Home » Natural selection, News » Sal, Wikipedia’s “facts” are just whatever survives a troll pillage

Sal, Wikipedia’s “facts” are just whatever survives a troll pillage

Sal Cordova draws our attention to a Wikipedia page highlighting the problems genetic redundancy creates for natural selection, asking how long it will last before Darwin’s trolls lumber in, bellowing.

So far, maybe the page is okay (?): “This page was last modified on 12 November 2013 at 09:18.” (November 23, 2013, 8:10 EST)

To get some idea why Wikipedia is a general problem, here are some examples:

Authoritative entries remain elusive. Of the 1,000 articles that the project’s own volunteers have tagged as forming the core of a good encyclopedia, most don’t earn even Wikipedia’s own middle -ranking quality scores. – MIT’s Technology Review , Ever wondered what editors do? Wikipedia shows us, by not doing it.

Those who “edit” entries to conform to their own biases don’t even bother to hide it; they boast about it. “Last summer someone decided to fix Sheldrake’s Wikipedia article, which, edited by his supporters, had been promoting Sheldrake’s woo in violation of Wikipedia policy on fringe science and pseudoscience. Perhaps you don’t know about this policy, but you can read about it at the link… ” – U Chicago Darwinist Jerry Coyne goes after animal behaviorist Rupert Sheldrake

Wikipedia shocked!, just shocked!! that some editors act for pay to promote stuff. If so, it is a reasonable idea that some also act for pay to demote stuff.

The excuses for the situation are the usual we’re-just-folks spiel and sound anything but convincing.

Wikipedia vs. facts: Someone else discovers the hard way about Wikipedia’s “facts” All that research to get the history correct, and he lost to the trolls. Another Wikipedia edit-ee reports that he was the victim of a 14-year-old.

So is the response to all this supposed to be just another hymn to the Internet? Is the consolation supposed to be that all the abuse and misdirection is “free”?

Maybe what Sal has done should become general: Post the article as intended, with links to scholarly work, at sites where it cannot be interfered with. People can find the unvandalized version at trusted sites through the Google search engine (for example, Uncommon Descent + genetic redundancy).

It will be most enlightening to compare it with the vandalized version. maybe a software told would visualize it for us.

While I understand the problems teachers face with constrained budgets for reference materials, et cetera, based on issues like the ones noted above, I would use any other source—except for free photos. And who knows, maybe another scandal will erupt over photos, in due course.

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7 Responses to Sal, Wikipedia’s “facts” are just whatever survives a troll pillage

  1. Wikipedia is a huge experiment that confirms the obvious: we, the human species, have no honor. We are biased and dishonest to the bone or, as Paul once put it, human nature is hopelessly evil. And the problem is not limited to Wikipedia. It’s everywhere including here at UD.

    And yes, I, too, am part of the WE and I hate myself for it.

  2. The wiki entry I highlighted was unusually well-written. It was scholarly, it was honest. It probably was written by someone with a keen interest in evolutionary biology, but who wanted to be fair to the facts.

    An ID proponent would be hard pressed to have written it, because as far as I know, few ID proponents would be familiar with the references cited.

    That’s why I’m inclined to think it was an evolutionary biologist who wrote it. If not, kudos to the ID proponent who snuck it in. :-) My bet is it was written by a Darwin hating evolutionary biologist.

    Smashingly good research, and succinct enough to make Mark Frank happy.

  3. I guess most people know that Wikipedia sucks, although I still come across students (and occasionally teachers) who don’t. You write a knowledgeable piece on a science subject and within hours a cab driver or a termite eradicator on the other side of the world “corrects” it for you.

    I stopped helping out Wikipedia when it became obvious that bullies and egomaniacs were in control of all the pages I attempted to write or fix. And they leave angry comments to let you know that your 35 years of training and experience in a field is no match for their lifelong ego.

  4. Like any writing, Wikipedia articles represent artifacts of the times in which they are written and of the people who pen them. As a one-time editor, very early on, it will be interesting to me to see what the current crop of editors do with this “Genetic redundancy” article. According to the standards “the project” espouses, it is impeccable.

    BTW, I pretty much quit editing after deciding that a humongous wrangle over the “Denialism” article was not worth the time or effort. Reading this post, out of curiosity, I decided to surf over and check up on the old gal. Where I noticed that in her current revision, under the “Evolution denialism” subheading, she says:

    Evolution denialism
    Main article: Creation-evolution controversy

    Religious beliefs may prompt an individual to deny the existence of the scientific theory of evolution.

    Hahaha. Okay now, that right there is one TOO FUNNY artifact… :D

  5. I think we need persistence. If some one deletes, write again, create another page and write from scratch if needed. Only carpet bombing will help!

  6. You have to be sensible about how you use Wikipedia – numerous studies have shown it to be about as accurate as conventional encyclopedias with the advantage that it is up-to-date and almost always backed up by extensive references. On the other hand it is an encyclopaedia, not a library of expert journals, and it is unreliable in rather quirky ways which catch the headlines – particularly about people.

    It is fine for giving the essential uncontroversial facts about something – be honest I bet you all use it for that. On a controversial issue I would never take a direct quote as authoritative, but it is a great place to start reading. E.g. the ID section has links to all the standard ID websites including this one.

    Once you understand this I can’t see how you can deny it has been an enormous success. The main issue at the moment seems to be that the contributors and therefore the subjects are biassed towards the interests of educated middle class males. But that is not the same as saying that those things which are covered are covered poorly.

  7. I actually like Wikipedia on many topics.

    I was extremely disappointed in the way the ID section was written.

    Even supposing ID is as false as Greek mythology, the Greek gods are presented with much clearer and sensible writing style. Even I could write a highly critical essay about ID that would read better than the Wikipedia article.

    The article on genetic redundancy was excellent. As I said, it was so well written, I suspect it was written by an evolutionary biologist sympathetic to non-Darwinian modes of evolution. It would be a shame if the article got trashed. It was refreshing departure from the status quo.

    Many of the articles on Wiki on basic physics, math, and chemistry are quite first rate. But then again, there is no reason for trolls to try to pillage explanations of calculus.

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