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Difference between revisions of "CZ Talk:Neutrality Policy"

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: I think you're being a bit too harsh here. There's a tricky balance between expertise and neutrality, so we shouldn't get too upset when editors don't get it. [[User:Warren Schudy|Warren Schudy]] 18:47, 8 January 2008 (CST)
 
: I think you're being a bit too harsh here. There's a tricky balance between expertise and neutrality, so we shouldn't get too upset when editors don't get it. [[User:Warren Schudy|Warren Schudy]] 18:47, 8 January 2008 (CST)
 +
::I don't think there is a balance; there's simply the concept of writing neutrality which you understand but refuse to adhere to, or you simply don't understand. --[[User:Robert W King|Robert W King]] 18:58, 8 January 2008 (CST)

Revision as of 00:58, 9 January 2008

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)

Pseudoscience

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)

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
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:NPOV_tutorial :-)
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)

our authors know the rules. If they have some countervailing evidence to add they can add it at any time. None have done so, I think because they lack the evidence. They are NOT allowed to change substantiated statements, according to the neutrality policy. Richard Jensen 15:56, 8 January 2008 (CST)
That doesn't make any single solitary view the one that should be singularly represented in an article just because there is an expert view that supports it. You're practically suggesting that no other views should be included or proposed. --Robert W King 16:03, 8 January 2008 (CST)
No. I always include contrary views if they have support, and other authors can always add material if they see something I or others have missed. What is intolerable is authors who ERASE statements they dislike, because that violates numerous CZ rules. Richard Jensen 16:21, 8 January 2008 (CST)

Yes, authors sure know the rules, and let me explain them to you as they actually are in practice too often.

  1. Editors are empowered to act as editors within articles they are authoring, so expect that this will result in some serious power abuse and dysfunction in the system at times.
  2. Because of #1, some editors exhibit serious collaborative disability and will push and bully their way no matter what.
  3. Because of #1 and #2, expect to encounter the notion that "authors are always wrong because editors are always right," and that a spoken magic phrase is all that is needed to force you to go away: "I'm an expert".
  4. Because of #1, #2, and #3, it is frequently a waste of time to even bother trying to author. You've lost before you even start. Compromise between reasonable people is optional.
  5. Citizendium actually contains many signed articles. You won't get a word in edge-wise on these. For exceptions, see the entry below.
  6. "The author role" is frequently confined to: 1) correcting punctuation; 2) agreeing with whatever the authoring editor says; 3) fighting forever and ever with the authoring editor yet winning nothing at all, even if your arguments are reasonable and lots of sane voices agree; and, 4) becoming so frustrated you wind up getting banned.
  7. Realize that your nagging notion that you may not want to bother to join at all is too often grounded.

These are some elephants we have walking around our living room, just pointing them out.

Stephen Ewen 16:34, 8 January 2008 (CST)

I think you're being a bit too harsh here. There's a tricky balance between expertise and neutrality, so we shouldn't get too upset when editors don't get it. Warren Schudy 18:47, 8 January 2008 (CST)
I don't think there is a balance; there's simply the concept of writing neutrality which you understand but refuse to adhere to, or you simply don't understand. --Robert W King 18:58, 8 January 2008 (CST)