Sun 10th April 2011, 6:43pm
QUOTE(Peter Damian @ Sun 10th April 2011, 7:06am)
Then I turn to the Arbcom case, and I learn nothing. All I see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Adm...XfD_discussions
is allegations of sockpuppetry, meatpuppetry, off-side canvassing, incivility. Guys, this is irrelevant. What does this tell you about whether he is any good or not? Incredible.
Um, since when did you think anybody at WP cares
if he's any "good" or not? They don't if he threatens their control.
There was recently a spat in the policy pages about whether or not a "reliable source" on WP:RS and WP:V actually meant one likely to be TRUE. No consensus was reached, but one editor was adamant that the word "reliable," as used here, had nothing to do with "truth", but was really only about "neutrality."
Since WP is not about "truth" (per the first sentences of WP:V), even though the policy on WP:V itself talks (eventually) about "fact-checking" and "accuracy."
To me, as a scientist (albeit one who labors mostly in the cat litter-box development field), "fact" and "accurate" have to do with truth. I'm what philosophers call a "naive realist," which means that I assume that there is an objective world out there that exists independently of how we think about it. I think human ideas approximate truth about that world (the "facts") more and more nearly with time, and while they don't reach it (or can't be sure they have if they do-- see the problem of induction), they do make progress, by eliminating clear error and becoming more and more reliably predictive of the future. Which is why electronics works and we have our nice modern techno-world. (Try explaining the success of modern engineering otherwise; I dare you).
On Wikipedia, a fair number of people cynically take the conveniently power-amassing position of philosophical idealists who either think that truth is a complete social construction, or else that EVEN if it's something more, that in any case all thinking about truth (correspondance of language to objective reality) has no place in the discussion of how to write Wikipedia. It's a very basic perversion, which eliminates any direct discussion of "facts." Now, you're desciended to difussing documentary evidence of fats, like two people locked in a windowless library basement trying to settle an argument. And once you've gone down that road, the question of whether or not you're kicking out editors with genuine expertise in some subject or other, is no longer important. So that's how they deal with THAT.
Of course, all of this is hypocrisy on the level of sophomoric philosophy. Nobody who survives driving in bad traffic really
disbelieves in objective reality and the ability of our brains to model it with a certain degree of accuracy. Anyone who does not is what we call "crazy" and is soon enough what we call "dead." But in the virual world of Wikipedia, you can at least pretend
to be an armchair social-constructivist when it comes to "turth," as much as you like.
So, how do decent WP articles get written at all in such an atmosphere? Well, in two ways. One is that some articles really are written about worlds that are mostly or entirely social constructs, like aesthetics, religion, law, literature. If you're writing about the Star Trek or Star Wars "universes" what consequences if you get something "wrong"? Moreover, much of this material is directly accessable to editors without need of training or translation. If a slight variation in view survives on WP or Wikia, and enough people come to believe it's "canonical" (ala some newly-proposed Catholic position on the way to becoming "doctrine") it BECOMES true by virtue of broad assent or consensus. Needless to say, that doesn't work too well in engineering, but it does sometimes work in politics. All things that are true merely by virtue of social agreements ("consensus") really are pure contructs of the mind, and need not have reference to nature.
In the topical area of the sciences (natural, applied, and formal) good articles on WP get written by ignoring the rules. Often by experts who donate their time and know very well that they are breaking the rules. And that gets ignored by people who really want to amass influence on WP and (though WP) effect changes in public perception, and who realize that good science (including math) and history articles help in that cause, by giving WP a patina of being objectively reliable in places where it's necessary. But (as is the case with politicians and lawyers) the people at WP will fire the scientists and engineers in a second if they feel their power threatened.
Incidently, that's often how the non-WP world works, as well (a lesson typified for me by the J. Robert Oppenheimer security hearing). None of this should be very shocking or surprising. It's just that out in the real world, the space shuttle blows up, or some giant manufacturing business disappears (poof) with all of its jobs, that tends to (temporarily) concentrate the minds of lawyers and policitians, who then must pay a little lip service to truth. On Wikipedia, such corrections happen far more rarely.