The National Post exposes broad trust issues over Wikipedia climate information


Watts Up With That?
December 21, 2009

UPDATED: see stats below the “read more” line.

Lawrence Solomon at the National Post writes about a topic that WUWT readers have known about for a long time: How Wikipedia’s green doctor rewrote 5,428 climate articles.

We’ve known for some time that Wikipedia can’t be trusted to provide unbiased climate information. Solomon starts off by talking about Climategate emails.

The emails also describe how the band plotted to rewrite history as well as science, particularly by eliminating the Medieval Warm Period, a 400 year period that began around 1000 AD.

The Climategate Emails reveal something else, too: the enlistment of the most widely read source of information in the world — Wikipedia — in the wholesale rewriting of this history.

He then focuses on RealClimate.org co-founder William Connolley, who has “touched” 5,428 Wikipedia articles with his unique brand of RC centric editing:

All told, Connolley created or rewrote 5,428 unique Wikipedia articles. His control over Wikipedia was greater still, however, through the role he obtained at Wikipedia as a website administrator, which allowed him to act with virtual impunity. When Connolley didn’t like the subject of a certain article, he removed it — more than 500 articles of various descriptions disappeared at his hand. When he disapproved of the arguments that others were making, he often had them barred — over 2,000 Wikipedia contributors who ran afoul of him found themselves blocked from making further contributions. Acolytes whose writing conformed to Connolley’s global warming views, in contrast, were rewarded with Wikipedia’s blessings. In these ways, Connolley turned Wikipedia into the missionary wing of the global warming movement.

The Medieval Warm Period disappeared, as did criticism of the global warming orthodoxy. With the release of the Climategate Emails, the disappearing trick has been exposed. The glorious Medieval Warm Period will remain in the history books, perhaps with an asterisk to describe how a band of zealots once tried to make it disappear.

Wikipedia suffers from the same problem that climate science in general suffers from now. A few determined zealots have influenced the vast majority of the published information.

IMHO it is time for Connolley to step aside from Wikipedia, one person should not have so much influence over so many articles. At the same time, the number two person, almost as influential, is Kim Dabelstein Peterson. Here’s a National Review article on the kind of things Petersen has been doing in similar to the work of Connolley.

Additionally, there are many Wikipedia editors and contributors that do so anonymously, and I think that is terribly wrong. There’s no accountability, no quality control, and no recourse to people who falsify information, or mold it to fit a personal agenda. Wikipedia relies upon an honor system, and as we’ve seen from the Climategate emails, there’s no honor in some circles of climate science.

Here is another example:

The Opinionator

Posted: May 03, 2008, 2:53 AM by Lawrence Solomon

Connolley is not only a big shot on Wikipedia, he’s a big shot at Wikipedia — an Administrator with unusual editorial clout. Using that clout, this 40-something scientist of minor relevance gets to tear down scientists of great accomplishment. Because Wikipedia has become the single biggest reference source in the world, and global warming is one of the most sought after subjects, the ability to control information on Wikipedia by taking down authoritative scientists is no trifling matter.

One such scientist is Fred Singer, the First Director of the U.S. National Weather Satellite Service, the recipient of a White House commendation for his early design of space satellites; the recipient of a NASA commendation for research on particle clouds — in short, a scientist with dazzling achievements who is everything Connolley is not. Under Connolley’s supervision, Singer is relentlessly smeared, and has been for years, as a kook who believes in Martians and a hack in the pay of the oil industry. When a smear is inadequate, or when a fair-minded Wikipedian tries to correct a smear, Connolley and his cohorts are there to widen the smear or remove the correction, often rebuking the Wikipedian in the process.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales recently put out an appeal for donations here. He writes:

I believe in us. I believe that Wikipedia keeps getting better. That’s the whole idea. One person writes something, somebody improves it a little, and it keeps getting better, over time. If you find it useful today, imagine how much we can achieve together in 5, 10, 20 years.

[efoods]In a perfect world, maybe. In a perfect world unicorns frolic in the park, free money falls from the sky, and people are honest and without bias 100% of the time. But when you have Wikibullies, such as Connolley and Peterson, your honor system goes up in smoke. Fact is Jimmy, your honor system is as corrupted as the peer review process is for climate science these days. In my view, don’t give Wikipedia another dime until they make some changes to provide for a more responsible information environment.

Making free reference information available to the public shouldn’t be a battle of wills between Wikibullies with an agenda and the rest of society.

Here’s where to write to complain to Wikipedia:

Wikimedia Foundation

Postal address

Wikimedia Foundation Inc.
149 New Montgomery Street, 3rd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94105
USA

Phone: +1-415-839-6885
Email: info@wikimedia.org
Fax: +1-415-882-0495 (note: we get a large number of calls; email or fax is always a better first option)

UPDATE: I’ve located Solomon’s source of information, an independent Wikipedia author tracker. Here is Connolley’s base statistics:

Click image for full report


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