Wikipedia founder responds to woo petition
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Wikipedias co-founder Jimmy Wales this week sent a clear signal to skeptics who edit the user-created encyclopedia he agrees with our focus on science and good evidence. He did this by responding firmly in the negative to a Change.org petition created by alternative medicine and holistic healing advocates. His response, which referred to paranormalists as lunatic charlatans, was widely reported on Twitter.
Ive been recommending skeptics pay close attention to Wikipedia since the earliest days of this blog, almost six years ago. Susan Gerbic took up that gauntlet and created her wildly successful Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia project.
In the last year or so, the success of Susans project has gotten many paranormal and alternative medicine advocates riled up. Theyve repeatedly floated conspiracy theories that skeptics are somehow rigging the game on Wikipedia, or even bullying opponents off the site. Even personalities like Rupert Sheldrake and Deepak Chopra have gotten involved. None of these accusations have been supported by facts, and both Sheldrake and Chopra have been subsequently embarrassed by their own supporters rule-breaking behavior on the service.
With this response, Wales makes clear what I have been saying all along the rules of evidence on Wikipedia are pro-skeptic and pro-science. If you are pushing an idea that science rejects, Wikipedia will reject it too. Read on for Wales exact words
More at the link:
For the reasons explained in the OP, if you were trying to remove or obfuscate that information, then, yes, your edits would be reverted.
Shockingly, these empirical facts were suppressed by members of the cult of scientific materialism.
You lose objectivity. These entries make judgments and are not empirical facts. I think you need to learn what science and read up on how to make entries that are objective.
that Indigos can close either nostril at will and are impervious to meteor strikes.
actual research in various scientific journals and a fair presentation of that than self-appointed know-it-all's that use blogs, advocacy groups, and dictionaries as the source material for their 'objective' presentation of a topic.
Keeping high standards is important.
I believe this is the standard in question:
Independent peer reviewed sources. This is a good standard if you ask me.
The research being done by drug companies is not promoting a controversial science or going against main stream consensus of the scientific community. But if articles on drug companies and GMO were doing that, then all articles using non-independent research from them as sources should also be pulled. Maybe requiring them to have independent research as well would be a good idea.
Reguardless, if they feel that they are getting a pass then they should ask that those sources be removed.
Not only that the article is treating skeptics as having a side. Skepticism is not for or against any issue. What skepticism is about is not accepting claims without a rigerous standard of proof. Almost all skeptics believe in evolution and oppose creationism for example.
If Mr. Feinstein's research does not meet this standard (not independent), then surely ONE of the other supposed 51 articles should...unless they are also below the standards. Honestly, it sounds more like they are focused on this one article simply because it mentions 51 others.
Further, the article you link makes it sound like the APA believes things like TFT has been validated when in reality they have stated that it lacks any scientific basis.
Again, that is what the whole petition is about. Lowering standards. Maybe, had it instead asked for them to be raised for established science and not resorted to mentioning the former partner of wikipedia they would have gotten a more favorable response.
Honestly, there is a small amount of bad science with regards to accepted medicine that gets through. Raising standards for that research on wikipedia might not be a bad idea. But lowering standards will only allow bad science to be accepted as fact.
Last edited Sun Apr 6, 2014, 03:49 AM - Edit history (1)
1) Your article is from 2006. That is 8 years ago. The current meta overview is from 2012.
2) Mr. Feinstein is actually Dr. Feinstein - a licensed, APA approved psychologist who did not present his paper as 'independent research' but as a meta overview of the current state of research within the past several decades on the topic of energy psychology. His paper identifies and lists the specifics of more than 50 independent research studies on the use of this tool with psychological patients. 18 of these involved randomized controlled studies.
3) Since 2006 and based on these research and report studies, organizations like the APA, the NBCC, the ASWB, etc. have found that these energy psychology tools are more than simply placebos in their effectiveness as adjuncts to treatment in particular with PTSD and depressive patients. Therefore, they now accept CEU's for their members from the ACEP. Receiving acceptance of CEU's is not an easy process and nor is it done for all 'fringe theories.'
4) As a member of the APA, I and others recognize that there may be something to these techniques and are interested in further studies and use. They do not involve any dangerous protocols and participants self-report high degrees of alleviation from symptoms with little to no side-effects. If only drug interventions were that way.
You do know that we have no objective medical testing for the drug protocols we use with patients, right? Prozac started its life as a weight loss drug that was found to have a side effect of ameliorating some patients depression. M.D.'s give a particular drug to a particular patient in dosages that have been best determined from experience and wait for subjective reporting of amelioration of symptoms. If they do not come and the side effects are not bad, the dosage is upped until it is reported. Once reported, the patient remains at that level as long as the drug works. For some, it is always. For others, it is not.
5) If we are discussing standards, then Wikipedia is joke in general. The standards for editing of topics is decided by a committee of generally untrained individuals in the field or topic they are writing on who use the research or sources that often fit their own personal biases. Unfortunately, this is one of them. They are violating their own skepticism by rigidly denying that actual research is and has been done on this topic. Even the ACEP acknowledges that they simply want that research mentioned even if Wikipedia deems it necessary to include other 'takes' on the topic. And in this case, and sadly with much that is called 'woo', the take is from blogs like Quackwatch (now there is a bastion of credibility!) and The Skeptics Dictionary (An online 'encyclopedia' referencing a topic through an online 'dictionary' as one of its respectable sources on a topic!)
6) I have been practicing science for several decades. I would prefer to see the freedom remain for the wacky, the bizarre, an the fringe to still get through or at least be fully allowed to be out in the open for discussion. From those topics, new breakthroughs can appear every day. Rigidity stifles creativity. And yes, even in science, creativity and thinking outside of the box leads to advances every day. What was once thought woo or fringe is now considered bedrock and foundational. The Skeptikoi asserted nothing. In other words, for every question asked the answer found would lead to further questions then further answers ad infinitum. You seem to believe it is 'lowering standards' to include such voices for discussion. I disagree. I consider it a lowering of standards and loss of intellectual curiosity to deny such voices their place at the table for discussion especially when there is solid science and research beginning to back up such claims.
1) Has the APA issued a statement changing their position? I did a (admittedly quick) scan of the search on APA website prior to my previous post and did not find anything. Yes its old, but so is the theory of evolution. So did the APA redact their statement?
2) Do the papers he reviewed meet the required criteria? If so, the standards are not the problem and do not need to be lowered, rather the editor needs to be made accountable.
3) Again, has the APA redacted their previous statements? Why is it hard for CEU's to get accepted? There are climate change scientist (~1%) who get published and belong to climate societies. This does not mean acceptance does it?
4) The danger in alternative medicine is that someone may hear about it and forgo proven and accepted medicine in favor of the unproven treatment. Using both under the watchful eye of a physician is a different story. The former, as opposed to the latter would be my concern and why high standards would be advisable. This is especially true for a site like wikipedia.
Im aware of the practice of offlabel usuage. However, those medicines also go through testing before being used in such a manner. Offlabel usuage also has its own controversies, abuses, regulations and may not be used for new indications without FDA approval.
And since this is about wikipedia:
5) All the more reason for not lowering the standards they do have correct? If the research does meet the required standards, again that means the editor is at fault and not the standards in question. Why change the rules is they are not the problem and risk allowing less reliable research though as a consequence? That said, according to the page on energy medicine the active editor is also a physician.
Of course, it is entirely possible that is entirely made up. But that is the risk with anything over the internet.
6) I have no issue if it meets the standards. But I do object to just any hypothesis being given equal footing with proven and accepted science. I don't think Flat earthers should be given equal time with those saying the world is a global, or creationist time with evolutionists.
Psuedoscience will often try and portray itself as real science and the only way to combat that is rigerous standards. In fact, occasionally climate change denialist get papers published and creationist have been trying to sneak creationism into peer reivewed journals. The only way to combat this, and determine if something is pseudoscience, fringe science, or legitimate is through rigerous standards.
The main issue (arguably the only issue) of this article at its core is this:
Is the standards of having research validated by an independent and well respected peer-reviewed journal too stringent?
I believe that is a good standard. If research that meets this standard is not getting through, it is not the standard that is wrong. Rather that means the editor is being biased. The standard could be lowered and it would STILL not get the research through.
The petition, if taken at face value, is pushing for the wrong solution to the wrong problem. Taken at the opposite value it endangers increasing the odds that unproven or illegitimate science will be weighed equally with proven and accepted science.
This risks convincing people so gullible that they would take the advice of a wikipedia article over that of their physician of possibly discontinuing traditional medicine for what could possibly be crank science. Yes, somethings that were originally thought woo were proven true. But they were proven true with the scientific method and meeting the required standards.
Skeptics never assert anything other than standards of proof. Having high standards has never stopped creativity. People are free to run and try these experiments to their hearts desire. What this does do, however, is prevent a spacious argument as being presented as being as reliable as a proven one.
Several of your points overlap so I will address them together. Also, I want to first state for the record my involvement in this and where I personally and professionally stand on the topic of Energy Psychology techniques.
I have personally utilized acupuncture during chemotherapy and found it an excellent adjunct to my other medical care. I have studied Chinese Medicine only as a layman. I do not practice any form of Chinese Medicine nor do I practice EFT, TFT, TAT, or any other type of Energy Psychology technique.
The way the APA works is that in actuality no formal statement was issued in the negative with regards to Energy Psychology in the past - not a blanket statement only one in 1999 by the then Director of Sponsor Approval Programs and only with regards to TFT. The NPR article is both accurate and inaccurate as you can see.
There is a specific process by which techniques are included in the APA's guidelines for clinical practice. They are rigorous, thorough, and scientific. When Energy Psychology psychologists approached the APA for inclusion and receipt of CEU's in 1999, they were denied as the research evidence was not there...yet. In 2006, when that article was published, it was still true. In 2009, Dr. Feinstein's first meta study showed that EP was beginning to be recognized as a viable treatment technique in clinical psychology. His study referenced other peer-review journals that published viable and provable use of these techniques. Mention was made that it was most effective with depression and PTSD but not necessarily other psychological issues. During 2009 and 2010, the ACEP underwent an appeals process with the Continuing Education Committee of the APA.
This committee follows the Standards and Criteria for Approval of Sponsors of Continuing Education for Psychologists which also follows the standards set down by the APAs Council of Representatives which meets regularly to update the standards of practice. I am aware of what occurred then with regards to the appeals exchange between Dr. Gruder and Dr. Goodheart as I served on the Continuing Education Committee at that time. We still decided at that time that while evolution was occurring and we were seeing a growing set of provable results from these techniques, it was still not enough to approve CEU's nor a blanket statement of approval such as CBT now has which is done by still another committee - the Division 12.
Fast forward to 2012, and Dr. Feinstein republished an update to his meta study. Why? In part because as a trained psychologist, he took seriously the comments and questions proposed Pignotti & Thyer which suggested premature conclusions based on inconclusive evidence. I believe that paper is still available on PubMed. In other words Dr. Feinstein is not a lunatic fringer promoting strange therapy theories.
Now I have been off the committee now for several years and have been more involved with another issue facing the APA (the use of enhanced interrogation techniques with APA psychologist's support) and have not followed the EP issues that closely. Apparently as of 2014, the APA has now accepted the ACEP as an approved provider of CEU's. This is shown on the ACEP website. They can not claim that unless it is valid. So a step further has occurred, however, from what I can research myself, the APA Division 12 has not yet taken the further step stating an official acceptance of EP techniques as a clinical technique. That final step can take several decades. These are the same steps the CBT, for instance, went through in order to be accepted.
So, yes, the scientific evidence for the efficacy of this form of psychological therapy is enough that the APA now approves CEU credits for their licensed psychologists to train with the ACEP. How long it will take for full acceptance will be as long as it takes for the evidence to reach a tipping point. This is how real science is used day to day in practice fields like medicine and psychology. Lumping EP with Energy Medicine in general and having it edited by simply an MD, with no training in psychology, is not unbiased reporting of facts.
So yes, in this particular case, the bias of Wikipedia is apparent, and they are in the wrong. Yes, there are fringe theories. Yes, there is pseudoscience. Yes, there is sometimes a real need to protect people from dangerous and false alternatives in seeking health and well-being. That why we have the FDA and organizations like the AMA and APA. All of them are still made up of human beings who are still fallible and make mistakes. But Wikipedia is not the ones who should be doing this 'protecting'. They should simply be presenting facts without bias. That is what an encyclopedia is after all.
There is a big difference between flat-earthers and psychologists using new techniques and tools that have and still are taking a few decades to prove their full efficacy. So I think we can agree that in this case, what ACEP's petition is about is not a lowering of standards but rather simply following the standards without hypocrisy and bias. Quackwatch and the Skeptics Dictionary are not the APA with its very real and scientific process in place to determine what is spurious bunk and what is simply new & innovative. Dr. Feinstein's paper shows that all of the 18 or so randomized studies actually met the Division 12 requirements for inclusion as a valid clinical technique and treatment. That deserves to be noted on Wikipedia. The fact that the APA after several decades is now approving the ACEP's programs as CEU's for their psychologists also deserves to be on Wikipedia. Wales calling them 'lunatic charlatans' is not following his own standards and is frankly quite childish.
Personally, I accept that adults are free to make their own choices. Yes, they are even free to make bad ones. Again, it is not Wikipedia's place to try and protect adults from themselves. I disagree with your belief that Wikipedia should be one to set high standards concerning the topics they cover. They simply are not governed in such a way for this to not devolve into personal politics, biases, and group think. Unless I am looking up something simply factual like the discography for a rock group I like, I do not use Wikipedia for this reason. It can not be trusted to present its topics in the same way that even the standards were for World Book or Encyclopedia Britannica.
I believe I addressed all of your points with my reply, however, if I didn't please let me know. I appreciate your reasonable reply. I sadly expect far more antagonistic replies on such a topic as this particularly in this sub-group.
This has been a fun and informative discussion.
My ultimate goal as a skeptic is simply to uncover the truth and to prevent people from being harmed by pseudoscience. If what you are saying is true it sounds like there may be some legitimate scientific backing to the use of EP, and the people preventing it from coming to light at wikipedia should be held accountable (including Mr. Wales) for keeping it coming to light.
Again, I have nothing against someone trying a new therapy under the care of a trained physician such as what you described yourself doing. I do have an issue with someone forgoing traditional medicine to try some unproven and unsound therapy as what happened with Steve Jobs.
To paraphrase a meme, I have no issue changing my mind as new evidence and information comes in. But similarly I am not willing take said evidence on faith alone and will want it to be verified.
I still feel that strong standards are important. There is such a dazzling array of information available that it is easy for even a very smart individual to be lead astray.
In conclusion, let me thank you for the compliment and return the same compliment to you. I try to (almost) always be polite and civil in my responses. I do this because I prefer nice friendly discussions, acknowledge there is a great deal I don't know, and want to combat the stereotype that I perceive of us nonbelievers and skeptics being overly hostile.
Thanks again for the discussion
When a blanket approach is taken as Wikipedia and Wales are doing and have done, it can stifle the free flow of information. I feel strongly about that given my background and experiences both personally and professionally.
Steve Jobs was scared. I know that because I was. He saw it as and either/or proposition. He could use one or the other. When one failed, he expected the other to not fail. In the end, his body simply failed him. Would it have done so if he had not done strictly alternative therapies first? I just can't answer that question honestly.
I chose a both/and solution. Not all of my doctors agreed or still do with each other. The NMD I chose did not want me to do a second round of the chemo. I did on the advice of my endo. One of my surgeon did not want me to do acupuncture. I did on the advice of my NMD. I am adult. It was and is ultimately my choice. And doing both I learned a lot about both types of medicines. The limitations of Star Wars medicine (which we are certain is the best there has ever been on this planet) and that 'woo' in some cases does work quite well.
I was ignostic from birth. I never had parents force their religious beliefs on me though it is hard imagining college professors forcing their Anglican beliefs on anyone. But I was also young once. I still had to go through a necessary phase of anger at what the extremes of religion (hell any belief!) could produce. I saw how the religious right ascended in the 1980's while a young college student and the damage it is wrought on this country and its people.
And I simply grew up. I don't mean that to sound in the least bit condescending. I simply had more experiences with other types of religious and non-religious people. I worked through my own issues. I owned my anger and didn't spew it at others who didn't always believe or see the world the same way I did. Instead of everything being either/or, I work at seeing the world and others through a both/and perspective.
I definitely enjoy a good debate and even a heated one on occasion though I normally prefer my conversations and discussions to be as we just had this one. My bluntness and passion about certain topics can still cause me to loose my cool on occasion as you once experienced with me. And I own it and move on.
It was a pleasure conversing with you, and I look forward to more in the future.
Don't know anything about the petition, but today's airs on the part of "intellectual" property owners are pretty extreme. Might as well call them a little occult too. Stop and think about it. Since they designed the crop, it's a "better" crop. You might as well have your corn field blessed by some of those old Aztec rituals. New Agers can ignore science, and establishment dudes often write like they never read Memories, Dreams, Reflections. But actually, look at the way corporate "science" sees the world. They make one little adjustment to discourage insects at a given interval in time (roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize for example), and that's not supposed to affect the plant's ability to evolve correctly, or have any adverse impact on the old variety's local ecosystem. Of course not, cause someone was presumptuous enough to think that because it was HIS idea...the changes'll probably improve the dagone organism's evolution. I'm magnifying the significance of one establishment science product you say...unjustly comparing its endorsers to charges against Sheldrake as qwack? The crop isn't that weird you say? Hey, thanks to Wikipedia's "talk" tab (upper left of pages), there's a study cited re genetically modified maize.
Sheldrake has things in print along speculative lines. But can you show me anything wrong with his objective experimental methodologies that precludes his hypothetical explanations?
By credible scientists, that is, not just by those who already accept telepathy as a fact?
Are his results repeatable? If so, Id like to see the results. All the repeatable experimentation done by others seems to refute his conclusions.