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On 19/09/2010 19:47, Peter Damian wrote:
To the other
Wikipedians here: is there a problem with academics 'talking down'? Do they
have a problem explaining their ideas in articles? Are they 'too rarified'
to be included in Wikipedia? If so, can Wikipedia do without them? If not,
how could they be encouraged to contribute better?
I think the wikipedia project is about an universal access to knowledge,
not an elitist one. Experts are respected because they have studied
deeply, but they *must* be able to transmit this knowledge to have a
place in wikipedia, in my opinion. This transmission is about plain and
clear explanations of the arguments, of the proofs and of the clusters
of hints leading to an interpretation or a conclusion. It's about
extracting from dozens of years of experience the main reasoning and
sources to be considered. It's about being critical and analytical
towards one's own knowledge.
I believe there is no knowledge without understanding and being able to
check the sources, and thus there is no universality of knowledge if one
needs to pertain to a certain clique to understand something, or if one
needs as much experience in the domain as an expert.
Any article written by an expert should be understandable to a motivated
but first-time reader profane. And I mean understanding in the strong
meaning of the word, which knowing why the article is declaring this or
that given the references and the arguments.
As for the "expert training" that Peter Damian mention several times, I
think it is not convincing per se because a training can as well teach
to think critically (i.e., questioning permanently what you know and why
you believe it) as to think according to a set of doctrines. So instead
of believing experts (or anybody) "because they say so", everyone should
document, reference, argument and construct the knowledge put into articles.
Finally, what distinguishes the obscurantism from science is the demand
to be open to criticism: any idea is just a proposal (an hypothesis) and
its believers must accept discussing it on a epistemological level.
In consequence, the top-down approach cannot be acceptable on wikipedia,
at least not as a winning argument. Not out of disrespect, but because
universal knowledge cannot follow an initiatic model (i.e., you only
understand if you think as dictated by a hierarchy).
These considerations are not limited to the interactions between experts
and profanes. Long time editors who feel at home with their pet articles
tend to be closed-minded towards newbies and new approaches, in my
Having said that, I think there is a problem with the quality of some
articles, even some about hard science, which I interpret, amidst other
causes, as due to a lack of rigor with citing primary sources. Without
them, the controversies have no tangible common grounds - which is an
unsolvable problem -.
I think a huge effort should be put in motion to clarify, inspect and
distinguish the quality, authenticity and primarity of the sources.
Any new science starts by compiling lists and nomenclatures of its
items, which are pieces of knowledge represented by articles in the case
of an encyclopaedia.
Then it refines its epistemology to build further. Too much
undiscriminated information (about a same topic) is just noise.
And how to discriminate intelligently other by checking the link of the
premises to reality (their veracity and primarity) and the validity of
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