Wikipedia Founder Smacks Down Petition To Include Holistic Medicine in Science Articles

Maybe if we’re lucky Neil DeGrasse Tyson will be the new face of some kind of revolution within our culture. Maybe his willingness to take a stand in the name of logic and reason and his unwillingness to suffer the fools who believe otherwise — coupled with his current pop culture status — will finally help to shine light into the still resistant darkness. Don’t hold your breath on this, of course, but it would be nice to think that, regardless, there’s some kind of movement slowly taking shape in the U.S. right now aimed at stamping out stupidity and ignorance.

Now picking up a sword in that fight is Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that, much like the thoroughly unscientific creationists who are demanding equal time alongside proven fact to hawk their nonsense, there’s a push online to conflate the worlds of science and holistic medicine. Thousands have now signed a Change.org petition — because, of course — demanding that Wikipedia moderators be less skeptical and essentially place largely unproven homeopathic remedies on an equal footing with proven scientific medicine in the name of “discourse.” They’re not doing that at the moment, apparently. And if you ask these people, that’s a problem.

As a result, people who are interested in the benefits of Energy Medicine, Energy Psychology, and specific approaches such as the Emotional Freedom Techniques, Thought Field Therapy and the Tapas Acupressure Technique, turn to your pages, trust what they read, and do not pursue getting help from these approaches which research has, in fact, proven to be of great benefit to many.

Now obviously any idiot can start a Change.org petition and amass enough signatures from the like-minded to believe that those numbers should democratically enforce his or her views and bend reality to his or her desires. It happens all the time and while some social media advocacy campaigns really can do good, there’s little in our narcissistic culture right now more deserving of open hostility and resistance than their abuse. But Jimmy Wales has decided to respond to this petition personally. And that response is a thing of beauty.

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.

Perfectly said and with no equivocation: Maybe holistic remedies work and maybe they don’t, but what they’re not is science and therefore they don’t by any stretch of the imagination belong in the same discussion as scientific medicine. The irony is that Wikipedia was one of the first outlets to democratically crowdsource for information, allowing the masses to literally adjust the definition and meaning of words and phrases until it suits them. Stephen Colbert even created a neologism for this phenomenon back in 2006: “Wikiality,” which he said was characterized by the belief that “together we can create a reality that we all agree on — the reality we just agreed on.” But in the ensuing eight years Wales and his moderators have apparently dedicated themselves to cracking down on the abuse of “reality” as best as possible. And it’s obvious that at least as a general rule Wales is against pseudoscience sharing the same stage with science.

It’s good that more people seem to be taking the kind of stand he’s taking. Because it works like this: You’re entitled to believe whatever you want, but just because you believe it, have a bunch of people behind you who believe it too, and maybe have some flimsy anecdotal information backing it up — or in the case of faith, have nothing at all — that doesn’t mean it gets to cloud the issue and be granted the same status as that which has mountains of empirical evidence behind it. Controversy isn’t cause, particularly not when there isn’t really any controversy other than what you’re creating out of thin air. It’s time the prophets of pseudoscience-and-intellectualism got that through their thick heads.

In this particular case, no, you don’t get to demand “true scientific discourse” because you don’t have true science.

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  • Patrick

    I am starting two Change.org petitions. One is to get the “Stork Theory of Pregnancy,” taught in our health classes and the other is to get Holocaust-deniers equal time in “true historical discourse.”

  • condew

    Maybe conservapedia will have them, or the holistic “medicine” people can start their own wiki, how about wuwupedia?

    • P.Yew

      People of any political stripe will resort to quack medicine when they’re in dire straits, but if you consider holistic/anti-mainstream medicine to have a political leaning, it’s firmly to the left, at least based on what I’ve read over the years in lefty rags like Mother Jones, Utne Reader, NOW magazine, etc.

  • Temmere

    I agree with Wales and am glad he took a stand, but I do think “lunatic charlatans” is needlessly antagonistic. I think most of this new-agey stuff is basically religious in nature; if you believe you get something out of it, then in a sense you DO get something out of it. I could never believe in that kind of thing, but as long as someone doesn’t try to foist their beliefs on me, I’m fine with it. Wales is right not to elevate beliefs to the level of science, but calling anyone who does believe insane or a liar is going a bit too far.

    • http://www.BarnesFamily.com/ davebarnes

      Is not going too far.

  • villemar

    “Tapas Acupressure Technique”

    Mmmmm….Tapas….

  • Gunnut2600

    If anyone goes to Wikipedia for anything other than pop culture…oh lord…

    • Christopher Foxx

      I recall seeing a study (and I’m sorry I can’t find the reference now, but I recall that it did seem well conducted with supported conclusions) found that Wikipedia was a bit more accurate than the Encyclopedia Britannica.

      It’s certainly subject to craziness, but not something that should be dismissed out of hand.

      • Gunnut2600

        You never use an encyclopedia as a lone source. Does not matter if in print or digital.

        • Aaron Litz

          If you’re writing a scientific paper? No, no you shouldn’t rely on it. For normal people who want to understand the world a little bit better? They’re going to have a hard time finding a better source of information at a moment’s notice.

          • Gunnut2600

            I’m an engineer…so it definitely taints my view but wikipedia is a terrible source for math and hard science sources. Its either insanely rudimentary or its way over depth in its coverage.

        • Christopher Foxx

          You never use an encyclopedia as a lone source

          When doing serious research, of course not. You check multiple sources, as many of them original as possible, and keep in mind any one source may be inaccurate and/or biased.

          But for casual quick finding of information, an encyclopedia is perfect. I wouldn’t look down on them.

      • Aaron Litz

        And as much of that craziness gets taken care of as soon as people can get to it. I think a lot of the opposition to Wikipedia comes down to some sense of elitism.

    • Sabyen91

      You know it has links to sources…

      • Gunnut2600

        By all means, check the sources. Its a great starting point. It is not a viable lone source.

        • Sabyen91

          Agreed.

  • feloniousgrammar

    The placebo effect is powerful. It has been acknowledged by medicine that chiropractors can often help people with certain back problems and sometimes recommend them. This started in the 80’s I think.

    I was very surprised to hear my GP and a pain specialist tell me that the V.A. can prescribe acupuncture for pain.

    Most of it, especially homeopathy is just silly.

    • condew

      So perhaps Wikipedia should cover all the holistic medicine pseudoscience — in an article on the placebo effect.