Astroturf or idiocy?

I came across this from Tom Naughton’s Fat Head blog. I’ll be riffing on this. First, Naughton is not a careful reporter, he’s sloppy, but, then again, he’s a comedian, not a journalist or academic, and he is writing about topics that will be obscure to most, such as actual Wikipedia process. What he wrote:

Remember the kerfuffle when a rogue editor at Wikipedia targeted Fat Head for deletion? He was, you’ll recall, the same editor who deleted articles about Malcolm Kendrick, Uffe Ravnskov, Jimmy Moore, and pretty much anyone who recommends low-carb diets or disputes the Lipid Hypothesis.

The editor in question, originally “Skeptic from Britain,” (and my page) could not delete anything, he was not a Wikipedia administrator. Was Skeptic from Britain a “rogue editor”? Not really. There is a whole faction of editors (including some administrators) who act in similar ways, but SfB is actually a long-term banned editor (best known as Goblin Face), Darryl L. Smith in real life, according to my research (extensively documented on pages here). He is able to do what he does because of the cooperation of many editors.

He did propose articles for deletion (AfD). Links to the deletion discussions: Kendrick (deleted), Moore (deleted) and Fat Head (kept) — this was nominated as MatthewManchester1994, SfB renamed.

Ravnskov was not proposed by SfB, but by EEng, a snarky editor. (One of the problems with Wikipedia is that too many users with no life treat it like an MMRPG, an opportunity to display adolescent hyper aggression, to win by making others lose.) SfB, however was quite active in that AfD.

In the Fat Head deletion discussion, Jimbo Wales (co-founder of Wikipedia) commented about the nominator:

Strong keep – As others have noted, WP:IDONTLIKEIT is not a valid reason for deletion. It is worth noting that the proposer is a serial namechanger and POV pusher who has now apparently left the project.

When SfB “retired,” he claimed he had been outed on the internet. I was, in fact, accused of being SfB by his brother, on Encyclopedia Dramatica. That is how I came to look at SfB. What I found was that the only outing had been by troll socks, accounts that appear and create disruption (like outing), with no history of comment, and often repeating the same message under different names. The outing named the user who was the only Keep vote in the Jimmy Moore deletion. And that behavior then loudly rang the Darryl Smith bell. This was a sophisticated form of impersonation socking, Darryl’s standard MO, used to harass anyone who criticizes him.

So then I looked at edit timings, spending days compiling and studying data. This was clearly Darryl Smith, previously Debunking spiritualism, now moving from attacking spiritualism and parapsychology (and me, for the sin of having exposed his impersonation socking on Wikipedia, Wikiversity, and the WMF meta wiki), into exposing his “Dislikes = Fad diets, LCHF quackery, pseudoscience.” Did he find a new paymaster? I don’t know.

SfB, before going on a massive Wikipedia editing binge, ending with his “retiring” in December, 2018, had made a few edits to RationalWiki as John66, pursuing the anti-low-carb agenda, and when he did retire, John66 started up in earnest and is still quite active. There, he is now a sysop (RatWiki gives out that easily). The entire RatWiki site is largely dedicated to identifying and exposing “quacks, charlatans, pseudoscientists, and conspiracy theorists.” Is that astroturf? Well, maybe, to some degree. More likely it is a pile of nut cases itself (with a few exceptions).

On the conspiracy side, Darryl Smith has claimed (through socks identified behaviorally and sometimes with technical data) that he has been paid by “a major skeptical organization.” These organizations are dedicated to “debunking,” which is where the genuine skeptical movement went, losing its original scientific underpinnings and methods, becoming highly pseudoskeptical.

It is not skeptical at all, it is a “believer” movement, believing in “mainstream opinion,” even when it is not actually “evidence-based.” I.e., “evidence-based medicine” — what a great idea! — becomes “widespread opinion-based” — and widespread opinion can be highly vulnerable to astroturfing, or more deeply, to the effect of research funding and promotion.

Deletion discussions on Wikipedia, while they are sometimes influenced by opinions like “quackery,” turn on “notability,” which in Wikipedia policy is based on the availability of sources for verification of article content, and what sources are usable can be highly controversial, but if there are mainstream “secondary sources,” sources that review primary sources, or that have a business necessity for fact-checking, these will be considered “Reliable source.” Wikipedia policies are arcane to the uninitiated, because “Reliable” does not mean “reliable.” Get it?

The articles on Kendrick and Moore were deleted because of lack of adequate coverage in reliable source. That can change. “Quackery” as claimed by SfB was irrelevant, but it fires up his own support base. By guidelines, the number of votes doesn’t matter, it is the arguments that count, but in reality, some administrators are lazy as hell and just look at the votes. You can tell by the close comments. I have never seen an administrator even reprimanded for a “consensus is delete” close where it was not a “snow closure” — massively obvious — but actually not a true consensus. Sophisticated users will know how to appeal a decision, so, in theory, this is harmless. In practice, the project is slowly warped toward either majority opinion, neutrality be damned, or toward the opinions of a highly motivated faction, which can wear down and burn out users interested in creating a neutral project (i.e., following traditions of academia, that were the basis for the original encyclopedias, or of journalism, as represented by Sharyl Attkisson.)

So, that Wikipedia article on Attkisson. From the message she has in her TED talk, I expect to see her attacked on Wikipedia. Sure enough, this is how it is done (current version)

Anti-vaccine reporting

In her reporting, Attkisson has published stories linking vaccines with autism, despite the fact that the scientific community has found no evidence of such a link.[32][33] Seth Mnookin, Professor of Science Writing and the Director of the Graduate Program in Science Writing at MIT, described Attkisson as “one of the least responsible mainstream journalists covering vaccines and autism. Again and again, she’s parroted anti-vaccine rhetoric long past the point that it’s been decisively disproved.”[34]

I immediately notice a very unlikely claim reported as a “fact.” “The scientific community has found no evidence,” is essentially a lie. There is evidence, but it is also possibly countered by other evidence. “There is no evidence” is a common claim of fanatics, when there is evidence. When someone is guilty of a crime, they are likely to say, “They have no evidence,” but in court, a case will be immediately thrown out if there is no evidence. Rather, in an unbiased proceeding, plaintiff and defendant will present evidence (vetted for being admissible) and the judge or jury will balance and weigh it.

“No evidence” is rhetoric, fake news, and a tell-tale sign of someone attempting to influence opinion by lying or misrepresenting reality. So how is this allowed on Wikipedia? I will look at the process below, but the notes are:

32. sharyl-attkisson-suggests-media-matters-was-paid-to-target-her

Former CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson has accused the liberal watchdog group Media Matters of targeting her reporting, and believes someone may have even paid for them to do it. […]

Attkisson’s reporting has come in for a fair amount of criticism as well, and not just because it frequently targets the Obama administration. She has previously published stories about possible links between childhood vaccinations and autism, and stood by those reports on Sunday even as Stelter noted that doctors believe framing the idea as a “debate” is dangerous and encourages parents to not vaccinate their children. (The majority of the scientific community disagrees with that assertion and the CDC says there is no evidence of a link between vaccines and autism. A famous 1998 study that did purport to find a connection between autism and a vaccine was retracted in 2010.)

“I’m not here to fight doctors,” Attkisson said. “I’m just saying that factually, I’m not here to advocate for one side or the other. I’m just saying factually, there are many peer-reviewed published studies that do make an association, and the government itself has acknowledged a link.”

The article’s expression was confused. The “assertion” just before the claim of majority disagreement was that framing the idea as a debate is “dangerous.” This is a classic fascist argument, by the way, used to suppress dissent. Socrates was condemned for “corrupting the youth” by asking dangerous questions. However, they mean that the majority disagree with a “possible link between vaccination and autism.” This is commonly not represented accurately. The claimed link is, as I understand it so far — I’m gradually becoming more informed on this — between MMR trivalent vaccine and autism. I am very skeptical about this claim. But I would not agree that it is impossible. In any case, “majority” implies that there is dissent within the scientific community, and not merely some single crank (or, for that matter, a single visionary). This is actually contradictory to “there is no evidence.” Rather, first of all, most of the scientific community is not specifically informed, that’s normal. Rather, what can be found is that certain organizations, possibly influential, have issued conclusions. Based on balanced weighing of evidence, or otherwise, these, as science, will stand as evidence for the conclusion, but it is opinion, interpretation, not fact. (Evidence is fact or “witnessing.”) It might even usually be correct, in some way, but “science” goes astray when what is interpretation and opinion becomes “evidence,” and is used to deny that evidence even exists.

Is Atkinsson correct? The CDC page cited now redirects to a different page, with no reference to autism. The Politico article was dated 04/21/2014.  The snapshot of that page the day before shows concern about autism, and then has:

a scientific review by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded that “the evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal–containing vaccines and autism.” CDC supports the IOM conclusion that there is no relationship between vaccines containing thimerosal and autism rates in children.

That review clearly is about a weighing of evidence, and does not support the idea that “there is no evidence.” Is Attkisson correct that “the government itself has acknowledged a link”? The evidence shown above does not contradict her statement, which is vague and could mean almost anything. What Politico was reporting on was a CNN interview. 

(the interviewer there actually supported the idea that there is a campaign to discredit Attkisson. That, of course, does not end up on Wikipedia!)

In that interview, it is not impossible, nor would it even be surprising, if Attkisson’s views were not flawlessly expressed, or were obsolete. Her actual stand is that people should not blindly depend on her opinions or anyone else, but should dig and think for themselves, and carefully, because there is a great deal of intentionally or carelessly deceptive information available. On that stand, I agree with her completely. Even if the autism/vaccine link was a mistake. Demonizing critique (anti-vaxers are called “murderers”) “controversializes” the very process of free democratic review that is essential to science and to sane public policy.

It is fascist, and, yes, fascism can be on the left or the right. It always has “good reasons” for suppressing dissent. After all, who can be against trains running on time? Or, for that matter, the public being protected from “quackery” and “pseudoscience”? Those vague hazards are not actual risks except to those who choose to follow them, and so fascism protects the public from its own “wrongness,” which itself alienates elements of the public, which can see that forces are attempting mind control. The anti-vax hysteria is fueled by suppression. (And it can itself be fascist, see my fascism post linked above.)

Whew! That’s just the first footnote.

33. Anti-Vaccine Movement Causes The Worst Whooping Cough Epidemic In 70 Years. This is a Forbes blog story, it has apparently been taken down. The author is Steven Salzberg. From his Wikipedia article:

Salzberg has also been a vocal advocate against pseudoscience and in favor of the teaching of evolution in schools, and has authored editorials and appeared in print media on this topic. He writes a widely read column at Forbes magazine[19] on science, medicine, and pseudoscience. His work at Forbes won the 2012 Robert P. Balles Prize in Critical Thinking.[20]

The “widely read” is editorial insertion, not sourced. The link is to the column itself, violating policy. (I.e., it does not establish notability of the column, though this can be allowed with editorial consensus.) The Prize is awarded by, surprise!, the Center for Inquiry, the descendant of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, which became, contrary to its title, a debunking organization going after any fringe science. That “Critical Thinking” award is for “Skeptic Authors,” but the only “Skeptics” awarded are those who debunk skeptics as “pseudoscientific,” whether they are or not. (This faction would call “cold fusion” “pseudoscientific” on Wikipedia, and tried many times, even though the basic ideas are testable, have been tested, and the bulk of the evidence confirms that there is an anomaly and that it is nuclear in nature. But who cares about evidence, if you can simply attack “believers” as “die-hards” and “cranks,” and “pseudoscientists” ? and if you can exclude clear Reliable Source (so judged by Wikipedia policy and the community) as “biased” or “written by believers.” (RS policy has to do with publishers, not authors).

His first version of the Forbes post, 7/23/2012. His tag line:

Celebrating good science by fighting pseudoscience and bad medicine

This is an activist, with axes to grind. The headline is not science. Period. No evidence is advanced that “antivax” caused the rise in cases.  He wrote:

Sometimes it comes straight from the media itself, such as the credulous, anti-science, anti-vax CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson.

That was a libel, but it demonstrates how the thinks. This is pseudoskepticism that, as Attkisson points out, becomes an extended ad hominem argument, as a red flag. It was changed later by the version cited on Wikipedia, to

Sometimes it comes straight from the media itself, such as the CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson, who has repeatedly and persistently reported on the purported link between vaccines and autism long after such a link was widely discredited.*

Notice the use of weasel words on one side and affirmative statements with no evidence and actually contradicting some evidence on the other. “repeatedly and persistently,” is how many times, out of a very busy career. And she reported on the link, when, and has her reporting been complete. “Widely discredited” simply could mean that a few people have discredited her, or a vast mob of people like Szalzberg. It’s meaningless, showing only a mass of opinion.

Again, I’m not saying he is wrong. I’m saying that this is conclusory, opinion, not fact, and why was this cited?

It appears that the Attkisson article has been used as a coat-rack for attacking her and anti-vaxx. And that is what happens to anyone who offends the faction. I covered the like of this here, on another person who actually supports vaccination but dared to repeat what anti-vaxxers think. , same pattern with Sarah Wilson. Journalist reports fact (in this case, her idea of what some people think), and is attacked viciously. (in this case, all that undue nonsense was removed from the article a few days ago. But Wikipedia process is entirely unreliable, and initiatives that would have made it reliable have been strongly resisted.)

Still on the sources for the Wikipedia article:

34. A blog, The panic virus, entirely devoted to attacking criticism of vaccines. Not reliable source. Vaporized. Archived. More embarrassing anti-vaccine reporting from CBS News’s Sharyl Attkisson, by Seth Mnookin. In addition to much hysteria, what it had on Attkisson was conclusory and based on various concurring opinions (other bloggers!), not any kind of overall survey. This is an information cascade, not “science-based.” There may be some science referenced, to be sure, but science is not a body of conclusions, rather it is a large body of evidence (actual “knowledge”, much of it from, at best, controlled experiment, but interpretation is always conditional and subject to revision based on new evidence, as well as recognition of possible deficiencies in previous analysis. And that is how and why science moves on. Bottom line, this was correctly attributed as Mnookin’s opinion, and he might be considered notable. Is there any balancing evidence? I will look at the history below to see if any was asserted.

Mnookin, by the way, has a book and all this could be seen as pushing his point of view. Authors commonly display a bias toward their own point of view, big surprise? Not.

The book is The Panic Virus, so he could be seen as creating a business around this. (Much as Gary Taubes is accused of doing around low-carb, on the opposite side from the Wiki fanatics. It is plausible that Taubes has a bias, and Taubes actually calls his latest book, The Case Against Sugar, the “argument for the prosecution.” Biased. Now, does “biased” mean, “to be excluded from public discourse and respect”? People with one point of view commonly call opposing views “deluded” or “biased.” The defense very often claims the prosecution “has no evidence.”

Both of which are irrelevant arguments, conclusory, not related to fact.

The Wikipedia article on Attkisson continued:

In 2011, Paul Offit criticized Attkisson’s reporting on vaccines as “damning by association” and lacking sufficient evidence in his book Deadly Choices.[35] In the medical literature, Attkisson has been accused of using problematic rhetorical tactics to “imply that because there is no conclusive answer to certain problems, vaccines remain a plausible culprit.”[36] Attkisson said that she favors vaccinating children, but claimed that research suggests that “a small subset of children” have brains that are vulnerable to vaccines.[37] She has said that pharmaceutical companies are discouraging research into the vaccine-autism link, and that they pressured CBS News to stop covering the purported link.[37]

35. So, again, a book.  Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All

This is the argument of medical fascism. The choice not to vaccinate may, if the mainstream is correct, increase risk, but only very slightly for any individual. There is an increased collective risk only if the number of those making that choice rise to a significant percentage of the public. Vaccines are also not completely effective, complicating this.

If a vaccine were 100% effective, it would fully protect the public that chooses to be vaccinated, and others would be at risk, presumably with their own choice, or that of their parents. It is a common fascist practice to take over parenting from parents, in favor of something “better.”

The non fascist answer to the refusal problem would be education, but if the education is fascist propaganda (i.e., excludes and demonizes contrary opinion), it will increase the power of anti-vax arguments, because the oppression can be seen readily, and it does not increase trust in authorities, it has the opposite effect.

I do not conclude that because fascist suppression is used against the anti-vax movement, therefore the pro-vaccination evidence cannot be trusted, but many people will think that and support, then, conspiracy theories.

In any case, this source amounts to a very strong critic of anti-vax attacking a journalist for reporting the other side. It is clear that Attkisson has been criticized, but what is the overall balance? How notable is this, for a Wikipedia biography of a living person?

What is obvious is that critique has been collected, with weak sources being used.

36. Anti-vaccine activists, Web 2.0, and the postmodern paradigm – An overview of tactics and tropes used online by the anti-vaccination movement. Article in Vaccine, a peer-reviewed journal. Copy here.
This is a fascinating article and I could agree with much of it. (I.e, anti-vaxxers use “tactics and tropes.” But so to the critics of “vaccine denialism.” In any case, the article does not mention Attkisson in the body, but cites two sources in footnotes, i.e.,

[92] Gorski D.  Anti-vaccine propaganda from Sharyl Attkisson of CBS
News, . Anti-vaccine propaganda from Sharyl Attkisson of CBS
News,; 2011 [accessed 25.08.11]. [Archived by WebCite at]

[179] Attkisson S. Autism: why the debate rages,; 2007 [accessed 24.04.11] [link corrected]. [Archived by
WebCite at].

[92] was the “science-based medicine blog” which is affiliated with the debunkers at CSI and often is full of attacks on skeptics of mainstream ideas. Snark rules there, as it does in many “debunking” venues. From the Vaccine article:

Works critiquing the anti-vaccine movement are often accused
of being propaganda [89–91]; those on the other side of the issue
accuse anti-vaccine activists of propaganda as well [92,93].

The blog piece has been taken down. This comment about propaganda is certainly true of both sides. “Propaganda” is conclusory information designed to influence. Neutral reporting is not propaganda, through propaganda might refer to it. It is obvious that both sides of this issue create propaganda. That is normal for political activism. 92 establishes the obvious, but this is not what is supported by the Wikipedia article.

179 supports this from the Vaccine article:

4.2.4. “You can’t prove vaccines are safe”
This accusation demands vaccine advocates demonstrate vaccines do not lead to harm [178], rather than anti-vaccine activists having to prove they do. Claims such as “There is no definitive research proving a link between vaccines and autism or ADD, but there is also no definitive research ruling it out” or “Those who say autism and ADD are not linked to vaccines do not know what is causing the epidemics[179] imply that because there is no conclusive answer to certain problems, vaccines remain a plausible culprit. This involves arguing based on a lack of evidence – not knowing something is true is taken as proof it is false, or not knowing something is false is proof it is true. Likewise, because there have been no studies conducted with the specific conditions antivaccination groups ask for [180], this lack of knowledge means vaccines are not safe. Lists of questions to ask vaccine proponents [181] are circulated with the intention of stumping them, with the inability to answer taken as evidence against vaccination.

I have bolded the statement from Attkisson. The “trope” here is an alleged “implication,” that “vaccines remain a plausible culprit.” That should be a simple fact (about scientific process). If there were no evidence, this would be a terminally weak argument. At the time, however, 2007, the Wakefield et al article linking MMR vaccine to autism had not yet been retracted, and there is (I think) some other evidence. (Attkisson certainly claims it.) Behind this “trope” is an assumption that there is no basis for suspicion, hence the skeptical argument is converted to a straw man argument, essentially, “Because we are ignorant, I’m right.”

What is actually in the CBS source:

6. There is no definitive research proving a link between vaccines and autism or ADD, but there is also no definitive research ruling it out.

And, as well, what was quoted. That was a reasonable piece of reporting at that time, and might still be, the question has become more difficult.  The section then goes on to report more, all more or less standard journalism. She points to what was certainly, at the time, a live debate. She was pointing to the incompleteness of knowledge, and, yes, that would still leave vaccination as a “possible culprit,” but she certainly also asserted evidence to suspect vaccination. It’s worth reading that CBS report, it is an example of what she has been attacked for. Reporting.

Fascist attack on the media. It’s not just Donald Trump!

(Many other tropes in the Vaccine article are like the above. Yes, there are fanatics and those using logical fallacies, but, as noted in what was quoted above, this happens on all sides, except what might be called the “journalistic” or “academic side,” sometimes. When we become more interested in reality, as distinct from our opinions and interpretations, we move toward journalism. I like the Vaccine article, in part, but, as presented, it has a likely effect of “debunking” vaccine skepticism as if it were all based on such tropes. What is missing is a list of tropes on the other side. The article author has a clear position: the abstract concludes with: “Recognizing disingenuous claims made by the anti-vaccination movement is essential in order to critically evaluate the information and misinformation encountered online.”

This is an ad-hominem attack on an entire movement, when such movements will be internally diverse and will also be, for the most part, sincere, not “disengenuous.” The author of the article has a clear and strong position, and fails to recognize that behind most of the “tropes” is a reasonable core, a claim that has some truth, at least under some circumstances. It is necessary to recognize “disengenuous claims” by all sides, not just one side. Most urgently, when opinion is considered to rule instead of balanced evaluation of evidence — all the evidence! — we fall into the rabbit-hole of fascism, of the domination of factions and people who believe they are right, which is never “scientific.” In science, we attempt to prove we are wrong!

The article begins with:

… a new postmodern paradigm of healthcare has emerged, where power has shifted from doctors to patients, the legitimacy of science is questioned, and expertise is redefined

“Power has shifted.” Shifts in power are always vociferously opposed by those holding excess power. “The legitimacy of science is questioned.” What the author is calling “science,” is not science, but “expert opinion,” which may or may not be based on science. Experts put their pants on one leg at a time, and are just as capable of attachment and bias, not to mention financial incentives, gross or subtle, as anyone else.

Most people don’t take the time to study issues, even when they are crucial to their health, they simply are looking for whom to trust, as if there is some infallible person to trust. Such people will be vulnerable to propaganda from either side, whichever they trust more, for reasons that can be complex, based on personal history.

What has happened with the internet is that minority opinion can still organize with relative ease. In response, the mainstream (which is loosely defined and there is always the possibility of a “silent majority”), has become more severely repressive and even punitive toward minority opinion (though it always has been to some degree).

In the vaccine debates, minority opinion is excoriated as highly irresponsible, if expressed, and murder at worst. And, of course, the minority, noticing the suppression, readily develops a conspiracy theory (which may or may not be real) and accuses the mainstream of murder. Of innocent children, of course. Both sides shout “Think of the children!”

One more source:

37. The Daily Beast.  Scandal blog. Sharyl Attkisson: ‘I Don’t Care What People Think’ About My Reporting

This is a fairly balanced story. It is used to support this text in the article:

She has said that pharmaceutical companies are discouraging research into the vaccine-autism link, and that they pressured CBS News to stop covering the purported link.[37]

Well, did they? I do remember that Wikipedia is not about truth, but about what can be verified. So the fact alleged fact here is that she said two things. What did she actually say ?

Attkisson says she is very much in favor of vaccinating kids, but that peer-reviewed studies have suggested the possibility of a “small subset of children” who suffer from difficult-to-detect immune dificiencies that might make their brains vulnerable to certain vaccines, much like some children are allergic to polio vaccines.

But she says Big Pharma has actively discouraged scientific research into possible linkages, and that pharmaceutical advertisers similarly persuaded CBS and other broadcasters not to run stories questioning the risk of vaccines for certain children.

Well, have they? I have not seen evidence either way on that, not yet, anyway. This is a personal interview, in which she may state her suspicions, or it might be knowledge. At this point, from the interview, I don’t know which it is. But the story of Big Pharma (and other established interests) influencing research is routine, an understanding of the problem has become widespread, with increased requirements for funding and conflict-of-interest disclosures.

Never mind that a CBS News veteran, who asked not to be named, says Attkisson’s vaccine-autism reports were eventually killed not because of advertiser pressure, but because they weren’t adequately supported by scientific evidence.

None of the reports I have seen so far were such. I.e, reporting what people think and claim need not be supported by “scientific evidence,” it is ordinary journalism, and the decision of whether or not a claim is “adequately supported” is for review panels of experts (and that itself can be flawed if the panel composition has been warped, which has happened.)

“The fact is, the government has acknowledged there’s a link,” Attkisson says, citing the recent admission by a senior Central for Disease Control epidemiologist that he and his colleagues improperly omitted from a 2004 study the data that tended to support such a link. “They simply say it’s not a causal link.”

No link, no way to check this yet.

What I see as factual here is that she suspects influence from large corporations. It is not black and white, i.e., advertiser pressure or “scientific” evidence or lack of same. What if the advertiser points out the alleged problem? What Attkisson is reporting is that she was prevented from reporting on what she found. Now, that’s an editorial decision, but she decided to give up a contract with a million dollars left on it, if I read the source correctly, effectively not being willing to work under those conditions. That increases her credibility, her stand was contrary to her personal interest. As presented on Wikipedia, this looks like “conspiracy theory,” a common pseudoskeptical trope, though it is not really a conspiracy theory to suspect that large interests would act (and spend money) to defend their interests, that the would support research likely to increase their profits and discourage or at least not support research that might damage profits.

But this little piece of the article does fairly present what she said.

Now, how did the article get this way? Looking at history, I see my old friend, JzG, a blatant and obvious and uncivil POV-pusher who has gotten away with it for years, one of the people who may have complained to get me globally office-banned by the Wikimedia Foundation. For what? Unknown. In any case, here are some fun JzG edits, in reverse date order

  • 20:48, 5 February 2019‎ Reverted good faith edits by (talk): It’s significant that she broadcaSTS ON WINGNUT CABLE (TW)
  • 10:53, 27 January 2019‎ →‎Anti-vaccine reporting: don’t especially like primary sourcing but Mnookin is a published authority so probably OK in this case. [Yup. He knew it was a problem, but did it anyway].
  • 10:47, 27 January 2019‎ Reverted to revision 880322583 by Snooganssnoogans: Revert the usual whitewashing (TW) [what he reverted was closer to sources.]

There was a strong level of churning on the Vaccination section. That’s basically quite old news, why was it still in so much flux? (My answer: there is currently a great deal of hysteria about anti-vaxx as pseudoscientific misinformation causing epidemics, etc. From history, JzG’s point of view would be obvious. He is regular and very predictable, has been for years. Whenever a neutral presentation of sourced fact makes an  article subject look less crazy, the faction will call it “whitewashing,” as if the job of the project is to blacken reputations. To the pseudoskeptics, that is exactly their agenda, to attack “pseudoscience” and “quacks” and anyone who gets in their way.

  • 09:54, 26 January 2019Reverted to revision 879123820 by Ser Amantio di Nicolao: More neutral title since she is anti-vax (TW) [He just lied.]
  • 19:10, 10 January 2019 (→‎Reporting on vaccines and autism: more to the point) [Changes the head to “False reporting on vaccines and autism]

Yes, indeed to the “point,” the POV (point of view) that JzG has been pushing for years. The sources do not support that conclusion. Some of these things were discussed on the Talk page, on which JzG demonstrated his standard rigidity and contempt for other users. He was recently reprimanded by the community and may have gone off on in a huff, he has not edited at all for three weeks, from a pace of many edits per day. It has been noticed, see his talk page. 9 March, he was in Bangalore. So maybe he is travelling.

So what’s the point?

Until we wake up to our need for truly reliable journalism, that avoids unnecessary conclusions (or, more practically, that walls off and distinguishes between fact and opinion) — just as we need reliable government and reliable institutions of all kinds —  and until we become willing to work toward this goal, trustworthiness by design, little will change, my prediction. Existing structures are almost all vulnerable to corruption of various forms.

When we become aware of problems, what do we normally do? Most of us do nothing, we don’t believe that reform is actually possible. A few become activists and create organizations, which, of course, we create using standard models, which are intrinsically vulnerable, or in a few cases, we go for an anarchist model, which, without protective structure, predictably devolves into one of the standard models. See the Iron Law of Oligarchy.

It is known how to create organizations that are not as vulnerable to this, (it has been done here and there) but few know it and understand it. And what I’ve seen, when I have described the approaches to others, is that they will say something like: “I am so glad that someone is thinking about this.” Subtext: so that I don’t have to, end of topic.  One of my old questions:

How many people does it take to change the world?

Two, but most people won’t lift a finger. Literally.

Is there anyone out there willing to take responsibility for the future of humanity? Comments here are open. Let me know!



Impersonation of “Cold Fusion” supporter and “Friend of Lomax” on WMF wikis

Normally, I do not use blog posts to cover the issue of massive sock puppetry by Oliver and Darryl Smith, though there is a connection with cold fusion (which is why I even cover this in the less-visible pages here). Today I was notified by a friend of an account created on Wikipedia. He seems to have believed it was me. First, facts, then conclusions:

The WikiMedia Foundation banned me in early 2018, no reason given, and a mail to their registered agent was ignored. I did file a lawsuit over the announcement of that ban. The lawsuit names the WMF and Does 1-9. The WMF has not yet been formally notified of the suit (but anyone representing the Foundation is welcome to contact me. Perhaps the matter can be resolved with no further fuss and expense.

From Wikipedia:

Cold fusion deletion

Last year you got Abd Lomax banned and all his cold fusion research deleted on Wikiversity. Lomax has now filed a lawsuit against you and eight other John Does for his ban [2]. You had no reason to delete his cold fusion research project. Abd at the time was being funded by a cold fusion research institute who invested a lot of money into his Wikiversity project and you had it deleted because of your pseudo-skeptic viewpoint. Could you put the project back? I am not Lomax but I support his cold fusion research. He has been targeted by pseudo-skeptics. Cold Fusion 2019 (talk) 18:46, 14 March 2019 (UTC)

From Wikiversity:

Lomax has filed against you and 8 other John Doe
My collegue Abd Lomax has finally filed,_Inc_et_al Friend of Lomax (discuss • contribs) 17:46, 7 March 2019 (UTC)

I’m aware of that. –mikeu talk 17:48, 7 March 2019 (UTC)

    • 15:50, 8 March 2019 Mu301 filed a checkuser request
        • Friend of LomaxDiscussion: “Lomax has filed against you and 8 other John Doe” per No legal threats
          Reason(s): Suspected block evasion. Inappropriate notification of legal action that could reasonably be perceived as an attempt to harass and/or intimidate. mikeu talk 15:50, 8 March 2019 (UTC)
      • Confirmed with 19 other accounts, see Checkuser results for study.


The checkuser results are a red herring. Those accounts appear to be people who used a Tor node during the checkuser window. Except a few of them who created accounts in a short period of time, they are unrelated. The troll first pinged Mu301 on Wikiversity, then waited for the smoke to clear, then did the same, with more detail, to Jzg and ජපස (jps or Joshua P. Schroeder) on Wikipedia. All these were involved in the fracas over the deletion of the Cold fusion resource on Wikiversity.

I had been threatened by a sock puppet (later identified with Darryl L. Smith, very active in harassing targets) that if I did not stop documenting the Long Term Abuse of whoever was behind the impersonation socking I was confronting, he would get all of my work deleted. He did accomplish that on Wikiversity, in the process demolishing Wikiversity academic freedom, the whole sequence was contrary to policy and went against the strong traditions of that project.

The lawsuit, however, does not name anyone other than the WikiMedia Foundation. To have a claim against others, I would have to know that I was defamed by them. So part of the purpose of the lawsuit is to gain access to the records of the WMF through discovery, because the evidence they relied upon when making their decision would be relevant.

I did not create those accounts, and would not. By violating the ban, I would be clearly violating the terms of service, and part of my claim is that I did not violate the terms. That ban was immediately used for defamation in the article on me on RationalWiki (under the name Abd ul-Rahman Lomax), where very many sock puppets have been created like the two mentioned above.

This creation of abusive socks that appear to be those who are actually their targets is what got me involved with them in the first place. That’s a long story. They do this because it works. Studying Wikipedia activity, I’ve seen it again and again. Account appears, John Doe is the greatest, where there is a blocked user John Doe, and many assume that this must be John Doe! After all, who else would write that? They don’t actually ask that question!

In cases where I know what was happening, it was never John Doe!

The AN/I discussion was unaware of the prior checkuser activity:

Lawsuit talk by Cold Fusion 2019

Cold Fusion 2019 (talk · contribs · logs · edit filter log · block log)
This user contacted ජපස (aka jzg) about an ongoing lawsuit against Wikipedia ([86] [87]). WP:NLT seems to apply to this, but I’m honestly not 100% sure. EvergreenFir (talk) 19:05, 14 March 2019 (UTC)

Did you mean jps? -Roxy, the dog. wooF 19:12, 14 March 2019 (UTC)

I did… I don’t even have a good excuse for that. EvergreenFir (talk) 19:15, 14 March 2019 (UTC)

Actually, you have a decent excuse for that; CF19 left an identical message for JzG. –Floquenbeam (talk) 19:17, 14 March 2019 (UTC)

And a shorter version a few days earlier for Mu301 on Wikiversity.

Oh! That’s where I saw that… somehow mixed up ජපස’s signature with JzG EvergreenFir (talk) 19:19, 14 March 2019 (UTC)

I’ve indef’d Cold Fusion 2019 for NOTHERE. Their ONLY two edits are to post about a lawsuit filed against Wikipedia? Chances are it’s very likely a sock as well. Either way, block applied. RickinBaltimore (talk) 19:21, 14 March 2019 (UTC)

Yeah, my guess is SF-banned User:Abd. –Floquenbeam (talk) 19:22, 14 March 2019 (UTC)

Which is exactly what the sock master wants to be guessed. In fact, anyone who knows this person’s long term behavior would recognize it. And what I was really banned for was creating a Long Term Abuse study on Anglo Pyramidologist on meta. Most AP socks never make in into the SPI case.

I saw this elsewhere. CF2019 is not the one doing the suing. I am not sure NLT applies in this case. spryde | talk 19:31, 14 March 2019 (UTC)

Just because CF19 says they aren’t the ones doing the suing, doesn’t mean they aren’t the ones doing the suing. –Floquenbeam (talk) 19:35, 14 March 2019 (UTC)

That’s true, but just because an account says “I’m a friend of Lomax” doesn’t mean he is. Just because he uses “Cold fusion” in his name and claims to be a supporter doesn’t mean he is. 

FYI if you’re interested in the plaintiff’s perspective – I couldn’t access the actual lawsuit. [[88]] TimTempleton (talk) (cont) 19:40, 14 March 2019 (UTC)

The link is to my review of the RationalWiki article on me, which was created as revenge for that documentation of impersonation and other socking by the brothers behind AP. Thanks, Tim.

Anyone can access the documents using the U.S. Federal Court system. The first 150 pages are free. People probably need a U.S. address. And, of course, people can contact me directly. I am entirely unlike the socks involved here.

They figured that out on Wikipediocracy.

Not really. I just remember him from long ago in the WP community and other groups. spryde | talk 19:45, 14 March 2019 (UTC)

Even if this is not the person pursuing the legal case, they are making demands based on the legal case, and I’d say NLT very much applies. Boing! said Zebedee (talk) 19:47, 14 March 2019 (UTC)

[. . .]

This was not accurate. The comment does not make a threat. It lies about the users being named, “John Doe” does not name someone. It was, however, obvious socking of some kind. If it was me, it was a global ban violation, if not me, it was a “meat puppet,” or sufficiently clear to be one that one could block. But it was simply blocked for simpler reasons.

In fact, this was block violation by an Anglo Pyramidologist user, i.e., one of the two brothers, Oliver D. Smith (the original Anglo Pyramidologist) or Darryl L. Smith (best known as Goblin Face, originally Liveintheforests), almost certainly the latter. These are both widely-known and identified trolls.

This could be the same troll: Hallwang_Clinic

(A recent likely account of Oliver would be  Stronghold1990. For Darryl, it would be  Vanisheduser3334743743i43i434,  who created a huge mess on the internet over the deletion of a Wikipedia article, and who retired, claiming he had been outed. But he had not been outed, his sock puppets had accused someone else of being him, to harass the person. I did out him, exonerating that innocent target. He’s been doing stuff like this for years, and often getting away with it. He knows how to play wiki users like a fiddle.

While there is public information about the underlying facts, the only person on the planet, besides myself, likely to know enough to connect Mu301, jps, and jzg to that case would be the instigator, the one who privately complained to Mu301, socked at Wikiversity and canvassed Jzg and jps to show up there and probably to complain to the WMF, i.e., Darryl L. Smith (or, less likely, his brother).

But I have not named other defendants because the evidence is weaker than the very plain and simple evidence against the WikiMedia Foundation. They seem to have figured out much of the legal theory on Wikipediocracy.

And, yes, I have claimed damages. It’s a requirement for a diversity case, the legal minimum is $75,000. I paid the $400 filing fee out of pocket. Blasted my pocket all to hell, but who needs pockets if you don’t have any more money? After I serve the papers, I may open a GoFundMe. Those can work, the goal would be to retain a lawyer, and for other expenses.


Repeating the text of the sock edits on Wikipedia:

Cold fusion deletion

Last year you got Abd Lomax banned and all his cold fusion research deleted on Wikiversity.

How does “Cold Fusion 2019” know this? Besides the WMF, the only people who know who complained would be Darryl L. Smith, and any others who conspired in the defamation. Oliver Smith (probably) bragged about it, and there was mention of jps, JzG and Mu301 on another site, by either Oliver or Darryl.

Lomax has now filed a lawsuit against you and eight other John Does for his ban [2].

The lawsuit is against nine John Does, not eight and the one addressed. Only if that one actually defamed me, causing damage, would they be named as defendants, once evidence has been obtained.

You had no reason to delete his cold fusion research project.

He did not delete it. He argued for deletion.

Abd at the time was being funded by a cold fusion research institute who invested a lot of money into his Wikiversity project

My funding would be irrelevant, but this was untrue. No Infusion Institute funding was related to the Wikiversity project, which had been largely abandoned. In 2015, events convinced me that WMF wikis were not safe places to create content, not even neutral content. So I stopped nearly all work on the Cold fusion educational resource. When the deletion discussion was raised, in late 2017, I was being funded by the Institute (and I still am, for expenses), but this was entirely unrelated to Wikiversity.

and you had it deleted because of your pseudo-skeptic viewpoint.

It is unclear why it was deleted. The bureaucrat who deleted it violated policies and traditions, and he said he had received private complaints. The whole thing stank. But, as I had concluded, the community slept. I was blocked by that ‘crat, and an admin who planned to unblock was threatened privately with having his tools removed.

Could you put the project back? I am not Lomax but I support his cold fusion research. He has been targeted by pseudo-skeptics.

The two users targeted have no power to put it back, and this is irrelevant to the legal action. If Wikiversity were to decide to restore that resource, it would have no effect on the action for defamation.

This was all classic Darryl Smith socking. He does it to create impressions, in this case that Lomax is disruptive, vindictive, and demanding, as well as to strengthen the resolve of the “skeptical community” to resist coercion from “cranks.” Smith, pretending to be me, using troll sock names like these, has been threatening RationalWiki users with lawsuits for maybe a year.

Meanwhile, I have things to do, places to go ….

Jimbo Wales and “lunatic charlatans”

Looking at recent developments on Wikipedia with “fringe” and “quacks,” I’ve found many symptoms of a systemic corruption, and this will show how the project lost its direction, at core and in a failure to honor the original community intentions, it’s become quite explicit. This started with looking at the user page of Roxy the dog. Wikipedia made what may have been a fatal error in not only allowing anonymous edits (probably necessary and highly useful) but also in allowing advanced privileges for anonymous accounts. In this, it deviated widely from academic traditions. It eliminated the “responsible publisher” for itself, creating mob rule.

This protected the Foundation, but not the project. This is classic: organizations are formed for purposes, but their own survival, if it comes into conflict with the purpose, becomes a priority. So if the trial of “community governance” fails — in the absence of clear structures that create responsible actors — nothing can be done. It’s up to the community, not the site owners. Wikipedia is famously not a reliable source. Why not? Precisely because there is no responsible publisher!

The possibility existed for a community project to become more reliable than any such effort in history. That is, in fact, why I worked on Wikipedia as long as I did. But the radically unreliable governance, vulnerable to participation bias (whoever happens to show up in specific discussions, and where some kinds of factional canvassing are allowed, plus the possibly random nature of who closes discussions, where bias in closing could be very difficult to detect, and, if detected, they shoot the messenger), led to a conclusion that the situation was unworkable.

Wikipedia will be replaced by a project that harnesses what Wikipedia has done, but that adds reliable governance and responsibility. This may be for-profit or nonprofit, it could be done either way.

It was clear to me at one point that Jimbo Wales (with Larry Sanger the founder of Wikipedia) was interested in governance reform. However, something was missing, and I’m coming to think that what was missing was an understanding of neutrality. He almost had it, but it’s clear that knee-jerk “popular,” not academic or scientific, responses, very obviously not neutral, took over for him. And this then explains, in part, how “popular factions” came to dominate Wikipedia, as many have noted. They lose, sometimes, their control is not absolute, but it creates a steady pressure and, over time, it’s apparent to me, the project has devolved away from neutrality, and a particular faction has, many times, opposed neutrality and has declared allegiance to a point of view, and they act to push that point of view.

Anyone trained in journalism will recognize the problem, how it infects the language and overall tenor of pages. Blatant violations of neutrality policy, misrepresentations of sources, in favor of attempting to create in readers POV impressions, are, in some areas, practically the rule rather than a transient exception. Revert warring is tolerated, if done by factional editors, who are considered “valuable volunteers” precisely because they work tirelessly for their point of view.

Editors with contrary points of view are isolated and sanctioned and topic- or site-banned. Editors promoting SPOV (“Scientific point of view,” when they go beyond limits in that promotion, may be sanctioned, but also are regarded as heroes. And so if they are actually banned, they often come back. Wouldn’t you?

This is what Roxy the dog has from Wales:

“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.[1][2]

Roxy the dog uses this as I’d expect, to justify a series of claims of being justifiably biased. First, what exactly did Wales say, in what context.?

Wikipedia developed a procedure for creating a neutral project and he is referring to it, but he overspecifies that procedure, narrowing it in a way that favors the bias Roxy the dog displays. Was this merely accidental, incautious?

and, in fact, it’s obvious. From that page:

Wikipedia’s co-founder Jimmy Wales this week sent a clear signal to skeptics who edit the user-created encyclopedia – he agrees with our focus on science and good evidence. He did this by responding firmly in the negative to a petition created by alternative medicine and holistic healing advocates. His response, which referred to paranormalists as “lunatic charlatans”, was widely reported on Twitter.

I’ve been recommending skeptics pay close attention to Wikipedia since the earliest days of this blog, almost six years ago. Susan Gerbic took up that gauntlet and created her wildly successful Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia project.

In the last year or so, the success of Susan’s project has gotten many paranormal and alternative medicine advocates riled up. They’ve repeatedly floated conspiracy theories that skeptics are somehow rigging the game on Wikipedia, or even bullying opponents off the site. Even personalities like Rupert Sheldrake and Deepak Chopra have gotten involved. None of these accusations have been supported by facts, and both Sheldrake and Chopra have been subsequently embarrassed by their own supporters’ rule-breaking behavior on the service.

This is common.

There is skeptic organization and this blog is proud of it. But if others point to organization, it’s a “conspiracy theory.”

Indeed, I have seen over-reaction, suspicion that, say, drug companies are paying editors to promote statin drugs and attack cholesterol skeptics. I find that implausible, but this is what happens where there are organizations that operate behind the scenes.

Sheldrake and Chopra have popular support, and people with popular support will be defended by some, often people with no real understanding of how Wikipedia works, and so they violate rules. But wait! Wikipedia Rule Number One, promoted by Wales himself, was “If a Rule prevents you from improving or maintaining Wikipedia, ignore it!” (WP:IAR)

I used to point out the Corollary, that if you have never been blocked for breaking the rules, you are not trying hard enough to improve the project.

The vision of the original Wikipedians has been lost, and this was practically inevitable (see  Iron law of oligarchy), if protective structure was not created, and it was not.

Wales response was to a petition asking for reform.

As is common with reform efforts, what might be a valid objection to the Wikipedia status quo was mixed with lack of understanding of how Wikipedia operates, and a point of view. The title of the petition shows a lack of understanding of the purpose of Wikipedia and the process of creating an encyclopedia.

Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia: Create and enforce new policies that allow for true scientific discourse about holistic approaches to healing.

I will list problems with this request:

  1. Wales was not in charge of Wikipedia, he was the Founder, not the Governor. (In the other direction, he remained influential.)
  2. Wikipedia is not a site for “scientific discourse.” Wikiversity was, and could have remained so, but that was demolished, ultimately, by the faction, early this year. It was trivial to create neutral discourse, and it worked for years.
  3. The policies on inclusion were not the problem, the problem was lack of workable enforcement structure. The structure worked, though very inefficiently, for handling vandalism and isolated point of view pushing, but, increasingly, as factions developed power, poorly with factional point of view pushing.

Wales responded. 

MAR 23, 2014 — 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.

The blog claims that the organizers of the petition were “tone-deaf,” because they quoted Larry Sanger, thus, allegedly, irritating Wales. Sanger was quoted in the petition:

Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia, left the organization due to concerns about its integrity. He stated: “In some fields and some topics, there are groups who ‘squat’ on articles and insist on making them reflect their own specific biases. There is no credible mechanism to approve versions of articles.” 

Sanger’s comment was a simple conclusion matching what many, many, with high experience with Wikipedia, have found. That happens. It happens in all directions, but . . . factions that represent the “fringe” are, by definition, not popular, and that condition in the population will be reflected in the editorial community, so these factions are readily identified and their efforts interdicted, whereas the faction that is biased toward a popular point of view, can operate with far higher impunity, and in the absence of neutral enforcement, that bias can dominate.

This happened to some extent with traditional encyclopedias, but these were generally written with high academic integrity. Wales became confused on this issue, and was, himself, tone-deaf. Many have complained, and the complaints are routine and remain common. Wales only looks at what was wrong with the petition, and fails to practice what he preaches:

to check their premises and think harder about what it means to be honest, factual, truthful.”

So Wikipedia sails on, undisturbed by self-examination, supporting the “Scientific Point of View,” which is an oxymoron.

Rather, the Pillars of Wikipedia include one that would, if followed, establish journalistic and academic integrity:

Wikipedia is written from a neutral point of view
We strive for articles in an impartial tone that document and explain major points of view, giving due weight with respect to their prominence. We avoid advocacy, and we characterize information and issues rather than debate them. In some areas there may be just one well-recognized point of view; in others, we describe multiple points of view, presenting each accurately and in context rather than as “the truth” or “the best view”. All articles must strive for verifiable accuracyciting reliable, authoritative sources, especially when the topic is controversial or is on living persons. Editors’ personal experiences, interpretations, or opinions do not belong.

Wikipedia proposed a solution to crowd-sourcing, to allow it to be verifiable. “Reliable” source does not mean “correct.” It refers to independently published sources, presented with a neutral tone. Stating an interpretation as if fact without attribution is not “honesty.” It’s easy to convert, say, a non-neutral interpretation (which might be found in a reliable source) into a fact by attributing it. “According to . . . ”

Yet there are “skeptical faction” editors inserting their own interpretations as if fact, even about living persons, or entire fields. Because I just noticed it, here is an example, about Gary Taubes:

This is in the lead (current version), which should, by the guideline, be rigorously neutral, enjoying high consensus. The lead has:

Some of the views propounded by Taubes are inconsisent [sic] with known science surrounding obesity.[3]

The source is a book review, and such a review is the opinion of the author, particularly if it is an off-hand comment. What the review actually has, besides praise for the book (“… has much useful information and is well worth reading “):

some of the conclusions that the author reaches are not consistent with current concepts about obesity.

Are “current concepts” the same as “known science”? In fact, Taubes is challenging common concepts, explicitly and deliberately, as not being rooted in “known science,” i.e., known through the scientific method. This has been his theme for his entire career. The editor, however, believes what he has written and so considers that interpretation of the source to be a simple restatement.

The reviewer was not precise. “Current concepts” has a lost performative. Whose concepts? I used “common” as a vague term that would cover what I think is true. The concepts Taubes is challenging became common about forty years ago, through a political process that was only peripherally scientific. Documenting that has been much of Taube’s work.

This begins the lead:

Gary Taubes (born April 30, 1956) is an American journalist, writer and low-carbohydrate diet advocate.

Is he? This was there until a few days ago:

Gary Taubes (born April 30, 1956) is an American science writer.

To the faction, many examples can be shown, “low carbohydrate diet advocate” is a dog whistle to call skeptical attention to a person, who, in other contexts , might be called a “fad diet promoter,” “quack,” and “charlatan.”

Remember, verifiability not truth. The statement about “diet advocate” is not sourced. It’s misleading. What Taubes has been advocating is twofold:

  • improved public understanding of the history of the lipid hypothesis and the demonization of fat, as well as the evidence of the “diseases of civilization” being associated with high refined carbohydrate consumption,
  • but, more important (certainly to him), the encouragement and facilitation (read funding) of scientific research into diet. Taubes is not a ‘believer,” but he has drawn some conclusions and has been acting on them. That is normal in science. Wales wrote:

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.

First of all, he was misstating the actual policy. “Published in respectable scientific journals” is not the actual standard, and such publication can happen without “replicable scientific experiments,” that is only one aspect of science, and the reliance is not on “replicable,” but on “confirmed,” i.e., actually replicated, as shown in peer-reviewed reviews of a topic, secondary sources. Many facts can be reported (with maximum freedom, by guidelines) if attributed. The attribution should be to a reliable source, but the source may be weaker, though still reliable. The skeptical faction uses their own factional publications, that focus on “debunking” and are not neutrally peer-reviewed by experts in the fields, as if reliable source, it’s been common for years, whereas independently peer-reviewed secondary source reviews are excluded by the faction as “junk” or “fringe believer author.”

These are obvious violations of the neutrality pillar, but are tolerated because of a false opp0sition as reflected in Wales’ defense of Wikipedia.

A paper that was invited by a major peer-reviewed journal of high reputation, with Gary Taubes as one of the authors:

Dietary fat and cardiometabolic health: evidence, controversies, and consensus for guidance June 13, 2018

This review treats the topic with academic tone. It presents a variety of major points of view. This is what Wikipedia could be like, were it actually supporting science. Instead, it is supporting a highly judgmental and often fanatic debunking point-of-view.

Another example: Wales wanted to see “replicable experiments.” That is not required for notability, Wales is actually substituting his own ideas for the policy, but . . . I was banned from cold fusion on Wikipedia and the claim was made that I was promoting it, and this was often connected with claims that “cold fusion” is “pseudoscience.” In fact, what I was promoting, what was actually important to me at the time, was Wikipedia neutrality and genuine consensus process. However, when I was banned from the topic, I then investigated “cold fusion” more thoroughly, and eventually wrote an article, published in a significant journal, which would, in theory, satisfy the claims Wales made:

Replicable cold fusion experiment: heat/helium ratio

Okay, a review. Check. Peer-reviewed. Check. Describes multiple confirmations of a crucial experiment, that demonstrates that there is a real anomaly, that looks like it could be fusion (but probably not what most physicists would think of). Check.

Okay, is that cited? I don’t know if anyone attempted it. It was cited on Wikiversity. Much older and weaker sources on claims of helium detection (deprecating them) have been cited on Wikipedia, and remain. As I was about to be topic banned for the second time, I put up another review in a journal of very high reputation for consideration on the Reliable Source Noticeboard. It was found usable as reliable source. And after all that, was the source allowed? No. Immediately removed every time presented.

Status of cold fusion (2010)

Peer-reviewed review in a major multidisciplinary journal, Naturwissenschaften. Check. Stronger source than any other source used in the article. If editors think it was a mistake, it could be attributed.

See the arguments against it on RSN. That discussion was narrow and focused but was never “closed.” Consensus was clear. The paper is RS, and as with all sources, to be used with appropriate caution. Just because something is in reliable source does not make it “truth,” it makes it notable. And wikipedia was properly founded on notability, established by what is found in responsible publishers.

So what happened then? I have made the point often that the major problem with Wikipedia has been inefficiency. To establish what should have been accomplished by a reference to policy and guidelines, a matter of a few sentences, took a massive discussion. A responsible publisher would go bankrupt if their editorial process were like this.

There are plenty of Wikipedia editors who understood the policies and attempted to apply them neutrally. They burn out, faced with editors who ignore the policies, are persistent, and who are enabled to continue this, year after year.

removes reference to Storms (2010) based on argument rejected at RSN. Editor: ජපස, who has changed his name many times. He is the one who made the argument about Storms being an editor. That was an attributed reference, clearly neutral. This reverted the edit of Enric Naval.

Eventually, in 2015, the bibliographic reference to Storms (2010), and another citation of it, were removed by JzG, a highly involved factional editor and administrator who had been reprimanded by the Arbitration Committee for his actions with regard to cold fusion. Apparently nobody noticed. Jzg removed the reference to the 2007 book, and the 2010 journal review of cold fusion. His edit summary:

(pruning some WP:PRIMARY, including for example a book review written by a True Believer. We have sufficient high quality sources that we don’t need to dumpster-dive.)

These are the arguments that completely failed to be accepted at WP:RSN. Are there stronger sources by Wikipedia RS standards and the standards for science topics? What was left was weaker, or if not weak, substantially older.

None of these were primary sources, and he’s highly experienced, so . . . he lied, they were all secondary. (2007) was published World Scientific, an academic press, and (2010) was discussed above. The Book Review reference is unclear. JzG also removed material cited in Simon (2002), which is an academic secondary source review (a book), not a “book review”). He did remove from the bibliography one primary source (at least arguably so), Shanahan (2006). There was an appalling discussion in talk, no consensus, and the editor objecting was “reminded” about discretionary sanctions, which was essentially a threat that he could be blocked. This was a blatant and smug display of factional POV editing, and, as usual, without consequence, JzG (and William M. Connolley), sailed on, undisturbed, as they have for years. (In two cases, I took them to the Arbitration Committee, JzG was reprimanded, Connolley was desysopped. But the net effect was, with extensive effort, long term, zero. Discretionary sanctions were established as a result of the second case, (with neutral enforcement, a good idea), but it has only been used to support the skeptical faction and threaten or block anyone appearing to have a different point of view.)

In 2015, Current Science published a special section on low-energy nuclear reactions. It included a number of reviews of aspects of the field, written by major researchers (and one journalist, me). There was mention of this in the article that resisted removal, it’s still there. However, none of those papers are cited in the article, in spite of being recent specific reviews of aspects of the field, on topics discussed in the article.

Wales is either ignorant about what actually happens on Wikipedia, or he’s lying. I prefer the former interpretation, but I also hold him responsible for maintaining his ignorance in spite of complaints. Instead of actually investigating the complaints, or setting up a review process, he smugly proclaimed an extreme interpretation of the policy that then, very clearly, encouraged the SPOV-pushers. I’ve seen a shift since that time, and this might explain it.

No, if one does research and gets it published in peer-reviewed journals, it is inadequate to shift the Wikipedia balance, because the balance is maintained in the impressions and interpretations of editors, and it’s very well-known that when people have committed themselves to a position (by using language like “charlatan” and “fringe believers” and “crank”) they become resistant to change, and will continue to invent justifications and reasons to continue to believe the same.

Ironically, this is what this faction believes about others, that they are “die-hards” and “pseudoscientific.” If someone calls them “pseudoskeptical” or “pathoskeptic,” they will block or arrange for the person to be blocked, but claims in the other direction are routine and tolerated. Enforcement is biased, creating a long-term pressure away from neutrality.

Wikipedia could be transformed, but what has been created is so highly entrenched that it might take a major event.

I’ve suggested that a new encyclopedia could be created that uses Wikipedia content, routinely, but that creates a filter and process for reviewing it. I’ve suggested that such a site might pay authors and editors, and that it might sell itself as “Wikipedia, but more reliable.” And it would solicit donations, but would also sell advertising, carefully vetted to be reliable, itself, which is quite doable. (The advertising would pay for the writing and editorial work.)

Sometimes, you get what you pay for. If you use volunteers, they work for their own purposes. It can be great, but large human organizations pay management, even when they use many volunteers.

Everipedia looks like an effort in that direction, but it utterly fails to attract me, so far, nor does it look like it could attract the kind of massive use and participation that could take it beyond Wikipedia. The Everipedia article on cold fusion is a fork of the Wikipedia article (so far, what I’d expect, but, then, if I read the article, does it invite me to improve it? If so, I don’t see how or where.)

To succeed, an improved project must present something clearly better than Wikipedia, such that users would have an incentive to look up a topic there rather than on Wikipedia. There are also complications, Google being a major supporter of Wikipedia. But a better product does not have to be better in every way, just in some, and it could flag what has been fact-checked and reviewed for neutrality, for example, and what was merely copied from Wikipedia. (Everipedia may do that, I can’t tell, but Everipedia seems to be focusing on selling access to businesses or people who want to control articles about themselves. Not on setting up an expert review process or other structure that would create reliability.)

It would use Wikipedia’s process to create a level of reliability, and then improve it. It would make comparisons with Wikipedia easy, as an example, so that changes to Wikipedia would be imported as (1) automatic if the fork article has not been validated, or as (2) reviewed, as with the contributions of any non-empowered editor on Wikipedia.

The focus appears to be on how to preserve one of the major weaknesses of Wikipedia, anonymity. That’s a double-edged sword. The new project, if linked to Wikipedia, would already have a way for anonymous editors to contribute: on Wikipedia! It could also allow suggested edits on its own versions.

(Wikipedia could also bring in content the other way, through a process that was used on wikipedia when a banned user created an article elsewhere, and then there was a Request for Comment on importing that (radical change) as a single edit. This is actually a far simpler question than the one-edit at a time process Wikipedia follows: “Is A or B better?” )

It would need to have layers of detail. It could have better editorial review tools than Wikipedia. An example of something missing from Wikipedia is an ability to search history, the entire history of the project or of an article, or of user contributions. Now, you can obtain logs, but they are not generally searchable, except primitively. I do it, but by downloading histories (the logs will not retrieve more than 5000 operations), merging them, and then using search in a text editor or in Excel, and that doesn’t give me the editorial text, only edit summaries.

It is possible to search project full-history XML, but it can be incredibly cumbersome.

Everipedia is not showing signs of being well-designed and implemented. The FAQ I find far too complicated. Wikipedia made it easy and quick for anyone to edit. While “anyone can edit” fell apart to some extent, becoming more like “anyone can waste time trying to improve the project,” that ease of use was crucial to Wikipedia’s initial success. Wikipedia failed not from that, but from failure to establish reliable review process, something that is normally crucial for serious publishers.

Another issue is that Wikipedia not only failed to reward expert attention, it actually became hostile to ordinary experts. Wikibooks and Wikiversity were much friendlier, but then I discovered something. Most experts were not terribly interested in sustained free contributions to books or educational resources, if there was no benefit for them other than simply being able to write. And if what was written was fragile, and easily hacked up by Randy from Boise, and if they have plenty of other places to publish, why should they contribute? Many people will do it occasionally just because people are mostly nice. But regularly and reliably? No.

(To assist someone who wanted to study the subject, I set up a Parapsychology resource on Wikiversity, and it actually attracted some notable scientists. But they did not regularly contribute, nor did they watch the pages. That project was deleted early this year when the skeptical faction extended its reach to Wikiversity. Long story. JzG was involved. They also deleted the Wikiversity resource on cold fusion, all based on the action of a single bureaucrat, not supported by the community. Efforts like that had always failed in the past. But the Wikiversity community that had always supported academic freedom and the inclusive neutrality of Wikiversity as distinct from the exclusive neutrality of Wikipedia (i.e., academic standards rather than encyclopedic) was, as usual, asleep. Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.

I rescued those resources. Cold fusion. Parapsychology. Wikiversity showed how resources could be inclusively neutral. (A clearer example, where there would have been, on Wikipedia, or any other single-level wiki, edit warring, is Landmark Education.) Parapsychology was neutral, I’d been very careful to set it up that way. Cold fusion might not have been completely neutral, (I’d written most of it) but it would have taken about five minutes, with no harm being done, to rigorously neutralize it. The Wikiversity cold fusion article was often attacked on Wikipedia, but it was open for editing, and it had not been at all disruptive. Real neutrality is not disruptive, certainly not in itself. Real neutrality, with good-faith participants, can normally find complete consensus, even in the presence of major controversies. Wikipedia never understood this.

If I just want to shoot off my mouth, or to enjoy writing, I’ll start a blog, not start up an account on a wiki. It is far, far easier and, believe me, far more fun. And I can actually obtain funding for it. (Thanks!)

As an example, I know much of the cold fusion research community. Only very small number have ever attempted to edit Wikipedia. Met with entrenched hostility, for the most part, the handful who tried it simply gave up quickly. The field needs funding, and funding is not obtained by writing about cold fusion on Wikipedia. The inefficiency of Wikipedia makes it seriously wasteful.

Yes, Virgina, there is a cabal

A link to this was posted here, and I didn’t see it until recently. By itself, this is only a rant of a disturbed fanatic skeptic, who is known to lie, but there are breadcrumbs, pieces that fit together over time, and this comment caused the picture to pop into view. I wrote in 2009, there is a cabal, presented evidence of de-facto coordinated editing on Wikipedia, by a faction. I did not claim that this violated policy, in itself, but the effect was a warping of Wikipedia process, and I wanted ArbComm to look at that. Unfortunately, ArbComm was infected by the cabal or the cabal point of view.

The cabal uses attack dogs to create a cloud of confusion that allows others to intervene to “prevent disruption,” blaming the target and the dogs, and the dogs don’t care, because there is an endless supply of dogs, a dog can be created from any non-blocked IP.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

From later research and evidence, this was Darryl L. Smith. The story matches information from his twin brother, Oliver D. Smith.

Protecting the fringe allows the mainstream to breathe

Wikipedia is famously biased against fringe points of view or fringe science (and actually the bias can appear with any position considered “truth” by a majority or plurality faction). The pseudoskeptical faction there claims that there is no bias, but it’s quite clear that reliable sources exist, per Wikipedia definitions, that are excluded, and weaker sources “debunking” the fringe are allowed, plus if editors appears to be “fringe,” they are readily harassed and blocked or banned, whereas more egregious behavior, violating Wikipedia policies, is overlooked, if an editor is allied with the “skeptical” faction. Over time, the original Wikipedians, who actually supported Neutral Point of View policy, have substantially been marginalized and ignored, and the faction has become increasingly bold.

When I first confronted factional editing, before the Arbitration Committee in 2009, the faction was relatively weak. However, over the ensuing years, the debunkers organized, Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia (GSoW) came into existence, and operates openly. People who come to Wikipedia to attempt to push toward neutrality (or toward “believer” positions) are sanctioned for treating Wikipedia as a battleground, but that is exactly what the skeptics have done, and the Guerrilla Skeptics (consider the name!) create a consistent push with a factional position.

There is increasing evidence of additional off-wiki coordination. It would actually be surprising if it did not exist, it can be difficult to detect. But we have an incident, now.

February 24, 2018 I was banned by the WikiMediaFoundation. There was no warning, and no explanation, and there is no appeal from a global ban. Why? To my knowledge, I did not violate the Terms of Service in any way. There was, however, at least one claim that I did, an allegation by a user that I had “harassed” him by email, the first of our emails was sent through the WMF servers, so if, in fact, that email was harassment, it would be a TOS violation, though a single violation, unless truly egregious, has never been known to result in a ban. I have published all the emails with that user here.

This much is known, however. One of those who claimed to have complained about me to the WMF posted a list of those complaining on the forum, Wikipedia Sucks. It is practically identical to the list I had inferred; it is, then, a convenient list of those who likely libelled me. However, I will be, ah, requesting the information from the WikiMedia Foundation.

Meanwhile, the purpose of this post is to consider the situation with fringe science and an encyclopedia project. First of all, what is fringe science?

The Wikipedia article, no surprise, is massively confused on this.


The term “fringe science” denotes unorthodox scientific theories and models. Persons who create fringe science may have employed the scientific method in their work, but their results are not accepted by the mainstream scientific community. Fringe science may be advocated by a scientist who has some recognition within the larger scientific community, but this is not always the case. Usually the evidence provided by fringe science is accepted only by a minority and is rejected by most experts.[citation needed]

Indeed, citation needed! Evidence is evidence, and is often confused with conclusions. Rejection of evidence is essentially a claim of fraud or reporting error, which is rare for professional scientists, because it can be career suicide. Rather, a scientist may discover an anomaly, au unexplained phenomenon, more precisely, unexplained results. Then a cause may be hypothesized. If this hypothesis is unexpected within existing scientific knowledge, yet the hypothesis is not yet confirmed independently, it may be “rejected” as premature or even wrong. If there are experts in the relevant field who accept it as possible and worthy of investigation, this then is “possible new science.” There may be experts who reject the new analysis, for various reasons, and we will look at a well-known example, “continental drift.”

There is no “journal of mainstream opinion,” but there are journals considered “mainstream.” The term “mainstream” is casually used by many authors without any clear definition. In my own work, I defined “mainstream journals” as journals acceptable as such by Dieter Britz, a skeptical electrochemist. As well, the issue of speciality arises. If there is an electrochemical anomaly discovered, heat the expert chemists cannot explain through chemistry, what is the relevant field of expertise. Often those who claim a field is “fringe” are referring to the opinions of those who are not expert in the directly relevant field, but whose expertise, perhaps, leads to conclusions that are, on the face, contradicted by evidence gathered with expertise other than in their field.

With “cold fusion,” named after a hypothesized source for anomalous heat,  in the Fleischmann-Pons Heat Effect,  (also found by many others), it was immediately assumed that the relevant field would be nuclear physics. It was also assumed that if “cold fusion” were real, it would overturn established physical theory. That was a blatant analytical error, because it assumed a specific model of the heat source, a specific mechanism, which was actually contradicted by the experimental evidence, most notably by the “dead graduate student effect.” If the FPHE were caused by the direct fusion of two deuterons to form helium, the third of Huizenga’s three “miracles,” if absent, would have generated fatal levels of gamma radiation. The second miracle was the reaction being guided in to the very rare helium branch, instead of there being fatal levels of neutron radiation, and the first would be the fusion itself. However, that first miracle would not contradict existing physics, because an unknown form of catalysis may exist, and one is already known, muon-catalyzed fusion.

Evidence is not provided by “fringe science.” It is provided by ordinary scientific study. In cargo cult science, ordinary thinking is worshipped as if conclusive, without the rigorous application of the scientific method. Real science is always open, no matter how well-established a theory. The existing theory may be incomplete. Ptolemaic astronomy provided a modal that was quite good at explaining the motions of planets. Ptolemaic astronomy passed into history when a simpler model was found.

Galileo’s observations were rejected because they contradicted certain beliefs.  The observations were evidence, and “contradiction” is an interpretation, not evidence in itself. (It is not uncommon for  apparently contradictory evidence to be later understood as indicating an underlying reality. But with Galileo, his very observations were rejected — I think, it would be interesting to study this in detail — and if he were lying, it would be a serious moral offense, actually heresy.

The boundary between fringe science and pseudoscience is disputed. The connotation of “fringe science” is that the enterprise is rational but is unlikely to produce good results for a variety of reasons, including incomplete or contradictory evidence.[7]

The “boundary question” is an aspect of the sociology of science. “Unlikely to produce good results,” first of all, creates a bias, where results are classified as “good” or “poor” or “wrong,” all of which moves away from evidence to opinion and interpretation. “Contradictory evidence,” then, suggests anomalies. “Contradiction” does not exist in nature. With cold fusion, an example is the neutron radiation issue. Theory would predict, for two-deuteron fusion, massive neutron radiation. So that Pons and Fleischmann reported neutron radiation, but at levels far, far below what would be expected for d-d fusion generating the reported heat, first of all, contradicted the d-d fusion theory, on theoretical grounds. They were quite aware of this, hence what they actually proposed in their first paper was not “d-d fusion” but an “unknown nuclear reaction.” That was largely ignored, so much noise was being made about “fusion,” it was practically a Perfect Storm.

Further, any substantial neutron radiation would be remarkable as a result from an electrochemical experiment. As came out rather rapidly, Pons and Fleischmann had erred. Later work that established an upper limit for neutron radiation was itself defective (the FP heat effect was very difficult to set up, and it was not enough to create an alleged “FP cell” and look for neutrons, because many such cells produce no measurable heat), but it is clear from later work that neutron generation, if it exists at all, is at extremely low levels, basically irrelevant to the main effect.

Such neutron findings were considered “negative” by Britz. In fact, all experimental findings contribute to knowledge; it became a well-established characteristic of the FP Heat Effect that it does not generate significant high-energy radiation, nor has the heat ever been correlated (across multiple experiments and by multiple independent groups) with any other nuclear product except helium. 

The term may be considered pejorative. For example, Lyell D. Henry Jr. wrote that, “fringe science [is] a term also suggesting kookiness.”[8] This characterization is perhaps inspired by the eccentric behavior of many researchers of the kind known colloquially (and with considerable historical precedent) as mad scientists.[9]

The term does suggest that. The looseness of the definition allows inclusion of many different findings and claims, which do include isolated and idiosyncratic ideas of so-called “mad scientists.” This is all pop science, complicated by the fact that some scientists age and suffer from forms of dementia. However, some highly successful scientists also move into a disregard of popular opinion, which can create an impression of “kookiness,” which is, after all, popular judgment and not objective. They may be willing to consider ideas rejected for social reasons by others.

Although most fringe science is rejected, the scientific community has come to accept some portions of it.[10] One example of such is plate tectonics, an idea which had its origin in the fringe science of continental drift and was rejected for decades.[11]

There are lost and crucial details. Rejected by whom, and when? The present tense is used, and this is common with the anti-fringe faction on Wikipedia. If something was rejected by some or by many, that condition is assumed to continee and is reported in the present tense, as as it were a continuing fact, when an author cannot do more than express an opinion about the future.  Now, plate tectonics is mentioned. “Continental drift” is called “fringe science,” even after it became widely accepted.

Wegener’s proposal of continental drift is a fascinating example. The Wikipedia article does not mention “fringe science.” The Wikipedia article is quite good, it seems to me. One particular snippet is of high interest:

David Attenborough, who attended university in the second half of the 1940s, recounted an incident illustrating its lack of acceptance then: “I once asked one of my lecturers why he was not talking to us about continental drift and I was told, sneeringly, that if I could prove there was a force that could move continents, then he might think about it. The idea was moonshine, I was informed.”[47]

As late as 1953 – just five years before Carey[48] introduced the theory of plate tectonics – the theory of continental drift was rejected by the physicist Scheidegger on the following grounds.[49]

That rejection was essentially pseudoskepticism and pseudoscientific. There was observation (experimental evidence) suggesting drift. The lack of explanatory theory is not evidence of anything other than possible ignorance. “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

The fact is that the continental drift hypothesis, as an explanation for the map appearance and fossil record, was not generally accepted. What shifted opinion was the appearance of a plausible theory. Worthy of note was how strongly the opinion of “impossible” was, such that “proof” was demanded. This is a sign of a fixed mind, not open to new ideas. The history of science is a long story of developing methods to overcome prejudice like that. This is a struggle between established belief and actual fact. Experimental evidence is fact. Such and such was observed, such and such was measured. These are truth, the best we have. It can turn out that recorded data was a result of artifact, and some records are incorrect, but that is relatively rare. Scientists are trained to record data accurately and to report it neutrally. Sometimes they fail, they are human. But science has the potential to grow beyond present limitations because of this habit.

Anomalies, observations that are not understood within existing scientific models, are indications that existing models are incomplete. Rejecting new data or analyses because they don’t fit existing models is circular. Rather, a far better understanding of this is that the evidence for a new idea has not risen to a level of detail, including controlled tests, to overcome standing ideas. Science, as a whole, properly remains agnostic. Proof is for math, not the rest of science. This does not require acceptance of new ideas until one is convinced by the preponderance of evidence. Pseudoskeptics often demand “proof.” “Extraordinary claims” require extraordinary evidence.” Yes, but what does that actually mean? What if there is “ordinary evidence?” What is the definition of an “extraordinary claim,” such that ordinary evidence is to be disregarded?

It’s subjective. It means nothing other than “surprising to me” — or to “us,” often defined to exclude anyone with a contrary opinion. For Wikipedia, peer-reviewed secondary source in a clearly mainstream journal is rejected because the author is allegedly a “believer.” That is editorial opinion, clearly not neutral. Back to the fringe science article:

The confusion between science and pseudoscience, between honest scientific error and genuine scientific discovery, is not new, and it is a permanent feature of the scientific landscape …. Acceptance of new science can come slowly.[12]

This was presented by formatting as a quotation, but was not attributed in the text. This should be “According to Michael W. Friedlander.” in his book on the topic, At the Fringes of Science (1005). He is very clear: there is no clear demarcation between “science” and “fringe science.”

Friedlander does cover cold fusion, to some degree. He hedges his comments. On page 1, “… after months of independent, costly, and exhaustive checks by hundreds of scientist around the world, the excitement over cold fusion cooled off, and the claim is probably destined to take its place alongside monopoles, N-rays, polywater, and other fly-by-night “discoveries” that flash across our scientific skies to end up as part of our folklore.”

He hedged with “probably.” On what evidence was he basing that assessment?  Cold fusion was not actually his primary investigation. On pp. 27-34, he reports the early days of the cold fusion fiasco, (with some errors), and doesn’t report on what came later. He doesn’t mention the later confirmations of the heat effect, nor the discovery of a nuclear product, published in 1993 in a mainstream journal (though announced in 1991, Huizenga covered it in 1993). He does not distinguish between the”fusion theory” and the actual report of anomalous heat by experts in heat measurement, not to mention the later discovery of a correlated nuclear product. He closes that section with:

To summarize briefly, the cold fusion “discovery” will surely be remembered as a striking example of how science should not be done. Taubes has compared “many of the proponents of cold fusion” to Blaise Pascal, the seventeenth century scientist who “renounced a life of science for one of faith>” [Bad Science (1993), 92] The whole episode certainly illustrates the practical difficulty in implementing an innocuous-sounding “replication” and points to the need for full and open disclosure if there are to be meaningful tests and checks. It has also exposed some unfortunate professional sensitivities, jealousies, and resentments. At least to date, the exercise appears to be devoid of redeeming scientific value — but perhaps something may yet turn up as the few holdouts tenaciously pursue a theory as evasive as the Cheshire cat.

I agree with much of this, excepting his ignorance of results in the field, and his idea that what was to be pursued was a “theory.” No, what was needed was clear confirmation of the heat anomaly, then confirmation of the direct evidence that it was nuclear in nature (correlated helium!), and then far more intensive study of the effect itself, its conditions and other correlates and only then would a viable theory become likely.

Cold fusion was the “Scientific Fiasco of the Century” (Huizenga, 1992) It looks like Friendlander did not look at the second edition of Huizenga’s book, where he pointed to the amazing discovery of correlated helium. There was a problem in cold fusion research, that there were many “confirmations” of the heat effect, but they were not exact replications, mostly. Much of the rush to confirm — or disconfirm — was premature and focused on what was not present: “expected” nuclear products, i.e., neutrons. Tritium was confirmed but at very low levels and not correlated with heat (often the tritium studies were of cells where heat was not measured).

Nobody sane would argue that fringe claims should be “believed” without evidence, and where each individual draws the line on what level of evidence is necessary is a personal choice. It is offensive, however, when those who support a fringe claim are attacked and belittled and sometimes hounded. If fringe claims are to be rejected ipso facto, i.e., because they are considered fringe, the possibility of growth in scientific understanding is suppressed. This will be true even if most fringe claims ultimately disappear. Ordinary evidence showing some anomaly is just that, showing an anomaly. By definition, an anomaly indicates something is not understood.

With cold fusion, evidence for a heat anomaly accumulated, and because the conditions required to create the anomaly were very poorly understood, a “negative confirmation” was largely meaningless, indicating only that whatever approach was used did not generate the claimed effect, and it could have been understood that the claimed effect was not “fusion,” but anomalous heat. If the millions of dollars per month that the U.S. DoE was spending frantically in 1989 to test the claim had been understood that way, and if time had been allowed for confirmation to appear, it might not have been wasted.

As it is, Bayesian analysis of the major “negative confirmations” shows that with what became known later, those experiments could be strongly predicted to fail, they simply did not set up the conditions that became known as necessary. This was the result of a rush to judgment, pressure was put on the DoE to come up with quick answers, perhaps because the billion-dollar-per-year hot fusion effort was being, it was thought, threatened, with heavy political implications. Think of a billion dollars per year no longer being available for salaries for, say, plasma physicists.

However, though they were widely thought to have “rejected” cold fusion, the reality is that both U.S. DoE reviews were aware of the existence of evidence supporting the heat effect and its nuclear nature, and recommended further research to resolve open questions; in 2004, the 18-member panel was evenly divided on the heat question, with half considering the evidence to be conclusive and half not. Then on the issue of a nuclear origin, a third considered the evidence for a nuclear effect to be “conclusive or somewhat conclusive.”

The heat question has nothing to do with nuclear theory, but it is clear that some panel members rejected the heat evidence because of theory. The most recent major scientific work on cold fusion terms itself as a study of the Anomalous Heat Effect, and they are working on improving precision of heat and helium measurements.

If one does not accept the heat results, there would be no reason to accept nuclear evidence! So it is clear from the 2004 DoE review that cold fusion was, by then, moving into the mainstream, even though there was still rampant skepticism.

The rejection of cold fusion became an entrenched idea, an information cascade that, as is normal for such cascades, perpetuates itself, as scientists and others assume that was “everyone thinks” must be true.

In mainstream journals, publication of papers, and more significantly, reviews that accept the reality of the effect began increasing around 2005. There are no negative reviews that were more than a passing mention. What is missing is reviews in certain major journals that essentially promised to not publish on the topic, over a quarter-century ago.

One of the difficulties is that the basic research that shows, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the effect is real and nuclear in nature was all done more than a decade ago. It is old news, even though it was not widely reported. Hence my proposal, beginning quite a few years ago, was for replication of that work with increased precision, which is a classic measure of “pathological science.” Will the correlation decline or disappear with increased precision?

This is exactly the work that a genuine skeptic would want to see.

I have often written that genuine skepticism is essential to science. As well, those who will give new ideas or reported anomalies enough credence to support testing are also essential. Some of them will be accused of being “believers” or “proponents,” or even “diehards.”

The mainstream needs the fringes to be alive, in order to breathe and grow.

Diehard believers have hope, especially if they also trust reality. Diehard skeptics are simply dying.

(More accurately, “diehard skeptic” is an oxymoron. Such a person is a pseudoskeptic, a negative believer.)

Going dark on a topic

(May 2, 2018) This is obsolete. Some pages are still hidden, being reviewed before being re-opened. The content here has been misrepresented elsewhere. Simple documentation has been called “attack.” If we are attacked by reality, we are in big trouble no matter what others say!)

I have been documenting the Anglo Pyramidologist sock puppetry and massive disruption. Because of what I have found, and the tasks before me over the next year, I am going dark. All pages in the category of Anglo Pyramidologist will be hidden, pending, and possibly some others. Some have been archived (often on and will remain available there. If anyone has a need-to-know, or wants to support the work, contact me (comments on this post will be seen by me, and if privacy is requested, that will be honored, the comments will not be published. Provide me with an email and a request for contact and I will do so.)

The connection with cold fusion is thin, but exists and is significant.

Warning: documenting AP can be hazardous to your health.

As well, the next year’s journalism will need support, some of this may become expensive. I will be asking for support, to supplement what is already available or in the pipeline.

Sometimes reality comes to our door and knocks. Do we invite her in? Other times we need to search for her. Ask and you shall receive. She is kind and generous.

Don’t ask, and reality might seem to punch you in the nose, and you might be offended. In reality, you just walked into a lamp post. Who knew?


The sock family known on Wikipedia as Anglo Pyramidologist is two brothers, Oliver D. Smith (the original Anglo Pyramidologist) and Darryl L. Smith, perhaps best known as Goblin Face, who continues to be highly active with the “skeptic faction” on Wikipedia. It is possible that there is a third brother involved.

They have engaged in impersonation socking, disrupting Wikipedia while pretending to be a blocked user, leading to defamation of the target user, and they have engaged in similar behavior elsewhere.

I was attacked for documenting the proven impersonation and other socking. My behaviot did not violate any policies or the Terms of Service,

The Smith brothers were able to coordinate or canvass for multiple complaints, (they have bragged about complaining) and it is possible that this led to the WikiMedia Foundation global ban, but those bans are not explained and the banned user is not warned, and has no opportunity to appeal or contest them.

Substantial damage was done to the long-standing tradition of academic freedom on Wikiversity.

Action to remedy this will continue, but privately.

To live outside the law you must be honest

–Bob Dylan, Absolutely Sweet Marie (19 freaking 66)

This is a call for action.

Wikipedia Policy: Ignore all rules.

If a rule prevents you from improving or maintaining Wikipedia, ignore it.

Years ago, I wrote an essay, Wikipedia Rule Zero. When all my Wikipedia user pages were put up for deletion by JzG, in 2011, the essay was rescued. So I can also rescue it now. Thanks, Toth. (Those pages were harmless, — there were lies  — ah, careless errors? — in the deletion arguments. Why the rush? Notice how many wanted the pages not to be deleted, or at least considered individually.) Well, that’s a long story, and it just got repeated on Wikiversity without so much fuss as a deletion discussion or even a deletion tag that would notify the user. Deleted using a bot with an edit summary for most of them that was so false I might as well call it a lie.

The talk page of that essay lays out a concept for Wikipedia reform, off-wiki “committee” organization. This has generally been considered Canvassing, and users have been sanctioned for participating in a mailing list, a strong example being the Eastern European Mailing List, an ArbComm case where the Arbitration Committee — which deliberates privately on a mailing list! — threw the book at users and an administrator who had done very little, but the very concept scared them, because they knew how vulnerable Wikipedia is to off-wiki organization. However, it is impossible to prevent, and a more recent example could be Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia. 

It is quite obvious that GSOW is communicating in an organized way, privately. The Facebook page claims high activity, but the page shows little. And that’s obviously because it is all private.

I have spent a few months documenting the activities of Anglo Pyramidologist, the name  on Wikipedia for a sock master, with more than 190 tagged sock puppets on Wikipedia, and many more elsewhere. AP has claimed to be paid for his work, by a “major skeptic organization.” There are claims that this is GSOW.

Lying or not, the recent AP activities have clearly demonstrated that WMF wikis and others are vulnerable to manipulation through sock puppets and what they can do, particularly if they seem to be supporting some position that can be seen as “majority” or “mainstream.” They routinely lie, but design the lies to appeal to common ideas and knee-jerk opinion.

Recently, cold fusion was banned as a topic on Wikiversity, (unilaterally by the same sysop as deleted all those pages of mine), entirely contrary to prior policy and practice. It was claimed that the resource had been disruptive, but there had been no disruption, until a request for deletion was filed the other day by socks — and two users from Wikipedia canvassed by socks — showed up attacking the resource and me. So this became very, very clearly related to cold fusion.

However, the problem is general. I claimed years ago that Wikipedia was being damaged by factional editing without any claim of off-wiki organization — at least I had no evidence for that. It happens through watchlists and shared long-term and predictable interests.

Wikipedia policy suggests that decisions be made, when there is dispute, by users who were not involved. Yet I have never seen any examination of “voters” based on involvement, so the policy was dead in the water, has never actually been followed. It just sounds like a good idea! (and many Wikipedia policies are like that. There is no reliable enforcement. It’s too much work! When I did this kind of analysis, it was hated!)

So … a general solution: organize off-wiki to support generation of genuine consensus on-wiki. I will create a mailing list, but to be maximally effective this must not be, in itself, factional. However, having a “point of view” does not make one factional. People can easily have points of view, even strong ones, while still recognizing fairness and balance through full self-expression. Wikipedia, as an encyclopedia, is neutral through exclusion, but if points of view are excluded in the deliberative process, as they often have been whenever those were minority points of view — in the “local mob” — consensus becomes impossible. Wikiversity was, in the educational resources, neutral by inclusion. And the AP socks and supporters just demolished that.

These off-wiki structures must also be security-conscious, because all prior similar efforts have not taken precautions and were crushed as a result. In the talk page for that Rule 0 essay, I described Esperanza, a clear example.

This will go nowhere if there is no support. But even one person participating in this could make a difference. A dozen could seriously interrupt the activities of the factions. Two dozen could probably transform not only Wikpedia, but the world.

Wikipedia was designed with a dependence on consensus, but never clearly developed structures that would generate true consensus. Given how many efforts there have been on-wiki, my conclusion is that it isn’t going to happen spontaneously and through on-wiki process, because of the Iron Law of Oligarchy and its consequences. Reform will come from independent, self-organized structures. I will not here describe the exact details, but … it can be done.

I used to say “Lift a finger, change the world. But few will lift a finger.” Sometimes none.

Is that still true? Contact me if you are willing to lift a finger, to move toward a world where the people know how to create genuine consensus, and do what it takes for that. Comments left here can request privacy. Email addresses will be known to me and will be kept private for any post with any shred of good-faith effort to communicate.

Another slogan was “If we are going to transform the world, it must be easy.”

There will be participants in this who are public, real-name. I will be one. More than that will depend on the response that this sees. Thanks for reading this and, at least, considering it!



Wikipedia neutral or not neutral?

Well, what is it? Inquiring minds want to know. First of all, the policy.

The policy follows the “impartial” or “objective” journalistic model, as described in this document from

Supporters of this tradition feel it is the most honest form of reporting, attempting to lay out all sides of the issue fairly so that readers can make their own decisions. Reporters and editors following an objective model generally conceal their personal political beliefs and their opinions on controversial issues.

It is not necessary to conceal one’s own point of view, but the effort of an “impartial” journalist is to cover the topic, not their own opinions. As pointed out in the essay, if they do write about their opinions (as distinct from the facts on which those opinions might be based), this is labelled or distinguished as opinion.

Objective journalism does not require so-called “he said, she said” reporting that just cites the arguments or each side without seeking to draw any conclusions. Objective reporters can judge the weight of evidence on various sides of a dispute and tailor accordingly the amount of space they give various opinions. There is no need to provide “false equivalence” — treating every opinion equally.

News media following the objective model may express opinions in clearly labeled editorials, commentaries and cartoons, but those views should not affect the organization’s news reports.

Calling the neutrality goal “Neutral Point of View” was misleading, because “impartial reporting” is not a “point of view.” It’s a choice, a decision, a practice, the goal being to present, for Wikipedia, encyclopedic information that is not based on some point of view, but that provides readers with the information they might need to make their own assessments. There has been long-term conflict on Wikipedia over the interpretation of this, and what is remarkable is that there are users and administrators who openly prefer advocacy reporting, who have edited in conflict with others, and used tools to enforce, their own obvious point of view.

It has been called the “scientific point of view,” which was also a misnoer, because science, by definition, has no point of view, but seeks to establish knowledge through testing of ideas. Humans have points of view, not abstractions like “science.” Scientists often have points of view. In fact, scientists often get blocked on wikipedia for expressing them.

Again from the Policy:

Neutrality requires that each article or other page in the mainspace fairly represent all significant viewpoints that have been published by reliable sources, in proportion to the prominence of each viewpoint in the published, reliable sources.[3] Giving due weight and avoiding giving undue weight means that articles should not give minority views or aspects as much of or as detailed a description as more widely held views or widely supported aspects. Generally, the views of tiny minorities should not be included at all, except perhaps in a “see also” to an article about those specific views. For example, the article on the Earth does not directly mention modern support for the flat Earth concept, the view of a distinct minority; to do so would give undue weight to it.

Wikipedia made a decision very early, not based on extensive experience, to use a flat model, with all encyclopedia articles sitting in a single namespace, called “mainspace.” Subpages are not allowed in mainspace. Wikiversity decided differently, having had more experience. The flat model discouraged exploration of detail. So the Wikipedia article on the Earth does mention Flat earth ideas, by linking to the article. By doing so, the coverage becomes complete, and roughly proportionate to coverage in reliable source.

Notice: the standard for inclusion of material is coverage in reliable sources, a term of art for Wikipedia, a substitute for having an actual editorial staff of experts making notability and reliability decisions. However, in actual practice, the flexibility allowed creates situations where a point of view, especially if held by a significant faction of users, can warp what is allowed for inclusion and can effectively exclude from the entire project, information presented in reliable sources, because of editorial opinion about what is accepted by “most scientists,” as it is often put.

Reliable sources include the expression of opinions, not all are purely factual. So if some reliable source shows an opinion that “most scientists consider parapsychology a pseudoscience,” as a real example, this is then often reported in articles as if a fact, rather than the opinion it often is. However, perhaps there was a poll. The fact is the poll and objective reporting would cover that poll, where it was appropriate. If there are other sources which treat parapsychology as a science (which it clearly was, by intention, the “scientific study of claims of the paranormal”), these will then be labelled by anti-fringe users as “fringe,” which is synthesis, often, i.e., the insertion of personal judgment for reporting of verifiable information.

And “most scientists,” if they have not studied a topic, have opinions that are not much more informed than those of anyone else. Generally, they may depend on what others they consider to be informed have said, and this can be an information cascade. In the case of parapsychology, they may readily confuse parapsychology itself with belief or promotion of the claims studied. They may have an opinion that all paranormal claims are false, unsupported. Is that opinion a scientific fact? Consider what it would require! There are two aspects to a claim:

The first aspect is the evidence, and the second aspect is analysis. So there is a claim, perhaps, of some “paranormal ability,” and the bottom line for classifying a claim as “paranormal” is that it is not understood, or not understood scientifically, and it may seem to conflict with ordinary understanding of how the universe operates. Is the investigation of the unknown “pseudoscientific”? Investigation will develop evidence. Suppose the evidence shows that the so-called “psychic” was a fraud. Was the investigation — parapsychology in modern times — therefore “pseudoscientific”? Hardly.

Basically, if people are asked survey questions who are not experts on the topic, their responses might be poorly informed. But a collection of those responses might well be published in reliable source. Does it therefore become “fact,” which can be reported on Wikipedia without attribution?

Notice that with attribution, anything can become a “fact.” That is, if the attributed report is verifiable by looking at the source, that such and such was said or claimed is “verifiable fact,” not that the statement or claim was necessarily true.

When I began, as a Wikipedia editor, looking at Cold fusion, what I saw was that sources were being cherry-picked, and, as well, an administrator had blacklisted the main site where one could read scientific papers on the topic. At that point, I was quite skeptical about cold fusion, believing the common wisdom, that nobody could replicate the original findings. That claim, by the way, is still found in many articles on cold fusion in reliable sources, particularly newspaper or tertiary sources not actually focused on the topic, but which mention the inability to replicate in passing.  When I attempted to balance the article, as policy would require (this was, after all, on an arguably fringe topic, so covering it more thoroughly than in an article on nuclear fusion would be appropriate) I ran into high resistance. I have since researched coverage of cold fusion on Wikipedia and saw that this went way back. Many arguments were advanced to avoid covering what should be, by Wikipedia guidelines and Arbitration Committee rulings, golden for science articles. One of the principle ones was “undue weight.”

Yet this was an article on a subject that was poorly defined. First of all, it was called “cold fusion,” first, in media (I think the first to apply the idea of “fusion” to the anomalous heat seen by Pons and Fleischmann in 1984 and first reported publically in 1989, was the University of Utah press office, but it caught on, and Pons and Fleischmann themselves were iffy about it. They actually claimed an “unknown nuclear reaction.” The only nuclear evidence they had were some detections of neutrons (an error, artifact), tritium (actually confirmed by others but of unclear implications and not at levels expected if the reaction were producing tritium through ordinary deuterium fusion) and inference from the energy density they calculated, which was weak; and confirming their work was very difficult. Even they had trouble with it, later. (The finding of anomalous heat in palladium deuteride was later confirmed by many groups, but it remains a difficult experiment).

Cold fusion immediately became, by 1989 or 1990, a fringe topic. That is, the idea that there actually was a nuclear reaction taking place in the material studied was largely rejected, but it was never conclusively shown that the original work was defective as to the report of heat. There is still no successful and verifiable theory of mechanism, but a practical theory has emerged that is verifiable, and it has been widely confirmed, and this is reported in scientific journals, and not just in primary sources. There are multiple secondary sources, peer-reviewed reviews of the issue or of the field in general including the issue or of some aspect of the field that takes this practical theory as a given, and that is that the reported heat is explained by the conversion of deuterium to helium, without significant loss of energy to other products or radiation. That conversion, by the laws of thermodynamics, must generate the observed energy in some form or other. (In classic hot deuterium fusion, if helium is the product, the large bulk of the energy is released as a high-energy photon (gamma). This is not observed (which caused many to reject helium as a possible product, “because no gammas.”)

So, the entire Wikipedia article is on a fringe topic. Many sources from almost thirty years ago reject cold fusion as a phenomenon worthy of study. The formal reviews, by the way, (1989 and 2004, U.S. DoE) did not do that; these are merely widespread opinions, back then. As it happens, if one restricts a source study to mainstream peer reviewed journals and academic publications, the best sources, there are more papers considered positive on cold fusion than there are negative. But that cannot be reported on Wikipedia because it is synthesis. As to reviews of cold fusion, I studied papers in Wikipedia qualified reliable source (or should be), published since 2005 on Wikiversity

I count 19 peer-reviewed or academically published reviews, in the period 20015-2012. In 2015, there were 34 papers published in Current Science, a peer-reviewed publication of the Indian Academy of Sciences. Some of them are reviews (such as my paper there). Are any of these reviews, over twenty, cited in the Wikipedia cold fusion article? Yes.

A small community of researchers continues to investigate cold fusion,[6][11] now often preferring the designation low-energy nuclear reactions (LENR) or condensed matter nuclear science (CMNS).[12][13][14][15]

15. Biberian, Jean-Paul (2007), “Condensed Matter Nuclear Science (Cold Fusion): An Update” (PDF), International Journal of Nuclear Energy Science and Technology, 3 (1): 31–42, doi:10.1504/IJNEST.2007.012439

Links shown are to the Wikipedia article or, for Biberian, to a copy on his web site. I cover some of these sources here: [15] [16]

15. Biberian is a general review of the field (as of 2007), and would be reliable source. All that is taken from it is the name shift. Isn’t that a bit odd? There is another paper that I did not classify as a review, ([16], Labinger & Weininger), but it could be taken that way (and there are other sources that are not peer-reviewed as scientific papers).

Since cold fusion articles are rarely published in peer-reviewed mainstream scientific journals, they do not attract the level of scrutiny expected for mainstream scientific publications.[16]

16. Goodstein 1994,Labinger & Weininger 2005, p. 1919

From Goodstein (my emphasis):

Cold Fusion is a pariah field, cast out by the scientific establishment. Between Cold Fusion and respectable science there is virtually no communication at all. Cold fusion papers are almost never published in refereed scientific journals, with the result that those works don’t receive the normal critical scrutiny that science requires. On the other hand, because the Cold-Fusioners see themselves as a community under siege, there is little internal criticism. Experiments and theories tend to be accepted at face value, for fear of providing even more fuel for external critics, if anyone outside the group was bothering to listen. In these circumstances, crackpots flourish, making matters worse for those who believe that there is serious science going on here.

Who believes that about “serious science”? Goodstein, physics professor at Cal Tech, apparently. Goodstein covers the “fiasco,” the total mess of 1989 and beyond. He ends up with what became my position, very quickly, which was very unpopular with the editors sitting on the Wikipedia article. What was a casual, off-hand remark that actually makes little sense when closely examined, if taken literally, is what is selected from him. That was his opinion. He expresses other opinions, which are ignored. Why?

Because, I came to think, the anti-fringe faction believes they are wrong. By the way, by “serious science,” Goodstein was not claiming that cold fusion was real. He was claiming that there is genuine research and there are some genuine mysteries, things not understood yet.

What Goodstein wrote, in 1994, was about the very large body of research reports that are not published under mainstream peer review. That’s a loss, created by the difficulty of publishing experimental results in some journals. But others accepted papers and the issue obviously does not apply to what is published under peer review. So research published in that was does receive — or would be expected to receive, normally — the necessary critique. My position is that genuine skepticism is essential to science, and critique within the field is crucial and necessary.

The article presents Goodstein’s 1994 comment as if it describes the present situation. Does it?

And then there is Labinger and Weininger, 2005.  It isn’t easy to find a copy of this paper, but I have one. It’s a decent report of the history of the cold fusion controversy. It does not support what is attributed to it.  Because of the importance of this study, I am uploading a copy of the paper, claiming fair use. The page referenced is 1919, but the entire paper is worth reading. Again, there is much in this paper relevant to what have been major issues with the Wikipedia article, and it’s been ignored. Heat/helium correlation is covered, as was known to the authors in 2004 (and there is much that they apparently didn’t know, but they were certainly aware of the significance of the correlation claim). I will probably write a fuller review of the paper.

The heat/helium correlation is still not covered in the Wikipedia article. All attempts to refer to it were reverted on various excuses or sometimes no excuse. Yet Labinger and Weininger, in 2005, considered this significant.

So how does this happen? It’s what I called MPOV-pushing, Majority Point of View Pushing, and in practical terms, “Majority” does not refer to the “majority of experts on the topic,” nor to “the majority of scientists,” nor even to the “majority of Wikipedia editors,” but rather to the “majority of those who are watching an article and who have not been blocked or driven away by the majority faction.”

And that faction has been quite open about opposing neutrality policy. Here is an essay by an editor, Manul,  Neutral and proportionate point of view.

There was no participation in that page by other than the author, and there is no comment on the Talk page, but it’s linked from many pages.

The neutral point of view policy does not prescribe neutrality, in a certain sense of the word. When there are competing points of view, Wikipedia does not aim for the midpoint between them. Rather, it gives weight to each view in proportion to its prevalence in reliable sources. Wikipedia’s less-than-obvious meaning of “neutral point of view” is a perennial source of confusion.

NPOV editing would be “objective and impartial.” “Points of view” are actually irrelevant. The problem is in determining “weight,” because Wikipedia verifiability rests on what appears in reliable sources, and the faction tends to reject sources that “promote” views it opposes. That judgment is synthesis; it’s prohibited in text, but infects the process by which text is selected — or rejected.

How the faction distorts the subject is by creating “balance” that reflects their own views, by cherry-picking from a vast array of sources of differing quality and relevance. And the strongest sources, for how cold fusion is currently viewed, would be those peer-reviewed reviews. In my opinion, that balance is itself somewhat skewed as to general scientific opinion, because, as pointed out by Labinger and Weininger and others, most scientists are not aware of “recent research,” which includes much research published as early as a few years after Pons and Fleischmann announced. From what I’ve seen, many scientists will argue that the biggest problem with cold fusion was the absence of a nuclear product, and that argument depends on ignorance of the heat/helium correlation.

Facts are not points of view; they may be used in arguments to support or oppose a point of view. But if a fact is verifiable by reliable source, my position was that the fact belongs somewhere in the project. For example, there are claims of evidence for a flat earth. If these appear in reliable source (which might be an article on the Flat Earth BS, published by a reliable secondary source as Wikipedia requires), they belong in the project somewhere, assuming that an article on the topic exists, which it can if there is enough reliable source. It only takes a few for an article, and only one for a mention.

The faction would exclude these arguing that they would be undue weight in an article, but would also disallow and historically opposed creating a new article that would include those facts, being more specific and balanced within the topic of that new article.

Presenting an argument against some position while not presenting the position itself is clearly POV expression.

Effectively, evidence that they think contrary to their point of view has been excluded. The essay by Manul is not completely wrong, but is misleading, because the issue is not the “weight of points of view,” but the “weight of what is in reliable source.” If all of that is presented somewhere in wikipedia, and properly linked and contexted, what is “mainstream” will become obvious.

Yes, there can be reliable source claiming that such and such is fringe or pathological science or pseudoscience. However, are there reliable sources that claim other than that? And if a source claims something is fringe, but another reliable source accepts that thing and covers it, is the latter to be excluded because a source claims it is fringe?

That exclusion, which has obviously happened, is not neutral in the meaning of the policy. As a practical reality, opinion shifts over time, and the opinions of experts can differ from that of the majority, so there is also the fact that what is “fringe” may vary with time.

There are rejected views that exist in reliable source. “Reliable source” does not become unreliable because opinions expressed became obsolete. Rather, it would be covered somewhere, in the project I and many others envisioned. “The sum of human knowledge” includes mistakes that were made.

I never attempted to present cold fusion, in the article, as other than fringe, but simply to present what was in reliable sources, following policy. This was heavily attacked. On the talk page, however, I argued that the extreme skeptical view, favored by many editing that article, had disappeared from scientific journals long ago, and that cold fusion was being routinely accepted, in some journals. Not in all. There were journals that vowed, in 1990 or so, to never again publish an article on cold fusion. All this, by the way, is not some vague conspiracy theory, it’s well-covered in sources accepted by Wikipedia, such as Simon, academically published, Undead Science, mentioned by Labinger and Weininger.

Wikipedia never developed reliable structure to deal with factional POV pushing. Yet it obviously exists, with some administrators being among the pushers.

Is Wikipedia neutral? No. It could be, and it often is. There are many editors who understand the principles — as are well-known to experienced journalists. The “He said, she said” style of journalism is lazy and shallow, and the idea of neutrality as being “in the middle,” as Manul decries, is a primitive idea, a straw man. However, what the principles behind the NPOV policy suggest is allowing the weight in the sources (which means, effectively, the weight of the sources) to determine the balance of articles.

Factional, POV editing pushes out information, even though reliably sourced, that contradicts the faction’s point of view.

I found that this only happened when there wasn’t broad community attention. Factional POV-pushing, then, thrives in the noise, the huge volume of activity on Wikipedia, where a faction can, through what is created by watchlists, appear to be in the majority, and can revert-war out what they don’t like, and they did, long-term.

When broad attention was attracted, as with RfC or other process, they would lose and articles would be improved. So a priority for the faction came to be eliminating or disempowering users who could skillfully manage creating those processes, within policy. And so there is an essay written originally by a factional administrator: Civil POV pushing

There is philosophy that developed of creating a neutral encyclopedia by excluding editors who were not neutral.

As can easily be understood, that was doomed, because nobody is always neutral. Very rarely are those who  become highly informed on a topic completely neutral, having developed no point of view.

What human organizations develop, that need objective judgement, is process, and there is only one real standard for assessing neutrality: consensus, with the degree of neutrality generally being measurable through the degree of consensus, including all participants willing to behave civilly. Civility is crucial to this.

In standard deliberative process, if a member of an assembly is uncivil, they are not banned, but asked to sit down, and if they refuse, they are conducted from the room. To actually ban a member from a deliberative assembly generally takes a supermajority vote, after announcement, and it’s rare. Most people will cooperate with an attempt of a chair to maintain order. So if the chair orders a member excluded from the room (the equivalent of a block on Wikipedia), that only applies to the immediate session. Wikipedia went for “quick,” i.e., :”wiki,” and lost the power to develop consensus as a result. It famously takes time and much discussion.

In fact, however, wiki process as it developed on Wikipedia is incredibly inefficient, failing to establish real consensus after massive discussions, enormous wastes of time, because few do the real study needed. Instead it’s quick: Keep/Delete, Block/Unblock, and if you argue, Ban. Or if you argue for what a strong faction likes, ”Unban.” Even after massive process to determine a need for a drastic change in behavior.

What I saw from the author of the CPOV essay was gross incivility from him and those whom he supported and who supported him. These users, including administrators, could freely and with little restraint insult those who disagreed with them. Before I was involved with cold fusion, the faction was not doing well before the Arbitration Committee. The open “SPOV (Scientific Point of View) pushers” had suffered losses in arbitration and thus we can see disgust with the Arbitration Committee in the essay — though I agree that they failed to deal with the issues. Then there was the first cold fusion arbitration, in 2008.

I was largely unaware of this case until later. (And at the time I was quite skeptical about cold fusion.) There was no finding of improper behavior (by which I mean behavior not matched at least as strongly by those arguing for Pcarbonn to be banned), rather the core finding by the Committee was this:

3) Pcarbonn edits articles with a stated agenda against Wikipedia policy[1] [2][3] Additionally, Pcarbonn has treated Wikipedia as a battleground; his actions to that effect include assumptions of bad faith [4], and edit warring. [5][6]. For more complete evidence see [7][8][9].

The “stated agenda” links to a screed by JzG (Guy) on the Administrator’s Noticeboard. JzG was far from neutral, I established that later, he was involved in the controversy. So they validated JzG’s agenda by blaming the problem on Pcarbonn instead of looking at the underlying cause of the continued dispute. (And JzG, emboldened, then proceeded to act even more disruptively, leading him to blacklist out-of-process, which I noticed and confronted, purely as a neutral editor …. and JzG will never mention it, but that first arbitration led to his reprimand. But nothing was done to actually restrain his POV-pushing. He resigned his admin tools in disgust, but, then, because the resignation was after the ruling, he was able to request them back and then work, piece by piece, over time, to get revenge.)

What was the “stated agenda”? JzG wrote:

See also WP:COIN. The long and the short of it is, Pcarbonn (talk · contribs · logs · edit filter log · block log) has written an article in a fringe journal, New Energy Times, openly admitting that he has been pursuing a years-long agenda to skew the article Cold fusion (edit | talk | history | links | watch | logs | views) to be more favourable to the fringe views proomoted by that journal, [10] and especially [11]. Example:

“I’m pleased to report that the revised page, resulting from the mediation process, presents the topic as a continuing controversy, not as an example of pathological science. This is a major step forward in the recognition of the new field of condensed matter nuclear science and low-energy nuclear reaction research … I now have a lot of respect for all paradigm-shifting scientists, like Copernicus, Galileo, Fleischmann and Pons, and the other courageous cold fusion pioneers”.


Few media outlets are paying attention to the subject, and many of the prominent individuals known to New Energy Times who are observing the field are keeping mum though a few observers such as Ron Marshall and Pierre Carbonnelle have tried their best to participate.

That note was from Steve Krivit, not Pcarbonn.

The source given by ArbComm does not support the claim. The whole article should  be read (the old links are dead), it is here. Pcarbonn was claiming that the Wikipedia Dispute Resolution process worked. What he was allegedly “promoting” was what is quite obvious from recent sources, including the 2004 U.S. Department of Energy review.  An “agenda to skew the article” would be far from reality for Pcarbonn. But ArbComm fell for it.

In addition the edits they point to with “[1][2][3] “do not support the claim. They have stated that they do not wish to rule on content issues, but what Pcarbonn was claiming in those edits is easily supportable from sources, and they seem to infer an agenda from pointing to what would be, for him, simple knowledge found in reliable source (or at least sources accepted by most editors). That’s ruling on a content issue, by using an opinion or claim as evidence of improper agenda to promote that opinion, while claiming they were not so ruling.

I am not here looking at the behavioral claims, i.e., the alleged results of “battlefield mentality,” (revert warring and incivility), but Pcarbonn’s accusers had, for years, in many situations, behaved as badly or worse (and continue). Assumptions of bad faith have been routine for them, and it is still going on. Pcarbonn had been able to work through mediation to improve the article, but the faction (JzG and Science Apologist being prominent factional users) did not like the results, so they got rid of him, it’s pretty much that simple. They knew what arguments might appeal to the Committee, and this time they prevailed. Science Apologist was only a few months away from being sanctioned himself, but he was able to later return with no restrictions, with factional support that misrepresented the history to the community.

The Arbitration Committee did not have the sophistication to realize that “POV pushing” is human, and normal, and that what we would hope for is “Civil POV pushers,” who will negotiate in good faith, and seek consensus.

Instead, “POV pushing” is considered a crime, and experts get banned frequently, because they have a point of view and argue for it. A sane Wikipedia community would guide them toward advising the community, to provide sources. A “fringe POV pusher,” is likely to know better than anyone else what reliable sources exist, if they exist.

I argued before the Arbitration Committee that Wikipedia might consider suggesting that experts declare their credentials and with that be treated as having a conflict of interest (since Wikipedia does not want them as “authorities,” but would — or should — respect and consider their advice. An expert (which would include “cranks” and “crackpots”) is likely to be aware of the best sources, but should not be judging whether or not these are adequate. Those are editorial decisions, which on Wikipedia would be made according to policies, not “truth,” or even “expert opinion.”

By banning experts, and, relative to the other editors involved, Pcarbonn was an expert, Wikipedia warped the article.

Other experts, including scientists, showed up, but generally did not understand how Wikipedia worked and tended to argue “truth,” an easy mistake to make.

JzG actually disclosed, at one point, where his POV came from. He had a friend who was an electrochemist and he had asked the friend about the article, from before Pcarbonn and others had worked on it, apparently, and he thought it was “pretty good,” as I recall. So, JzG concluded, Pcarbonn and others must be wrong. He had a point of view, and he pushed it relentlessly, and continued to do so, but it was not a point of view based on expertise, nor on the best reliable sources, but on emotional reactions and personal opinion. JzG was famous for radical incivility, long before I ever became involved. And it continued, it’s still going on….

Pcarbonn faced, as I later faced, some outrageous opposition, and commented about it, which could look bad. But I have not examined those specific claims. I’m just looking, now, at what was cited by ArbComm as the proof of an “agenda contrary to policy.” It wasn’t there. So they imagined it, synthesized it, which, I found, was all too common. They did themselves what they accused Pcarbonn of, not “assuming good faith,” but assuming an intention to violate policy — which was not shown in the evidence given. And they did it unanimously, which is scary.

(Later, the ArbComm mailing list was hacked. ArbComm considers it valuable to present a face of consensus to the community, but that is negotiated privately, on the list. So much for open process.)

(One point: I think they considered Science Apologist an expert. He was indeed a physicist, but that conveys almost no expertise on cold fusion, only on the theoretical reasons to expect it’s impossible, which is not controversial. That is, “cold fusion” is not well defined, but the common concept of it, the easy assumption from the name, is probably impossible and SA would know why — and so do I.

Yet that argument is also flawed, and was known to be flawed. Basically, perhaps something is happening that we have not anticipated. Low-temperature fusion is not “impossible,” but a first approximation of rate, for d-d fusion, which is what everyone thinks of first when “fusion” is mentioned in connection with the heat effect, would have the rate be very, very, very low. However, rate cannot be calculated for an “unknown nuclear reaction,” which is what Pons and Fleischmann actually claimed. That fact, by the way, is not mentioned in the article. My source for it would be primary, the actual first paper. Here it is: (my emphasis).

… We realise that the results reported here raise more questions than they provide answers, and that much further work is required on this topic. … The most surprising feature of our results however, is that reactions (v) and (vi) are only a small part of the overall reaction scheme and that the bulk of the energy release is due to an hitherto unknown nuclear process or processes (presumably again due to deuterons).

The title of the article as printed was “Electrochemically induced nuclear fusion of deuterium”; however, I have seen claims that as-submitted, there was a question mark after this, dropped in the editorial process. The matter was enormously confused by the coverage of the classic d-d reaction, because they apparently believed they had detected those neutrons, and tritium as well, which, as to the neutrons, was artifact and error. Looking at that paper now, numerous errors stand out. This was rushed and sloppy — and apparently did not disclose enough to allow replication.

There is later work reporting neutron production from PdD, but the levels are extremely low, and have never been correlated with heat. There is also later work finding tritium, but roughly a million times down from what is apparently the primary product, helium. And, again, I have seen no attempts to determine if tritium was correlated with heat. Experiments tended to look for one or the other, or if they looked for both, as in some of the famous replication failures, they found neither.

“Fusion” also appears in the University of Utah press release.

Again, I’ve seen a claim that this came from the press office, not Pons and Fleischmann.

My favorite counterexample to the “impossibility” argument is to point to a form of cold fusion that is not controversial, it is accepted as a reality, and the argument as to why “cold fusion is impossible” does not consider it. Muon-catalyzed fusion takes place at very low temperatures.

What we know of as “cold fusion” is definitely not muon-catalyzed fusion, but the naive impossibility arguments don’t think of exceptions, i.e., what if there is some catalyst? MCF (or an equivalent with another catalysis, perhaps some kind electron catalysis) isn’t happening because MCF has the same branching ratio as hot fusion, and would generate fatal levels of neutrons (from the level of heat reported), so a simple catalyst causing ordinary d-d fusion cannot be the explanation of cold fusion. But what if the reactants are not just two deuterons (and some catalytic condition)? Basically, what Pons and Fleischmann actually claimed was an “unknown nuclear reaction” and the later-developed evidence, still excluded from the article even though very amply covered in reliable source, does not tell us the actual reaction, only the fuel and the “ash” or nuclear product.

I still find it hard to believe that the strong helium claim remains, after so many years, and in spite of ample coverage in peer-reviewed and academically publish sources — including sources cited in the article for other, relatively trivial matters, totally excluded. What the article has on helium is this:

In response to doubts about the lack of nuclear products, cold fusion researchers have tried to capture and measure nuclear products correlated with excess heat.[121] Considerable attention has been given to measuring 4He production.[13]However, the reported levels are very near to background, so contamination by trace amounts of helium normally present in the air cannot be ruled out. In the report presented to the DOE in 2004, the reviewers’ opinion was divided on the evidence for 4He; with the most negative reviews concluding that although the amounts detected were above background levels, they were very close to them and therefore could be caused by contamination from air.[122]

(The links in the article quotations are to the Wikipedia notes, but I will cover some of these sources below. [121] [13] [122])

Ugh. “In response to doubts” was POV synthesis. There was a search for nuclear products, from the beginning. Helium was not expected, from “fusion theory.” The lack of other products (especially neutrons) was a cause for doubt that a nuclear reaction was involved. But helium can be a nuclear product. Helium was found to be correlated, but that is not stated, only that there was a search for it. Describing this as a reaction to doubts follows the debunkers’ opinions that this is based on fanatic belief, trying to prove the belief. Not good science.

Other nuclear products have indeed been reported (at very low levels), but only helium has been correlated with heat. Tritium has been widely observed, but still only, roughly, a million times down from helium; if tritium is being produced, it is probably from some side-reaction or rare branch. No attempt was made, to my knowledge, to compare tritium levels with heat reports. The discovery that helium and heat were correlated was not announced until 1991, by Miles, and that fact was reported by Huizenga in his book — also reliable source. He was quite skeptical but considered the report astonishing, as it would “solve a major mystery of cold fusion,” as I recall. All this, of high importance in the history of cold fusion, is missing.

One of the main criticisms of cold fusion was that deuteron-deuteron fusion into helium was expected to result in the production of gamma rays—which were not observed and were not observed in subsequent cold fusion experiments.[40][123] Cold fusion researchers have since claimed to find X-rays, helium, neutrons[124] and nuclear transmutations.[125] Some researchers also claim to have found them using only light water and nickel cathodes.[124] The 2004 DOE panel expressed concerns about the poor quality of the theoretical framework cold fusion proponents presented to account for the lack of gamma rays.[122]

The new sources are [40] [123] [124] [125].

[121] The 2010 Hagelstein review in Naturwissenschaften, being cited for what is trivial about it. Wow: they point to a convenience copy on JzG must not have noticed. What would be a bombshell in that article is the stated assumption in the abstract:

In recent Fleischmann-Pons experiments carried out by different groups, a thermal signal is seen indicative of excess energy production of a magnitude much greater than can be accounted for by chemistry. Correlated with the excess heat appears to be 4He, with the associated energy near 24 MeV per helium atom.

Peer-reviewed reliable source in a mainstream multidisciplinary journal (then, it later narrowed the focus to life sciences).

[13] The Hagelstein paper submitted to the 2004 U.S. DoE review. Not peer-reviewed, though. Primary source for claims of a segment of the Condensed Matter Nuclear Science community.

[122] is the 2004 U.S DoE review report, misrepresented — or synthesized. The statement, however, is from the summary and was the opinion of the anonymous review author, based on some reviewer opinions.

From the review, listing the claims in the review submission:

1. “The existence of a physical effect that produces heat in metal deuterides. The heat is measured in quantities greatly exceeding all known chemical processes and the results are many times in excess of determined errors using several kinds of apparatus. In addition, the observations have been
reproduced, can be reproduced at will when the proper conditions are reproduced, and show the same patterns of behavior. Further, many of the reasons for failure to reproduce the heat effect have been discovered.”
2. “The production of 4He as an ash associated with this excess heat, in amounts commensurate with a reaction mechanism consistent with D+D -> 4He + 23.8 MeV (heat)”.

The second claim being considered is not mentioned in the Wikipedia article, only a criticism of it. “Commensurate” is stronger than “correlated.” That is, not only is 4He correlated with heat (i.e., increases when heat increases, is not found when heat is not found), but the ratio found experimentally is consistent with the requirements of thermodynamics for deuterium conversion to helium. (Which might not be the reaction shown, but another which accomplishes that conversion). And then the review had:

The hypothesis that excess energy production in electrolytic cells is due to low energy nuclear reactions was tested in some experiments by looking for D + D fusion reaction products, in particular 4He, normally produced in about 1 in 10in hot D + D fusion reactions. Results reported in the review document purported to show that 4He was detected in five out of sixteen cases where electrolytic cells were reported to be producing excess heat.

Wait just a cotton-pickin’ moment!  That was a blatant error. It’s not what was in the document, they are referring to the Case Appendix, which mentions “sixteen cells” that were tested. But 8 of them were controls which were not expected to show either heat or helium. Unfortunately, the Case work was never published, I’ve been leaning on McKubre — gently! — to arrange its release, it was done for a governmental client. In any case, only five cells are reported in the Appendix, I forget the exact details, someone could look them up. A detailed heat report was only shown for one cell. There were not “sixteen cells reported to be producing excess heat.” And, as well, these were not electrolytic cells. Someone read quite carelessly. (One of the reviews made the heat error and I think the summarizing bureaucrat made the “electrolytic” error.) All of this shows that the review report itself was not carefully checked. Primary source, my opinion. It went on:

The detected 4He was typically very close to, but reportedly
above background levels.

Misleading and inaccurate. In two cells, helium levels rose above ambient, and showed no slowing as they reached ambient levels. In most 4He work, the helium levels are either below ambient (and ambient helium has been excluded) or in one case, which I cover in my 2015 review in Current Science (reliable source!) ambient helium was not excluded and the measured helium was an elevation above ambient.

This evidence was taken as convincing or somewhat convincing by some
reviewers; for others the lack of consistency was an indication that the overall hypothesis was not justified. Contamination of apparatus or samples by air containing 4He was cited as one possible cause
for false positive results in some measurements.

That is a “possible cause” if one pays no attention to experimental details and the correlation, and if one believed the 5/16 claim, as one reviewer did, of course the “lack of consistency” would be an indication that the overall hypothesis was not justified. However, what is the hypothesis? The work was investigational, and the conclusion was that heat and helium were strongly correlated, and this was not based on Case, except a little. It was based on Miles, which the reviewers ignored, but who is featured in all reviews of the topic.

The correlation is covered in many, many reliable sources, but totally missing from the article, yet it is the strongest evidence for the nuclear nature of the heat effect called “cold fusion.” By far. All the rest is circumstantial and remains debatable for the most part. Garwin on input power and heat measurements: “They must be making some mistake.” Okay, it’s possible, but the “mistake” somehow creates a correlation with blinded measurements? I’ve said that if cold fusion was a treatment for heart disease, it would be standard of practice already, the evidence is that strong.

Remember, though, Wikipedia’s standard for inclusion is not “truth,” but verifiability in reliable sources, and for scientific articles, the gold standard is peer-reviewed and academic sources. Not editorial opinion about “mainstream views.” If a view is not mainstream, that can be stated, by showing a reliable source claiming it. All this can be verifiable if properly attributed.

But the faction actually censors and makes the subject obscure. This example makes that obvious. Continuing to look at the notes on what I quoted from the Wikipedia article:

[40] is an article from Scientific American in 1999: What is the current scientific thinking on cold fusion? Is there any possible validity to this phenomenon?

Peter N. Saeta, an assistant professor of physics at Harvey Mudd College, responds:
Eight years ago researchers Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons, then both at the University of Utah, made headlines around the world with their claim to have achieved fusion in a simple tabletop apparatus working at room temperature. Other experimenters failed to replicate their work, however, and most of the scientific community no longer considers cold fusion a real phenomenon. Nevertheless, research continues, and a small but very vocal minority still believes in cold fusion.

Fuzzy in, fuzzy out. What did Fleischmann and Pons actually claim? “Fusion in a simple tabletop apparatus”? Not actually. They claimed evidence for an unknown nuclear reaction, and the apparatus only seemed simple. It was actually quite a difficult experiment. “Other experimenters failed to replicate their work” was false, if taken as excluding confirmation, the reported effect was eventually confirmed by many, the idea of general failure was obviously based on early difficulties in replication.

The statement about “most of the scientific community” was true for 1999 and may still be true. What does “believes in cold fusion” mean? Is cold fusion a religion? The question was about “current scientific thinking,” but it is asked as if there is some authority, when, in fact, scientific opinion can vary widely. “Very vocal” is a tad, ah, judgmental. People who are working on something may be enthusiastic about it. Is that a problem? I will quote the skeptical inquirer Nate Hoffman from Dialog (1995):

YS: I guess the real question has to be this: Is the heat real?

OM: The simple facts are as follows: Scientists experienced in the area of calorimetric measurements are performing these experiments. Long periods occur with no heat production, and then, occasionally, periods suddenly occur with apparent heat production. These scientists become irate when so-called experts call them charlatans. The occasions when apparent heat appears seem to be highly sensitive to the surface conditions of the palladium and are not reproducible at will.

YS: Any phenomenon that is not reproducible at will is most likely not real.

OM: People in the San Fernando Valley, Japanese, Columbians, et al, will be glad to hear that earthquakes are not real.

YS: Ouch. I deserved that. My comment was stupid.

OM: A large number of people who should know better have parroted that inane statement….

The Scientific American article then presents Michael Schaffer. He is clearly at least somewhat knowledgeable, but he’s also sloppy. Nevertheless, he comes to a reasonable conclusion:

“So, what is the current scientific thinking on cold fusion? Frankly, most scientists have not followed the field since the disenchantment of 1989 and 1990. They typically still dismiss cold fusion as experimental error, but most of them are unaware of the newly reported results. Even so, given the extraordinary nature of the claimed cold fusion results, it will take extraordinarily high quality, conclusive data to convince most scientists, unless a compelling theoretical explanation is found first.”

He is talking about the political situation. He obviously thinks that something might be valid. However, he does not mention the strongest evidence that the heat effect is nuclear in nature, the heat/helium correlation. He merely points out what is not controversial, that the ordinary d-d fusion reaction only very rarely produces helium and when it does, it will always produce (must produce) a gamma ray. It is not clear that Schaffer realizes that the reaction might not be “d-d.” The lack of gammas strongly indicates that. But what I find of interest in his comment is the description of the position of “most scientists.” Is this “reliable source”? Obviously, the editors think it is for the comment about gammas. What about the ignorance of most scientists on the “newly reported results”?

A “compelling theoretical explanation” is quite unlikely at this point. Many have attempted to come up with one. Most theories conflict with the experimental evidence, so are not complete even if valid, i.e., there would be details to be worked out. Some theories replace one mystery with another, i.e., cold fusion is a mystery but what is known does not actually contradict known physics, it is merely unexpected, something yet to be understood. The theory that most closely attempts to explain experimental results would require a massive revision of basic nuclear physics, but without the specific experimental evidence that would justify this.

However, as to a scientific examination, the heat/helium correlation hypothesis is testable. In addition to having been confirmed widely, there is a project under way to confirm it with increased precision, and I hope and expect that there will be results in “not long.” Which could still be some years. My concern here is simply that there is extensive coverage of the heat/helium correlation in reliable source, the earliest I know of would be Huizenga, Fiasco, 1993 (2nd edition), yet it is still entirely missing from the article, almost 25 years later. This is not “recentism.”

The rest of the Scientific American article is pseudoskeptical bullshit, mostly scientifically irrelevant. I have sometimes considered writing a detailed review of that whole article, but … so much bullshit, so little time. (Morrison also did debate Pons and Fleischmann in a journal, and we are reviewing that elsewhere on this site. In that environment, he was more careful. What the other respondent wrote could not have been published in a scientific journal … but Scientific American published it…. so much for them. There was no thorough analysis of the topic, it was almost entirely opinion.

Phlogiston theory is covered better than cold fusion.

Completing the notes to that quoted section of the Wikipedia article:

40. The 2004 U.S. DoE report, again, which is reporting the “most negative” individual reviews. The argument of leakage is an obvious possible artifact with helium measurements at the low levels that would be expected if helium is the source of the reported heat (as helium production from deuterium is very energetic). The objection completely neglects the correlation and the actual experimental behavior.

[The review report was itself not subject to peer review, it was political. It actually shows a sea change in thinking from the 1989 review, but … attempts to insert fact from the review that could show this was always reverted. Instead, superficial comment from the review that is easily misunderstood was used. There was massive revert warring over this, over the years (before I was ever involved).  Is this still the condition of the article? Yes. The 1989 review is presented this way:

In 1989 the United States Department of Energy (DOE) concluded that the reported results of excess heat did not present convincing evidence of a useful source of energy and decided against allocating funding specifically for cold fusion.

That is easily verifiable from the primary source, the 1989 review. It is also misleading. First of all, the 1989 review was rushed, and the conclusions based on almost complete replication failure in the early efforts. Of course those reported results “did not present convincing evidence”! Further, the concern was “useful source of energy,” and there are still no such results, only indications of possibility, certainly not “convincing evidence,” enough to justify the charge to the panel, should there be a massive, heavily funded project? No, there shouldn’t have been, and still should not be. Not yet. Rather, the panel did recommend further research “under existing programs.”

A second DOE review in 2004, which looked at new research, reached similar conclusions and did not result in DOE funding of cold fusion.[10]

And on that point, (a massive or special program) the 2004 review conclusion was “similar” as in 1989, and said so, and that is also my conclusion, with much more thorough knowledge of the evidence than they were able to gain in the short review process. Rather, the panel again recommended further research– unanimously this time (the 1989 recommendation was actually forced by the threatened resignation of the Nobelist co-chair if it was not included, along with other language noting doubt, not certain rejection) further research. What was missing from that summary of “similar” was that what they report from 1989, about the lack of “convincing evidence” was definitely not the conclusion of the 2004 panel. Yet the way the reports are presented in the article matches the common opinion of skeptics on this: that the 2004 report also rejected cold fusion, and that there is no decent evidence for it. There is language in the summary of the report that shows the contrary; the panel was divided, which actually is a better reflection of “emerging science” rather than “fringe.” Given the very strong general negative opinion of cold fusion, some reviewers were apparently predisposed to misread the evidence, as can be seen in the individual reports (and then reflected in the summary). I never attempted to state this in the article, because it is “original research,”  though it is easily verifiable in the primary source, the review submission and report.

123. Rogers, Vern C.; Sandquist, Gary M. (December 1990), “Cold fusion reaction products and their measurement”Journal of Fusion Energy9 (4): 483–485, Bibcode:1990JFuE….9..483Rdoi:10.1007/BF01588284

The abstract is at the linked URL. From the first words of the article:

Ambient or cold fusion of deuterium is postulated to occur when two deuterium nuclei in a palladium or titanium metal lattice with ambient kinetic energy quantum mechanically tunnel through their mutual coulombic charge barrier and undergo one or more of the following
nuclear fusion reactions.

It is not controversial that gammas are not observed. The article examines the proposal (“postulated to occur.”) By whom? The reactions listed are the three known d-d fusion branches, and it was obvious from the original Pons and Fleischmann paper that these were not the main reaction, and what they presented showing that the might be happening at low levels was either artifact (neutron measurements) or weak (tritium and helium, as of that time). The article wastes a lot of space on what is completely not controversial: the absence of any product other than helium at significant levels. Is this the best source for that? Perhaps. They use the source to show “no gammas.” Right. No gammas, at least not high-energy gammas. There is later work reviewing this issue in more detail and with more experimental history, this was 1990.

124. This is Simons, Undead Science, p. 215. He is actually studying the sociology of cold fusion and the rejection. Simon is cited for “X-rays, helium, neutrons.” To repeat the quotation:

Cold fusion researchers have since claimed to find X-rays, helium, neutrons[124] and nuclear transmutations.[125] Some researchers also claim to have found them using only light water and nickel cathodes.[124] 

Now, due weight. What are the “main claims”? What has the most reliable source? Further, there are claims of major effects, correlated (and also with correlated causal conditions), and claims of minor effects, not correlated. The article mashes all this together. There are indeed persistent reports of X-rays, , but with no particular coherence or consistency across multiple researchers. Likewise neutrons have been reported, with the strongest report, least likely to be some artifact, being more recent than Simon, so why is Simon cited? And the levels of neutrons reported are only slightly above background, with the relationship to the primary reaction (primary symptom: heat) being quite obscure.

This was “passing mention,” by a sociologist and it contains no detail or references. It is quite unspecific. They are avoiding citing peer-reviewed reviews, which do cover all this with far more detail.

p. 215 in Simon mentions light water reports (mostly heat and tritium). This is all vague and not clearly confirmed, unlike the primary findings: heat from palladium deuteride, and correlated helium. There is no balance, in spite of the existence of peer-reviewed reviews of the field that cover these issues in detail.

The sentence makes it seem as if helium were found in light water experiments. No, helium has not been so reported. Light water or light hydrogen have been used in control experiments. If there are light water reactions, they are largely unconfirmed. Light water has been used as a control in heat/helium studies. No helium from PdH. (Storms has theorized that light water LENR would produce deuterium, which would be very difficult to measure.) What Simon actually says is:

The most startling of these are reports of the measurement of excess heat and nuclear particles (mostly tritium) using light-water based electrolytes with nickel cathodes, as opposed to heavy water and palladium.

So not helium and not transmutations other than to tritium. Poor sourcing. And these editors don’t actually sit down and read Simon; rather they grab snippets from Google Books. Simons reports much on the sociology of high interest, but the faction just cherry-picks what tells the story they want to tell.

125. Simon again, 150–153, 162. Mysteries abound in cold fusion research and Simon is aware of it. What is reported by “most cold fusion researchers” and what is reported by only a few, inconsistently? Again, the article mashes all this together, an inconsistent collection of artifacts generated by confirmation bias.

The Wikipedia editorial process encourages sentence-by-sentence, line by line, point by point “negotiation” of article content. It is extremely difficult to generate an article with overall balance, because of how the work proceeds.

Ironically, it was Science Apologist who demonstrated another approach. While he was site-banned, for a time, from his disruptive editing, he used the time to create an article on Optics, in his user space on Wikisource. I don’t know why he didn’t use Wikiversity, it would have been ideal for that. What he wrote was judged better than the standing Wikipedia article, and it was then RfC’d to replace the existing mess in one edit. I supported that move. See the discussion. It was all much more complicated than necessary. Really, there would have been a binary choice to make, which article is better? (Not “perfect.” Just a comparison!) (The author being banned was actually irrelevant, the content was released under the standard WMF license, but some argued “meat puppetry.” An opinion that an article written by X is better than the articles written by a farrago of users, erratically, is not “meat puppetry,” and if there is consensus for a substitution, that is it, as to my understanding of Wikipedia process. ArbComm apparently explicitly approved what should really have been obvious.) I am not aware of any other example of this being done. Nor have I found much interest in doing it. People would rather fight than switch. And writing an article on a topic as complex as cold fusion is actually a lot of work. And nobody is being paid to do it.

Many hands make short work, so if that were to be done for cold fusion, it would take collaboration, which has never appeared, in spite of opportunities.



SOS Wikipedia

Original post

I’ve been working on some studies that involve a lot of looking at Wikipedia, and I come across the Same Old S … ah, Stuff! Yeah! Stuff!

Wikipedia has absolutely wonderful policies that are not worth the paper they are not written on, because what actually matters is enforcement. If you push a point of view considered fringe by the administrative cabal (Jimbo’s word for what he created … but shhhh! Don’t write the word on Wikipedia, the sky will fall!) you are in for some, ah, enforcement. But if you have and push a clear anti-fringe point of view — which is quite distinct from neutrally insisting on policy — nothing will happen, unless you go beyond limits, in which case you might even get blocked until your friends bail you out, as happened with jps, mentioned below. Way beyond limits.

So an example pushed against my eyeballs today. It’s not about cold fusion, but it shows the thinking of an administrator (JzG is the account but he signs “Guy”) and a user (the former Science Apologist, who has a deliberately unpronounceable username but who signs jps (those were his real-life initials), who were prominent in establishing the very iffy state of Cold fusion.


Aron K. Barbey ‎[edit]

Before looking at what JzG (Guy) and UnpronounceableUsername (jps) wrote, what happened here? What is the state of the article and the user?

First thing I find is that Aron barbey wrote the article and has almost no other edits. However, he wrote the article on Articles for creation. Looking at his user talk page, I find

16 July 2012, Barbey was warned about writing an article about himself, by a user declining a first article creation submission.

9 July 2014, it appears that Aron barbey created a version of the article at Articles for Creation. That day, he was politely and properly warned about conflict of interest.

The article was declined, see 00:43:46, 9 July 2014 review of submission by Aron barbey

from the log found there:

It appears that the article was actually originally written by Barbey in 2012. See this early copy, and logs for that page.

Barbey continued to work on his article in the new location, and resubmitted it August 2, 2014

It was accepted August 14, 2014.  and moved to mainspace.

Now, the article itself. It has not been written or improved by someone with a clue as to what Wikipedia articles need. As it stands, it will not withstand a Articles for deletion request. The problem is that there are few, if any, reliable secondary sources. Over three years after the article was accepted, JzG multiply issue-tagged it. Those tags are correct. There are those problems, some minor, some major. However, this edit was appalling, and the problem shows up in the FTN filing.

The problems with the article would properly suggest AfD if they cannot be resolved. So why did JzG go to FTN? What is the “Fringe Theory” involved? He would go there for  one reason: on that page the problems with this article can be seen by anti-fringe users, who may then either sit on the article to support what JzG is doing, or vote for deletion with opinions warped by claims of “fringe,” which actually should be irrelevant. The issue, by policy would be the existence of reliable secondary sources. If there are not enough, then deletion is appropriate, fringe or not fringe.

So his filing:

The article on Aron Barbey is an obvious autobiography, edited by himself and IP addresses from his university. The only other edits have been removing obvious puffery – and even then, there’s precious little else in the article. What caught my eye is the fact that he’s associated with a Frontiers journal, and promulgates a field called “Nutritional Cognitive Neuroscience”, which was linked in his autobiography not to a Wikipedia article but to a journal article in Frontiers. Virtually all the cites in the article are primary references to his won work, and most of those are in the Frontiers journal he edits. Which is a massive red flag.

Who edited the article is a problem, but the identity of editors is not actually relevant to Keep/Delete and content. Or it shouldn’t be. In reality, those arguments often prevail. If an edit is made in conflict of interest, it can be reverted. But … what is the problem with that journal? JzG removed the link and explanation. For Wikipedia Reliable Source, the relevant fact is the publisher. But I have seen JzG and jps arguing that something is not reliable source because the author had fringe opinions — in their opinion!

What JzG removed:

15:48, 15 December 2017‎ JzG (talk | contribs)‎ . . (27,241 bytes) (-901)‎  . (remove links to crank journal) (undo)

This took out this link:

Nutritional Cognitive Neuroscience

and removed what could show that the journal is not “crank.” There is a better source (showing that the editors of the article didn’t know what they were doing). Nature Publishing Group press release. This “crank journal” is Reliable Source for Wikipedia, and that is quite clear. (However, there are some problems with all this, complexities. POV-pushing confuses the issues, it doesn’t resolve them.

Aron Barbey is Associate Editor of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Nature Publishing Group journal.[14] Barbey is also on the Editorial Board of NeuroImage,[15] Intelligence,[16] and Thinking & Reasoning,.[17]

Is Barbey an “Associate Editor”? This is the journal home page.

Yes, Barbie is an Associate Editor. There are two Chief Editors. A journal will choose a specialist in the field, to participate in the selection and review of articles, so this indicates some notability, but is a primary source.

And JzG mangled:

Barbey is known for helping to establish the field of Nutritional Cognitive Neuroscience.[36]

was changed to this:

Barbey is known for helping to establish the field of Cognitive Neuroscience.[35]

JzG continues on FTN:

So, I suspect we have a woo-monger here, but I don’t know whether the article needs to be nuked, or expanded to cover reality-based critique, if any exists. Guy (Help!) 16:03, 15 December 2017 (UTC)

“Woo” is a term used by “skeptic” organizations. “Woo-monger” is uncivil, for sure. As well, the standard for inclusion in Wikipedia is not “reality-based” but “verifiable in reliable source.” “Critique” assumes that what Barbey is doing is controversial, and Guy has found no evidence for that other than his own knee-jerk responses to the names of things.

It may be that the article needs to be deleted. It certainly needs to be improved. However, what is obvious is that JzG is not at all shy about displaying blatant bias, and insulting an academic and an academic journal.

And jps does quite the same:

This is borderline Men who stare at goats sort of research (not quite as bad as that, but following the tradition) that the US government pushes around. Nutriceuticals? That’s very dodgy. Still, the guy’s won millions of dollars to study this stuff. Makes me think a bit less of IARPA. jps (talk) 20:41, 15 December 2017 (UTC)

This does not even remotely resemble that Army paranormal research, but referring to that project is routine for pseudosceptics whenever there is government support of anything they consider fringe. Does nutrition have any effect on intelligence? Is the effect of nutrition on intelligence of any interest? Apparently, not for these guys. No wonder they are as they are. Not enough kale (or, more accurately, not enough nutritional research, which is what this fellow is doing.)

This is all about warping Wikipedia toward an extreme Skeptical Point of View. This is not about improving the article, or deleting it for lack of reliable secondary sources. It’s about fighting woo and other evils.

In editing the article, JzG used these edit summaries:

  • (remove links to crank journal)
  • (rm. vanispamcruft)
  • (Selected publications: Selected by Barbey, usually published by his own journal. Let’s see if anyone else selects them)
  • (Cognitive Neuroscience Methods to Enhance Human Intelligence: Oh good, they are going to be fad diet sellers too)

This are all uncivil (the least uncivil would be the removal of publications, but it has no basis. JzG has no idea of what would be notable and what not.

The journal is not “his own journal.” He is merely an Associate Editor, selected for expertise. He would not be involved in selecting his own article to publish. I’ve been through this with jps, actually, where Ed Storms was a consulting editor for Naturwissenschaften and the claim was made that he had approved his own article, a major peer-reviewed review of cold fusion, still not used in the article. Yet I helped with the writing of that article and Storms had to go through ordinary peer review. The faction makes up arguments like this all the time.

I saw this happen again and again: an academic edits Wikipedia, in his field. He is not welcomed and guided to support Wikipedia editorial policy. He is, instead, attacked and insulted. Ultimately, if he is not blocked, he goes away and the opinion grows in academia that Wikipedia is hopeless. I have no idea, so far, if this neuroscientist is notable by Wikipedia standards, but he is definitely a real neuroscientist, and being treated as he is being treated is utterly unnecessary. But JzG has done this for years.

Once upon a time, when I saw an article like this up for Deletion, I might stub it, reducing the article to just what is in the strongest sources, which a new editor without experience may not recognize. Later, if the article survives the AfD discussion, more can be added from weaker sources, including some primary sources, if it’s not controversial. If the article isn’t going to survive AfD, I’d move it to user space, pending finding better sources. (I moved a fair number of articles to my own user space so they could be worked on. Those were deleted at the motion of …. JzG.)

(One of the problems with AfD is that if an article is facing deletion, it can be a lot of work to find proper sources. I did the work on some occasions, and the article was deleted anyway, because there had been so many delete !votes (Wikipedia pretends it doesn’t vote, one of the ways the community lies to itself.  before the article was improved, and people don’t come back and reconsider, usually. That’s all part of Wikipedia structural dysfunction. Wasted work. Hardly anyone cares.)

Sources on Barbey

Barbey and friends may be aware of sources not easily found on the internet. Any newspaper will generally be a reliable source. If Barbey’s work is covered in a book that is not internet-searchable, it may be reliable source. Sourcing for the biography should be coverage of Barbey and/or Barbey’s work, attributed to him, and not merely passing mention. Primary sources (such as his university web site) are inadequate. If there were an article on him in the journal where he is Associate Editor, it would probably qualify (because he would not be making the editorial decision on that). If he is the publisher, or he controls the publisher, it would not qualify.

Reliable independent sources
  • BRADLEY CORNELIUS “Dr. Aron Barbey, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – Emotional Intelligence  APR 27, 2013
  • 2013 Carle Research Institute Awards October 2013, Research Newsletter. Singles out a paper for recognition, “Nutrient Biomarker Patterns, Cognitive Function, and MRI Measures of Brain Aging,” however, I found a paper by that title and Barbey is not listed as an author, nor could I find a connection with Barbey.
  • SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE David Noonan, “How to Plug In Your Brain” MAY 2016
  • The New Yorker.  Emily Anthes  “Vietnam’s Neuroscientific Legacy” October 2, 2014 PASSING MENTION
  • Liz Ahlberg Touchstone “Cognitive cross-training enhances learning, study finds” July 25, 2017

“Aron Barbey, a professor of psychology” (reliable sources make mistakes) Cites a study, the largest and most comprehensive to date, … published in the journal Scientific Reports. N. Ward et al, Enhanced Learning through Multimodal Training: Evidence from a Comprehensive Cognitive, Physical Fitness, and Neuroscience Intervention, Scientific Reports (2017).
The error indicates to me that this was actually written by Touchstone, based on information provided by the University of Illinois, not merely copied from that.

Iffy but maybe

My sense is that continued search could find much more. Barbey is apparently a mainstream neuroscientist, with some level of recognition. His article needs work by an experienced Wikipedian.

Notes for Wikipedians

An IP editor appeared in the Fringe Theories Noticeboard discussion pointing to this CFC post:

Abd is stalking and attacking you both on his blog [25] in regard to Aron Barbey. He has done the same on about 5 other articles of his. [26]. He was banned on Wikipedia yet he is still active on Wiki-media projects. Can this guy get banned for this? The Wikimedia foundation should be informed about his harassment. (talk) 13:30, 16 December 2017 (UTC)

This behavior is clearly of the sock family, called Anglo Pyramidologist on Wikipedia, and when I discovered the massive damage that this family had done, I verified the most recent activity with stewards (many accounts were locked and IPs blocked) and I have continued documentation, which Wikipedia may use or not, as it chooses. It is all verifiable. This IP comment was completely irrelevant to the FTN discussion, but attempting to turn every conversation into an attack on favorite targets is common AP sock behavior. For prior edits in this sequence, see (from the meta documentation):

This new account is not an open proxy. However, I will file a request anyway, because the behavior is so clear, following up on the activity.

I have private technical evidence that this is indeed the same account or strongly related to Anglo Pyramidologist, see the Wikipedia SPI.

(I have found other socks, some blocked, not included in that archive.)

I have also been compiling obvious socks and reasonable suspicions from RationalWiki, for this same user or set of users, after he created a revenge article there on me (as he had previously done with many others).  It’s funny that he is claiming stalking. He has obviously been stalking, finding quite obscure pages and now giving them much more publicity.

And I see that there is now more sock editing on RationalWiki, new accounts with nothing better to do than document that famous troll or pseudoscientist or anti-skeptic (none of which I am but this is precisely what they claim.) Thanks for the incoming links. Every little bit helps.

If anyone thinks that there is private information in posts that should not ethically be revealed, please contact me through my WMF email, it works. Comments are also open on this blog, and corrections are welcome.

On the actual topic of that FTN discussion, the Aron Barbey article (with whom I have absolutely no connection), I have found better sources and my guess is that there are even better ones available.

JzG weighs in

Nobody is surprised. Abd is obsessive. He even got banned from RationalWiki because they got bored with him. Not seeing any evidence of meatpuppetry or sockpuppetry here though. Guy (Help!) 20:16, 16 December 2017 (UTC)

This is a blog I started and run, I have control. Guy behaves as if the Fringe Theories Noticeboard is his personal blog, where he can insult others without any necessity, including scientists like Barbey and a writer like me. And he lies. I cannot correct JzG’s lies on Wikipedia, but I can do it here.

I am not “banned” from RationalWiki. I was blocked by a sock of the massively disruptive user who I had been documenting, on meta for the WMF, on RationalWiki and on my blog when that was deleted by the same sock. The stated cause of the block was not “boring,” though they do that on RW. It was “doxxing.” As JzG should know, connecting accounts is not “doxxing.” It is revelation of real names for accounts that have not freely revealed that, or personal identification, like place of employment.

“Not seeing any evidence of meatpuppetry or sockpuppetry here.” Really? That IP is obviously the same user as behind the globally blocked Anglo Pyramidologist pushing the same agenda, this time with, likely, a local cell phone provide (because the geolocation matches know AP location), whereas with the other socking, documented above, was with open proxies.)

Properly, that IP should have been blocked and the edits reverted as vandalism. But JzG likes attack dogs. They are useful for his purposes.

Gateway to Chaos, Confusion, and Complexity

I spent years as a very active Wikipedia editor. My contributions there don’t reflect well the level of work that I did — some users accumulate large edit counts with brief reverts based on immediate appearances, it’s very quick, sometimes even computer-assisted, I once tracked the contributions of an administrator who obviously sat at his computer pressing Save several times a minute for simple edits suggested by a program. He did this for many hours.

You can see the total numbers of my contributions on all WMF wikis on the global account display. Because my “community ban” on Wikipedia has come up recently– the situation being misrepresented in the new RationalWiki article on me — I will cover this on a page here, Wikipedia/Bans/Abd (draft, not complete)

There is a theme, revenge. In theory, Wikipedia is not a battleground. In practice, it is. Continue reading “Gateway to Chaos, Confusion, and Complexity”

An avalanche of sock puppets

The last few weeks I have been investigating disruption on Wikipedia and Wikiversity. This has a peripheral relationship to cold fusion. I’ll get to that.

For years, I was active on Wikiversity, supporting that community to build deep resources on sometimes-controversial subjects. Wikiversity, like all the WMF wikis, has a neutrality policy, but Wikipedia enforces it by, in theory, excluding the expression of points of view by users; rather, Wikipedia depends on “reliable sources,” with editors merely reporting what is in them, with emphasis on the “mainstream view” (which creates problems; the original idea was that the mainstream view would be reflected by the balance of sources, but when sources are preselected according to a judgment of whether or not they appear to support the “mainstream view,” a circular argument is set up. Pushing the mainstream view is theoretically contrary to Wikipedia policy, but,in practice, it is often tolerated, while similar behavior re views considered minority by adminstrators is quickly sanctioned.)

Wikiversity, instead, allows users to create resources and express opinions, and handles neutrality by attribution and framing. It is thus closer to a university library, including lecture notes of seminars and student work, which can report “primary source,” and can include opinion and unsourced analysis.

Some years back, I supported the creation of a Wikiversity resource on Parapsychology, because there were scientists and others interested in the topic.  I designed this to be neutral, and created a subpage for a young user who wanted to create his own list of sources on the topic, this was [redacted], who had gotten into trouble on Wikipedia and was blocked there. The user happily worked on his resource, and was not, in the least, disruptive on Wikiversity. However, the resource was attacked, a number of times. These attacks were always handled, it is not difficult on Wikiversity, if a resource has been created with care.

(I should add that I’m highly skeptical of many claims called “parapsychological,” but, then again, so are at least some parapsychologists. Parapsychology is a field of investigation, not a body of belief.) Continue reading “An avalanche of sock puppets”

Joshua Schroeder on pseudoscience on Wikipedia

Draft. If you are reading this on an archive site, be sure to check the original URL for updates, corrections, retractions, etc.

If coming here from the Wikipedia discussion, perhaps read this first.

Development 12/29/2017. Due to continued and very personal attack on me, now including attack by Joshua Schroeder, but also attack on scientists, I have restored the information given in the original post on a page: wikipedia/joshua-p-schroeder/accounts/. This is explained there.

This is not the original post, which was created October 4, 2017, as private, the same date as the same information was posted on Thunderbolt. It was later made public. I’m guessing, from the blog activity log, that was November 8, 2017. Why this administrivia? Because a sock of Anglo Pyramidologist is claiming that the date on this post is misleading, because it was edited December 2, 2017 but the post shows the original date of October. (This is just how WordPress works.)

This is a blog post, not a “page.” Blog posts appear in date order, date of creation (not open publication) and I deliberately did not want to make this post very visible. When it was made public, it did not show up in the latest posts display. So, while I have a means of changing the date, I’m not doing it. I don’t want it to show up in recent posts. There will be comments below that will display.

This is a response to the fuss made over the original post, which demonstrates the use of charges of doxxing as an attack method. The active person here, accusing doxxing, was also cementing the revelations in archives it so it is difficult to hide, is known as Anglo Pyramidologist. There may actually be two people (or maybe three). Real names are known but I do not personally have direct evidence, not yet. I do have strong technical evidence linking these socks, aside from what is on Wikipedia, my WMF global study on meta, and a study of RationalWiki socking here.

Update 12/29/2017: the study on meta has been deleted out-of-process and is currently under a review of the deletion. If the deletion stands, I will open the material to public view here. As on meta, it will be open to correction, but, so far, the only actual correction attempt has come from an obvious sock who had not actually been accused — and the new version will include this account. Certain facts were omitted from the meta study in order to clearly comply with WMF privacy policy. There is no such restriction here, though I will not allow gratuitous outing. If I am convinced that there is strong evidence of illegal or unethical abuse of anonymity, I will reveal or allow the revelation of what would otherwise be protected and private, based on the public need to know.

I have been assisted in my own research by private information that administrators on other sites published as to attacks on them. It’s confirmed. They were telling the truth.

(Initially) Two IPs, now WMF globally blocked as open proxies, starting November 30, made a huge fuss on Wikipedia, Wikiversity, and the meta wiki, attempting to once again attack [redacted], and, when, once again, I exposed this, they again attempted to attack me. The IPs were:
Having asked (last edit but one on Wikipedia) to be blocked (obviously because he knew he would be blocked very soon), and claiming that he was done, his mission  being to stop [redacted] from disrupting Wikipedia, within ten minutes of being blocked, he began again with a new IP, same source of open proxies. He was lying, as usual.
(more IP socking continues, stewards are getting swift at noticing them and blocking.)
dot-9 admitted being dot-10. AP does not care about being blocked (he’s been blocked hundreds of times). In this case, these were expendable open proxies. The user also creates many single-purpose accounts, and just did that as part of this sequence on RationalWiki.
This is not about “skeptics,” as AP pretends. It is about a single person (or possibly two brothers, based on early claims made by the socks) who is highly disruptive, commonly impersonates his enemies, libels them, and harasses them. I have issues with Joshua P. Schroeder (JPS), but he is a saint compared to AP.
You are honestly going to get in trouble for this []. You are shaking in your boots abd. You think you can get away with doxing people names, locations and harassing them? Btw your abuse has been archived, no point in deleting it. I also didn’t reveal anything apart from public knowledge. His account name change is public knowledge [link redacted]. It was changed yesterday by an admin [link redacted]. Because of your stalking and abuse he had to change his username. You are a bully abd. More and more skeptics are going to be informed about your harassment and stalking. You are really not a nice guy. You claim to be a devout Muslim but you just sit online all day writing slanderous statements about people on your website and stalking them. Remember cyber bullying is a crime. [[Special:Contributions/|]] ([[User talk:|discuss]]) 05:54, 2 December 2017 (UTC)
The material was hidden out of concern for JPS, not about any threats. JPS has not been particularly appreciative. He may understand more about that later [note added: apparently not!]. I’ve taken this material down and I requested moderators where it was originally posted take it down. That’s about what I can do, though I do own copyright on the material, so maybe I can assist him in removing it from archives. However …. he hasn’t asked and is just blaming and angry. He knows a lot about start and astrophysics, but apparently not much about people. Maybe he will come around.
{He did not and publicly accused me of harassment for my email offering cooperation, see the page linked above.]
And dot-9 posted claims about this page in a number of places. “Archived.” Who archived it? He did, of course. There is clear evidence of that. When I saw this I decided to contact Dr. Schroeder (who now has a different last name). I emailed him and perhaps he will respond. I decided to take my page on Schroeder down. There is also a copy of the information that went on a public forum. My guess is that if it were requested, they would take it down. Or maybe not. [After some discussion, they took it down. So the only available copies are those created by Anglo Pyramodologist (who claimed to be Schroeder’s friend. Some friend, eh? Schroeder claimed not to have any idea who he was. My guess is that Schroeder has not looked at the meta study of Anglo Pyramidologist. If he doesn’t recognize at least one name, he is nearly brain dead. How about Goblin Face?
In fact, it was all readily available public information. But that is not the same as being easily accessible. That post on the other forum was obscure. My blog post was obscure. Now the information is right in the face of many who might not be friendly. If this was offensive doxxing, AP just made it far more offensive, showing that what matters to him is attacking people — in this case me –, not protecting people like Schroeder. (I have since recreated, on another page, the Wikipedia account information, I wanted to think about that before putting it it. Reviewing Schroeder’s activity, he is still a POV-pusher on Wikipedia; he has been blocked less frequently than before, but he’s still at it, same agenda.)
There are two pages, both archived and clear evidence that both were archived by AP. Not by me. Archive copies are timestamped and that can be put together with other information, public and private. I know who archived my pages, and this is clear enough, and is public:
On RationalWiki, user Astrophysics (a reference to Schroeder, his field) began to edit the article on me on November 30. 02:44, 30 November 2017, he added a reference to the JPS mention on the original forum, using an archive copy.
Lomax is known to attack skeptics on forums. He joined the thunderbolts woo forum to complain that astronomer Joshua P. Schroeder is a “pseudoskeptic”.<ref>[redacted]</ref>
That archive copy was created at 30 Nov 2017 02:36:09 UTC
This is obvious: he created an archive preserving allegedly offensive material and then immediately linked to it on RationalWiki.
This is simply SOP for AP. Highly disruptive, and he, very personally, attacks anyone who frustrates his agenda, and I did (see the meta study and the massive eruption of sock puppets it led to), and he threatened that if I continued documenting what he did, he’d get even.
He has claimed to have created 700 socks on RationalWiki, and from what I have documented so far, which is only the surface, it is believable.
This is not a “conspiracy theory.” However, he has claimed to be supported  (even paid) by a major skeptical organization, and he has referred to other users, and an organization called the Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia. There may be some level of off-wiki collusion and coordination. My study of AP is not about that, it is about this user who freely creates attack socks, who creates attack articles on RationalWiki and who may have influenced Wikipedia articles toward violations of biography policy.
Skepticism is essential to science, that is one of the themes of this blog. What AP does is far, far from genuine skepticism. It’s libel, and his impersonations (what he did with [redacted] on Wikipedia that got me started on all this) are illegal.
If he’s not quaking in his boots (what he thought I should be), he’s crazy, which is, in fact, plausible. He has claimed to be schizophrenic. Because these socks freely lie, it’s difficult to tell what is true about him. But the behaviors can be seen.
The references to JPS are now in many places, because he put them there. He also notified JPS himself, on his new changed-name Wikipedia account, waving a big red flag to it. And then he claims that I was harassing JPS, forcing him to change his name. If I actually were, he just handed me the new account name with no fuss. Normally, JPS has requested name changes on the page for it, but that made it easier to find them. This time he made the request by email, according to the link that AP handily provided.

Open discussion on Wikipedia

This is being discussed on Wikipedia, and by allowing that discussion on his user talk page, started by the now-blocked IP, Schroeder has made it necessary to point to it. (though this could easily be removed here.) Calling public attention to alleged doxxing or outing is massively naive, at best, and can show that the real motive is attack on others. If he deletes that discussion (and he can ask for rev-del), I will remove this reference. Schroeder is not my target or enemy [was not as this was written]. I am exposing the activity of a massive family of sock puppets who have long disrupted Wikipedia and other sites. libelling, and commonly arranging for others to be blocked when they respond as normal human beings to his outrages.
I call these “attack dogs,” and AP is not the only one. They are anonymous and take high risks, but what I’ve seen is that they get away with things that would get ordinary users blocked or even banned. Those whom they attack are often blocked or banned and, in fact, I’m an example. So there is something like a conspiracy, some systemic factionalism operating, but that is only a loose hypothesis at this time, not a developed theory with as-yet clear evidence.
My only related recent WMF activity has been addressing the disruptions of the two IP users listed above, both using the same provider, with open proxies. Longer-term, originating in the damage at Wikiversity, and to protect users there (and others), I have been documenting the activity of this LTA, documented here as to RationalWiki and here as to WMF socking and locks and blocks. Schroeder had not been mentioned, and my comments about his account history were obscure. No other WMF “skeptics” have been documented, only Anglo Pyramidologist socks, so the IP is admitting to being Anglo Pyramidologist, clearly block-evading, and block evasion is continuing, using the open proxies (four of them so far) for this talk page discussion.
The original version of this post was written Oct 4, 2017. However, it was private, not public. It was based on a post on the Thunderbolts forum, the same day. I later opened it. Because of that sequence, it did not appear in normal blog display (which was deliberate). When attention was drawn to it, I made it private again, then edited it to remove all the personal information and republished. If there are any questions, comments are allowed here, and an easy way to email me is through the WMF interface, global user Abd, accessible on Wikipedia and most WMF sites to any registered user with email enabled. (and autoconfirmation is not required to email, I believe.)
Update, January 11, 2019.
I see that, as I predicted, the focus by AP socks has created a response from others interested in Schroeder. This is far more detailed than anything I compiled.
See also
 A study of JPS edits to the Wikipedia article on cold fusion. I had never looked at this before. He was far more involved than I knew. (This page is presently private.)

Science, pseudoscience, and legal decisions

On my bus trip home from Washington, DC (where I went from Miami), I had plenty of time to read and write comments on E-cat World, where there are many claiming the settlement of the case means that Rossi technology is real. On the other side, here and elsewhere, some are complaining that it is tragic that Rossi v. Darden did not go to trial, because then Rossi would be prevented from “fleecing more sheep,” or the like. Yet all a verdict in that case would have established, almost certainly, was some kind of fraud, on someone’s part, and fraud may have nothing to do with underlying reality. It shows that a judge and/or jury was convinced, which can be a matter of truth, or a matter or skill or lack of skill on the part of attorneys. And then arguments may continue forever.

This is an ECW post that refers to Stanley Meyer. Analogies prove nothing, but provide indications, and there are analogies between Meyer and Rossi. There are also massive signs of pseudoskepticism in the critique of Meyer, and pseudoskepticism is belief, often masquerading as science. Genuine skepticism is essential to science, pseudoskepticism avoids the scientific method. Continue reading “Science, pseudoscience, and legal decisions”

A guiding light: The Guerilla Skeptics

Guerilla Skepticism on Wikipedia

If you would like to join our project, we would love to have you. Open up a Wikipedia account, friend me on Facebook so I can add you to the Secret Cabal and write to me at

This is behavior that has gotten other users sanctioned on Wikipedia. As Susan Gerbic gains experience, and as experienced users join GSoW, they will exert power, Wikiedia is highly vulnerable to coordinated factions, it is vulnerable even to uncoordinated, ad hoc factions (which is what I confronted, and the evidence — which was clear — was rejected by the Arbitration Committee, and even deleted, later). The problem is Wikipedia decision-making process, which is arcane when conflict is present. Few know how to navigate it. Those who know, on what might be called the “believer side,” will be attacked and sanctioned as “POV-pushers,” but GSoW is pushing a POV, it’s been called “SPOV,” the “Scientific Point of View,” which is a misnomer, because science has no point of view, it is a process that transcends point of view, thus CSICOP, “Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.” Notice: not “Skeptical Investigation,” because science is always skeptical, but not opinionated.

The other side, the “believer side” is disorganized, generally, and uninformed. And then neutral Wikipedians, who may be skeptical but who seek to follow encyclopedia creation process and policy, are considered “believers,” or otherwise as enemies, by the SPOV faction, and may face threats or the reality of sanctions, if they make any mistakes at all, whereas the SPOV users who make mistakes are supported by factional administrators, often the same administrators who push for sanctions or declare and execute them.

I studied all this years ago. The Arbitration Committee majority, my opinion, saw the problem but had no idea how to fix it, and the Committee tended toward black-and-white decisions, implementing retroactive application of new ad hoc policy, that never created precedent. A bureaucratic nightmare in a community that supposedly rejects bureaucracy. So instead of a functional bureaucracy, with responsible bureaucrats, they get ad hoc bureaucracy, disorganized and following no clear policy, such that user could expect community response, i.e., “rule of law,” they get a complete mess which most sane users abandon after they realize what’s going on, leaving behind an increase in those who love to exercise power over others.

All created naturally without intention. So who is responsible?

We are.

Susan Gerbic, in that post, outs some of her members. I would guess with permission. I would hope with permission!

I want to make clear that I consider Arbitration Committee’s past sanctions of those who participated in an “interest group” mailing list to be short-sighted and immature. The problem is not coordination, the problem is a decision-making system that is vulnerable to factional editing. In that environment, there is a motive to create factional communication, and it will happen. It is unavoidable, but most of it will be invisible. It cannot be prevented, and most factions never become visible. GSoW is unusual. In fact, it should be encouraged, with some policy caveats. How to deal with the problem is not necessarily a simple issue, but if it is resolved, Wikipedia would become far more reliable.

So to her members. She gives a list of articles and names members. So here I will associate those with the Wikipedia accounts, if it is clear or likely.

From Gerbic’s post:

December 2015 I announced that GSoW was going to focus on Skeptic Books. We had big goals and worked off this Wikipedia list. This list was envisioned and written by GSoW and during the 6 months we focused on this Book Project we completely expanded this list of over 500 books. 

From the timing, yes, very likely created by a GSoW member.

List of possible members, numbers of edits in parens where small. There are some who edited the page who are general Wikipedians; however, editing the page shows possible interest in the topic. It would take more careful research into the overall editing patterns of the user to confirm or disconfirm possible factional POV, rather than “cabal” affiliation, or the cabal may have some long-term sleepers who become — or were — already Wikipedia editors and who continue.

Being listed here is not, in any way, an allegation of policy violation. Possible policy violations will be considered separately.

2013: NmillercheDaniel Skitt (17), LineJockey (9),, (2) DynamicimanydJoshH21122.109.40.153 (1), (2), Jin-oh Choi (7 edits), LarianLeQuellaOttRider?, Caem586Rjmail98.217.42.67 (1), Your Funny uncle (22), BuboetheratBullRangifer?, KConWiki?, PetertrussellMrBill3JoolzztNorthamerica1000?, Dthomsen8?, Bgwhite?, JourneySarah?, JustAGal?, 

2014: Welsh?, OnlydemiDodafiskarBrainDadProper StrangerNederlandse LeeuwLaurencarr24PCHS-NJROTC?

2015: Gronk Oz188.25.25.155PapaSmirkJollyfisch,,  Neptune’s TridentVaDawn

2016: Topbanana?KrelnikPh250076.174.20.198JulieMay54 is notable in the editors, supported deletion of the article in Articles_for_deletion/Skeptic’s_Library. Susan continues:

 What happened is that GSoW went through a complete turnaround with its training, organization and leadership. It was a massive change that I called GSoW 3.14, because of this we lost our focus on the Skeptic Book Project. 

So I apologize to anyone out there that was expecting great skeptic book pages to be turning out every couple days. The fact is that it takes a very long time to write a Wikipedia page correctly and everyone on my team has busy lives and we are all volunteers after-all.

Yes. She noticed.

Enough with the excuses, lets see what we did turn out. 

Right. We watch with interest.

Several of these books were not done in the last 6 months, but in the last few years. I’m going to include them anyway as they were created by GSoW and well worth some extra attention from our community. 

Tracking the Chupacabra by Ben Radford was created by Nathan Miller in June 2013. 

I Sold my Soul on E-bay by Hemant Mehta re-written by Christine Daley Feb 2014

Bad Astronomy by Phil Plait was created also by Nathan Miller as well as Plait’s other book Death From the Skies

God Sent Me: A Textbook Case on Evolution vs. Creation was a Wikipedia page I wrote after reading a review of the book in a Skeptical Inquirer magazine. The book was written by Jeffery Selman. 

The Psychology of the Psychic written by David Marks was created by April Poff

Paranormality by Richard Wiseman I wrote March 2016

Psychic Blues written by Mark Edward received a brand new page by April Poff

Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova was written by Janyce Boynton

Flim-Flam! by James Randi was rewritten in August 2014

Mysterious New Mexico written by Ben Radford was written by April Poff

Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend written by Joshua Blu Buhs received a brand new Wikipedia page from Janyce Boynton

Far far less than was our intention. Yet, each of these pages are strong, well researched pages that our community can be proud of.

And giving us plenty of material to look through for factional editing. Thanks, Susan. Most of this is likely to be decent encyclopedic work, my opinion starting out.

One more thing. What do the numbers look like? How many views have these Wikipedia pages received in the time that GSoW can say they took responsibility of the page?

This number is only a page view count, we can not know if these are unique visitors or how long the viewer stayed on the page. Just raw page views.

As of the writing of this blog on July 31, 2016 they have received

57,016 total views

4,387 in the last 30 days

975 in the last 7 days

Still quite an achievement.

Perhaps. Perhaps not. Compared to what? My top Answer on Quora has about 800,000 page views. One Answer. However, it’s a factual Answer to a silly Question, that’s part of what made it popular, the deadpan literalism, sarcastic or not? That shows what is popular! Susan is demonstrating how to lead a project. My question for her would be if she knows how to turn it over. There are signs in what she writes that maybe not. She’s the leader and that’s that. But this is guesswork on my part.

Her greatest accomplishment so far: doing what she has been doing since 2013, and not being sanctioned.

If you would like to join our project, we would love to have you. Open up a Wikipedia account, friend me on Facebook so I can add you to the Secret Cabal and write to me at

My experience is that many will complain about situations, but few will actually do something. Fewer still will persist. It is the human condition, so far.

My plan here is to, if there is any interest, examine the vast array of linkages now exposed as possibly connected with the “cabal.” So far, I’ve seen nothing that truly violated policy. But I have not looked carefully at that AfD, at the voting there. There has been no seriously controversial editing on the List page, the GSoW work there was mostly unopposed, except for that AfD.

So what about the AfD? The arguments given for deletion were cogent, though it is possible that a consensus solution would be Merge.

The result was keep. LFaraone 05:48, 26 November 2013 (UTC).

This was a classic lazy close. In theory, Wikipedia does not vote. But many administrators treat AfDs as a vote, and just look at what appears to them to be a majority opinion. “Wiki” means “quick,” and these processes often exemplify that. To study an AfD, to consider all the arguments, to assess consensus with a consideration of who might be involved and who might not, would take hours. What Faraone did took minutes. And then, nobody and no faction being seriously offended, he was elected to the Arbitration Committee in 2014. This is adult supervision on Wikipedia:

LFararone, own work:

Very nice, to be sure. I have not reviewed anything else from LFaraone, nor do I plan to. He might be brilliant, it is only in this case that he did not explain his close, when there were real issues involved that remained and are still active, likely. Basically, the notability of the books and authors. And, again, I have not studied the article. Yet.