Neutral point of view
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you think with
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Neutral point of view (NPOV) is a non-fiction writing style in which all aspects of a subject are discussed without expressing the view of the author, or drawing a moral or political conclusion on the subject. Treatment of the subject typically includes balanced discussion of significant and noted attitudes and opinions to it; no view is emphasized unduly over others. NPOV is rarely used in essays, which are usually intended to prove a point or reach a conclusion on a given subject, but is widely used in factual resources such as encyclopedias.
NPOV on Wikipedia
NPOV is a Wikipedia foundational issue, and one of the five pillars of Wikipedia. It is a central feature of Wikipedia's encyclopedic style, and extensive project page space is given over to outlining what NPOV means and how it should be implemented, addressing possible objections to it, and tutoring editors to write in neutral wording. Naturally, every editor has opinions, and some may attempt to express them in Wikipedia content. However, such biased content is liable to be removed or amended by other editors to maintain the NPOV balance. Editors who wish to make additions to articles and see them remain in place must learn to write factually in a NPOV style, verifying all assertions with citations and references. In this way, the Wikipedia community is (at least partially) self-regulating in terms of editorial neutrality. However, on some subjects, Wikipedia is willing to accept that the majority point of view is probably right and there's no need for false equivalence between kooks and experts: this includes fringe vs. mainstream science.
RationalWiki and NPOV
RationalWiki articles tend to avoid NPOV on the grounds that they are not encyclopedic in nature. These articles and their authors are uncompromising in their point of view that science and reason are superior methods for generating knowledge. However, this is not a rejection of covering facts equally and giving due weight to conflicting opinions when they are valid and relevant. Indeed, the objection to NPOV is mostly in response to the dry and humorless tone developed by Wikipedia in the name of neutrality.
Conservapedia's criticism of NPOV
Conservapedia, a conservative, Christian wiki that considers itself a better alternative to Wikipedia, maintains that "Bias gets in the way of reliability" but also that "Neutrality may not be an antidote to bias". This does not explain how the path to reliability can be achieved, or why neutrality is not an antidote to bias, since the opposite of biased is unbiased. However, this seems to be the only explicit criticism of the concept of neutrality. Most of Conservapedia's criticism of Wikipedia focuses on its claim that "Despite its official 'neutrality policy', Wikipedia has a strong liberal bias". Since "Neutrality may not be an antidote", Conservapedia counters the perceived liberal bias in Wikipedia with flagrant right-wing fundamentalist bias and propaganda throughout its own pages.
Most, if not all, of Conservapedia's examples of 'liberal bias' within Wikipedia do not stand up to scrutiny, and they tend to show a basic inability (deliberate or otherwise) to comprehend the concepts of NPOV and verifiability. Many are simply examples of the kind of hardline conservative claptrap trotted out on Conservapedia itself, with the suggestion that Wikipedia is biased for not forming the same outrageous moralising conclusions. For example, Wikipedia has a 'liberal bias' in that it does not insinuate that Barack Obama's career is the result of racial quotas and affirmative action, characterise homosexuals as violent and promiscuous, or postulate that atheism leads to meanness and suicide. Furthermore, Wikipedia is accused of 'promoting' suicide, in that it objectively mentions suicides in a high number of articles and biographies.
Alternatives to NPOV
Snarky Point Of View
SPOV is the style originally or historically encouraged on RationalWiki. Neutrality is all very well in its place, but certain assertions are so feeble or silly they may provoke snarky response from those who think they are feeble or silly. Note, however, that snark is not a substitute for facts, reasoning, and sources.
MOPOV (My Own Point Of View)
This is a style widely used in many contexts, in which the author assumes that his or her own opinions are intrinsically more correct, valuable or interesting than any other person's opinions, by virtue of being his or her own. MOPOV expressions can be mildly indulgent, but if such behaviour continues unchallenged, or is even bolstered by the adulation of others, it can gradually lead the author to conclude that his or her word is infallible, or that he or she is in fact God. This state of affairs can bring a host of unwanted responsibilities. Fortunately, excessive MOPOV can be remedied in its early stages with judicial use of "snarkasm".
Stated Points of View
In which two or more sides of a debate are given freedom to present their case separately with the caveat that they state their axiomatic assumptions. Free editing of each point of view is allowed, but objections and edits to the arguments of POV-A may only be raised by people holding the same axiomatic assumptions. Other points of view, including criticism of POV-A, are to be presented on the pages of POV-B, along with the assumptions stated for the differing point of view.
Advantages are that more people are able to contribute more material, and more points of view, and more data can be harvested than with NPOV. Experts may contribute according to their point of view without being overwritten by non-experts who disagree with them. A disadvantage is that while the format allows a limited region of disagreement and debate, much like a two-party system it may not reflect the full range of opinions, e.g. a format with Christian and atheist viewpoints may omit non-Western religious beliefs (and an article on the Eucharist that only gave Roman Catholic and Protestant views would miss the forest for the trees).
Example: the wikipedia pages on the mental health condition "Dissociative Identity Disorder" are primarily dealing with the debate as to whether or not the condition exists. Those who do not believe it exists cite papers by those who do not believe it exists and those that do believe it exists cite their sources. NPOV enforces a stalemate position in the debate, leaving the site devoid of actual content material on the subject itself. Those who do have real content to contribute on the actual topic itself are closed out by the debate. What is lost is the possibility of harnessing the encyclopaedic knowledge of the variety of subtopics that could be written about by those who would write stating that they know it exists, have lived with the condition, and know how to successfully treat the condition. This knowledge is censored by those who have limited knowledge of the topic but remain editorially to keep the debate, and only the debate front and centre. The net result being that, if you actually want information on the topic in hand, wikipedia is of very little use to anyone researching the topic.
Conservative Point Of View
Instead of seeking a balanced discussion of all sides of an argument, CPOVs often have a consensus that is reached by pushing an argument so far right that it cannot go any further. CPOV can also stand for:
- Christian Point of View
- Creationist Point of View
- Cranks' Point of View
- Crazy Point of View
- Cretins' Point of View.
- Wikimedia: Foundation issues.
- Wikipedia:Five pillars.
- See also, the Five Pillars of Islam
- For example, Wikipedia: Neutral point of view, Wikipedia:Neutral point of view/FAQ, Wikipedia:NPOV tutorial.
- See the Wikipedia article on Wikipedia:Fringe theories.
- Conservapedia: Guidelines.
- Conservapedia: Wikipedia.
- Conservapedia: Examples of Bias in Wikipedia, retrieved Aug. 2 2008. Examples 8, 11, 54, 61.