Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales responds to a petition promoting alternative medicine by declaring Wikipedia will not pretend the work of “lunatic charlatans” is equivalent to true scientific discourse.
The change.org petition asks Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, to “Create and enforce new policies that allow for true scientific discourse about holistic approaches to healing.”
The petition goes on to claim: “Wikipedia is widely used and trusted. Unfortunately, much of the information related to holistic approaches to healing is biased, misleading, out-of-date, or just plain wrong.”
Members of the alternative medicine community signing the petition are pledging not to donate to Wikipedia if something doesn’t change about how they’re being treated by the internet’s go to encyclopedia.
Wales’ response to the petition is direct, and to the point:
No, you have to be kidding me. Every single person who signed this petition needs to go back to check their premises and think harder about what it means to be honest, factual, truthful.
Wikipedia’s policies around this kind of thing are exactly spot-on and correct. If you can get your work published in respectable scientific journals – that is to say, if you can produce evidence through replicable scientific experiments, then Wikipedia will cover it appropriately.
What we won’t do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is the equivalent of “true scientific discourse”.
Wales is right: Science is rigorous. Information based on third-party, published, peer-reviewed work is an appropriate minimum standard. If alternative medicines and practices cannot meet this minimum standard, they should not be treated as being equivalent to those medicines and practices that can meet the minimum standard.
Perhaps Tim Minchin said it best:
Do you know what they call alternative medicine that has been proven to work? “Medicine.”