In an exchange of emails with someone on the topic of the “Free Internet”, some things came up in the discussion I would like to share.
First, it isn’t free. We have to pay for it, somehow, and we do. But we must consider in our thinking how best it should be funded so that it stays “free” in the ideological sense, and whether the current model is “best”. Perhaps more on that later. But Jimmy Wales’ plea for donations to wikipedia brought on some discussion and further thoughts.
First I wanted to check Wales’ assertion as having “founded” wikipedia. It does appear to have been co-founded, at the very least, and wikipedia itself acknowledges co-founder Larry Sanger’s critical role in its birth, though I wouldn’t call the entry flattering. Sanger launched a peer-reviewed “citizendium” that I think will do better job of truth-seeking. We shall see. Let’s test the ‘net right now.
To test how “free” the net was, I thought I would try googling “global warming”. The first link, was, of course the wikipedia entry. You can go have a look if you want. What I found interesting was how little of the entry was devoted to anything that might in any way contradict the “IPCC consensus”. There was a little section entitled “Other views” that I quote here in full, to explain the bias that creeps into wikipedia:
“Most scientists accept that humans are contributing to observed climate change. National science academies have called on world leaders for policies to cut global emissions. However, some scientists and non-scientists question aspects of climate-change science.
Organizations such as the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute, conservative commentators, and some companies such as ExxonMobil have challenged IPCC climate change scenarios, funded scientists who disagree with the scientific consensus, and provided their own projections of the economic cost of stricter controls. In the finance industry, Deutsche Bank has set up an institutional climate change investment division DBCCA) which has commissioned and published research on the issues and debate surrounding global warming. Environmental organizations and public figures have emphasized changes in the current climate and the risks they entail, while promoting adaptation to changes in infrastructural needs and emissions reductions. Some fossil fuel companies have scaled back their efforts in recent years, or called for policies to reduce global warming.”
That’s it? I mean, any balanced view would simply have to point to Canadian Steve McIntyre’s tireless work at climateaudit.org to bring independent peer review to the process. The bias leaps out at me, but others may not see it in its subtlety.
– “Most scientists accept…” – to start the “Other views” section, right off the bat? Okaaay…
– “… academies have called on world leaders…” – so one would be a fool to disagree?
– “… non-scientists question [only] aspects of climate change…” – deflect, discredit, minimize…
– “… libertarian… conservative… ExxonMobil… Deutsche Bank…” – um, what does politics and business have to do with this? We should be trying to provide a balance, ie all of the rest of the science on the issue, that doesn’t come from the IPCC and it’s cohorts, in this section.
– “… scientific consensus…” – there is that “consensus” word again, but we are we not in the “other view” section? Why waste the time pointing out that the views in this section disagree?
That final sentence is a doozy, which I will translate for you as “but in the end they all realized they were wrong and we were right, and as long as it stays that way we will live happily ever after.
Compare the wikipedia page on global warming with wikipedia co-founder Sanger’s citizendium entry on the same subject.
Sanger/citizendium wins hands-down as far as presenting a balanced view, much closer to telling us what is actually knowable. In its enthusiasm for documenting “truth”, wikipedia overshoots the knowable and presents as fact both the unknowable, and the knowably false. Nassim Nicolas Taleb reels in his disgust.