Sunday, 24 August 2014

The fish rots from the head down - the ignorance or prejudice of Wikipedia on certain subjects

[Update] Since I posted the link to the article below by Fran Sheffield there has been a very detailed article by Dana Ullman 10/10/14 which can be found at this link
I suggest that anyone asked by an anti-homeopath troll for evidence of homeopathy's effectiveness just tell them to go and read Dana's article. It will save them a lot of time.

Homeopath Fran Sheffield shows how Wikipedia co- founder Jimmy Wales disparages Homeopathy.

After a pharmacy recommended a potentised remedy for his sore throat, Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, vented his thoughts on homeopathy – and his desire to stop it – in a Quora post.
In a surprisingly ill-informed and slanderous manner, Jimmy said:
“..homeopathy is a proven fraud.”
“…makes me ill.”
“Homeopathic remedies of no value whatsoever are legally marketed…”
“Who should I talk to about this in order to encourage the creation of a campaign to stop this? This is not my primary area of interest and so I am not the right person to lead it myself. But I would like to help.”
“It’s a scandal in the modern world”
“We know with full rational certainty that they do not work at all. They are nothing more than placebo sold fraudulently.”
“…the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies, relative to placebos, is 0%. Not effective at all. A useless fraud.”
“This is nothing more than fraud.”
“There have been no properly conducted large scale studies which suggest in the least that homeopathic remedies are any different from sugar water.”
“This is false.”
“Homeopathy does not work at all. It has been shown in an extremely thorough way to be no better than a placebo.”
When someone speaks their mind, there’s a risk that any ignorance or prejudice will shine through. That’s exactly what happened to Jimmy.
When I first reported his comments from the Quora post back on the 6th of February, 2013, they were quickly removed. Fortunately, I had the foresight to save them before that happened. You can still read them in our screen capture below, under More Information.

Wikipedia is a valuable source of information for many, but to retain its integrity it has to be impartial – and this certainly has not been the case with homeopathy.
Since Jimmy spoke his mind all those months ago, Wikipedia’s misleading and inaccurate information on homeopathy has only worsened.
Those who are knowledgeable and qualified to write about homeopathy have repeatedly tried to correct it, but all attempts have been thwarted by anti-homeopathy “squatters” who sit on the page to control its information.

Could Jimmy’s prejudice be responsible?

When Jimmy Wales gave a TED talk in 2009, he said:
“So the biggest and the most important thing is our neutral point-of-view policy. This is something that I set down from the very beginning, as a core principle of the community that’s completely not debatable. It’s a social concept of cooperation, so we don’t talk a lot about truth and objectivity. The reason for this is if we say we’re only going to write the “truth” about some topic, that doesn’t do us a damn bit of good of figuring out what to write, because I don’t agree with you about what’s the truth. But we have this jargon term of neutrality, which has its own long history within the community, which basically says, any time there’s a controversial issue, Wikipedia itself should not take a stand on the issue. We should merely report on what reputable parties have said about it. So this neutrality policy is really important for us, because it empowers a community that is very diverse to come together and actually get some work done.”

What a shame Wikipedians, and Jimmy himself, have not honoured these noble intentions. Instead of neutrality, Wikipedia has been allowed to take an ugly stand on homeopathy that misleads many.

Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia, left the organization several years ago due to concerns about its integrity. He said: [This quote is my expansion of what Fran Sheffield wrote and is taken from]
"We do not think that Wikipedia is “good enough.” We think humanity can do better: Wikipedia is full of serious problems. Many of the articles are written amateurishly. Too often they are mere disconnected grab-bags of factoids, not made coherent by any sort of narrative. In some fields and some topics, there are groups who “squat” on articles and insist on making them reflect their own specific biases. There is no credible mechanism to approve versions of articles. Vandalism, once a minor annoyance, has become a major headache—made possible because the community allows anonymous contribution. Many experts have been driven away because know-nothings insist on ruining their articles. Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales acts as a law unto himself, not subject to a written constitution, with no official position, but wielding considerable authority in the community. Wales and other Wikipedia leaders have either been directly involved in, or have not adequately responded to, a whole string of very public scandals. The community takes its dictum, “Ignore All Rules,” seriously; it is part anarchy, part mob rule. The people with the most influence in the community are the ones who have the most time on their hands—not necessarily the most knowledgable—and who manipulate Wikipedia’s eminently gameable system."    

When this happens, as it has with homeopathy, we are all the poorer for it.

An old proverb says, “The fish rots from the head down.” Is this what we have seen with Wikipedia? Homeopathy, and those who look to Wikipedia for their information, deserve much better.

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