Wikipedia and the use of the Term ‘Pseudoscience’

by Glen Wallace

I’ve written a number of comments in the discussion sections and elsewhere on Wikipedia regarding the editorial use of the term ‘pseudoscience.’  I first went by the username of Phiborjam until I forgot the password for that one and so I later started going by the username Quarky Gluon. Here are some of my posts:

In the ‘Recent Conjectures’ section, the first sentence states: “The field has attracted pseudoscientific authors offering a variety of evidence, including psychic readings.” The term ‘pseudoscientific’ is an ad hominem label that is epistemologically irrelevant to any arguments or reasoning made by the authors listed in the ‘Recent Conjectures’ section. The listed authors may or may not have provided any good scientific reasons for believing in their theories, but that can be assessed by anyone that reads their works. Phiborjam (talk) 23:46, 6 February 2011 (UTC)

There is fine line between promoting an agenda and supporting a position. I think I’ve found in this article an excellent example of promoting an agenda. In this case there is clearly a group of editors bent on promoting the position that certain authors deserve the label ‘psuedoscientific.’ While promoting a position is supposed to be against the principles of Wikipedia, I’m starting to wonder if an exception is being made for those that are promoting the skeptics agenda. I thought the purpose of an encyclopedia, of which Wikipedia attempts to portray itself as such, is to present facts and information, and where necessary an explanation of those facts and information in a manner that the reader can acquire knowledge. However, drawing conclusions about the nature of particular individuals (authors) in one article based on a description of a practice(pseudoscience) presented in an entirely different article veers away from the objective presentation of information and into the presentation and promotion of a particular point of view. This is especially true with the case at hand given that no citation or evidence has been presented to support the position that any given author fits the category of ‘pseudoscientific.’ In fact there is a great deal of vagueness about who the editor is referring to as pseudoscientific. Does the term necessarily include all those authors listed in the section that the term is used? If so why is that not stated? I’m sure many different hypothesis, theories, conjectures whether accepted by academics or not have still attracted a large variety of characters that would fit into a myriad of different categories that are listed as entries on Wikipedia. Does that mean every time we find an author that an editor thinks fits category X that wrote about subject Y, an entry needs to be made stating that subject Y has attracted an author who is an X? To me this all seems like I’m fighting against childish name calling, especially when the authors in question I’m sure have never identified themselves as being, nor would they ever like being called, a pseudoscientific author. So let us leave the conclusions about authors, and any possible name-calling to the reader and keep this encyclopedia a professional, serious place for objective learning.Quarky Gluon (talk) 05:33, 28 December 2011 (UTC)

Advertisements