Wikipedia:Scientific consensus

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

When writing about ideas around which scientific consensus has coalesced, Wikipedia editors should strive to describe those ideas as plainly as possible.

It may be that there are certain parties which dispute the consensus view. It is up to the editors of articles to determine, through careful examination of the sources, how notable the views of these parties are and whether they are relevant to articles on scientific matters. It is important to note that in forming its consensus it is the members of a particular scientific discipline who determine what is scientific and what is questionable science or pseudoscience. Public opinion or promoters of what is considered pseudoscience by the scientific consensus hold no sway in that determination. (See Wikipedia policy and guidelines regarding Undue weight, extraordinary claims sourcing, verifiability, reliability, and dealing with fringe theories.)

Articles that discuss the existence of a controversy (be it scientific, interdisciplinary, popular, political, or religious) should clearly identify proponents of minority views and explain the extent and reasons for their marginalization. It is important that articles which discuss such controversies neither exaggerate nor minimize the proportion of experts in the field who advocate minority views. Moreover, representing the premise of any contrived dispute or artificial controversy (such as Teach the Controversy) as fact gives undue weight to the viewpoint of those who have created the dispute. In cases where the controversy has been created and promoted to further a particular group's goals, describing the goals and manner in which the controversy was created is necessary in order for an article to meet the Wikipedia:Neutral Point of View policy.

In addition to the undue weight clause, the treatment of the scientific consensus is also described in the 'equal validity' and 'pseudoscience' clauses of the Neutral Point of View policy:

  • Neutral point of view: Giving "equal validity" "Please be clear on one thing: the Wikipedia neutrality policy certainly does not state, or imply, that we must "give equal validity" to minority views. It does state that we must not take a stand on them as encyclopedia writers; but that does not stop us from describing the majority views as such; from fairly explaining the strong arguments against the pseudoscientific theory; from describing the strong moral repugnance that many people feel toward some morally repugnant views; and so forth."
  • Neutral point of view:Pseudoscience "Pseudoscience is a social phenomenon and therefore significant, but it should not obfuscate the description of the main views, and any mention should be proportionate and represent the majority (scientific) view as the majority view and the minority (sometimes pseudoscientific) view as the minority view; and, moreover, to explain how scientists have received pseudoscientific theories. This is all in the purview of the task of describing a dispute fairly."

The Arbitration Committee also ruled on the presentation of the scientific consensus in Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Pseudoscience.

  • Neutral point of view as applied to science: Wikipedia:Neutral point of view, a fundamental policy, requires fair representation of significant alternatives to scientific orthodoxy. Significant alternatives, in this case, refers to legitimate scientific disagreement, as opposed to pseudoscience.
  • Serious encyclopedias: Serious and respected encyclopedias and reference works are generally expected to provide overviews of scientific topics that are in line with respected scientific thought. Wikipedia aspires to be such a respected work.
  • Obvious pseudoscience: Theories which, while purporting to be scientific, are obviously bogus, such as Time Cube, may be so labeled and categorized as such without more justification.
  • Generally considered pseudoscience: Theories which have a following, such as astrology, but which are generally considered pseudoscience by the scientific community may properly contain that information and may be categorized as pseudoscience.
  • Questionable science: Theories which have a substantial following, such as psychoanalysis, but which some critics allege to be pseudoscience, may contain information to that effect, but generally should not be so characterized.

Also relevant is Wikipedia's guideline on Reliable sources:

  • Consensus: The existence of a consensus within an academic community may be indicated, for example, by independent secondary or tertiary sources that come to the same conclusion. The statement that all or most scientists, scholars, or ministers hold a certain view requires a reliable source. Without it, opinions should be identified as those of particular, named sources. Editors should avoid original research especially with regard to making blanket statements based on novel syntheses of disparate material.