Writer and media strategist Rome Viharo offers a a case study of Wikipedia editorial bias in the back and forth war over an entry on Rupert Sheldrake:
Rupert Sheldrake has a career of 30 years being the official ‘critic’ of scientific materialism and reductionism – what many would simply refer to as the ‘mainstream scientific point of view’. It began in 1982 with the editor of Nature magazine referring to him as a ‘heretic’ and suggesting that his book on his ‘Hypothesis of Formative Causation’ might be a candidate for burning if society chooses to use book burning as a way to control knowledge. He has been wearing the banner of the ‘heretic of science’ ever since. For this reason, I find Rupert Sheldrake not only interesting but a hoot.
In these past 30 years, BBC documentaries, television programs, and even academic thesis papers and peer review journals have been covering the manner in which Rupert Sheldrake has been treated by the scientific community as often as his ideas. Rupert has always challenged them back publicly, even in round table discussions directly with some of the biggest luminaries in science – and this has made him notable for this alone. Daniel Dennett, the American philosopher once compared him to Voltaire, in the sense that if Rupert did not exist, ‘we would have to invent him’.
So when Rupert emailed me in August of 2013, almost a year later after we met, out of the blue asking for my advice on Wikipedia, I was intrigued, but also a little unsure about what Rupert was requesting. I’m a big fan of Wikipedia, and truly honor the ‘neutral point of view’ approach to the world’s largest encyclopedia. Many people want to treat Wikipedia as a vanity piece or biography – a way to promote their ideas and work. I learned that the hard way in 2006 and it was a valuable editing experience at the time. I’m personally against Wikipedia being used for those purposes and I was hoping this was not what Rupert was asking me because I would feel uncomfortable if I had to let him down. He informed me he was just asking my advice about what to do regarding editors on his Wikipedia page whom have taken it over and were bullying others away from editing. So I went to his page to check it out.
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