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School of Chartres stone sculpture of Pythagoras from the School of Chartres en.Wikipedia article

School of Chartres stone sculpture of Pythagoras doing research.
Public domain copyright notice for image, so go for it!

According to en.Wikipedia, Bernard of Chartres is the originator of Newton’s famous words, when Bernard said:

“We are like dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, so that we can see more than they, and things at a greater distance, not by virtue of any sharpness of sight on our part, or any physical distinction, but because we are carried high and raised up by their giant size.” (See also this source.)


Science is not a solo venture. When I was editing en.Wikipedia articles and came across a hostile Good Article reviewing editor who did not want any input from other editors while evaluating a science article, Parsnip, this raised concerns.

Scientists don’t really work with facts, they work with explanations of observations. Your observation may be the result of an experiment, or the application of a mathematical formula, or the study of an organism in its environment or your laboratory. Sometimes the explanations work, sometimes they don’t. Other times the observations themselves become more acute, such as when technological advances increase resolution in microscopes, and scientists must change their explanations or provide more detailed explanations due to the change in scale of observing.

Science is not a solo venture. This is what Newton acknowledged, and this is what Bernard meant. You can’t be a good scientist and think otherwise.

On en.Wikipedia, other than the rampant sycophancy, science does appear to be a solo venture. This is why I was chased away from commenting on the Parsnip article. My comments were rather mild, but my goal was to improve cultivation sections to focus on agricultural practices and horticulture where appropriate, without being the how-to-plant guide from the back of a seed packet. This would have provided information to the general reader to explain about growing crop and garden plants, something useful for a general encyclopedia.

Chasing experts away is pretty standard for en.Wikipedia. In fact, they chase non-experts away, also. It’s a clearly hostile editing environment.

This does not mean that all, or even most editors, on en.Wikipedia are incompetent or hostile. It also does not mean that the original goal of the encyclopedia is impossible. However, it is not possible under the current structure of despising expertise, chasing away experts, focusing on the social boys’ network, and throwing crap science up on the Internet.

My blog has been read by a number of en.Wikipedia editors who want to correct what I am writing about. This is, as one editor on http://www.wikipediocracy.com points out, emptying the ocean with a teaspoon.  The underlying problems that created the mess must be dealt with. There are thousands of bad science articles on en.Wikipedia.

The results of various posts and my blog criticizing the bad and mediocre on en.Wikipedia are typical of some of what happens when editors raise genuine concerns about bad articles on en.Wikipedia. What should be done, is the articles should be removed from en.Wikipedia to prevent their showing up in Google searches. If it is wrong, don’t host it on en.Wikipedia. It could not be simpler. Editors get blocked instantly for posting hoaxes and for vandalism. What could be worse vandalism than having 7000 readers see that tunicates may have notochords?

Pedra da Gávea — the editor agreed the article’s geology section was bad, corrected it as best as possible, apologized to me and the community, downgraded his Good Article count, and requested that the article have its Good Article stamp of approval removed. This latter was done. The promoter corrected the spelling of a word, fought tooth and nail to have the article’s bad science kept on en.Wikipedia, and threw a temper tantrum. The community helped rewrite the article. A female editor pointed out problems with geology articles on en.Wikipedia as they were being written up on my blog. She posted on the WikiProject Geology talk page to alert potentially competent editors and request that they monitor geology Good Article nominations for future problems.

Mourdi Depression — nothing. But this is a tricky one, largely because the editors wrote at such a potentially high level about a topic about which they have not the least knowledge. They argue my evaluation of the article is bogus simply because this is a big feature visible from outer space. Cough.

Rutan Hill — the author agreed the article lacked clarity and rewrote it in better English to create a useful article.

Tunicate — nothing. There is a section on en.Wikipedia where editors can post about errors on the main page. It is generally ignored by administrators, the only editors on en.Wikipedia who can correct the templates that include the sentences that appear on the main page. Generally, an editor posts a concern, and 24 hours or more later, an administrator removes the post because the article is no longer on the main page. en.Wikipedia still has a tunicate template, somewhere in cyberspace, letting kids all over know that tunicates may have a notochord, or maybe they don’t have one.

The editor who created this template fussed about me on his talk page, that I should just make the corrections myself. However, when I did make corrections to one of his articles, Desert, he scolded me for making the article less than pretty in one place, and reverted my correction in the other. The editor had said that no cacti have leaves, when this is false, and he had never seen the information anywhere; or, if he had, it was not a reliable source. I was scolded for removing this bad science from en.Wikipedia because it made the article less pretty. That’s correct; science takes second place to line spacing on en.Wikipedia. The other information I removed, the editor returned to the article, saying it was sourced. The information was that C4 photosynthetic plants open their stomata at night. They don’t. The editor read that CAM photosynthetic plants open their stomata at night, then simply decided that this meant that C4 photosynthetic plants, which also grow in deserts, had the same evolutionary adaptation. He claimed the source said this. It didn’t. So, on the one hand, I should make corrections to his bad science, but on the other hand, when I do, I get scolded and reverted.

Jiddat al-Harasis — the editors who created it and a couple of other editors fixed the article, and did a good job at it. This is a large desert in Oman, with very little information available in English; having an article on en.Wikipedia is kinda the original goal of the encyclopedia.

The original was incomprehensible. But the team-effort final product, is useful.

These are all typical responses on en.Wikipedia to criticisms of articles. Some editors thank you and make corrections; the bad geology editor did everything he could to correct his error and apologized to the community in addition. Women editors appear to be the ones to try to make community gestures that will prevent future such problems. Women editors, however, appear to be hounded out of the community at a much higher level than the boys social networkers. They make up about 9% of en.Wikipedia, and that number does not appear to be getting bigger.

Bad editors fight to keep bad content on en.Wikipedia, no matter the consequences. A post complaining about the bad behavior of one such editor was dismissed by an administrator; administrators do not care any more about bad content being spread into cyberspace than regular editors. Science this bad should be immediately deleted from en.Wikipedia, not protected by bad editors and uncaring administrators. Another article was competently fixed in spite of not having so much wrong with it; and I was thanked for pointing out the problems. I was scolded by another editor for not fixing the problems myself, by the same editor who had scolded and reverted me for fixing prior problems.

Science is not a solo venture. en.Wikipedia must learn to be a community to allow experts and others to correct and offer suggestions about science articles. That is not happening.

What is happening instead is en.Wikipedia is spreading articles with misspelled titles into cyberspace for 8 years. Editors are carelessly not reading sources and deciding that, “Well, it has the same big words in it, it must be saying the same thing.” And administrators, alongside editors, don’t care what en.Wikipedia is putting out.

Pentaphragmaceae –> Pentaphragmataceae