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One thing we should all remember about en.Wikipedia’s bad science: it’s the gift that keeps on giving. It takes over Google search results, it is plagiarized by everyone (although often en.Wikipedia articles are themselves plagiarized), and it is copied into cyberspace by wiki mirrors.

Hentze_mit_Stielscheibe_und_RingaustreibungI love a challenge. Wikipedia editor Cwmhiraeth seems to think my blog is about her; it’s not. It’s about the bad science on en.Wikipedia and the dysfunctional and sycophantic environment that encourages the rapid creation of bad science on en.Wikipedia where expertise is not welcome.

If experts were welcome; if the encyclopedia weren’t run by power-hungry boys with digital age toys; if competency were required; if accuracy were required. Well, en.Wikipedia would be a useful encyclopedia instead of an icky social network. Instead it just vomits bad science into cyberspace.

User:Cwmhiraeth is just a symptom of a dysfunctional environment. If other editors had been competent to see her bad science from square one, I think she would have made the effort to learn some basic biology to be able to write accurate articles. She appears willing to work with other editors. However, there is no such requirement for competency and functional literacy in the sciences on en.Wikipedia, and she did not ask for one to be created.

Here’s the throw down:

“The nasty blog in question is largely targeted at me and my contributions. It makes out that my work is incorrect on occasions and that in my desire to score points, I have compromised on quality. I don’t believe this to be the case and would invite others to look at my submissions in the final round of the 2013 WikiCup to judge for themselves. No doubt there are some errors in the large numbers of articles I have written but I believe the blogger creates mountains out of molehills. Cwmhiraeth (talk) 06:30, 13 November 2013 (UTC)”

Cwmhireath, nothing could be nastier than vomiting bad science all over cyberspace. En.Wikipedia and you think bad science is okay; you think guessing is okay; you think copying words without understanding is okay; you think inaccuracy is okay. I disagree. I wish it were about you and your contributions, but it’s about a lot of bad science and the environment that allows it.

“Incorrect on occasions” is a gross understatement. You just guessed that all bats use echolocation; they don’t. It’s wrong, badly wrong.

Making up facts is not “mountains out of molehills,” it is bad science. Stop it. You and all the other en.Wikipedia editors racing for points, need to just stop, learn some basic biology and geology, then learn to read the sources you use rather than just plagiarizing jargon.

Let’s look at some of the contributions while considering a couple of my biggest complaints, inaccuracy (bad science) and readability (crap).

And first, what does en.Wikipedia have to say about accuracy/verifiability, an en.Wikipedia “policy that should normally be followed” (emphasis added below by me)?

Wikipedia:Verifiability

“This page in a nutshell: Readers must be able to check that Wikipedia articles are not just made up. This means that all quotations and any material challenged or likely to be challenged must be attributed to a reliable, published source using an inline citation.”

No policy on readability, though an essay:

Wikipedia readability essay

“Wikipedia articles are for people to read. A good article on Wikipedia should be readable, or being easy and interesting to read. There are many things on Wikipedia that can annoy the readers of articles and even frustrate them, rendering some articles inconvenient to read, some to the extent of virtually unreadable. Such inconvenient impediments to an article’s readability include excessive numbers of warning boxes, long lists within an article that make readers not wanting to continue rolling down the page, excessively long external link sections, styles that decrease reader’s interest to read, among others.”

I would settle for readable.

Cwmhiraeth’s final round articles, containing information she just made up, (the Featured Articles and first five Good Articles are linked to the edit at awarding their status):

Round 5

FA: 100 points

  1. Atlantic Puffin
  2. Sea

GA: 30 points

  1. Willow Ptarmigan
  2. American bullfrog
  3. Great Plague of London
  4. Fieldfare
  5. Spotted Sandgrouse
  6. Blackcurrant
  7. Onion
  8. Tunicate
  9. Desert
  10. Eurasian Wryneck
  11. Anatomy
  12. Salt
  13. John Stainer

DYK: 5 or 10 points – later, 79 of them, the last being Natterer’s bat, which still has all bats echolocating — nice rewrite of evolution

  1. Natterer’s bat

GAR: 4 points

  1. Talk:Miniature Schnauzer/GA1
  2. Talk:Samuel Merrill Woodbridge/GA1

Let’s run through some of them over the next few weeks, just going through the list.

Atlantic Puffin

The lead section is all over the place in amount of detail and type of detail it gives.

“Paragraph 1:seabird in auk family, two related species in Pacific, where it breeds, large population and wide range, not endangdered, walks like auk on land, swims and dives;

Paragraph 2: describe appearance of mostly the head, then underparts of chest, bold marks contrast with plumage, moults at sea, sexual dimporphism, juvenile differences, north versus southern popularions are considered different subspecies, seas in plural with breeding on coast, nests in colonies, chick, chick, chick spends years at sea;

Paragraph 3: colonies on islands (after returning to coastal areas?) but risky due to gulls and skuas, harrassed by skuas to drop fish, its nicknames, official bird of Canadian province.

It’s not readable; it’s just random sentences, strung together. Why not place the bird taxonomically, place it geographically, describe its physical appearance, indicate that leads to its nicknames, describe its behavior a bit, then close with some interesting bit? Make it readable prose by organizing it?

Sorry, badly written science is also a turn-off.

Atlantic Puffin taxonomy anyone?

“The Atlantic Puffin is a species of seabird in the order Charadriiformes. It is placed in the family Alcidae of auks, which includes the guillemots, typical auks, murreletsaukletspuffins and the Razorbill.[3] The Rhinoceros Auklet (Cerorhinca monocerata) and the puffins are closely related, together composing the subfamily Fraterculini.[4] The Atlantic Puffin is the only species in the genus Fratercula to occur in the Atlantic Ocean. Two other species are known from the northeast Pacific, the Tufted Puffin (Fratercula cirrhata) and the Horned Puffin (Fratercula corniculata), the latter being the closest relative of the Atlantic Puffin.[5]

Some wikilinking? Let’s check out the order.

Charadriiformes

The Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy, which has been widely accepted in America[citation needed], lumps all the Charadriiformes together with other seabirds and birds of prey into a greatly enlarged order Ciconiiformes. However, the resolution of the DNA-DNA hybridization technique used by Sibley & Ahlquist was not sufficient to properly resolve the relationships in this group, and indeed it appears as if the Charadriiformes consititute (sic) a single large and very distinctive lineage of modern birds of their own.[1]

The auks, usually considered distinct because of their peculiar morphology, are more likely related to gulls, the “distinctness” being a result of adaptation for diving. Following recent research,[2] a better arrangement may be as follows:

If we click on the wikilink, we just become confused. Source [1] and [2] are from 2003-2004, but instead of looking at more recent research that cites these sources, the en.Wikipedia article chose to babble. Inexactness is also bad science, as is using old sources when newer, clearer ones are available, as is using primary sources when secondary and even tertiary sources are in abundance.

Let’s try the family that is wikilinked and look at its members.

“It is placed in the family Alcidae of auks, which includes the guillemots, typical auks, murreletsaukletspuffins and the Razorbill.”

Alcidae

“An auk is a bird of the family Alcidae in the order Charadriiformes. Extant auks range in size from the Least Auklet, at 85 g (3 oz) and 15 cm (6 in), to the Thick-billed Murre, at 1 kg (2.2 lb) and 45 cm (18 in). They are good swimmers and divers, but their walking appears clumsy. Modern auks can fly (except for the recently extinct Great Auk). Due to their short wings, auks have to flap their wings very quickly in order to fly.”

        • Basal or incertae sedis,
        • subfamily Alcinae with tribes
          • Alcini,
          • Synthliboramphini,
          • Cepphini,
          • Brachyramphini;
        • subfamily Fraterculinae with tribes
          • Aethiini,
          • Fraterculini,

And let’s click on what is wikilinked in the list, “guillemots, typical auks, murreletsaukletspuffins and the Razorbill:”

Guillemots is the common name for several species of seabird in the auk family (part of the order Charadriiformes).”

Typical auk — no article

They are, apparently, Alcini, the same tribe as the Guillemots.

Murrelets is wikinlinked to Synthliboramphus, which has this to say,

Synthliboramphus is a small genus of seabirds in the auk family from the North Pacific. It consists of five species.”

Auklet — redirects to Auk.

Puffin — “Puffins are any of three small species of alcids (auks) in the bird genus Fratercula with a brightly coloured beak during the breeding season.”

Razorbill — “The Razorbill (Alca torda) is a colonial seabird that only comes to land in order to breed.” Family Aclidae.

So, according to en.Wikipedia the family that the Atlantic Puffin belongs to is divided into 2 subfamilies, one with four tribes, the other with two and a species that is of unknown or basal placement, and the editor of this very best that en.Wikipedia has to offer randomly lists some members of the family.

The question of subspecies brings up a 1969 quote from Ernst Mayr, while various articles use primary research from 2003 and 2004. Come on, no one used anything molecular after 1969 to clear up Mayr’s issues with the species? Like in 2003 and 2004?  What do they say today, in the day of molecular phylogenetics, about the species? How about the book that says one of the three species is more closely related to the Rhinoceros Anklet than to the other two species? Can you bring that fact to play? Maybe that book on Puffins is not good?

On the other hand, the Mayr article does not appear to mention Puffins, size variation, subspecies or clines anywhere in it, so maybe the editor just made this up.

This article is just a messed up jumble of facts and, probably, factoids, vomited all over article space on en.Wikipedia, then placed on the main page to get all those Google hits and replace sounds, usable, readable, and accurate science.

How is this anything but bad science? This article is pure crap. It should not be on en.Wikipedia, much less featured.

And, with all that effort not spent on the science, we get this bit of trivia in the article:

“The publisher of paperbacksPenguin Books, introduced a range of books for children under the Puffin Books brand in 1939. At first these were non-fiction titles but these were soon followed by a fiction list of well-known authors. The demand was so great that Puffin Book Clubs were introduced in schools to encourage reading, and a children’s magazine Puffin Post was established.[81]

Is the symbol for the brand an Atlantic Puffin? If it is, then say it is and cite it. The linked article is clueless; and this is just another generalized paragraph of crap.

The article is disorganized, made up, unreadable crap. The taxonomy section has no meaning; it is wikilinked randomly to articles that also have no meaning; the birds are divided into subfamilies and tribes, but these are not wikilinked, and not used in the taxonomic boxes of the source articles, and random examples of some, but not all, clades are given. There is no article on the subfamily, not even a redirect, and this is the best of en.Wikipedia, this is what an on-line encyclopedia can do? The Mayr quote is too old and does not contain the cited material when the pdf is searched. It is made up!

Another en.wiki wtf moment.

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