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Using Wikipedia For Citation

In learning about critical thinking, science and skepticism I find myself reading Wikipedia all the time. It is a vast body of knowledge. I could not imagine taking a walk to the library every time I wanted to verify something I’ve read or seen in the news.


How can I just trust Wikipedia as the decider of all things. Well I can’t and I don’t have to. Every piece of information you read from Wikipedia they have a source or citation. Most often they are strong sources from reputable books, journals, new papers or websites.

Wikipedia thinks scientifically and skeptically about gathering data. (Citation 1).

The founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales has seen first hand the effects of woo woo bull and understands the importance of standards. You can read from his blog about a run in he had with a pharmacist pushing Homeopathy cures.

Did you just say hey, wait a minute homeopathy works doesn’t it? Sorry to tell you it doesn’t. I’ve spent hours upon hours reading all about it here

They have a very well written website about it. Please click that link above and take a quick read on how homeopathy works. They provide a brief description.

Here is a small video of the uses of homeopathy in our hospitals. created a petition with over 8000 signatures in an attempt to present a case to Wikipedia to change policies on holistic approaches to healing and asked for fair minded referees on posts about “energy medicine” and the “emotional freedom techniques”. (Citation 2)

They explained that Wikipedia, a widely trusted source had misleading, out-of-date and misleading information about holistic healing.

Here is Jimmy Whales response,

“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”. It isn’t.”

This response is a perfect example of why Wikipedia is widely used and trusted. They have strong standards of evidence. Do they get some things wrong? Yes. Did the Encyclopedia Britannica get things wrong? Yes.

I suggest that for quick reference Wikipedia is a great source for finding facts.

Therefore, as a laymen with no formal education in Science or critical thinking I generally feel safe using Wikipedia for my citation. It often requires specialized training in a specified field of study just to understand the specifics in scientific studies.

I don’t have the time to go get masters degrees for every topic I read on the internet.

Multiple reputable sources is best but Wikipedia is generally a very good source for information.



I’ve been studying critical thinking lately.  The topic I’ve been interested in most recently is the Logical Fallacy.  I’ve been studying them.  How they apply, where they apply, when they do and don’t apply.

Since these LFs are on my radar I’m unintentionally looking out for them and spotting them when I see them.

Here is an example, Red Herring Fallacy. (Citations 1, 2)

A Red Herring is a Logical Fallacy as it is used to distract or change the subject of discussion away from the original argument to avoid the topic.

Another LF is called the False Dichotomy. Also known as the False Dilemma, Black or White Thinking and the Either-Or Fallacy(Citations 1, 2)

A false Dichotomy is used to present only two possible options when there can be more. Example, You are either Rich or you are Poor.

Somebody shared this video on Facebook. I noticed there was quite a few comments so I assumed the video was intriguing so I watched it.


Do You Own A Cellphone?

Do You Own A Cellphone?

Do You Own A Cellphone?

Wow, if that’s not a Red Herring attempting to distract and change the subject I don’t know what is.  She’s using the Red Herring to create a False Dichotomy argument.  It sounds something like this.

Either you Deny Climate Change or You Must Stop Using All Forms Of Technology In An Attempt To Stop Climate Change.

I SAYS WHAT? Pardon Me? Did I hear You Right?

Do I need to delve into a diatribe about the problems with this error in logic? We can’t force ourselves into a bubble and struggle to live again without technology.  We can make changes to our current technology though.


Please read the information in the Picture.



In this argument Peter is trying to point out that appealing to Authority is a Fallacy. He is right, APPEAL TO AUTHORITY is a Fallacy. (Citation 1).

Is Peter right to say you are committing a fallacy to appeal to Climate Scientists to prove your argument.  No it’s not a Fallacy when they are experts in the field.

It’s not a Fallacy to Appeal To Authority When They Actually Are An Authority And There is A Consensus.

What’s the difference?  The difference is these scientists have spent their careers in the field studying the data.

They aren’t just reading some blog.

They aren’t just citing a peer reviewed scientific journal.

They are collecting the actual data and actually writing the peer reviewed articles. They have the Evidence.  The large body of evidence considered proof.

It’s only a fallacy to appeal to someone else like a car salesman to determine if climate change is a reality.

Even if man made climate change was not occurring it would still be the correct way to behave.

The Evidence for Man Made Climate Change is now considered overwhelming by the scientific community. (Citation 1).

As lay people not well versed in science, peer reviewed journals or the phrases and language used in the science circles we are forced to use the general media to learn about the world.

Even as laymen, if you want to participate in a discussion with friends or family we need to make sure we check multiple sources for our data.  Working to confirm your views are right and conforming with reality is important.

Let’s look at this article from the Wall Street Journal. Sure they are a right wing source but they are still considered reputable. The article states that the 97 % consensus on Climate change is not legitimate.  It doesn’t however provide a more likely percent which makes me wonder if they are withholding information.

Then I google Wall Street Journal on Climate Change and read this and this and realize that first article had an agenda and distorted the data.


I’m not going to be so bold and say that 97% of Scientists believe Climate Change is Man Made and serious.  I’m simply going to state there is a consensus and they almost all agree.

What does having  Scientific Evidence mean? How do we compare it with Evidence in everyday life or in law? (Citation 1, 2,)

Well it turns out understanding what is Evidence is complicated. I’m going to quote from a blog I read from time to time authored by 

VI. A modest proposal
My preliminary proposal is pretty straightforward, and it sort of blends two of the understandings that philosophers use and tries to keep to the scientific understanding of evidence, which is actually useful and not misleading. Further, I think it reflects the everyday “folk” use of the word in many applications.

A body of observations O is evidence for a hypothesis H if, and only if, it is a consistent part of a larger body of observations called evidential closure of O, comprised of all observations bearing significantly upon H, such that the probability that H is true givenO (plus its evidential closure) is sufficiently great to warrant justified belief that H is true. In this case, we could call an observation A in O an evidential observation.

To summarize this definition in plainer language, I’m saying that an observation should only be considered “evidence” (more carefully, an evidential observation) for a hypothesis if it is a consistent part of a large number of observations that taken together, along with all other observations that have relevance, constitute support that justifies belief in the hypothesis. In short, we only have evidence if all of the relevant information we have, taken together, justifies accepting the hypothesis at a given level of confidence, and then the specific body of observations that provide inferential or direct support for the hypothesis is the evidence.The body of observations that collectively justify acceptance of the hypothesis, not any observation individually, is what we should consider to be evidence, and we could call an observation in that body an “evidential observation” if we wanted to. The key here is that something should only constitute evidence for a hypothesis if that hypothesis has, on the whole, strong enough reasons to be believed to be taken as provisionally true.Thinking of evidence as a body of observations, instead of thinking of individual observations themselves as being evidence, comports fairly well, but imperfectly, with the way lay people, scientists, and lawyers use the word, so it is not a radical overhaul to suggest that it be treated specifically as such.

 See what I mean? As I delve deeper into learning Science and Skepticism I realize I need a larger brain.  Mine is a small IDE drive and I need a large Solid State Drive brain.  It still works, its just a lot slower.

It must be frustrating when your evidence is dismissed because of the Fallacy of Personal Incredulity (Citation 1, 2, 3).

Scientists have spent their careers collecting the data.  They have checked their results over and over to ensure they save face when they write an article in a peer reviewed journal.

The purpose of the article is to present an argument for a piece of evidence.  Cover all their possible problems in advance, explain their possible error or biases.  Explain exactly every step they took to get that data. Explain what they think the results mean.

Then it’s peer reviewed.  The review isn’t a slap on the back to say good job. They scrutinize every point.  They try to rip it to shreds. They actually try to prove it wrong.   After all the scrutiny if they deem it valid, it’s still not evidence yet. Now they need to duplicate it. They duplicate it several times by several people.

Each one of these duplicated studies are also peer reviewed and the scrutiny is conducted over again.  Once it passes this level then it becomes a consensus that this test or experiment can be used as evidence to prove a specific point.

The results can be confirmed through experiment and it usually has a predictive model that can predict future events which are later confirmed which in turn strengthens the original hypothesis or theory.

That’s why advanced technology works, it’s Science BITCHES. (Citation 1)

In the future if new evidence is put forward to discredit the original evidence it has to be exceptional evidence to the contrary.  The work has already been done and it stands on it’s merit. The new information needs to be bold and it requires a model, a large body of data that shows the error in the previous data.

That 3 % has not been very convincing to the Scientific or Skeptic community .  You need to go where the evidence goes if you want to discovery new knowledge about our reality.

Small points showing slight inconsistencies are not good enough for us to throw out a large body of evidence pointing in one direction.

I’m planning on writing several more posts about Critical Thinking, Logical Fallacys, Cognitive Bias and Skeptical Thinking.  Writing down what you learn helps you to internalize the information.  It helps you to calculate the validity and question it.  It’s a means for establishing truth.

Martin Sandbach