The hits just keep coming

Even more reasons why Wikipedia cannot be trusted: see William Vallicella’s observation (and attending comments), “Snared in the Web of a Wikipedia Liar” by KATHARINE Q. SEELYE (at nytimes.com), and (for a more moderate assessment) “Death by Wikipedia: The Kenneth Lay Chronicles” by Frank Ahrens (at washingtonpost.com).

While these are reviling, this story deals a crushing blow to any waning credibility Wikipedia may have been holding onto. [HT: Johnny Dee\ via the comments here]

RELATED PREVIOUS POSTS:
“More defects at Wikipedia”
“More on why Wikipedia cannot be trusted”

8 Responses to The hits just keep coming

  1. edward buckner says:

    Hello! I just found this after you posted at Vallicella’s blog. This all looks interesting – I’m strongly supportive of comments like yours, as they add to the fuel of controversy inside Wikipedia (where I post them), and add a dose of realism to what is a very parochial place. So keep it going!

  2. Chris says:

    Because Wikipedia is an ongoing work to which in principle anybody can contribute, it differs from a paper-based reference source in some very important ways. In particular, older articles tend to be more comprehensive and balanced, while newer articles may still contain significant misinformation, unencyclopedic content, or vandalism. Users need to be aware of this in order to obtain valid information and avoid misinformation which has been recently added and not yet removed.

    Wikipedia never claimed to be an authortative source on anything. It’s absolute fact that when you have a information share that is publically contributed to, you will have errors.

    What I’m wondering is why it’s such a huge deal?

    Sure, it’s never good to have someone providing false information, especially on matters of theology, but you’re asking Wikipedia to be something they explicitly said they are not (and will not be).

  3. Keith says:

    Chris, thanks for stopping by. Unfortunately, I think many share your sentiments concerning Wikipedia.

    (1) It is not an “absolute fact” that “when you have a[n] information share that is publically [sic] contributed to, you will have errors.” It is perfectly possible (and logically coherent) to have a publicly formed information bank that is free from error. Perhaps you meant to say it is “‘absolutely unlikely’ that…”

    (2) I suppose the implicit assumption that we’d like to make is that Wikipedia wants te be taken seriously. If they purport to be an encyclpedia that is taken seriously, then the assumption is that they also purport to offer true information. Of course, if this assumption isn’t true, then the existence of Wikipedia qua encyclopedia becomes trivial and we can all move on to discussing a non-trivial issue. It seems to me that since you interpret Wikipedia as having “explicitly said” that they are not “an authoritative source on anything” then perhaps we’re extending them a courtesy they not only don’t deserve, but don’t even want.

    (3) Consider: you set out to master the concept of supralapsarianism. You go to Wikipedia’s entry and read all about it. But then you read: “Wikipedia…may…contain significant misinformation, unencyclopedic content…” How are you to know whether you’ve gotten good information? It doesn’t help matters that you also learn of “experts” like ex-Wikipedia darling Essjay (linked article). The standard response is that you have to keep re-checking the site to see if the “definition” has been changed or not. How is this considered reliable? Of course, as you’ve said, “Wikipedia never claimed to be an authorative source on anything.”

    (4) Contra you’re accusation, I haven’t asked Wikipedia to be anything. If you review my posts on Wikipedia, you’ll learn my reason for discussing the matter: to inform people that Wikipedia is, as you astutely observe, not “an authorative source on anything.” I’m beginning to see Wikipedia cited as a scholarly source in students’ papers when I grade, which means (rightly or wrongly) many people *think* Wikipedia IS a scholarly (i.e., authorative) source. This is what I seek to correct.

  4. Chris says:

    1. By “publically contributed to”, I meant a source that can be freely edited by the general populous. I’d like to see an example of a freely editable information share that is without error.

    2. You’re right. Wikipedia does not want to be held as an authoritative source. Doing so would burden them with fact-checking, employing editors, etc. Wikipedia was intended to be a “quick reference”. They never set out to become the online reprint of Britannica.

    3. Poor example. You know as well as I do that one doesn’t turn to a site like that to learn theology. Stick with Spurgeon, Keith!🙂

    4. Sorry if seemed slanted towards you (Keith). I was going for you (general public). I’m wondering, do you allow it as a resource on papers?

  5. Keith says:

    As I said, if an organization “does not want to be held as an authorative source” of anything, or does not want to be burdened with fact-checking (that is, they don’t place priority on truth), then we may simply dismiss them as unreliable.

    I’m glad you say “one doesn’t turn to a site like [Wikipedia] to learn theology.” I couldn’t agree more (after all, I wouldn’t consult anyone on any topic if they “do not want to be held as an authoritative source” or if they don’t care to be burdened with fact-checking, especially theology). Yes, Spurgeon is an EXCELLENT (and authoritative) source for theology. The problem is that not everyone sees things like we do: many, many people (especially students) consult Wikipedia for reliable information. Yes, it is (alarmingly) becoming more common for students to cite Wikipedia as a resource on papers (I’m even seeing this on graduate papers). So, while you think my example poor, it’s (sadly) not a made-up example: I actually graded a paper where this happened. Thus you see my cause for concern!

    I absolutely do NOT allow this as a resource on papers!

  6. Chris says:

    Yeah.

    Some people’s children. Sheesh!

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