Forum:Expanding RW's mission

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There seems to be a lot of discussion lately, often very heated, about what exactly falls under the scope of RationalWiki's mission. In particular, there are plenty of arguments between Smerdis and PSL, or Smerdis and Sophie, or Smerdis and... well, anyone else really, about whether some article or another is within the RW mission.

While I agree that refuting pseudoscience is a laudable goal and one that we should continue pursuing, I disagree with those who say that it should be our sole focus. As we're a rationalist community, I feel we should be shining a critical eye on many areas not currently covered, or only tangentially covered, by our mission statement. In particular, politics as a whole ought to be part of what we analyze and critique.

This site started out with a focus on criticizing one particular, politically driven website, and politics has always been part of the RationalWiki dialogue. (Many contributors here now are too new to remember it, but when Bush was president, the main page had a clock counting down the days until he left office, with a delightfully snarky randomized template accompanying it.) Yet lately it seems that some users, particularly PowderSmokeAndLeather, want to focus only on those parts of the political dialogue in which pseudoscience plays a heavy part. As an example, I recently started an article on right-to-work laws, to which many other contributors have since added useful content. The idea wasn't mine; I took it from the suggestion box, where it had received many upvotes. Yet not long after that, PSL issued a challenge on the talk page regarding its missionality. And frankly, I don't think PSL was wrong, in that as the rules stand now, we have no particular business commenting on right-to-work laws. They aren't under our purview. The fact that the idea received so many upvotes in the to-do list suggests to me that there is a disconnect between what the mission statement says we talk about (pseudoscience, cranks, authoritarianism, and the media) and what we actually want to talk about (the above, plus politics, society, culture, religion, etc.).

I think Smerdis's addition of plenty of articles that have been challenged for missionality (Indo-European languages, Romanticism, etc.) has brought to the surface this issue, but I think it predates his arrival here, and I think now is the time that we should talk about it. The question I want to ask is:

Should we expand the RationalWiki mission statement to include broader coverage of topics in politics and society?

I personally believe the answer is "yes." I look forward to hearing others' opinions. Wehpudicabok [話] [変] [留] 05:30, 31 December 2013 (UTC)

I understand PowderSmokeAndLeather's reasoning behind streamlining the political content, but we are always going to have debates over what is going to be on mission regardless of updating the text. I'd disagree with deleting right-to-work despite it not relating to "doctrinaire" pseudoscience; the policy remains purely in the US experience, but various politicians outside the country have suggested to mimic it (because if it's American, it's therefore good) while the vast majority of mainstream academics, based in labour law or economics, say it will do more harm than benefit. If that doesn't fit 2. Documenting the full range of crank ideas, I don't know what does.
Same goes for, say, World War II. On its own it's just a history recap, but the features of the war — the levelling of entire countries, extermination of civilians, the treatment of POWs and unethical experimentation, all because of the spread of blatanly wrong theories about government and racial supremacy (and the aftermath, with historical revisionism/denialism and the creation of even more dangerous weapons, purely due to ideological motivation) — make it a necessary portal for me. Osaka Sun (talk) 06:20, 31 December 2013 (UTC)
Long time reader here. Stick with what the site's good at: exposing and mocking stupidity, including politics. WW2 is a good example of a subject where both the reader and the writer would be better served by Wikipedia. Holocaust denial or a revival of such pseudoscience would be more RW's realm. Stringbeans (talk) 06:56, 31 December 2013 (UTC)
I do think that "check Wikipedia for just the facts" is an approach we could be taking more often, but defining our mission as "exposing and mocking stupidity, including politics" would seem to be even more vague than the current one, and would likely invite more debate about whether individual topics qualify. I would rather we cover both the good and the bad elements of any topic we consider to be part of our domain; that way an article's relevance isn't determined by the positions espoused by its subject.
Let me propose a thought experiment. Suppose a YouTube vlogger starts accumulating tons of pageviews and inspires commentary from others because he says things that are ignorant of political facts and that appeal to ill-informed voters. That would seem to fall within the definition of "stupid," and we would be right to criticize it. Then suppose that same vlogger has a change of heart, and starts doing research before posting, and his arguments and positions change accordingly, becoming mostly fact-based. Does he no longer fall within our domain of interest? Defining our mission as "combating stupid ideas" or something similar would seem to suggest that when someone stops making stupid arguments, they aren't relevant to us anymore. I think it's better for us to first define a range of topics we want to cover (esp. politics), and then state that our position is the superiority of evidence-based reasoning, etc. Wehpudicabok [話] [変] [留] 07:11, 31 December 2013 (UTC)
Combating pseudo-science is a nice clear objective. We can more-or-less define it and there is a standard against which we can measure it - real science. You know when it's right an you know when it's not.
But "politics as a whole"? That's a lot more messy. I'm not even sure what that would entail, but it would certainly mean that we would need to decide on what was politically acceptable and what was not. We would need to select some political standard to support and presumably criticise other political opinions which differed from the one we had decided upon.
I accept that we sort of do this already but having written these notes I'm starting to wonder if we should even do that.--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 09:05, 31 December 2013 (UTC)
I don't think we would need to "decide on what was politically acceptable and what was not," beyond a simple principle of evidence-based reasoning, which we all (presumably) agree on already. We don't necessarily all have to have the same position on every issue; in fact, having many positions represented is probably healthier for the community. What I'm envisioning is a RationalWiki that has a base of factual knowledge and then uses that base to criticize politicians and pundits whose arguments and positions are not based on observed reality. A sort of reality-based community wiki, if you will. It's a natural extension of the science-versus-religious-fundamentalism coverage, and it does not require users to take specific positions beyond a basic principle of empiricism. Wehpudicabok [話] [変] [留] 09:38, 31 December 2013 (UTC)
Well, your initial proposal was "politics as a whole" which seems pretty inclusive. But how does what you are proposing in the paragraph above differ from what we do already? Take Global Warming - a science subject with major political and social overtones - we've got no problem with that.
So can you give an example of a specific subject or topic which would be covered by your politics proposal which we would not cover now?--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 09:47, 31 December 2013 (UTC)
It is hard to say, because the boundaries are not clearly defined as they are now, which is why there's so much debating about what is on-mission and what is not. Take the above comments on right-to-work laws, for instance. Osaka believes it's on-mission; PSL doesn't (or at least didn't; we'll see whether his position has changed if he chimes in soon). So my proposal would cement the missionality of topics like that – from PSL and other skeptics' perspectives, they are being added to our domain, but from Osaka's perspective, it's just a clarification that such topics are already covered.
Other topics that would shift from "maybe relevant" to "definitely relevant" would include: corporate influence in politics/funding of campaigns; legality of marijuana; health care reform; LGBT rights; and honestly, pretty much every contemporary political issue other than evolution and global warming, which are already in the "definitely relevant" category. Wehpudicabok [話] [変] [留] 09:59, 31 December 2013 (UTC)
Very simply, I say this: Does the political article further serve #1-4 on the front page? No? Then I have no interest in it. However, it can be reasonably stated that the whole of politics has some relation to cranks and pseudoscience. Even something as seemingly mundane as right-to-work can have such a link; look at the whackaloons who claim RTW laws give them the right to be God-bosses and demand blowjobs from their employees. I see no reason to further expand the mission, as I see the mission as broad enough already. --Castaigne (talk) 04:15, 6 January 2014 (UTC)

There is irrationality in every single sphere of society. A lot of it is in science, but much of it is in politics, economics, education, child care, medicine etc - fields which may or may not be connected to science. Truly being rational means being rational in all things, and fighting irrationality in every single instance. I therefore do not think that we should restrict ourselves to the fight against any particular type of irrationality. Madscientistjaidev (talk) 13:03, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

No more feminist and gender politics and transexualism[edit]

We should stick to debunking pseudoscience like creationism, race-denialism, gender politics feminist bullshit etc.— Unsigned, by: / talk / contribs

What an amusing little fart of an idea that was. Tell me, do you have any evidence that so-called "race-denialism" is a pseudoscience? Or even any reason to oppose our coverage of ideas you cannot even be bothered to spell correctly?
And Psy and Osaka, please cut down on pointless reverts. Ignorance is best treated with exposure to knowledge, not hidden in the shadows of the subconscious minds of fools. Wehpudicabok [話] [変] [留] 08:10, 1 January 2014 (UTC)
Unless you want this page to look like this one, I'd suggest you be wary. Osaka Sun (talk) 09:21, 1 January 2014 (UTC)
Admittedly, that was a ridiculously long-winded argument. Nevertheless, when we revert the first comment someone makes on a particular forum it looks less like "stop this before it turns into a shitstorm" and more like pure censorship, which I firmly oppose. Even when used on Dunning-Kruger poster-boys like our anonymous friend here. Wehpudicabok [話] [変] [留] 09:36, 1 January 2014 (UTC)
Patriarchy is a fact. Some of the views of patriarchy as espoused by feminist theorists are crankish in the extent at which they believe that males actively conspire to enforce oppression of women. That women have been oppressed by patriarchal structures is fact. That the human species evolved to be patriarchal and that there are massive examples of gender differentiated behavior in all species is fact - biologically catalyzed patriarchal systems oppress a large number of females, but not to the extent that a large portion of males also get oppressed (e.g. Silverback Ape social structure involves female submission, but even stricter male submission). That there are differing issues affecting males and females is fact - areas in which each gender deals with oppressive and/or detrimental conditions. That women, men, transgendered, and the such should have the rights as everyone should be "self-evident." That surgically altering one's genitals and taking hormones does not make one biologically the opposite sex is fact. That gender is mostly a social construct, but also partially genetic to varying degrees is self-evident. I personally believe "privilege" theory is somewhat a crank notion - the fact that a police officer profiles black people and leaves me alone because I'm 15/16th's white doesn't make me privileged, it makes the police officer a racist and these ideas should be opposed. I think the idea that the majority of religious people are driven out of a motivation of "homophobia" when they are opposed to homosexual behavior is a crank notion - though some certainly are. I think for most it's just a rule and not an intrinsic hatred of homosexuals (some people are very driven by rules, it's just the way things are). I could be wrong on that, that's my personal experience growing up when I was a fundie. I never hated anyone who was gay - it was just against the rules and I was no perfect follower of the rules so I didn't feel qualified to hold people in contempt for it. Some gender theorists are nearly religious fundies in their unwillingness to examine other points of view or rationalizing away data which contradicts their dogma. But there are many hetero-normative types who do the same. I recently got in an edit war over what the actual motto of the Muslim Brotherhood is and found a weasel passage suggesting that only Christian countries (sub-Saharan) in Africa are homophobic on the "homophobia" page - so there's definitely a few disingenuous apologists on multiple sides of political arguments on this site. Bloomingdedalus (talk) 09:07, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
First of all, these sorts of discussions belong in a separate forum post. It's just neater.
Second of all, in the Africa section of the homophobia article, it specifically did NOT specify which religion was meant, therefore you saying that it was suggesting only Christian countries is jumping to unwarranted conclusions. What you did to that section, which is to specify both Muslim and Christian, is fine, of course, I'm not arguing about that. I'm just saying that you're calling people disingenuous apologists on the basis of unwarranted conclusions.
Third of all, (while I trust that you put up a truthful motto in the Muslim Brotherhood article, and I wouldn't revert it if you put it in again) your arguments about the BBC practicing Islamist denialism don't seem to hold any water, as a simple google search of Islam-related BBC articles will demonstrate. Again, you're calling people disingenuous apologists on the basis of unwarranted conclusions. Nullahnung (talk) 11:36, 12 January 2014 (UTC)

Listicles and sharticles[edit]

PSaL may be engaging in overkill a bit, but I see his point. Regardless of the larger issue, I think we can all agree that we need to cut down on uninformative listicles and other articles that seem to have no purpose other than to say "Look, it's a wingnut!" (I admit to being guilty of perpetrating this as well.) in addition to avoiding the "crappy version of Wikipedia problem." Although this is not confined to political articles, I feel like this is a particular problem with them. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 15:32, 1 January 2014 (UTC)

I may not be the most qualified to contribute, since I haven't contributed all that much to the wiki (mostly just lurking and keeping an eye on pseudoscientists trying to push their stuff into the quantum articles), but it seems to me that this is exactly the problem. While the wiki's pseudoscience articles are (for the most part) fairly sound, well-backed, and supported by the evidence, many of the articles on politics and social issues tend to be poorly written. I've seen many political articles on this wiki that seem like they are no more than an outlet for the author's venting. - GrantC (talk) 15:44, 1 January 2014 (UTC)
I agree. I'd say that it would better to reduce the political content than increase it.--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 16:30, 1 January 2014 (UTC)
If our political articles are of low quality, it would seem to me that the proper solution would be to work on them, not cut them out entirely. Though I would agree that we shouldn't have "look it's a wingnut" articles; I would prefer we focus on issues and misinformation surrounding them. Wehpudicabok [話] [変] [留] 17:58, 1 January 2014 (UTC)
My interest is less in politics and more in science, so I don't purport to know what the best solution is for the community as a whole (I will not likely be venturing into editing any of the articles on social or political issues). I think the question is: what is the effort required to bring the relevant political and social issues articles up to par? Also, as sort of a corollary to the discussion in the section above, it's important to draw the line between misinformation about social/political issues (as you keep mentioning) and the unstable morass that is the current coverage, which often seems to be comprised mostly of attacks on whatever political position the article author disagrees with most vehemently that day. - GrantC (talk) 18:08, 1 January 2014 (UTC)
I guess I'd rather see us improve what we have rather than take new directions. Some of the articles listed on the Main page are very mission-centric but could use vast improvement. Sterilesig.svgtalk 20:24, 1 January 2014 (UTC)
It's much easier to say what is right and wrong in science, and politics are heavily culturally nuanced. I don't think we need to expand into the political arena any more than we have, and if anything we should cut back and focus on what can be proven or disproven. Redchuck.gif Генгисmarauding Moderator 20:36, 1 January 2014 (UTC)
I'm slowly coming round to this view. I think articles on political -isms and unfair/negative methods are still RWish though. Articles just going "look at this jerk of a Governor"... not so much. SophieWilderModerator 20:43, 1 January 2014 (UTC)
Politics and culture are indeed nuanced, and sometimes there is no right or wrong answer for a particular issue. But sometimes there is. Sometimes there's an argument floating through the discourse that is based on known falsehoods. I feel like the way the mission is right now, we'll only target those arguments if their topic is scientific, and that's a waste of our talents. Wehpudicabok [話] [変] [留] 06:05, 5 January 2014 (UTC)

I think stuff on feminism/anti-feminism & LGBT rights is definitely relevant to us. Stuff on governmental politics is mostly relevant, but we should maybe shy away from explicitly taking sides in the liberal vs conservative divide & focus instead on exposing bullshit (from either side). I don't like the articles on the history of languages that are 90% unnecessary trivia justified by a token paragraph acknowledging that some people have unorthodox opinions which are incorrect. I don't think we need articles on ancient history in general: there should be some direct relevance to the modern world. Stuff like WW2, the Holocaust, US slavery, the American Civil War is relevant to us (but doesn't need detailed blow-by-blow coverage here) because of continuing repercussions & controversies relating to these things. The pogrom in Cordoba in 1391, not so much. We periodically get suggestions to write about the Titanic, the Hindenburg disaster, Richard III & the princes in the Tower, etc. I don't see the point. Yeah, there are revisionist theories & conspiracy theories about these things, but they don't impact understanding of modern politics & society to the same extent as, say, Holocaust denialism or the 9/11 truth movement. I don't think we need an article on Shakespeare authorship, for example, but we have one. I wouldn't mind it, but increasingly it seems like the existence of articles like that & British English/American English is being used to justify more off-topic articles about history, languages & literature which don't really relate to anything else we write about. WēāŝēīōīďWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 21:53, 1 January 2014 (UTC)

From my perspective, which at this point is still an outsider's one, I'm a bit uncertain as to whether we want to be a semi-comedic compendium of anti-religious snark, a response to Conservapedia, or some kind of educational resource on pseudoscience and crank theories. If "response to Conservapedia" is the big thing, I'm in the wrong place; I don't give a fuck about Conservapedia. I'm more hoping it was "educational resource on pseudoscience and crank theories".

If this is the mission, we most definitely do need an article on Shakespeare authorship, and I'm just getting started on articles on the history of language; it isn't a sexy science, but it is extremely attractive to old fashioned crackpots. We absolutely need Indo-European languages in that case, and much else beside: Proto-World, Nostratic, Nicholas Marr, Amerind, Etruscan, Joseph Greenberg, Prince Madoc. This isn't the sexiest field of pseudo-science and uninformed published speculation, but it's one I know well. I still do not understand what's off mission about my fairly careful explanation of why the perennial proposals to make English spelling more logical are doomed to failure. It's a crank magnet IMO, not far different from a perpetual motion machine from my outlook. If we're doing this, I've always taken Martin Gardner as my model. You need to leave the article knowing enough of the sound science to be able to explain why the cranks are wrong.

Or maybe our skepticism and educational aims are more limited; we don't cover cranks and pseudoscience generally, only those that make explicitly supernatural claims. This is first and foremost an atheist and agnostic site. I get that it is one, but refuting all religions isn't really why I'm here either. This is what occurs to me as the actual explanation of why an article on English spelling reform is off-topic; it's an article about inherently unworkable crackpot projects, but has nothing to do with God. If this is the case, I may not belong here, either. (But Babylon still does.)

Politics becomes a problem when we deal with political subjects in the peremptory and didactic manner properly addressed to pseudoscience and crackpottery. It's always going to be a problem. I understand that I'm dealing with a consensus perfectly willing to call me nasty names for saying so, but I at bare minimum do not find the confidence of our articles on subjects like privilege, sexual objectification, or patriarchy appropriate. I consider "patriarchy" pure woo, deriving ultimately from nineteenth century armchair anthropology about how there might be some people so primitive they don't know about the birds and the bees. (Tabula rasa and noble savage. Unfortunately, this nonsense got popularized by Friedrich Engels.) Our article on "sexual objectification" told the simple truth when it called the idea a feminist snarl word based on a hostile caricature of male sexuality. "Privilege" is as overbearing and condescending as the reverse-snobbery of the underlying idea. This rubbish is always going to be contested; and I submit that it can be contested by people you could at least count as reasonable, regardless of the fact that they disagree with the site's current consensus about this stuff. Quite simply, I suspect that people who look up these concepts on the skeptical wiki are looking for skeptical opinions, and what they're finding instead is cognitive dissonance and a fair bit of avoidable friction. - Smerdis of Tlön (talk) 04:36, 2 January 2014 (UTC)
I agree with most of that, and the parts I don't agree with I'll save for another time because they're not relevant to my current thesis. Wehpudicabok [話] [変] [留] 06:05, 5 January 2014 (UTC)
I'm a frequent reader, but not a contributor. Speaking only for myself, I enjoy rationalwiki as a repository of lighthearted but informative and factually accurate (but not unbiased) articles about various inane and insane aspects of our culture. As I see it, the purpose of this wiki is not to be an all inclusive repository of knowledge but rather to confront and debunk ideas that are plainly fallacious. At the risk of being called out as a tumblr social justice warrior (I am no such thing, I promise) the idea of privilege is not really very controversial in social science at this point; if you term it another way, free of some of the baggage heaped on it by above mentioned internet warriors, it's really just a recognition of the effect of cumulative advantage (see also the so called "Yule Process") on social systems. The place where this becomes controversial is when you get into policy prescriptions to change or mitigate this process or in arguments over root causes. I'll go back to lurking now, thanks for humoring me. — Unsigned, by: / talk / contribs
Those involved in the social sciences have massive disputes, often taking the form of shouting matches and mutual anathematizations, over who is "privileged" and who is not. "Intersectionality" is an attempt to kiss and make up; but it has produced such a big tent that, by current estimates, perhaps 99% of the world's population are deemed "privileged." If the quintessentially non-privileged were to take to the streets, their catchy chant would have to be "We are the 1%!" Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 08:57, 11 January 2014 (UTC)
My biggest concern with some of the political material here is that it's become an actual obstacle to what I see is a more pressing mission, that of winning souls for Darwin. It's amusing to look for stock tropes of denialism in our hatchet piece on evolutionary psychology, for instance; I see quite a few. Unfortunately, the fact of an evolved human nature gets in the way of several utopias. - Smerdis of Tlön (talk) 21:08, 11 January 2014 (UTC)
Such as the forced sterilization of anti-smoking "activists"?--AndYourFoesShallRejoice... (talk) 21:21, 11 January 2014 (UTC)
Well, that's certainly one utopia that would be resisted by evolved human nature. - Smerdis of Tlön (talk) 22:25, 11 January 2014 (UTC)
Smerdis, we're not here to "win souls for Darwin". I'm sure as shit not. If I wanted that, I would go to SeriousSkepticWiki. Or Citizendium. --Castaigne (talk) 12:56, 12 January 2014 (UTC)


As Osaka Sun pointed out, it's worth persuing. There's enough revisonism existing by pro Soviet and pro Nazi revisionists, with many of the pro Nazi revsionists coming out on the apperent moral high ground claiming that they just want "justice" for "innocent" victims and that they're debunking revisionism with their own load of horseshit. Fergelteskaya (talk) 19:02, 5 January 2014 (UTC)

Forum: Contracting RW's mission.[edit]

Someone told me that I comment I'd made was what drove him to start this conversation. It seems like people have a good sense of where I stand on this, but, just to be clear.We are not Wikipedia, and never will be. By trying to write articles on Guyana and nuclear war that do NOTHING that WP doesn't already do, we're weakening our brand, and distracting attention from taking down pseudo-scientists and woo hucksters. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were a crime against humanity and a military decision of questionable virtue. They weren't about the intersection of politics and religious fundamentalism, pseudoscience, or woo. There are trillions of words written about them. Ours say nothing new or valuable.

On the other hand, if our work can keep people from taking Errol_Denton and Ralph_W._Moss seriously, and can get readers to understand why their kids are spouting weird nonsense from their school textbooks, we're doing good work that needs to be done.

If I had my way, there would be a severe culling of mainspace with a narrow reading of the mission held in mind.

Also, not all people who oppose woo, pseudoscience and religious fundamentalism (especially in as far as it influences education and politics) identify with our basic "liberal-left" political orientation. sure, our article on Obama takes the worst of the idolatry around him down a notch or two, but on the whole our political orientation skews massively in a way that alienates some potential readers and contributors. No more articles on partisan political issues unless they distinctly overlap with an issue having to do with science or anti-science. Right to work laws are evil, and of questionable economic value, but they are not woo. Legit economists argue for them. I disagree with them, but they're not the public-policy equivalent of snake-oil salesmen.

None of this will matter, because we will keep allowing editors to write articles on stuff they think is cool or happen to be knowledgeable about, and we will continue to debase the nuggets of real gold on the wiki by filling it with off-mission, third-rate general encyclopedia articles and high-handed fourth-rate partisan analyses.

So it goes. PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 14:10, 9 January 2014 (UTC)

I endorse this. Redchuck.gif ГенгисRationalWiki GOLD member Moderator 14:16, 9 January 2014 (UTC)
Thnaks. Afterthought: part of the problem would go away if people would stop redlinking off-mission terms, thereby creating the "But there are 17 redlinks to Tobago on the wiki, so I wrote a stub. It'll get missional if we keep it" defence. PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 14:22, 9 January 2014 (UTC)
I endorse this. You are a reasonable character. Nutty Roux100x100 anarchy symbol.svg 20:08, 9 January 2014 (UTC)
I'm also a great dancer. PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 20:21, 9 January 2014 (UTC)
I say that we should find and raze our plethora of non-mission articles, and focus on expandind/correcting the ones we have, and then we can talk about expanding our mission.
But saying that right now that wouldn't contribute to the conversation, would it? So, I say that we should diminish our cover of the softer sciences (the humanities and the social sciences) and focus on the harder sciences. It's hard to nail down a "pro-science" view in those, given the oh-so-pronounced rivalry between the harder and softer sciences (now bigger since postmodernism took hold of them in the 90s). But again, that's my socially-constructed, paradigm-enforcing, linguistics-blind engineer side (even if it's software engineering, I still have to take all the math and science regular engineers take. My university's crazy.) --Ray´s Super Fun Hellhole! g͘͡r̸̀a̸̶̡n̶̶͜ţ̡ ̀҉̴̨͡m̀͘͜͢e͡ ̸͟҉̷̢ỳ̸̡̀͞ơ̡̢̡ų̧r̴̀͡͝ ̡҉҉̧̛s̵̕͏̡ǫ̀́͢ų́l̵̕҉ 14:34, 9 January 2014 (UTC)
The problem is that there is so much of the stuff. Most of Category:Fundamental particles, Category:Countries, Category:United States states, and probably not much of Category:Language have much do do with the core mission. And that's just off the top of my head.--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 15:12, 9 January 2014 (UTC)
I'm inclined to agree. I'm going to steer clear of comments about politics, but many of our articles on physics concepts are entirely unnecessary. Even worse, many of them are horribly outdated, and thus aren't even necessarily correct anymore. A while back on a discussion about our quantum computing article, I suggested an idea for handling hard science concepts that I think we could reasonably adopt. For articles on hard science woo, we could open with a short paragraph briefly outlining the actual science, with a reference to another source (Wikipedia is usually a decent for that, seeing as many other scientific sources are behind paywalls). This is what I did with our quantum consciousness article when it briefly mentioned Penrose and Hameroff's crazy mind quantum computing hypothesis. I think this also adds an additional benefit, in that the categories could be cleaned up a bit more to make it easier to find related content. Right now a lot of our science articles are hard to find, and there are even a few that are linked to from only a single isolated page. Thoughts? - GrantC (talk) 15:38, 9 January 2014 (UTC)
@Bob: Too much of the stuff? I don't care if it's too much, raze it, burn it to the ground; the fire will be one that our descendants will be proud of our efforts towards RationalWiki's mission. If they are worthy, we are to merge them with on-mission articles; otherwise, they shall be expunged from our humble dwelling. (And I'm also inclined to say that much of our stuff on gender isn't on-mission, but not many others agree with me on that one).
@GrantC: Yeah. We should outsource science definitions or give a brief outline in the relevant articles. --Ray´s Super Fun Hellhole! g͘͡r̸̀a̸̶̡n̶̶͜ţ̡ ̀҉̴̨͡m̀͘͜͢e͡ ̸͟҉̷̢ỳ̸̡̀͞ơ̡̢̡ų̧r̴̀͡͝ ̡҉҉̧̛s̵̕͏̡ǫ̀́͢ų́l̵̕҉ 19:57, 9 January 2014 (UTC)
I've kept on about having reference:space over the years, for general science or history articles, only to be met with "what's the harm?" or "everything can be on-mission if you try hard enough." So what can we do? SophieWilderModerator 20:13, 9 January 2014 (UTC)
Well my gutting of the quantum computing article went unopposed, so perhaps the folks who were dead set on this change aren't around anymore? I could see the idea of a reference space being useful if a group of articles all drew on the same concept. For example, a page briefly outlining quantum mechanics and then linking elsewhere for details (outsourcing, if you will) could be useful if we had a whole spectrum of quantum woo articles. Then again, that only becomes relevant if it's really a concern to have the same brief reference appear on multiple pages. - GrantC (talk) 20:17, 9 January 2014 (UTC)
I'm pretty damn sure that a whole lot of the articles Bob mentioned would be deleted with virtually zero opposition. --Raysenn Get the paddles, he's having a cancer! 20:29, 9 January 2014 (UTC)
So would anyone be terribly upset if over the next few weeks I started doing this with the articles within my area of expertise (physics in general and quantum mechanics specifically)? Some of those articles are a bit of a mess as it stands... - GrantC (talk) 22:56, 9 January 2014 (UTC)
With the possible exception of short stubs, bring it up on the talk pages of the relevant articles before taking action, & use the delete/mission templates as normal. You can't assume everyone is aware of this discussion & OK with it based on a few people agreeing here. WěǎšěǐǒǐďWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 23:09, 9 January 2014 (UTC)
Well yes, I was planning to follow procedure as normal. If there's no interest here in this kind of thing, however, I'm not going to bother wasting time doing it. - GrantC (talk) 23:12, 9 January 2014 (UTC)
Since this discussion started, I've toyed with the idea of going on a random page deletionist rampage. No, not deleting random pages, but using that button to pull up pages for evaluation, and being somewhat peremptory about deleting the ones that obviously don't make the cut. "Obviously" to me, of course.
That plan would include other editors caring enough to restore some of the deleted pages, and me not wheel warring in those cases. Since it resembles a "kill 'em all and let FSM sort them out" scheme, I've let it simmer in the back of me mind without taking action. Still, it seems like one way to approach the issue. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 16:06, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
Start with the stubs. Let's not casually destroy anything someone worked hard on. That should preferably be relegated to user space, to avoid any drama.--"Shut up, Brx." 21:44, 9 January 2014 (UTC)
That is, by a country mile, the worst idea on this page. SophieWilderModerator 22:24, 9 January 2014 (UTC)

I agree with some of what is being said here. There is a lot of our content that isn't on-mission and wouldn't be on-mission even if the mission changed to reflect what I advocated above. I'd favor cutting our articles on countries and science concepts and the like.

I feel like there's a misunderstanding about what I've proposed. I am not advocating that we start taking positions on every political issue, nor that we become uniformly left-wing. I am advocating that we counter lies, misinformation, bad analyses and bad policies, in politics as in science. As I said above, sometimes someone in the political discourse makes an argument that is simply wrong and ought to be thoroughly debunked with reference to the facts. Wikipedia must remain politically neutral so it can't fulfill this function, and Politifact and other organizations like that seem to be more concerned with appearing unbiased (by criticizing right and left exactly 50% of the time each) than with actually being unbiased (by basing their rulings on facts). That leaves RW as the only site I can think of that would take on this role. Wehpudicabok [話] [変] [留] 22:39, 9 January 2014 (UTC)

Let me give another example of something that would be "on-mission" if my reworking of the mission were put into effect. I recently came across an article wherein Bill O'Reilly criticized the parents of a transgender child (female-to-male) for putting him on hormone blockers, saying that it violated his "informed consent." This is simply ignorant of the facts that transgender children have to receive information and be evaluated by psychologists before they can receive such treatment, so obviously he had already given informed consent. When I see people making political arguments that are clearly based on known falsehoods, it really pisses me off. This isn't scientific, and I agree that as it stands now, the mission doesn't cover this. But it is a simple matter of what is true and what is not. It is an indisputable fact that the child gave informed consent. It is an indisputable fact that O'Reilly's position is based on falsehoods. These are the sorts of topics that I feel we should be taking on. Wehpudicabok [話] [変] [留] 22:48, 9 January 2014 (UTC)

It also occurs to me that if there are enough people who agree with my characterization of politics but disagree that we at RW should be taking it on, perhaps the answer would be to start another website, one that does for politics what RW does for science and religion. Thoughts? Wehpudicabok [話] [変] [留] 22:53, 9 January 2014 (UTC)

The problem I see with this very worthy idea is the very problem I see with RW at present -- mission creep. What you describe has a strong potential to become "," and thereby losing the valuable stuff (like a prominent TV commentator being not even wrong in his analysis of a high-stakes issue, as you describe) in a sea of people complaining about bloggers, vloggers, fringe websites, etc. etc. etc...I've been here in one guise or another since the website was a months-old baby, and I wish that way back in the summer of 07, we had throttled the desire to fill the site with partisan analyses and social science/humanities oriented targets, and kept a strong focus on pseudoscience/woo sort of stuff. The place might be less fun that way, but it would have a clear focus and do one thing really well, as opposed to a bunch of things kinda half-assed. But I'm repeating myself. PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 23:03, 9 January 2014 (UTC)
I blame Trent for putting the "authoritarian" part in the mission statement as that is what a lot of the politics seems to fall under. Redchuck.gif ГенгисOur ignorance is God; what we know is science. Moderator 23:35, 9 January 2014 (UTC)
Or, more specifically, it falls under what certain pinkos defined as "authoritarian" in order to fudge over the fact that communist countries always manage to become authoritarian. Look at the linguistic gymnastics employed by Bob Altemeyer, referring to people with certain psychological traits as "right-wing authoritarians" even though he was forced to admit that quite a significant number of them are not right-wing. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 03:00, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
That's not actually what Altemeyer says. Altemeyer takes very great care to inform the reader of his works that when he's referring to "right-wing authoritarians", that does not correlate to the popular conception of The Right in American politics. The political definition of "right wing" is different from the academic definition thereof. Communism-Leninism may be a part of the political Left, but it has practically always formed a right-wing authoritarian hierarchy, as opposed to a left-wing leaderless/anarchical structure.
This actually highlights what I would be concerned about in gutting the political articles; deletion done by editors who don't have a firm grasp of the concepts being discussed (and actually referred to in the articles thereof). --Castaigne (talk) 15:40, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
Thank you. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 16:06, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
...may be a part of the political Left, but it has practically always formed a right-wing authoritarian hierarchy. Yes, left-wing organizations are right-wing, freedom is slavery, etc., etc. I would suggest that you investigate exactly which academics re-defined "right-wing" as "favoring the use of leaders." Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 07:57, 11 January 2014 (UTC)
If you investigated, you would find out that this has been the practical political science consensus for over 30 years now. You can talk about supposed leftists moving the goalposts to suit themselves, but we do ourselves no favors in ignoring current academics for what we "feel" should be correct. If you have a problem with popular versus academic definitions, then it would seem you also have a problem with popular versus legal definitions, which have the exact same qualities.
So, to get down to brass tacks, unless you have a specific reason why consensus in political science should be ignored that isn't based on personal opinion alone, deal with it and move on. Write an essay on the subject. Present some data. But your own opinion don't impress. --Castaigne (talk) 13:02, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
I do not, in general, have a problem with the use of jargon in technical contexts — I use it in my own work — but very few of the technical terms I have come in contact with could be confused in the least with popular terms describing the same thing (e.g., the political spectrum) in a different way.
On the other hand, these sort of technical terms are excellent for use in equivocation, which Prof. Altemeyer seems to employ quite a bit, if as you claim he is actually using "right-wing" in the political-science sense. He himself says he is using it in the "psychological" sense, apparently based on a false etymology using an Old English word meaning "lawful."
As to the "supposed leftists" who got their sticky fingers into the definitions, just look at the chief influence on Prof. Altemeyer's work. It was no political scientist, but Theodor W. Adorno, who identified openly as a communist and was criticized for producing an "authoritarian personality" scale that did not even pretend to include left-wing authoritarians; even Prof. Altemeyer acknowledged that most of that work was bunk. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 08:19, 14 January 2014 (UTC)
LX, are you seriously re-arguing a three and a half year old argument in which you went down in flames and didn't even realize it? Come. On. EVDebs (talk) 02:08, 15 January 2014 (UTC)
Would you be able to point me to this argument so that I can know exactly what points he is going to make and thus determine whether it's worth my time to invest in rebuttal? I'd appreciate it. --Castaigne (talk) 04:58, 15 January 2014 (UTC)
Never mind. Found it. Yup, not worth it. --Castaigne (talk) 04:59, 15 January 2014 (UTC)
I had forgotten about that argument myself. One very interesting point that EVDebs made during it was that Prof. Altemeyer's book was a "popular" text, thus absolving it from the need to be peer-reviewed. What does that do for your "he's using the technical language of political science" argument? Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 05:23, 16 January 2014 (UTC)
Not a damn thing, because his popular work The Authoritarians was taken from his scholarly works Right-Wing Authoritarianism, The Authoritarian Specter, and related essay Authoritarian Aggression. Of course, The Authoritarians is a hell of a lot easier to find since he made it free on the web, but you can get a hold of the other two and examine his empirical work if you go through an Inter-Library Loan with a university. Or you can contact him directly; he's very approachable and usually very happy to share his empirical research on the subject of authoritarianism with others, even lay people...though it can be daunting, since he's been researching it since 1966. Be prepared to wade. --Castaigne (talk) 08:44, 16 January 2014 (UTC)
Wait, wasn't Human the one who thought up the "authoritarian" part? --Raysenn Get the paddles, he's having a cancer! 03:17, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
Don't blame me, nope. ħumanUser talk:Human 04:23, 11 January 2014 (UTC)
A few thoughts. Some of the problem may flow from questions as to how to organize the material. Would you prefer to have an article about Alphabets, or a series of articles about Korean nationalistic claims of the origin of writing, Hindu nationalistic claims.....? The "encyclopedia style" subject simply struck me as a way to organize a set of material that I thought to be reasonably on-mission: legendary claims about the origin of writing, claims that it all came from Atlantis, a set of very similar nationalistic claims that say "ours was independently invented"; and I cribbed a list of undeciphered scripts because I consider them to be crank magnets.
Second, about hard sciences versus social sciences. I doubt that historical linguistics is a "hard science", but what I can tell you is that there are dozens of people out there promoting eccentric theories that are firmly and knowably wrong. (And usually Basque is involved. Would that Larry Trask were still alive.) I suspect this is so for others as well. - Smerdis of Tlön (talk) 01:34, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

Just a thought which I don't know is feasible, but I note that a growing number of articles have a High/Medium/Low importance template on them. I wonder if there's some way to limit Random Page to only choose from the medium and high importance articles, based on templates, and thus limit the number of avenues for people to get to low/no importance articles and save folks the work of going 'round and deleting them? Between that and only putting Med/High articles on the front page or public pages means that most of the current cruft can languish in obscurity, maybe getting taken care of when one ends up in Recent Changes but without need for a purge. --Kels (talk) 03:10, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

Your princess is in Trent's castle, not in this one. --Raysenn Get the paddles, he's having a cancer! 03:17, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
Article priority templates are only used by about three or four people. Regarding them as any kind of reliable indicator of priority is a really bad idea. ωεαşεζøίɗWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 08:20, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

A Big Idea for contracting the mission[edit]

The original four-point mission statement was almost certainly thrown together at the spur of the moment. It isn't our Ten Commandments, and really ought to be scrapped completely in favor of something less broad.

Perhaps in favor of something like this for our public-facing pages:

RationalWiki is a resource for refuting pseudoscience, conspiracy theories, pseudolaw, and pseudohistory, as well as documenting the major figures who promote such things. In addition, it provides some tools for building critical thinking skills.

And an addendum to it on community policy pages that goes like this:

RationalWiki is not a general encyclopedia and does not contain articles on every state, historical event or figure, or blogger you find interesting. Nor is it a dumping ground for refutations of every political party, politician, policy, or religion that you disagree with.

Admittedly I just did the same thing Trent did way back and threw this together in about half an hour. Nonetheless, while it's rough, these two statements have a few major advantages over our current mission statement. Namely, it lets the reader know exactly where our strengths are (unlike the nebulous and unhelpful "authoritarianism and how it's handled in the media" bit we currently have). It's purposefully inclusive enough that all our major articles fall under it — all our creationism and medical woo articles are included, but so are otherwise important pages like Freemen on the land (via pseudolaw) and David Barton (via pseudohistory).

It's also explicitly exclusive. Every article on a state, country, political party, politician, pissant internet celebrity, or political/economic policy that random editors happen to not like is gone. It's radical and painful, but heavens does it eliminate an enormous amount of cruft and garbage — and forces us to focus on the stuff we're actually good at. Star of David.png Radioactive afikomen Please ignore all my awful pre-2014 comments. 01:47, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

Question! Given that communism purports to be a "scientific" philosophy, would it fall under the "pseudoscience" banner? Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 02:22, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
Man, you went straight for the kill.
I don't know. Maybe? I'm unfamiliar with the scientific claims of communism. If they do, then a communism article on RW would specifically address those claims, while excising all the crappy Wikipedia-esque stuff that's on the current page. People know Wikipedia exists, it's okay for us to say "we're won't cover everything, that's what Wikipedia is for". We don't need a collection of other people's opinions on it, or several paragraphs on its history, or to cover the endless debate of whether it works or not, or several paragraphs on its derivatives. We should address any specific historical and scientific claims and leave it at that. Star of David.png Radioactive afikomen Please ignore all my awful pre-2014 comments. 03:03, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
And that defines the whole debate right here. "Refuting pseudoscience, conspiracy theories, pseudolaw, and pseudohistory" always has a political aspect to it. Osaka Sun (talk) 03:19, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
(EC) I actually agree with the proposal, but I felt it was necessary to give a preview of things to come as editors (myself probably included) would try to shoehorn pet peeves into the scope of the new mission.
As to communism, no less a figure than Karl Popper pegged it as a pseudoscience, and its economic theories are now considered "heterodox economics," like the Austrian School.
To my mind, the only time the refutation of pseudoscience, etc. has a political aspect is if some politician or "social activist" is promoting pseudoscience as part of their agenda. Refuting the claims of "Flat Earthers," for example, does not have much of a political aspect. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 03:27, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
Until they start to pressure the Ministry of Education for equal time in the geography textbooks. PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 03:36, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
Has that happened? Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 03:46, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
It has with their creationist brethren. PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 03:50, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
Yes, and that, you see, is the crucial reason why going after creationists has a political aspect, while going after Flat Earthers does not. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 03:53, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
Did you have your sense of humour surgically removed, or did they do it with some sort of pharmaceutical regimen? PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 03:56, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
Communists seized it on behalf of the people. Star of David.png Radioactive afikomen Please ignore all my awful pre-2014 comments. 04:10, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
Well done, RM! Here, have an Internet. --Raysenn Get the paddles, he's having a cancer! 03:17, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
Should the atheist and anti-theist interests of the site be mentioned in there? I'm not sure it's fairly covered by pseudoscience, conspiracy theories, pseudolaw, and pseudohistory, but I foresee a stink if we start removing the material, which I mostly don't object to as a believer.

I am always in favor of moving gently rather than forcefully, and slowly rather than abruptly, but that's just me. - Smerdis of Tlön (talk) 04:43, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
I think the intersection between religion and pseudoscience/pseudohistory is large enough as to cover most of our religion articles (e.g., fallacious arguments against atheism). I, for one, would say "good riddance" to the rest. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 04:58, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

Now this proposal just seems to cut too much to me. Just looking through our cover articles I find several that would seem not to fall within the new mission: Same-sex marriage, Poe's Law, New Age (the article is in "Category:Pseudoscience" but that seems specious to me considering that New Agers generally don't even pretend to be scientific), Birth control, and Citizendium. Are we to cut all of these gold-level articles from the wiki? Wehpudicabok [話] [変] [留] 06:36, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

An article on Citizendium does not advance our mission quite so much as our ability to gloat at Larry Sanger. As to the New Age article, New Agers routinely abuse psychology and quantum mechanics, to name just two scientific/medical disciplines. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 06:51, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
My point in saying this was that RM's proposal would cut out a lot more of our core content than I think we're acknowledging. Wehpudicabok [話] [変] [留] 06:56, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
The CZ did advance our mission. After all, it is/was a platform for cranks and shysters. --Raysenn Get the paddles, he's having a cancer! 15:17, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
Given our historically liberal interpretation of our mission, I doubt we would end up losing very many of the better articles. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 07:10, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

I think that RA's suggestion has merit. I would also like to suggest that the content of all our articles should be at least 80% mission-related. All to often I have seen an article created and then justified by a single sentence or paragraph related to the site's objectives.--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 09:18, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

80% is a rather arbitrary figure. Articles like the RationalWiki Atheism FAQ for the Newly Deconverted would need to be moved to essay space because of this threshold. Nullahnung (talk) 11:01, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
In that case I would say either (a) so be it or (b) redefine the mission so as to make it acceptable. Which is really what the debate is about. Surely asking that 80% of article content fits in with what we are supposed to be doing is not too much to ask?--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 11:09, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
Fair enough. Nullahnung (talk) 11:14, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
Is Same-sex marriage 80% or more on-mission? Should we delete it if it doesn't meet that threshold? Does it matter that the article is (by virtue of being a cover article) supposed to represent the best of what we produce? Does anyone else see a discrepancy between the RW we put forth in editing (expansive and inclusive) and the RW we supposedly advocate (slim and lean, talking about few topics very thoroughly)? Wehpudicabok [話] [変] [留] 11:32, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
Honestly, its always been my thought that if something is well written, thought provoking and funny, that makes it far more useful and serving then anything that conforms to some nebulous "mission". Most people I've shown the place to stick around because of the humor, and not because of some focus that never really existed. Slashing and burning most of the site for it seem deeply counter productive. I mean, if you want Wikipedia, just go to Wikipedia. --Revolverman (talk) 12:44, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
I think where pseudo-law and pseudo-history mesh the current mission is that they are forms of denialism in that they deny a large body of well established research for illegitimate reasons. If anything, I would alter the first point to say, "Analyzing and refuting pseudoscience, anti-science, and denialism" (is there one anti-science movement?). (In some ways, item 2 incorporates this, but "crank" could be interpreted in many ways. Item 4 is probably superfluous, but ultimately is harmless.) I would rid of the third bullet, although some of those ideas come out naturally from pseudoscience and denialism. Sterilesig.svgtalk 13:02, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
50% mission content within a page is probably a more realistic target than 80%. ЩєазєюіδWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 14:00, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

One possible problem I see if RW's scope were to be limited to countering and refuting pseudo-stuff is with religion-related articles. Not all of them are directly about pseudo-stuff. Evidence for the historical existence of Jesus Christ, for example, is about a valid historical controversy. Most of the ahistoricists/mythers are cranks (promoting ideas such as Christianity as a Roman conspiracy to subjugate the Jews, but this isn't what the article addresses!), while those arguing for historicity are not generally cranks, but include lots of serious scholars. Nevertheless, the case for historicity is weaker than Wikipedia acknowledges, and the case for ahistoricity can be said to be at least somewhat stronger, if only implicitly (by virtue of the weakness of the case for historicity). Paradoxically, the cranks may well have the right basic idea here (it sure seems so) and the mainstream historicists overstate their case. Since, however, Wikipedia is biased in favour of the historicist view because it is mainstream, and ahistoricity is fringe (but not pseudohistory at all, at least not in all of its forms; the general idea is sound), RationalWiki's commentary is much needed. A strict interpretation of missionality would, however, require that Jesus-historicity-stuff be removed, which very few people here would be OK with, I think. -- (talk) 00:34, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
If it came to it, I would be interested in a new political Wiki but support it being kept in a narrow manner; I like the humorous approach RW takes and consider political extremism and crankery a good fit --Barryjon (talk) 04:15, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
Wait, stop if you've heard this before. Most of the people in this debate have legitimate points in their arguments if they're trying to be serious. We must become serious towards what is a serious issue, but not overly serious. If we can agree on something, it will be for the better. However, I am not calling for the end of the debate. We must work until those with serious,reasonable viewpoints are heard.--The Madman (talk) 19:59, 12 January 2014 (UTC)The Madman

Too many contributors, obviously[edit]

Too many people are participating in RationalWiki! We must remove them.

Making the site unreliable was not sufficient. We must, instead, disgust them off. Make them never want to bother with this mob of fuckwits again.

There are many excellent ideas above, but I'm sure you can list more below. - David Gerard (talk) 11:14, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

Lol! The most excellent David Gerard nails it. ħumanUser talk:Human 04:26, 11 January 2014 (UTC)
What exactly is your point? Minus the sarcasm, please. Wehpudicabok [話] [変] [留] 11:27, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
I've been watching this thread since it started and haven't been able to put my feelings into words. David G expresses them excellently. Folk jumping on newbies with cries of "OFF MISSION!" is no way to encourage new contributors. A lot of stuff is 'off mission', the site could easily be pared down to half its current size but then who would take a second glance? If RW is going to be purely a reference site then go that way but if you want a 'community' then relax and let the sacred mission expand.
Oh and you'd better remove the snark as well as tightening the mission - not very "rational" is it? </sarcasm> Scream!! (talk) 13:08, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
There are certainly too many people to solve this issue through discussion. Not that I'm entirely sure what "this issue" even is. Scarlet A.pngbomination 13:38, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
(edit conflict) I'm generally on the "don't touch the current mission statement" camp, but I'll take some exception to this. A lot of the "snark" is gratuitous, not especially funny and goes against the site's purpose (the spirit, not the letter of the mission statement). Especially the kind of slap-on "snark" added in a drive-by by another user. OsakaSun, for example, is especially guilty of this (all those piped links...).--ZooGuard (talk) 13:41, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
Bad writing is a separate issue - David Gerard (talk) 15:15, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
I say this with the acknowledgement that I am not well-educated in the hard sciences. If we removed politics entirely from RW's purview, I would stop editing -not out of spite, rather there'd be little for me to write about. I think our page on Authoritarianism needs more work, it could give people a good idea of what would actually be on-mission, and we could use it as a better yardstick to determine what political articles should stay. --TheLateGatsby (The end of the dock ) 15:39, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
I've neglected to speak on the topic of politics so far, but I'm of the opinion that there do exist political ideas that fall within the mission. As someone who is well-educated in the hard sciences, however, many of our science articles are, well, useless glut. They're often written at a level that tries to be accessible, and the result is a bunch of rambling screeds about certain topics that barely scratch the surface (certainly not enough to give any real information), are still often too complex to be grasped by folks with no scientific background, and usually contain some hand-wavey "oh yeah, here's where this relates to woo". Unlike articles on politics, our articles on science can easily be wrong (and some of them are, expressing fairly outmoded theories that have since advanced). There clearly aren't enough scientists here to fix these issues now, so what do we do about it? I think paring them down is the best answer, and I'm confident we can do so in a way that still maintains their usefulness and doesn't destroy information. - GrantC (talk) 17:46, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

Just got a notice from someone whose name sounds like the lyrics to a Stevie Nicks song, directing me here. I don't see a WP-style "I agree with Opinion Leader X" option so I figured I would say hi in this section, for whatever that's worth. Justbrowsing (talk) 17:27, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

Keeping science articles[edit]

Someone above suggested getting rid of articles on legitimate science, since they didn't fall under the mission statement. I feel that we should keep them, and perhaps change the mission statement to include articles on legitimate science, and perhaps an explanation of said sciences.

Realistically, almost everyone here has referenced a RationalWiki article to refute and debunk some crank ideas.... however, if the person has no knowledge of the subject in the first place, it's difficult to come to a rational position on said subject. As such, I think we should keep (but definitely clean up and update) science articles to better inform people so they are aware of the conventional views of particular sciences in the first place.

In fact, I envision RationalWiki as so much more than just a site that refutes bullshit claims and their pundits, but rather I see it as a potential well of information on all things scientific, evidence based, and rational (this includes subjects outside of just science, obviously). Gone are the days when we were just essentially a Conservapedia trolling site, as we have developed into so much MORE, and something greater. We've already been referenced by several prominent sites who trusted our expertise on several subjects, and have introduced critical thinking to several people who would of never otherwise heard of our site, or thought outside of their worldviews. If we continue to post articles on science and other such things, our influence will grow, and help expand rationality, knowledge, and critical thinking, along with prominent sites coming to view us as an excellent resource. TokenSkepticMagician talk 22:18 January 10, 2014 (UTC)

Just for the record, TSM's first edit was in August 2013, so they were probably not around when "we" "were just essentially a Conservapedia trolling site".--ZooGuard (talk) 13:48, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
We were NEVER a CP "trolling site". Get over it, please. ħumanUser talk:Human 04:29, 11 January 2014 (UTC)
Nope. Not even a little bit. PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 04:33, 11 January 2014 (UTC)
Who cares? €₳$£ΘĪÐWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 13:51, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

The counterargument, already made multiple times on this page, is that this would be trying to do what Wikipedia already does better than we can ever do. WëäŝëïöïďWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 13:51, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

...due to the vast difference in popularity/well-known-ness and in the size and qualifications of the user base. Wikipedia already fills the "general knowledge encyclopedia" niche. Citizendium is a case study in what happens when you try to "re-do Wikipedia, but a little bit different". At the moment, RationalWiki is supposed to be striving to fill a different, more specialized niche.--ZooGuard (talk) 14:01, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
"At the moment, RationalWiki is supposed to be striving to fill a different, more specialized niche." What niche is that?: the one that contains articles on tiny Caribbean nations, the history of the development of Indo-European languages, criticisms of campaigns to limit the power of organized labour and studies of 19th-century European cultural movements. What niche encompasses all those things? PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 14:09, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
Token, what exactly do you think we can do here in terms of writing a general science article that Wikipedia doesn't? What specific contribution can we make to the field of enhancing a general understanding of science that isn't being done somewhere else? PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 13:55, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
(EC)I'm not Token, but one thing Wikipedia doesn't really do and RationalWiki could do is to promote science topics and their nature to the general public in a condensed form with reference to significance and how they relate to other topics (commentary style). Wikipedia is more there to give an overview of topics with all the detail (encyclopedia style). Nullahnung (talk) 14:12, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
The coverage of straight science is necessary as background material for some articles. I think keeping many as support articles would be fine if we explain their relevance to other articles in the article itself, or integrate them into the pseudoscience-related article. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 15:14, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
Essentially I think what Nullahnung was saying is a good idea, although if people want to do an expansive, informative article on a particular subject, I'm certainly for that as well. TokenSkepticMagician talk 0:17 January 11th, 2014 (UTC)
Many of the science articles in WP are too technical for most people to understand, and that's why woo and pseudoscience spreads. Perhaps we can write straight science articles, but in simpler language. --Raysenn Get the paddles, he's having a cancer! 15:35, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
WP does have "introdction to..." articles where the main one is too technical. Or science stuff could go there. SophieWilderModerator 18:31, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
I like the idea of linking there. What I see as part of the problem is two-fold: 1) Many of our science articles are also too technical for most people to understand, and 2) some scientific topics simply can't be explained in layman's terms so easily. Most misunderstandings about quantum mechanics or electromagnetic theory, for example, would not be solved with some more simple article. - GrantC (talk) 18:35, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
Sometimes just the topic of a science article is on-mission, e.g. evolution-related articles - David Gerard (talk) 16:01, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
Electromagnetism and Quaoar have short notes on associated woo, for extra missiony goodness - David Gerard (talk) 15:16, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
Again, I see the problem basically as being one of how to organize the material. A RW article ought to be chiefly about debunking various wonderlore topics. On the other hand, the large, coherent, and neatly packaged woo subjects like astrology are relatively scarce. A lot of relevant material is quite simply going to attach itself to something else entirely. Basque language would not appear to be a promising subject for a RW article: but, in fact, there are all sorts of stuff (e.g. Basque is the surviving speech of the Neanderthals. Basque is the liturgical language of the secret pagan witch cult) that seems obviously on topic here. It seems to me that we obviously need Basque language as well, just because I think it would be better to deal with these subjects on an easily searched title rather than devote separate articles to all the separate theories. This is what I've been trying to do in articles like Sanskrit and alphabet. - Smerdis of Tlön (talk) 16:05, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
+1 - David Gerard (talk) 16:48, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

Well, a key example of what I was talking about is Quantum mechanics. Wander in there, and then follow the other links that wander around the related topics, and you'll find a mess of articles all over the place. In the QM article alone, there's very little of substance (that Wikipedia doesn't do better) up until the "Problems with interpretations" heading. Then there's our article on Quantum collapse, which effectively rehashes the QM article in a more complicated form, and has even less connection to our woo articles. I mean hell, check the "What links here" section on the quantum collapse page. A single woo article links there, and then a bunch of articles about other quantum mechanics phenomena (that are all general information and not woo-related at all). Should we delete the quantum mechanics article? No. A lot of legitimate woo stuff links there. Should we condense it down so that we can explain all of our quantum mechanics related theory on that one page, and then offload the rest to Wikipedia or external sources? I think so. The space of articles on QM alone is large, unwieldy, and difficult to navigate on the wiki. Keeping them all up to date and relevant would be a monumental task, and judging by the fact that only a few people have edited any of them in the last year, I would wager that's not going to happen at this current stage. That's why I think we should cut them down; the alternative seems to be leaving up a whole bunch of relatively irrelevant often out-dated information. - GrantC (talk) 17:36, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

That's an editorial matter rather than a missionality matter - one where the correct answer is "go the hack" - David Gerard (talk) 20:21, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
Well it seems to be at least a bit of a missionality matter, since for many of those articles, the article after the hacking would end up being a blank page. I figured it was worth talking about in the theme of missionality, seeing as it fundamentally changes the landscape of a large part of the scientific article space. - GrantC (talk) 20:29, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

Compare and contrast to X[edit]

A lot of times the science, and off mission articles on rational wiki have a structure of "as opposed to this woo here's a basic layman's understanding of article subject" and wikipedia doesn't reproduce that mechanism of considering things. A lot of times I'll pull up science articles on rationalwiki for the purposes of seeing what BS people say about it. It's not reasonable to toss off those jumping-off points. Ikanreed (talk) 15:11, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

Perhaps: have 'here are the key points on topic X (with links to more indepth articles elsewhere) and here are the woo/more on-mission topics that lead off from it.' (talk) 15:31, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

That was sort of the suggestion I made above. Keeping around a small, basic reference article for topics oft-mentioned, but offloading more detailed queries to Wikipedia or elsewhere. Also, there's a lot more "science glut" on this wiki than you might think; it's just that most of it is rarely linked to, and often doesn't come up in a search unless you're looking for them exactly. - GrantC (talk) 17:40, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
I rather like this and the previous section. Having refutation articles with "simplified" science articles from a lay perspective as quick reference. Including articles on social sciences, of course, and in either case mainly from a quick understanding to back up the refutations/critical articles rather than the in-depth and sometimes impenetrable detail of many WP articles. Not only focused, but it keeps us from being a crappy version of WP plus saves us from necessarily deleting them wholesale. --Kels (talk) 19:41, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
Basically 'sufficient information for the reader to know what the woo is in reaction to (and (link to source of all misinformation page). (talk) 16:17, 13 January 2014 (UTC)

"[The] proposal would cut out a lot more of our core content than I think we're acknowledging"[edit]

  • Have we explored the option of moving some of these articles into funspace (or, more formally, as TV Tropes does it, "Useful Notes")?
  • If we intend to do this, the missionality/deletion process needs to be much faster than it currently is and involve more users than the typical 5-10 on talk pages. Osaka Sun (talk) 16:09, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
5-10? There are people here who think that when three of them "vote" they can do anything they want. ħumanUser talk:Human 04:31, 11 January 2014 (UTC)
If we want to get more votes on deletion proposals, we could institute a central page for deletion proposals, like Wikipedia does, instead of discussing it on the talk-page. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 05:22, 11 January 2014 (UTC)
I definitely agree with this. Regardless of whether the mission changes or not, a central page for deletion votes is a fantastic idea. Wehpudicabok [話] [変] [留] 07:29, 11 January 2014 (UTC)
Didn't the funspace and CP space clean-up projects have such central pages? Nobody visited them, or if they did, they didn't bother voting.--"Shut up, Brx." 07:39, 11 January 2014 (UTC)
(EC) I will try to remember to propose it once this turd-blossom here dies down. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 07:39, 11 January 2014 (UTC)

Man is a political animal[edit]

And too often our politicians (I don't care which country you live in) come up with complete festering piles of bollocks with about as much evidence to support as e.g. young earth creationism. Crank ideas offered by e.g. George Osborne are every bit as much crank ideas as those offered by George Carey or worse yet Pat Robertson - and are also only taken more seriously because of authoritarianism. In fact the only reason crank ideas are relevant rather than rationalwiki being a simple exercise in mocking the afflicted is because of the political traction they can gain (e.g. with Andrew Wakefield). I therefore see no reason that politics is outside Wikipedia's remit as it currently stands.

I also see no reason to keep what was always a political site cooped up and defang one of the most likely aspects of importance. Neonchameleon (talk) 16:19, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

+1 - David Gerard (talk) 16:47, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
+2. Politics are often based on erroneous information (like the Florida drug-testing-welfare-recipients), and that's as worthy of fact-checking and debunking as much as anything else. If nothing else, articles like WWII and the like should be used as a statement of the facts and a place to correct common misconceptions about the war and its major players. -- (talk) 18:31, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
+3 --Raysenn Get the paddles, he's having a cancer! 19:41, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
+4 --Castaigne (talk) 13:07, 12 January 2014 (UTC)

Never going to have a united purpose or consensus on broader concepts[edit]

There's a lot of problems with specifically opening up our mission to general topics like politics: there are logically sound, and rational reasons to support a number of different concepts and ideas in politics. It's not like the missionality of RW stops the second we start talking politics... rather, it requires that politics be viewed under the same scope that we treat all other content: if it's bullshit, call it out.

I don't see any need to expand our topics to things like religion either... some parts of religion are total fucking bullshit: they are already within our mission. Other parts of religion are NOT within our mission, and do not deserve to be mocked. (A Christian who believes in an impersonal-ish god, that everything in the bible isn't literal, and that evolution and science can inform us more about reality than where it conflicts with the Bible.) Not all religion is bad, it just happens that the majority of it (and certainly the most vocal part of it) is.

Scientology is a religion that immediately fills all parts of our mission, and can be openly mocked outright, without expanding our mission to also cover religion.

The purpose of RW has always been: to call out bullshit, and to realize that some topics are done a disservice by treating crank ideas as if they deserved any recognition or weight. This is what RW does, and it can still be focused on that, and not have its mission expanded at all. — Unsigned, by: Eira / talk / contribs 2014-01-10T17:37:19‎

Gordian knot[edit]

Delete/de-mainspace any article that does not refute a pseudoscientific/legal/historical claim, attack a bad idea, or criticise a well-known person who supports such claims and ideas. What would we have left? SophieWilderModerator 18:40, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

I think about 800 out of 8,000 articles? ħumanUser talk:Human 04:32, 11 January 2014 (UTC)
If by some divine intervention we did manage to delete that many, I suspect that the average quality of the remaining articles would be much higher. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 05:22, 11 January 2014 (UTC)

Random walk through potential mission space[edit]

It would be far more productive if people would suggest language that they want the mission to be (like above) so alternatives can be considered. Otherwise, it's nearly impossible to follow this conversation. Sterilesig.svgtalk 18:44, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

Indeed. It seems to me that getting anything out of this chaos looks increasingly unlikely. But yes, proposals for alternative increased/decreased/improved mission statements along with clear indication about how they would be adhered to would be the way to go.--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 19:06, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
This is exciting. I usually miss out on the discussions where a handful of editors, with outsized opinions, will agree on a seemingly specific yet practically nebulous mission for RW. Then, with mandate in hand, will march off to delete all of the articles that have been stuck in their personal intellectual craws. --Inquisitor (talk) 20:21, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
Recent changes is your friend.--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 21:23, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

Politics allowed, but only with data[edit]

Part of the reason I've been adding consumer issue-related articles to RW is because there are a lot of aspects of life that benefit from critical thinking and solid data. We're in the same territory now as Snopes and Politifact -- hell, Snopes cites us on the semi-regular. While I think it's sensible to avoid overt political endorsements, it's still a very smart idea to cover clear bullshit in politics, at least when we don't need to defer to the expertise of the more journalistically-oriented fact checkers. (Let's be honest -- even though Politifact has a clear bias towards the radical center/Washington Village types, they're still better at political journalism than 99% of us will ever be. And the Mikkelsons are just plain badass.) In addition, there's this problem that a lot of calls for "no politics" means "don't make me think about my prejudices". If you're going to ask for a reduction in political drama, you'd best make sure you're not trying to take the lazy way out. In addition, a common prejudice in the skeptical world is against soft science; that's one of those positions that's clearly wrong but hard to articulate why logically. IMHO (and I've said this before) the reason, again, is laziness -- social sciences in general deal with a lot of subjectivity, making for a much higher noise floor than hard sciences. That doesn't excuse us from evaluating the data; we have a lot more shoveling to do before we get to the important stuff, but it's still there.

I don't want to endorse endless political arguments, of course; all I'm saying is that if we have political articles, which we do, we should have data, which we usually do. If we don't have data, it's not on-mission. EVDebs (talk) 19:02, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

I don't think data is all that's needed to make someone think about a political ideology. I found the articles on libertarianism, anarchism and libertarianism thought provoking in a way that WP could not be for instance.--Barryjon (talk) 03:01, 12 January 2014 (UTC)

Mobocracy approach[edit]

Since "what the RW mission is" obviously evades wide agreement and it can be argued that every article is its own special case, why not leave the mission statement alone, but establish an ongoing RationalWiki:To don't list poll page, much like the ‪RationalWiki:To do list‬, except in reverse? Anyone could list an article they think is off mission/redundant/not needed and the community would get to vote it up or down. If downvoted to death, the article would be shunted off to some NOINDEX limbo for possible rework and resurrection at the ‪RationalWiki:To do list‬. Mobocracy at its finest. Leuders (talk) 20:45, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

Seconded.--The Madman (talk) 23:35, 10 January 2014 (UTC)The Madman
+2 --Castaigne (talk) 13:08, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
But wait. I left out the part where the secret nude tribunal convenes on the waxing gibbous lunar phase. Leuders (talk) 00:02, 11 January 2014 (UTC)
And that part...changes....only the amount of clothing and secrecy.--The Madman (talk) 00:26, 11 January 2014 (UTC)The Madman

I like this. Since I prefer a wider interpretation of the mission, it would be more helpful to quantify what we shouldn't have rather than what we should have. The Moose (talk) 02:27, 11 January 2014 (UTC)

I like this as well. I feel having the whole community actively participating in these kinds of decisions would avoid a lot of drama down the road. Warlord Fred♠♣♥♦ 03:18, 11 January 2014 (UTC)

ditto. I like the transfer for a while rather than just delete. Hamster (talk) 05:22, 11 January 2014 (UTC)
Yes! I love the idea of the "To don't list". Spud (talk) 06:20, 11 January 2014 (UTC)
Brilliant idea. Simply brilliant. Impurity is the secret Unite with thy oracle Dolan.png 06:37, 11 January 2014 (UTC)

However, we need a group effort from this. If we merely let the "To Don't List" falter like it's counterpart, I fear that it too may become yet another effort that not enough users seemed to be exposed to. Checking the edit log, it hasn't been edited in a while. I'd suggest something like the below to be handed to new sysops.

Be sure to check out both the To do list and the [[Rationalwiki To Don't|To Don't lists!

Does it seem too...annoying? I'm sure I could think up a RW spin on it. --The Madman (talk) 18:08, 11 January 2014 (UTC)The Madman

From what I can tell, the present To Do list isn't faltering at all. In fact, by looking over the high number votes both positive and negative, you can get a really good feel for what topics a random snapshot of RW users consider on-mission, off mission, or just plain unimportant at the moment. It's relatively slow and it's not ruthlessly efficient. But that's what RW is. BTW, I don't think articles like Kansas "harm the brand", especially if they have a funny little twist or encourage a new way of looking at something. If anything, they help keep readers within the cuddly confines of RW and not running off to starchy old Wikipedia. But if the community really wants it gone, it would be off to noindex purgatory. Leuders (talk) 18:20, 11 January 2014 (UTC)
Thank you, Leuders. I've jumped to judge from edits, as usual with a single-purpose encyclopedia. RationalWiki is not for your single purpose articles. The mission may be easy to see as supporting one clear-cut viewpoint, but it is not. Far too often do we forget how quickly Trent threw together RationalWiki 2.0.--The Madman (talk) 20:05, 12 January 2014 (UTC)The Madman

Don't "fix" what isn't broken.[edit]

I feel perfectly fine with the mission as the statement is currently. If the sysops present a option that is in no way contracting the mission or over-expanding the mission, I will be perfectly fine. Besides, it is my opinion(Or observation through trolling.) that extremes in interpretation of the mission statement leads to conflict--The Madman (talk) 21:50, 10 January 2014 (UTC) The Madman

We have sysops again/now? ħumanUser talk:Human 04:34, 11 January 2014 (UTC)
isnt everyone a sysop ? Hamster (talk) 05:06, 11 January 2014 (UTC)
I'm not a sysop. Warlord Fred♠♣♥♦ 07:43, 11 January 2014 (UTC)
You are now. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 18:19, 11 January 2014 (UTC)

It's All There In The Name[edit]

This is RationalWiki, and I've always thought of it as an antidote to irrational beliefs in general. As far as politics, what that would mean is that any position we espouse should be well-supported by actual data, with clear reasoning. Anything with no supporting data, or discrediting data, should be torn a new one. For example, economics is a subject that is subject to great debate, and anyone who thinks to have the definitive answer is fooling themselves. We should not write an article extolling Keynesian theory as the most valid school of thought, even though it arguably is. However, an article mocking supply-side economics, which is demonstrably bullshit, is completely justified. See the difference? --ShorinBJ (talk) 00:06, 11 January 2014 (UTC)

Not really, I think that's part of the difficulty in drawing the line. I am in favour of keeping the political and economic stuff, snarking validly in any direction and encouraging people to think about the assumptions and basis of their positions is enough for me--Barryjon (talk) 03:18, 12 January 2014 (UTC)

My 2 Cents[edit]

Rationality is something that is not limited to the natural sciences. It is something that is only limited by our ambitions. We should expand to be a bit more political. This should not interfere with the other tenets of our mission, and it is no controversial or detrimental if we take a few steps. Perhaps we should scrutinize these articles more, and peer review each other's conclusions/edits on the talk page. Sites like Snopes, Politifact, Factcheck, etc are very useful for this kind of thing. When it comes to more complicated subjects like economics, we should do the same collaberation and review, but we should emphasize what they call on Lesswrong "instrumental" rationality as well- that is to say, what demonstrably works, and what doesn't. There are ways we could, as the Rationalwiki:websites says, "keep an eye on the loonies" in a similar way to what the SPLC and other similar orginizations do.P3A58NT86 04:14, 11 January 2014 (UTC)

I tend to agree. Though we should tread carefully on politics as if the site comes across as overtly biased in any political direction then that may turn people away from the site altogether which would be a greater loss imho--Barryjon (talk) 03:22, 12 January 2014 (UTC)

This Should be a Moderate Conservative Wiki[edit]

I'm a moderate conservative, and while I don't agree with Conservapedia, I don't like your intensely scientific and anti-freedom approach to writing. We should make this wiki god fearing; but not to the point where gay's are yelled at. Evolution and creationism should be genuinely debated to see which is right. Abortion and marijuana (cigarettes 2.0) should be criticized except in strictly limited medical and emotional cases. Finally, we should have a neo-con approach to war; but for at least loosely humanitarian purposes only (they threatened our honor, protecting an ally, e.t.c), never for oil. Finally, China is a commie piece of crap and should be considered a fake country until Taiwan takes over. I hope my opinions are used in creating the new and improved RationalWiki. God (not Allah or Richard Dawkins) bless the makers of this website. -- (talk) 04:51, 11 January 2014 (UTC)

You're adorable. Thank you for your contributions to the conversation, BoN. Ochotona princepsnot a pokémon 05:31, 11 January 2014 (UTC)
As an actual moderate conservative, please McGod no. We need fewer official political positions, not more; and I do think that our current ones are (to cant obnoxiously) "problematic." - Smerdis of Tlön (talk) 06:11, 11 January 2014 (UTC)
I second Smerdis; the only consistent position we should take is being firmly pro-science. Wehpudicabok [話] [変] [留] 07:39, 11 January 2014 (UTC)
I appreciate this BoN's contribution, it was meant to be humorous wasn't it? That said, I do have more genuine sympathy with Smerdis view. However I'd rather try to accommodate much of the existing political content (not incidentally the article that kicked this all off as it happens but ho hum).--Barryjon (talk) 03:31, 12 January 2014 (UTC)

Hello everyone, I think that RationalWiki...[edit]

...Should definitely expand. It is so far the only wiki that I have read so far that deals with the whole "Science vs. pseudoscience" in a way that is both funny and accurate whilst not going overboard with philosophy or scientific terms. And even with it's articles do become long reads, they are still worth to go through.

I have been through other wikis (up to this point almost always as a lurker/anonymous user) and none have the degree of quality that this wiki this wiki does. To give two examples: Metapedia is an Eurocentric, faux-rationalist neo-facist compendium of trash (or, most often, edited Wikipedia articles). Liberapedia is a U.S.A.-centric social democrat site that, besides being almost a ghost town, is dedicated mostly to preaching social democracy. Neither of them succeeds at doing anything but being a tool for propaganda of their respective ideologies, and any attempt at discussion with them from a divergent/opposing viewpoint will be meet with ridicule or will simply be ignored.

RationalWiki has it's flaws, too. Sometimes articles are edited and they lose their previous mocking demeanor to take a more rigid one which, while still on-spot, does not make the amusing read they previously were. The focus of discussion of politics/society/etc. as well seems a tad too U.S.A.-centric, even when many the same topic could be easily be applicable to many countries (However, I do realize that the majority of you must be from the United States and as such many articles will deal with U.S.A.-specific figures... Such as Frep Phelps, for example).

Returning to my original statement, I think RationalWiki should cover a wider area. Not so wide that it begins competing with Wikipedia, but wide enough that it can cover areas which affect society as a whole or areas in which discerning pseudoscience from science can be of benefit.

P.S.: Your articles on Technocracy movement and The Venus Project are better than the ones at Wikipedia. --The1992Phoenix (talk) 06:26, 11 January 2014 (UTC)

Thank you for the constructive criticism. Wehpudicabok [話] [変] [留] 07:44, 11 January 2014 (UTC)

It is my personal opinion that…[edit]

There is nothing to do with the Mission that needs to be drastically changed. We don't need to start purging the wiki of massive amounts of content, nor do we need to start taking articles in about everything under the sun. It works the way it is. Of course, some minor changes (refuting more than just pseudoscience, for example) would be fine with me, but I think that enforcing huge-arse changes would cause more harm than good. Impurity is the secret Unite with thy oracle Dolan.png 06:35, 11 January 2014 (UTC)

+1 Well said. --DamoHi 22:26, 11 January 2014 (UTC)
Thanks. Impurity is the secret Unite with thy oracle Dolan.png 00:08, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
+1^2--Barryjon (talk) 03:35, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
I'm newish here, but I thought I should participate in the mobocracy in some way. I agree with the Messiah of Doom's statement here. For the most part, the only disappointment I tend to have with the site is the lack of snark in some articles. I occasionally find articles that don't seem like they belong, but why not address those articles individually, rather than make sweeping changes to the site as a whole? Perhaps the articles that don't seem like they fit can be fixed, rather than removed.Dowdicus (talk) 20:17, 17 January 2014 (UTC)

RNS' opinion[edit]

There are huge problems that arise when we open our mission up to general topics like politics, not the least of which is that people will always have differences of opinion in some areas of politics that, from the standpoint of article tone, would not be so easily solved without risking our credibility. Our current mission is very sound and has worked for years, and I see no reason to change it. Back in the day, if there was a general issue that you wanted to discuss that didn't seem to fit into our mission, you wrote it as a debate or essay (depending how you wanted to go about the topic). Intrinsic to this is that people who flag an article for missionality or deletion should do a better job of researching said topic before trying to delete it. Could that article be improved to be on-mission? Is that article still being worked on? What do I know about this article's missionality? If the article is a crappy stub about something I know to be on-mission, will I restart the article if I delete it to start over? These are the common questions that should be asked before throwing up a deletion template.

Moreover, we need to ask ourselves why people are coming to RationalWiki and, to that, what our purpose is. Our purpose has always been (in a nutshell) to be an anti-pseudoscience, anti-crankery Wiki. If we divert ourselves from that and into areas, like politics, are we prepared to deal with the possible consequences? Having been around this Wiki for quite some time, I'd argue that we'd be biting off more than we intend to chew. Reckless Noise Symphony (talk) 07:04, 11 January 2014 (UTC)

The problem that I see with the current mission is that we have never actually followed it. Lots of our articles don't fit in it – and not just the crappy stubs, either, but good, thorough articles like Citizendium – unless we take a really broad view of the phrase "crank ideas," and the problem there is that everyone will end up with their own definition of that word. (And even then there are articles like the Atheism FAQ that still don't fit.) That's why I want to remove the "crank" part and replace it with a concise statement of what areas are open for investigation. Wehpudicabok [話] [変] [留] 07:44, 11 January 2014 (UTC)
Citizendium is, actually, very on-mission, based on the fact that most of its "experts" are, in fact, cranks. If we want to refine the current mission, that's fine. But when we start leaving the areas that are our specialty, we risk our reputation. So far as good articles that may not exactly be on-mission go, I think it should be on a case-by-case basis. If, for example, the article is well-researched and, at least, comes within a few hairs of our mission, I see no reason to kill it. Reckless Noise Symphony (talk) 08:03, 11 January 2014 (UTC)
You could always just deal with politics/social affairs via a rational aproach, though. If a politician says that he trusts "naturophats" over medical science his statement is still trash and he is promoting trash, irrespectively of whatever he is a communist, nazi, libertarian, anarchist or-- you get the idea. Granted, not all cases are as clear-cut as the one I provided but generally speaking politicians are not an honest sort. --The1992Phoenix (talk) 10:27, 11 January 2014 (UTC)
Ah ha, but here again, if it's eve close to being mission-worthy, we've tended to keep it around anyways simply because it is relevant to our mission. Michele Bachmann, for example, does not have an article because she is a politician. Rather, she has one because she is a politician who has said and done some very outrageous things that fall well within our mission. I'd imagine any other politician would be held to the same standard. Therefore, there is no need to revise our mission to cover something we already covered. Reckless Noise Symphony (talk) 16:50, 11 January 2014 (UTC)
I don't disagree about the risks re core purpose being diluted but I do think that some political ideologies have plenty of crankery of their own that are worthy of a rational, snarky POV and I don't see anywhere else really doing that in the way RW does that.--Barryjon (talk) 03:45, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
Correct. But, does not our mission already cover said political crankery, or have I been missing something for the last 5 years? Reckless Noise Symphony (talk) 03:55, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
I think it does, but the tone of this discussion is in some parts hinting at narrowing away from the political side of things. I would think that a shame.--Barryjon (talk) 04:04, 12 January 2014 (UTC)

If we don't expand/limit the mission after this...[edit]

...Then can we please at the very least enforce it more seriously this time? For example, can anyone how about Language, Alphabet, Geography, or fucking Argentina are in any way or form relevant to our mission? As I expressed, even if no changes to the mission are made, we should at the very least, take it seriously. --Raysenn Get the paddles, he's having a cancer! 16:22, 11 January 2014 (UTC)

Part of the problem I see is that most editors don't seem to be interested in wandering about voicing their opinions on mission/deletion issues. Admittedly, I fall in that category as well, as I don't generally place a vote or add to the discussions if I don't feel I'm familiar enough with the topic to make a judgment. It's difficult to "enforce" the mission under these circumstances, because it's always the same few people contributing to the discussion. The idea is that consensus should rule, but then the question becomes: if only three people participate in the discussion, is that consensus? Are all of those editors who chose to abstain from voting treated as assenting or dissenting? I think it's a non-trivial problem. - GrantC (talk) 16:45, 11 January 2014 (UTC)
I'm not sure about alphabet, but both language and geography are subject to extensive pseudoscience and pseudohistory for political and religious reasons, and I think the Sanskrit article does a good job of demonstrating why. It's maybe not so obvious in the Anglosphere, where native speakers speak the single most dominant language in the world and most of us have access to reasonably accurate and honest maps that show territory disputes in an impartial manner, but for example there have been disputes on Wikipedia about the origins of the Armenian and Urdu languages; in both cases there were partisans insisting they were of Iranian origin, even though Urdu is nearly indistinguishable from Hindi except for alphabet and, to the extent anyone can make head or tail out of Armenian's origins (it's really eccentric in comparison to its origins and other Indo-European languages), it's closer to Greek than it is anything else. These are issues people take really, really seriously, and often get really, really wrong. Want some other explanations? Come at me, bro. EVDebs (talk) 20:39, 11 January 2014 (UTC)
It's not just obscure exotic languages that nobody cares about (from the Euro-/Anglocentric viewpoint prevalent at RW); much closer to home, but essentially the same problem as with Armenian and Urdu, there are perennial suggestions that English is a Scandinavian language or descended from French, or some weird Romance–Germanic creole, or that it has developped out of (Low or High) German, even though we can trace its history without any significant gaps all the way to Old English. The problem is that many people take these suggestions seriously. ("Many people" in this case meaning "virtually everyone, including people who should be expected to know better, such as, oh, how about, for example, linguists?") -- (talk) 01:02, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
Yes, but it's a little more complicated than that: . The Germannic influence comes in when you trace further back than Old English, and there is some French and Norse influence. The English of today is descended from all that (and more). Nullahnung (talk) 01:44, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
I think the most accepted model right now and yes I know we're off on a tangent i don't care this is more fun than arguing is that English, Frisian, and Low German are one particular clade known as North Sea Germanic and/or Ingaevonic. Dutch and Afrikaans are what remains of a second branch, Istaevonic (basically the language of the Franks before they adopted Latin), and High German/Alemannic are a third Elbe Germanic or Irminonic branch. There's little dispute about Norman French influence on the language, but the core of most frequently used words remains Germanic, even if the grammar is a little off in the weeds and the phonetics are outright horrifying. I have heard that may be where the Norse influence came in most strongly -- in addition to the appearance of significant numbers of Norse words because of close contact between England-that-was and the Danelaw, the fact that Old Norse and Old English were almost-but-not-quite intercomprehensible may have led to a degree of grammar simplification, with things like elimination of gender and the loss of overly long compound words happening in order to ease communication in bilingual communities. Now that doesn't make English a Scandinavian language at all, any more than having an immense whack of French words makes English Romance; for example, the postposed definite article is something that (at least among Germanic language) is uniquely Scandinavian, save parts of southern Denmark where there's Plattdeutsch influence. EVDebs (talk) 02:03, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
As noted here, the attrition of the Old English endings, which precipitated the development towards analyticity, began in the North already before any Viking had even set foot on English soil. British Celtic substratum influence does sound like a more plausible explanation to me. Of course, most Germanic languages eventually simplified their morphology considerably (with Continental Scandinavian going even farther than standard English in the verb: they've generalised the 3rd singular ending everywhere), but nowhere else did this start as early as in English, which makes the Celtic explanation attractive.
Where have we left off again? -- (talk) 02:47, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
And, for what it's worth, almost all of the languages of Continental Scandinavia and Dutch have undergone the loss of grammatical forms and categories that are almost as thorough as those experienced by English. Spoken French has shed almost as much, compared to Spanish or Latin. All of these languages that lose their grammar share a feature. They don't allow many vowels in unstressed syllables, and have a tendency to reduce them. And when the endings become indistinct, they no longer carry any weight in syntax, and the grammar is lost. - Smerdis of Tlön (talk) 04:33, 12 January 2014 (UTC)

I have massively valued much of the political content[edit]

Especially stuff about Ron Paul and Libertarianism. I think pointing out inconsistencies with ideologies is a good thing. I really wouldn't like the political stuff to go. That said, I have wondered if the site doesn't come off as being a bit ideologically left wing and this leaves the site open to the, seemingly oft-repeated, "I thought this was rational wiki" on issues where there is a legitimate rational arguments on both sides.— Unsigned, by: Barryjon / talk / contribs

You just got at a major component of why presenting leftist politics is bad for RW, although your example is weird. The real problems are snark, groupthink, some editors getting a pass on doing whatever they feel like to content and the wikis public face, and endless ass talk from others. Nutty Roux100x100 anarchy symbol.svg 23:15, 11 January 2014 (UTC)
I agree. My examples were merely experiential. Also realise I forgot to sign above. Although it may be hard to scope an approach to politics, I think it could be done and would be worthwhile. --Barryjon (talk) 23:33, 11 January 2014 (UTC)
I like to think that's because that's where the evidence leads, not because of ideology, although I'm not sure I'd consider our slant left as such. Our slant is basically anti-authoritarian and anti-douchebag, and pro-inquiry, pro-selfawareness, and pro-snark. After all, it's not like the left is totally unchallenged -- virtually no one here, regardless of ideology, likes the authoritarian left (see our articles on communism and radical feminism). But see what I said above about selfawareness -- virtually all of the complaints I see about perceived left-wing content boil down to "don't make me think about that or I might have to think about myself". Introspection isn't left-wing; it should be required for anyone claiming to be a critical thinker. EVDebs (talk) 00:40, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
I am going to have to disagree with that, of course. My main concern is that some of the site's political stances undermine our commitment to evolution, and particularly the gene-centered, neo-Darwinian synthesis. While evolutionary psychology has its excesses, the excesses of its detractors go even further. I think the fundamental idea is sound, and denying that human psychology, behavior, and social structures have been shaped by evolution amounts to human exceptionalism. Worse, it's counterproductive in a purely rhetorical sense; whatever else you can say about evolutionary psychology, work that shares its assumptions by people such as Frans de Waal, Robert Trivers, and Jonathan Haidt offers real insights into human behavior that people can notice and even use in their daily life. And when people start seeing things in their world and saying to themselves, 'evolutiondidit' - we win. - Smerdis of Tlön (talk) 04:49, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
Oh stop it. When your pet field is strong enough to not be used as trump cards by creationists we'll acknowledge it is more than protoscience. Falsifiability has always been the issue, I don't care about your politics. Osaka Sun (talk) 05:09, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
More to the point, evo psych is not accepted by the evo devo people who should be providing the most corroborating data. EVDebs (talk) 18:34, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
No, I disagree. Snark is not the problem; it is the solution. More snark is required. And you really need to stop giving a damn about what the "public face" of the wiki is too.
Christ, it's like alt.gothic all over again. --Castaigne (talk) 13:13, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
Admittedly, anyone that takes on Ron Paul is called a commie/leftie/statist/RINO etc. Even if we slim down our mission he's said so many outrageous things that his article will stay. Osaka Sun (talk) 00:52, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
Yeah, but let's be honest -- Ron Frum is low-hanging fruit. It's just that most of his supporters absolutely refuse to pay attention to his record, and those that do are the kinds of people best ignored. EVDebs (talk) 01:14, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
He really has said some funny stuff. And, imo, he is not consistent in his views and deliberately misleads people about what he really believes and what his aims are. Something RW made me aware of--Barryjon (talk) 03:47, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
I completely disagree. Pretty much all the people who make the complaint "I thought this was supposed to be RATIONALwiki!" are racists, MRAs, Freemen, woo-pushers or cranks. It is possible there are examples that aren't, but that's what the overwhelming majority are. These people complaining is not a problem in any manner whatsoever - David Gerard (talk) 10:52, 12 January 2014 (UTC)

Timeframe for change?[edit]

If the mission is narrowed, will we get notice? I would like to take copies of some of the articles that might get obliterated.--Barryjon (talk) 23:37, 11 January 2014 (UTC)

Bet your sweet ass you'll get plenty of notice. It's going to be the biggest decision ever made here. And thankfully RW is so wretched at follow through, you might as well be watching a bunch of strangers masturbate. Nutty Roux100x100 anarchy symbol.svg 00:14, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
I'm not sure I understand your analogy. I would think a group of strangers masturbating would be fairly good at following through... - GrantC (talk) 00:20, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
His "analogy" is that this here is like meaningless circle jerking that most probably ultimately leads nowhere. Nullahnung (talk) 00:28, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
Yeah, I did understand what his analogy was. I was setting up for my second sentence, which was a joke. :P - GrantC (talk) 00:31, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
I found the initial reply & Grant's reply quite funny. I even laughed out loud. Really.--Barryjon (talk) 02:34, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
Seconded. I feel as if we are all trying to work towards a common goal, but get lost in some issue that makes us think irrationally. I also feel as if we can do "give and take", we might be able to reach towards a common goal that may please a good amount of us. Even the smartest people can be like that.--The Madman (talk) 19:45, 12 January 2014 (UTC)The Madman
It's really unclear if the "mandate" for change exists beyond a few editors. Sterilesig.svgtalk 20:09, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
Madman, if a consensus ever emerges, there will be a whole new discussion about the wisdom of touching the mission in the first place. Your perception that there's a common goal or will be any "give and take" presumes too much. Nutty Roux100x100 anarchy symbol.svg 20:22, 12 January 2014 (UTC)

Less talking, more voting![edit]

I feel like the discussion is getting out of hand at this point, or at least it's hard for me to follow. Simple idea: anyone can propose a new version of the mission in this section, with the ability to vote on each. Vote up or down on as many as you like. Copy and paste parts of other people's proposals into your own, if you like, but everybody vote. Let's see whose ideas find favor. Further discuss each proposal in another section. — Unsigned, by: Wehpudicabok / talk / contribs 02:30, 12 January 2014‎

39The existing missions:

Our purpose here at RationalWiki includes:

  1. Analyzing and refuting pseudoscience and the anti-science movement;
  2. Documenting the full range of crank ideas;
  3. Explorations of authoritarianism and fundamentalism;
  4. Analysis and criticism of how these subjects are handled in the media.

We welcome contributors, and encourage those who disagree with us to register and engage in constructive dialogue.

We have 7,965 articles for your enjoyment.
-19"RationalWiki is a resource for refuting pseudoscience, conspiracy theories, pseudolaw, and pseudohistory, as well as documenting the major figures who promote such things. In addition, it provides some tools for building critical thinking skills.
RationalWiki is not a general encyclopedia and does not contain articles on every state, historical event or figure, or blogger you find interesting. Nor is it a dumping ground for refutations of every political party, politician, policy, or religion that you disagree with." (Stabby the Misanthrope)
10"RationalWiki is a resource for refuting pseudoscience, conspiracy theories, pseudolaw, and pseudohistory, as well as documenting the major figures who promote such things. The site also critically analyses politics, religion, and culture from a pro-science perspective, with a focus on refuting misinformation and bad ideas throughout these fields.
RationalWiki is not a general encyclopedia and does not contain articles on every state, historical event or figure, or blogger you find interesting. Refutations of such figures may be added if they operate from an empirical, pro-science perspective. Bring the data and your analysis." (Wehpudicabok, borrowing partially from Stabby)
3"RationalWiki is a resource for refuting crank ideas, including pseudoscience, conspiracy theories, pseudolaw, and pseudohistory, as well as documenting the major figures who promote such things. The site also critically analyses politics, religion, and culture from a pro-science perspective, with a focus on refuting misinformation and bad ideas throughout these fields.
RationalWiki is not a general interest encyclopedia. We focus on subjects relating to the crank ideas which are our core focus. Because these ideas are often hilarious when stated plainly, we sometimes try to be funny." (Smerdis of Tlön < Wehpudicabok < Stabby the Misanthrope)
-12"RationalWiki is a resource for analyzing and refuting pseudoscience, anti-science movements, conspiracy theories, pseudolaw, pseudohistory, and other crank ideas, exploring authoritarianism and fundamentalism, and documenting major figures who promote such things. The site also critically analyses politics, religion, culture, and media from a pro-science perspective, with a focus on refuting misinformation and bad ideas throughout these fields.

RationalWiki is not a general encyclopedia and does not contain articles on every state, historical event or figure, or blogger you find interesting. Refutations of such figures may be added if they operate from an empirical, pro-science perspective. Bring the data and your analysis. It should be noted that RationalWiki operates from a persepective known as SPOV, which may stand for all of the following: Scientific Point Of View, Skeptical Point of View, and Snarky Point Of View. This is in contrast to the more well-known NPOV (Neutral Point Of View) associated with general references such as Wikipedia.

We welcome contributors, and encourage those who disagree with us to register and engage in constructive dialogue." (The One They Call Mars < Wehpudicabok < Stabby the Misanthrope)
-6Add to the above proposal: "Rationalwiki is dedicated to combating ignorance that leads to unquestioning loyalty to a wide variety of topics. It may seem quick to judge at times. Examination of one's actions and viewpoints with Logic before/after/during the arguments may help you to understand."(MadmanJohnson,being serious.)
7Our purpose here at RationalWiki includes:
  1. Analyzing and refuting pseudoscience and the anti-science movement
  2. Documenting conspiracy theories, pseudolaw, pseudohistory and the full range of crank ideas and their proponents
  3. Explorations of authoritarianism, fundamentalism as well as political and religious extremism
  4. Analysis and criticism of how these subjects are handled in the media
  5. In pursuing this purpose we promote critical thinking

Our point of view (SPOV) may be described as Scientific, Skeptical or Snarky. This is in contrast to the more well-known NPOV (Neutral Point Of View) associated with general references such as Wikipedia.

We welcome contributors, and encourage those who disagree with us to register and engage in constructive dialogue.


I like the proposed mission that includes the reference to fundamentalism. I take it to include political/economic fundamentalism, am I wrong?--Barryjon (talk) 03:49, 12 January 2014 (UTC)

Or maybe include political EXTREMISM ?--Barryjon (talk) 04:08, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
FFS read the mission as it stands. Extremism is already relevant to the extent it implicates something that's within our bailiwick like authoritarianism, pseudoscience, pseudolaw, etc. Otherwise you might as well create Wankspace for people to write their own academic takes on what they consider extremist and how they think it's interesting when it doesn't already support a mission goal. Come to think of it, we've already got a readymade Wankspace for lots of you to pontificate, show off, and chit chat: it's called Userspace. Nutty Roux100x100 anarchy symbol.svg 20:10, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
My less experienced reading of the [mission] doesn't explicitly include political and religious extremism as far as has been included in practice. I like what's already here, my only concern would be a cull of much of the existing religious and political content. Why so angry?--Barryjon (talk) 21:28, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
I'm not angry. I'm frustrated that several people here, including you, don't seem to get it. That's become almost memetic, but since I've got one foot out the door and no longer think RW deserves the work some people have done for it, I don't care about the inevitable criticism of that position. And who's culling what now that our resident deletionist mercifully quit? That's not even part of this discussion, and you certainly don't need to change the mission to get a handle on how to deal with what we've already got; you're still going to have to spend time deciding what to do. This is a toxic subject. Nutty Roux100x100 anarchy symbol.svg 22:04, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
I'm trying to get it. I see a consensus has formed to keep the existing mission and I support that. Like I say my moan concern was that stuff would suddenly disappear, others across the various threads did bring up deletion en masse and I am reassured that inertia would likely prevent it. For what it's worth, I hope you keep at least one foot in the door. After reading this thread I also read your post from last year about curating and editing policy and think I understand more of where you are coming from and applaud what were (are?) your lofty goals for RW & RMF. --Barryjon (talk) 11:05, 13 January 2014 (UTC)

Skepticism and Critical Thinking[edit]

I think these do deserve prominence in the mission.--Barryjon (talk) 03:55, 12 January 2014 (UTC)

If nothing else, I think that adding the line In pursuing this purpose we promote critical thinking to the current statement might be worthwhile. But the wholesome conservatism of the live community fills my heart with great gladness. - Smerdis of Tlön (talk) 04:14, 13 January 2014 (UTC)

Atheism and Religion[edit]

I must admit, I've only just noticed that discussion of religion and atheism is not part of the mission. That's not at all the impression I got or get from the site generally. I think the mission should reflect the reality in this case.--Barryjon (talk) 04:21, 12 January 2014 (UTC)

I think you find some in the evolution vs creationism paarticularly as related to teaching science in high schools. Hamster (talk) 04:31, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
That's a good point, Barryjon. While most of our contributors only really have a problem with religion when it gets overtly destructive or tries to infiltrate politics, I do think that discussion of religion is (if you'll pardon the pun) fundamentally part of our domain. (Also, how did I forget to sign my post above? Normally I'm very good about that. [:(] ) Wehpudicabok [話] [変] [留] 07:21, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
Which is not to say we don't have material on atheism; I was the one who started the Atheism FAQ... Which is only partially about atheism. But we have much bigger fish to fry here, and compared to the general theme of debunking and critical thinking, atheism is of relatively minor importance, even compared to discussing and critiquing religion. I'll take a skeptical fideist over a blinkered atheist any day of the week. EVDebs (talk) 08:22, 12 January 2014 (UTC)

My proposal to amend the mission[edit]

I know making such a proposal in a matter so profound as amending the mission may seem ballsy for a new user, but I should note I've been here as a reader and IP contributor since around late 2012. The block of text has put on a fair deal of weight here, so we may want to break it down into list form. I'm not sure. The One They Call Mars (talk) 07:09, 12 January 2014 (UTC)

How to fix RW![edit]

All that said, there's stuff needs fixing here.

  • Much of RW is just shitty.
  • Our good stuff is fantastic! It usually links to stuff you'd be embarrassed to link someone to.
  • Not very well curated.
  • A lot of the writing is just bloody awful.

The solution is basically more writing with an eye to quality. This is of course as easy to say as it is hard to magick into existence.

But if you really want a better RW ... you need to visibly lead by example. There is no other way. It's only going to happen organically - David Gerard (talk) 15:48, 12 January 2014 (UTC)

This is the best statement I've seen on this page of how things ought to be. Doers need to do. There are too many worthy projects, but sadly more big talk. I urge people pressing to change the mission to consider their own motives; what RW already does well; how well it keeps house (badly); how well RWians respond to issues over which there's no reasonable dispute need attention (badly); and who they think reads RW and what they want; and generally how much cooler, better and inspiring RW could be if it did what it already said it was going to do. Nutty Roux100x100 anarchy symbol.svg 20:37, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
I'd tend to agree. The poor curation is really a bigger issue than the mission itself. Not that I have sufficient expertise to change that, but I agree in any case. --Kels (talk) 00:15, 13 January 2014 (UTC)

In defense of country articles[edit]

I admit I started one of our country articles (Syria).

I also admit that many of our country articles are bad. Some read like Wikipedia circa 2007. Some are full of irrelevant local points of pride (Czech Budweiser is better, etc.)

But I think Rationalwiki needs country articles that are short and on-mission and serve mainly as links to more in-depth articles.

For example, an article on Haiti would not mention geography, cuisine, or list the political parties (let me guess, there are liberal ones and conservative ones and they're all corrupt). It would spend a sentence or two describing Haiti. It would spend a sentence or two explaining that according to some Americans, white people rebelling against England is Godly, while black people rebelling against the French are Satanic (with references) and link to articles on slavery, racism and colonialism. It would spend one sentence linking to the vodou article. It might have a sentence that quotes Pat Robertson and that also contains the word "fuckwit" and links to his article. The article would, in essence, ask the reader "Why did you enter "Haiti" into the search box on Rationalwiki?" and give some mission-related links.

An article on Argentina would mention Nazis (automatically on-mission). It would mention the authoritarian history and link to relevant articles. It would spend a sentence or two on Eva Peron, because millions of people irrationally adored her and supported her husband against their own self interest, and she inspired a musical. It would find a funny snarky way to say that. It would spend a couple of sentences talking about how dictators and democrats alike stir up over the top nationalism over the Falklands for political purposes, and link to the Falklands article, execpt that article is so crap it's parody. If some Argentine edits it to brag about how pampas steaks are better than Texas ones, we could gently revert.

Some people don't like short stubby articles, but bits are cheap, and linking is the entire point of the web.

Also, the wording of the alternative mission statements above that include "...does not contain... that you find interesting" is I think unintentionally snobby and condescending. Better to say "is not a complete record of every interesting..." or the like. But I already voted for the original mission. Weorthe (talk) 15:53, 12 January 2014 (UTC)

When I came to the article on Egypt, the bulk of the article was a long chronology of the fall of Mubarak. AFAIK it's still here and linked from the page, but of course that is seriously dated now and the sort of thing people wonder about. I gave the article a bit more historical depth. Not every country will have as much woo as Egypt, of course, but at least some would appear to have plenty. - Smerdis of Tlön (talk) 20:44, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
Our country articles are a complete mess. There's loads of missiony things to say about, eg, Colombia but it's a crappy stub, while Slovenia was once in danger of turning into a book. SophieWilderModerator 21:50, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
There are crappy articles in most every category. Again, it's a matter of poor curatorship. It doesn't necessarily mean we shouldn't have country pages. €₳$£ΘĪÐWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 08:04, 13 January 2014 (UTC)
If the country articles are kept as hubs, then we should make a template or something that specifies the article as a hub (e.g., in an article about Zanzibar Land, we could do a brief overview on the country itself then do a brief recap and link it to Yozef Norden, a political extremist from there, Zanzibarian nationalistic claims about its origin, Zanzibarian nuclear holocaust denial, etc). --Raysenn Get the paddles, he's having a cancer! 00:24, 13 January 2014 (UTC)


Is there a legit way to get a dump of the existing content?--Barryjon (talk) 19:37, 12 January 2014 (UTC)

Erm ... not sure there is. We certainly don't run regular DB dumps that I know of. (And yes, we totally should and it is neglectful of me not to be able to answer "sure here you go".) Trent? - David Gerard (talk) 19:47, 12 January 2014 (UTC)

RationalWiki:Content dumps. (talk) 19:48, 12 January 2014 (UTC)

Special:Export I wish you the best of luck forking RW. Nutty Roux100x100 anarchy symbol.svg 20:03, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
I strongly, strongly, urge anyone trying to get many or most of our pages to just get the XML dump and not use export. For only a few pages that works fine, but anything more than that will be a frustrating experience. Tmtoulouse (talk) 20:05, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
Who said anything about forking? I am only interested in how one would get a dump/backup. Just in case some of the articles were to be culled for being non-mission.--Barryjon (talk) 20:18, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
Yo could just ask a sysop to copy the text of it to a userpage, eg User:Barryjon/Felidae or whatever. SophieWilderModerator 21:42, 12 January 2014 (UTC)


given that the voting is overwhelmingly in favor of the current mission statement, I propose that any further discussion on it be terminated . Lets now move on to the next items raised , which are 1. curating and 2. crappy and off mission articles. There seem to be two obvious choices -

  • an article improvement drive - list articles to be improved before any new articles are created
  • a deletion list of articles to be rid of as either very bad or off mission.
  • cull the to do list (needs a cleanup anyway)

(yes I know thats 3 things.)

proposals ? Hamster (talk) 04:49, 13 January 2014 (UTC)
David Gerard said somewhere, might have been here (hard for me to keep track of this whole conversation at this point), that we can't force people to focus their attention on one area, and if we cut off some area that we feel is getting too much attention in an attempt to divert them, they'll just leave. I agree with him, and I don't think an article improvement drive is a good idea if it includes the phrase "before any new articles are created". Otherwise it's a great idea. And yes, a deletion list is also a good idea, and better still what ListenerX said above about moving deletion discussion/votes to a central page rather than having each discussion occur on each article's talk page.
As an aside about the mission, I am honestly surprised that the consensus was to keep it the same, and I must confess a little disappointment. But I know when to quit, and won't push for a change any more. Wehpudicabok [話] [変] [留] 09:36, 13 January 2014 (UTC)
I do think there's value to an strategic article improvement initiative. I think it will requires someone taking the horns and managing it. I would recommend the Main page articles since they were meant to be very mission-centric. I suspect deletion could be done through our regular process, although I think someone could look at categories as well and move more efficiently through the articles for deletion category. Sterilesig.svgtalk 14:38, 13 January 2014 (UTC)
Someone might jump down my throat for this, so I wish to cautiously add the disclaimer that my experiences with this are somewhat limited, and I could very well be wrong. I'm not sure how well the current deletion system works. In principle, I think it has the potential to work, but there are some issues I find. First off, anything too far off the areas of wide interest to the wiki is not likely to be seen or commented on. This would not be a problem normally, but an argument I've seen on more than a few arguments over page deletions has been "five people does not make a consensus". Well... When one is trying to delete a page that nobody is interested in, it's kind of difficult to accomplish anything when abstentions are treated as "keep" votes. I think a centralized page for deletions could be useful to help with this, as it would make it a bit more clear how close to "consensus" the actual result is. - GrantC (talk) 15:56, 13 January 2014 (UTC)
It takes three unopposed sysops to allow a deletion (plus a decent amount of time to allow proper discussion). Opposed deletion requirements are a lot vaguer, but to-to-one in favor usually carries it. The hard part is finding enough people who care either way. Deletion discussions should get mentioned in the edit comments. We once had an Articles for Deletion page, but not enough people cared enough to maintain it. Thankfully we don't have WP's army of bureaucracy nerds. SophieWilderModerator 16:29, 13 January 2014 (UTC)
Thank you for clarifying. I think I may have seen a few edge cases and had that cloud my judgment (I can recall a few deleted articles that turned into edit wars as individuals argued whether three or four sysops agreeing to delete and nobody opposed was really consensus). I agree with your point about mentioning the deletions in the edit comments, and I like what you and a few others have been doing recently (bumping articles under discussion for deletion). I think that's a sound idea overall. - GrantC (talk) 16:32, 13 January 2014 (UTC)
I suspect a lot of it was simply a protest against the propoesd mass cull - David Gerard (talk) 21:48, 13 January 2014 (UTC)


following the discussion on mission etc I am proposing the following.

Can we make decisions on these items and get it done ?

Hamster (talk) 17:08, 13 January 2014 (UTC)

The "high priority" tag (or any of the other priority ratings from the {{rate-priority}} template) is a really unreliable indicator. I think, at this point, the priority ratings are only used by a handful editors. They're applied arbitrarily and no particular criteria have ever been specified for them (unlike the bronze, silver, gold quality ratings, which are also used fairly arbitrarily but at least have some basic guidelines). High priority articles include fish that survive on land and Ray Comfort's You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, but You Can't Make Him Think. Really? There's also a separate high priority category for articles, which has been around since the site's early days & looks a bit more sensible, but I suspect that's also used somewhat arbitrarily & largely abandoned. WeaseloidWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 19:39, 13 January 2014 (UTC)
ok, so how do we come up with a priority list if the existing catagories are not sufficient ? Hamster (talk) 20:10, 13 January 2014 (UTC)
The priority settings are from when someone(s) decided we should because wikipedia does. The trouble was they failed to look at why WP does so - to highlight commonly-searched terms and look after those articles more carefully than others. On RW it seems to be based on "I think this is important." The only actual high priority articles are the cover stories and entry point articles. I think we should do away with priority rating altogether. SophieWilderModerator 20:21, 13 January 2014 (UTC)
Me too. Trying to agree any criteria for determining article priority at this point will just loop us back into the same old haranguing about how important politics/feminism/linguistics/YouTube etc. are to the missions. It would be better to just gut the rate-priority template so that it no longer displays article priority or puts articles in a priority category. The relevant cats can then be deleted. Maybe keep the original 'high priority' cat around (as linked above) with some basic guidelines for usage (even as simple as "when you put an article in this category, explain why on its talk page"). WeaseloidWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 20:32, 13 January 2014 (UTC)
ok, can we use the existing rating-priority system to try to set some criteria for article improvement or deletion using some simple criteria. If we dont have something it will just stay as chaos. Hamster (talk) 22:27, 13 January 2014 (UTC)
As I said, I don't think it's a great idea. Two weeks into this debate, we're no closer to a common understanding of what RW's priorities really are than when when it started. Better to just deal with how good/bad/on-mission/important our articles are on a case-by-case basis. A single 'high priority' cat (the original one) might be worth keeping for a narrow range of stuff that we know is important and gets a fair amount of traffic. Beyond that, I think any high/mid/low system is just needless petty bureaucracy. WẽãšẽĩõĩďWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 22:51, 13 January 2014 (UTC)
If you think an article deserves improvement, improve it. Find someone to help you if you need it. We'll be in the bar., swapping article improvement anecdotes and knocking back Blue Nun. SophieWilderModerator 23:02, 13 January 2014 (UTC)
When we/I did the Main page redesign, I tried to put on the front items that were typically covered in skeptical sources. No one seemed to disagree with them, and that's where I would start. Sterilesig.svgtalk 20:31, 17 January 2014 (UTC)
Here's a further idea, if anyone is interested. How about consolidation of articles? I'm experimenting with a list of minor cranks in my userspace; could this not be done for things like countries? --Castaigne (talk) 02:45, 14 January 2014 (UTC)
ok, so people want a totally ad-hoc handling of the site, with no firm guide on either improving articles or deleting off-mission stuff. Not a problem then. Hamster (talk) 05:31, 14 January 2014 (UTC)
Well, this IS a mobocracy. Really, the best way to create a firm guide is to get a few committed people to form a cabal (there is no cabal), decide on standards, and then unilaterally impose them. People will either concede or fight; those who fight, you see what compromises can be made. When you get few people bothering to kick, then you have created a new consensus. --Castaigne (talk) 06:17, 14 January 2014 (UTC)