I do love a rant by a quackery shill about the “evil” reality-based community and how they manipulate Wikipedia. This one was tweeted by the Homeopathy Rabid Reactionary Farce, @LaurieJWillberg, @BrownBagPantry and @FallIntoSummer.
Scepticism is the first step towards truth
— Denis Diderot.First up: if this was true it would hardly be a surprise – there is no reason why this group would be alone on not pursuing organised ideological editing. Homeopathists do it, cold fusionists do it, climate deniers do it. Creationists became so fed up with losing in their attempts to promote the “controversy” over biological evolution that they set up their own project, Conservapedia.
However, I am willing to bet right up front that this is the quack definition of evidence, meaning shit the author made up to protect his cherished illusions.
To be fair, I cheated: I looked on his blog and found pretty strong indications that he’s a wingnut. For example, in a post tiled “I so don’t miss Carl Sagan“, he mocks the “Reason’s Greetings” card at right, saying:
I wonder how many of the sciency smart boys even understand what axial tilt means or how many of them realize that the planet is tilted all of the time. I’ll bet not one in a hundred of the atheist sci-rangers who parroted that line yesterday could even define what the term means.
Seriously. Most skeptics have degrees in science, medicine, mathematics or engineering, and it is really hard to get to that stage without knowing about axial tilt. And if a skeptic saw the image and by some bizarre happenstance did not know what it means, guess what they’d do? Look on Wikipedia. He then goes off on one about how it was Christians that discovered axial tilt, hypothesises that we won’t know that Urban VIII was a patrol of Galileo before the heresy trial (because skeptics surely must know nothing about Galileo, it’s not like he’s the most widely cited example of religion trying to do a King Canute on reality or anything), and so on. This is a God of the gaps believer whose real problem with skeptics is that some of them are atheists.
While researching today, I came across the Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia Blog. Their mast head contains this statement:
The mission of the Guerrilla Skepticism editing team is to improve skeptical content on Wikipedia. We do this by providing noteworthy citations, and removing unsourced claims from paranormal pages. It is also our mission to improve the pages of our skeptic spokespeople. Why? Because evidence is cool. We train – We mentor – Join us.
Oh dear, how evil. A group of like-minded people looking to write about their area of intrest.
I’ll let you in on a secret: there are hundreds of such groups, we call them WikiProjects. There are also examples of people collaborating off Wikipedia, something that GSoW doesn’t actually do. What GSoW does do is train people on Wikipedia policies, so they create articles which are at least minimally compliant, and usually a great deal better than that.
Looking for evidence to test my suspicion that Wikipedia articles relevant to studying “Skepticism” and parapsychological science were being ideologically “edited”, I found that those are exactly the kind of things that the “Guerrilla Skeptics” target
Yes, there is active solicitation to skew Wikipedia article on parapsychological “science”. Here’s an example: Russell Targ soliciting followers to skew Wikipedia to a more sympathetic coverage of his pet theory, [W:remote viewing].
I have not seen any evidence at all that GSoW editors were invited to “target” this article, the editors who were active in supporting the reality-based perspective have all, as far as I recall, been active on Wikipedia since long before GSoW started. Certainly the articles on Targ, Puthoff and remote viewing have all reflected the consensus view that it’s pseudoscience for a very long time.
Let me just reiterate one of my favourite quotes in the world:
Scepticism is the first step towards truth
And in the end that answers every one of the author’s criticisms.
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Martin Gardner & Paul Kurtz
Nix Dorf from the Portuguese team rewrote the Paul Kurtz page. Here is the before… and now the after. And then got on to the Martin Gardner page
Filipe Russo created a brand new page for our very own Bad Astronomer, Phil Plait.
The English Ken Feder page got a Did You Know (front page of Wikipedia for 8 hours) unfortunately it was up from 11pm to 8am so we didn’t get the hits we would have normally expected. Only 1,190 for that night. Other links on Feder’s page also experienced a surge on that night. Keep in mind that these are mostly people outside our skeptical choir. So total win for skepticism.
“SO TOTAL WIN FOR SKEPTICISM”
Yes, total win for skepticism. Four articles got written or dramatically improved, and one of them got listed on the main page for a while in Did You Know (DYK).
Hey, that’s a win for Wikipedia, too. Much more so than the editor who spent an age trying to get an article listed on DYK that promoted the reality of something that is generally agreed to be a myth. There is no conceivable problem with this activity.
Wikipedia is supposed to be a reference source that is protected from exactly this kind of organized ideological corruption by its “open editing”. Clearly, since the “Skeptics” are openly organizing to turn it into a resource for their ideology, there is a big problem. And this is only one possible effort. Who knows what’s being done covertly? If Wikipedia doesn’t do something to protect itself from ideologues then, as I said, it is unusable because it is unreliable.
What “ideological corruption”? Have you even looked at the articles?
- [W:Martin Gardner]
- [W:Paul Kurtz]
- [W:Phil Plait]
- [W:Ken Feder]
All clearly notable, all well referenced articles. And you know something? If you don’t agree, you can edit them too, as long as you bring sources.
We also need to have a little talk about what skepticism means. It’s not an agenda or an ideology, it is the default in the [W:scientific method]. Skepticism is the normal and correct approach to take to any claim, especially an outlandish one. If people applied critical thinking skills to things like climate change, advertising and the supplement industry, the world would be a better place!
If anyone wants to deny that’s what the “Skeptics” are doing, they’re not only doing it, they’re bragging about doing it, stating their intentions to make Wikipedia into their ideological tool.
Yeah, they are writing articles. On Wikipedia. About things that interest them.
Er, wait – you’re allowed to do that as long as the articles are neutral and well sourced. Which these appear to be.
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia – World
The English guerrilla skepticism project has been amazingly successful in the last year. With only a handful of active editors, we have created many new pages, re-written many more, and acted as police just about everywhere. TAM 2012 has become a turning point for this project. As I’ve been saying since March, we need to be global. Wikipedia is the most important tool for skepticism that exists today, we can not keep ignoring that the vast majority of the world does not speak English. Let’s get over that, with current Internet tools we can easily communicate, organize and get this done.
Oh, thanks for reminding me: GSoW also translate articles. Great work, GSoW!
The idea that this is somehow bad is the product of fallacious reasoning. In science, any compromise between a correct statement and a false statement, is a false statement. Skepticism follows the scientific consensus, which by definition encompasses all known valid views. The important bit of that sentence is the word valid.
So if you have a skeptic and a creationist editing an article on biological evolution, the neutral point of view does not lie somewhere between the two, the skeptic point of view is the neutral point of view.
Or, as in the case of Targ, a skeptic may debate a parapsychology believer on the subject of remote viewing, but the neutral point of view will never lie halfway between the two, it will be where the scientific consensus says it is, which is that there is no credible evidence of remote viewing, the experiments were examples of pseudoscience, and there’s no remotely plausible way it could work.
If Wikipedia is OK with being “the most important tool for “Skepticism” that exists today instead of an impartial reference resource, then it had better change its stated intentions or get used to being, increasingly, seen as unreliable. I can only imagine what other ideological campaigns it is open to servicing. As of today, it is known to be unreliable on these topics.
There are many groups for whom Wikipedia is of pressing importance.
Consider for a moment the advocates of [W:Emotional Freedom Techniques], aka Tapping. There is robust evidence that the work supporting EFT comes solely from people with vested interests in it, and no credible evidence that it is in any meaningful way different from evidence-based distraction therapies. The literature on EFT is riddled with undeclared conflicts of interest. It relies on tapping acupoints, which are illusory. The pseudoscience of chiropractic is in its belief in the empirically unverifiable chiropractic subluxation, and the pseudoscience of EFT lies in its belief in the empirically unverifiable acupoints, and the equally empirically unverifiable energy fields that are claimed to be manipulated.
Skepticism is a movement that is not widely known to the public. If the public reads a debunking of the moon landing hoax conspiracy theory by Phil Plait, it’s important that they can look up Phil Plait and establish that he genuinely is a credentialled expert in the field.
Equally, if the public reads a defence of homeopathy by Dana Ullman, it’s important for them to know that Ullman has a long history of – well, frankly, dishonesty. If a Judge says Ullman is not credible, then we need to make sure that the public don’t get the opposite impression from Wikipedia.
UPDATE: Looking over more of their archive, It’s not only Wikipedia that the “Skeptics” have targeted to make it their tool. When I was using FireFox I installed the WOT extension, a program that evaluates the safety and reliability of websites. I soon began to notice a lot of entirely innocuous websites got the red warning. Well, that would be because “Skeptics” were turning it into their ideological tool as well. From another “Skeptical” website.
Web of Trust is a useful tool for skeptics
I’ll trim this for brevity but in essence, the author expresses outrage that skeptics might use WOT and rate quackery and crankery down. Presumably he has the same issue with those who promote bonkers ideas and also use WOT to try to boost them? I say presumably: we can only guess, because he does not mention it. The most relevant bits are:
How can skeptics use WOT? [asks Tim Farley]
We should be promoting WOT as a useful tool to avoid bad things on the internet, whenever we can. The more people using WOT, the more effect it will have.
But skeptics should also become users of the service ourselves, so we can help give appropriately negative scores to the sites that are selling products based on lies and misinformation. Be sure to create a login on the site to facilitate this.
Yup, just that. And you know what? I have a really hard time seeing how that is bad in any sense, unless you happen to want to sell fraudulent products or crazy conspiracy theories. And even if you do, you have to acknowledge that skeptics have every bit as much right to do this as you do. So again: fallacious reasoning. Neutrality is not a sympathetic portrayal of parapsychology, nor is it somewhere between that and the skeptical view. The skeptical view is neutrality. It is neutral because it must explain all observed facts with minimal hypotheses (Occam’s razor is the single most powerful tool in skeptical thought),
Then, you can simply rate sites that you encounter that are skeptic relevant. Click the WOT toolbar icon to get the scoreboard for the site, and then choose Edit my rating. You can then click inside the red/yellow/green scales to assign your score on one or more of the four criteria.
Another feature of WOT is the ability to leave comments with the ratings. These comments should explain (clearly, simply, and without snark) why the product or website is fraudulent. Here’s an example on WOT’s rating page for the Power Balance website. It simply says the site is making untrue claims and links to a supporting BBC News story.
As you can see from the PowerBalance scorecard, WOT users have been all over this high-profile product. As another example, in the WOT Forums you can see one user sought out many of the different sites selling Jim Humble’s MMS and gave them negative ratings.
Fuck yeah. PowerBalance is a fraudulent product that was busted wide open by skeptics. Any product that relies on [W:applied kinesiology] for its evidence, has no place on store shelves.
And MMS is beyond wrong. Jim Humble and his Genesis II “church” claim that drinking bleach will cure of you of malaria, AIDS, cancer and everything else. This is pure evil. It’s also illegal in many countries. There is absolutely nothing wrong with using WOT to rate down these websites, or sites selling the HCG diet, or any other fraudulent product.
Farley focuses on products deemed to be of dodgy reliability but if anyone doesn’t suspect that comes with a nod and a wink to target non-commercial sites for a red flag of warnings, you’re clearly not being skeptical enough of the “Skeptics”. Which is why you might find websities dealing with parapsychological and other topics on the “Skeptics” Index of Prohibited Ideas red flagged by the “robot” they’ve hijacked.
So: you promise “conclusive evidence” and instead give us innuendo. Skeptics use WOT to address fraudulent marketing claims, therefore skeptics are doing down parapsychology.
Not only have you failed to provide conclusive evidence, you’ve also failed to give any reason why this would be wrong even if it did happen. After all, whatever you believe, you can hardly be unaware that the scientific community generally has one of two views on parapsychology: either they entirely ignore it, because parapsychology advocates have failed to prove a single remotely useful phenomenon, or they deride it for the mess of pseudoscience and pathological science that it has become.
He also has articles on how to “edit” Wikipedia.
The bastard. He tells people how to edit Wikipedia? That’s supposed to be secret arcane knowledge available only to the privileged few. The last thing we need is hundreds of thousands of active editors. Oh, wait.