Your Wiki back

In another part of the forest – weirdness at Wikipedia. Susan Gerbic has been monitoring Paul Kurtz’s Wikipedia page since his death was announced, and sure enough, there has been weirdness.

So when I learned about Paul Kurtz’s death yesterday I went over to his Wikipedia page to make sure there was no vandalism, and to make sure it was in great shape so that when the media started to access the page to find out more about this amazing man, they would find something worth looking at.  In the back of my mind I was worried about someone with a agenda saying that he had converted to XYZ religion on his deathbed, then the media picking up on that and the next thing you know it is on the front page of some newspaper. 

First thing I noticed was that two people had spent a couple hours taking up a big chunk of the page to showcase his last project, The Institute for Secular Human Values.  Personally I don’t think that an organization that has only existed for 2 years should get more prominence on the page than CSICOP which has been around for 30+ years.

Another objection, on the Talk page, is that the ISHV is just a website. It’s a notional sort of institute, as opposed to a bricks and mortar one.

The second thing that concerned me was this sentence.  “Upon being forced out of the Center for Inquiry, by the board and management for power and control of the vast network and holdings he had envisioned, developed, managed and maintained for decades, he launched the Institute for Science and Human Values as a separate entity.”

Jim Lippard commented on that.

While this sentence is essentially true, it is somewhat tendentious and incomplete in its description of the facts. The “forced out” part was a democratic process, for example, and the person left in charge as Kurtz’s successor, Ron Lindsay, is someone Kurtz had supported to be his successor.

What a world, what a world.




  1. iknklast says

    Why is the media getting their information from Wikipedia? That seems like poor reporting at best. There are so many sources they could use for information on Kurtz, it seems lazy to rely on a source that is so easy to put weirdness on.

  2. says

    @iknklast – “Why is the media getting their information from Wikipedia?”

    Because this is America, where investigation has been replaced by a three minute Google search and where actual reporting has been replaced by talking heads screaming regurgitated sound-bites at one another.

  3. Nemo says

    While this sentence is essentially true, it is somewhat tendentious and incomplete in its description of the facts.

    In Wikipedia terms, it’s lacking a Neutral Point Of View.

  4. Fin says

    I never understood “NPOV”. Sounds an awful lot like Nagel’s view from nowhere.

    Attempting to be neutral with words sounds like an exercise in futility. A dangerous exercise as well, because that attempt at neutrality frequently disguises subconscious biases that I would rather see out in the open.

  5. Bruce Gorton says


    Journalists, often have to cover a wide range of subjects and sometimes get briefs they aren’t familiar with.

    For a good journalist, what you do with Wikipedia is you go there when you don’t really know about a figure, and then triple check everything, especially the stuff that surprises you.

    In other words it is an okay research tool as a place to start, but only as a place to start. You have to check.

  6. 'dirigible says

    NPOV simply means “whatever someone has been able to Google in the mainstream media in less than two minutes”.

    It is however less awful than “whatever the communist groupuscule squatting on this section of the site believe is reality” would be like.

  7. dzd says

    NPOV is shorthand for “conventional wisdom” and may or many not reflect actual facts, which may introduce unwanted bias towards truth.

  8. says

    RE: state of journalism

    Since I can google as well as, and probably better than, most journalists, what good are they? Unless journalists know something I don’t, or can tell me something faster than I can google it myself, I have no use for them. Might as well read the opinions of some random blogger.
    That’s why the current track will lead to the death of professional journalism. I hope that doesn’t happen, but I’m not optimistic.

    RE: NPOV

    Since anybody with an internet connection can edit wikipedia and since the world is filled with highly motivated, highly delusional people, you simply have to go with a policy of trying to stay neutral. If you don’t, wikipedia will simply be a battleground of dogmatic opinions. This way, at least it’s kept down a bit.

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