CZ Talk:Neutrality Policy

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This page was borrowed from a December 2001 policy page on Wikipedia. It needs (or needed) to be edited, but it is serviceable for our present needs.

Unibased writing and thinking is quite hard in a competitive, business driven culture. We are taught to present our beliefs in as convincing a manner as we can. So I apreciate these helpful hints:

  • unbiased writing means presenting controversial views without asserting them.

--Janos Abel

Wikipedia has a similar policy on pseudoscience, but with stronger language than us. Now their neutrality policy is often embattled in so-called "arbitration" cases, should we do something to prevent that? However, in another hand, our policy with the current wording, I personally think it's less likely to have those cases like Wikipedia does. Yi Zhe Wu 18:20, 29 April 2007 (CDT)

section "An Example" contains false information

This fragment was taken from Wikipedia, and (I assume automatically) "Wikipedians" was replaced by "Citizens".

"It might help to consider an example of a biased text and how Citizens have rendered it at least relatively unbiased. On the abortion page, early in 2001 [...]"

I think that in this case it should say "Wikipedians", perhaps with some clarification, like a link to the Wikipedia page. --Ion Alexandru Morega 05:12, 9 May 2007 (CDT)

Thanks--deleted. --Larry Sanger 07:55, 9 May 2007 (CDT)


The majority vs. minority thing works well for crackpot ideas, but what about raging controversies like global warming? My reading of the science over the last 10 years indicates both (1) strong scientific support for the idea that it's mostly natural and (2) occasional polls showing a solid minority of scientists leaning toward man-made causation (but nothing like a "consensus" favoring it.

So should a CZ article on climate call the pro-anthropogenic view a "minority" view on this basis, or should our project agree with Democrats and Greens that the minority is on the other side, i.e., that there is an overwhelming consensus favoring AGW (as the recent "literature search" published in Science indicated)? --Ed Poor 20:32, 26 May 2007 (CDT)

Ed, I think your assumption is incorrect. Most scientist do agree global warming exist and is caused by carbon emission. It's undeniable. The view that global warming doesn't exist, or human activities did not contribute to it, is a minority view. Yi Zhe Wu 21:29, 26 May 2007 (CDT)
Do we have an instance here of conflicting (and unsupported) assertions? "Most scientists do agree that global warming exists..." is likely to be near the truth. Why couple to it "...and is caused by (manmade) carbon emmissions" when this last statement is clearly more controversial?--Janos Abel 05:33, 12 July 2007 (CDT)
Without taking a position on this, the real question here is a strictly empirical and factual one: how many climate scientists (not all scientists--who cares about them?) believe that global warming is caused by carbon emissions?" I think, but do not know, that it is still a large majority.
Now, the neutrality issue here is certainly not whether the article should be biased in favor of AGW because it's the majority relevant-scientist view. The article ought not to take sides, period. But if there is limited space in an article, or as an article expands, the proportion of (unbiased) space spent on non-AGW views should be commensurate with the degree of acceptance of the views among the relevant scientists.
This would not be the case in an article that is specifically devoted to summarizing the debate itself, as opposed to the state of the art.
I'd also like to point out that, as with intelligent design, we can have long meaty articles about views that are widely rejected by most scientists. (Just not idiosyncratic, clearly crackpot theories.) --Larry Sanger 06:15, 12 July 2007 (CDT)
Not to beat a dead horse, but how can we know the degree of acceptance of the various ideas on global warming among climate scientists? Can we rely on polls, petitions, statements made by scientific organizations, statements made by the UN's intergovermental panel? It seems to me there is controversy over what proportion of climate scientists accept each of the following ideas:
  1. That the earth's atmosphere is 2 or 3 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it was in 1850 (apparently the majority view)
  2. That most of the warming from the mid-19th century to 2010 is due to human activity (split 50-50?)
  3. That most of the warming from 1920 to 2010 is due to human activity (split 50-50?)
  4. That most of the warming from 1950 to 2010 in due to human activity (who knows?)
  5. That solar variation, e.g., the exact length of each approximately 11-year sunspot cycle affects the solar wind which in turn affects terrestrial cloud formation which in turn affects how much sunlight gets through to heat up our air. (a minority view, but one which Wikipedia delights in censoring on the grounds that the sources are "not reliable" no matter what book or journal the view appears in)
So what I'd like to see is rather than science by opinion poll or by press release, a fair description of each hypothesis followed by the observations and arguments related to it, given in enough detail that any reader can decide for himself whether to accept or reject it. Kind of like our treatment here of Homeopathy; last time I waded all the way through it, there was not the slightest suggestion that it was valid, even though it was clear that the view lacked any solid evidence the article never gave even the slightest hint that the view was therefore invalid. --Ed Poor 01:13, 28 March 2010 (UTC)

New Proposal

See [1] for a proposal from Russell Potter.

Propagating the flat earth myth

In the introduction section of this policy, we have a poor example:

In the Middle Ages, we "knew" that the Earth was flat. We now "know" otherwise.

Historians of science have been arguing for years against this mythical characterization of medieval thought. Here is an overview of the facts. I suggest changing the example to the similar, and historically accurate, notion of the solar system revolving around the earth. —Eric Winesett 09:33, 24 November 2007 (CST)

Agreed wholeheartedly. I'd like to see this particular false notion stopped also (along with many other inaccurate but prevalent ideas about the so-called "dark ages" being close-minded and backward). I don't see any reason to stop it from being changed to "In the Middle Ages, we "knew" that the Sun revolved around the Earth ..." — the essential point is not lost in any way. Please go ahead and change it Eric. I'd do it now myself but as it was your suggestion ... Mark Jones 12:26, 24 November 2007 (CST)
I would have changed it myself, but the page is protected from editing. I'm hoping someone with the proper authority will respond. —Eric Winesett 19:03, 24 November 2007 (CST)
Oh yes indeed, also the Wikipedia article on flat earth makes that clear. Harald van lintel 11:40, 25 November 2007 (CST)
For the record: the example has now been changed. (Thanks to Larry S.) —Eric Winesett 20:41, 25 November 2007 (CST)

Help sought

Could you (anyone) help me compile a diverse set of neutrality "cases" that can be the subject of a guide to the practical application to the policy? --Larry Sanger 08:54, 25 November 2007 (CST)

Here, or by private email to you? Hayford Peirce 11:45, 25 November 2007 (CST)
Not sure what you mean... Wikipedia's NPOV Tutorial contains sections with useful negative examples
- :-)
Harald van lintel 12:09, 25 November 2007 (CST)

Suggestions for a few small text improvements

- In "Expert knowledge and neutrality ", there is talk of the views of "mainstream scientists". That is a strange - and I'd say, even unscientific - charicature. Scientists generally have (or should have) their own personal views on different topics, and those views certainly change over time. Of course, most of these views are necessarily "mainstream" or at least "popular", but no good scientist can be a "mainstream scientist" in that sense. Mainstream science requires skeptism about the correctness of scientific theories, and not mental slavery.

My suggestion: "any article about a topic about which the relevant experts indeed agree with mainstream opinion."

- In "To write neutrally is to write for the enemy, too", the following logic looks faulty to me:

"If each of us individually is permitted to write totally biased stuff in our Citizendium contributions, then it is impossible that the policy is ever violated."

In practice, two authors with opposing biases could decide to co-author an article whereby each uses his/her expertise to support the respective points of view. In practice, this is more likely to result in fair representation, as most people are less well informed about the contrary arguments. That section should thus be rephrased to stress that authors must either "write for the enemy" or request support "from the enemy" for a fair representation of the conflicting viewpoint (I don't know yet how that works here).

- In "Resolving disputes about neutrality", the reply seems to miss a word: "Would that people asked this question more often".

Harald van lintel 12:03, 25 November 2007 (CST)

To write neutrally is to write for the enemy, too

The third paragraph of the "To write neutrally is to write for the enemy, too" section contains "college try". Delete the spurious "college" perhaps? --Warren Schudy 16:38, 2 January 2008 (CST)

I might have chosen different phrasing for that, but "college try" contains the very specific meaning we are after here, see this. Stephen Ewen 15:24, 8 January 2008 (CST)

imaginary arguments

The rule should make it clear that CZ articles do not have to include imaginary arguments that no one actually has made.

For any historical statement, say, there are MANY possible alternative statements that someone could make. If no one has made it, do not mention it. If a significant minority believe in an alternative then it should be mentioned.

Therefore I suggest a change in line with our pragmatic goal:

current: We resolve the tension between expert knowledge and neutrality pragmatically. Expert knowledge and opinion receives top billing and the most extensive exposition. But, where it is or would be contradicted by some significant portion of the populace (not just a tiny percentage), the contrary popular view, as well as its grounds, should be noted as well. In this case, the attitudes of experts toward the popular views should be fully explored, because that is, after all, a very important part of the whole dialectic about the topic.
proposed new: We resolve the tension between expert knowledge and neutrality pragmatically. Expert knowledge and opinion receives top billing and the most extensive exposition. But, where it is contradicted by some significant portion of the populace (not just a tiny percentage), the contrary popular view, as well as its grounds, should be noted as well. In this case, the attitudes of experts toward the popular views should be fully explored, because that is, after all, a very important part of the whole dialectic about the topic.

that is drop the or would be which allows for nonexistent opinions not held by anyone. I think this is a minor change because nonexistent views that have not actually been expressed cannot be held "by some significant portion of the populace." Richard Jensen 13:58, 8 January 2008 (CST)

This really can't work, because very many claims made, even in the best, most authoritative encyclopedia articles, are unique, first-time-ever claims. We have to use the subjunctive mood because most specific claims in our articles haven't been widely considered. --Larry Sanger 14:06, 8 January 2008 (CST)

we must be pragmatic. Wait for something to happen before we respond. We should not include nonexistent arguments that no one has made, for they violate the rule that positions have to be actually held by a "significant portion" of the population. If the portion is zero, or near zero, CZ does not mention it.Richard Jensen 15:01, 8 January 2008 (CST)

I consider it to be good evidence that we would face some objections to our claims, if our own contributors raise objections. That's perfectly pragmatic. In short, we need to be "writing for the enemy"--i.e., writing in a way that we can anticipate will make everyone as happy as possible, or equally angry anyway. --Larry Sanger 15:13, 8 January 2008 (CST)

The Constabulary has removed a conversation here that either in whole or in part did not meet Citizendium's Professionalism policy. Feel free to remove this template and take up the conversation with a fresh start.

We've becoming rather too personal in the above (removed) exchange--albeit in a very thinly-veiled way. If it were the first time we had covered these issues, I might leave the discussion in place in the interests of a full airing of grievances.

Please take these issues, which have questionable relevance to the neutrality policy, to the forums. (This discussion of the neutrality policy belongs on the forums as well.) Richard and Steve: please stop attempting to talk to each other, unless you can, somehow, bury the hatchet. --Larry Sanger 19:53, 8 January 2008 (CST)

Larry, I was trying to talk to the project, not really Jensen. Lack of writing neutrally is just a fruit of a deeper issue. The root is what I talked about here, the lack of which produces dysfunction in the system, which creates dysfunctional "rules" that people have to live by to exist within a system, the living by which is itself very unhealthy. The "rules for authors" I wrote are very real should; they should never be applicable.
This problem will outlive whatever happens to be current right now. My biggest concern is that the problem means we just won't get, or keep, the authors we need to really take off, and I really think that would be a tragedy.
Stephen Ewen 20:42, 8 January 2008 (CST)
If your comment was slightly passive-aggressive, then it was still hardly deletion worthy. I strongly dislike the policy that allows for such liberal use of comment deletion. Worse, the ideas circulating in the forums of removing them from the history struck me is very unusual. Even if comments are disruptive, I'd rather comment on it's incivility and/or block the user and ignore the comment. The comments often speak for themselves and people know to avoid the person it came from for a while. Removing them creates more drama and a sense of censorship that its worth, especially when people don't agree that something is a "personal attack" or "uncivil". WP may sometimes be too loose with outright trolling, but I'm starting to prefer that over the atmosphere here. It feels somewhat intimidating, artificial, and ridden with violent anti-Wikipedia reactionism/bashing. Aaron Schulz 21:40, 8 January 2008 (CST)

Steve, have a look at this:,1471.0.html --Larry Sanger 21:08, 8 January 2008 (CST)

Well, the forums appear to be a better place to discuss this, especially as it was getting off-topic. Though I still don't like comment removal unless there are threats or the offending comment is just all profanity or such. So I guess I'm not a fan of the removal policy. Aaron Schulz 21:40, 8 January 2008 (CST)

Fair play to you, Aaron: you're free to express your dissatisfaction with the policy. --Larry Sanger 21:53, 8 January 2008 (CST)


In: Introduction: the basic concept of neutrality and why the Citizendium must be unbiased

[...]variety of conflicting theories constitute what we call "human knowledge." [...]

(last period and quotes should be inverted) --Nereo Preto 03:00, 20 January 2008 (CST)

Really, I think I can boldly and without fear of constradiction state that, no matter how important the page, there's never a need to first discuss fixing typos. It's a wiki. Crystal ksmiletris.png Stephen Ewen 03:31, 20 January 2008 (CST)
Well, ok, but the page is locked for me... thanks for the fix. --Nereo Preto 04:01, 20 January 2008 (CST)
Ah, sheesh, I did not even notice that this had been protected. Sorry! Stephen Ewen 11:56, 20 January 2008 (CST)

page locked

Page is locked - can't move the template. --Todd Coles 12:16, 24 January 2008 (CST)

National/ethnic disputes

I like this page's statement that we do not give equal weights to all viewpoints - despite the fact that we describe them all. The most popular views will be more described & expressed. It would simply be ridiculous to write an article about Global Warming & provide pro- and anti- advocacies equally.

I think that this page should elaborate more on international/ethnic disputes. For example, if Russia were to suddenly claim/dispute Alaska, what would the article on Alaska look like?

Wikipedia's "NPOV" policy stinks because it doesn't really emphasize that not all viewpoints are equally accepted. Therefore people take advantage of this ambuity & pushes for radical changes & then accuse those who vehemently reject the changes to be biased or extreme - when 2 viewpoints should be shown equally. (Chunbum Park 14:10, 22 February 2008 (CST))

Does the earth really revolve around the sun?

This policy asserts that the earth revolves around the sun. It also states that: "Citizendium takes the position that all positions held by a significant portion of the populace in general, not just mainstream experts, must be fairly represented." 21% of the populace in general believes that the sun revolves around the earth. [2] It would follow that this policy and our astronomy articles should be revised to state that there is an alternative opinion about whether the earth revolves around the sun.

... I am giving this ridiculous example because I believe the wording concerning the handling of the opinions of the general populace needs some refinement. Some of the opinions held by the general populace are just plain wrong and should be ignored.Richard Williams 19:11, 19 July 2008 (CDT)

Maybe 21% in America does, but not for rest of English speaking countries. And even then, the undeniable, the scientific, and the empirically proven truth is that the earth revolves around the sun. There can be no room for alternative opinion regarding this issue, and we have a moral obligation to present the truth. That obligation is infinite, and it cannot be compromised even by threats of human extinction. Maybe not. (Chunbum Park 21:16, 19 July 2008 (CDT))
Actually, with respect, I think you are both mistaken. Indeed, insofar as there are still people who believe the Earth revolves around the sun, then on certain articles (e.g., Earth, sun, heliocentrism) that is an important fact to report, if only for anthropological interest. But to be shocked at this suggestion is to misunderstand the policy entirely. After all, we should contextualize the report about the (ignorant) view that it is held only by uneducated people, and that no scientist holds the view. Other sources might omit this interesting and relevant fact about our uneducated fellows; CZ will not. --Larry Sanger 21:54, 20 July 2008 (CDT)

Going back to the summer, I think the NY Times article was about ignorance, not belief. Did they ask people what the believed (as in, that's what my religion teaches)? If so, then this is part of the science and religion conflict, and not about ignorance.

In the context of creationism and evolution, we must distinguish between ignorance and ideology. Most Americans, for example, are aware of what mainstream biology textbooks say about evolution: particularly, (1) that the various forms of life came into being over millions of years and (2) that natural causes alone can account for this completely. Yet 40% of American adults reject this mainstream idea.

Should we say that the Young Earth Creationists are "ignorant", or rather "stubborn" or biased or something? --Ed Poor 20:21, 10 November 2008 (UTC)

Hey Ed, are you here now? How interesting!  :-) Anyway, I like your reply a lot. You make an excellent point. Statistics, especially about opinion polls, almost never can be used without interpretation. It's hardly as if the 21% of Americans firmly believes that the sun goes around the Earth. That's just how they answered the poll question. I'm sure that 99.9% of that 21% couldn't give a flying flip about the question one way or the other. --Larry Sanger 04:48, 11 November 2008 (UTC)

Larry, you say that no scientist holds the view that the sun orbits the earth. How do you define scientist? Suppose some persons calling themselves scientist join CZ and write scientifically looking articles claiming that the sun circles the earth, herewith referring to articles in "peer-reviewed journals" and web-sites of "eminent astronomers", where persons of the same opinion, also calling themselves scientist, publish "proofs" that the sun revolves around the earth, then are you sure you could distinguish these pseudo-scientists from main-stream scientists? And if you could, would you do more than referring the persons involved to this page, while asking both the main-stream and pseudo-scientists to stay neutral and respect (or tolerate) each other's views? After you've answered this, please consider my next question: how about a very similar and comparable scientific dispute that for main-stream scientists is equally silly, but about a topic that goes somewhat deeper into science so that you yourself don't have an a priori opinion about who's right?--Paul Wormer 14:04, 2 December 2008 (UTC)

Paul, I'm a Ph.D. philosopher, and I've been thinking about this stuff for a long time. I get it.  :-)

I trust CZ science editors can recognize who is a scientist and who isn't--and can also recognize the borderline cases as well. I do ask us all to tolerate each others' views, but also to describe who holds various views appropriately in articles, and also to tolerate exchanges of arguments in the article--which in my opinion tend to make (real) scientists look very good and pseudo-scientists look very bad. But that's just my opinion. My views about tolerance and neutrality are pretty across-the-board. This doesn't mean that I think we should give equal credibility to (what I personally would call) pseudo-science. After all, I think exactly what CZ:Neutrality Policy says: we lead with and emphasize the mainstream expert opinion, and we apportion limited space, when necessary to explain competing views, according to the proportion of well-informed opinion (meaning, again, first and foremost experts, but also everyone else to a lesser extent). I can't give you any more without a more specific case, but you've seen how I've dealt with global warming and homeopathy. --Larry Sanger 15:39, 2 December 2008 (UTC)

What the lawyers call "fruit of the poisoned tree"

If I may, I'd like to simply make a reply to text on the main page, and then get to an issue that I have not seen discussed.
It's worth observing that, at least in the humanities, scholars are trained so that, even when trying to prove a point, one must bring forth counter-arguments that seem to disprove one's thesis, so that one can explain why the counter-arguments fail.

This may be true in the humanities, but not necessarily in experimental science or engineering. Now, there are different kinds of peer-reviewed material, such as experimental tests of formal hypotheses, and there are meta-analyses and reviews. Especially in engineering, there can be a very vigorous peer review process, as in the Internet Engineering Task Force, but it is not a classical journal process, but one adapted to electronic collaboration not using wiki technology. Many experimental papers state a hypothesis, with background literature showing how it was formed, but simply do not try to address counter-arguments. Instead, the article might use quantitative methods to describe the confirmation or rejection of the hypothesis, perhaps with various estimation of the reliability of the data. Confidence limits and such are especially common in medical literature.

I mention this because it cannot be assumed that humanities approaches are adopted in all rigorous fields. While it is dated, C.P. Snow's The Two Cultures still raises important questions. I happen to regard Lewis Thomas' The Youngest Science, about medical research, to pose some of the concerns very well.

Let me move, however, to things that might be called intellectual fraud in science and engineering, and "fruit of the poisoned tree" in law. The core of such argument is that if it is established that the early work in a study is falsified, or at best negligent, derivative material simply cannot be used.

If the authors of a study, especially one published as a book and not going through peer review, cite a respected source as the basis for their hypothesis, what weight can be given to the rest of their work if it can be demonstrated that the source absolutely did not say what they claim it said. Instead, the authors redefined claimed their key term was supported by a particular chapter of an authoritative book. Online searching of the text shows that the chapter literally does not contain the term that they use. Further, they equate a term of art, generally accepted in the literature of the field, to their de novo definition of a term about which their study centers, to something completely different than the accepted meaning.

I contend that a study that, at best, demonstrates a lack of understanding of the cited source, and at worst a deliberate misrepresentation to support an idiosyncratic position, is not worthy of a CZ article specifically about the study. When there is supplementary evidence, often misrepresenting primary sources or being extremely selective about them, suggesting the authors of the study are pushing an agenda, the case against having the article becomese even stronger.

It doesn't make sense, given limited expert time, to divert the experts from working on clearly articulated articles about difficult but not idiosyncratic topics. Howard C. Berkowitz 03:36, 25 January 2009 (UTC)

I'm not entirely sure I understand the objection, or, to the extent that I do, that I agree with it. It is certainly interesting to me that there might be different methods or standards in the sciences vs. the humanities when it comes to fairly representing the opposition, but this needs more discussion. --Larry Sanger 00:57, 26 January 2009 (UTC)
Two issues. If a journal found that the author of an article based an argument on source materials, and fact-checking shows that the source simply does not contain the information being cited, and indeed the citation could reasonably be considered falsified, the entire submission would typically be rejected. Is this not the case in the humanities?
Second, there isn't even a concept of "opposition" in many sciences. An experiment is performed to validate a hypothesis. There obviously are experimental situations where it is impossible to control all variables, and the uncertainties will be described, but the attempt is to have objective criteria. For example, in the fundamental Internet routing mechanism (Border Gateway Protocol), it had been assumed that a message that a network was no longer reachable propagated faster than announcements of newly reachable networks. A series of withdrawals and announcements were injected at various ISPs worldwide, with precise timestamps on them. At receiving points, synchronized clocks determined the time of arrival. Under a wide range of variations, it was found that withdrawals could be delayed considerably. This had immense significance, because it meant that routers had to be able to cope with out-of-date information. Where would "opposition" come into this?
I have difficulty in imagining how "opposition" even gets involved in many well-known tests, such as the Michaelson-Morley experiment, Pasteur's demonstration of the immunization of sheep against anthrax, Hahn & Strasseman's demonstration of nuclear fission, etc. It's hard to conceive of "opposition" to demonstration of disease causality based on current methodology with Koch's postulates. Howard C. Berkowitz 01:28, 26 January 2009 (UTC)
I'm sorry to be brief, because I'll give the impression that I didn't read and understand your comments, but let me assure that I did...for what it's worth...that there is a lack of opposition in much of the sciences, surely that's clear to anyone with passing knowledge of how science operates, but neither is it inconsistent with what our neutrality policy says. At some point, when I have time, I'll certainly be interested to revisit all these issues. In the meantime, don't let me stop you if you want to continue to shore up your point with others. Let me also point your attention to this. --Larry Sanger 03:13, 26 January 2009 (UTC)
Larry, I'm dealing with two issues here, one the coverage of pseudoscience, but also one of intellectual honesty, in which the authors of a publication on a topic that some (e.g., the National Academy of Sciences) call pseudoscience appear to have deliberately falsified a reasonably mainstream reference. That falsification redefines the term used by the reference's author to mean something completely different, which then buttresses their argument. To me, CZ should not be containing articles sympathetically discussing a work with such a foundational error. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Research Integrity has revoked grants and repudiated studies over such actions. Lack of integrity, it would seem to me, comes even before the neutrality issue — the violation is not on the part of the CZ author, but on the part of the authors of the study at the center of the CZ article. Howard C. Berkowitz 03:27, 26 January 2009 (UTC)

First, regarding the humanities quote at the top, I don't see this as being that different from science. When faced with a surprising result a good experimenter will try to design an experiment to challenge the conclusion as well as trying to repeat it. Also, when repeating a result one may change the way one collects these data to try and control for conformation bias. Double blind experiments being a first step. It is also worth noting that no experimental result is "proof" of anything. It is one more datum that might lead to a modification of a scientific model. Note though that any rigorous model needs to explain ALL the data.

I think where Howard is coming from is that when reading pseudoscience articles it is often apparent that data is being cherry picked, either intentionally or due to a strong conformation bias. Another theme is a wilful misinterpretation of conclusions from other authors that disagree with their conclusions. When authors of a paper choose to ignore or distort conclusions that directly contradict their own models what should CZ do? Such papers are at best bad and not good sources or, at worst, dishonest. This is an issue where editors need to make decisions. Not all papers are worth citing and that includes many that appear in high impact journals.

To the crux, what are your hopes here Howard? Are you saying CZ should use editors to ensure that only high quality sources are used as references? Chris Day 04:06, 26 January 2009 (UTC)

To the crux, I may be dealing with a special case, because the CZ article is essentially about a study where there seems a demonstrable fabrication. The context of the specific misrepresentation is sufficiently blatant as to make the study itself so biased that it should be thrown out. By doing so, the subject of the article, as constituted, then disappears, so the article should be deleted. There's additional evidence of cherry picking, but this is a smoking gun.
Even a general Citizen should be able to point out verifiable misrepresentation and have the source rejected. When the source of the study that is the subject of the CZ article states that their definition of a term is from Chapter 22 of a particular book, and a search of the online text of the book shows that it does not contain the term, to me that's what the lawyers call res ipsa loquitur: "the thing speaks for itself" and does not need expert interpretation.
There will be articles that mostly belong in one workgroup (e.g., physics), but there might be a specialized point made that would clearly be within the expertise of a different discipline editor (e.g., mathematics). Would the article have to have the Mathematics Workgroup in metadata before a Mathematics Editor could rule that 2+2=4, for certain axiomatic definitions of the addition operation? I don't think so. It should be possible for a "foreign" editor to make a ruling on a clearly discipline-specific point without bringing the article into the workgroup, given the practical 3-workgroup limit.
In this case, could I make a ruling on a specific military/intelligence terminology usage without bringing the article into the Military Workgroup? In this case, the study editors seem to claim a quite different term, actually in the text, is a synonym for their term. I can flatly say, from my own expertise and online references, that it means something quite different. Howard C. Berkowitz 04:39, 26 January 2009 (UTC)
i think it would complicate matters to have editor from other work groups having veto power. But, even without jurisdiction i think an outside editor or an author should easily be able to make a strong enough argument on the talk page that editors of the article can make the "right" call. As it often does, it comes down to an editorial decision with common sense prevailing via discussion on the talk page or in the forum. Chris Day 05:00, 26 January 2009 (UTC)

I am shocked to learn that 1 in 5 adults would think the sun revolves around the earth, but I wonder how much of this survey response is due to it being asked over the phone. Doesn't the question properly require a diagram? I bet I could come up with a diagram (or at least a question phrasing) that would get a much higher percentage of correct answers.

And by the way, it is not just Americans who answered wrong: Germans and Englishmen answered wrong just as often:

  • These results are comparable to those found in Germany when a similar question was asked there in 1996; in response to that poll, 74% of Germans gave the correct answer, while 16% thought the sun revolved around the earth, and 10% said they didn't know. [3] --Ed Poor 01:26, 28 March 2010 (UTC)

One more thing: how much of getting it wrong was simply due to mixing up the words? Even our esteemed Larry Sanger apparently referred to "people who believe the Earth revolves around the sun" (as if this were an error) when the context of his remarks leads me to believe he meant it the other way around. I bet if we phrased the question properly, a lot more people would get it, like:

  • Before 1600, most astronomers said that the sun and all the planets revolved around the earth. After that Galileo and Kepler championed the view that the earth and the other planets all revolve around the sun. Which view do you think is right?
    1. Old view
    2. Modern view

I bet you'd get at least 90% picking the modern view. --Ed Poor 01:34, 28 March 2010 (UTC)

Grammatical errors in text. How to fix them?

I have found 3 grammatical errors in the Neutrality Policy text. However, this is a protected page. How does one go about getting these fixed?

These errors are:

  • 4th sentence in the section "Alternative formulation of the policy: assert facts, including facts about opinions--but don't assert opinions themselves" - "That the Mars is a planet is a fact." Should be: "That Mars is a planet is a fact."
  • 5th sentence in the section "There's no such thing as objectivity" - "In particular, the policy does not say that there is even is such a thing as objectivity..." Should be: "In particular, the policy does not say that there is even such a thing as objectivity..."
  • 3rd sentence second paragraph of the section "Biased background assumptions" "E.g., in an article about the evolutionary development of horses ..." This is perhaps a stylistic issue, rather than a grammatical one. However, beginning a sentence with a latin abbreviation is, I believe, at best poor writing practice. Fowler goes even further and suggests such abbreviations should be reserved "for footnotes or very concise writing." Substituting "For example" for "E.g." improves the sentence's readability. That is, I think the sentence should be rewritten: "For example, in an article about the evolutionary development of horses ..." This change is perhaps more controversial than the other two.

Also, there are 3 dead links (links to empty pages) in the policy statement. While the existence of dead links in articles probably should be tolerated, it seems untidy that dead links exist in pages specifying fundamental CZ policies. These dead links are:

The link to "borderline cases" in the 10th sentence of the section "Alternative formulation of the policy: assert facts, including facts about opinions--but don't assert opinions themselves" (Interestingly, the phrase "borderline cases" is used in the section "Minority views" without making it a link.)

The link to "Nupedia" in the section "There's no such thing as objectivity"

The link to "Thomas Nagel" in the section "There's no such thing as objectivity"

Finally (and this is a bit off-topic), while I support the objective specified in the section "To write neutrally is to write for the enemy, too", I think the arguments presented there are weak and should be improved. Is this talk page the appropriate page to open up a discussion of this issue? Dan Nessett 17:13, 2 September 2009 (UTC)

Thanks Dan, I made the changes to 1, 2, and 3 above, but am leaving the red links as this reminds the author to "finish his thoughts", so to speak. I think they will be finished at some point! You are welcome to talk on this page, or the forums about the Neutrality Policy, but this is one of those that needs a close eye from the top (wherever that might be) before changes are made, which is why, I presume, it is protected. D. Matt Innis 22:51, 2 September 2009 (UTC)

Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that the dead links should be deleted. My intention was that whoever has control over writing this policy statement should provide the text necessary to enliven them. I will bring up the last point (better argument for "To write neutrally is to write for the enemy, too") on an appropriate forum. Do you have any suggestions which that might be? Dan Nessett 23:25, 2 September 2009 (UTC)

I think there is one for Neutrality if my memory serves me correctly. D. Matt Innis 00:39, 3 September 2009 (UTC)

Oops. I guess I should have looked first before asking a stupid question :-D Dan Nessett 01:05, 3 September 2009 (UTC)

Hehe, no problem, I had to check to make sure! ;-) D. Matt Innis 01:17, 3 September 2009 (UTC)

How our policy differs from that of Wikipedia

I'm very concerned about how our NPOV policy differs from that of Wikipedia, especially because their arbcom ruled that I had so often subverted "neutrality" over there that I was given a lifetime ban.

Yet I am the original author of "Writing for the enemy" and I've tried sincerely to adhere to the principle of describing all views fairly.

(I guess I got into trouble when I tried to add evidence and arguments for unpopular or "repugnant" POV's on topics where the overwhelming majority of writers wanted some "mainstream" viewpoint to prevail. I had argued there that it was like writing an article on a "pseudoscience" such as Homeopathy. And I tried to present the opposing POV on global warming, evolution, ID, and such but users there accusing me of "pushing" those POV's even though the arbcom itself had said that it is wrong to remove material from an article merely on the grounds that such material "advances a point of view. Now, before I get into the some trouble here, I'd like to be sure of how neutrality and bias are treated here.)

I daresay Larry's idea of neutrality and Jimbo's have became manifestly different, or at least the interpretation of NPOV that Jimbo is willing to tolerate over there. But before I go on wasting space and attracting attention, is this even the right venue to bring up the issue? --Ed Poor 00:58, 28 March 2010 (UTC)

This is a difficult issue that was discussed several times (search for "fringe" in the forum). It will be one of the most difficult tasks for the Editorial Council (to be elected) to find a good way of handling it. --Peter Schmitt 01:24, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
With due regard for Godwin's Law, it's a good question if one could write from a Nazi or totalitarian viewpoint. It's especially hard for the Nazis, because while there was some ideology, there was a larger amount of struggles for power. I can do a better job writing for Japanese militarism in WWII, since there is more adherence to ideology. Howard C. Berkowitz 15:45, 5 November 2010 (UTC)


Would someone please change "numercial" to numerical ... --Ed Poor 01:54, 15 April 2010 (UTC)

Done. Numercial is a commercial about numbers. ;-) D. Matt Innis 12:40, 15 April 2010 (UTC)

Be alert to biases

There's at least one example that cites how things are done in the humanities, which doesn't quite ring true for sciences and engineering. Going more into engineering and applied sciences, there are thorough peer review mechanisms -- I cite the Internet Engineering Task Force -- that again don't have quite the desire for stating alternate views, although these eventually are tested experimentally. This is not necessarily even an academic approach, but it is a professional one. A military operations order examines plausible enemy courses of action, usually not considering a variant on Hannibal in which elephants charge wearing rocket launchers.

We need to look at the extent to which the policy is affected by humanities and academic bias. Howard C. Berkowitz 15:42, 5 November 2010 (UTC)

Radical edit

Thanks Howard, noted and agreed.

I've edited the old policy to shorten it in an attempt to make it more readable, but have tried not to change its meaning or lose any content. This is a starting point. I'm not going to reinvent the wheel here; it's up to the Editorial Council to decide how they wish to revise it within the Charter. Nevertheless I don't intend to be rigidly bound by it: there are more special cases than can ever be codified.Gareth Leng 15:47, 5 November 2010 (UTC)

Agreed. This was always a problem with this policy: that people argued theoretically about it instead of undertaking empirical testing and proposing modifications if the outcomes were clearly unacceptable for some reason. It became an ideology, rather than a mere policy. Martin Baldwin-Edwards 16:51, 5 November 2010 (UTC)

Time for some archiving?

Just a suggestion, to get us up to pre-charter.

Thought experiment

Let's try something.

Josef Mengele was a medical officer in the Nazi Schutzstaffel, assigned to the Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp. While he escaped arrest, there was substantial evidence that he selected civilians to be killed, personally killed others, and engaged in nonconsensual experiments in flagrant violation of the Nuremberg Code. His reported actions were comparable to those of other physicians sentenced to death at the Medical Case (NMT).
Mengele has been quoted as supporting Nazi racial doctrine, which variously categorized some people as "life unworthy of life", and also that the Jews and other groups needed to be physically exterminated. Some of his experiments had no obvious scientific value, poor methodology, and are often attributed to sadism. [Reference: Robert Jay Lifton, The Nazi Doctors]].

Is this writing for the enemy? Is it balanced? What more needs to be sourced? It is historical so does not violate Godwin's Law. Howard C. Berkowitz 16:19, 5 November 2010 (UTC)

That is decidedly biased, Howard. For a start, you cannot be in flagrant violation of a Code before the code was drawn up. For a more comprehensive and unbiased account one needs to gain some understanding of what the Nazis believed in and why, what dissent there was across their ranks, and how we come to characterize the Nazi phenomenon as homogenous, when clearly no regime ever was or will be. In other words, we also need to understand the construction of mainstream narratives, even if we belong to those mainstream narratives. Martin Baldwin-Edwards 16:42, 5 November 2010 (UTC)
Assume that this article has been contextualized for the Nazi Party, and is not written in isolation. Developing Nazi ideology isn't necessary for each article. It's an article about Mengele, not the Party. The Code is arguable, since Major War Criminals were executed for ex post facto violations such as waging aggressive war and crimes against humanity. Howard C. Berkowitz 18:55, 5 November 2010 (UTC)
No, the context has to be very carefully laid out in each case. It is needed for each article, because we do not share the Nazi ideology and have continuously to be reminded of what was "normal" for those whose actions we are describing. The fact that the war's victors executed people for a Code drawn up in order to execute them seems somewhat self-referential. The international standards that emerged out of WWII probably would not have emerged at all if there had been no Nazi movement and German expansionism. Context is all. Martin Baldwin-Edwards 21:29, 5 November 2010 (UTC)
Didn't the International Military Tribunal establish that the crimes of the convicted defendants weren't made up ex post facto, but were rather violations of existing international law, including treaties such as Kellogg-Briand Pact, as well as law with precedent such as the anti-piratical Hostis humani generis? So isn't this (specifically, the non-ex-post-facto nature of the Nuremberg principles) now established international law (which, I seem to recall, constrains CZ)?
That being said, could the quoted passage perhaps be slightly modified for CZ purposes to say, e.g., "in flagrant violation of the established principles later codified in the Nuremberg Code? Bruce M. Tindall 22:32, 5 November 2010 (UTC)
That's helpful, Bruce. The legitimacy of the International Military Tribunal, and perhaps even more so the Nuremberg Military Tribunals, was complex. For all its chaos, there was a somewhat stronger base for the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. The Hague Conventions also have some relevance.
There remains the question of how much of this background needs to be in a fair article, versus links to it directly or via Related Articles.
Remember my question assumes contextualization. Martin raises the legitimate question of how this can be done; I raise the point that it's impractical to repeat in individual,logically subordinate articles. Howard C. Berkowitz 22:50, 5 November 2010 (UTC)

Well... of course, they had to justify some legal continuity, when making a case for the death penalty. I don't buy it, sorry: it was the imposed morality of the victor. If the Nazis had won, they would have found a similar justification for executing Allied commanders whom they objected to. All of these things are politically constructed; law does not exist of itself.

To answer Howard: you cannot assume. This type of article is very difficult to write and to read. The context and rationales have to be continuously emphasised, or you will end up writing your opinions like the extract above. Martin Baldwin-Edwards 22:54, 5 November 2010 (UTC)

I largely agree. Couple of thoughts:
  1. Quisling and others were executed under retrospecively reintroduced capital punishment
  2. Churchill is reported to have commented on Nuremberg, "We must be sure not to lose the next war."
Peter Jackson 11:18, 6 November 2010 (UTC)
Matt restored a wise comment by Martin. I regret, for this, that the Wiki doesn't support glowing and moving targets: It became an ideology, rather than a mere policy.
That being said, I offered an example. If people seriously want to deal with Mengele, that's more appropriate on the article page. I would suggest, however, that when one says something is wrong, one offer a constructive improvement. I have no particular ego involvement in what I picked as an example. On purely editorial grounds, however, I would much prefer a hyperlinked way of contextualizing. None of the difficult problems cited is unworthy of its own article. Howard C. Berkowitz 18:00, 6 November 2010 (UTC)
The best way of doing this would actually be to write the article on Mengele. Give me a week or so to sort out some massive professional writing commitments, and we could try to do this as an exemplar of CZ policy on neutrality. Martin Baldwin-Edwards 18:54, 6 November 2010 (UTC)
Martin, I would be utterly delighted to work collaboratively on an article with you. What I propose, and if you have a little time beforehand, is that I do some work on the Related Articles page, so that we can define the contextualizing material. Look at that to see if anything is missing. I'll probably need to work on the Nazi Party article and emphasize, or split as a subarticle, what you describe as "what dissent there was across their ranks, and how we come to characterize the Nazi phenomenon as homogenous, when clearly no regime ever was or will be". That's especially relevant when Hitler or Stalin are the leaders, and encourage factionalism to maintain their power.
I can certainly try to clean up some of the redlinks for International Military Tribunal (Nuremberg). Peter, perhaps you might want to draft some of these. There are articles about the Kellogg-Briand Pact, hostis humani generis, and just war theory, the latter needing much work. Howard C. Berkowitz 19:10, 6 November 2010 (UTC)
Couple more thoughts:
  1. What, if anything, did international law textbooks published beforehand say about the possibility of trial and execution for crimes against humanity?
  2. In this particular case, and I suspect in most major cases, it probably doesn't matter much in practice. Generally, crimes against humanity would involve mistreatment of civilians in occupied territories, which I assume would have been regarded as triable under clearly established existing laws. Most of the Jewish victims were Polish or Russian, not German.
Peter Jackson 10:57, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

(undent) In general, international law has rarely provided punishment, only grounds for charges by organizations that have arrest and punishment capability. That being said, some of the offenses against civilians are arguable in the Hague Conventions. The Lieber Code, during the American Civil War, was only applicable to the U.S., but is often considered one of the predecessors to Hague.

One really must remember two things: at the present time, international law rarely trumps national sovereignty. Pragmatically:

  1. First law of international law: might makes right
  2. Second law: When in doubt, see #1

This is getting sufficiently detailed that it belongs on an article talk page, not general neutrality policy. Howard C. Berkowitz 14:36, 8 November 2010 (UTC)


needs to supersede *supercede! Ro Thorpe 23:16, 10 November 2010 (UTC)

Still not done. I'm changing all the others but it's 'view source' for this one. Ro Thorpe 17:56, 7 August 2013 (UTC)
Done. I think this is one of those spellings that is so common it's almost not an error anymore (like 'seperate'). John Stephenson 19:01, 7 August 2013 (UTC)
Thanks. Yes, some dictionaries list it as an acceptable variant, says Wiktionary. Ro Thorpe 19:26, 7 August 2013 (UTC)

Unclear/misleading phrasing

"If each of us individually is permitted to write totally biased stuff in Citizendium, then it is impossible that the policy is ever violated." This seems to say the opposite of what's presumably intended. Peter Jackson 09:39, 28 January 2014 (UTC)

Oh, should have said that's in the "enemy" section. Peter Jackson 09:41, 28 January 2014 (UTC)

And in the same section, "endorsed by only a tiny minority of nonexperts" also isn't saying what it means very clearly: it must intend "and no experts at all". Peter Jackson 09:45, 28 January 2014 (UTC)

And the next sentence: "Contributors may challenge someone who demands a fair exposition of their idiosyncratic view by asking, "What expert has ever said anything like that?" If no good answer is forthcoming, the idiosyncratic view may be excluded without further consideration." It's already been said that widely held non-expert views should be mentioned. Peter Jackson 09:48, 28 January 2014 (UTC)


The statement that this policy isn't binding was added in at some point, but seems to be incorrect at present in the light of [4]. Peter Jackson 11:45, 30 January 2014 (UTC)

I think what was meant was that the Charter and subsequent council rules are binding whereas the elaboration of those rules on this page, elaborated upon by the Ombudsman, do not rise to the same level of "officialness" -- if that makes sense. Russell D. Jones 14:10, 2 February 2014 (UTC)

But it's not "elaborated upon by the Ombudsman". Quite the contrary, in fact. The page is basically Gareth's abridgment of Larry's original fundamental policy. Peter Jackson 11:34, 3 February 2014 (UTC)