Andre Engels wrote:
NPOV. Neutral Point Of View. It sounds so good. But
does it work? I doubt it.
At least, I doubt whether it works in the way it is now used on Wikipedia.
Suppose I believe that the Earth is not round but cube-shaped. And I have
arguments for it. So I put these on [[Earth]]. Next someone else comes, and
says that that's bollocks. He adds all kids of arguments on why the Earth
is really a sphere, and arguments against mine. Then I put arguments against
his. And soon we spend most of the Earth page discussing arguments for and
against a cubical Earth. Is that really the way to go?
Yes! That's the proof that it works. The cubical Earth argument may be
a straw man in the absence of supporters, but an inspired scientist
needs to allow for the possibility of such a thing, however improbable.
There is no limit to the number of strange ideas that dwell in the gar
reaches of our probability space. The strongest adherent of the
scientific method admits and accepts that no scientific hypothesis is
absolutely true. He does not feel threatened by the emergence of some
bizarre theory, and is probably more effective in his refutations by
allowing for the possibility of a new and perhaps unlikely hypothesis.
Crying "pseudoscience" can only lose arguments, not win them; it brings
out supporters that were never there before in the same way that it
happens when some Wikipedian is called a vandal.
To be honest, I don't know whether I believe in
NPOV. Or ever did. It sounds
very good in theory. In practice, it does not seem to work. At least not for
me. Let me state that differently - it works for some things, not for others.
I am perfectly happy to give pro and contra views when discussing political
or ethical topics. But when I talk about scientifical subjects, I go with the
mainstream scientific point of view.
I believe that it must apply to everything, including science. The test
of whether free speech is working is in how it treats unpopular subjects
and views. Supporters of a majoritarian POV have a tendency to depend
on the unproven hypothesis that the mainstream view is necessarily
correct. I think that the scientific method needs to be applied
recursively. I also support the view that the burden of ''prima facie''
proof lies with the proponent of an improbable theory. This is not a
very high burden, but it doesn't accomplish a lot either. It at least
deals with those virtual hypotheses that spring purely from one
Actually, my problems may lay deeper. A cubic Earth I
can refute. But what if
someone claims that Siberia had a tropical climate until 4000 years ago? It
sounds like nonsense to me, but I cannot give the arguments against it. I can
probably find out what the general idea is about the climate of Siberia 4000
years ago, but on what information this is based I do not know. So should we
just let such a claim with its arguments stand, and add "however, generally
it is assumed that Siberia 4000 years ago was as cold or even somewhat colder
The tropical Siberia hypothesis is likely more probable than the cubic
Earth hypothesis, and that makes it more difficult. The proponent puts
forth his arguments, and you express your contrary arguments. If you
have put your arguments well, you shouldn't need to add anything
further. You need to trust the reader to make the right decision.
There is no obligation to win any argument.. A Zen approach is far more
Another thing that happens with science is the feeling that you need to
defend ALL of science. If your area of expertise is in astrophysics,
why should you need to defend the views of climatologists. By getting
into an unfamiliar scientific discipline you can end up with your foot
in your mouth, promoting more arguments and feeling very very frustrated.
What is the solution? I do not know. Maybe we should
try to find more people
of established nature, not to write articles, but just to rate them. Maybe we
should be less unhappy to delete material on pages, or even start pages all
over at times. Maybe there's no problem at all, and it is me who is wrong.
Maybe there simply is no solution. I don't know. What I do know is that I find
working on Wikipedia a rather irritating thing to do lately. And irritation is
not what one expects to get from a hobby.
That there is no problem does not make you wrong; that argument is a
''non-sequitur". There is no magic wand solution; finding it could be
fatal to the project. If you feel you have put your views fairly on a
subject, and you still feel irritated by the reactions of others it's a
sign that, at least in the near future, your time would be better spent
on some other subject.