Most quacks hate Wikipedia, and homeopaths hate it with a passion. Homeopathy is the second most contested article on Wikipedia, after Jesus, and this spreads across multiple language versions of Wikipedia.
The root of their hatred is that Wikipedia has policies that favour science and rationalism. It’s not that Wikipedia is biased against homeopathy, but that science finds it preposterous.
Here’s what a group of homeopathy shills under the umbrella of “Homeopathy Works For Me” had to say for themselves:
Due to the public response of Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, to over 8000 signatures on a petition asking him to allow the Wikipedia page on Homeopathy to be edited in a more neutral and objective way we distance ourselves from the information presented therein. We find Jimmy Wales’ comments about homeopathy and his blatant prejudice against complementary and alternative medicine to be unjustified.
If you wanted to win the World Cup, would you turn up with a hockey stick and then complain that the rules are skewed against you?What response? There is a petition about homeopathy, but the one where we have a record of Jimmy responding to 8,000 quacks was in respect of “energy psychology”.
The problem in any case is reality, not what is written about reality in an online encyclopaedia. This is genuinely not Wikipedia’s problem to fix. As Jimmy said in his memorable diatribe against the “lunatic charlatans“:
Every single person who signed this petition needs to go back to check their premises and think harder about what it means to be honest, factual, truthful.
Wikipedia’s policies around this kind of thing are exactly spot-on and correct. If you can get your work published in respectable scientific journals – that is to say, if you can produce evidence through replicable scientific experiments, then Wikipedia will cover it appropriately.
What we won’t do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is the equivalent of “true scientific discourse”. It isn’t.
It’s no a coincidence that homeopathy and Jesus are similarly contended. Throughout Wikipedia’s history, the longest and most bruising battles have been fought between groups of non-Wikipedians deeply vested in an ideology, and the reality-based community within Wikipedia’s own ranks. Creationism, climate change, alternatives-to-medicine, Gamergate – in every case a group of ideologues, often collaborating externally, has made it their mission to “fix” Wikipedia’s “bias”.
They fail not because Wikipedia is biased, but because Wikipedia reflects the real world and in the end the real world always tends to recognise bullshit. Nature can’t be fooled. The quacks state:
It is our position that patients, prospective patients and other interested parties view the Wikipedia page on homeopathy to be inaccurate and heavily biased: it is not currently a credible source of information
Well, they might very well think that. And the thing about Wikipedia is that if they come along to the Talk page and they can provide a credible argument with good sources, then the article will change.
They don’t. They advance the same endless litany of refuted nonsense. And very often they become so incandescent with wrongteous anger that they get themselves banned. This is further hailed as evidence of Wikipedia’s bias, but as the fate of the “five horsemen” targeted by Gamergate trolls demonstrates, Wikipedia does not show favour in this respect.
Homeopathy vs. science: spot the difference.
To be blunt, Wikipedia does not care one way or the other: Wikipedia has no vested interest in homeopathy, energy psychology, the age of the earth or anything else very much. This is not a conflict between opposing extremes, as the quacks portray it, it’s a conflict between dogma and reality. Science has a complete, coherent, internally and externally consistent explanation for all the observed facts, homeopaths don’t like it but they have nothing to stand in its place other than statements of doctrine.
The reason homeopaths fail on Wikipedia is interesting in itself, and is related to the core issues with the notorious Swizz Report. They dispute the result because they are not playing the same game. Their view of a good study is how well it supports their beliefs and practices, ours view is based on how well it controls for bias and confounding.
Consider: if you wanted to win the World Cup, would you turn up with a hockey stick and then complain that the rules are skewed against you? Your arguments failed, quacks, we won’t change the rules, so you need to bring better arguments.
As Feynman pointed out, it doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong. And homeopathy disagrees with experiment, at least when the experiment is competently conducted and honestly reported.
Wikipedia’s coverage of quackery is hated by quacks precisely because it is accurate, unbiased and credible, It is not promotional. It is dispassionate. Not all the people who edit the article are dispassionate, and that’s true of every Wikipedia article, but the structures mean that most of the time, over most subjects, the content develops towards something which is agreed by all parties to be accurate and neutral. In the long term, reasoned argument and good quality sources works, hysterical accusations of bias and malfeasance simply get you shown the door.