:05, 28 January 2016 (UTC)
Stage magicians have shown up many academics in the area of skepticism. Per WP:REDFLAG and WP:FRIND, we take a dim view of fringe journals like JSE. jps (talk) 15:56, 7 February 2016 (UTC)

Weak Statistical Evidence?[edit]

Could somebody explain to me why parapsychology is cited as an example of a field that relies on anecdotal/weak statistical evidence at WP:FRINGE/PS? Please take note of the fact the current President of the American Statistical Association regards the field of parapsychology to be a legitimate science ( stating: "Parapsychology is the scientific study of alleged abilities such as telepathy and clairvoyance, collectively called psi abilities. What sets parapsychology apart from science fiction and wild anecdotes is that the research is done under well-controlled conditions and generally uses statistical methods to compare the results to what would be expected by chance." Note that the link is to an article in the mainstream academic Journal of Statistics Education. I recommend that a better parenthetic example be found to illustrate the concept at WP:FRINGE/PS (talk) 19:45, 24 January 2016 (UTC)

The weak statistical evidence that is cited in parapsychology is a well-known feature of the discipline according to reliable independent sources -- that is those not connected with SRI or SSE, for example. The elephant in the room, if you are a true believer such as yourself (this has been pointed out by skeptics, to boot) is that many "mainstream" results in psychology have even weaker statistical evidence. Fortunately, we haven't had to face that issue head-on yet because most psychological claims based on such weak statistics are buried in primary source literature and don't see the light of day here at Wikipedia.
Ultimately, what makes parapsychology corrupt isn't so much its fundamental premise, but rather its lack of convincing results. It is closer to pathological science or cargo cult science when it gets down to the evaluation of what the "heavyweights" are doing.
jps (talk) 12:53, 25 January 2016 (UTC)
The publication I have cited is from a mainstream, peer-reviewed academic journal with a high impact factor. Since when has that not been adequate source material at Wikipedia? As for your "true believer" comment - you don't anything about me and your sweeping generalizations above are just as tenuous. (talk) 15:34, 25 January 2016 (UTC)
I have a pretty good idea of who you are, Your insistence that this puff piece is "peer-reviewed" is pretty amusing. Normally this kind of human-interest interview fluff is just given a nod from the editor-in-chief. It's not as if she's presenting any actual data or serious science. jps (talk) 15:48, 25 January 2016 (UTC)
Having looked at the Journal's guidelines for authors, it states[1] Articles submitted to JSE that undergo a full review are peer-reviewed by an Associate Editor chosen from the JSE Editorial Board and (usually) two referees. The refereeing process is double-blind; authors and referees are anonymous to each other This looks absolutely standard for top quality journals including Nature.DrChrissy (talk) 16:10, 25 January 2016 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────You think they peer review interviews? jps (talk) 16:27, 25 January 2016 (UTC)

I am sure that it would not be published without being first reviewed by at least one member of the editorial team, who I would assume is a peer.DrChrissy (talk) 16:34, 25 January 2016 (UTC)
One member of the editorial team like Jessica Utts? Seriously, interviews are not scientific papers. This is, like, source recognition 101. We aren't talking about a piece that would ever undergo peer review. We're talking about journalism. jps (talk) 16:37, 25 January 2016 (UTC)
The interview would be a good source for 'What Jessica Utts believes'. Its not a good source for the subject of her beliefs. Only in death does duty end (talk) 16:53, 25 January 2016 (UTC)
I read the interview. Most of what she says is entirely unobjectionable. She has a mainstream statistics background, and she applies that to claims of psychic phenomena. She's found that there is some statistical evidence for what appear to be supernatural phenomena, with small effect sizes.
The point that's being missed here is that she is defining legitimate parapsychology as research that uses well-controlled experiments and statistical analysis. That's different than saying parapsychology is any work that calls itself that. So if a paper is under discussion here that does not use well-controlled experiments, then that paper is not parapsychology as Utts defines it. It is wild anecdote, or science fiction, as Utts defines that. Roches (talk) 17:23, 28 January 2016 (UTC)
Yes, that's what Utts is trying to reposition for parapsychology discussions, but there is a broader point that parapsychology even as Utts champions in its purest form is accused of being pseudoscientific. The interview with Utts in no way negates this criticism. jps (talk) 20:30, 30 January 2016 (UTC)

Discussion on how we discuss fringe content[edit]

There's an ongoing discussion at ANI where editors are claiming that describing topics and content as fringe, like climate-change denial, anti-vaccine sentiments, etc. when sourced are personal insults towards editors. This discussion could use more eyes from folks familiar with policies and guidelines related to fringe topics and how content discussion on those are handled. Kingofaces43 (talk) 19:15, 28 January 2016 (UTC)

This idiocy needs to stop. We call it fringe because it's fringe. Getting all offended because it's fringe is pointless: it's not Wikipedia's problem to fix, it's the real world that makes it fringe, not us. Guy (Help!) 19:22, 28 January 2016 (UTC)
Please point out the specific diff where an editor claims that describing anti-vaccine sentiments as fringe is a personal insult.Dialectric (talk) 21:10, 28 January 2016 (UTC)
Who said anything about anti-vaccine sentiments? I can show you the diff where someone claims comparing anti-GMO arguments to climate change denial arguments is an insult. Or, I can show you the diff where someone claims using the word 'fringe' is insulting. MjolnirPants Tell me all about it. 21:19, 28 January 2016 (UTC)
There was some discussion relating to this at WT:FRINGE a few months ago. I think the key point is to explain that "fringe" is a term of art used when a subject meets the specific technical definition described at WP:FRINGE. It might be a good idea to write an essay on this. Also, personally I'd be open to proposals for alternative terminology as long as they're accurate. Sunrise (talk) 23:00, 28 January 2016 (UTC)
I could get behind alternate terminology as well, but I don't see that as solving the issue. The issue seems to me that some people are offended that things they believe are being called [insert synonym for fringe here] and they feel this constitutes a personal attack. Changing the words won't really change that, but it's worth a shot, subject to the same caveat you mentioned. MjolnirPants Tell me all about it. 23:08, 28 January 2016 (UTC)
I've thought about a potential change as well, but fringe is much less harsh than saying pseudoscientific, which is usually what's going on in controversial topics at least. I doubt whatever we call it will ever be "good enough" to not be considered offensive by some. It could be worthwhile to add something to the fringe guideline related to WP:NOTCENSORED policy in that classifying topics and particular arguments used by sources is not a personal attack. We do this for pseudoscience over at WP:LABEL, so it could be worth explaining in the guideline. Something for a later time though. Kingofaces43 (talk) 23:19, 28 January 2016 (UTC)
It is quite reasonable to expect people to take issue with inquisition types of behavior, with witch-hunting, and with McCarthyist-style campaigns against "undesirable" ideas, even if it's dressed up as being pro-science. I am very pro-science, and yet i take serious issue with the kind of language being used, because it reflects the kind of thought being used, which is prejudicial and poisoning of the well so often that real discourse becomes impossible. SageRad (talk) 21:39, 29 January 2016 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────See also: Euphemism treadmill. I'm happy to change words too, but I am unclear why people dislike "fringe". I like fringe on my tapestries, for example. A good fringe can make or break it in terms of aesthetics. This is similar to academic thought, in my opinion. jps (talk) 19:25, 29 January 2016 (UTC)

Fringe theory, "The term is commonly used in a narrower sense as a pejorative roughly synonymous with pseudo-scholarship." The problem is, it is used here to frame editors or science, without providing evidence. The term is variously thrown around, most of the time without providing evidence for actual pseudo science. Unless there is a consensus which clearly identifies a practise, or theory as pseudo science, the term should not be used. Even less so for framing groups of editors. In the discussion about GMO consensus you need to differentiate and account for all opinions, even if you don't like them, i.e. WHO states there cannot be made general statements on GMO food safety. Additional, framing (social sciences) hints that it is better to be critical of a technology or new findings, for various reasons. And the history of mankind is full of examples where to much optimizen, and resulting carelessness led to a disaster. Hence, why we have the precautionary principle. -- prokaryotes (talk) 19:35, 29 January 2016 (UTC)
I broadly agree (minus the speculation about framing and skepticism). I think we ought to go the other way on the euphemism treadmill. Pseudoscience should be called pseudoscience, and "fringe", per the definitions at WP:FRINGE refers to theories of a similar caliber. Usually this policy is invoked against the worst of the worst garbage, including climate change skepticism and some of the anti-GMO paranoia; but you're mistaken if you think it can't be abused. --Sammy1339 (talk) 19:38, 29 January 2016 (UTC)
We're talking about fringe theories on Wikipedia. This is different. Meanwhile, GMOs are subject to more safety tests than almost all other foods. Concerns over safety are more often than not so half-baked as to be unintelligible. The best that people have offered is unintentional protein allergens which tend to be exactly what is tested against. jps (talk) 19:40, 29 January 2016 (UTC)
Notice that basically a scientist is a skeptic (at least he should), there is a lot of skepticism in climate science, maybe best reflected in the rather conservative IPCC estimates. Climate deniers instead use often fabricated data, and claim they would be skeptic (It's the Sun, unscientific base lines, its a money scheme, its a NWO conspiracy, is HAARP etc). Additional to much caution leads to underestimation, i.e. record sea ice decline. But ironically the so called self branded denier-skeptics never used this valid point - which hints to their special interests motives, and that they are not credible. Deniers also cherry pick, which means in climate science denialism, that they use observations like record colds to claim global warming is a hoax, when instead studies had projected such instances all along, and are in agreement with observations (weakening of the jet stream).prokaryotes (talk) 19:42, 29 January 2016 (UTC)
@jps, the problem with GMO testing is that often tests which were conducted by the industry itself were not made public, but positive results were. Or standards for evaluating safety may be be not good enough. This lack of transparency is one of the reasons why everybody should be a skeptic when it comes to GMOs. In my opinion there are good and bad GMOs, hence why i support the WHO statement, for testing on a case per case basis. And since last year we know more about glyphosate, maybe the most worrying circumstance with GMOs. This is reflected by state decisions to label glyphosate accordingly, or in a ban entirely. It doesn't matter that it overlaps with non GMOs, because GMOs require such pesticides. These recent developments on a state level underline why you cannot brand someone fringe who is concerned about GMO food safety. Same for many countries which ban GMO crops.prokaryotes (talk) 20:01, 29 January 2016 (UTC)
The pseudoscience issue as it relates to GMO paranoia is much more basic than that. You can complain about industry financing of food science departments all you want, but the narrative doesn't make a whole lot of sense. We are talking about introducing a product to market. This isn't the kind of tobacco industry techniques of taking concerns about an already at-market product and finding opposition research to pay off. We're talking about an incentive to identify dangers before market. The question is, what does the GMO paranoiac fear explicitly about GMOs? I think it's merely that they were genetically modified. That's it. The argument against big agribusiness and pesticides can be made in a different way, but it turns out that by playing on the Frankenfood fears, the activists found a way to connect their imagined fear to a gullible public. That is why I'm very down on that whole game -- it's especially sad because there are good points to be made which are buried in the hype. The US intellectual property laws as they apply to genetic material are ridiculous, for example. But this real issue takes a back burner to people's fears that are based around an idea that genetic modification in a lab must be intrinsically more dangerous than genetic modification in normal agricultural practices. It is that fundamental disconnect where the pseudoscience starts. This is the same way as a climate science denier arguing that the greenhouse effect doesn't exist, for example. It's a very basic point. jps (talk) 20:10, 29 January 2016 (UTC)
  • I think it's worth pointing out that the WHO statement that broad statements about the safety of GMO foods cannot be made does not make the case for anti-GMO activists. It applies to both negative and positive statements about the safety of GMO foods. In addition, in my own (admittedly amateur) review of the scientific information, I have yet to see a well-formed hypothesis about how GMO foods could be harmful that doesn't rely on the assumption that normal food safety standards would somehow not apply to GMO foods. (For example, I've seen a well-formed hypothesis about how a modified venom-producing gene might be used to make fruit pest-resistant by producing trace elements of the venom, then mutates into a full bore venom-producing gene, but for that to hit the market, the company producing it would have to not test that food for the single most predictable problem.) MjolnirPants Tell me all about it. 20:31, 29 January 2016 (UTC)
  • An obvious problem with pretty much all the discussion above is that almost everyone is confusing the general discussion about how WP:FRINGE should be applied with particular, politically-charged issues of current interest. This is obscuring the policy question, and really clearly illustrates the potential for pitfalls in mis-appplying this policy. --Sammy1339 (talk) 20:51, 29 January 2016 (UTC)
It's impossible to separate the subjects (GMO's, parapsychology, etc) from the issue (what is Fringe?) because the nature of the former decides the latter. If GMO dangers or psi phenomenon were well established but controversial, they wouldn't be fringe, they'd be political. Besides, all this (for want of a better word, and that includes more politically correct ones) butthurt about the word "Fringe" conveniently forgets that fringe subjects sometimes get promoted to mainstream subjects, and not all fringe subjects are pseudoscientific (though all pseudosciences are fringe subjects). See Loop Quantum Gravity for a reputable, fringe subject. This problem has an extremely simple solution: Grow a thicker skin, and learn to embrace your lot if you support fringe topics. Hell, I'm a skeptical, left-handed, red-headed atheist. If you call me a cynical, backwards ginger heathen, I'll grin and say "Damn skippy!" I wouldn't have it any other way. (There's also the issue of you guys being subject to the same biases you accuse us having, but that's a human problem, not a 'fringe' one). MjolnirPants Tell me all about it. 21:20, 29 January 2016 (UTC)
LQG is absolutely and extremely not-fringe, and the idea that you would try to apply WP:FRINGE to LQG demonstrates the problem brilliantly. WP:FRINGE does not apply to respectable minority scientific theories - it applies to crankery. --Sammy1339 (talk) 21:29, 29 January 2016 (UTC)
I did not apply WP:FRINGE to it. The usage of the word on WP is slightly different than the usage of the word in relation to scientific subject, which is slightly different from it's usage in lay circles, and throughout all of those, it's slightly different from individual to individual. It's a word without a strict, formal definition. One would think that the fact that I explcitly contrasted it with psuedoscience would have clued you in, but you don't seem very willing to understand any cogent point that doesn't explicitly agree with you. MjolnirPants Tell me all about it. 22:04, 29 January 2016 (UTC)
There is a pre-judging going on that then colors the dialog that should be about sources and content, and instead becomes framing of some editors as "fringe" for having a certain point of view that some editors have pre-decided is "fringe". Let the sources speak for themselves. Let the content work itself out according to policies like WP:RS and WP:NPOV. And in some cases, you might be wrong. In some cases, you might find that something you classified as "fringe" is actually supported by science, at least partially. If you pre-decide everything and sort it all into "fringe" and "acceptable" bins then you'll miss the finer granularity and the nuances. SageRad (talk) 21:42, 29 January 2016 (UTC)
I have trouble with this term "Fringe" too. Despite being a scientist for 20+ years, it was not a term I had encountered in the scientific literature before I started editing WP. I am still unsure what it means exactly. For instance, in my own area of animal behaviour, there are are several hypotheses about why zebras have stripes. I would venture to say that the mainstream hypothesis is that this aids their camouflage (I am sure others would disagree with this). However, there are alternative hypotheses such as thermoregulation and insect deterrents. I have never seen these alternative hypotheses described as "fringe". How do we decide as editors what is fringe and what is not? We are not experts in the area - or at least we should not be acting in such a way. Perhaps we should fall back on verifiability - we should provide RS that a subject area is deemed to be "fringe".DrChrissy (talk) 21:50, 29 January 2016 (UTC)
Of course not, fringe material rarely makes it to the journals and people will know a view is fringe anyway. It's not necessary to have a cite to Nature calling it fringe, for us to be able to simply identify the fact that something is fringe. Guy (Help!) 23:58, 29 January 2016 (UTC)
@JzG: Many people here don't share your view that fringe material "rarely makes it to the journals" - see below where people are calling loop quantum gravity "fringe". There is a problem with how many editors are interpreting this guideline. --Sammy1339 (talk) 00:01, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
Exactly right Sammy. The LQG article indicates that 30 research groups are active in the area. How would a non-specialist editor such as myself possibly come to the conclusion that it is "fringe"?DrChrissy (talk) 00:07, 30 January 2016 (UTC)

I'm just going to repeat myself from earlier: Get over it. If you don't like being called a fringe supporter, don't support fringe subjects. If you think those subject shouldn't be called fringe, well, Wikipedia is not the place for you to fix that (that last phrase is two links). MjolnirPants Tell me all about it. 22:04, 29 January 2016 (UTC)

That is not the way it is. You do not get to call people a "fringe supporter" on Wikipedia as that is uncivil. It also places your judgment above another person's in an unacceptable way, by grouping them into a labeled group. That is exactly why this conversation is needed, and we need to sort this out once and for all.
You may be right 90% of the time about what's real and what's fluffy fantasy. However, you are not the expert here as nobody is. We are editors who use sources. You can argue about content using sources as much as you like. If you're troubled by what you see as fluff or false statements anywhere on Wikipedia, then go and address it, in a civil and reasoned way.
I wish i could get people who speak like this to look in the mirror and see that yes, indeed, Wikipedia is not the place to soapbox about your personal pet issues, so please stop doing so. Yes, it's not the place to "right great wrongs" to use that hackneyed phrase. So stop doing that. Get to the nitty-gritty and use sources with integrity. And accept when others are right and you're wrong, sometimes, as well. I've accepted when i'm wrong sometimes.
It's unacceptable to call someone an "industry apologist" in a talk page about a chemical, right? Well, it's also unacceptable to call someone an "activist" with the meaning that they're pushing a falsity for an agenda. Comments on overall behaviors can be made at behavioral boards. (I only wish those boards would actually work.) But it's unacceptable to argue by ad hominem and that's what you're advocating by saying it's ok to call someone a "fringe supporter". You place yourself in a position of judgment, essentially saying you know what's real and you can categorize people into "good" and "inferior" categories. That's a position of arrogance and it's harmful to Wikipedia. SageRad (talk) 07:07, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
I think a good characterization is this from fringe theory: "A fringe theory is neither a majority opinion nor that of a respected minority." In other words, your examples are not fringe theories because they continue to receive serious consideration by respected scientists. Some people want to apply the term overly-broadly, to describe almost all minority views. Often this seems to be done selectively. Worst of all, some use the term to malign individuals. --Sammy1339 (talk) 22:07, 29 January 2016 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Please see the characterization that is used in the guidelines: WP:FRINGE. jps (talk) 22:12, 29 January 2016 (UTC)

Sammy, I honestly believe that it's pointless to try to explain anything to you, and that you are utterly incapable of admitting you're wrong about anything less definite than mathematics. I really couldn't care less what you think about anything anymore. MjolnirPants Tell me all about it. 22:14, 29 January 2016 (UTC)
Thanks for your comments, MjolnirPants. --Sammy1339 (talk) 22:19, 29 January 2016 (UTC)
@I9Q79oL78KiL0QTFHgyc: Yes, of course I have read the policy. The problem, however, is that the guidelines are vague and are prone to misapplication, as when MjolnirPants erroneously suggests that loop quantum gravity is a "fringe theory" which might be covered by this policy. --Sammy1339 (talk) 22:21, 29 January 2016 (UTC)
Stop pinging me. MjolnirPants Tell me all about it. 22:22, 29 January 2016 (UTC)
Loop quantum gravity is a fringe theory covered by the guidelines. jps (talk) 22:57, 29 January 2016 (UTC)
LQG has received a tremendous amount of attention in thousands of reputably published papers, often in top journals, and has been studied by some of the top physicists in the world. How can you possibly believe it is FRINGE? --Sammy1339 (talk) 23:11, 29 January 2016 (UTC)
The LQG article is well out of my sphere of expertise. So, if I was to consider editing it, how would I know that it is labeled as "fringe". The article and from what I have seen of the Talk page, give no hint of this. It would be useful for editors to know this fringe status considering labels such as "pro-fringe", "fringe POV-pusher" etc are being thrown about. I might simply wish to walk away from articles if it is clear they are "fringe".DrChrissy (talk) 23:39, 29 January 2016 (UTC)
@DrChrissy: My point was that the word "fringe" is a broad one, that can be applied to legitimate science which is on the fringes of the mainstream, all the way to clearly outrageous pseudoscience such as the flat earth theory. People taking offense at being labeled "pro-fringe" or "fringe pushers" are being too sensitive. If people stop saying "fringe" because it's offensive, then they will start saying something else. For argument's sake, let's say we start calling it "groble". What will inevitably happen (and I do mean inevitably) is that the moment most people on WP understands what "groble" refers to, people will start complaining about being insulted by being called "groble pushers". Do you understand what I'm saying? Changing the word won't help.
So let's say it's not the word. It's the implications that people find offensive. Well, what exactly do you propose we do about that? Should WP stop using only reliable sources? Should all fringe theories get equal weight? No, that won't work. Should we ban people from characterizing others in any way, for fear the other might find it offensive? No, that won't work, either. Should we ban people from characterizing others using terms which can be interpreted as insulting? No, that won't work either. Trying to implement the first would fundamentally ruin WP. Trying to implement either of those last two would be absolutely crippling to discourse. It's essentially telling editors that we're not allowed to disagree. So what solutions are there? I've seen a little bit of legitimate concern (SageRad brought up a good example of a skeptical bias hurting an article and you can check my edit history to see that I took that example seriously, and worked to fix it), a lot of complaining, and no small amount of plain-ole butthurt (by which I mean getting upset due to other people arguing with one's claims and complaints). But I've yet to see any possible remedy that wouldn't make WP worse. MjolnirPants Tell me all about it. 00:36, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
You acknowledge that the use on wikipedia of the term fringe is broad. The problem is that it is overbroad - it makes no sense to use the same term for both (a)scientific viewpoints supported by a legitimate, scholarly minority and (b) outright quackery by non-scientists, and it is reasonable for people writing about the views of a group covered by (a) to be concerned about being lumped with (b).Dialectric (talk) 00:44, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
(edit conflict)The problem is that you are using a term which, in common English, refers to theories which have no support among respectable scientists or experts and cut against the mainstream consensus, and this word is often used pejoratively as a synonym of crankery or bunkum, and there is a policy guideline, WP:FRINGE which is designed to allow special measures to exclude or refute crankery and bunkum, and you are then applying both this term and this guideline much more broadly than you should, and you are engaging in incivil behavior toward editors who believe in what you call "fringe" theories, which by your excessively (and inaccurately) broad definitions, should hardly be cause for shame. --Sammy1339 (talk) 00:46, 30 January 2016 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────This is a perennial discussion. No, it's not overbroad. Yes, one can apply the same scrutiny to LQG as one does to Last Thursdayism. No, it does not mean the ideas are comparable. No, it does not mean the application of the guideline will look the same when applied to LQG as when it is applied to the weirdest idea you can imagine. But, fringe simply means outside the mainstream, which is not a value statement, just a statement of context.

One problem we often run into is that someone's pet theory (say, I don't know, GMO paranoia) is considered more legitimate than some other idea (say, I don't know, global warming denialism). This POV is immaterial to the guideline. Whether you think it more legitimate or not is irrelevant. What is relevant is the way the sources treat it and the level of mainstream acceptance those sources which argue in favor of it have received.

jps (talk) 01:39, 30 January 2016 (UTC)

@jps: Exactly. And an editor who goes to the Gravity article and starts adding postulates of LQG as facts to that article is just as wrong as a climate change denier adding material about a supposed conspiracy of scientists trying to scam the world by making it appear we're heating the globe up. MjolnirPants Tell me all about it. 02:03, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
@Dialectric: Let's say, for argument's sake, that you're right. What do you propose we do about it? We can't stop identifying fringe subjects as fringe without giving them undue weight, and we can't stop talking about them without crippling discourse. The whole point of these discussions is to find solutions, and I don't see anyone making even the slightest effort to solve this problem. All I see is endless whining about it. MjolnirPants Tell me all about it. 02:10, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
This is cuts against the spirit and the letter of WP:FRINGE, which reads in part "For example, fringe theories in science depart significantly from mainstream science and have little or no scientific support." --Sammy1339 (talk) 02:14, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
Loop quantum gravity has very little support in the grand scheme of things and does depart significantly from the quantum gravity schemes that have been interrogated in the last fifty years. That's not to say that it's wrong. However, it is fringe. It isn't fringe in the same way as flat earth cosmology is fringe, but the whole point is that this guideline covers a lot of ground. jps (talk) 11:11, 30 January 2016 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── What we have is essentially an Archie Bunker figure saying "That's all a load of bunkum!" when we get into some editors labeling some things as "fringe" and then proceeding to demand special rules and to argue from ad hominem while pretending they're "defending Wikipedia" from an imaginary onslaught of misguided people who want to insert their pet agendas everywhere. I understand there's a problem with Wikipedia in that people come to it with little knowledge of the policies, and with ideas about how they will "change the world" by changing knowledge. Articles get edited badly every single day, and they get reverted generally. It's a lot of work, and i do it just like others here. On the other hand, a new editor just might have an edit that improves and article, and they might even have a good source. And it might even contradict something that you as an established editor thought you knew. You have to keep your mind open, and rely on sourcing and good reasoned dialogue. You might think that a chemical is safe whereas it might have certain dangers to it that have recently been discovered, and are well-documented by good sources. If you're pre-disposed to consider everyone who edits that article with any eye toward risks to be "fringe pushers" then you might just push them away, and the article will never receive the edit which would make it more accurate. If you think you know everything, then you are bound to be wrong sometimes. That's the problem i see here. I see a pushy group of people who think they know everything, and who wish to be the gatekeepers of Wikipedia in a way that feels McCarthyist. "Have you ever been a member of the Fringe Party? Answer the question!" I want us to treat each other as human beings without prejudice. SageRad (talk) 07:17, 30 January 2016 (UTC)

I think this just reinforces MjolnirPants's point: we need less waffle and concrete proposals (if there are any). Alexbrn (talk) 07:20, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
What is the meaning/insinuation/implication of your comment here?
If you want a concrete proposal, it's "Don't be McCarthyist, don't label people as fringe supporters and treat them with prejudice, don't group articles into fringe and approved bins, and rely on sources and dialogue and policy." SageRad (talk) 07:37, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
If you have a proposal to change a WP:PAG, then make it. If other editors have behaved badly, raise it at WP:AIN. But for the Love of God, please stop waffling on to no purpose. Of course articles which treat fringe topics need to have their fringe content considered in the light of WP:FRINGE: that springs from our requirement for neutrality which is a non-negotiable pillar of this Project. Alexbrn (talk) 08:42, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
I am speaking my true thoughts, and i reject your characterization of such as "waffling" and i find it unfriendly. If you don't agree with me, then speak substantively if you like, or else hold your tongue, but stop casting these aspersions with silencing intent, for the same love of God to which you appeal. SageRad (talk) 14:29, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
I find it interesting that in one comment an editor accuses those who disagree with him of McCarthyism, and in his next comment enjoins others from casting aspersions. Shock Brigade Harvester Boris (talk) 15:31, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
Proposed solution[edit]

One solution is to use more inline attribution for subjects which are borderline fringe. This avoid the need for a black and white classification as fringe/not fringe. We must always be careful to use neutral langiuage though.

We can write, for example, 'opponents of anthropogenic climate change say...', (rather than 'climate change denialists say..') or vegan sources say...'. Of course there are things that, according to the vast majority, are fringe and we should call them so.

We do need to take a tougher line over medical claims because encouraging people to use bogus cures (even if the 'cure' does no harm itself0 are positively dangerous in that they can stop a person from getting effective conventional treatment. Martin Hogbin (talk) 11:17, 30 January 2016 (UTC)

Obviously problem is that these labels are just as contentious as any others. E.g. "opponents of anthropogenic climate change" is basically anyone who opposes the status quo when it comes to carbon dioxide pollution. I don't think it is in Wikipedia's best interest to try to discriminate between which claims are worthy of kid glove treatment and which ones need to be treated more harshly. The best thing to do is to use the sources that exist and see how much we should pay attention to fringe proposals and what the treatment of them is contextualized as. jps (talk) 11:36, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
Thanks for writing a concrete proposal, Martin. I think the more topic-specific language would go some way to avoiding the sort of incrimination-by-association that is causing so much conflict at ANI right now. While such language could still be contentious, it is not 'just as contentious' as the use of 'fringe', as it avoids the negative baggage that the word fringe has and the association issue. For the medical claim issue, MEDRS already is quite tough on bogus cures. Can you think of an example where MEDRS is falling short in presenting bogus cures as bogus?Dialectric (talk) 14:15, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
Indeed, the continuous feeling of the need to classify things as "fringe" or "not fringe" is a problem. A single subject may have aspects that are fringe and aspects that are supported by reliable sources. This binary classification is harmful to Wikipedia, and he word "fringe" has taken on a similar baggage that "communist" had during the era of McCarthyism, and dialog has been affected as it was during that time, with overtones of fear and intimidation and lack of ability to delve into the complexity of things. SageRad (talk) 14:29, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
Jps, it is not 'kid glove treatment to use terms which are strictly factual. It saves us the problem of having to categorise everything as fringe/non-fringe.
Using a strictly factual description does not prevent us from stating the (well sourced) facts about the issue, as for example 'X% of climate scientists agree that there is anthropogenic global warming'.
Dialectric, I thing 'strictly factual' is a better description of what we want than 'topic specific, but the two are similar.
You might want to look at the lead of Veganism where there has been a discussion about medical claims made for veganism. The problem is basically this. There is no generally accepted medical opinion that a well-planned vegan diet is any more healthy than an omniverous diet (a badly planned vegan diet can be positively harmful). There are a few reliable sources that show some minor benefits of a vegan diet relating to specific conditions, and sources showing minor negative health effects of veganism.
There are many, very unreliable, sources making outrageous and dangerous claims for a vegan diet, such that they can cure cancer. The problem is that, in the lead, the article makes claims of health benefits for the diet (using reliable sources), without mention of the negative effects. This can easily be seen by our readers as supporting the bogus health claims made elsewhere. Martin Hogbin (talk) 15:13, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
I agree that it's not "kid gloves" to stick to the content and not argue from prejudged grouping. It's the way we can function best. As to vegetarian or vegan diets, i do find reliable sources like Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics position paper that says It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. I'm not an advocate for veganism but can see there are good sources as to health benefits. Similarly, a poorly-planned omnivorous diet can lead to poor health outcomes just as much as a poorly-planned vegan diet. These are examples of the nuance that can become evident when we get into the details and speak with good sources. SageRad (talk) 15:33, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
SageRad, one source saying 'may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases' is not general agreement that there are overall health benefits. There are some very minor benefits of a well-planned vegan diet and some very minor negative effects of such a diet described in reliable sources. Overall, there is no general agreement that a well-planned (with supplements) vegan diet is either better or worse for you than an omniverous diet and the article should not suggest that.
It is much easier to have dietary deficiencies following a vegan diet than an omniverous diet unless you are aware of potential problems with a vegan diet and how to deal with them. The general advice from nearly all reliable sources is that a balanced mixed diet is the best way to stay healthy. Martin Hogbin (talk) 16:52, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
I have just looked at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics web site and I am not sure that I would call them a reliable source. The seem to be a commercial organisation charging for dietary advice, or have I got it wrong. Martin Hogbin (talk)
Martin Hogbin The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is about the most reliable source you could ask for. Also, while I was surprised to find this, SageRad has a point about serious scientific inquiries suggesting health benefits of the Paleo diet (which is pretty much diametrically opposed to the vegan diet). Multiple highly-cited papers on the subject have been published in Nature, yet this is being treated as "fringe" just because MEDRS-compliant sources have not clearly established the health benefits of the Paleo diet. This illustrates how people will doubt even the most respectable sources when they perceive that something is "fringe". --Sammy1339 (talk) 17:11, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
OK, their WP article seems to indicate that they should be reliable. However 'may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases' is still not general agreement that there are overall health benefits. Martin Hogbin (talk) 17:33, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
Martin, the terms plainly aren't "strictly factual". Saying someone is an "opponent of anthropogenic climate change" is not the same thing as saying that a person is a "climate change denier". In fact, in many cases, it means exactly the opposite. jps (talk) 16:01, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
As far as the comparison to WP:MEDRS goes, I'm happy that set of guidelines exist, but when we tried to implement WP:SCIRS, the pushback we got from fringe POV-pushers prevented implementation. We're stuck with WP:FRINGE until such time as we can get a quorum to enact a proposal that has the teeth of WP:MEDRS for all the articles that the guideline covers that fall outside the purview of WP:MEDRS. And, to be clear, WP:SCIRS even if adopted wouldn't solve all the problems since there are also articles on history, literature, politics, and religion which are helped by WP:FRINGE. jps (talk) 16:04, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
My suggestion "opponent of anthropogenic climate change" was badly worded but I thought that the intent was clear; that we should use factual and strictly neutrally worded terminology. Maybe 'people who believe that human activity is not causing climate change' would be clearer. Martin Hogbin (talk) 16:40, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
How about 'people who reject the established scientific consensus that human activity is causing climate change'? --Sammy1339 (talk) 16:46, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
Striking my suggestion per jps below. I'm not well-versed enough to comment, and I don't want to reproduce arguments that have already been hashed out elsewhere. The essence of my suggestion, though, was that we shouldn't omit mention of the scientific consensus, as Martin Hogbin seemed to be suggesting. --Sammy1339 (talk) 17:51, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
Both of those and all such "compromises" run afoul Wikipedia's policy against making stuff up. JbhTalk 16:50, 30 January 2016 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Precisely. I appreciate the brainstorming, but please believe me that we've all been through this before. In articlespace, the only solution is to use the terminology, vocabulary, and style that is employed in reliable sources. That often rubs people who are on the "fringe" side the wrong way, but Wikipedia is not here to make these people feel better about the state of discourse in the world. If we're talking about outside of articlespace, it's pretty much not the nature of this website to accommodate prohibitions on using one or another turn of phrase that aren't unambiguously personal attacks or, for example, entirely vulgar. Believe me, I'm well aware where the neighborhood where the line between acceptable and unacceptable lies when it comes to talk and wp spaces and it is nowhere near "climate change denier". WP:FOC can be appealed to, but at the end of the day leeway is generally given when it comes to matters of content and we are generally trying to decide matters of content when we label a particular discussant or attempted contribution as a "climate change denier". It's shorthand for "that which contradicts the prevailing scientific consensus on climate change in one way or another", but some of us prefer the simplicity and succinctness of smaller labels. My suggestion is that people learn to live with a certain degree of insensitivity in discussions. Tolerance should come in both directions (those who, like myself, are perceived to be rude should work on being more tolerant of those to whom they are rude and those who, like those who oppose me, think I am being rude to them should work on being more tolerant of me -- that is the essence of WP:AGF). jps (talk) 17:45, 30 January 2016 (UTC)

They are not 'compromises' they are plain language. Martin Hogbin (talk) 17:50, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
Arguably, "climate change denier" is also plain language. jps (talk) 17:59, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
Yes, they are simply speaking about content in a civil way. That's not a compromise, and it does not stop good articles from being edited. From my experience, there is no tolerance given when someone says that an editor seems to be editing in an industry-aligned way, or in an establishment way to an overbearing degree, but then you want completely free reign to call anyone or anything "fringe" while opposition to this has been clearly voiced by many. The pushers of the "fringe" label are acting like they have the truth, and that those who oppose it are fools with no evidence or reason to back their strong opinions. I advocate that people be civil and use the policies. We do not need to categorize people we disagree with as "fringe". We also need to recognize that there is a gravitational bias to the concept of "mainstream" that is often a bias in itself which needs to be countered (the opposite of the rationale behind WP:FRINGE though not codified as a guideline, perhaps it's needed). I find it objectionable to categorize people with pejorative labels. With climate change denial, that's not even needed, as everything can be said with reference to content and sources. It's not needed anywhere. It's a problem and many people have voices their opposition to it -- and not because we are "fringe pushers" but because we're editors with thoughts and experience. So, let us stop privileging one point of view over others so completely. SageRad (talk) 17:55, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
Civility is in the eye of the beholder. No one has 100% access to the truth, and you are free to take umbrage with someone here on Wikipedia and explain why you think they are not being civil, but if you fail to gain traction with your claims it behooves you to drop it. The fact of the matter is that Wikipedia does privilege certain points of view over others. That's the whole point of WP:WEIGHT. jps (talk) 17:59, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
I think it's plain to see that many others agree with the way i'm seeing it here. I'm not just a lone voice, not just an outlier. Yes, of course i realize that some voices are privileged over others, in terms of sources. On the other hand, it's not supposed to be that way in terms of editors. In each new dialogue, we each are supposed to have the opportunity to speak to that topic on the basis of our words alone, and not have the well poisoned as so often happens, with impunity. SageRad (talk) 18:05, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
I can remember a time when the creationists outnumbered those who accepted the facts of evolution. There is limited safety in numbers in that you haven't yet been run out on a rail, but in the long run you will find your position, as I've seen you outline here, basically not tolerated. There is not an "equality of editors". When editors lack WP:COMPETENCE, for example, they tend to find their stays here cut short or made to be so unpleasant that they show themselves the door. jps (talk) 18:36, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
  • The only "solution" that will be accepted by those who oppose use of the term fringe, is to falsely represent fringe views as legitimate or mainstream. Me, I prefer to call a spade a spade: most of these fringe views are simply bullshit. But I'm OK with the term fringe. Guy (Help!) 18:01, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
    • It's true: "Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it." Next up, a proposal to rename WP:FRINGE to WP:BULLSHIT. jps (talk) 18:03, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
      • In fact, i do call the McCarthyist usage of "fringe" bullshit. SageRad (talk) 18:06, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
        • In this, I speak only for myself, but to be clear this does not bother me. If you want to call me a McCarthyist, go ahead. I've been called much worse (Grand Inquisitor, stormtrooper, shiva destroyer of worlds, etc.). I think you're being entirely ignorant and laughably wrongheaded if that's what you think is going on, but it is better for you to be honest about what you think is happening than it is for you to beat around the bush in the name of "civility", in my opinion. jps (talk) 18:15, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
I would ask that you move the above comment to respect the time order of the dialogue. If so then you may delete this comment of mine. As for what you wrote, i stand by what i wrote. That fact that you call me "entirely ignorant and laughably wrongheaded" speaks to your own level of dialogue here. We can be honest but civil. SageRad (talk) 19:48, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
I don't think we need to move the discussion around. I was responding directly to your comment and got an edit conflict. There are lots of ways to handle the poor threading capabilities of the software, and I prefer the insertion over the pile-on-the-back technique. YMMV. In any case, I'm not sure what you want in terms of "level of dialogue". If I see an editor saying ridiculous things, I tell them. jps (talk) 20:27, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
Regardless of the outcome of this specific issue (which I'm remaining officially neutral on, pleading ignorance) I have to strongly agree with SageRad on the need to avoid pejoratively labeling editors who support, or who are perceived to support, minority views. Simply put, these FRINGE discussions frequently devolve into ad hominem. The comment by JzG above is a symptom of this. I'm doing my best to deal with these issues neutrally and in good faith, which has led me to support fair treatment of views I personally disagree with. If you approach the debate from the point of view that anyone who disagrees with you is biased, it's no wonder it devolves into this sort of mess. --Sammy1339 (talk) 18:07, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
Sammy... when you suggest 'people who reject the established scientific consensus that human activity is causing climate change', where do you draw the line? Do you include those who don't reject scientific consensus outright - but do question it, or who question aspects of it?
I ask because there is actually fringe pushing on the other side of the climate change issue... Sadly, there is a fringe element within the scientific community who (for lack of a better term) I will call "climate change zealots". These are people who go beyond simply accepting the current scientific consensus, they insist on it, and reject anything that even remotely calls that consensus into question. These zealots treat climate change issues with a religious fervor... they act as if the current scientific consensus were "divinely revealed Truth", never to be questioned... and they over-use use the label "Denier" the way religious zealots over-use the word heretic. To the zealot, all heretics must be driven away (or better yet burned at the stake), lest they corrupt the faithful. Note that I am not accusing you (nor any other specific Wikipeidan) of being one of these zealots... I simply note that this fringe attitude is out there, and caution that we must guard against it here on Wikipedia. Blueboar (talk) 18:10, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
Can you give an example to support your claim for "religious fervor" of "climate change zealots"? prokaryotes (talk) 18:15, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
Blueboar, the fringe on the other side is not someone who argues that the consensus is bulletproof. The fringe are those who believe the IPCC is systematically UNDER-estimating the degree and effects of climate change. These poor folks get the real short shrift here. jps (talk) 19:12, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
(e.c.) But pejorative labels are also in the eye of the beholder. If you support a minority position, you should be comfortable having someone identify you as supporting that position. I don't care if you're doing it out of a sense of fair play, tolerance, or trolling, when you support the fringe position you are supporting the fringe position. You are promoting the fringe POV. Etc. Etc. If you don't want to be identified as doing this, don't support the fringe position! jps (talk) 18:11, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
I have been accused of holding positions I explicitly don't hold, and accused of POV pushing for calmly discussing policy. --Sammy1339 (talk) 18:12, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
I'm sure you have been. This is the internet, kiddo. You start preferentially sticking up for people on one side of a conflict and you're going to find yourself lumped in with them whether you agree with their positions or not. The best you can hope for is to calmly explain why you shouldn't be so lumped and move on.jps (talk) 18:22, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
This is not just "the internet". It is Wikipedia where we have all agreed to act according to Policies and Guidelines that do not exist on other internet sites. WP:Civil is one of those.DrChrissy (talk) 18:28, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
WP:CIVIL nowhere implies that we aren't allowed to call someone else's edits "crap". jps (talk) 18:32, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
Are you sure? It states - Avoid appearing to ridicule another editor's comment.DrChrissy (talk) 18:40, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
Yeah, I'm sure. The civility policy is notorious for being very poorly written, and it probably should be pared down to something closer to its original version, but in practice no one has ever been sanctioned for ridiculing someone else's comment. Policy at Wikipedia is all about implementation when it comes to implication. See WP:IAR for a perfect example of this. :) jps (talk) 18:45, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
JPS, fringe is much stronger wording than minority. Not all climate scientists accept Anthropogenic Global Warming, see List of scientists opposing the mainstream scientific assessment of global warming. Yes, is the consensus position but it is far from universally accepted. As another editor pointed out, the mere fact that we need a consensus shows that it is still not solid science. Martin Hogbin (talk) 18:19, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
Sorry. You got that one 100% wrong. Switch "climate change" with "evolution" and see why. The consensus on anthropogenic climate change is 100% solid science. It's only the the political machinations of non-scientists and scientists-for-hire which have muddied the waters. jps (talk) 18:24, 30 January 2016 (UTC)

All fields of study have fringe studies to the mainstream area of study. This includes the arts, literature as well as the scientifically driven areas. Wikipedia supports the more mainstream views which is logical given how far content could go in describing every nuance of a topic or subject. Thus we have weight a generally consensus driven way of determining how much of any view is included in an article. The concerns arise when fringe is used as a hammer to label both content and those who even suggest that such content be looked at. Often, at some nebulous point, the fringe is determined and at that point civility is tossed away, in favour of personal accusation. This is allowable by some since fringe has been labelled as "bad" rather than merely another aspect of human seeking. Certainly there are areas of human knowledge that are falsely driven for profit or personal aggrandization, but there are many areas that are in their infancy in terms of study. Noting that this is so, does not mean that this kind of content should have place in an article . What it does mean is that we as editors must view all such information with detachment on Wikipedia whatever our personal beliefs are. The automatic dismissal of information is not a neutral way of dealing with content nor are the incivilities that we allow ourselves when we feel knowledge is false or personally driven somehow. In fact such actions sadly remind me of fundamentalism and the closed minded way knowledge can be viewed. The mainstream view at one time was that the earth was flat. Had we been writing an encyclopedia at that time we could NOT have included round earth theory into our articles; it wasn't a mainstream view. However, anyone who attacked those supporting a round earth theory would look pretty ignorant eventually. The problem is not that we have content that is potentially fringe to the mainstream but that we use "fringe" in cliche driven ways, and allow ourselves the self indulgence of venting our personal and often emotional views on that fringe material. While many of us have reason to not trust either the fringe or the mainstream this does not give us the right to attack anyone. The problem on an collaborative project is not the inanimate content; its the people who create the content. The fix is the people and how they behave not the content itself. ~End of rant~(Littleolive oil (talk) 18:41, 30 January 2016 (UTC))

Ideas that are truly in their infancy actually aren't given any WP:WEIGHT as there are usually not enough reliable sources written about them. As for your flat earth parallel, the idea that we keepers of the mainstream may turn out to look foolish when we say that the claims of the Maharishi are pseudoscientific nonsense will look foolish in the future is just about the only thing you can hang your hat on. Wikipedia, however, doesn't care about that and, to be clear, neither do I. If I turn out to be wrong about something, I will be excited to admit it! jps (talk) 18:51, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
Did I make it clear that ideas in their infancy are not necessarily given weight? I hope so. Whether you look foolish or not is not my concern, and you miss my point. That editors think they have a right to attack others is my concern. Further you have proved my point rather well. This has nothing to do with Maharishi anything but you play that record again and again. In fact the most recent concern is the way in which an article dealt with Pilates a mainstream physical method for dancers of improving core strength but on Wikipedia its made to look like some strange fringe practice. The fact is when you're editing an article I don't care what personal opinion you have on anything; I care about the toxic environments that are created when people think its OK to attack other people for any reason. WP is losing editors and this is one reason why. It has nothing to do with fringe it has to do with editors allowing fringe to act as a cover for venting their personal views, opinions, and hurts. This isn't the place. But I've said that and the response is to use this as a way to attack, as I have suggested happens. (Littleolive oil (talk) 19:08, 30 January 2016 (UTC))
You have, in the past, falsely accused people of attacking editors when they were instead trying to enforce good editing practices. This is the biggest problem as I see it. There are lots of people who claim that attacks are occurring when, for example, they are reverted or someone identifies their edits as being in favor of a particular marginalized position. This tactic works because occasionally (and this was true more in the past) there are others including a few admins who think that saying, "this climate change denying editor is disrupting the article" is indicative of a personal attack when it often is simply describing their edits. Then we get into a big argument as above as to how one would "civilly" describe such edits/editors or what have you. It is manifestly a waste of time. To be clear, the reason pilates is made to look like a strange fringe practice on Wikipedia is because the people who promote it make specific claims that are simply not backed up by evidence. That's really the currency of reference works. If pilates was just a bunch of movements like Positions of the feet in ballet, there would be no fringe issues. But it's not. The advocates explicitly claim health benefits and pain alleviation properties for pilates that do not hold water. I find your ongoing promotion of fringe health practices to be problematic, yes. jps (talk) 20:20, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
I simply don't think that warnings, blocks, and bans for attacking ideas will help with editor retention. At the moment, controversial areas are fairly toxic, yes, but part of that is because the proponents of fringe theories have organised, and actively seek to drive people of other opinions off certain pages, and there's not enough people able to deal with that kind of tactic without getting annoyed, saying something rude, then having the entire group swoop down and insist they be banned. This would give these people even less support. Adam Cuerden (talk) 19:13, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
True. Or we could all just behave ourselves. The remedy is not and never has been in punishment; it has been in treating each other with respect and dignity. And thank you for articulating so clearly what happens on many controversial articles. Many including arbs don't understand or see those tactics.(Littleolive oil (talk) 19:16, 30 January 2016 (UTC))
Amen to Littleolive oil's amazingly insightful long initial comment, and this one above. Full support.
Reply to Adam Cuerden: There is a real way that we can achieve the goal of good, solid articles based on good, sound sources, and treat all editors with more respect. Toxic editing environments are not required. It can be more fruitful to lead people to understanding the goals of editing here, in regard to neutrality. It's actually counterproductive to polarize things by labeling editors as "fringe pushers" or get mean and nasty toward them. Note that it's evident that all that you allege about "fringe pushers" is certainly done by the self-appointed anti-fringe vigilantes. They have organized and they indeed actively seek to drive people of other opinions off certain pages. That is a problem. Who is "correct" here? In some cases, the "anti-fringe" people are actually less correct than someone they've labeled "fringe". I have seen it. I have seen "anti-fringe" people actually blocking very sound science that concluded something opposed to their pre-decided position. I would support initially guiding people to understand the policies of WP:RS and WP:NPOV, and secondly, a culture of kindness in which people are not pre-judged and called names at every opportunity and through every rhetorical means available (sneaky subtle put-downs are rife on such pages). All in all, we all need to be good to each other, and rely on sources and good dialogue. SageRad (talk) 20:00, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
Some of the comments further above notwithstanding, we are not here to classify editors as fringe or not fringe. To the extent that we are here to classify content or contributions as fringe or not, we do not use our personal opinions, but sources, sources, sources. I have seen too many cases where, once self-appointed content police have decided that a contributor (or indeed the subject of a biography) is fringe, there is no limit to the bile and invective that they feel justified in spewing on Talk pages and in edit summaries. This is never acceptable. --Nigelj (talk) 20:18, 30 January 2016 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────No editor is "fringe" because the guideline is explicitly about ideas. When an editor adopts a fringe POV, we should not be forbidden from discussing it. jps (talk) 20:21, 30 January 2016 (UTC)

No. You started well, but it is not possible (without mind reading equipment) to identify an editor's POV. The job is to look after the POV balance of the final, overall article content. --Nigelj (talk) 20:34, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
Nigelj, you make such a good point. I often edit pages related to animal welfare. I am a bunny-hugger animal scientist, meaning I expect welfare standards to be as high as possible. That is my POV - I am not ashamed to admit that. However, if I come across an article which perhaps needs content on e.g. the benefits of animals used in a particularly painful laboratory test, I might add these. It does not mean I am advocating the test or I have a pro-cruelty POV. I am simply trying to add RS content to the encyclopaedia for the education of the reader.DrChrissy (talk) 21:27, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
@Nigelj: So if I come across an editor who's contribution page is 60% advocating for removing all negative information about Creationism, adding negative information about Evolution, 35% arguing on talk pages that WP is biased against Christians, and 5% useful stuff, you're of the opinion that it would be illogical of me to assume this guy is a Christian fundamentalist? I'm sorry, but that's just a dumb suggestion. We absolutely can't read minds, but what people say and do is right out there for the rest of us to see, and it absolutely speaks to their beliefs. MjolnirPants Tell me all about it. 21:58, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
My point is that divining other editors' personal beliefs, mental states, and motivations is not what we're here to do. We simply look at the content, and the sources, and try to help each other develop neutral and balanced content. Classifying fellow editors, even in our mind's eye, as Christian fundamentalists, industry shills, or very clever people, just leads us to make assumptions that are very rarely helpful in judging edits and helping to create balanced coverage with due weight. --Nigelj (talk) 22:50, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
Judging others' personal beliefs, mental states and motivations is an absolutely necessary and inescapable part of social interactions. Wikispace and talkspace are places for social interaction (towards a specific goal, but no less for that). Our assumptions about others are quite literally absolutely necessary for us to interact, find agreements and communicate. These are basic fundamentals of psychology (I'm not suggesting you're unaware of them, but you don't seem to be taking them into consideration when you respond). MjolnirPants Tell me all about it. 23:04, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
I don't give a rat's ass what a person's personal views are. I only care about the effects of their editing. If the effects of their editing is to push a fringe POV, they are an editor that pushes fringe POVs. I will not pussyfoot around this just in case it hurts someone's feelings. Sorry. jps (talk) 23:55, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
But you can sometimes be wrong, as well as other people, right? Or are you always right? If you're always right, then forgive me. But if you're ever possibly sometimes wrong, then there is something wrong with being pushy and abusive toward other people because you believe them to be wrong. I still say, it comes down to sources and good dialogue. No other substitute for those two things. How can you place yourself above other people in knowing what's correct about everything? If you pigeonhole someone and place them in your mental "fringe" category to the point of not hearing them when they actually have good sources and may actually be right, then you've sabotaged the process, and your own ability to listen. You may also hurt others in the process and hurt the articles. If you think someone's wrong then simply say so, and say why, specifically, not "because you're a fringe pusher" -- that is the easy way out and it leads to a simplistic duality. For instance, the Paleolithic diet has some genuine theoretical and evidentiary support, and it also contains a lot of falsities. So let's discern among those things, but not label the whole thing "fringe" and then attack it. That leads to bad outcomes for the article and for the editors involved. SageRad (talk) 00:43, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
If I'm wrong about something being fringe, by all means explain to me that I'm wrong. But if you fail to provide a good explanation, I'm not going to pretend that you've been successful. Claiming that the "paleo diet" has evidentiary support, for example, is a little weird. Do you meant that there is evidentiary support that what most people call the paleolithic diet is actually the paleolithic diet? On second thought, never mind. I don't really care what you think, but it's that kind of muddled argumentation which causes problems on talkpages. jps (talk) 02:16, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
Regarding the paleo diet: It's still fringe, and will remain so unless and until the medical/dietary/scientific consensus is that it's recommended as a normal diet to a large portion of the population. Being fringe is not necessarily a bad things. It's just a useful category. Regarding the language used; it's not pushy and abrasive, it's honest and open. You're just too easily offended. Honestly, you're quite literally complaining about people saying mean things about you. When my son complained about that, I told him to ignore them, or to chant "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me." Are you seriously less capable of dealing with harsh language than a 7 year old? Before you respond, understand that the things seven-year-olds say about each other are far worse than "fringe" or "POV pusher", and my son handles it quite well these days. Seven-year-olds also say mean things for the express purpose of causing offense. Most of us don't use the term as an insult, even when we look down on fringe proponents. It's just a category. Yes, it has negative connotations, but so does "Republican," "Liberal," "Headbanger," "Gansta," or "Wikipedian". MjolnirPants Tell me all about it. 01:36, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
  • @Martin Hogbin: No we can't write "opponents of climate change" instead of climate change denialists, because it's bullshit. The reality-based community are entirely opposed to climate change, but are prevented from doing anything about it by the political influence of the climate change denial machine. And yes there is an entirely robust consensus, with every single scientific body of national or international standing supporting the consensus view, and Powell's 2013 survey found that of 9,136 authors publishing in the year to December 2013, exactly one author, i.e. 0.01% of all actively publishing authors on climate, rejected anthropogenic global warming. Denial is the correct term, technically and according to external sources. Successive publications clearly show that rejection of both the existence of climate change and human activity as its main cause, have been in decline for a long time and are now down to the point where rejection is more than just fringe, it's wilful contrarianism. There is, as near as makes no difference, no significant informed dissent any more: dissenters are like phlogiston advocates post-Lavoisier. Guy (Help!) 23:17, 30 January 2016 (UTC)

Here's a proposed solution. I'll put a notice up on my user page that any fringe supporter who feels they are being repressed (don't read anything insulting in that link, I just adore MP) when they have reliable sources to support the content they want to add can ask me for my support. If I feel their sources are reliable, and their proposed content an accurate summary, I'll show up at the article talk page, waving my huge skeptic penis around, and happily bludgeon into submission with sheer tenacity, creative "we-can't-prove-he's-being-incivil" insults and the overwhelming mass of my ego any overly zealous skeptics blocking them. I'll even make a template out of it, and a wikispace directory of editors using it so that other skeptics who take skepticism serious can join in. Note: I'm being hyperbolic about my behavior. I don't actually intend to insult anyone, do anything with my genitalia (on WP, anyways) or pretend to have a larger ego than I actually do. MjolnirPants Tell me all about it. 20:27, 30 January 2016 (UTC)

Intelligent civil discussion RIP. Martin Hogbin (talk) 00:57, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
Useful suggestion, you mean. Certainly, it's better than suggesting we stop thinking like human beings. Seriously though, I made an earnest offer to take any specific complaints about this issue affecting content seriously and to work with the fringe pushers to curb any overreaches of over zealous skeptical editors, and your only response is to complain about my tone? This is pretty much the defining quality of whining: I offer to help, but you'd rather keep complaining. Yet you wonder why you aren't taken seriously... MjolnirPants Tell me all about it. 02:30, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
  • Comment: The actual origin of this futile pot stirring exercise that Kingofaces43 has initiated is a dispute concerning the wording of a scientific consensus statement on the safety of GM foods. Editors commenting here should be aware of this and understand that this is the context in which any discussion of fringe policy (as it applies to GMO articles) should take place. If editors start ignoring that there are broader issues to be discussed in the GMO subject space (and that valid critical discourse is perfectly valid in other areas) and begin normalising the use of association fallacies to silence dissent, we are heading down the wrong path. Please note a 4.1.5 core principal of the GMO arbitration decision that was passed recently (which applies to all related articles). Semitransgenic talk. 19:58, 1 February 2016 (UTC)
    • At the end of the day, it is the content that matters. How the sausage is made sometimes concerns arbcom and other "social networking Wikipedians", but we should be far more concerned that the content is not skewed than we should be about avoiding association fallacies on talk pages or hurting editors' feelings. It is true that there are situations where incivility is so disruptive that it prevents content from being created or improved, but that should be the gold standard for when things go sour. Right now there are a lot of people complaining that their support of pseudoscientific sources surrounding genetic engineering of food for human consumption is being wrongfully maligned. I think that people should be maligned for choosing bad sources on Wikipedia. In fact, arguably, this is the worst thing that an editor can do -- it's even worse than just writing unsourced content which can be quickly reverted. jps (talk) 16:18, 7 February 2016 (UTC)

New article[edit]

GMO conspiracy theory (edit | talk | history | protect | delete | links | watch | logs | views)

I think it might be good to start a new article on this conspiracy theory. Help would be appreciated.

jps (talk) 16:01, 31 January 2016 (UTC)

It looks to me like a classic WP:POVFORK, which should be deleted, with coverage of any useful refs transferred and incorporated into the other GMO articles. --Nigelj (talk) 20:42, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
Not so sure there's a POV to fork. There's the science that can go in the GMO articles, and there's the crackpot stuff which might live in such articles as the new one. If anything, the danger would be in conflating the two in articles to give the impression of some kind of equivalent weight to these two aspects. Alexbrn (talk) 20:55, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
(edit conflict)It could have potential, but I'd like to see more refs and content developed. Right now, most sources appear to be appropriate for WP:PARITY, but not strong enough sources yet that establish standalone notability. The public generally has poorer knowledge on this topic than climate change denial, so I'm not sure if it's received enough attention yet for a standalone article there either. I think we're at the point that most scientists just ignore various logical fallacies like argumentum ad monsantium[2] and other tactics found in climate change denial to ignore the consensus such as cherrypicking, moving goalposts, etc. That's opposed to climate change where there has been more movement to actively educate the public on climate change denial tactics.
I do think there is enough scattered out there to make an article section or paragraph putting the fringe aspect in perspective, but I'm trying to focus on other things right now. I'm interested to see what comes up even if this is just an initial proving ground for the article. Alexbrn summarizes the rest well. Kingofaces43 (talk) 21:02, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
Argumentum ad Monsantium should be added, but I think there might be better sources than skepticblog. jps (talk) 23:57, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
I have to agree with Nigelj. There's already a page on the controversy about GMOs, which all of the information on this page fits neatly into. Now, if there comes a scientific consensus that GMOs are safe and all the mechanisms by which they were posited to be harmful don't work (which I think is eventually going to happen) and people keep arguing against them, then I think the controversy page should be merged into a conspiracy theory page. But until then, this looks like a POV fork, to me, too. MjolnirPants Tell me all about it. 22:54, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
The controversy article is way over-bloated so adding another section to that article seems to me to be problematic, and I'm not sure what you mean by the idea of the eventuality. What harmful mechanisms have been reasonably proposed? jps (talk) 23:55, 31 January 2016 (UTC)

What do people think tbis is a POV-fork of? POV-forks are usually forks that are made to rewrite an article to promote a particular POV. Is the idea that this article is promoting a particular POV about the GMO controversies? Because that's not what I see in the sources. I see a separate group of conspiracy theories in much the same way that there is a climate change controversy and climate change conspiracy theory. jps (talk) 23:55, 31 January 2016 (UTC)

Because there is a legitimate controversy surrounding GMOs now (even if the evidence is piling up on only one side of the issue, it's still in the process of piling). Making an article on conspiracy theories surrounding GMOs puts a hell of a lot of weight on the pro-GMO side, as all of the conspiracies exist on the anti-GMO side. Right now, the article on the GMO controversy reads like a legitimate controversy with the anti-side being in the worse (and worsening) position, but not completely devoid of legitimacy. But, there's simply no way to make a GMO conspiracy theory article that doesn't imply that there's no legitimacy to the anti-GMO side, because there's no legitimacy to the conspiracy theories. I'm okay with the climate change article, because, frankly, there's no legitimacy to the climate change deniers' side. There was, back in the 70's and 80's, of course, and possibly into the 90's. But not anymore.
In a nutshell, what I'm saying is that it paints the anti-GMO side in a worse light than would be neutral. They're losing already, they don't need our help to nudge them off the cliff.
Also, while there are conspiracy theories surrounding GMOs, they're not really notable enough for their own article. Sure, PZ Myers commented on them, but I bet I could find PZed commenting on a hundred non-notable topics. Most conspiracy theories aren't notable. I could see putting this info in the GMO controversy article, with it's own section, and even duping it in the conspiracy theory article, but I just can't wrap my head around the idea that having a separate page is neutral. I think it's accurate, mind. I also think it's accurate to refer to people like Dr. Oz, Deepak Chopra and David Avacado Wolfe as bullshit artists, but that's not neutral, either. Finally, I don't really care that much. I'm giving my opinion, but if the consensus is to keep the article, I'm fine with that. It might be a loss for WP policy, but it's a gain for WP accuracy, so I see it as kind of a wash. MjolnirPants Tell me all about it. 00:22, 1 February 2016 (UTC)
It's an interesting perspective, but I'm having a hard time seeing the anti/pro angle here. While it is certainly true that only the anti-GMO activists promote conspiracy theories, I also don't think that this is the be-all and end-all of the controversy. That's similar to the global warming issue. There are some extreme arguments that get made that the scientific fact of global warming is really a conspiracy, but that isn't generally the tack taken by the denialists. They're tolerant of the idea, but most would reject the idea for wont of strong evidence. I think there is something similar going on in the GMO controversy situation. It's not that the controversy is between conspiracy theorists and scientists, but to pretend that the conspiracy theorists don't exist I think is to negate the sources that are documenting these views are more and more being promulgated.
I admit that there is some overlap with the water fluoridation conspiracy theory, to be sure. To some extent also with chemtrails. Maybe a broader article that covers all those kinds of "environmental conspiracy theories" is in order.
jps (talk) 00:30, 1 February 2016 (UTC)
Maybe a broader article that covers all those kinds of "environmental conspiracy theories" is in order. That sounds like a wonderful idea. MjolnirPants Tell me all about it. 00:35, 1 February 2016 (UTC)
Yeah, but I cannot really find any sources that do that connecting. WP:SYNTH would probably be violated. It's actually a study waiting to be written outside of Wikipedia, I imagine. jps (talk) 02:43, 1 February 2016 (UTC)
I actually found an article which makes the point in an oblique way, but it is far more concerned with the ethical implications of conspiracy theory support than it is with documenting the particular whos, whats, wheres, whens, whys, and hows of the milieu. Still, good article and I used it as a source: [3]. jps (talk) 17:34, 2 February 2016 (UTC)

My point is that the rules and procedures to WP:SPLIT an article are well established and clear. We have a series of articles on GMO (and indeed on conspiracy theory). The way to enhance our coverage is to add to any of these whatever new material is relevant, in a NPOV way, and then to split out sections if doing so has made them too big. The SPLIT can of course be immediate. Saying, here's some stuff that others would never allow into any existing article, I'll put it into a new one... is wrong. --Nigelj (talk) 09:11, 1 February 2016 (UTC)

I'm sure this material can be added to the controversies article, but that article is already sprawling. Merging it back in is fine, but there is no requirement to add to an enormous article, I think. jps (talk) 10:17, 1 February 2016 (UTC)
In fact, I'm thinking of WP:CFORKing the controversies article. jps (talk) 13:03, 1 February 2016 (UTC)

Freemen on the land[edit]

the formation of this article is a oneside propaganda view promoted by those dependent on a corrupted industry and profession and the article is false and supported by the biased hearsay and proffered obiter opinion of those engaged in for profit business of commercial law. I did offer of corrected and much more logically and factually supported viewpoint of the reality of the reasons the term was coined and is used to defame men and women. I am aware of and have been discriminated against by greedy corrupted tyrants of power historically observed to occupy positions on the bench or legal profession and promoting their positions of profit from the commercial law courts of the commonwealth. I as a minister of Christ was successful in having seven of these tyrants disqualified from the bench by the efforts of 5 witnesses and my complaint to the head judge...I am a first hand witness to the fraud and have many others bearing evidense of the same so either you promote the truth or support the fraud by ensuring the preponderance of evidense is relied upon in defiance of hearsay obiter dicta and gossip. I am minister Edward Jay Robin <removed> object to the intentional deceit being applied by the relentless false info poster presently removing my edits (talk) 08:58, 3 February 2016 (UTC)

you need to support your changes to the article with reliable sources. Until you do, they will not stand. -Roxy the dog™ woof 10:43, 3 February 2016 (UTC)
Well, you could start by listing all the times when OPCA litigants have prevailed in court (currently zero, to the best of my knowledge). Guy (Help!) 11:15, 3 February 2016 (UTC)
That's already there Guy! -Roxy the dog™ woof 13:40, 3 February 2016 (UTC)
Of course it is, I added it in 2014: [4] Guy (Help!) 16:19, 3 February 2016 (UTC)
I literally stopped reading halfway through the first sentence of the opening post. If you can't even make it through one sentence without setting off every conspiracy theory red flag, you need to seriously re-evaluate your rhetoric. MjolnirPants Tell me all about it. 13:25, 3 February 2016 (UTC)
Note, the OP already caught a 24 hour block for edit warring the article in question. I don't think any further discussion is really necessary with this person, per WP:DUCK. MjolnirPants Tell me all about it. 13:27, 3 February 2016 (UTC)
It did lead me to read this decision though, which is fascinating. Only in death does duty end (talk) 13:51, 3 February 2016 (UTC)
I know! I'm halfway through it now (I'm at work, so I can't read straight through). I have family members who are (or rather, call themselves) Sovereign citizens, so this kinda strikes close to home for me. MjolnirPants Tell me all about it. 15:15, 3 February 2016 (UTC)
A quack I reported for violating the Cancer Act 1939 was prosecuted and chose to pull a FOTL defence. The magistrate was... unimpressed. Needless to say he was convicted and fined. Guy (Help!) 16:12, 3 February 2016 (UTC)

White genocide conspiracy theory[edit]

Could use some eyes. A new editor has come along and added a number of block quotes from white nationalists, etc. Needs some balance, probably getting rid of the block quotes which are a bit of an eyesore, but I don't have time to work on it. Doug Weller talk 19:14, 3 February 2016 (UTC)

The lead is pretty well written right now. It sets you quite well up for the cascade of racist naval-gazing the block quotes provide, framing it as the kind of bullshit it really is. The cause section reads a bit rocky, though. I don't think the block quotes are a problem, as they distance WP from the views expressed in them (I would like to see more in the Cause section, honestly, rather than the summaries and in-line quotes currently used). I think the issue is just that the subject is so patently offensive, ludicrous and over-the-top that it's impossible for even a fairly neutral description like the article to portray it without setting off all of our bullshit alarms. There is one hard problem with it in my view: It badly needs a criticism section. MjolnirPants Tell me all about it. 21:24, 3 February 2016 (UTC)
I don't have anything to add, other than that I love the term 'navel gazing'. --Rocksanddirt (talk) 23:52, 4 February 2016 (UTC)

It is reasonably well written and sourced for a FRINGE. Apart from the counterarguments section it could stay as such. Zezen (talk) 22:51, 3 February 2016 (UTC)

Seems the white supremacists are out in force. jps (talk) 21:43, 4 February 2016 (UTC)
Just reverted text in White nationalism lifted straight from Metapedia. Doug Weller talk 15:11, 5 February 2016 (UTC)


Even the article's creator says the sources are a mess, eg a freshman student at Cornell. It is apparently a real term although new to me. Doug Weller talk 12:53, 5 February 2016 (UTC)

It is a real term; more or less the neo-Nazi end of neoreaction. Got some play in the mainstream press with their favoured coinage "cuckservative" - David Gerard (talk) 13:19, 5 February 2016 (UTC)

Michael Greger again[edit]

Dr. Greger has received praise and endorsements from many physicians, scientists, and leaders in health and wellness.

... we're told; criticism has been removed; the smell of socks may be in the air. More eyes from fringe-savvy editors welcome. Alexbrn (talk) 17:28, 5 February 2016 (UTC)

  • Socks or not, there is one WP:SPA who needs to be removed from that article. Guy (Help!) 00:25, 7 February 2016 (UTC)
  • Why are you posting this here instead of ANI? Or better yet, on the talk pages of the "socks"? --Sammy1339 (talk) 01:17, 7 February 2016 (UTC)
Because this is the place where the discussion started. Feel free to bring it up in other venues if you like. Guy (Help!) 16:39, 7 February 2016 (UTC)


Seems largely a synthetic article at present. Is this a fringe area which is viable for an article I wonder? Alexbrn (talk) 19:03, 5 February 2016 (UTC)

There are some academic [5] and theological [6] references for the topic, however after the present article is cleaned of synthesis, all that's left will be a paragraph that could be merged and added to Potential cultural impact of extraterrestrial contact. - LuckyLouie (talk) 23:40, 5 February 2016 (UTC)

Code biology[edit]

Code biology (edit | talk | history | protect | delete | links | watch | logs | views)

Anyone care to have a look at that? Just skimming it started setting off my fruitloopery alarms. Seems to be an offshoot of biosemiotics, which in turn seems to be in need of a Sokal paper. Kolbasz (talk) 00:03, 7 February 2016 (UTC)

It's at AfD: Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Code biology

Levelland UFO Case[edit]

Levelland UFO Case (edit | talk | history | protect | delete | links | watch | logs | views)

This in-depth article seems to have a lot of text that is sourced uncritically to primary source documents and credulous reports. Help cleaning it up would be appreciated.

jps (talk) 15:48, 7 February 2016 (UTC)

Given that nearly all of the citations in the article are from UFO skeptics such as Dr. Donald Menzel and Curtis Peebles, and scientists such as Dr. J. Allen Hynek, a former Chair of Astronomy at Northwestern University who was also a scientific consultant for Project Blue Book, I'm not sure what "credulous reports" you're seeing here. I mean, if you can't trust two strong UFO skeptics in their research, what qualifies as a "credible source"? I also don't get the sense that the article is pro-UFO, as it extensively discusses the skeptical view of the incident. We have far more credulous, pro-UFO articles than this one. At least it extensively discusses the skeptical, plausible explanation. What kind of "cleaning up" do you believe needs to happen, and what sources need to be removed? 2602:304:691E:5A29:15FD:803:DD59:37A2 (talk) 16:16, 7 February 2016 (UTC)
I should add that I do see the silly TV interview piece at the bottom of the article; it could certainly be deleted, and the weather research by a (very) obscure ufologist is also questionable in terms of reliability. However, the rest of the sources appear to be good ones. 2602:304:691E:5A29:15FD:803:DD59:37A2 (talk) 16:25, 7 February 2016 (UTC)
The WP:GEVAL problem fixed, some of the more obscure ufology sources removed and a general cleanup done: [7]. - LuckyLouie (talk) 21:16, 8 February 2016 (UTC)

Family Constellations[edit]

Got a new (?) account editing here and querying the quantum quackery characterisation. Could use eyes. Alexbrn (talk) 18:19, 8 February 2016 (UTC)

It looks good as things stand (Guy has been quite vigilant!), but I'll watch it. MjolnirPants Tell me all about it. 20:08, 8 February 2016 (UTC)