I hope this is a good place to send a weighty message to Wikipedia.
You’ll want to read all through.
I am a scientist who has always liked the Wikipedia idea, and I like
your implementation. Lately I’ve started making contributions.
Although I’m a cognitive scientist who taught biological psychology at
degree level for several years and have done AI research since the
‘80’s, I’ve diverted for a decade or more to resolve a set of major
Fairly peripheral but within the overall project was an investigation
of bird breathing, and I decided to piece together the research into
it, and deliver it properly to the public. Trust me, the finer
details were obscure. On the way I discovered why penguins’ lungs
don’t collapse even at 500m when whales’ lungs collapse by 100m; I
found out what the neopulmo did (though not why) and why penguins
don’t have it, and I changed our understanding of flow within it; I
also resolved the old chestnut of whether birds had counter-current
exchange in their lungs. That is, completely discovered, not just for
myself. By careful editing and addition including the long overdue
diagram the subject needed, I converted the two Wikipedia pages
dealing with bird breathing from an incomplete mire to a place of
revelation (though the German version needs starting afresh, and
Duncker agrees). But it was an honour do so.
More central to my overall project was cladogenesis, the heart of
palaeontology and just the thing that I, as an MSc in info. sys.
engineering would be expected to get into. I’ve written my own clad.
software, invented and implemented my own heuristic version, proved
the theorem in graph theory that resolves an issue in checking
evolutionary trees by time and rooting them, and highlighted a serious
statistical fallacy invalidating another major current of work in the
time-checking of trees.
In these activities I was almost entirely alone as regards other
workers in the overall field, since that field, dinobird
palaeontology, is notorious for its abuse of the lack of scientific
and indeed academic constraint that all historical disciplines are
prey to. Applicants for research positions into that biological
science, which relies heavily on computer science and statistics, are
usually accepted with just a geology first degree. Put succinctly but
honestly, the standard of science amongst professional dinobird
palaeontologists is crap, so much so that I’ve never taken the idea of
publishing formally in the field very seriously. I do from time to
time in AI, but any scientist with something sensible to say in
dinobird palaeo will always be violating sacred errors and be blocked.
Although useless, the field is very proud and stubborn.
But there is a layer of humanity too stupid even to become
professional palaeontologists – and guess what? They’ve established a
self-aggrandising population in the basement of Wikipedia, grooming
their egos by becoming gatekeepers. I’m sick of the sight of their
pathetic award stars.
I wasn’t surprised; in fact I’d been surprised by the ease with which
my bird-lung editing had been accepted, which is why I’d turned my
attention to another problem page that was actually even more of a
Most people, even those interested in the subject, have no idea why
dromaeosaurs had such strange claws, teeth and tails. Many even doubt
that the special foot claw was a weapon. And because they have no
understanding of the vital importance of backtracking in knowledge
engineering, they can’t escape the rut of believing dromaeosaurs were
“pre” flight (“pre” of course being a very dodgy evolutionary
concept). But solving this kind of thing was easy compared to related
subjects, and other visionaries such as Paul and Osmolska had made
their contributions and published some of the basics. The four-winged
flight of volant dromaeosaurs was harder but I found a solution to
that too (...though you’re not going to like it; even I didn’t).
I know what you’re thinking – Original Work. But of course that was
taken account of: much of the problem with the Velociraptor page was
balance – some theories had been simply ignored, even though works
mentioning them were already in the citation list. Other problems
were solved by pointing out glaring illogicalities: ensuring the
explanation of a difference between two things must be based on some
other difference applying to them. Things like that don’t need
citations, things that needed them were given them, and when necessary
I cited my own book. That after all is very common in Wikipedia, and
there’s no point frowning on the basic principle (especially when it’s
a good book!).
As you may have guessed or already knew, anyone bringing much-needed
but unfamiliar and unwelcome science (i.e. any science) to dinobird
palaeontology is automatically put on the hate list and from then on
it’s just sociology. Pointing out that modern science knows better
than to talk of “facts”, is the kind of thing that sets the idiots
off, but is one essential principle Wikipedia needs to take on board.
Luckily the pseudo-scientists usually give themselves away, as they
did on the Velociraptor page most bizarrely. First, they insisted the
tail couldn’t bend vertically, alongside a picture showing the last
two-thirds bending up through 60º. Then they insisted its prey only
had one leg whereas two could be seen even in the thumbnail. No
accusations of original work at risk there. Nonetheless they kept on
reversing EVERYTHING I’d written – the illogicality-busting, the
theory-balance restoration, and even corrections to their crap which
was contradicted by the images in front of their eyes.
The result? Someone’s stopped the repeated reversals, and of course,
they chose to stop it on the lunatic side. Irrespective of the
“Protection is not an endorsement of the current text” message, this
“temporary” status is a massive insult to science, which is why it’s
important, and a massive insult to me which has ensured my action.
I’m going to find the 100 most influential loud-mouthed Wiki-haters on
the net, show them the crucial photos, and the illogicalities, and I
hope I’m going to be able to say: “Look – some tiny-minded
pseudo-scientists started to infect Wikipedia filling even science
pages with blatant rubbish, but see how good it is? It put them in
I know an organisation of your size won’t bother with anything that
can’t affect it, and I haven’t time to dissolve you with charm. I’m
considering removing all the good work I’ve done in the bird breathing
pages, and their talk pages that explain it, as a token of what you’ll
lose if you reward my kind of work with insults. I was happy to give
it free but people can always buy the book. Put it back if you want,
but if you don’t, the pages will lose a lot and if you do you’ll
underline my value. And of course there’s the stuff above that could
go one way or another depending on you. Much will be done before the
election and as much as is necessary when it’s over. Don’t just hand
this over to another of the dinosaur Wiki-wankers, and don’t let them
keep spuriously using the word “source” to justify feeding the world
John V. Jackson.