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Posted by on Mar 26, 2014 in Skepticism and Science | 4 comments

Wiki-woo

Some days ago, Jimmy Wales answered a Change petition asking him to drop Wikipedia standards of evidence in order to make woo look respectable. Wales’ answer was formidable:

No, you have to be kidding me. 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.

I applaud and admire Wales’ stance. And that’s why I am writing this.

Unlike Wikipedia in English, the Spanish version is run by a mob that gives credit to pseudoscience, conspiracy theories and the paranormal (whatever that is). You can check out the acupuncture, Deepak Chopra, Rupert Sheldrake entries or any other of their ilk.

They are slightly less than propaganda.

No Guerilla Skepticism

This issue was detected back in 2007, when the Spanish Wikipedia editors purged any references to skeptic webpage El retorno de los charlatanes, which has unflattering posts about, literally, hundreds of topics ranging from charlatan Alejandro Jodorowsky to the fraudulent Triodos Bank -which belongs to the anthroposophy sect-.

Spanish speaking skeptics thought Wikipedia would become a more welcoming place for evidence-based collaborations when Jimmy Wales himself tackled homeopathy. We were naive.

The Spanish Wikipedia crew answered with tone policing and ad hominem attacks. We are entitled to an encyclopedia as good as the Encyclopaedia Britannica, or at least that’s what we thought and asked for.

The answer we got was: If you want a flawless encyclopedia, go read the Britannica, no one’s forcing you to read Wikipedia.

So there goes the whole having an evidence-based web-encyclopedia in Spanish concept down the toilet. I guess Susan Gerbic and Jimmy Wales can start crying right now.

It’s not about me

I can actually go and read English Wikipedia or the Britannica. But this is not about me, or my fellow skeptics. The Spanish Wikipedia is one of the largest Wikis, generating 9% of the website’s traffic, and Spanish is a language with over 405 million speakers. It is about all of them, us.

It’s about providing all of us with accurate and evidence based information (or like I call them, facts), whether you like what is being said or not. I would think that’s what Jimmy Wales has in mind, and the Spanish Wikipedia crew are just not delivering.

  • http://martincx.wordpress.com/ Martin Coronel

    I must say that almost everything regarded as “controversial” (homeopathy, alternative medicines and other nonsenses) are promoted as “true” or “scientific” in Spanish Wikipedia. The sense of horror arose in me when reading about Intelligent Design. It seems lots of people is in some kind of “crusade” or developing marketing strategies to increase popularity of those quackeries.

    Some time ago (at College) I decided not to take es.wikipedia articles as first hand references for my homework (or at least, after reading that article I double-checked its English
    “version”).

    I guess, being wikipedia a collaborative site, it needs the involvement of more Scientific Wikipedians of Spanish-speaking Countries.

    Anyway, let’s see what happens next.

    I must share this post with my friends. Thanks and God bless you good luck. ;-)

    • http://de-avanzada.blogspot.com/ Ðavid A. Osorio S

      Feel free to spread it all you want :D

  • http://guerrillaskepticismonwikipedia.blogspot.com/ Susan Gerbic

    Hello David. Sorry I’m just coming across your blog. I’ve heard this several times about most of the Wikipedias. The Italians said that WP is run by a pseudoscience mafia. The Dutch said they have people who have been there forever and will not allow atheist positive articles, the Croatians can’t edit because they keep getting their posts taken down. And in English OMG you would not believe how many times I’ve heard that there is a war going on on the talk page. (Sheldrake and others complain of this also) It goes on and on, we have heard it many times.

    Usually the problem is that the person trying to make the edit does not know what they are doing. Their posts are taken down because they are done improperly.

    The rest of the time there is no war going on, just someone asking a couple questions or making some kind of statement. It is usually easily solved.

    There are people who will not allow edits that they think are biased, but we have always found a way to get around them.

    There are no organized groups of the caliber, skill and size of GSoW. We have rules on our side and we can do anything we want on WP if we set our mind to it. But still follow the rules completely.

    My Spanish team is inactive but I’m really hoping we are going to find editors that are willing to spend the time to make it right.

    It is just a matter of having a well-trained team and we can take care of it.

    • http://de-avanzada.blogspot.com/ Ðavid A. Osorio S

      Hi Susan. It’s an honor to have you leaving comments on my blog – what a nice surprise!

      I have tried editing wikis a few times, but I’ve found it to be quite complex (more complex than a blog, anyway!), so when I learned the Spanish Wikipedia team were such New-Age-y quack lovers I didn’t even give it a try… but now that you mention it, I would love to make part of your Spanish team (if that’s an option).

      I’d be willing to (finally!) learn how to edit a Wiki the way it’s supposed to be. You let me know what I can do or if I can help in any other way.

      On a related note, I tweeted this post to Jimmy Wales and I never got an answer, so a few days ago, I figured: why not start a Change campaign asking Wales to expand the woo zero-tolerance to non-English Wikipedias.

      What do you think of that strategy in order to call his attention to this problem?

      Cheers and have a good one,

      -D