Wikiversity:Draft policy on religious content

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You can help develop this proposal, share your thoughts, or discuss its adoption as a Wikiversity policy, guideline, or process. References or links should describe this page as a "proposal".


This is a draft policy on religious content at Wikiversity, and is a proposed sub-policy of Wikiversity:Disclosures, elaborating on when and how NPOV applies to religious educational materials placed on Wikiversity. This policy applies only to content in the Main, Topic, Portal and School namespaces that is presented as explicitly educational. Content that is supplemental to education (class discussions, curriculum development projects, original research, etc.) is exempt, or subject to alternative criteria.

Religion and the goals of Wikiversity[edit]

The primary goals of Wikiversity are defined as follows:

  • Create and host a range of free-content, multilingual learning materials/resources, for all age groups in all languages
  • Host scholarly/learning projects and communities that support these materials
  • Complement and develop existing Wikimedia projects (eg. a project devoted to finding good sources for Wikipedia articles) [1]

Religion is certainly a valid topic of study; hence Wikiversity encourages editors to develop learning materials that study religion. A religion may be written about individually, or in comparison to others, with no limit to its type, number of constituents, or general acceptance among a population, except when such writings disrupt or destroy the Wikiversity learning environment. That being said, when writing religious content, editors must follow the set of guidelines delineated below.

NPOV: The default point of view[edit]

As a means to ensure that its educational content is written in a scholarly fashion, Wikiversity requires such content to be written from a neutral point of view. The neutral point of view (abbr. NPOV) is a method of dealing with topics that may have more than one point of view (abbr. POV). It requires that all significant views that are published by reliable sources be represented fairly and without bias[2].

Wikipedia says the following about NPOV: "The neutral point of view is a means of dealing with conflicting verifiable perspectives on a topic as evidenced by reliable sources. The policy requires that where multiple or conflicting perspectives exist within a topic each should be presented fairly. None of the views should be given undue weight or asserted as being judged as 'the truth'"[3]

Therefore, when writing content on a religion, as a rule an editor cannot himself assume the positions held by that religion. He can provide and fully explain such viewpoints, but he must also fully explain any pertinent opposing viewpoints as well. Moreover he cannot claim that one viewpoint is "better" than another, or himself argue in favor of a position; rather, he must give an unbiased presentation of the verifiable facts. See WP:NPOV for more details, or below for examples.

Editing from a specific point of view[edit]

NPOV works well in a number of fields of study, but in religion, it can make resource development a challenging task. For instance, a study of the Muslim faith can be done in an objective, unbiased manner. However, the constant need to present all opposing belief systems can distract the student from the study of Islam itself, and thus inhibit her from thoroughly understanding its tenets. In some learning projects, being allowed to write from a non-neutral viewpoint can greatly enhance the learning experience, thus furthering the goals of Wikiversity.

Hence Wikiversity allows its editors to step slightly outside of the boundaries of NPOV by permitting them to assume specific points of view in their writings. The proposed Disclosures policy describes in detail the protocol for assuming a POV; in summary, a resource must identify its POV bias(es) at the top of the page, using the Disclosures Template (see Help:Template)

Now while the Disclosures system allows an editor to sidestep the NPOV requirement, it does not allow him to publish unscholarly content. Wikiversity POV content must conform to the scholarly requirements for religious writings.

Statements of fact[edit]

In order to ensure scholarship in religious writings, statements of fact must be used carefully. A statement of fact is any statement that seeks to establish a fact. For instance, the sentence "Jesus was the Jewish messiah" is a statement of fact. Moreover, the sentence "According to Conservative Christianity, Jesus was the Jewish messiah" is also a statement of fact. The first sentence states an opinion, while the second sentence states that someone has an opinion.

All statements of fact must either be backed by verifiable sources, or be drawn from a learning project's disclosed biases. Therefore, the first sentence above is unacceptable unless an applicable disclosure of bias (e.g. Conservative Christianity) is present. If a statement of fact is not covered by a verifiable reference or a disclosure of bias, then it should either be removed, or an acceptable disclosure should be added.

Scholarly requirements[edit]

Because scholarship differs from field to field (e.g. biology is subject to the scientific method whereas literature is subject to various forms of textual analysis), a set of scholarly criteria has been written to judge the scholarship of non-NPOV religious content. Any such content that does conform to its respective requirements is subject to revision or deletion.

Primary sources / original research[edit]

"Primary source" in this context refers to a religious work that argues in favor of a POV without interpreting a source text. For instance, a chain of logic that tries to logically prove the premise "I think therefore I am" would be classified as a primary source. The following criteria will be used to judge religious primary sources:

  • All biases/POV's must be disclosed as detailed in Disclosures, except the POV that you are attempting to reach.
  • A clear statement of intent must be placed directly before the argument. In the statement, the reader must be informed of the document's intent to persuade, and a description/summary of the viewpoint must also be included.
  • All statements of fact must adhere to the guidelines above.
  • Logic must be clear and understandable.

Secondary sources / interpretive research[edit]

"Secondary source" in this context refers to a religious work that argues in favor of a POV by interpreting one or more source texts (primary sources). For example, an attempt to demonstrate that the Biblical characters Jonathan and David were homosexuals would be classified as a secondary source. The following criteria will be used to judge religious secondary sources:

  • The goal in such a work is to argue for a specific interpretation of (a) source text(s); hence no statements/arguments should assume that a given source text is "true" unless such a bias is disclosed.
  • Any interpretive biases should also be disclosed, i.e any methods of interpretation adhered to, etc.
  • Logic must be clear and understandable.

Tertiary sources / compilations[edit]

"Tertiary source" in this context refers to a religious work that presents the opinions of secondary sources. For instance, a summary of the Mormon "Adam-God" doctrine would cite reliable Mormon interpretations of scripture. The following criteria will be used to judge religious primary sources:

  • Must cite reliable, verifiable sources, as in NPOV.
  • May be written from a POV, but all POVs must be disclosed, as detailed in Disclosures

Combination Works[edit]

Some scholarly works may not conform to any one of the above classifications, but represent rather a combination of material. The following criterion will be used to judge such combination works:

  • Portions of a work which conform to a given classification will be judged by that classification's criteria. If all portions pass their respective criteria, the work as a whole passes.

Scholarly genres not represented here[edit]

The above list of religious genres may or may not be complete. If you believe that another type of scholarly religious work should be allowed on Wikiversity, discuss it on this policy's talk page.

Examples[edit]

The following are examples of unacceptable content, acceptable NPOV content, and acceptable POV content.

unacceptable acceptable NPOV acceptable POV
Hamsters are the coolest species on the earth. This is unacceptable because it is a statement of fact that is unbacked by a verifiable, reliable source. The Portside Hamster Society contends that "Hamsters are the coolest species on the earth."[4], however the Inland Gerbils (Reformed) only believes them to be the third coolest species[5]. This is acceptable, because it is backed by verifiable, reliable sources, and it presents a balanced, detached summary of all pertinent viewpoints.
Emblem-scales.svg Perspective: Portside Hamsterism.
Its authors are committed to maintaining a high level of scholarly ethics.
Hamsters are the coolest species on the earth. This is acceptable because it is a statement of fact derived from the disclosure of bias, Also, because of the disclosure, it needn't present all alternative viewpoints.
I believe that hamsters will one day rule the world, whereas my friend Bob thinks I'm nuts. This is unacceptable because although it presents alternative viewpoints, they are not from reliable sources, nor are they verifiable to the average student. Portside Hamsters believe that hamsters will one day rule the world[6], however the Inland Gerbils believe that the Great Gerbil will make their reign short-lived[7]. This is acceptable because the sources are reliable, and verifiable by the average student.
Emblem-scales.svg Perspective: Portside Hamsterism.
Its authors are committed to maintaining a high level of scholarly ethics.
I believe that hamsters will one day rule the world. This is acceptable again, because of the disclosure.
Emblem-scales.svg Perspective: Anti-Hamsterism.
Its authors are committed to maintaining a high level of scholarly ethics.
Hamsters are evil. They are dirty, mangy creatures with no respect for God. God hates all hamsters, and they will soon reap the just rewards for their disgusting heresies. This is unacceptable for two reasons.
  • First of all, it is unscholarly; simply advertising a bias on Wikiversity does not free an editor to write whatever she pleases. Learning materials must be written in a scholarly manner.
  • Secondly, the tone of the edit rides against Wikiversity's civility policy. Differences of opinion are both welcomed and encouraged; however, they must be presented in a scholarly and civil manner.
A movement known as anti-hamsterism has taken root in a number of urban communities across the U.S.[8] Hamsters are often viewed as rebels, insubordinate to the dominion of humanity[9]. This is acceptable because it states the fact that some oppose Portside Hamsterism, instead of directly opposing it itself. I would like to argue that Portside Hamsterism is a threat to humanity, for the following reasons:
  1. A world ruled by hamsters would likely contribute heavily to the transmission of human diseases[10]
  2. Many children already own hamsters as pets; if the roles were reversed, the results could have devastating effects on our children's mental health.[11]
  3. ...

This is acceptable because it presents its opinions in a respectful, scholarly manner. Notice that no POVs are disclosed here. Such content is nonetheless acceptable, because it falls into the category of "primary sources" above.

Notes[edit]

  1. Wikiversity Project Proposal, mission (14:50, 28 March 2008 (UTC))
  2. Wikipedia:Neutral point of view, introduction (14:50, 28 March 2008 (UTC))
  3. Wikipedia:Neutral point of view, The neutral point of view (14:50, 28 March 2008 (UTC))
  4. Hamster Manifesto 2005, p.1.
  5. Discourses of a Wandering Gerbil 2006, pp.15-19
  6. Hamster Manifesto 2005, p.99.
  7. Systematic Gerbilism 1984, p.503
  8. Joe Schmoe's poll 2007, p.2.
  9. The Hamster Rebellion 2003, pp.3, 45-47
  10. Journal of Disease 2001, pp.190-193.
  11. Child-Pet Psychological Journal 1998, pp.23-27