Sneering at Wikipedia

6 Jul

Of late I’ve been seeing the attitude that if something has been read on Wikipedia then it’s reliability is questionable, that if someone researched something on the site then it’s not quite as valid as another source.

I have the feeling that part of this attitude is because it’s easier to find information here than from other sources; I’ll call it the ivory tower fallacy, or ‘argumentum ad turris eburnea’. However ease of access is not an argument against the veracity of the information.

Another reason may be that people think it’s unreliable because it’s on the interwebs. The ‘net is full of spotty teenage boys putting up nonsense, therefore anything you read there is nonsense. Again, a non sequiteur.

This attitude ends up as almost an ad hominem fallacy, by attacking the source of the fact rather than the fact itself.

Granted there can be silly page edits sometimes, like when Lukas Rosol beat Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon last week, and five minutes after the match his wikipedia entry said “Rosol injured both of his arms before the game, and had to play on his head using his right foot to grip the racket. He went onto win the game, causing one of the biggest upsets in Wimbledon history”. But by the time I refreshed the page, it had been reported and removed.

The number of contributors and editors of Wikipedia (100,000) far outweighs the number at Encyclopedia Britannica (4,400), or at Encyclopedia Americana (6,600) for example, therefore the breadth of expertise and knowledge is greater.

The founders’ aim is “to create a summary of all human knowledge in the form of an online encyclopedia, with each topic of knowledge covered encyclopedically in one article.”. Is it just me or is that properly brilliant?

They are well aware of biases that may affect the authenticity of their work and are open to addressing criticism.

The great thing about Wikipedia is, if you find something you think is inaccurate, then you can prove it and get the article changed.

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One Response to “Sneering at Wikipedia”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Logical Fallacies « unfebuckinglievable - August 25, 2012

    […] I’ve coined the ivory tower fallacy (argumentum ad turris eburnea) to describe people that dismiss an argument simply because it […]

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