Skeptics & Wikipedia

Wikipedia Graphic

Wikipedia: Captured by Skeptics


The Wikipedia Problem


by the Editors


Wikipedia currently is the area in which dogmatic skeptics are most successful and influential. One of these activist groups is called Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia, founded by Susan Gerbic. Another leader of the online skeptical movement is Tim Farley, who runs the website Skeptical Software Tools.The situation is particularly bad in any areas to do with parapsychology, alternative and complementary medicine, and on the biography pages of scientists involved in investigating these areas.

The Wikipedia skeptics work in teams (contrary to Wikipedia rules) and most are well trained. They generally operate under pseudonyms. It is not necessary to have any particular skill or expertise to become an editor. Anyone can edit. But it is necessary to understand the complex rules of Wikipedia. The skeptical activists are well versed in the rules, and are able to bully and outwit editors who are trying to ensure that articles are balanced and fair. When fair-minded editors oppose the skeptic teams, they are accused of defying the skeptical consensus, and warned that they will be banned from editing. If they persist they are indeed banned. Many such editors have been driven away, to the detriment of Wikipedia and its users. For a detailed case study, see Wikipedia, We Have a Problem.

Although Wikipedia’s official policy is that articles should represent a neutral point of view, skeptics have infiltrated the administration of Wikipedia and have managed to get parapsychology defined as a pseudoscience, along with many aspects of alternative and complementary medicine. The skeptic teams then claim that any editor opposing them is contravening the neutral point of view policy, because these subjects are defined as pseudoscience. These teams are committed to a kind of scientific fundamentalism, and take an extremely narrow view of science, even narrower than that of more mainstream skeptical organizations. Even the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry does not dismiss all parapsychology as pseudoscience: indeed some leading skeptics, like Professor Chris French, have explicitly stated that they regard it as a real science (French, C. C., & Stone, A. Anomalistic Psychology: Exploring Paranormal Belief and Experience, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).

Unfortunately, the founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, is a supporter of the skeptical extremists. In response to the systematic distortion to Wikipedia entries on holistic medicine, the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology (ACEP) organized on online petition to Jimmy Wales through asking for a balanced and scientific approach to these subjects. There were 7,000 signatures. In response, Wales called practitioners of alternative medicine “lunatic charlatans.” He resisted calls for change by saying that Wikipedia’s policies are “exactly spot-on and correct.”

So beware! Until Wikipedia can be reformed or replaced, it is essential to treat its skeptic-infested pages with extreme skepticism.