28 August 2007

Wikipedia: NPOV?

Until now, I have not given much weight to claims that Wikipedia has a 'liberal' (i.e. illiberal) bias. I have taken the view that being criticised by both sides of the culture war (W. is certainly not very popular with most of the il-liberal intelligentsia) is a healthy sign.

This is the first time I have had serious reason to doubt my confidence about this. The article "climate change denial" was created on 27 July. It was nominated for deletion on 31 July. The result of the discussion, on 8 August, was to keep.

I have not gone into the issues in detail, and I do not classify myself as either believer, sceptic or denier on climate change. Although I do find Bjorn Lomborg's point — that there is a strong aura of 'protesting too much' around climate change belief — persuasive:

A good saying among lawyers is: if you have a good case, pound the case; if you have a bad case, pound the table. And this is definitely a case of table pounding … which is kind of revealing about their arguments.
But I have two problems with the Wikipedia article:

1) Surely it would be possible to call it "climate change scepticism" and still have plenty of room for pointing out the weaknesses of the sceptics' position, and all the authorities who argue scepticism has no basis.

2) The article has a flavour of contempt, and of certainty of being in the right, which one does not find even in the article on holocaust denial.
Terms such as "deny global warming" and "climate change denial" have been used since 2000 to describe business opposition to the current scientific consensus. ... [Newsweek] reported that "this well-coordinated, well-funded campaign by contrarian scientists, free-market think tanks, and industry has created a paralyzing fog of doubt around climate change."
How has it come about that dismissing those who question the 'consensus' on climate change has become more acceptable (at least in this context) than with regard to whether the Nazis killed millions of Jews? The argument about sources of finance creating bias is relevant only to the extent that there is no bias in what research university funding bodies will support.

* NPOV = Wikipedia's neutral-point-of-view policy, which founder Jimmy Wales has said is "absolute and non-negotiable".

Update: Some more thoughts on Wikipedia here, from Peter Risdon.