Wikipedia talk:Fringe theories/Archive 16

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Independent Sources - Clarify

The article should clarify what exactly it means by an independent source in no uncertain terms. Currently the wording may let some argue, for example, that a patent office filing published by a patent office is independent. I.e it should be clear why the patent office may be independent but the patent filing isn't. How independent is independent: does a source have to be completely unconnected, or would an independent observer involved in a demonstration, of say dowsing, be considered independent. IRWolfie- (talk) 23:43, 15 February 2012 (UTC)

Fringe theories noticeboard RfC: Should there be advice to notify an article if discussion is extended or invites action?

There is currently a debate at Wikipedia:Fringe theories/Noticeboard#RfC: Should there be advice to notify an article if discussion is extended or invites action? on whether the advice at the top should include as well some statement like "If a discussion on an article is extends over a day or invites action, please place a notice on the article's talk page, or an associated project page for multiple articles. This is not mandatory". Dmcq (talk) 11:41, 28 March 2012 (UTC)

lets do a diagram

Systematized as scientific definition
uses scientific method
tries to explain it self in scientific terms
departs from mainstream or orthodox theories
creative or wishful data interpretation
may avoid scientific explanation
focused on raising a following
Superseded scientific theories Fraud

Scientific fraud


Cargo Cult Science


Experimenter's bias

Pathological science

Dead science

Cognitive bias

Fringe science Protoscience

Cutting edge

State of the art


Please edit it to your likings and post it below. Thanks. (talk) 17:04, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

No. Let's not. Because it is (a) original research, and (b) wrong. AndyTheGrump (talk) 17:11, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
I've seen this chart before...but where? ArtifexMayhem (talk) 20:51, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
@andy What is wrong? You don't like some of the terms used? Remove them? We need better guidelines that are more detailed. It is better to prevent unwanted content than to have to delete it. (talk) 11:22, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
I like the idea of the diagram, but the implementation is kinda ugly. BTW, policy pages don't follow WP:NOR, our policy pages are essentially OR by the community to find out want rules make a project like Wikipedia work. LK (talk) 06:01, 26 April 2012 (UTC)

Self-publishing companies

The misuse of self-published books is often a problem in articles about or related to fringe theories. After several discussions at the Reliable sources noticeboard involving self-published sources, we've started creating a list of self-publishing companies. The hope is that with such a list, it will be easier to identify when a book is self-published or if it's produced by a respected publishing house. Therefore, we've created two lists:

We're off to a great start, but there's a lot of work to do. On one of the talk pages, there's a long list of 56 self-publishing companies that need to be intergrated into these articles. Please feel free to give us a hand. Thanks! A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 17:37, 25 April 2012 (UTC)

This is now done. Please add WP:List of self-publishing companies to your watchlist and if you encounter any self-publishing companies not on the list, please add them. Thanks. A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 14:14, 27 April 2012 (UTC)

WP:FRINGE and superminority theories such as Flat Earth

I've participated in discussions where it is believed that (roughly) "only superminority concepts such as Flat Earth theory qualify as WP:FRINGE". I've rejected this notion noting that there are a wide variety of ideas which are fringe, even without reaching the point of near-universal derision as Flat Earth theory. Any other editors care to comment on whether theories must be at the absurdity level of Flat Earth to be considered WP:FRINGE? 18:42, 29 April 2012 (UTC)

I have a feeling that most of the people in those discussions did not actually read WP:FRINGE, and are assuming it says things it does not actually say. But to directly answer the question... no a theory does not need to rise to the level of Flat Earth for WP:FRINGE to apply. Heck, if you actually read and understand what WP:FRINGE says, you could apply it to completely accepted mainstream theories (seriously, try it). Blueboar (talk) 23:30, 29 April 2012 (UTC)
Thanks, Blueboar  :) BigK HeX(talk) 15:23, 30 April 2012 (UTC)
Flat Earth is actually a rather poor example. The Flat Earth society has a lot of members - but it's pretty clear that people join because they like the anachronistic idea of belonging to such an iconic group rather than actually believing that the earth is flat. From following their forum for a while, it's clear that very few (if any) of their members actually believe in this stuff - even the hard-core types seem to be merely revelling in the production of weird explanations for why the earth seems round. I doubt that a single person there truly believes what they are saying.
Most of our fringe articles are at about the level of astrology and homeopathy - where there are probably tens of millions to hundreds of millions of ardent believers - yet with absolutely no scientific backing. It's hard to know precisely where the boundary is...but generally it's a "we know it when we see it" kind of thing.
SteveBaker (talk) 14:27, 9 May 2012 (UTC)
Generally speaking, unless an article is actually about a fringe theory, it should be excluded from coverage. Tiny minority POVs should also be excluded. Only majority and significant minority POVs should be covered. A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 15:07, 9 May 2012 (UTC)
A fringe position in terms of due weight is one that does not have a significant (if applicable academic) following. This is irrespective of it being absurd or not. IRWolfie- (talk) 15:41, 9 May 2012 (UTC)

Fringe theories with too many variations.

A problem that I see showing up in several fringe theory articles (recently: Homeopathy and Indigo children - but also elsewhere) is that without a solid scientific method for testing ideas relating to these theories, they tend to have adherents disagreeing between themselves about what they believe. For example, in Homeopathy, we have complaints from a practicing homeopathist that we talk about the repeated dilution of "treatments" in water - when he claims that everyone uses alcohol now anyway - we can find sources within that community that support both claims. We have similar claims in Indigo children where some people write that their "indigoness" is a literal purple aura that enwraps the child and others write that this is merely a figurative description that derives from synesthesia in one of the early promoters of the idea.

In these cases, we end up with articles that somehow have to summarize what topic is all about - despite the sources within that community contradicting each other. Listing every possible viewpoint within the community is impossible and results in an incredibly messy article - yet stating that: "Proponents believe that Indigo children have an indigo aura" is only true for some proportion of the adherents.

It's relatively easy for us to come up with a coherent, well-referenced, science-based debunking of these theories - but it's almost impossible to say what the fringe theory actually claims for itself because there are just too many variants. Without cold, hard evidence to 'prune' all of these small branches - adherents are free to write any old thing that pops into their heads - resulting in this fuzzy/contradictory set of claims for their pet theory.

To pick another example: We can't only write "Homeopathy doesn't work <lots of refs>" - we also have to say something like "Homeopathy is the belief that repeated dilution of substances makes them act more powerfully". Except that it turns out that only some homeopathists believe that. Others claim that the more dilute the treatment, the more localized the effect is - so if you ache all over, you need a less dilute treatment of some homeopathic pain-reduction than you do if your the first finger of your left hand hurts.

It turns out to be extremely difficult to write a coherent story about something that's actually not true.

SteveBaker (talk) 14:18, 9 May 2012 (UTC)

I think for astrology the situation is even worse in terms of splintering of opinions and a lack of reliable sources to describe positions. IRWolfie- (talk) 10:09, 10 May 2012 (UTC)
Yep - same exact problem. It pops up everywhere - on Mood ring, the claim is that the stone in the ring changes color based on the mood of the wearer (it actually depends mostly on the temperature in the room) - but the manufacturers of such devices each provide a color chart showing what colors are caused by what moods, and no two of them agree - it's like nailing jello to the ceiling. So in the end, we have this slightly bizarre article where we explain the claim that the ring changes color with mood - but we cannot produce a table that shows which colors are claimed to have which effects. It's very frustrating. SteveBaker (talk) 19:19, 10 May 2012 (UTC)
I don't know if this helps, but I would ignore anything not covered by third-party sources. A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 19:52, 10 May 2012 (UTC)

Discussion at WT:NPOV

There is ongoing discussion at WT:NPOV#Articles about minority-POV holders that suggests to me that this page might be changed, right under the Jimboquote, from "Articles which cover controversial, disputed, or discounted ideas in detail" to "Articles which relate to controversial, disputed, or discounted ideas in detail". Coverage is a function of what editors have inserted, relation is a function of how it actually stands IRL. But please centralize discussion at the link above, where a fuller rationale appears. JJB 17:20, 11 May 2012 (UTC)


Wikipedia:Fringe_theories#Reliable_sources: "A fringe theory can be considered notable enough for a dedicated article if it has been referenced extensively, and in a serious manner, in at least one major publication, or by a notable group or individual that is independent of the theory." Wikipedia:Fringe_theories#Unwarranted promotion of fringe theories: For a fringe theory to be considered notable, it is not sufficient that it has been discussed, positively or negatively, by groups or individuals, even if those groups are notable enough for a Wikipedia article. I have boldly removed the wording "or by a or by a notable group or individual" since clearly the important part is the serious and extensive discussion in a major publication to ensure notability. IRWolfie- (talk) 19:32, 3 August 2012 (UTC)

That's a non-trivial change - you're actually eliminating a significant class of articles here - those that are widely known and discussed by huge numbers of important people - but which don't happen to have been picked up by a major publication. I'm not necessarily saying that this is a bad thing - but it's not a "be bold" kind of a change, we should discuss it.
That said, I'm not sure that the original text was contradictory: The first part says that "A fringe theory can be considered notable" under some set of conditions - not that it must be. The second part qualifies that by saying that it's not sufficient for the individuals or groups doing the discussing to be notable...which fits with the first part's qualification "...a notable group or individual that is independent of the theory". So my reading of these two statements is that if a person/group is both notable and independent and talks about the theory...or if it appears in a major publication - then that is sufficient to warrant an article here (providing there are WP:RS for all of that).
I do agree that some clarification is needed here...I'm just not sure this is the right clarification.
The question is: Are there significant numbers of fringe topics that aren't covered by major publications but which are being talked about by some other means (eg web sites, minor publications) by lots of notable, independent people. If not - then your edit is OK - if so, then we may have a problem with scope creep.
SteveBaker (talk) 20:53, 3 August 2012 (UTC)
I don't see how the intention of the guideline could be fulfilled if there is no independent reliable source discussing it: it just provides, at most, the opinions of a notable individual to add to the article. Notable individuals can't provide the sort of extensive reliable coverage that is desired from a reliably published work. If the notable individual discusses the fringe theory in a major publication such that their description of the fringe theory is reliable then the additional fringe criteria is satisfied anyway. IRWolfie- (talk) 23:37, 3 August 2012 (UTC)
What you are asking for is for the notable individual to engage with a fringe theory in a scholarly way. I think a much more likely scenario is for the notable, independent individual to simply rubbish the fringe theory without condescending to engage with it. I think that would be enough to establish notability. Wikipedia is not just about what is published in scholarly journals. Aarghdvaark (talk) 05:33, 4 August 2012 (UTC)
Yeah... I don't really see a need for "... or by a notable group or individual". If the individual or group is notable, their views will be published. There may be a few very obscure fringe theories that have not come to the attention of the media... but not many. Fringe theories are perfect "public interest" topics for slow news days. Even if the tone of the news report is disparaging, or says the theory is ridiculous, that is enough to establish notability. Blueboar (talk) 00:31, 4 August 2012 (UTC)
This article's main page Wikipedia: Fringe theories specifically warns that "news sources often cover less than strictly notable topics in a lighthearted fashion, such as on April Fool's Day, as "News of the Weird" or during "slow news days" - so that wouldn't be sufficient to establish notability. But there must anyway be some evidence to enable the talk to be verified, e.g. a link to a transcript of an interview. Disallowing such sources on the basis that they would be covered anyway means that some primary sources would be disallowed in establishing notability. I realise primary sources are not sufficient in themselves to justify setting up an article, but a good thing about Wikipedia is that it often allows readers to see the primary sources for themselves. I think SteveBaker's formulation is correct (slight rewording): if the theory is talked about by a person (or group) who is both notable and independent, or if it appears in at least one major publication - then that is sufficient to warrant an article here. Aarghdvaark (talk) 05:23, 4 August 2012 (UTC)
The reason we ask for the extra criteria is for neutrality; without the mainstream coverage we can't be neutral. Having a notable person talk about the theory does not help us achieve neutrality. Having an academic source discuss the fringe theory in depth does. IRWolfie- (talk) 00:17, 5 August 2012 (UTC)
We don't necessarily need academic sources to show that a fringe theory is notable... a significant amount of coverage by "general public" sources can be enough. Yes, media sources are given less weight than academic sources... but that does not mean media sources are given no weight at all. If several newspapers have independently report on the same fringe theory in their various "News of the Weird" sections, all those articles together can add up to a clear demonstration that the topic is quite notable. (in fact... enough media coverage may actually cause the theory to become notable - as enough reports will mean that the theory has come to the attention of a wide swath of the general public). Blueboar (talk) 00:30, 5 August 2012 (UTC)
No it's not enough, that is contrary to the current and previous wording. It says "it has been referenced extensively, and in a serious manner", that is above and beyond WP:GNG. IRWolfie- (talk) 13:51, 5 August 2012 (UTC)
Hang on, this is the particular sentence we are talking about in this section. The version before you changed it said: "if it has been referenced extensively, and in a serious manner, in at least one major publication, or by a notable group or individual that is independent of the theory". Can we revert please to this previous version? It has been shown above that actually there wasn't a contradiction - but the wording was confusing so yes that should be changed. Also I think this tightening of the definition is unwarranted - because I think, as I've said before, Wikipedia is not just about what is published in academic sources. Possibly the mention of "serious manner" may be causing problems here. I take it to mean about being wary of "slow news" days etc., but I get the impression you may be taking it as meaning it must be discussed in a reputable journal rather than in a newspaper, which presumably you take by definition as not being a reliable source? All this sets the bar for fringe theories too high because few scientists would bother to engage with a fringe theory and fewer journals would publish such work anyway. Aarghdvaark (talk) 03:04, 6 August 2012 (UTC)
Aarghdvaark has it right... when it comes to notability, the sources do NOT need to be scholarly or academic in nature. If a fringe theory has been seriously discussed in an article from a mainstream news outlet, that article clearly demonstrates a degree of notability. If a proponent of a fringe theory has written a book about it, and that book becomes a best seller... those sales figures are an indication that a lot of people in the mainstream know about the theory... that also goes towards notability of the theory. Remember, notability has nothing to do with whether the mainstream thinks the theory is valid or not (and we can take it as a given that with Fringe theories, the mainstream does not think it valid). When it comes to Fringe topics, notability is akin to "fame"... what we are really determining is: how many people are likely to have heard of it (whether they believe it or not). Blueboar (talk) 00:15, 7 August 2012 (UTC)
No certainly not, and the current and past reading disagrees with that. It must be a major publication discussing and critiquing it. Secondly, the argument that "those sales figures are an indication that a lot of people in the mainstream know about the theory", has no basis in policy or guidelines, see WP:GNG for the standard reasoning for notability; significant coverage in reliable sources. WP:FRINGE adds to this by requiring that at least one source be serious and extensive in it's mention; above and beyond GNG. If the sources don't exist to establish that the article can be covered neutrally then the article can get deleted as well (and I've used that argument successfully at AfD). IRWolfie- (talk) 09:10, 7 August 2012 (UTC)
I think the bit saying: "It must be a major publication discussing and critiquing it " in order to establish notability is WP:OR. I certainly don't get that from the past reading, which is why I asked you to revert - since you have IMHO made a bold change unilaterally to these guidelines. There's nothing about critiquing at WP:GNG for example. Aarghdvaark (talk) 10:23, 7 August 2012 (UTC)
That critiquing isn't mentioned in WP:GNG is the entire point of the extra notability related requirements. WP:FRINGE provides an extenstion onto WP:GNG, to ensure WP:NPOV can be met. IRWolfie- (talk) 11:56, 7 August 2012 (UTC)

The phrase "by a notable group or individual that is independent of the theory" is hopelessly problematic. So if some random famous person talks about the theory that Barack Obama is a clone of Akhenaten [1] [2], then it suddenly becomes notable enough to have its own article? I sure hope not. I accept that the discussion does not have to be academic. If there is substantial and sustained media interest (not just a flash-in-the-pan slow-news-day matter), then that couild be sufficient. Paul B (talk) 11:43, 7 August 2012 (UTC)

To be clear, the guideline doesn't mean that a famous individual can come up with a crazy idea - and suddenly there can be an article about it. It says that an "independent" and notable individual has to talk about it...and obviously we need WP:RS to show that they did indeed say that. So if some random individual comes up with the idea - and then it's talked about independently by some notable individual - and they write a book or an article or their statements are reported someplace - then we consider it reasonable for addition. But bear in mind, that WP:FRINGE doesn't trump WP:NOTE. If WP:NOTE says that it's inadmissible - then that's that. SteveBaker (talk) 14:28, 7 August 2012 (UTC)
Please read more carefully, otherwise we will find ourselves in a useless discussion. I said nothing that remotely resembled the claim that guidelines state that if "a famous individual can come up with a crazy idea" we should discuss it. I said that the guidelines as currently written imply that if a "random famous person" commented on an existing fringe theory (one that he/she did not come up with), giving the example of the long-existing Akhenaten=Obama theory, we should have an article on it. As far as I can see none of what you say addresses that issue which is the wording that IRWolfie questioned in this section. That is what we should be discussing. Paul B (talk) 17:16, 7 August 2012 (UTC)

Example please?

I'm having some trouble making sense of this conversation. It's pretty clear that there's some situation in mind that has actually arisen, which this is supposed to cover. Can we pick one of these and discuss it please? Mangoe (talk) 11:59, 7 August 2012 (UTC)

These are supposed to be general guidelines, so it would be problematic to make this about a specific case. However, I suspect that it was initiated by this discussion Wikipedia:Fringe_theories/Noticeboard#Turkey_Mountain_inscriptions. Paul B (talk) 12:17, 7 August 2012 (UTC)
The case at Talk:Turkey Mountain inscriptions was going on at the same time, but actually this discussion was started because IRWolfie- changed the guidelines on this project page [3], and is now pushing for his version with serious and reliable manner to mean a source for notability has to be an academic source. To back up a bit, I'll try and summarize things. To establish that a theory (e.g. Barack Obama is a clone of Akhenaten) is a reliable fringe theory (oxymoron, but never mind) we need two things.
  • First, the theory must be described by a reliable source, and all that means is the source cannot be a blog, or self-published, or YouTube, etc. (which rules out the examples above). It can be a book in which the author states his fringe theory, and what we get from that is the statement that author X believes fringe theory Y. This is a reliable primary source statement which only supports the statement author X believes fringe theory Y, nothing more - certainly not that the theory is either true or notable. It could also be in a newspaper report, in which case it is a reliable secondary source statement (with the caveat about avoiding slow news days, April 1st, etc.). But a reliable primary source statement will do to establish the theory exists even though Wikipedia prefers secondary sources.
  • Second, we also need the theory to be notable. This is where the independent comes in, because if it has only been mentioned by supporters of the theory then it is not notable (which also rules out the example above). OTOH if the theory is talked about by a person (or group) who is both notable and independent then that establishes notability - regardless of whether the talk is in favour or against the theory. Of course, this talk needs to be backed up by a reliable source too - otherwise notability cannot be verified. I think the argument at the moment is whether this source has to be an academic source (i.e. a scholarly journal) as IRWolfie I think is asking for, or whether a non-academic source is sufficient, as Blueboar and myself think. Aarghdvaark (talk) 13:02, 7 August 2012 (UTC)
I think I agree with most of what you just said, Aarghdvaark... but I need you to clarify one thing: You say: " establish that a theory is a reliable fringe theory..." etc.. I think I understand what you intended by this - but I think "reliable" is the wrong word ... Did you mean "worthy of having a Wikipedia article devoted to it"? Blueboar (talk) 13:27, 7 August 2012 (UTC)
Yep! Aarghdvaark (talk) 15:53, 7 August 2012 (UTC)
That's notability, not reliability. There is no such thing as a "reliable fringe theory", though there can be a fringe theory discussed in reliable sources. Paul B (talk) 13:31, 7 August 2012 (UTC)
That's just a repetition of WP:GNG. WP:FRINGE establishes additional requirements, on top of WP:GNG. IRWolfie- (talk) 16:06, 7 August 2012 (UTC)
I know perfectly well what this discussion is about thank you. Since you have read my contribution to it, you should know that. I shouldn't have to repeat myself, and you shouldn't be confusing two distinct issues. A short phrase was removed: I think correctly. I have have also commented on the quite separate issue of whether sources need to be academic for an article to become notable. I do not think they do have to be, but as it happens I do think it should be said to be desirable. I have absolutely not idea what you mean by establishing that something is a "reliable fringe theory". That's just about as close to an oxymoron as one can get. What matters is whether a fringe theory is notable. That's the criterion. Paul B (talk) 13:23, 7 August 2012 (UTC)
Sorry you think this is all a bit obvious. I was replying to user Mangoe and I also did say the phrase "reliable fringe theory" was an oxymoron. I do agree a fringe theory needs to be notable, but what I was trying to show was that notability is just one stage of a typical discussion about whether a fringe theory is worthy of having a Wikipedia article devoted to it (e.g. see the Turkey Mountain inscriptions saga). Aarghdvaark (talk) 15:53, 7 August 2012 (UTC)

The problem here is that we're talking at cross-purposes about two different things.

  1. As IRWolfie originally pointed out, our requirements are at best confusingly stated (my opinion) and at worst, downright contradictory (IRWolfie's position). This is undoubtedly true and ought to be uncontroversial. Hence we should rework those two sentences into something that clarifies the intent of the present guideline.
  2. IRWolfie's chosen alteration of that confusing/contradictory wording definitely reduces the set of topics that should be considered for Wikipedia articles compared to the old wording. That is a much more controversial change - and should be discussed at length with a consensus !vote before we enact it.

SteveBaker (talk) 14:22, 7 August 2012 (UTC)

Making sense of the discussion

I think people are conflating disparate issues here, and would like to clarify that situation... This policy addresses several issues relating to the presentation of fringe theories in Wikipedia:

  1. Should Wikipedia have a stand-alone article about a fringe theory? This is governed by the concept of Notability. In this context the policy functions as an SNG for fringe topics. To show Notability, we must demonstrate that a source other than a fringe theorist (ie independent of the topic) has taken note of it and discussed it in some depth. That source does not have to be a scholarly or academic source... it simply has to be a "mainstream" reliable source. Media sources qualify. That source does not need to "critique" the theory, it simply needs to discuss it in some depth.
  2. If the theory is Notable enough for Wikipedia to have an article on it... what should that article say about it? This is governed by the concept of NPOV, and its sub-concept of DUE weight. It is not our job to "prove" or "disprove" the theory... instead our goals are to: a) describe to the reader what the theory says, and b) inform them of what different people say about it. Note that the first goal is to describe the theory... it is necessary and appropriate to give a fair amount of weight to what fringe theorists say in order to do this. More weight than we might give the theory in some other context.
  3. 'Should we mention the theory in other, related articles... and if so, how. This is also determined by NPOV... and by Due Weight. And again, context is important. The same theory may deserve to be given a fair amount of weight in one article... but no weight at all in another article.

Now... if we need to, we can discuss how these three distinct issues relate to specific articles or situations. Blueboar (talk) 14:59, 7 August 2012 (UTC)

Yes, I agree that these are the three main areas that WP:FRINGE covers.
  1. WP:FRINGE cannot overturn WP:NOTE - if WP:NOTE says that something is not notable then there cannot be an article about it, no matter what WP:FRINGE has to say. However, there is nothing to prevent this guideline from adding more qualifications for fringe articles - even though they may be notable (per WP:NOTE), it may be that they are also too "fringey" to be allowed (per WP:FRINGE). From that perspective, we don't need to restate conditions required by WP:NOTE - merely outline the additional burdens we apply to fringe topics.
  2. What should fringe articles say? Well, I think we have that part of the guideline well nailed down. I would be reluctant to do more than tweak the wording. While it is important to explain what the theory is (which is often insanely difficult) - that cannot in any way trump the requirement to state the mainstream view front-and-center. If the mainstream says that this is bullshit - then that's what the article has to say - the views of proponents of the fringe theory need to be stated as "So-and-so says this" or "This group of people believe that...".
  3. The extent to which a fringe theory can be mentioned in some other article should already be covered by WP:WEIGHT. I don't think we should say much about it here other than our existing clarification about fringe theories being discussed in other articles versus fringe theories with their own articles. We don't want to see flat-earth theory in Earth, although it's certainly notable enough to have it's own article. But it's reasonable to have a mention about fringe science and fraud in Oxyhydrogen because much of the discussion around this word is from fringe theorists and that represents sufficient 'due weight'.
Overall, I believe that we should defer to WP:NOTE and WP:WEIGHT where we can and merely layer the special needs of fringe articles upon those guidelines. I think we're doing OK on our content and due-weight guidelines - but clarification is certainly needed on WP:NOTE requirements.
SteveBaker (talk) 15:28, 7 August 2012 (UTC)
Things aren't as clear cut as that Blueboar. Bear in mind that if an article can not be described neutrally, i.e because of a lack of mainstream sources, then we don't have an article on it. Example: Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Donna_Eden_(2nd_nomination). IRWolfie- (talk) 16:13, 7 August 2012 (UTC)
IRWolfie is right. The problem is WP:SYN. That means that the mainstream position cannot easily be outlined unless there is direct discussion of the theory itself. Fringe proponents can be masters of invoking WP:SYN, leading to the contradiction that fringe theorists can be used to "reliably" outline the theory and arguments for it, but mainstream responses cannot be used unless they are directly addressing the theory. For an example of this very problem see Talk:Turkey_Mountain_inscriptions#Counter-rebuttals_and_avoiding_SYNT_.2F_OR. This problem was partly addressed some while ago by the policy of WP:PARITY, which allows for non-academic mainstream sources in parity to fringe sources, but it remains an issue, and frankly I'm inclined to believe that WP:PARITY itself, as currently worded, contains contradictions. If the fringe theory remains only marginally notable, mainstream response may only be possible by a form of "synthesis" in which general historical/scientic etc facts are brought in to prove that Obama is not a clone of Akenaten. Paul B (talk) 17:36, 7 August 2012 (UTC)

I'm at least convinced that if for instance the only source we have for a bit of Forteana is Charles Fort himself, that's a notability failure. We need outside treatment beyond "it's a slow news day" puff pieces. Therefore it should be generally be unnecessary to deal with the situation where there is only fringe material and no rebuttal, because we wouldn't accept articles which couldn't meet a higher standard of documentation. Mangoe (talk) 19:22, 7 August 2012 (UTC)

I agree. I do sympathise with the view that we should be inclusive, and that people in theory at least should be able to come here to get an objective view on any topic, but that can only be possible if we can get policies across the board that will allow mainstream responses without falling foul of WP:SYN. If not, whereof we cannot speak fully we must remain silent. Paul B (talk) 19:36, 7 August 2012 (UTC)
The Turkey Mountain inscriptions article is up for afd because of notability - and because the theory is not talked about by a person (or group) who is both notable and independent then it will probably be deleted (or merged). So I think the guidelines work as they were before IRWolfie's change. This removed the possibility of establishing notability if the theory is discussed by a person (or group) who is both notable and independent, leaving only the possibility of using academic sources. I think there is a consensus here that that is too big a change. I fully agree with SteveBaker that the sentences need to be reworked, but such that the guidelines allow the use of non academic sources to establish notability (as they did before). Aarghdvaark (talk) 03:05, 8 August 2012 (UTC)
I see no such consensus, but rather a lot of confusion. I repeat what I wrote above: "The phrase "by a notable group or individual that is independent of the theory" is hopelessly problematic. So if some random famous person talks about the theory that Barack Obama is a clone of Akhenaten [4] [5], then it suddenly becomes notable enough to have its own article? I sure hope not. I accept that the discussion does not have to be academic. If there is substantial and sustained media interest (not just a flash-in-the-pan slow-news-day matter), then that couild be sufficient." SteveBaker's reply missed the point. That phrase "a notable group or individual" implies that only one "random famous person", as I put it, needs to comment (albeit "seriously") on an extant fringe theory, however marginal or obscure, in order for any fringe topic to derserve its own article. I think that's too arbitrary and that the paragraph is better without that phrase at all. Paul B (talk) 14:05, 8 August 2012 (UTC)
Agree. IRWolfie- (talk) 18:06, 8 August 2012 (UTC)
SteveBaker's reply did not miss the point. The original guidelines stated "[a fringe theory justifies a] dedicated article if it has been referenced extensively, and in a serious manner, in at least one major publication, or by a notable group or individual that is independent of the theory". IRWolfie made a bold (his description) change to "... in a serious and reliable manner, in at least one major publication that is independent of the theory". He has not achieved consensus so it should either revert to the original or to something which takes on board the points raised above, e.g. serious and reliable manner, in at least one major publication - I can foresee this phrase being used to exclude media, despite people agreeing here that it should not be taken to mean only academic sources.
I mentioned above that I thought consensus had been reached in that "only the possibility of using academic sources ... is too big a change". Although you saw no such consensus, you yourself have explicitly agreed with it, as I presume IRWolfie does since he has undersigned your entry. Here's another fringe theory: Barack Obama citizenship conspiracy theories. I started to look at the refs, but there are 243 of them, so I gave up - but I didn't find any academic sources there. Assuming for the sake of argument that there are no academic sources there, this article could be up for afd if we keep the guidelines as they now stand. That is because these are guidelines, so it is not what was meant to be said that is important but what is said. Aarghdvaark (talk) 10:22, 12 August 2012 (UTC)
Sorry about the delayed reply, but he most certainly did miss the point. Read his reply to my original comment [6]. He completely misunderstood what I said. I do wish editors would take the trouble to read what is actually being referred to rather than attribute arguments to people who did not make them. Your own argument is a separate matter. I addressed the point about the phrase "extensively and in a serious manner" (albeit condensed to the word "seriously"). So your reply again misses the issue. The phrase by "or by a notable group or individual" is a hostage to fortune, is unhelpful and is arbitrary. Let's take my example (Obama = Akhenaten). Let's say a "notable group" devote a webpage to refuting this in detail. What if the "notable group" are some wacko religious organisation who refute it to in order prove that Obama is actually a clone of Moses, not Akhenaten. Likewise, if the notable individual is some nut-job with similarly outlandish theories, we have fringe justifying fringe. The phrasing allows this. Paul B (talk) 20:07, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
The difference in the fields matters. For a recent historical event one would expect normal recent historical authorities, that is, newspapers and news magazines, and then after that books by responsible historians and political analysts. For something like the inscriptions we are into paleontology and archaeology, and that's the kind of sources we expect. When the only sources are "weird" (that is, falling outside of the normal sort) that's a sign of fringiness by definition. Mangoe (talk) 12:42, 12 August 2012 (UTC)
Yes, if the only sources are "weird", I would agree... but media sources are not "weird"... they are "mainstream" (even though they may occasionally report on the "weird"). They go towards establishing that a fringe theory is notable. Blueboar (talk) 14:44, 12 August 2012 (UTC)
The point you may be missing though is that this isn't enough to ensure that a particular fringe theory article can be written neutrally and without undue promotion: i.e it can fulfil WP:NPOV. That is the only reason it is desirable to have extra requirements on the sources. The previous wording about having a notable person having discussed it, doesn't ensure the article can be written neutrally. Remember that WP:FRINGE came from WP:NPOV.IRWolfie- (talk) 22:27, 12 August 2012 (UTC)
Why bring WP:NPOV into this discussion? It has already been said here that these guidelines build on stuff like that, so if an article is not neutral etc. it will have to change in order to be kept. Aarghdvaark (talk) 23:54, 12 August 2012 (UTC)
Actually, BB, I must revisit this, and I think the point is important. When we're talking about subjects that ought to come in as archaeological or anthropological or the like, the MSM are "weird" when they are the originators of the material. Newspaper reporters are not, as a rule, scientists at all, and even more rarely educated within the particular field for such material. What is mainstream is context-dependent: when the matter at hand is scientific, it's the scientific mainstream that counts, and the mainstream media are outside of that. Slow news day Forteana is not mainstream, and in fact we need to emphasize that especially because people erroneously take a "it must be true, I read it in the paper" approach which perpetuates transmission of fringe nonsense. Sources are not universally reliable; they are only reliable in-field. Mangoe (talk) 13:52, 31 August 2012 (UTC)
We're out of date order here, but in reply to Mangoe, fringe theories are hardly ever discussed in the mainstream science context, because they are, well, fringe. Sometimes they are picked up by the mainstream media (and not just on 'slow news' days) and that can establish notability. Explaining the gist of the theory in Wikipedia can be difficult, but reliable sources for what the theory claims are mainstream media or a book by a supporter of the theory if it is not self-published. These sources do not establish the theory is accepted, just that x says the theory is about y. It would be great if some academic were to write a peer-reviewed paper analyzing and debunking a fringe theory, but few academics would waste time doing that, and fewer peer-reviewed journals would publish it anyway. So non-academic sources are necessary to establish both notability and to give some explanation of the fringe theory. BTW, who or what are the "MSM"? Aarghdvaark (talk) 05:14, 3 September 2012 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── NPOV is crucial to understanding why WP:FRINGE exists. It's where it originated from and what it extends. Note how the nutshell starts: "To maintain a neutral point of view ...". That is, the fringe guidelines exist solely for NPOV issues particular to fringe theories. If a fringe topic can not be treated neutrally because the sources don't exist which discuss it in a significant and serious manner etc then we shouldn't because we can't make the topic neutral based on the sources. IRWolfie- (talk) 00:09, 13 August 2012 (UTC)

I agree. The biggest problem with fringe topics is that their proponents say things like: "200 million Americans believe in astrology and only a few thousand scientists have ever said it's not true - so the neutral point of view is to say that it's true"...and indeed 31% of Americans do so believe (!), 90% of them know their star sign - and yet there are only 3,000 practicing astronomers in the US to tell them it's B.S. I'm sure there are vastly more astrology books and articles out there that say that it's true than that it's false - astronomy textbooks rarely mention the matter at all. If Wikipedia took a "democratic" view of WP:NPOV/WP:WEIGHT - then the astrology-nuts would be right, and our astrology article would have to say that astrology is absolutely true - and give very little weight indeed to the scientific perspective. However WP:FRINGE has been given the mandate by the ARB and his holyness, Mr Wales, to specify that in cases where mainstream scientific theory says 'X' and a bunch of other people say 'Y', then 'X' is the neutral position and where the weight belongs - and therefore is the position that Wikipedia will take on the matter. That means that WP:FRINGE is strongly a matter of WP:NPOV and WP:WEIGHT - which is why NPOV must be brought into this discussion. If it were my decision, I'd take the entire set of WP:FRINGE guidelines and place them front-and-center in the WP:NPOV and WP:WEIGHT guidelines - rather than being tucked away in this somewhat darker corner. SteveBaker (talk) 12:27, 31 August 2012 (UTC)
"in cases where mainstream scientific theory says 'X' and a bunch of other people say 'Y', then 'X' is the neutral position and where the weight belongs - and therefore is the position that Wikipedia will take on the matter."... not quite. Yes, X is where the weight belongs, but X is not the "neutral position"... the neutral position is "Mainstream science says X, but the fringe says Y". Blueboar (talk) 12:50, 31 August 2012 (UTC)
Thanks for the clarification. But the point here is that modification/clarification of the WP:NPOV guideline is a key part of WP:FRINGE. SteveBaker (talk) 13:07, 31 August 2012 (UTC)

Theory --> Subject

I made this change for the purposes of including organizations, publications, etc, under the fringe notability section rather than just theories but I don't feel it goes far enough in clarifying my point. How do people feel about clarifying further by specifying that it includes companies, organizations, publications, products, etc? Should we include an exhaustive list or clarify in a different way? Alternatively, are there objections to the change in the first place? Sædontalk 00:43, 27 August 2012 (UTC)

I think that's appropriate. This policy should apply to whether a fringe-view-promoting organization is mentioned in other articles. However, the existence of articles on organizations promoting fringe views will still fall under the purview of WP:ORG. I've changed 'subject' to 'view' as I think that reads better and still retains the meaning, but feel free to edit as you see fit. LK (talk) 04:14, 27 August 2012 (UTC)
I made a slight addition specifying organizations because I felt "view" has the same non-encompassing issue as "theory" or "subject." I don't think there will be any tension with WP:ORG, I would just like to clarify the scope of WP:FRINGE. How does it look now? Can it be interpreted to refer to products at this point as well or is anything further necessary? Sædontalk 04:26, 27 August 2012 (UTC)
I've propagated the wording to a few other places in the article. As before feel free to edit as you see fit. LK (talk) 07:08, 27 August 2012 (UTC)
I think the guideline is typically used to refer to fringe subjects or views in general, so the change makes sense. IRWolfie- (talk) 13:36, 27 August 2012 (UTC)
WP:Notability usually uses the word topic (the topic of the article, which might be a person, place, theory, philosophy, etc.) ... so perhaps we should use that word when discussing notability... "Fringe topic". Blueboar (talk) 13:48, 27 August 2012 (UTC)
That sounds good too. IRWolfie- (talk) 15:13, 27 August 2012 (UTC)
Yeah - "topic" works best for me. I agree that "theory" is too overloaded with the common English meaning and the special scientific meaning. SteveBaker (talk) 18:53, 27 August 2012 (UTC)
  • The current changes are perhaps more confusing at the moment: "Fringe views and the organizations who promote them can be considered notable enough for dedicated articles if ..." might make people conclude that if a fringe view is notable then an organization promoting them is notable. IRWolfie- (talk) 19:16, 27 August 2012 (UTC)
I've made a minor modification, what do people think? IRWolfie- (talk) 19:18, 27 August 2012 (UTC)
I think we should try to use the word 'topic' throughout the article; this should allow us to to trim down on the verbiage. LK (talk) 04:56, 28 August 2012 (UTC)
I could live with "topic". Mangoe (talk) 05:26, 28 August 2012 (UTC)
Same. IRWolfie- (talk) 11:17, 31 August 2012 (UTC)
  • I think we might have to take it to the village pump to make this change to WP:FRINGE to ensure the consensus is with us? IRWolfie- (talk) 11:18, 31 August 2012 (UTC)
I've a similarly related proposal. How about renaming the guideline from Fringe Theories, to just Fringe? IRWolfie- (talk) 17:11, 1 September 2012 (UTC)
Fringe on its own is a wide term, it would include e.g. fringe theatre. Aarghdvaark (talk) 03:10, 2 September 2012 (UTC)
The guideline is usually referred to by WP:FRINGE, and it has never been mistaken for fringe theatre that I have seen. IRWolfie- (talk) 16:58, 2 September 2012 (UTC)
I think people understand that something that starts with WP: and is in all-caps is a shortcut to some kind of policy/guideline doc. WP:FRINGE isn't confusing - but WP:Fringe might be confusing. I wouldn't be averse to renaming it "WP:Fringe articles" or "WP:Fringe topics". SteveBaker (talk) 19:01, 2 September 2012 (UTC)
"WP:Fringe theories" tells the reader what it is about and I don't see the need for a change. I do agree that in the guidelines we should use "Fringe topics" to cover fringe theories and all the related stuff (fringe views, people and organizations). But I think if we go for "WP:Fringe articles" or whatever we are staking a claim to the word fringe that is not in common use - because we are editing on this page, "fringe" probably does mean fringe theories to us, but I don't think it will for everyone. Aarghdvaark (talk) 02:40, 3 September 2012 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── You seem to have missed that "Fringe theories" is misleading (that's what the discussion is about). The use of the phrase Fringe topic/article is already in wide use, and everyone knows what it means; I have never seen anyone confused about this. Quite frankly if someone thinks it's about fringe theatre when they click on it they are an idiot and no wording will help them. We assume some basic level of competence on wikipedia. IRWolfie- (talk) 12:56, 3 September 2012 (UTC)

I don't understand why you think "Fringe theory" is misleading? It is in common use after all. It is the (fringe) theory that is usually the main point after all. If you talk about "Fringe article" and then "Fringe organization" why would you expect people to think of theories and not political organizations? Aarghdvaark (talk) 17:04, 3 September 2012 (UTC)


I've nominated this page for deletion. It seems to me this is a hoax with respect to the article's content. Created by a WP:SPA, it sat in mainspace for two years. Someone added it to Category:Pseudoscience and Category:Types of scientific fallacy, which is how I found it; it's not liked from any articles. Tijfo098 (talk) 19:42, 19 October 2012 (UTC)

This is a guideline page, perhaps you are looking for advice at WP:FTN. IRWolfie- (talk) 19:49, 19 October 2012 (UTC)

Help with guidelines

I refer to this deletion discussion. I'm wondering if the people who monitor these guidelines would be inclined to expand the section on notability to include people who espouse pseudoscience and fringe theories, not just the theories themselves. It would have been useful in the aforementioned case to know whether the consensus was that astrological journals were unreliable sources for the purposes of establishing the notability of an astrologer (perhaps on the ground that they are in a sense not independent because they spring from a community of people who agree with the pseudoscience) or whether such sources are suitable. I'm sure there are other questions that could be answered about the notability of people who espouse fringe theories and pseudoscience. Apologies in advance if this has already been debated and rejected. --Batard0 (talk) 18:25, 18 October 2012 (UTC)

The recent clarification proposed by Saedon already incorporated this into the guideline. "A Fringe subject (a fringe theory, organization or aspect of a fringe theory) ", maybe it needs to be made clearer still. IRWolfie- (talk) 21:11, 18 October 2012 (UTC)
The Wikipedia guidelines are byzantine almost beyond comprehension, but I don't understand how IRWolfie can change them to suit a special purpose (in this case apparently to remove the Deborah Houlding article). Suddenly, today, without discussion, WP:FRINGE theories (or subjects) covers people too.
IRWolfie's version now says: "A 'Fringe subject' is an article where a significant claim to notability revolves around the relation of the article to the fringe theory. This includes the organizations, people, concepts or aspects of a fringe theory, and the fringe theory itself." This doesn't even make sense. How can an "subject" be a "article"? How can "claim to notability" be made on the basis of its fringe status? IRWolfie tries to spread the presumed contamination from the despised theory to all related "organizations, people, concepts or aspects of the fringe theory, and the fringe theory itself." I suppose this covers all conceivable bases, unless IRWolfie wants to add something else? Is Wikipedia just collapsing in a heap of babble rules?
To me, astrology is not fringe, but even if it is, what's wrong with that? It doesn't need to be censored. There is a large gap between scientific cosmology and genetics that just happens to be currently occupied by astrology. It's an odd area of study and discipline, but so what? Wikipedia has decided that astrology is a pseudoscience, even though philosophers don't agree that there is anything that can be called pseudoscience (see Demarcation Problem). That decision is Wikipedia's business. But that is something apart from fringe or gap studies. Logical positivists like IRWolfie cannot tolerate anything but deductive reasoning based on established beliefs. Without inductive reasoning, science and knowledge cannot grow and bridge the gaps. There is a literature on this. There are organizations and there are leaders who are well known and astrology spans centuries of culture, belief, and philsophy, including the present day. The presentations, theories, and controversies regarding astrology, or any fringe or gap discipline, are of interest to special researchers and should be part of Wikipedia as it would be part of any informed thought. Ken McRitchie (talk) 02:03, 19 October 2012 (UTC)
I haven't changed them to suit the AfD. I quoted the old version in the AfD. I suggest you look at the previous wording to see that I have not added anything new beyond a clarification. Most of your complaint is a complaint against WP:FRINGE in general. I've ignored your irrelevant soap boxing. IRWolfie- (talk) 09:23, 19 October 2012 (UTC)
This is a clearer guideline and is much appreciated. Thanks for that. Was there a consensus around the modification, though? I'm not clear on that. It seems there ought to be a debate about such a significant change. I think it's a good one, but it's major enough (it brings people under notability restrictions that formerly applied only to their theories) that it probably should be discussed first. I would be in favor of it. --Batard0 (talk) 09:26, 19 October 2012 (UTC)
There was a discussion about the original change in the above thread. If you want, you can maybe notify WP:FTN to get some more opinions. I should highlight that the original change proposed by Saedon just clarifies existing practices. IRWolfie- (talk) 13:18, 19 October 2012 (UTC)

Yes, it is a significant change, and no, it has not been subject to proper debate. I am going to undo this amendment and ask that is not reinstated until the implications have been properly considered and discussed in full. It is of concern that this editor avoids seeking proper consensus on such an important matter, but changes the wording of the policy to broaden its remit to biographies at a time when he is locked in debates (see this, this and this) about whether these policies should apply to biography pages he has personally put up for deletion. There are two important points to consider, and like Batard0 I believe this matter is consequential enough to deserve a proper request for discussion and broader Wikipedia input.

The first concern is that this policy is intended to serve a purpose; that purpose being that WP content maintains due weight and does not present fringe theories as if they hold up against mainstream knowledge. Its purpose is not to ensure that anyone who has notability by association with a fringe subject is enforced to submit to more restrictive notability guidelines than those who are notable for other reasons. Notability is notability, and is not wholly dependent on mainstream academic publications, which are the only 'reliable' sources that IRWolfie seems to want to allow. Indeed, notoriety can be a source of notability, as can popular attention drawn to trivial things that academic sources have no reason or interest in commenting upon.

Another serious concern is that, far from clarifying the principles, this amendment will generate an incredible amount of confusion and dissatisfaction amongst editors who will have no idea which policies on notability apply to authors and creative professionals whose work holds associations with fringe subjects. Many editors have recently expressed strong disagreement with IRWolfie's interpretation of policies in his deletion proposal requests, pointing out that biographies of persons do not essentially fall under the guidelines for Fringe theories as he insists, so long as only straightforward biographical information is given, which does not give undue weight to their views and beliefs (which obviously would fall under this policy). The correct notability guideline to apply in this instance is that which relates to the biographies creative professionals (see WP:author) which does not require significant in-depth attention from mainstream publications, but only that:

  1. The person is regarded as an important figure or is widely cited by peers or successors.
  2. The person is known for originating a significant new concept, theory or technique.
  3. The person has created, or played a major role in co-creating, a significant or well-known work, or collective body of work, that has been the subject of an independent book or feature-length film, or of multiple independent periodical articles or reviews.
  4. The person's work either (a) has become a significant monument, (b) has been a substantial part of a significant exhibition, (c) has won significant critical attention, or (d) is represented within the permanent collections of several notable galleries or museums.

IRWolfie can come across to other editors as being "a bit overzealous at identifying sources as "fringe", and currently he is not gaining consensus for the interpretation of policy that he makes. For him to alter the wording of those policies without full discussion at the time that are being discussed and debated by others who disagree with him is quite inappropriate. Logical 1 (talk) 16:22, 19 October 2012 (UTC)

You've undone edits from a month ago and several before the AfD for which there already is a consensus, and you think this is all to do with one article? Excuse me if I ignore an argument which is based on attacking me, especially considering I didn't propose either clarification in the first place. Astrology is a fringe pseudoscience. Astrology sources are fringe sources, it is black and white. Your opinions about what this guideline is for are built on foundations of sand since you've only made 31 edits, only 6 to an article. NPOV does have an impact on the existence of articles, this is well established. FRINGE also has an impact on existence, also well established. If an article can not be represented neutrally, we don't have it. To be neutral that means giving due deference to the mainstream without resorting to original research. This guideline precisely does add harder notability requirements, and has done so for several years, since it first came into existence. For some reason You have reverted my placing of the different notability paragraphs together into one section for easy access (amongst other small edits). IRWolfie- (talk) 19:24, 19 October 2012 (UTC)
IRWolfie... The paragraph you want to remove has been part of this guideline for a LONG time. The fact that three people have now reverted your removal shows that you do not have consensus to remove it. Please stop edit warring. Blueboar (talk) 19:43, 19 October 2012 (UTC)
Paragraph I removed? What are you talking about? You made a revert that shrunk the article by 16 bytes, what paragraph do you think you are restoring? IRWolfie- (talk) 19:44, 19 October 2012 (UTC)
I owe IRW an apology... My concern was with the paragraph "A Fringe subject (a fringe theory, organization or aspect of a fringe theory) is considered notable enough ... or during "slow news days". (See junk food news and silly season)." It looked at first glance as if he was repeatedly removing that paragraph... but I now see that the paragraph in question was not actually removed (it is there in both versions being edit warred over, however it is placed in different locations in each version). I have self-reverted my revert.
That said... may I ask all involved to discuss rather than revert war. Blueboar (talk) 20:08, 19 October 2012 (UTC)

(edit conflict)"The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun." This is the eternal path of fringe advocates on Wikipedia - lose the content argument, maybe get topic banned, then move on to agitating for friendlier content policies. I have seen it happen before with numerous flavors of charlatanry. "Logical" 1's objections seem primarily based on his antipathy to IRWolfie and not on substantive disagreement with the material. I really don't see any substantial change proposed to the policy, and the paragraph is preserved before and after. Skinwalker (talk) 19:48, 19 October 2012 (UTC)

To further clarify, this is the specific recent changes: [7]. IRWolfie- (talk) 20:14, 19 October 2012 (UTC)
It looks like this was a drive by revert. If there are no objections, I will restore the material in the above diff. IRWolfie- (talk) 09:23, 21 October 2012 (UTC)

Theory --> Topic -->Subject etc

Given this revert, we obviously need to discuss this further.

Correct me if I misunderstand the dispute, but I think the objection is centered on the fact that a person who is known for advocating a Fringe Theory can be notable for other things, things that have nothing to do with their advocacy. I would agree with this.

The flip side is that a notable person's advocacy can be trivial to a person's notability, and mentioning a person's advocacy in their bio article can give the theory Undue Weight. Also advocacy of a fringe theory by a notable person does not guarantee that the theory is notable. I would agree with this as well.

does this sum up the issue... or am I misinterpreting the dispute? Blueboar (talk) 17:58, 22 October 2012 (UTC)

Logical 1 is wrong in their comment here [8]. Fringe theory guidelines apply to -any- place a fringe theory is even mentioned, and always has. If a persons notability is attached to their adherence to a fringe theory, then the notability should be judged with this guideline as well. For the reason of advocacy being a minor detail I have already clarified this with " a significant claim" to notability being related to the fringe theory. There is nothing new here; if neutrality can not be achieved in any article because of a lack of sources, we remove the article on NPOV grounds alone (this happens).
I think it is also fair to reflect on the intentions of Logical 1 here; Logical 1 is an astrologer, with 6 edits to articles, who has not tried to engage on this page in the last 3 days, but instead did a drive by revert when I re-inserted the text. She wishes to hold the guideline hostage because she finds it disagreeable since it applies to her belief system. The editor is mistaken about their interpretation of FRINGE and is merely wikilaywering with an obvious misunderstanding of policies e.g "WP:BIO is the place where person related policies are determine" is clearly wrong. IRWolfie- (talk) 18:29, 22 October 2012 (UTC)
Often the only sources to demonstrate notability of a fringe advocate are in-universe and/or promotional. Articles about homeopaths are a prime example; see Paul_Herscu - or take almost any article in [9] at random. I have not found much success in addressing these at AFD. I think IRWolfie's formulation is a good step towards clarifying this problem. Skinwalker (talk) 18:51, 22 October 2012 (UTC)
IRWolfie, I would appreciate some clarification about the practical application of your proposed edit so I can better understand it. If a fringe theorist is referenced extensively in the following national publications, which in your view are likely to count towards notability:
  1. A women’s fashion magazine?
  2. An article in a tabloid newspaper or sensational magazine like the National Inquirer?
  3. An article in a major publication that is light hearted (i.e. not serious)?
  4. A television or radio program that carries a for "entertainment only" disclaimer?
  5. A specialist TV channel that carries interviews with fringe theorists (not advertorials)?
  6. A magazine that publishes fringe articles in a broad sense i.e. not specifically related to the field of the fringe theorist?
  7. A book that is not self-published nor on a fringe topic nor written by a fringe theorist?
Kooky2 (talk) 00:50, 23 October 2012 (UTC)
Thank you for the opportunity to elaborate Blueboar. I have been wanting to come back and respond to earlier posts but needed time to do so. There is relevance in what you say but there are other points to consider too.
First of all, can I clarify that discussion on the wording of WP:Fringe should take place here, on this talk page, as it states in the notice box at the top of the page? IRWolfie has suggested that it should take place on the talk page of Fringe theories notice board, which might be a good place to attract attention, but does not seem to be the place to determine consensus regarding word changes to this project page.
The title of this page makes a clear enough statement on where its remit extends: theories and ideas. The guidelines ensure we don't give promotion to ideas that are not supported by the mainstream academic or scientific community, which does not prevent Wikipedia from reporting on the details of fringe, so long as the contextual relationship between minority and majority viewpoints are made clear. We all agree on that.
At the end of August Saedon began a series of bold edits which changed the historical references to 'fringe view' to read 'fringe view (or organizations)', as it reads now. IRWolfie wants to extend it further so that any biography can be defined as a 'fringe topic' if the person's notability involves a relation with a fringe theory.
Where this becomes messy is in regard to what constitutes sufficient notability for a person's biography to be granted inclusion in Wikipedia. According to the policy implications of the proposed word change, it will not matter how prominent and influential someone might have been in their own fields, (even if those fields have millions of followers), nor whether their work has been instrumental in pioneering new concepts that have attracted a huge number of adherents. IRWolfie's insistence (given many times in deletion proposals) is that the proposed wording limits biographical inclusion to those whose work can be proven to have been referenced extensively, and in a serious and reliable manner, in at least one major (mainstream) publication that is fully independent of those who are interested or believe in the theory. This is not realistic or practical, especially for historical biographies where basic biographical information (such as dates and times of notable career impact) are only likely to be found in subject-related publications.
IRWolfie has argued for a number of biography deletions on the basis that this page prohibits reference to them from subject-related publications. She was not successful in recent attempts; however arguments and edit-wars will continue unless the discussion is engaged in fully, and a reliable consensus achieved to bring the clarity of principle that Batard0 has asked for.
In fact, I believe Batard0 has sought clarification in the wrong place. The policies that estblish the notability criteria for persons (any persons) are not determined here but at Wikipedia:Notability (people) WP:BIO. There are various ways in which a person is deemed to be notable, (defined as "worthy of notice" – that is, "significant, interesting, or unusual enough to deserve attention or to be recorded"). There is no prohibitive exclusion if someone's work has not been referenced extensively, and in a serious and reliable manner, in at least one major publication that is independent of those who are interested or believe in the theory. The criteria that applies to authors or 'creative professionals', for example is explained here.
A person whose work lacks extensive and serious discussion in a major mainstream academic or scientific work can achieve notability if they are widely cited by their peers of successors; or if they are known for originating new concepts, or have had multiple independent periodical articles or review, or if they are widely recognised as having left an enduring historical record in his or her field WP:ANYBIO.
Further, according to IRWolfie's insistence that this policy applies to persons and not just theories and ideas, she argues that even the most basic biographical information cannot come from subject-related publications. Why not? How does this endanger the interests of WP's undue weight concerns? The supposed logic is that no book which treats fringe subjects seriously can be considered a reliable source, or independent of the subject (if they treat it seriously they must be associated with it), therefore no reliable independent sources actually exist for a fringe topic, or for any person who becomes notable through their association with it.
My argument in no way dilutes the applicability of WP's fringe theory policy as IRWolfie has suggested. Within biographies of persons whose work is related to fringe subjects we need to tread carefully, apply these guidelines and ensure there is no undue weight. These policies only require that theories and beliefs are explained appropriately, without any sense of promotion or mainstream acceptance. Within the content of the biography fringe theory policy applies just as it does everywhere on WP. My argument is only that what determines sufficient notability for the inclusion of biographies on WP is not subject to the guidelines of this page (IRWolfies has argued it is). My position is that these guidelines instruct us on how to report the details of the theory, not the biographical details of a person who gains notability through their advocacy of it.
If IRWolfie wants to change the policy that relates to the biographies of persons with connections to fringe, she should raise the matter for discussion at Wikipedia:Notability (people), so that we have one centralized place of reference, and don't cause everlasting edit wars by creating guidelines here that contradict the established policies that are clearly stated there. Logical 1 (talk) 01:08, 23 October 2012 (UTC)
Ok... two Questions: If the only thing that makes a person potentially notable is his/her advocacy of a fringe theory...
1) does something akin to WP:ONEEVENT apply... is it not more appropriate to discuss the person within the context of an article about the theory they advocate, rather than in a stand alone bio article?
2) can such a person be deemed notable if the Fringe theory they advocate is deemed non-notable? Blueboar (talk) 02:34, 23 October 2012 (UTC)
TLDR. Brevity is the soul of wit. My notification to the FTN was to attract editors here, not to change the venue of the discussion. I didn't even mention the proposed wording at AfD so your view of the history of the change is incorrect. In fact almost every diff you show is a misrepresentation; [10] is not about the applicability of a fringe theory policy, and I'm quite amazed that you have construed it to somehow mean that. Batard0 did not choose the wrong place; this is the correct place for notability in relation to fringe theories, the guideline has several paragraphs explicitly about notability (Read the guideline before you say things). IRWolfie- (talk) 10:24, 23 October 2012 (UTC)

@ Blueboar: I would say that there are a number of differentiations to keep in mind. Someone who is notable by association with a well known fringe theory may not be known for advocacy of it – unless we are assuming that personal acceptance necessarily implies advocacy, which I think would be wrong. They might accept the theory personally yet never seek to popularise it. They could be critical of aspects of it, and seek to change its standards or accepted techniques. If their proposed changes are widely adopted or influential on the general community of adherents, then he or she is potentially notable, even though their ideas and views have only ever been made within subject related publications.

So for your first point would say that WP:ONEEVENT can only apply where notability is attached to one event, not for someone whose notability is established by many years of being quoted and referred to by in-universe sources, (to the extent that they become prominently known for the legacy that their influence has made and the way that the practices of fringe theory advocates has changed as a result).

I don’t have an answer for your second point. If I understand it correctly, I'm inclined to think not, unless we have something like WP:ONEEVENT, in which case we follow the guidelines there. But my point is that you, I, or no one can know without an understanding of context, so all notability issues for persons have to be evaluated according to the general notability guidelines WP:GNG. There are no exceptions or special privileges given to those whose work relates to fringe subjects. If the basis of concern for the page is one of notability, discussion should be raised at WP:WPBIO, or a request for clarification at WT:BIO. If it is one of reliability of source material, we discuss on WP:RSN or clarify policy at WT:IRS. In all of these places the fringe theory policies apply, because there is no page on WP where there is an exclusion to the requirement to maintain due weight. Similarly I would expect this or the fringe theory noticeboard to be the best place to determine what constitutes a 'notable fringe theory', bearing in mind that its purpose is to explain fringe theory policies clearly so that any report of fringe theory on any type of page is free of implications of advocacy or promotion. Logical 1 (talk) 10:42, 23 October 2012 (UTC)

I am not sure I understand how someone can be notable by association with a well known fringe theory, and not be an advocate of the theory. Can you give me an example? Blueboar (talk) 14:32, 23 October 2012 (UTC)
Again you say this, the extra requirements are in the guideline already. They always have been. Meeting NPOV is non-negotiable, it has always been the case that articles are required to be neutral; if they can't be done neutrally, because of an absence of sources showing the proper relationship to the mainstream, they aren't here. Fringe theories and related are expected to be notable amongst the mainstream, notability is not within the small group of pseudoscience believers. For example, with creationism, we don't look to creationist texts to establish if someone is notable; we look for coverage elsewhere. IRWolfie- (talk) 10:55, 23 October 2012 (UTC)

IRWolfie, as there's been some extensive posting over the past few hours, I will repeat my request for clarification about the practical application of your proposed edit so I can better understand it. If a fringe theorist is referenced extensively in the following national publications, which in your view are likely to count towards notability:

  1. A women’s fashion magazine?
  2. An article in a tabloid newspaper or sensational magazine like the National Inquirer?
  3. An article in a major publication that is light hearted (i.e. not serious)?
  4. A television or radio program that carries a for "entertainment only" disclaimer?
  5. A specialist TV channel that carries interviews with fringe theorists (not advertorials)?
  6. A magazine that publishes fringe articles in a broad sense i.e. not specifically related to the field of the fringe theorist?
  7. A book that is not self-published nor on a fringe topic nor written by a fringe theorist?

Kooky2 (talk) 12:25, 23 October 2012 (UTC)

  • Just to let you all know, I don't see a substantive difference between the two versions expressed in this diff. To me they are saying pretty much the same thing. Regarding the above discussion, I don't believe anyone treats this as a notability guideline, and also not as one that's more restrictive than the GNG, so this section to me is just a reiteration of the GNG and slightly expanded guidance on the application of the GNG. I don't think justification of deletion of an article under this guideline is appropriate. Gigs (talk) 13:33, 23 October 2012 (UTC)
Gigs... I think a lot of people think of this as a notability guideline. After all, it does give guidance on how to determine whether a fringe theory is notable enough for a stand-alone article. However, it is also a content guideline (it expands on and clarifies how to apply WP:Undue) Blueboar (talk) 14:41, 23 October 2012 (UTC)
I don't think people think of it as a notability guideline in the way that many SNGs are treated, that almost completely supplant the GNG. At least I never did. Gigs (talk) 14:59, 23 October 2012 (UTC)
Wow... I could not disagree more as to the relationship between GNG and the SNGs... As I see it, the SNGs do not supplant GNG... They are supposed to support and complement GNG (as GNG is supposed to support and compliment the SNGs). This is certainly the case here. Nothing said in WP:FRINGE opposes GNG... instead it expands on GNG and clarifies how GNG is interpreted when it comes to articles about Fringe topics. (the guideline does the same with WP:NPOV... expanding and clarifying how that policy is to be interpreted when it comes to mentioning fringe related material in other articles) Blueboar (talk) 15:41, 23 October 2012 (UTC)
Gigs, I understand why you don't believe that editors would use these policies to suggest prohibition of entries that would qualify under GNG. To me the attitude defies common sense; however, the argument is being forcefully presented by a small number of pro-active anti-fringe editors, who call for deletion of pages on the basis that notability can only be established by having extensive and serious attention in mainstream academic/scientific mainstream sources, and lacking this, nothing else will do. If there were no intention to change the implication of the guidelines to strengthen this argument (which has caused a lot of confusion and disagreement of opinion) then why does IRWolfie, one of the main proponents of it, need to change the wording to specify that it applies to persons and not just the theory itself? If nothing is being changed, then why do we need a change of wording? The intention behind this edit is to strengthen the argument that these policies supersede those of GNG for anyone known to have associations with fringe topics.
I believe a better clarification would be to re-iterate that there are no exceptions or special privileges given to the criteria for notability of those whose work relates to fringe subjects (other than those explained at WP:GNG and specified in relation to persons at WP:BIO), but that these guidelines explain the correct procedures for coverage of fringe theories, beliefs and ideas. Hence, as in all WP pages, editors need to be cautious to adhere to these guidelines when giving reports of beliefs or attachments to fringe ideas, or any explanation that touches on them. Logical 1 (talk) 15:47, 23 October 2012 (UTC)
I am getting the idea that this is an argument of extremes without any consideration of the middle ground... The guideline does call for for extensive and serious attention in mainstream sources... however, it does not require these sources to be academic or scientific in nature. Blueboar (talk) 16:00, 23 October 2012 (UTC)
Blueboar, I agree with you 100% about the relationship between the GNGs and SNGs. They are regularly (mis)used as the sole criteria for determining notability without regard to the GNG, due to the clause in WP:N that defers completely to them (which someone has now offset and made into italics to emphasize further). I don't want to derail this conversation with discussion of that, however, since this guideline clearly does not intend itself to supplant the GNG. Gigs (talk) 16:18, 23 October 2012 (UTC)
Correct... the part of this guideline that relates to notability is supposed to clarify and expand on GNG (specfically as GNG relates to fringe topics). And the part of this guideline that relates to Neutral Point of View is supposed to clarify and expand on that policy. So... the question we have to ask to resolve the current dispute between Logical 1 and IRWolfie is: what wording best accomplishes that goal? Blueboar (talk) 16:41, 23 October 2012 (UTC)
Unfortunately it is often supposed that the term 'mainstream' must relate to academic or scientific sources when the subject discussed is able to be described as pseudoscience. It would be informative for IRWolfie to give an answer to Kooky2's question, with regard to which of those sources he would allow reference to in order to verify that notability is established in mainstream sources. Thank you for considering this. I can only suggest that editors here give thought to my points and consider some kind of wording which clarifies that these guidleines do not supersede WP:GNG, nor determine the criteria for notability for those working within fringe fields, but explain the cautions that are required wherever there is explanation of fringe ideas and associations, so that our reports on biographical information does not inadvertently suggest promotion or advocacy for the theory. Logical 1 (talk) 16:53, 23 October 2012 (UTC)
And please can we emphasis the headline message that all guidelines are expected to be used according to common sense, and where there is doubt, editors should not be expected to apply the guidelines rigidly, in contradition to good reason, but use the topic-relevant noticeboards for guidance and advice (or something like that, to help encourage all editors to avoid extremes and seek consideration of the middle ground). Logical 1 (talk) 17:00, 23 October 2012 (UTC)
Well... term 'mainstream' does include academic and scientific sources... it just isn't limited to only academic or scientific sources. Question... what do you mean by "associations"... An association can be trivial (in which case it should not be mentioned) or substantive (in which case it should). I am concerned that you might be taking an overly loose interpretation of the guideline while IRWolfie is taking an overly strict interpretation. Blueboar (talk) 17:10, 23 October 2012 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── The problem of notability arises with some fringe fields like modern astrology and some articles on quasi-religious movements where all of the sourcing is in-universe, self-aggrandizing, self-serving and promotional/apologetic in nature, and the fringe community, it's theories, it's writing and it's proponents have been almost totally ignored by the mainstream scholarly and scientific communities. For other fringe theories like Creationism/Intelligent Design and cold fusion, abundant reliable sources do exist, and we are able to base our articles on these topics on real-world sources.

Do the sources have to be scholarly or scientific? Not in themselves, but they have to have been considered significant enough to receive substantial and serious coverage from mainstream scholars and scientists. Significant and notable in terms of science, fringe science and pseudoscience is a function of the degree to which the theory and its proponents are part of the mainstream scholarly and scientific discourse on the topic.

Of the seven hypothetical sources listed by Kooky2 above, the first six fall far short of the requirements, and the seventh is at best conditional on who is doing the writing and where.

Different factions in a fringe community routinely bloat the significance of the theories, organizations and proponents they sympathize with, and downplay that of those they disagree with, making in-universe sourcing fundamentally unreliable for establishing notability both within and outside of the fringe community.

Also, we cannot consider fringe proponents reliable experts on their own fringe theories, and most definitely not on the views of the fringe community as a whole. Their expertise is not recognized outside of an indeterminate fraction of the fringe community. Fringe proponents also regularly disort and misrepresent their own views and aggrandize their own significance, so relying on them would amount to original research based on primary sources.

A good example is astrology. We have good scholarly sources for ancient and medieval astrology, but practically none for modern astrology, mostly because real-world scholars and scientists are thoroughly convinced its not worthy of study and have published next to nothing on the topic. Modern astrology and the modern astrological community remain a walled garden that is rarely noticed by the real-world scholarly and scientific communities.

Compare that to Intelligent Design, which is just as much BS as astrology, but which has been widely commented on by the mainstream scholarly and scientific communities. Dominus Vobisdu (talk) 18:04, 23 October 2012 (UTC)

Re: sources "have to have been considered significant enough to receive substantial and serious coverage from mainstream scholars and scientists." I disagree. The fact that a theory is ignored by scholars does not mean it is ignored by other mainstream sources, such as the media. Yes, lack of scholarly coverage limits what we can say about the fringe theory... but it does not mean there is nothing to say about it. Blueboar (talk) 18:25, 23 October 2012 (UTC)
@Blueboar: I'm in agreement with you. I didn't mean anything more than their notability being based upon association with a fringe subject. In many biographies of fringe proponents I see no need to detail the fringe theory at all (for example, a well known author who writes several best selling astrology books but makes no impact on accepted technique - we don't need to go into any detail on what astrology is about, and nothing more than a wiki-link to the astrology page is needed for those who might want to know). If someone is notable because they argued a certain principle that contradicted previous beliefs, or championed a certain view which attracted a large following and is strongly associated with them, then this would be a substantial point of notability and might require some kind of explanation. It is that kind of circumstance where caution is required, to make sure that these policies are adhered to in the report of their views. Logical 1 (talk) 18:14, 23 October 2012 (UTC)
Thanks... the question here is: how do we substantiate that the person attracted a following. In order to mention that fact, we need an external mainstream source that tells us that the person has a following. Blueboar (talk) 18:25, 23 October 2012 (UTC)
We use the reliable sourcing guidelines for that - Kooky2 has given an example of the kinds of sources that can be argued about, and we can see that Dominus Vobisdu would discount most of these without consideration. So disputes on this should be deferred to WP:RSN.
@ Dominus Vobisdu. I am glad you have joined the discussion because you typify the use of these policies to suggest that reliable sourcing for fringe topics is impossible because nothing can possibly qualify as a reliable source, and therefore pages on fringe topics must be removed or reduced to the minimum required to express the statement that they are BS, believed in only by idiots. I wonder where you stand on Wikipedia's lengthy coverage of flat-earth theory, despite the fact that real-world scholars and scientists are thoroughly convinced it's not worthy of study and have published next to nothing on the topic? The notability of these theories cannot be determined by the academic or scientific community coverage of them alone. We don't exclude things because they are fringe; we report on fringe and ensure that we retain neutrality and credibility when we do so. Logical 1 (talk) 18:32, 23 October 2012 (UTC)
It's only notable "because they argued a certain principle that contradicted previous beliefs, or championed a certain view which attracted a large following and is strongly associated with them" if anyone in the larger world cares. It's easy to write up flat earth stuff because there is a wealth of non-fringe discussion of the phenomenon of this theory. Therefore we can identify and write articles on prominent flat-earthers because our reliable, non-fringe sources testify to their prominence. I get the impression that with astrology this is not so, and that by and large there isn't much non-fringe interest in particular astrologers. Mangoe (talk) 18:43, 23 October 2012 (UTC)
Mangoe, think about this for a moment. Do you think that if you went out onto the street and asked any member of the public to name a prominent flat-earther, you would have a good chance of finding someone able to do so? If you asked them to name a prominent astrologer, would you have a good chance of finding someone unable to do so? In talking about notability prominence in the world at large matters. That is why WP's coverage is able to range from the details of commercial companies to twitter feeds. We don't have a responsibility to rid fringe from public conciousness; if the public interest is there, we report it. Logical 1 (talk) 19:59, 23 October 2012 (UTC)
If any random person can name Sydney Omarr, well, so can I, and for that matter so could the NYT and other MSM sources. And if our article on him is a little wobbly, we don't have to rely on either astrologists or men-in-the-street to justify his inclusion. His notability isn't inherited by astrologers in general. Mangoe (talk) 20:22, 23 October 2012 (UTC)
Of course not, but you would agree that reports such as newspaper, magazine and general media coverage helps establish notability (as I would, deferring to WP:RS), whereas others have used this fringe theory policy to argue that it does not. Logical 1 (talk) 21:08, 23 October 2012 (UTC)
Straw man. "you typify the use of these policies to suggest that reliable sourcing for fringe topics is impossible because nothing can possibly qualify as a reliable source" is also another straw man. No one has suggested that. IRWolfie- (talk) 23:39, 23 October 2012 (UTC)
@Logical 1: Read what I wrote again; you misunderstood it. We base WP articles on what real experts writing in reliable sources have to say about a topic, not on what self-declared pseudo-experts say in non-reliable sources. For topics related to science, fringe science and pseudoscience, the experts are mainstream scholars and scientists. Fringe proponents, as I wrote, are notoriously unreliable. Even for fringe topics like Intelligent design, we rely on what real experts say, and not on what ID proponents write, except insofar as it has been covered by real experts in real-world scholarly sources. Dominus Vobisdu (talk) 18:48, 23 October 2012 (UTC)
I don't think I have misunderstood you. Unless you are agreeing that WP entries such as that on Sydney Omarr are qualified on notability grounds by reference to WP:WPBIO policy, and not subject to more prohibitive criteria by deeming him to be a 'fringe subject'. Logical 1 (talk) 21:18, 23 October 2012 (UTC)
Notability claims are subject to NPOV and N, BIO and FRINGE also adding relevant material. Whether he qualifies specifically would require someone to check the extent and coverage of the mainstream sources available (I've never heard of him). IRWolfie- (talk) 21:51, 23 October 2012 (UTC)

OK, looks like after reading this discussion I did notice one legitimate concern, that, however, looks like it hasn't been that well expressed... Let's say there was some President of United States (clearly notable because of that), who, for some unimaginable reason, has been obscure and hasn't been discussed in reliable sources very extensively. Then someone finds his letter where he praises some fringe theory (let's say, "Moon is made of mixture of cheese and copper."). Afterwards some supporters of that theory take a lot of interest in him - to the extent that someone might argue that it would confer notability in addition to being the President. In such case the guideline might be twisted to say that this President loses his notability. Is that the objection user "Blueboar" is talking about in the start of this section?

In such case, maybe it could be addressed by changing "A Fringe topic is considered notable enough for a dedicated article if it has been referenced extensively, and in a serious and reliable manner, in at least one major publication that is independent of their promulgators and popularizers." to something like "Sources sympathetic to the fringe topic or the related fringe theory are not considered independent of the subject and cannot be used to demonstrate its notability."..? Thus much of the things covered by the previous formulation (extensive coverage) would be covered by the general guideline and if we have some exceptions of it that do not require independent sources as such (like the one for Presidents of United States), this guideline won't spoil anything either. Also, it might address the concern of user "Logical 1" "that reliable sourcing for fringe topics is impossible because nothing can possibly qualify as a reliable source": an astrologer can be expected to be a very reliable source for his own birthday, but he is not going to be independent of himself. --Martynas Patasius (talk) 22:05, 23 October 2012 (UTC)

@Martynas Petasius - thanks, your last sentence seemed the most sensible to me.
@Dominus Vobisdu - thank you for your full and frank answers. I chose examples outside any single fringe field to avoid the question of what you describe as in-universe sourcing. I don't agree with your views on fringe authorities as unreliable sources in all contexts and will respond later - when the page is a little less over-active. For now, I want to focus on 'out-universe' sources.
@IRWolfie, I would like to know if you as proposer of this change in the rules share Dominus Vobisdu's view that the first six sources listed "fall far short of the requirements" or whether his interpretations are at the far (arguably fringe) end of the editing spectrum? What is your view on the seven cases I listed? Kooky2 (talk) 23:24, 23 October 2012 (UTC)
The president of the united states has significant coverage in reliable sources. If some fringe theoriest take interest in some particular statement he makes, but no sources mention that interest, it's irrelevant because it has no WP:WEIGHT because the mainstream sources haven't picked it up. If the reliable sources have addresssed it in a significant way such that is has weight then the fringe requirements are fufilled. The presidents of the united states have all "been referenced extensively, and in a serious and reliable manner, in at least one major publication that is independent of their promulgators and popularizers." @Kooky, this has nothing to do with the current discussion so I'm not sure why it's relevant. What is under discussion is my specific change here: [11]. IRWolfie- (talk) 23:36, 23 October 2012 (UTC)
"The president of the united states has significant coverage in reliable sources." - yes, the example is obviously exaggerated (well, I did try to make it so). A somewhat more realistic example might be some rather obscure member of Constituent Seimas, for example, Pranas Povilaitis. I have a "Biographical dictionary" that dedicates a whole page to him, but that page is almost empty: just the faction (Labour Federation), dates of entering the Seimas and resignation, electoral district, religion (Catholic), nationality (Lithuanian)... Is such coverage significant, extensive? Well, I guess one could argue both ways... Still, he would probably be considered notable and get an article, if only for consistent formatting of the list of members... Anyway, the whole idea of the change that I mentioned would be to make your formulation more agreeable to its opponents by trying to meet all legitimate (and mostly legitimate) objections (even if they are weak and concern extremely rare cases), while avoiding weakening it for all the common cases. Also, maybe it would be useful to stress the lack of independence (and unsuitableness for demonstration of notability) of such sources in case other guidelines are cited (like in Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Life Before Life or Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Old Souls)..? --Martynas Patasius (talk) 00:19, 24 October 2012 (UTC)
Here is my concern... let us suppose that there is a Fringe theory that states Queen Elizabeth I was actually a transvestite man (which explains why "she" never married). for simplicities sake, let us postulate that this theory has exactly 500 adherents. Now, suppose one of them writes a book presenting a new take on some aspect of the theory. The book causes a huge splash within the "transvestite Elizabeth" adherent community (all 500 are now talking about the book, arguing about it, choosing sides, etc.) The book and its author are clearly "of note" within their tiny community. BUT... that community still consists of only 500 people. We can not say that this author is notable.
However, once a few sources outside of this community begin to take note of and comment upon what the author says... then we have a better argument for saying he is notable. And, if lots of such independent sources take note of and comment upon what he says, then we can definitively say he is notable. Blueboar (talk) 03:13, 24 October 2012 (UTC)
Almost, but not quite. The reliability and quality of the independent sources is important, too. And also depth and persistence of coverage are important. In your example, substantial coverage in sources that conform to WP:HISTRS is going to mean a lot more than tangential, trivial or routine coverage in popular journalistic sources. For scholarly/medical/scientific topics, we do assign much more weight to peer-reviewed academic literature. Popular journalistic sources deal very poorly with serious academic topics. Even with academic sources, coverage in secondary sources contributes a lot more to notability than coverage in primary sources. In short, not all independent sources are created equal. Dominus Vobisdu (talk) 03:39, 24 October 2012 (UTC)
They might mean more but they are not necessary in terms of establishing the notability of someone who has made a sensational claim that has attracted a lot of attention and public interest. The obvious solution to this is to leave the text of the policy as it is - to change it to specify that it applies to persons confuses its purpose, because 1) Notability issues for persons are determined by WP:GNG and WP:BIO. 2) This page relates to the representation of fringe theories and ideas.
A person does not become of concern unless they express a theory or idea, or are written about in a way that requires discussion of it - in which case the policies natrurally apply anyway. Logical 1 (talk) 06:12, 24 October 2012 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── @IRWolfie, you responded to my question about examples of reliable sources that may be affected by your proposed changes "this has nothing to do with the current discussion so I'm not sure why it's relevant. What is under discussion is my specific change." Just to clarify this. You are proposing a change to the Wikipedia Guidelines so the rules for notability for fringe theories are extended to include fringe theorists. This appears to be a significant change as it will affect a great many biographies on Wikipedia. If you propose a change in the rules, you must be willing to cooperate in exploring the impact and potential problems that such a change might bring and whether they are necessary. Under the present guidelines, the seven examples would generally, but not always count towards notability. Under your proposed guidelines, I would like to know which of these examples would "fall far short of requirements" as your fellow advocate of this change, Dominus Vobisdu has suggested (six of the seven). Though my observations of his editing style suggests that any mention of a fringe theorist is unreliable unless it is highly critical and in a well-established scientific journal. So I think everyone here deserves a straight answer from you on this. When you seek to change the rules, it is political, however it does not mean that you can give what some may see as an evasive answer that we have come to expect from politicians.

Just so you know, I support you in that I believe that a fringe theorist who is famous within his or her fringe circle of readers, supporters or devotees but has received no public attention or criticism outside this circle is not notable. I don't believe such a BLP would survive an AfD and have supported you in such cases. But if they did, then the rules should be changed but not here but on WP:BIO with special conditions as exists for Entertainers etc: WP:ENT, WP:CREATIVE or WP:POLITICIAN. Kooky2 (talk) 09:50, 24 October 2012 (UTC)

Why not have something on this at both WP:BIO and here. No reason why two guidelines can not say similar things. Blueboar (talk) 12:33, 24 October 2012 (UTC)
FRINGE has always applied to fringe theorists. The changes go here, not at BIO, because this guideline clarifies issues in relation to fringe theories. If you try to clarify it in BIO you will be told to take it here. FRINGE already says things about notability, have a read through. IRWolfie- (talk) 10:12, 24 October 2012 (UTC)
Thanks ... and your thoughts on my first paragraph? Kooky2 (talk) 10:39, 24 October 2012 (UTC)
Light hearted and entertainment only sources (as you have described them) are probably unreliable generally since they don't have a reputation for fact checking. Interview transcripts etc are primary sources; replies to interviews aren't fact checked it's just what the person says; they are reliable for opinions. That rules out 3,4,5. The rest are inadequately specified for me to comment; e.g "A magazine that publishes fringe articles in a broad sense i.e. not specifically related to the field of the fringe theorist" could be reliable, e.g if published by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry as they have a good reputation for fact checking. This has always been the case though, the proposed wording changes nothing beyond being a clarification. IRWolfie- (talk) 11:27, 24 October 2012 (UTC)
This gets us into something of a grey zone... if a major entertainment outlet like TV Guide or Entertainment Tonight interviews a fringe theorist (I am talking about an actual interview, not just a passing mention or short quote), the fact that the theorist was deemed worthy of an interview by a major national media outlet confers a certain amount of notability all on its own. In this case, it does not really matter what the subject was interviewed about... it can be argued that the person is at least partly notable for being interviewed by a major mainstream publication. Blueboar (talk) 12:33, 24 October 2012 (UTC)
Except that it's not usable as a source, so it can't indicate significant coverage in reliable sources. If he's notable for being interviewed, then there will be secondary coverage of the interview. IRWolfie- (talk) 12:49, 24 October 2012 (UTC)
It would be quite usable as a source... the statement like: "Mr. X was interviewed about his theory on Entertainment Tonight" is reliably sourced to the interview itself. Blueboar (talk) 13:28, 24 October 2012 (UTC)
That's making a statement about a primary source. The significant in significant coverage means the source goes into details about something in a way that can be used for much of the content for an article. "Mr. X was interviewed about his theory on Entertainment Tonight" is something which would have been deduced from the primary sources. But again, I don't see how this is directly related to my change of wording. IRWolfie- (talk) 13:59, 24 October 2012 (UTC)
No... it is a statement about the person... directly supported by a primary source (and we ARE allowed to use primary sources... we just have to use them with caution and avoid original research.) The relevance is that a fringe theory (and a proponent of the theory) can become notable enough for an article due to the fact that the media pays attention to him, even if scholars and academics dismiss and ignore his theory. In such cases, his notability rests more on his media celebrity than on his promotion of the theory. Blueboar (talk) 14:53, 24 October 2012 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── In general, a subject is notable if significant coverage in independent sources exists, that is, enough material exists to write an article about the subject. It is not if the subject meets some ill defined measure of fame because they were mentioned in an interview etc or whatever. A fringe theorist meets the bar of notability if the article meets GNG and of those sources, he or she must have been mentioned in detail by at least one independent ("independent of their promulgators and popularizers") secondary source, such that NPOV can be achieved. Primary sources are expected to be used with care, not for statements about interviews, because they have no weight attached to them. It is the secondary sources that can tell you something about weight, not the primary sources (also for BLPs see WP:BLPPRIMARY, much like the same rule for fringe theories). Primary sources should be used really only for basic information that would be expected. IRWolfie- (talk) 15:13, 24 October 2012 (UTC)

I think the issue of whether someone can be notable purely for being interviewed (regardless of the subject he is being interviewed about) is worth discussing more... but it needs to be discussed in the abstract (ie not in the limited context of fringe theories)... so I will shift that discussion over to WT:NOTE. Blueboar (talk) 15:34, 24 October 2012 (UTC)
Agreed, IRWolfie- (talk) 15:45, 24 October 2012 (UTC)
Looks like the discussion in question has been started in Wikipedia talk:Notability#Can someone be notable for the fact that they were interviewed by a major media outlet... regardless of what they were interviewed about ([12]). And (unless something will change) the answer seems to be "It does depend on what the interview is about.". --Martynas Patasius (talk) 23:51, 24 October 2012 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Thanks, IRWolfie for clarifying that. I take it from your comments and those of Dominus Vobisdu that under your interpretation of your proposals these seven examples are unacceptable or rarely acceptable. Those examples seemed the most realistic avenues where the notability of fringe theorists could be identified under present guidelines. I will explain why there are few alternatives.

  • Academic journals do not publish and rarely cite the work of fringe theorists. The exception is creationists who are part of theology faculties at Universities. If a scientific journal were to publish a fringe article, they would be disqualified as a reliable source.
  • Reliable major national newspapers do not feature fringe theorists in a serious and reliable manner. Articles are infrequent and usually tend towards light humour or ridicule.
  • National broadcasting (radio and tv) of fringe subjects in many countries such as the UK is highly regulated. This results in limited coverage and usually under a for entertainment only disclaimer.

The problem is that we are asking the impossible: for individuals who are not mainstream to be recognized and judged as if they were part of the mainstream.

By extending the recent stringent, but probably justifiable rules for fringe theories and organisations to individuals, you are raising the bar to impossible levels. Imagine a fringe proponent (admittedly an extreme example) who is interviewed by fashion magazines like Vogue, appears on the front page of The Sun, is ridiculed by the New York Times and known by millions through national television. Yet, based on your interpretation of the proposed rules, he or she is still "far short of WP requirements" for notability because they have not been mentioned extensively in a scientific journal or an equally 'reliable' publication.

I think your proposed rule change would create a charter to delete up to 70% of the biographies of the many colourful but probably misguided fringe characters on Wikipedia. This carte blanche may be required to fulfil IRWolfie's plans for a large scale clean up and ongoing AfDs [13] of astrology articles.

I consider that the present rules on notability for fringe theorists are adequate and clear. If clarification is needed or people here believe that the bar should be raised a notch or two then this can be done in a simple sentence along the lines of "Fringe theorists who are well-known only within their fringe field are not considered sufficiently notable for a dedicated article." Kooky2 (talk) 00:38, 25 October 2012 (UTC)

On the contrary, academic sources often analyse fringe theories, and often newspapers do too as well (the Guardian being a good example with the Bad Science column). There are lots of books, journal articles, newspaper articles etc etc devoted to analysing fringe theories and their proponents etc. I've made most of my edits in fringe theories; there are plenty of sources. In fact I specifically did not include the other categories precisely because it depends on the nature of the specific sources; you are inferring my position, but I didn't imply it. IRWolfie- (talk) 09:14, 25 October 2012 (UTC)
Well, you got the answers to your questions, thus maybe you could answer some yourself? Hopefully, those answers will make further discussion easier. Thus, do you agree with these statements:
  1. Fringe theories are supported by relatively insignificant groups, while more significant groups oppose them.
  2. Fringe theories (and "fringe topics" - their supporters, aspects) tend to be ignored by the serious sources, although there are many exceptions.
  3. Fringe theories are often covered by less serious sources; in that case they tend to be sympathetic to the theories (although there are exceptions).
  4. Given the statement nr. 1, WP:NPOV demands that the fringe theories (and their supporters etc.) would not be covered sympathetically, ignoring the significant opposition to them.
  5. Given the statement nr. 2, WP:NOR and WP:V demand that we would not write the criticisms of the fringe theories ourselves, without sources.
  6. Given the statements nr. 2 and nr. 5, there are many cases when we cannot express the criticism of fringe theory (or "fringe topic" - its supporter etc.).
  7. Given the statements nr. 2, nr. 3, nr. 5 and nr. 6, the article written using the available less serious sources will tend to be sympathetic to the fringe theories (or "fringe topics" - their supporters etc.).
  8. In such case (given the statements nr. 4, nr. 5, nr. 6 and nr. 7) we cannot write the article without violation of any of our main policies.
  9. In such case (given the statement nr. 8) it is much better to have no article.
  10. In such case (given the statement nr. 9) the fringe theory (or "fringe topic" - its supporter etc.) is considered "non-notable". Such description is supported by the fact that it is not "noticed" by the serious sources.
Of course, I hope that the answers will be "Yes.". --Martynas Patasius (talk) 18:31, 25 October 2012 (UTC)
Martynas - I think these are the questions you are asking me. So here is my best shot:
  1. Yes, if you measure significance by weight of authority - science, funding, education, serious media but not necessarily by popularity, tabloid press, historical importance, dedicated book titles.
  2. Yes, if serious=academic/scientific, though people here are making a case that science does address these theories.
  3. Yes & No - If serious=academic/scientific, Fringe Theories are covered more by non-academic (i.e. less serious) sources. In the tabloid press there is greater tendency towards sensationalising fringe theories and support for in-house journalists who write on Alternative Therapies or Astrology Columns. However, there are also critical comments and ridicule of fringe theories and fringe proponents in both the tabloid and serious press. (I don't consider publications like the Skeptical Inquirer as a serious scientific publication.)
  4. Yes - if you cannot cover a Fringe Theory from a mainstream point of view, coverage would fail on undue weight.
  5. Yes - If I understand you correctly, these are WP rules, though I cannot connect it with point 2.
  6. Yes & No - If you are writing about Fringe Theory, that is correct. If it is biographical, the fringe proponent certainly does not receive any preferential treatment by the media except under the conditions that I have mentioned (see #3).
  7. If a person is notable under WP:N no matter what their beliefs, then we should report it using available sources. Information about the fringe theory is only relevant if the subject's application or adaptation of the fringe theory is sufficiently notable to be addressed in a serious and reliable manner. (This is an important point which I will amplify later if I can).
  8. It depends how the bio is written. Assuming WP:N then it is acceptable to report the facts about the life and deeds of an individual backed by reliable but not necessarily serious (i.e. scientific) sources. If it reports that he discovered evidence for Big Foot without corresponding reliable, serious, independent sources commenting on it from the mainstream point of view then this cannot be included in the article as it breaks NPOV and RS and if as a result of this omission, it lacks WP:N then it must be deleted.
  9. see above.
  10. If the requirement for individual notability is limited to serious (i.e. academic) sources only and the person is not noticed in academic sources, then even if this person is a household name by strict application of that rule they would not be notable. I think this requirement has a number of serious flaws that have not been considered.

I hope this answers your questions. I think your points are valid for Fringe Theory but not for Fringe Theorists. Kooky2 (talk) 15:54, 27 October 2012 (UTC)

Thank you. Your position is much clearer now. However, I see a couple of misunderstandings and am going to use that as a "pretext" to write some clarifications:
  1. I meant "significance" in the sense useful for WP:NPOV. Then it's trivial: all fringe theories have support that is not "significant", for if the theory had a "significant" support, it wouldn't be classified as fringe.
  2. "Yes, if serious=academic/scientific, though people here are making a case that science does address these theories." - the important word was "tend" (and the part about exceptions). By the time you get a first serious source to discuss the theory, its supporters publish tens if not hundred of far less serious publications. Also, serious sources do not write about minor fringe theories that no one (with exception of their creator and a handful of supporters) actually cares about. For example, I have seen a publication that explained how all languages were made from Lithuanian language (or something). That's one example of such fringe theory that is not notable.
  3. "If serious=academic/scientific" - actually, "serious" is more-or-less my shorthand for "primary, reliable, independent" (although I prefer "authoritative" to "reliable")... Different sources would count as "serious" in different situations. For example, fashion magazine (taken from your questions) would be likely to count as "serious" if we wrote about fashion. It would be likely to count as "serious" if we wrote about popularity of diets or skin treatments. It would not count as "serious" if we wrote about effectiveness of diets or skin treatments - or astrology.
    And now we get to fringe theories - "I don't consider publications like the Skeptical Inquirer as a serious scientific publication.". Actually, while such publications wouldn't count as "serious enough" if we wrote about mainstream science (in such case we would have many better sources to choose from), such publications (if they still "have some standards") count as "serious" when we discuss fringe theories (for, well, in many cases they are all we have). One part of this guideline (Wikipedia:Fringe theories#Parity of sources - [14]) is meant to explain something like that (although maybe it does not do a very good job).
  4. I guess there is no misunderstanding about this point.
  5. I guess there is no misunderstanding about this point (the second point was meant to show the cause of this problem).
  6. "If you are writing about Fringe Theory, that is correct." - good to know we agree. "If it is biographical, the fringe proponent certainly does not receive any preferential treatment by the media except under the conditions that I have mentioned (see #3)."... I guess the clarification at #3 should explain a lot here too. In this case the sources that are hostile to the theory (unless obviously "unserious") count as "serious enough". By exclusion, the sources that do not count as "serious enough" do not express the "anti-fringe" point of view.
  7. "If a person is notable under WP:N no matter what their beliefs, then we should report it using available sources." - true. But "Information about the fringe theory is only relevant if the subject's application or adaptation of the fringe theory is sufficiently notable to be addressed in a serious and reliable manner." seems to show another misunderstanding. I think it is worth to talk about that a little more extensively.
    As you know, there is a "general notability guideline" that you cited. It says that we need significant coverage in sources that are reliable, independent etc. But it does not define "reliable", "independent" or "significant coverage" very specifically. There are also some "special notability guidelines". They "modify" the general guideline in one of two ways: 1) they give shortcuts (or exceptions) to notability (for example, if we know someone is a President of United States, we do not need to look for sources to know that someone will be notable), 2) they explain how the general guideline applies to specific field (maybe more guidelines could be written in the way that makes that explicit). This guideline does the second type of "modification": it tells us what sources count as "reliable" and "independent" when we discuss fringe theories (or something related). Thus it is impossible to "pass WP:N" and "fail WP:FRINGE".
  8. Well, I guess we do agree after all (assuming that all misunderstandings will be solved).
  9. Well, it's hard to argue with "see above".
  10. I guess the problem is with the same misunderstanding. More sources count as "serious".
In short, there was one misunderstanding about the relationship between this guideline and WP:N (this guideline "modifies", "clarifies", "explains" that one for specific subject matter) and one misunderstanding about the sources that are suitable for demonstration of notability (they do not have to be in "ISI Master List"; something somewhat less serious - but "anti-fringe" - will be enough). Hopefully, correction of those will lead to a more full agreement. --Martynas Patasius (talk) 01:50, 29 October 2012 (UTC)
Thanks, Martynas - maybe we can progress from your comments: –
  1. Should the level of sourcing in Wikipedia reflect the nature of the claim? Controversial claims (such as fringe theories) require serious sources.
  2. Therefore, non-controversial information that would normally count towards notability (under WP:N) should follow less rigid guidelines. This includes reports of the public roles of fringe theorists which do not invoke a fringe theory. These could be awards, books, lectures, interviews, articles, TV appearances that are reported in independent, reliable secondary sources such as major newspapers, (Sunday Times or New York Times) or on major TV networks (e.g. BBC, CNN). If for example a fringe author has a book that is on the New York Times bestseller list for several weeks, should we ignore this as evidence of notability?
  3. Even though the word ‘serious’ is used here to describe only the most reliable academic or equivalent sources, it is open to abuse in connection with fringe theorists. One party seeking a favorable portrayal of the subject might reject a critical article that has a mocking tone as being insufficiently serious while another editor might also reject it on the same grounds in order to negate the subject’s notability. So 'serious' is the correct word for sources required to judge fringe theories but not for fringe theorists.
This is one of a few problems I have with the proposal. Another issue is that I am not persuaded that Fringe theories is the right place for guidelines about biographical information. WP:BIO is the article where specific fields are addressed. Kooky2 (talk) 22:55, 29 October 2012 (UTC)
OK. The first and third points are easy to address: the first one coincides with Wikipedia:Verifiability#Exceptional claims require exceptional sources, and I have no intention of writing the expression "serious source" in the guideline itself (as opposed to the talk page). The second one is harder. I'm afraid that we are going to need some examples, for otherwise we'll end up with too many unanswered questions asking for more details... For example, "These could be awards, books, lectures, interviews, articles, TV appearances that are reported in independent, reliable secondary sources such as major newspapers, (Sunday Times or New York Times) or on major TV networks (e.g. BBC, CNN)." - how extensive is that coverage? Also, what is the coverage really about? For example, it might be that the book is notable while its author is not.
"Another issue is that I am not persuaded that Fringe theories is the right place for guidelines about biographical information."... Well, I suppose we could write it in both places, if that will be judged necessary... But if the principle is going to be general enough to cover the theories themselves, books, persons etc., why bother? --Martynas Patasius (talk) 01:32, 31 October 2012 (UTC)