[Taxacom] The strain between Wikipedia and Science

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Sat Mar 5 01:14:37 CST 2011

the main problem on that page appears to be a copy/paste error, which I have now 


From: Peter DeVries <pete.devries at gmail.com>
To: Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>
Cc: Doug Yanega <dyanega at ucr.edu>; TAXACOM at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Sent: Sat, 5 March, 2011 4:12:43 PM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] The strain between Wikipedia and Science

Hi Steve, 

I did not see your post until now.

For example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visiana_brujata

- Pete

On Fri, Mar 4, 2011 at 4:09 PM, Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz> 

> What is the Wikipedia policy on taxonomic hierarchies? They seem to be
>somewhat inconsistent.
>Also I keep running into pages where the binomial is not a binomial but a
>trinomial or something else.
>I have also notices at least 300 pages where the binomial does not match the
>page title or text.
>Is there some standard way that pages should be marked up so it is clear
>that the article is about a species or a genus or a family etc?
>Perhaps you can offer some real examples, so we can take a look and probably fix 
>them up ...
From: Peter DeVries <pete.devries at gmail.com>
>To: Doug Yanega <dyanega at ucr.edu>
>Cc: TAXACOM at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
>Sent: Sat, 5 March, 2011 8:23:29 AM
>Subject: Re: [Taxacom] The strain between Wikipedia and Science
>Hi Doug,
>Thank you for your Wikipedia efforts.
>I had some questions that I thought you might be able to offer some insight
>for us.
>What is the Wikipedia policy on taxonomic hierarchies? They seem to be
>somewhat inconsistent.
>Also I keep running into pages where the binomial is not a binomial but a
>trinomial or something else.
>I have also notices at least 300 pages where the binomial does not match the
>page title or text.
>Is there some standard way that pages should be marked up so it is clear
>that the article is about a species or a genus or a family etc?
>- Pete
>On Fri, Feb 11, 2011 at 12:32 PM, Doug Yanega <dyanega at ucr.edu> wrote:
>> Given that, after something on the order of 6000 edits, I have
>> possibly done more editing of Wikipedia than any other contributor to
>> this list (the top-ranked biologist on WP has done over 118000 edits,
>> the second-ranked 68000, but I don't think they're on this list), I
>> can address some of the issues here, though my experience is with the
>> English WP, and perhaps there is a less civilized culture on the
>> German WP, from Francisco's description.
>> Francisco wrote:
>> >It is impossible to correct errors in Wikipedia, if these errors are
>> >repeatedly published in scientific publications, mainly in the
>> >secondary literature. It is extremely difficult to get an error
>> >corrected in Wikipedia even if this error was published only once in
>> >one single scientific publication - and the amateurs do not know that
>> >this publication is not significant, at least in what concerns this
>> >special statement.
>> One of the core WP policies - "Neutral Point of View" (NPOV) - is
>> being misapplied in such cases. Yes, an erroneous statement, once
>> published, cannot simply be removed by someone who knows that it is
>> incorrect; that is one of the side-effects of true neutrality.
>> HOWEVER, if something erroneous has been published and someone ELSE
>> has published a statement declaring the work to be erroneous, then
>> NPOV means that this criticism can be included, and cited. The actual
>> policy: "All articles must adhere to the Neutral point of view policy
>> (NPOV), fairly representing all majority and significant-minority
>> viewpoints published by reliable sources, in rough proportion to the
>> prominence of each view. Except in articles devoted to them,
>> tiny-minority views need not be included. Where there is disagreement
>> between sources, use in-text attribution: "John Smith argues that X,
>> while Paul Jones maintains that Y," followed by an inline citation.
>> Sources themselves are not required to maintain a neutral point of
>> view; indeed most reliable sources are not neutral. Our job as
>> editors is simply to present what the reliable sources say. "
>> Any editor who removes a citation to a critical reference (e.g.,
>> "Paul Jones maintains that Y") in order to preserve a discredited one
>> (e.g., "John Smith argues that X") is guilty of an NPOV violation. If
>> you revert their removal of the critical citation, and explain that
>> their removal was inappropriate, and they remove it *again*, that can
>> be drawn to the attention of administrators, who generally take a
>> VERY dim view of "revert wars".
>> >Some proportion of scientific knowledge has not been published at
>> >all, for example very simple and basic facts - it is occasionally
>> >impossible to mention such knowledge in Wikipedia.
>> If one reads the rules carefully, the policy is that common,
>> easily-verified facts do NOT need to have citations given. Here is
>> the quote: "To show that it is not original research, all material in
>> Wikipedia articles must be attributable to a reliable published
>> source. But in practice not everything need actually be attributed.
>> This policy requires that all quotations and any material challenged
>> or likely to be challenged be attributed to a reliable, published
>> source in the form of an inline citation, and that the source
>> directly support the material in question." and it gives the example:
>> "Paris is the capital of France" needs no source because no one is
>> likely to object to it, but we know that sources for that sentence
>> exist."
>> Of course, there are jerks who challenge everything, even statements
>> like "Paris is the capital of France" just to make themselves feel
>> more important. If they are persistent, however, admins can rein them
>> in, and even block their access or protect the articles they are
>> screwing with.
>> >Inconsistent application of different rules applied for WP
>> >contributors is also a problem - well-known members of the inner
>> >circles of the Wikipedia community feel allowed to publish anything
>> >they like, but a scientific expert who likes to contribute is forced
>> >to provide published references for every single statement. In cases
>> >of divergent opinions concerning a special question, the amateur who
>> >knows the rules and how to win such a case, will always win,
>> >regardless of the expert providing published references to support a
>> >view or statement.
>> >
>> >They also feel free to delete every contribution they like. This has
>> >been addressed in the survey. The rule is that you can delete
>> >anything you like, just by saying "not encyclopedia relevant",
>> >without any consequences.
>> This is generally NOT true, because administrators are generally NOT
>> tolerant of bad behavior. If you can solicit administrative
>> intervention, even the most devious editors can be sanctioned. That
>> being said, it can be difficult to persuade admins that someone is
>> acting in "bad faith", and one must often know and be able to cite
>> the core WP policies that are being violated in a particular case. In
>> other words, admins do not generally care about the academic nature
>> of a dispute, but - like a lawyer - if you tell them that NPOV, 3RR,
>> and WP:OWN violations are taking place, then this will get their
>> attention. You can even call for arbitration, and bad editors always
>> lose when this happens.
>> >I have been forced outside the biological section of the German WP
>> >community and today I contribute mainly to the English WP where such
>> >behaviour is less strongly developed, and I experienced more
>> >tolerance. I also learned that other German bioscientists were
>> >equally chased away, and they also started contributing to the
>> >English section. I would have wondered if this would have been my
>> >single personal problem.
>> This, again, makes it sound like the German WP is not populated by
>> administrators who are genuinely interested in promoting and
>> protecting WP's core policies. In every contentious case I have been
>> involved in with the English WP, one way or another administrative
>> intervention resolved the problem, and either sent the fools on their
>> way, or forced them to actually play by the rules, instead of hiding
>> behind them. Of course, for someone who is unable or unwilling to
>> spend the time necessary to deal with administrators, this may not
>> seem like such a great system ("Sure, I can eventually win this
>> battle, but if it takes 2 months, is it worth my time?"). For me, the
>> number of times I've had to go to such extremes has been very minimal
>> - maybe a half dozen genuine problems in almost 10 years of editing -
>> so maybe I've been fortunate in that regard, and you've been
>> unfortunate.
>> Sincerely,
>> --
>> Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology        Entomology Research Museum
>> Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314        skype: dyanega
>> phone: (951) 827-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
>>              http://cache.ucr.edu/~heraty/yanega.html
>>  "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
>>        is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82
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>Pete DeVries
>Department of Entomology
>University of Wisconsin - Madison
>445 Russell Laboratories
>1630 Linden Drive
>Madison, WI 53706
>TaxonConcept Knowledge Base <http://www.taxonconcept.org/> / GeoSpecies
>Knowledge Base <http://lod.geospecies.org/>
>About the GeoSpecies Knowledge Base <http://about.geospecies.org/>
>Taxacom Mailing List
>Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
>The Taxacom archive going back to 1992 may be searched with either of these 
>(1) http://taxacom.markmail.org
>Or (2) a Google search specified as:  site:mailman.nhm.ku.edu/pipermail/taxacom  
>your search terms here

Pete DeVries
Department of Entomology
University of Wisconsin - Madison
445 Russell Laboratories
1630 Linden Drive
Madison, WI 53706
TaxonConcept Knowledge Base / GeoSpecies Knowledge Base
About the GeoSpecies Knowledge Base


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