Some time ago, a friend of mine, Dr. Matthew James, president of Kona University, told a story about his experience while studying for his PhD. In one class, a student has submitted a paper that included references from Wikipedia. The professor denounced Wikipedia and anyone who used it for a reference, returning the paper to the student.
Is that fair? Should Wikipedia be denounced, or at least not trusted? Well, I think we should look at what Wikipedia has to say about their own reliability: Here is part of theirĀ General Disclaimer:
WIKIPEDIA MAKES NO GUARANTEE OF VALIDITY
Wikipedia is an online open-content collaborative encyclopedia; that is, a voluntary association of individuals and groups working to develop a common resource of human knowledge. The structure of the project allows anyone with an Internet connection to alter its content. Please be advised that nothing found here has necessarily been reviewed by people with the expertise required to provide you with complete, accurate or reliable information.
That is not to say that you will not find valuable and accurate information in Wikipedia; much of the time you will. However,Ā Wikipedia cannot guarantee the validity of the information found here. The content of any given article may recently have been changed, vandalized or altered by someone whose opinion does not correspond with the state of knowledge in the relevant fields.
But they don’t stop there. They also have a Content Disclaimer, of which this is a part:
…Wikipedia is a work in progress, and many articles contain errors, bias, [or] duplication…The great majority of articles are written primarily or solely by individuals who are not subject matter experts, and may lack academic or professional credentials in the area.
This is all damning enough, but they have more. Here is part of their Risk Disclaimer:
USE WIKIPEDIA AT YOUR OWN RISK
PLEASE BE AWARE THAT ANY INFORMATION YOU MAY FIND IN WIKIPEDIA MAY BE INACCURATE, MISLEADING, DANGEROUS, ADDICTIVE, UNETHICAL OR ILLEGAL.
[All emphasis above is found in the original, on-line quotes.]
But don’t take my word for any of this. Check it out yourself. I have always told my students to check out anything I say. Shouldn’t Wikipedia be held to the same standard? In fact, in the Risk Disclaimer, Wikipedia says you should do the same thing for their entries: “Please take all steps necessary to ascertain that information you receive from Wikipedia is correct and has been verified. Check theĀ references at the end of the article. Read the article’sĀ talk page andĀ revision history to see if there are outstanding disputes over the contents of the article. Double-check all information with independent sources.”
What I like to say to my workshop students is that “Wikipedia is a good place to start research, but a terrible place to end it.”
Thanks for the Warning,
But What’s the Deal?
The “deal” is that whether we like it or not, whether Wikipedia is a good resource or not, many people still use it and rely on it. That means if you care about things being accurate, you and I have to help Wikipedia become more accurate. And right now, there’s a war brewing.
One of the pseudonymous “editors” of Wikipedia appears to have a grudge against Pagans and occultists. On this editor’s profile, she or he lists himself or herself as a “Humanist.” For those of you who are unaware of it, being a Humanist simply means that you attach more importance to humans and their beliefs rather than spiritual concepts, especially those of religions or that have religion-like qualities. Well, that’s fine. If you’re a Humanist and that makes you happy, that’s great. Unfortunately, although Humanism is definitely not a religion, some Humanists treat their beliefs as if they were a religion, and a fundamentalist religion at that. To them, anything that might oppose this fundamentalist religion approach to Humanism must be destroyed and removed from the awareness of people who aren’t capable of making their own decisions about what they should and should not believe.
And that’s what it appears this one editor is trying to do. This editor is trying to get entries for numerous people involved in occultism deleted from Wikipedia. This includes such people asĀ M. Macha Nightmare, Luisah Teish, Louis Martinie, Kenny Klein, LaSara FireFox, Ian Corrigan, and Raven Grimassi.
This has been brought to my attention by several people, including my friendsĀ Tony Mierzwicki and Maegdlyn Morris. One of the best comments on this that I’ve seen has been fromĀ Christine Kraemer on Patheos. I especially like her post because she gives recommendations as to what we can do to stop this one person’s anti-occult, anti-Pagan attacks on religious freedom.
Full Disclosure: Yes, I’m one of the people up for deletion. Right now, I’m lucky enough that people can find out about me through a variety of means and my inclusion on Wikipedia, although nice, isn’t of vital importance. I am, however, grateful to people such as Christine, Tony, and especially Maegdlyn who are trying to keep me and others on Wikipedia for those who might seek more information about us there. Whether I stay or am deleted isn’t as important as the delisting of so many other fine and important people due to the actions of just one person who seems to be putting person prejudice above integrity.
As I write this, tomorrow is Thanksgiving, 2012. I hope you all have a wonderful time. But besides the friends and family, feeding and (for some) watching football, I hope you take a moment to think about and be thankful for whatever blessings you may have received this year.
I think that would be a good thing if you can share some of those blessings. Even a small donation of time and energy or money to a local charity would be a good way to share your thanks. Donations of non-perishable foods to a local food bank can be meaningful. You might also consider giving to the Red Cross or similar groups to help those who are still suffering from the effects of the recent “superstorm” Sandy.
The day after Thanksgiving is known as “Black Friday.” Believe it or not, for many retailers, this day of sales will be the day that they begin to turn a profit for the year and finally move out of the red and “into the black”; That’s why it’s called Black Friday. While some of you may believe in ignoring the commercialism, hype and frenzied buying of gifts to give for Yule, Christmas, or Hanukkah, some people enjoy buying thoughtful presents to give to friends and loved ones.
If you are going to buy things, I would like to suggest that you make purchases from local independent stores. This will support your community rather than sending profits off to another state. It will help to encourage your local economy and bring vitality and variety to it. Those “big box” national chain stores will be there and make plenty of money, taking it away from local businesses and the local community. You can buy from them another time. This time, support your community, support your friends and neighbors, support your local economy, and support your independent local stores, especially New Age or occult bookstores.