Forum:Science articles, or science reference section, or boot

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There is a long, ongoing "non discussion" about how we should be handling science articles on RationalWiki. Not ones that are easily RWified, but things like biology pages, zoology, evolution specific pages, etc. How much do we want to be a reference for science information? How much do we want to send people off to other sites for this information? Is there a place for a separate "namespace" for articles that are reference in nature. We really should look at this as a whole, and decide as a mob what our view of ourselves is, in relation to actual science information. Pink mowse.pngGodotoi, putain, genial, merci 16:45, 6 March 2012 (UTC)

That intro stated, I'll give my own personal view, which is that I think we would be fine having a reference section. However, not being a scientist or well informed about science beyond highschool, my only concern is "to what depth". Pink mowse.pngGodotoi, putain, genial, merci 16:46, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
(EC) I've softend to a form of ref sace or some such. ТyNo 16:50, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
Sophie suggested putting a namespace for 'reference' or similar and including elementary level science articles there. That might be a good plan. I know I find those articles useless, I just read wikipedia for the same information (and honestly I don't care much about physics and I already know the biology); however, the tone here can be kept more conversational and jokes can be thrown into those articles to make them more palatable to a casual reader, so I do see a point in having them... as long as RW articles keep themselves unique from simple dry encyclopaedic content. I could see someone thinking this site would be a good place to get the basic grounding in, say, evolutionary science, and it would be nice to fulfill that perception in RW's own goaty idiom. ERK! | Complaints Hotline 16:49, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
On that note I think "palatable" would be an angle to go for in the reference articles. Humour, for example, goes a long way to making dry science interesting. ERK! | Complaints Hotline 16:50, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
I've never really understood why we have to separate "reference" articles and "regular" articles. In a sense, aren't all articles reference? Is climate change in reference and climate change denialism in Main? Are logical fallacies in Main or reference? I just see it as an artifical division that will be confusing, particularly to readers and new editors--lots of "no, that doesn't belong here." It's just not worth it. steriletalk 16:55, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
In my gut, I'm kinda of a mind that we don't really need these outline articles... but if we do have them, my view supports yours, ERK and Sophie that they should be easy to understand, light hearted, humerus stuff. (and again, I am not really knowledgeable about science so don't count my opinion very high - if only cause "easy to understand" may actually be more problematic, or not, or...)Pink mowse.pngGodotoi, putain, genial, merci 16:56, 6 March 2012 (UTC)(EC)
Humerus stuff, eh? ;-) Anyway, I think easy to understand may be a problem but it's kind of the point. If you want a full high-level briefing, there's already a place for that. ERK! | Complaints Hotline 16:59, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
Sterile: Totally valid I think, but as I see it the 'debate useful' material would go in the main article, and if people want to write more details about the actual process of meiosis in a semi encyclopaedic way, that stuff would go in reference. That way people who already know what meiosis is can read interesting, useful information about common logical fallacies used in debate, crank theories regarding meiosis, and other things we come here for... but if someone feels the article is sparse or just doesn't understand it they can click a link to "if you would like to know more about meiosis check out our __reference__ on the subject". ERK! | Complaints Hotline 17:02, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
Good post!
My original point in all this is that plain science articles don't conform to the mission. Why should i not create 9000 bird articles, with a section about how they evolved? They'd be allowed as science articles that promote evolution, but how do they advance the mission? There's no real difference between science articles and Felidae, an article that finally got spiked after an epic debate on the talk page. I think refspace is overdue. Sophiebecause liberals 17:07, 6 March 2012 (UTC)

Science, by being anti-anti-science, is in our mission, if it is something denied. And, again, it's still not clear to me if logical fallacies are reference or Main articles. And I'm not explaining this 80 gazillionty times to newbies. steriletalk 17:10, 6 March 2012 (UTC)

I'm a newbie? well maybe if you add up all the LANCB timeouts... Sophiebecause liberals 17:27, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
Not you, a real newbie. If you went to a skeptical wiki and typed in "evolution" and didn't get an evolution article (or more likely, get a redirect, the inevitable consequence of reference space), you would think it odd, no? steriletalk 17:32, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
Evolution is obviously on-mission, and has counter-evolutionary claims and arguments to provide missionality. Golgi bodies is not, as there are no anti-golgi claims in circulation. That's the difference. Sophiebecause liberals 18:27, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
So a better way to look at it might be "what articles are worth a 'reference' page, as they are direct and immediate to things we discuss here? For example, from someone like me who doesn't really know what "life" is, a discussion of the general notions that viruses are (or are not) alive, but single cells are alive is more worth an article than something about Plattypus. Similarly, an article that discusses modern studies on abiogenesis (such as J. Southerland's works) is probably important to us, whereas an article about covalent bonds (those are the ones that don't disolve in water?) work... It's not that we do not need such articles, but that we should be more picky about what topics we have articles on? Is this what I'm hearing? Pink mowse.pngGodotoi, putain, genial, merci 19:07, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
Yo Sterile, as a "real newbie", I gotta say that's a bit annoying. Would you like new people to come and get involved in the development of RW? Or would you rather let it sit and stagnate? You're free to say you've made your case on this before, and I'll happily read where you wrote it, but unless it's the environment you're aiming for, I'd rather not be dissed for trying to get involved... and if that's the environment you're going for I'm on the wrong wiki.
Anyway, on topic, the trouble with banning reference-type material out-of-hand is the risk of zealous rules-enforcers removing stuff that contextualises important concepts. If I'm writing an article about eukaryotes, I have to explain a bit where I'm coming from whether I'm writing an encyclopaedic article or a description of it as it relates to quackery. Not everything is black and white like the golgi. On the other hand, allowing too much encyclopaedic content drives away readers like me, who know about the topic but want more information about cranks and weird theories; that's what I come here for. Seeing a huge article mainly describing what a topic is, rather than what bizarre claims Andy Schlafly makes about it, is boring. ERK! | Complaints Hotline 22:52, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
I could be wrong, but i suspect he does not mean "newbee" to RW, as much as "newbee" to science. Kinda like I'm always asking you all "ok, explain how atoms work", and "is there really space between us even though it feels solid", etc. And those probably are good articles to have some basics on (?). Pink mowse.pngGodotoi, putain, genial, merci 23:20, 6 March 2012 (UTC)

I meant someone new to RW. You don't want someone to not be able to find things, or worse, make something in Main that should be in reference, as it will make people bite the newbies. But if someone wants to write a proposal (for the ???th time) and we can vote (for the ???th time), so be it. steriletalk 23:25, 6 March 2012 (UTC)

Ah, sorry, I utterly misread what you meant: I thought you meant this was an argument you'd had before and didn't want to clarify your stance on because you had done so many times before. My fault entirely, I apologise (and struck out previous statement) ERK! | Complaints Hotline 23:28, 6 March 2012 (UTC)

Where do we go from here?[edit]

First question (starting small): do we want to keep this stuff? Yes/No/Goat. Peter Monomorium antarcticum 03:27, 7 March 2012 (UTC)

yes, but in some kind of reference space. Sophiebecause liberals 11:11, 7 March 2012 (UTC)
I was getting there... The next question is: what would be the difference between referencespace and CZ's Catalogs (e.g. this one)? Because my envisioning is of something disturbingly similar. Peter Monomorium antarcticum 03:32, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
Personally, I'd rather keep them in main space for the reason others have suggested. We want all of our articles to have some connection to our "pov", and the line between RW and "reference" seems very... cloudy?
Third question. What are our criteria for what articles we should have, and what is too complex.--Pink mowse.pngGodotoi, putain, genial, merci 03:44, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
I would go not by complexity so much as levels of 'support': if we have a 'reference'/outline page about a topic in support of various mission articles that want to link to 'cell' or whatever, we shouldn't have articles that are another level of support, i.e. 'cell' referencing 'meiosis,' unless the mainspace/mission articles also want to link to meiosis. Otherwise, that material should be placed in the higher level article (cell) and culled if unnecessary/too long.
The Complexity issue isn't actually a outline-only thing: how much detail should we go into in the main articles? I would say 'as much as the author knows so long as it is understandable.' Peter Monomorium antarcticum 03:54, 8 March 2012 (UTC)

I don't think a reference namespace, as it's been defined here, would be a good move. Our current criteria for distinguishing articles are mission status and deletion status, the former being whether or not an article directly furthers our mission statements and the latter being whether or not we'd want to keep it.

We currently have four artificial classes of content here: "off-mission/keep," "off-mission/delete," "on-mission/keep" and "on-mission/delete." These classes are already incredibly murkily separated and have caused untold arguing among veteran editors and with newbies. Creating yet another class criterion - requiring more arbitrary distinctions based on namespace - would only introduce more confusion. This reference namespace would create the classes "reference/on-mission/keep," "reference/on-mission/delete," "reference/off-mission/keep," "reference/off-mission/delete," "main/on-mission/keep," "main/on-mission/delete," "main/off-mission/keep," and "main/off-mission/delete."

If we set up actual guidelines on what content we want to host as articles, we can alleviate the need for a new namespace... except for those source documents, which are currently handled by a nice template. Blue Talk 05:23, 12 March 2012 (UTC)

Actually, I doubt that it would cause more confusion. Despite a lack of rules, the main-space deleters/movers seem to do their job pretty well, additional guidelines would only result in more rules lawyering. CopperheadHisssssss 14:45, 12 March 2012 (UTC)
I think the "Reference" or "Source" namespace, if it's ever created, should only be used to store source documents which are important to the mission. Using it for general science articles is a mistake. There is essentially no divide between "reference" articles and "mission" articles, since general science articles often have sections on common myths related to the subject. Radioactivity and neuroplasticity are good examples. --Tweenk (talk) 00:30, 13 March 2012 (UTC)
And what do we do with articles on, say Andorra? Blue Talk 04:20, 13 March 2012 (UTC)