Guerrilla Skeptics
Ray Kurzweil's "How To Create a Mind"

More on Wikimandering

Thanks to everyone who contributed comments on my post about Wikipedia. The case histories were especially interesting. Rather than add my own I thought I'd make a new post, by way of general reflection.

One line of thought - probably the dominant one - is that keeping the articles clean is too much of a struggle, given how determined is the sceptic opposition. Wikipedia is a lost cause; it will always reflect critical mainstream thinking. But that doesn't matter because there are plenty of other sources where interested people can go to find out about psi-research.

Another view - less popular, apparently, but persuasively argued - is that we should get stuck in and do something about it:

Wikipedia appeals to the entire cross section of humanity, from the elite to the Great Unwashed. The elites are going to believe what their fellow elites tell them to believe, but the average curious schoolkid may initially take what they see in a Wiki article at face value, and move on.

Getting a full picture of any paranormal related topic takes a heluva lot of digging. Pseudo-sceptics can be intimidating and convincing. Maybe I'm being pollyanna-ish here, but a civil, concerted campaign to counter-balance sceptic attempts at repressing the open discussion of spirituality is the right thing to do.

I have to say, this is my way of thinking too. I disagree with the expressions of disdain about Wikipedia - I think it's an extraordinary resource. And yes, I do use it all the time, mostly to get an instant take on people and situations in world affairs, stuff that would be impossible to get quickly from anywhere else. Of course I double check when required, but in the ten years or so that I've been using it I can't ever recall coming unstuck - which in my line of work could easily happen. And I'm always astonished by the effort and commitment that contributors put into it - and hugely grateful for it.

If that's my experience as a professional person, then I guess it will be others' as well. Its not an accident that Wikipedia comes up near the top of searches - it's because so many people find it useful. So I'm not convinced that someone who decides to consult Wikipedia on a psi-related topic - on a whim, perhaps, or having come across some article or controversy in a newspaper - will recognise the sceptical barracking for what it is. On the contrary, it will shape their view. And this is surely something we can't be indifferent about.

It's true there are a lot of other good sources (and thanks to the commenter who kindly included this blog). But I don't agree that such people will easily find their way there, or that they would necessarily make any sense of what they found. That's why something like Wikipedia is needed - for beginners as opposed to intermediate level and advanced.

If I'm right about this, there are two options (actually I'm sure there are more, but this is something to be going on with).

One is to take the battle to the sceptics on their own terms. It's not as though their pages are immune to hostile tweaking. It won't be pretty, and we'd have to accept that we will never actually win, but we could get enough of a leverage at least to improve the quality of the psi pages for the benefit of newcomers.

Another option might be to create an independent portal with entry-level, Wikipedia-type articles on psi topics. I've long thought that something like this would be a good idea. It would essentially duplicate the material that already exists, and perhaps expand it, but without the heckling. Critical opinions and studies should be referenced, of course, and ideally the full range of sceptic alternatives should be represented - just as they are in any decent parapsychological paper. But sceptics would not be able to interfere without actually hacking into the site.

Whether to do one or the other - or both, or neither - touches on a much larger issue, whether we want to be in the business of advocacy. My impression is, there's less appetite for that on our side than there is among our opponents. For sceptics, influencing opinion is what it's all about. Wikimandering is just the sort of thing that their organisations are there to do. It's a fundamentalist thing: evangelising comes naturally to them.

We're more about generating ideas, studies and experiments than in 'spreading the word'. We're receptive to people who come to us, but we don't go looking for people to convert, minds to change. We don't have an equivalent of CSICOP/CSI. And looking around, I can't see any research organisation wanting to get behind an initiative like this. But like the reader whose comment I quoted, I'm starting to think it's the right thing to do. If we don't stand up for what we believe in, then why would anyone else believe it?

To the commenter who kindly offered her services as an editor, but asked if this was all just talk, I'd answer - thanks, that's appreciated; and, quite possibly but not necessarily. A lot depends on whether there's someone out there who is able and willing to undertake this sort of project. I don't have the skills myself. It needs to be a very particular sort of person - someone who thoroughly understands websites and Wikipedia, who is determined and patient, can manage a team of editors, and in is it for the long haul. All as a labour of love. It certainly shouldn't be undertaken lightly, or it could do more harm than good. So let's not rush into anything.

But I can contribute, and act as a communications hub in the first instance. So as far as getting the ball rolling goes, if anyone wants to get in touch to kick around ideas, then please do.

Comments

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If anyone would like to have a go at the SPR's Wikipedia page, that would be marvelous.

Robert, I really resonated with your words. I think you have tapped into the beginnings - post TED - of a zeitgeist against accepting the pseudo-skeptical reporting and censorship of psi data. Personally, I am well connected to a number of individuals associated, either directly or indirectly, with psi research and have even started to collaborate with several others on psi-related projects. I think your dual approach might be propitious; editing inaccurate Wikipedia entries and setting up an alternative resource. I would favour emphasis on the second process. Onward!

i'm a wee bit hesitant/skeptical about the us/them discourse, though i understand it and have experienced ideological fall-out personally.

i feel that false binaries are often trotted out by evangelical types and wouldn't want to see the bait being taken.

arch-skeptics may/may not be scientists themselves but 'defenders of the faith'.
i fear a similar situation may arise, in time, with psi-proponents (the nebulous 'us') birthing equally rabid defenders.

in any case, the project(s)outlined above would be excellent when/if manifest.
it seems we all need an antidote from the cognitive dissonance rooted deeply on the net.


I frequently research topics on Wikipedia. No one with any sense would ever take it as their only source of information, but it can provide an excellent start.
The quality of its articles, and level of work the contributors and editors put into the project is astounding. Just about any topic or phase can be found there.

And sometimes it can make the dumbest stuff seem interesting. For example, just yesterday Bunnycat was making sweet iced tea. She was using cane sugar (It's a Southern thing), and we got to talking about the difference between cane vs. beet sugar. Of course, I had to see what Wikipedia had to say about sugar. I Wikipedia'd "sugar", and walked away feeling like I knew just about everything I would ever need to know about cane sugar.
Chinese manuscripts dating from the 8th century B.C. mention that it originated in India. Until modern times, it was quite expensive (people used to sweeten their food with honey because it was cheaper). It came in a conical shaped 'sugarloaf' and was cut down to size using 'sugar nips'. There's more, but you get the idea. Arcane stuff, but it's good to have a commercial-free source of encyclopedic information out there.

Maybe I was the last person in the world get that memo about sugar, but the same basic idea can apply to the paranormal. We are always informing each other with information about spirituality in this blog, and other blogs. Websites scattered across the internet provide more bits and pieces. Books are recommended and read, and our individual awareness continues to expand.
Wouldn't it be nice to have a single, nearly exhaustive source to turn to?

Apparently Greg Taylor, or somebody associated with The Daily Gail has already made an attempt at such a project. I don't know how long it has been in development, or when the last entry was made, but it looks like they have (had?) the right idea. At minimum, it's an example of what can be done:
http://redpill.dailygrail.com/wiki/Main_Page

Addendum. It looks like the Red Pill wiki website hasn't gone anywhere since 2007. After six years, maybe it's time to give the idea another try. A lot has happened since then.

Wow forests you really do don't have any type of social life. the fact that you have to troll blogs that don't agree with your worldview is a sign that you need a girlfriend and a hobby

RabbitDawg, like I wrote in the previous Wiki themed thread, Wiki is great for general knowledge stuff, I use it all the time for that kind of thing. It's just not to be trusted on anything very controversial, such as psi. What's controversial or going to have people falling out about sugar and the history of its harvesting and manufacture?

Robert makes mention of starting or developing Wiki style websites without the bias and meddling of Wiki itself. Yes this has been done fairly extensively already, for example in medical science and evolution related controversies and in politics/international affairs (I'm an apolitical person myself, yet the point is that Wiki style webpages have been done in this regard).

Robert for what it's worth, I think one's time can be better spent than knocking one's head on the brick wall that is Wiki. Those who are serious about psi, even if they are newbies, quickly learn to look elsewhere. Anyway maybe a year or two from now, write a blog entry to let us know how it went with Wiki and if it was worth it!

As an aside did anyone notice that fMRI paper TheSmileys linked to does a Wiseman to get it's negative result by eliminating 3 of the 19 test pairs' results? It even cites one of Wiseman's papers as a source!

Some interesting info here about a non-psi related controversy.

http://crookedtimber.org/2013/03/27/the-institute-for-cultural-diplomacy/

'does a Wiseman to get it's negative result by eliminating 3 of the 19 test pairs' results' -

Yes, explains positive results as 'uninteresting artefacts'.

You have to laugh.

Actually this study is interesting for other reasons - I might write a post on it.

I hope you downloaded a copy - it seems to have been blocked following our posts :-)))))

It seems to work for me, but yes I did.

I'm with Lawrence. The people who engage in the Wiki gerrymandering are basically sad individuals with no life other than perverting the course of objectivity.

One might as well assume that endlessly plugging the cyber holes puts an end to computer hacking. The reality is that the hackers' are simply spurred on by the challenge and the boost to their self esteem that results from the attention they are receiving. That is not to suggest that PC security is unimportant. It's just that no one would spend their time out-nerding the nerds unless their living depended upon it . . . . . . . . . or would they? I sometimes wonder at the human race. 8/

"We're more about generating ideas, studies and experiments than in 'spreading the word'. We're receptive to people who come to us, but we don't go looking for people to convert, minds to change."

Yeah, it's simple. Present an exhaustive (eventually) source of critically examined information on paranormal-related topics, without the hubris. Common sceptic misrepresentations of fact could be addressed, but the integrity of the content should stand on its own merits. If anyone wanted to hear an opposing opinion, there are plenty of sources out there.

Still, sometimes I wish we had an organization that could counter The Committee for Scientific Investigation (affectionately known as "psi-cop"). I know about SCEPCOP, but I'm thinking more in terms of a group of respected paranormal research spokespeople who could issue press releases that would calmly and articulately dispute the CSI "expert" misrepresentations of the facts.

As an organization, it wouldn't have to conduct investigations on its own (CSI doesn't), because its members would be limited to people who have been, or are currently engaged in paranormal research.
It wouldn't need a brick and mortar office, as most of its activities could be conducted online. In order to avoid being exploited by frauds and opportunist's, it should be an invitation-only, fraternal kind of thing.
People like Brian Josephson, Dean Radin, Stuart Hammeroff, Rupert Sheldrake, Marilyn Schlitz, Bruce Greyson, Nancy Evans-Bush, Julie Beischel, Jim Tucker - the list could go on and on.
We wouldn't need all of them, but a pedigreed coterie as a 'go to' source for the media would give the general public a fighting chance at forming an accurate picture.

I'm sure some folks may think I'm dreaming, but this pervasive acceptance of victim status in the paranormal community is getting old. Especially with all the breakthroughs that are taking place these days.

My heart is with you, Rabbitdawg:

"I'm thinking more in terms of a group of respected paranormal research spokespeople who could issue press releases that would calmly and articulately dispute the CSI "expert" misrepresentations of the facts."

But would such efforts get past the media hurdle? Or would they simply exhaust the articulate speakers?

I agree with Rabbitdawg. Evidence is a scientism strongpoint. You can't defeat scientism with evidence. They know how to counter evidence with evidence and will always do so, leading nowhere.

To convince, you'll have to do repeatable demonstrations of Psi and paranormal activity before public audiences. And due to the psi uncertainty principle, this is impossible.

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