Wikipedia talk:Neutral point of view

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Clarify due and undue weight[edit]

Does this policy means that if we have a reliable source A then we can not use it until we also have a reliable source saying B? // Liftarn (talk) 23:19, 17 October 2014 (UTC)

If you know that a sizable proportion of the experts hold A, and that another sizable proportion hold B then you should add both. If B is not held by a sizable proportion of experts then there is no reason to include it. And if you know that A is only held by a minority position you should not add it, even if you have a source, if the majority position B is not already fully detailed. -- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 14:48, 18 October 2014 (UTC)
What is we have an article in a reliable saying A happened and no article criticising the reporting is yet found. Could we add that A happened? // Liftarn (talk)
I have found what seems to me to have been a rather significant change in NPOV policy that was made about 10 weeks ago without any consensus about the change having been agreed to beforehand on this talk page. I believe that this "unconsensused" policy change may have been the cause of some of the confusion discussed just above about WP:Due This change to policy can be found:
here.

While this July 30th policy change might at first seem to work OK for most articles, it seems to me that it does not apply well to articles about "fringe topics". As is typical policy for any such proposed changes to WP policy, I propose further discussion and attempting to minimally reach some type of a consensus here amongst us on this talk page, regarding this July 30th policy change, before accepting any such significant yet still "unconsensused" change to NPOV policy, simply due to the fact that nobody "caught" the change until now. Scott P. (talk) 03:47, 21 October 2014 (UTC)
I'm not sure that this change makes any difference at all. WhatamIdoing (talk) 05:06, 21 October 2014 (UTC)
Liftarn, it depends on the source and what it's saying. Are you dealing with a self-published source? A primary source? A non-independent source? If the answer to any of those questions is "yes", then reporting its contents might be undue.
So imagine that some quack newsletter says that drinking gasoline cures cancer, on the grounds that the newsletter editor drank a teaspoon of gasoline as a kid and hasn't been diagnosed with cancer yet. Everyone agrees that this is a lousy source (self-published and primary) with garbage content. The most you could say with a source like that is, "In 2014, Quacks R Us said that drinking gasoline cures cancer". You don't need to bother finding a source that specifically refutes it, because you shouldn't include that anyway.
But often, for non-garbagey stuff, it really is better to wait for an independent, secondary source, either written by an expert or based on information gathered from experts, to look over Source A. In that case, you don't need to wait for "a reliable source saying B", but you do need to wait for a source that gives an opinion on Source A (which could be agreeing or disagreeing with it). WhatamIdoing (talk) 05:06, 21 October 2014 (UTC)
What about an independent secondary source that is a trade paper, but not a peer-reviewed journal? // Liftarn (talk) 12:06, 21 October 2014 (UTC)

Does this policy actually allow editors to offer opinion and speculation as matter-of-fact simply by virtue of popular opinion? The "undue weight" ruling seems to hang a lot on the vague term "viewpoint". Name-calling and conjecture about the motivations of others are "viewpoints". Can these be presented on Wikipedia as objective research if they are heavily linked in order to constitute "due weight"? SteveG700 (talk) 21:52, 19 November 2014 (UTC)

Does this say that minority viewpoints should not be acknowledged, even if they could be correctSandKitty256 (talk) 15:58, 22 December 2014 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by 68.237.143.173 (talk)

Taxation is coercive by being involuntary; this is not commonly accepted due to the doublethink enabled through 12 years of indoctrination supported by taxation, which is what government's existence is dependent on. If the majority of people agreed that 2 + 2 = 5, would that still be worthwhile encyclopedic knowledge? Additionally, is not morality inherently a value statement and not neutral? Shyguy76767 (talk) 05:20, 27 January 2015 (UTC)

All Sources Have Bias[edit]

Regarding this diff, how can you demonstrate that a source has no bias? There is no such thing as an unbiased source. Every piece of text created by a human is written because that human has an opinion that he/she feels must be expressed. Biases are not necessarily wrong or misguided. For instance, you are biased to believe the Theory of Gravity because you have never gone flying off the face of the planet, because perhaps you have seen experiments that produce data that numerically fits the equations of the Theory, and because plenty of people you respect and trust have told you it is true. However, this remains a bias (i.e. if a random person claimed to have disproven the The Theory of Gravity, you would reflexively find it difficult to take that person seriously, even before seeing their data). The entirety of the scientific endeavor is a mission to establish biases that are rationally-rooted in hard data, logical argument, and the reputations of the investigators. Even in the most reliable of sources, these biases can occasionally be misplaced, so it is important to recognize that nobody's judgement of neutrality is absolutely perfect.

Especially in the case of journalism, biases can even be reflected in the choice of what pieces of information to include or even what to not write. In this sense, it is impossible for any piece of writing to not reflect some sort of bias. For instance, the editorial choice of a newspaper to do an interview with [electoral candidate X] but not [electoral candidate Y] reflects an inherent bias towards diverting attention to [electoral candidate X], no matter how "neutral" the questions asked are. If that media source supports [electoral candidate X], they may omit any difficult questions that would reflect this candidate's failures. If the media source opposes [electoral candidate X], they may neglect to ask any questions that would reflect this candidate's successes.

The point is, all sources have a bias that reflects the consensus beliefs of its authors and editors. There is no such thing as a perfectly neutral source. Even Wikipedia, with millions of peer-reviewing editors and an explicit focus on neutrality, ends up with segments of text that are easily recognizable (by one group or another) as biased. The inherently omnipresent nature of bias should be reflected in this article, rather than implying that there are biased sources and unbiased sources. Merely suggesting that unbiased sources exist harms the Wikipedia project by encouraging a bias against sources that are more honest about their own bias, in favor of sources that fraudulently present their own bias as the indisputable "neutral" point of view. TBSchemer (talk) 18:02, 19 January 2015 (UTC)

This edit waters down the intent of the sentence and is untrue. Obvious example: sports statistics. --NeilN talk to me 20:25, 22 January 2015 (UTC)
  • There, the question is a matter of whose sports statistics are being reported, and whose are not. For instance, reporting statistics from NFL players, but not from players in any of the many other American football leagues reflects a bias in favor of the NFL. That doesn't mean it's an unreasonable bias. But it is a bias, nonetheless. TBSchemer (talk) 21:27, 22 January 2015 (UTC)
  • This is a frankly ridiculous argument. I'm not talking about systematic bias where baseball may have more articles than cricket. The MLB site is an unbiased site from which a MLB player's stats can be sourced. --NeilN talk to me 21:51, 22 January 2015 (UTC)
  • Imagine, if you will, a hypothetical debate between editors about the player with the highest batting average. The MLB site lists only MLB players, and claims that an MLB player has the highest batting average in professional baseball. However, another smaller professional league has a player with a higher batting average, and their own site reports this. One group of editors claims that the MLB site is unbiased, and refuses to accept article edits containing statistics from the smaller league. Another group argues the reverse. However, isn't it important to recognize that each league has a bias to emphasize the importance of their own players? This is the sort of understanding that would encourage editors to compromise by including the claims from both leagues in the article, with proper attributions. TBSchemer (talk) 22:48, 22 January 2015 (UTC)
  • Again, you wrote without qualification, "There is no such thing as an unbiased source." Is the MLB site an unbiased site for sourcing a MLB player's stats? Yes or no? --NeilN talk to me 22:52, 22 January 2015 (UTC)
TBSchemer, I disagree, and have reverted again. It's silly, for example, to state that sources are biased for reporting a scientific or medical fact. To me, reporting on facts are not a bias. Many sources simply report the facts, no matter if the source is biased in how it decided to present the information; and by "biased" in this context, I mean a source deciding how much of the fact to report on or something similar. Stating that a celebrity got married, for another example, is not biased reporting unless one wants to state that it's biased that the source decided to report on that matter. I don't see how your text is needed. If I hadn't missed your above post, I would have replied earlier. As for why others had not yet replied (noted in your revert of me): Well, your above post is three decent-sized paragraphs long, and such long posts are commonly ignored...even on policy talk pages; WP:Too long; didn't read is real. Flyer22 (talk) 20:32, 22 January 2015 (UTC)
  • I'm not offended by the delay in discussion. I'm just glad that we have the opportunity to discuss the change now.
  • The question of what is and isn't a fact, and which facts deserve reporting is a matter of bias. I used the example of the Theory of Gravity as an example of how a scientific fact can be held with bias (again, that doesn't necessarily mean the bias is misplaced). Another example more related to the ongoing scientific process is how scientists are generally biased to believe their own work is correct and impactful. Their careers depend on it, so scientists have a tendency to hype up the importance of their work. University press-release offices also have an interest in that bias, and this is how we end up with new popular science articles every other week of the form, "X, the New Superfood!" or "Y, the Cure for Cancer?" Again, this sort of bias isn't always misplaced, but this is why we have peer-review in the scientific process. The idea is that hopefully, the biases of the reviewers will cancel out some of the biases of the researchers, and you end up with an ultimately less-biased publication. However, this process certainly is not perfect, and biases shared between all the authors and reviewers will pass through unscathed.
  • This is why I think it's important to emphasize that the more perspectives you have on content (such as in Wikipedia's "consensus" process), the less-biased the content becomes. But no source is ever entirely unbiased. Even sources that have internal review mechanisms have biases that are shared amongst their editors (example: any news establishment). TBSchemer (talk) 21:23, 22 January 2015 (UTC)
I agree that it is important to have multiple perspectives. I disagree with changing the policy to state that there are no unbiased sources, which, as Flyer22 states, is not correct. The rewording of the policy that TBSchemer proposes is well-meant but waters it down. I would suggest that any change to this fundamental part of the wording of the policy should be done only by consensus via the Requests for Comments process. I do not plan to publish the RFC because I think that the wording is all right, but I will go along with the community. Robert McClenon (talk) 21:44, 22 January 2015 (UTC)
  • This change seems based on a fundamentally faulty and misguided understanding of what bias is. (The theory-of-gravity example, for instance, describes Bayesian updating—a rational and empirically sound cognitive approach—rather than "bias"). More to the point, the issue is handled inartfully here. The question isn't really one of bias, but one of attempted objectivity. Some sources present, or aspire to present, an objective viewpoint (these include the reputable scientific literature and high-quality news media). Other sources make no pretense of objectivity (these include agenda-driven blogs and websites, and partisan publications). This distinction is an important one, and we shouldn't dismiss it with a glib phrase about the universality of bias. Finally, from a practical perspective, the proposed change will (either inadvertently or by design) open the floodgates to a wave of false-equivalency claims and crappy sources (as in "the New York Times is no better than ufo-sightings.com, because ALL SOURCES ARE BIASED!"). MastCell Talk 22:44, 22 January 2015 (UTC)
  • Biases are not necessarily inherently irrational. Biases do come about through Bayesian updating with differing inputs (everyone has their own experiences) and differing probability estimates (which are rooted in prior biases). The refusal to consider alternative points of view is, by definition, a bias, no matter how rationally that perspective came about. Again, biases aren't always wrong. If we didn't have any biases, then we would be overwhelmed by the need to evaluate every claim, no matter how minimal its chance of being true.
  • Hence, bias is not what makes a source good or bad. For instance, the New York Times is well-known to have biases, that are reflected in their news reporting as well as their editorial columns. It is not the degree or direction of bias that makes the New York Times often a good source, but the many other factors discussed in WP:Reliable.
  • Nevertheless, the New York Times is certainly not infallible, and it's important to recognize that other perspectives in other reliable sources exist and are not just overridden by the New York Times in all cases. It can be very disruptive to attempts to achieve consensus when editors are arguing over whether the the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal is more biased, when both present valid information through their own perspectives. One topic may be more objectively analyzed by the New York Times while the other is more objectively analyzed by the Wall Street Journal. The question is not a matter of who is more biased (as both sources have their own biases), but a question of whether each source has adhered to the highest standards of journalistic integrity in presenting that particular piece of content from their own perspective. I think there are plenty of components of WP:Reliable that we can point to in both of these newspapers that make them more acceptable as sources than ufo-sightings.com.
  • I agree with you that there is a difference between content which is meant to be presented as opinion and content which is meant to be presented as news, but I think we should try to find a way to reflect that without implying that some news reporting organizations are inherently unbiased. TBSchemer (talk) 00:02, 23 January 2015 (UTC)
I do not see how we currently imply in any way that some news reporting organizations are inherently unbiased, or what it even means to be unbiased, or why we should care? The first sentence of this policy reads "All encyclopedic content on Wikipedia must be written from a neutral point of view (NPOV), which means representing fairly, proportionately, and, as far as possible, without bias, all of the significant views that have been published by reliable sources on a topic." Would it really be a different sentence if it read "representing fairly and proportionately all significant views published by reliable sources? You're making a mountain of not even a molehill here. NW (Talk) 04:30, 23 January 2015 (UTC)

It can't be "proven" that all sources have a bias.

Conversely it can't be "proven" for a single source that it is ultimately bias-free.

As both (philosophical) contentions are irrelevant for the policy, this discussion is a time-sink without actual object.

So, oppose TBSchemer's proposed addition. Significant opposing views should be contained in article namespace, but all of that is currently carefully explained on the policy page without needing to have recourse to unsteady axiomas that have no practical effect on the matter. --Francis Schonken (talk) 09:12, 23 January 2015 (UTC)

As a matter of navel gazing philosophy, I think it may be correct to say that all sources have bias... however as a practical matter, I would oppose the edit in question. It does not matter whether all sources have bias (or only some of them). The addition is irrelevant tothe entire point of the sentence, which is to make it clear that it is OK for sources to have a bias. SOURCES do not have to be neutral on their topic. The point of the sentence is to tell our editors: Even if you think a source is highly biased - you can not say "this source is biased" and disallow it. That is the point of saying: "Biased sources are not inherently disallowed based on bias alone." Blueboar (talk) 13:37, 23 January 2015 (UTC)

"Terrorist" and NPOV[edit]

Hello everyone, a conversation has started on Talk:1993 in South Africa about whether or not the term "terrorist" should be used when describing certain individuals or organisations. I would like to get your input on this as I feel it is an important discussion with regards to South African history articles in general especially ones that cover the anti-apartheid phase in the country's history.--Discott (talk) 17:45, 31 January 2015 (UTC)

There is actually a guideline that refers to this question directly, and it would be reasonable for the discussion about South Africa to be guided by it. Please see WP:TERRORIST. --Tryptofish (talk) 22:06, 31 January 2015 (UTC)
In the specific disputed text, whether to add "insurgents" or "terrorists" after mentioning the Azanian People's Liberation Army, I would suggest using neither. TFD (talk) 22:39, 31 January 2015 (UTC)
Hello, WP:TERRORIST and the fact that neither "insurgents" or "terrorists" are satisfactory terms has been mentioned. The best suggestion so far has been to simply say "members of XYZ did ABC". There are some participants in this conversation who seem unsatisfied with this suggestion either arguing that the act = term (if it is a terrorist type event then it is committed by a terrorist) or the universal argument (that the term is used on pages such as September 11 therefore can be used elsewhere too).--Discott (talk) 08:51, 1 February 2015 (UTC)

Poor example[edit]

For example, an article should not state that "genocide is an evil action", but it may state that "genocide has been described by John X as the epitome of human evil."

In one discussion someone quoted the NPOV policy including this piece. At least two persons did not recognize it as part of policy and viewed it akin to a frivolous argument "ad Hitlerium". Further, this example teaches using bad style. A professional encyclopedia must replace the phrase "genocide is evil" with "genocide is crime against humanity", i.e., it is evil, but not simply because John X says so.

Of course, I understand what example meant to say, but IMO it is poor choice. This example must be replaced with the one in the area which is clearly the matter of opinions rather than established facts. In the talk page I mentioned I made the following suggestion:

Instead or writing "the movie sucks" it is better to write "John X says the movie sucks". Still better, there are reviewers which aggregate the reviews, so the article may quote them to say, e.g. "65% reviews say the movie sucks".

I didn't realize it was policy quoted, so my suggestion was sloppily phrased. Please consider its merits apart from wording. My version has an additional benefit of suggestion to search for something more than a single wise man say, which is IMO an important part of NPOV. -M.Altenmann >t 18:03, 1 February 2015 (UTC)

I think you make several good points. -- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 06:28, 12 February 2015 (UTC)

Not necessarily a good idea to determine weight by amount of published review articles.[edit]

The circumcision article on wikipedia has clearly given most weight to medical aspects, because most of the review articles are medical. This makes it appear like people generally are circumcising their kids because of medical reasons, which clearly isn't the case. Most people are circumcising their kids because of cultural fashion, tradition and/or religion. It would therefore be better to have a wikipedia article about circumcision that mainly focuses on cultural fashion, tradition and religion, rather than on medical aspects. The same might be true for other wikipedia articles, that have been "hijacked" by the medical community on wikipedia. 84.210.54.80 (talk) 20:10, 3 February 2015 (UTC)

Wikipedia summarizes accepted knowledge as contained in the best RS. If the aspect of a topic most covered in RS is the medical aspect, Wikipedia shall reflect that. In the case of circumcision, this is demonstrably the case[1]. The suite of articles has ones dedicated to religious, historial and ethical aspects. Alexbrn talk|contribs|COI 06:20, 12 February 2015 (UTC)
Hellow Alex and 84. I read this discussion as I tried to understand the issue more. In that talk of whether to prioritize the religious or medical reasons for circumcision in the main article, I feel it's correct to mention the medical aspect of circumcision first but for a different reason. That discussion started with saying there were more reliable sources pertaining to the medical aspect and to prove that they searched a science website. That seems a fallacy, why not search some religious websites or better yet read some religious historical books? But the number of sources is a bad reason for assigning priorities. What will most people that search wiki for the term "circumcision" be looking for. Hard to say. Which is more important, religion? Or medical. Whether god exists or not and whether he wants us to cut penises or not doesn't matter as much as the real world issue of whether this surgery can kill someone by mistake, whether it can hurt your sex life, whether it actually prevents HIV and STDS or not. So the answer to these questions, as best as they can be answered by reliable sources, should be prioritized. This link is in the main article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_male_circumcision and it should stay, if anyone is wondering about that topic they can click on it. Popish Plot (talk) 19:48, 23 February 2015 (UTC)