WikiSynergy

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WikiSynergy was a wiki project devoted to presenting "fringe" or "frontier" topics, such as cryptozoology, ESP, alternative medicine, parapsychology, cold fusion, intelligent design, quantum woo and crank theories of gravitation. Its alleged goal was to create a "clearinghouse" of information about fringe topics in a "collegial" atmosphere while "engaging" skeptics. Instead it became focused on controversies with skeptics and was used as an attack site to actively out skeptical Wikipedia editors by publishing their real life identities.

First appearing in 2009, the site went briefly off line the same year due to threats made to the owner. It was partially resurrected and subsequently populated by a number of RW users, but after a period of declining contributions and low activity, WikiSynergy finally expired for good in 2012.

Contents

[edit] Aims of the site

Skeptical green dot surrounded by woo

WikiSynergy was envisioned as an alternative to Wikipedia where "frontier sciences" such as alternative medicine, cryptozoology and EVP could promote their claims in an environment that was sympathetic to such topics. Lengthy rebuttals of mainstream scientific views and elaborate refutations of skeptical criticism, which they felt Wikipedia had unfairly denied them, were encouraged. An unintentional form of crank magnetism was nurtured; contributors were urged to add as many articles on woo as possible, in whatever format they wanted, to WikiSynergy's diverse stockpile.

The problem with skeptics and believers is this: they are believers.
Main Page, WikiSynergy

The site espoused itself as a haven for a special kind of "skeptic": those with minds open enough to "believe and observe". A "collegial" atmosphere was encouraged, however those who did not accept "frontier" topics with open minds were branded as as "pseudoskeptics."

If that weren't confusing enough, genuine scientific skeptics were invited to participate in WikiSynergy. WikiSynergy's founders imagined a format similar to Wikipedia, except it would be crazily inverted: the fringe view would be the most prominent view, and the mainstream view would be the marginalized one. The founders hoped that skeptics would contribute separate (and carefully ghettoized) articles listing criticisms of "frontier" topics that proponents could then use to update the main article by refuting these criticisms.[1] It was thought that if woo-promoters could always have the last word on any subject, then skeptical arguments would surely lose their mojo.

This strange fantasy never quite got off the ground, however, and at some point, aggressively anti-skeptic paranoia took over and the settling of old scores became the site's chief priority. Openly hostile pages such as Why Skeptics Lose and List of prominent skeptical Wikipedia editors began to appear, and WikiSynergy became more and more aligned with the aims of militant woo-meisters like SCEPCOP.

[edit] "Why skeptics lose"

When you clicked on a link to the word "woo" at WikiSynergy, you'd get redirected to an essay entitled "Why skeptics lose", which purported to list "reasons the skeptical community is losing the overall debate". Examples:

  • Skeptics have a reputation of ignorance
  • Skeptics preach to the choir
  • Skeptics are nasty about what they believe
  • Skepticism is not as entertaining or psychologically satisfying as the alternatives
  • The skeptical community vilifies those who could serve as constructive critics
Why skeptics lose, WikiSynergy

Elsewhere on the site, "skeptics" were defined as people open to woo ideas and "pseudoskeptics" were defined as people who were skeptical of woo ideas, which only added to a general sense of confusion and incoherence.

[edit] Extraordinary claims

A WikiSynergy essay gave special instructions on how "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" should be applied to "frontier" topics:

The person making the claim and presenting evidence is not obliged to explain why prior claims might be invalid. For instance, if the prior claim was based on science that ignored an aspect of reality, then it is up to those making the claim to adjust their theories to reflect reality.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence applied to frontier topics, WikiSynergy,

While no one was quite sure what it all meant, the essayist may have wished to imply (for example) that just because a paranormal claim violates the laws of physics, the claimant was not obliged to explain the mechanics of how the laws of physics could be violated. Rather the laws of physics should be adjusted to meet the new paranormal reality. Or something.

[edit] Pseudoskepticism

One of WikiSynergy's longest and most popular original articles was on Pseudoskepticism, a term that is described as "thinking that claims to be skeptical but is actually faith-based disbelief".[2]

Pseudoskepticism is a general term which encompasses two types of faith-based disbelief: making positive claims that something is wrong or unreal without evidence (positive disbelief), and rejecting sufficient evidence.
Pseudoskepticism, WikiSynergy

The essay holds up Marcello Truzzi as an example of a "true skeptic" - a person who accepts the idea that pigs can fly as an actual possibility but one that's been as yet insufficiently proven. In practice, WikiSynergy used the term "pseudoskeptic" pejoratively to describe anyone who isn't delusional enough to fall for someone else's snake oil.

[edit] WikiSynergy on Wikipedia

Apparently WikiSynergy's founders were mostly composed of individuals who failed to gain sympathetic treatment for fringe topics on Wikipedia. As a result, WikiSynergy was highly critical of Wikipedia's policies and guidelines.

[edit] Global Point of View

WikiSynergy pointed out that Wikipedia's neutral point of view (NPOV) policy is often abused in practice. Consequently, WikiSynergy's response to NPOV was something they called GPOV, or Global Point of View. How this differs to NPOV was unclear but it stated that WikiSynergy should allow "each point of view [to] express itself fully in its own space". This indicates that GPOV may have been exactly the same as NPOV, but with Wikipedia's strict notability guidelines lifted to allow any crank or quack to post their view regardless of how fringe it may be. WikiSynergy never got far enough to consider that GPOV could lead to an excessive balance fallacy.

[edit] List of prominent skeptical Wikipedia editors

WikiSynergy maintained an extensive "List of prominent skeptical Wikipedia editors" who dared remove undue promotion of alternative medicine, EVP or other psuedosciences and nonsense placed on Wikipedia. A rationale for this list was given as follows:[3]

This is a partial list of editors of Wikipedia who have gained prominence by helping to ensure that Wikipedia articles are written from the skeptical point of view (as opposed to Wikipedia's policy of Neutral Point of View). The extent to which the active skeptical editors vote and speak as a group is extraordinary. The true flavor is hard to get without reading a number of Wikipedia discussions, votes, and edit histories. In general, they function as a loosely organized voting/editing block to bias articles and to attack, harass and drive away editors who disagree with them. Testimony to this effect is easy to come by, but the most vehement statements are mostly in private email. The group also drives away moderate skeptics (also confirmed by email).
List of prominent skeptical Wikipedia editors, WikiSynergy

A few of the people on the list were linked to short "biography" articles that contained that editor's real name, city and country, and other personal information intended to be useful to stalkers. WikiSynergy's behavior toward Wikipedians with whom they disagreed was almost laughable, considering that many a troll has stalked WikiSynergy editors and been banned as a result.[4]

[edit] WikiSynergy on Rationalwiki

They maintained a semi-accurate page on us, in which they said:[5]

Rationalwiki tends toward a strongly "non-believing" stance regarding virtually all "frontier" topics of investigation, when they aren't making goat jokes or uploading pictures of their cats.
RationalWiki, WikiSynergy,

[edit] Demise

The site went off-line at the start of September 2009 when the site owner allegedly received threats of having their personal information released. While that shouldn't be done to anyone, this reaction was somewhat ironic given that WikiSynergy had many articles revealing the real names and private information about skeptics.

On September 7, 2009, WikiSynergy began allowing administrators only to edit and view the site (taking a page from RationalWiki and making anyone that isn't a vandal into an administrator).

By August 12, 2012, the site was again viewable, but there were no changes in the last 30 days and the creation of new accounts was disabled. Shortly afterward, the site was permanently closed with the message "Account suspended."

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Footnotes

  1. If skeptics wouldn't willingly contribute material to be sliced, diced, and rebutted, WikiSynergy simply lifted material from SkepticWiki and Skeptic's Dictionary without permission
  2. http://www.wikisynergy.com/wiki/Pseudoskepticism
  3. Internet Archive cache of WikiSynergy
  4. Unfortunately, much of the evidence has been memory-holed.
  5. WikiSynergy on Rationalwiki - and by "they", we mean user:human (yeah, that guy), if you check the diffs.
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