Note: 8/25/08 I will continue working on this study at Ethical Management of the English Language Wikipedia/Moulton, JWSchmidt's investigation.
Here is my proximal starting point: "Perhaps Jimbo could just suggest that Wikipedians establish a better practice of Fair Play than has thus far been afforded to outcasts such as myself."
The first thing that comes to mind is that Wikipedia could have a page for "block review". Wikipedia has many pages for review of actions such as page deletions (Wikipedia:Deletion review), so why not a similar organized system for the review of blocks? Currently there is Wikipedia:Appealing a block and Wikipedia:Guide to appealing blocks.
Study question. Should editors of biographical pages be required to reveal their real world identity?
I want to write a very short account of how Moulton got into the mess he is in. First I need to make sure I have the facts clear.
John orders his thoughts
How I came to know Moulton. I have been busy in the real world and only became aware of User:Moulton on or about 4 August 2008, even though he came to Wikiversity on 9 July 2008. Since then I have been gradually learning about Moulton's editing history at Wikipedia. When I first saw Ethical Management of the English Language Wikipedia I linked it to an existing Wikiversity topic, Topic:Wikipedia studies. At that time I did not have any knowledge of Moulton's editing history at Wikipedia. As someone who has been learning about that editing history during the past few weeks, I hope to be able to help construct a short narrative of events. This exercise is important because Wikipedia has a problem with biographies of living persons and Moulton's editing history at Wikipedia is an interesting case study related to that larger problem. By understanding what happened to Moulton we might be able to improve Wikipedia. The basic problem is that anyone can start a biographical Wikipedia article and write it in a biased way that does not follow the Wikipedia rules that are designed to lead to the creation of fair and balanced biographies of notable people. The additional problem is that some of Wikipedia's biased biographies are created and owned by editors who are pushing a particular agenda. Moulton crossed paths with some dedicated editors who behaved as if they owned a set of biographical articles and could use those articles as part of a protracted edit war that is roughly centered on the Creation-evolution controversy.
1) Has the Wikipedia:WikiProject intelligent design attracted a group of editors who damage Wikipedia by trying too zealously to defend Wikipedia against creationists and other editors who question evolution by natural selection?
2) Is Moulton an example of a Wikipedia editor who was unfairly treated by editors associated with the Wikipedia:WikiProject intelligent design?
3) Is there something we can do to prevent this kind of problem in the future?
Timeline of events
August 2007. Before 21 August 2007, User:Moulton was a typical Wikipedia editor, having made several dozen edits to various articles over the course of a year and a half. When Moulton followed a link from Affective computing to Rosalind Picard he found a biographical Wikipedia article that was in a particularly bad state. The Wikipedia article about Rosalind Picard is in some ways a "typical" Wikipedia biographical article. The subject of the article, Dr. Picard, is a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Wikipedia has many other biographical articles about university professors, many of which are autobiographical, having been started by the subject. The Rosalind Picard article is unusual in that it was started by an editor who had an ax to grind.
The Rosalind Picard article was made (7 March 2006) by copying her online Faculty Profile and adding a section called, "Intelligent Design Support". It is clear that the purpose of User:Tempb was to create an article that labels Dr. Picard as a supporter of Intelligent design and as "anti-evolution". Page section title changed from "Anti-Evolution Petition Signatory" to "Darwin dissenter" by Filll.
Is there an "anti-Intelligent Design Cabal"?
1) was there an organized effort to create biographical articles for signers of the petition that was released under the title, "A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism"?
2) was there an organized effort to prevent those articles from being made more balanced and accurate?
3) is there a coordinated group of rude and abusive anti-Intelligent design editors who prevent the creation of more balanced articles related to intelligent design and creationism?
4) Is this a good summary: "a group of editors was so caught up in their crusade against ID-on-Wikipedia that they couldn't recognize valid criticism, and moreover, that many of those editors resorted to despicable tactics in order to get their way"?
terminology. "IDiots" used to refer to creationists in edit summary by User:General Nolledge, creator of Granville Sewell (8 October 2006 ), an early "single purpose" biographical article linked to from A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism....example of creating a biography just to make connections to the person's stance on ID.
single purpose biographies. Just how many "single purpose" biographies like Rosalind Picard were created? By who? For what purpose?
- long list of biographies towards the bottom
- discussion of creation of a "Signers Category", (ConfuciusOrnis 15:08, 20 June 2007 (diff) (deletion log) (Restore) . . m Category:Signatory of "A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism" (creating Cat)), the category was deleted and replaced by a list: List of signatories to "A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism"
A recent list of problematical biographies from Moulton lists:
- James Tour - fairly normal short biography, then added to category [Signatory of "A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism"] by ConfuciusOrnis on 20 June 2007. Then a page section Anti-Evolution Petition Controversy was added by User:Filll on 26 August 2007, doubling the size of the article in order to make the single point that he was a signatory to the petition. Is this an example of Undue weight?
- David Berlinski - is this the start of excessive biography weighting by FeloniousMonk on 8 March 2006?
- Guillermo Gonzalez (astronomer) this article was subject to a discussion about deletion soon after its creation (26 February 2006). This short discussion provides an interesting window into the give-and-take at Wikipedia over biographical articles related to evolution/creationism. The article was originally created by User:King aardvark and called Guillermo Gonzalez (CSC), making explicit reference to the Center for Science and Culture. Category:Intelligent design advocates
How do we clean things up?
- Ottava Rima: expand the biased biographies into balanced articles
Moulton responds here
I first began editing in the bailiwick of the WikiClique on Intelligent Design ("IDCab" or Intelligent Design Cabal) exactly one year ago today. During this time of year, when everyone is on vacation and nothing much is happening, it occurred to me to look at Wikipedia to see if it had an article on Affective Computing, and whether it was up to date. Whilst reviewing that article, I noticed it included a blue link to Rosalind Picard, the author of the textbook of that same name, the founder of the academic discipline of the same name, and the MIT Media Lab faculty member who had established the Affective Computing Research Group at the MIT Media Lab, and who, in 1999, had brought me into her group as a Visiting Scientist on the occasion of winning an NSF grant.
There then ensued a brief edit war followed by a contentious talk page discussion on the Picard BLP and related IDCab-controlled articles that lasted two weeks. On September 4th, User:ConfuciusOrnis and User:Filll (both IDCab charter members) filed RfC/Moulton, which lasted another week. On 9/11 of last year, User:KillerChihuahua (also an IDCab charter member) unilaterally closed RfC/Moulton by executing an Indef-Block, at which point I could only edit on my own Wikipedia talk page.
Travesties of the Intelligent Design Cabal
Last week, I sent to Jimbo Wales (at his request) a list of problematic BLP's and related articles and non-article pages produced by members of the Intelligent Design Cabal. Here is a summary of the items in that list.
Rosalind Picard Biography, as I found it, exactly a year ago. It's still not fully cleaned up.
Affective Computing, which the IDCab trashed up in a childish act of revenge.
James Tour Biography, a similar battleground for accuracy, excellence, and ethics in online media.
Guillermo Gonzalez Biography, another IDCcab hatchet job.
A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism, which I fear the IDCab will never bring into compliance with reasonable standards of objectivity and professionalism.
List of Signatories to the Scientific Dissent from Darwinism, which for two years contained libelous and defamatory claims about many scientists and academics whose names were emblazoned there.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Other editors comment here
You're starting the story in the middle. Moulton has also gone through this same behavior pattern at Slashdot () and at Worldcrossing () and has numerous complaints about this kind of behavior on his own site (). Salmon of Doubt 20:42, 21 August 2008 (UTC)
- Thanks for the reminder. Does this help us to improve Wikipedia? --JWSchmidt 21:54, 21 August 2008 (UTC)
- I do think it is useful to point out that among Moulton's behavior patterns that are consistent over time include being both obsessive and persistent which can be frustrating to work with. Add his being "part aspie" and you have a recipe for people perceiving him as a trouble-maker. Also note that Moulton has a w:WP:COI on his good friend Rosalind Picard and the subject of their project - Affective Computing, so his point of view can not be trusted to be neutral with regard to the article he was trying to get changed when he was initially banned. IDcab sees a constant stream of people coming to articles they protect from creationists trying to push their point of view and it was perhaps inevitable that they would mistake Moulton for one of these. Unfortunately, they seem incapable of changing their minds based on new information. All in all, it made for a typical newbie-biting scenario at Wikipedia. Which could have been resolved, if the IDcab did not behave as it does. And the IDcab problem could be fixed if Arbcom would act as it should. But they have not so far been willing to halt abuse by long standing contributors who mostly help the encyclopedia, so the problems fester. WAS 4.250 19:16, 23 August 2008 (UTC)
- WAS, you state "Unfortunately, they seem incapable of changing their minds based on new information." How many times has Moulton/Picard been asked to publish a clear statement that they do not believe in Intelligent Design as professed by the Discovery Institute and find Evolution to be the most likely explanation for current life? How many times have they been totally unwilling to answer with a clear and unambiguous statement? You say there is "new information." What is it? Salmon of Doubt 23:46, 23 August 2008 (UTC)
- to "Salmon of Doubt". I do not understand how your desire for such a statement relates to Wikipedia or this page. "We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged." You might not like it, but many rational people are skeptical about the ability of natural selection to account for everything. If this bothers you so much, to the extent that you imagine it is your place to demand that Picard publish something to satisfy you, then you have a clear (and I would say irrational) bias and should not edit Wikipedia articles related to this subject. I think I understand why you hide your identity. --JWSchmidt 03:50, 24 August 2008 (UTC)
- I have no problem with their "nuanced" statement supporting intelligent design. There is consensus in the scientific community that you are wrong - there is additional consensus in the polemical community that using "Darwinian theory" means you're not actually "skeptical" but rather "polemical." I have no bias, in that I don't especially care about Evolution on Wikipedia, but WAS 4250 says there was new evidence that supporters of accuracy in science-related pages could trust Moulton not to push ID. I'm wondering what that new evidence was. Salmon of Doubt 10:57, 24 August 2008 (UTC)
- What is your evidence and reasoning to support the notion (long published by IDCab in the pages of Wikipedia) that the first 103 signatories of the 2-sentence, 32-statement which IDCab has elected to label and refer to as "A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism" (from the headline of an anti-PBS ad in which the statement first appeared in print) are either pro-ID or anti-evolution? Is that notion WP:OR? Is it a misconception and a logical fallacy? —Moulton 12:41, 24 August 2008 (UTC)
(<---)Salmon of Doubt, you seem to under the impression that Moulton has made a pro-ID statement somewhere. As near as I can tell you are wrong on that. As near as I can tell, it is a case of you and IDcab folks not understanding that there are non-Darwinian non-ID processes that are a part of evolution. You guys see the ID people conflate Darwinian-ism and Evolution so you think everyone does. Scientists investigating evolution distinguish Darwin's ideas and post-Darwin ideas. They do not want their ideas credited to Darwin. They want that credit for themselves. So they restrict the meaning of "Darwinism" to ideas Darwin actually had. I have read many statements Moulton has provided that indicate some of the signers were merely saying that other newer evolution ideas like evolutionary drift needed to get more attention. WAS 4.250 14:43, 24 August 2008 (UTC)
- Links? Salmon of Doubt 14:59, 24 August 2008 (UTC)
- PS - I am well aware that "Darwinism" is a slur advanced by push groups in an attempt to denigrate the scientific fact of Evolutions as a religious belief. Salmon of Doubt 15:00, 24 August 2008 (UTC)
- Links to what? To "many statements Moulton has provided"? I don't have them handy. Perhaps Moulton does. Ask him. WAS 4.250 16:13, 24 August 2008 (UTC)