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They explained that Wikipedia, a widely trusted source had misleading, out-of-date and misleading information about holistic healing.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