RationalWiki:Constitutional Convention, April 2008

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Step 1: Identify the problems

What are our problems?[edit]

Anyone can add one, just check to make sure it hasn't already been added. Please place each submission in its own subheader, using three equal signs, like so: ===header===.

Make sure to cite specific examples.

Submissions which are snarky will be removed, as they are unhelpful and distract from the purpose.

Purpose of Rationalwiki[edit]

Rationalwiki started as a meeting point for editors booted from Conservapedia or anyway in contrast with Conservapedia's management. RW's purposes are written somewhere. Now that this has become a melting pot of new and old emigrèes from CP, funny or funny Uncyclopedians and even people from Wikipedia, I'd say that a review of RW's purposes are in order. For example, should it focus mostly on CP (specific example: WIGO)? Should it mostly be a place for Lulz (specific examples: you provide them, RA)? Or should it be a haven for Rational articles not only opposed to CP, but to other irrationalities in this world, see the wonderful effort about that ID movie. These can all live together, but some rules and thoughts on RW's future are necessary in my opinion. Superstitious animistEd at CP 12:15, 31 March 2008 (EDT)

One of the focus points for many of the old-school RW-pedians is science/woo - others, like myself, are more into politics: do we want to see more of the former and less of the latter? PFoster 12:42, 31 March 2008 (EDT)
I think it might not be a bad idea to pull back from making more encyclopedia articles and concentrate on things like side-by-sides and specific refutations. Like a page of Joe Mercola, or what's been happening with the Expelled Leader's Guide. They seem to be the things that really catch contributors' imaginations, and they're good to read because you have it all laid out in front of you. Could be a good draw. --Kels 12:46, 31 March 2008 (EDT)
Let me just add that the balance between anti-CP and anti-other stuff is a difficult line to tread, especially since anti-CP is constant. Sometimes I think we obsess too much with CP, but on the other times, if there's nothing to debunk or address outside of it, it makes sense to look at CP. In addition, I think some of the vehement emotion against CP needs to be kept in check. Sterilexx 09:58, 2 April 2008 (EDT)
I second Kels - specific refutations and side-by-sides are probably the most conducive to our original goals (anti-science, not political and ideological per se). Having said that, I also think that political and ideological content has a definite place on RationalWiki. That can be shoved into the Religion: or Conservapedia: or Fun: or Politics: or BatshitCrazy: namespace. --Hojidie! 10:45, 2 April 2008 (EDT)

Rational = Atheist[edit]

There are both atheist and religious editors here. And even if they were all atheist, it doesn't mean that atheist equals rational. Since we have lost some editors because of this, some rules should be devised. While I'm not particularly religious, I tend to sympathize with Catholics when they are, irrationally in my humble opinion, called Superstitious Animists (as you can see from my new nick). I also find some "atheist" edits of dubious quality and rationality, such as those of an unnamed female contributor (not Susan). Besides, I know many very rational people who happen to be religious. I don't know Akjeldsen's religious views, but at least he is rational, isn't he? Superstitious animistEd at CP 12:21, 31 March 2008 (EDT)

I second that. Dark Matter Glaucopis 12:40, 31 March 2008 (EDT)
Third - rational =/= atheism, and tolerance should be a touchstone. PFoster 12:43, 31 March 2008 (EDT)
Fourthed. Despite being a hardcore naturalist atheist, I dislike the indiscriminate bashing of religion I often come across here. (It's also a personal issue for me—my brother is the most rational person I know, and he is very religious.) --Star of David.png Radioactive afikomen Please ignore all my awful pre-2014 comments. 14:03, 31 March 2008 (EDT)
Fifthed ;). While I am a strong atheist, any step away from agnosticism at an intellectual level is irrational (IMO), and any step away from it due to personal experience is just that - personal. Ironically, since we really don't have any evangelists for religions active on the site, the occasional crude or blunt or rude or overly simplistic anti-religious things I run into here strike me as very out-of-place, and inconsiderate. That said, when YEC/ID trolls turn up and try to alter our articles to meet or support their perspective, that is also out of line. Tolerance is the key, but not to the point of irrationality. humanUser talk:Human 14:30, 31 March 2008 (EDT)

I'm sorry to be the odd one out but I feel that religious belief is basically irrational. I accept there may be various ways of making this point.--Bobbing up 17:07, 31 March 2008 (EDT)

Of course it is. So is my favorite color, and preference in pizza toppings. We are individually much more a mass of irrationalities than rationalities, and anyone who pretends otherwise is perhaps even more so. However, there is a rationality mixed in there, and there are ways to be "rational" as long as one is not expecting to be so 24/7/365. My strong atheism is an irrational leap from open-ended agnosticism, but I am comfortable with it. Since I know its roots, I don't expect to be able to "convert" people to it, of course. I am insulted and offended, however, when anyone does expect their irrationality to have greater weight or substance or foundations than other people's. Since that is not rational ;) humanUser talk:Human 18:09, 31 March 2008 (EDT)
OK. There may be some otherwise quite rational people who hold (what they sometimes admit to be) irrational religious beliefs. It certainly is possible to discuss religion rationally. But none of that means that religious belief is rational.--Bobbing up 02:54, 1 April 2008 (EDT)

Powers & Rules[edit]

The history of RW is complicated. As a result, there are many "groups": there are the Sysops; there are the founders; there are the members of RW 1.0 and those of the non existant cabal. For discussion, there are the forums, there is the IRC channel, the cabal has its own meeting place and there are RW's talk pages. In addition, we officially are a mobocracy. We started without blocking anybody ever. Then the first compromise was to give short blocks to bunch-of-numbers vandals. Now, besides Lulz blocks, clear vandals are blocked - and TK. Another point of discussion is reversion of contributions by editors. I myself have reverted a couple of contributions - without really knowing were I in the right or in the wrong. There are no rules, there is no identified power hierarchy, there are no procedures for determined controversies between editors. One could argue that they are not needed - but recent problems show otherwise. Superstitious animistEd at CP 12:27, 31 March 2008 (EDT)

I actually am surprised that this hasn't gotten more attention. I think the following has to be adressed:
  1. A clearer blocking policy, especially in terms of what is blockable.
  2. A policy on sysop demotion and promotion.
  3. While I don't think we can have a real "dispute resolution" (at least in the way WP does--we're too small), I think that there has to be a way to deal with conflict, especially editor-sysop conflict. Sterilexx 15:27, 1 April 2008 (EDT)
I sugest we stop using short cool down blocks completly. After all "Brief blocks solely for the purpose of "cooling down" an angry user should not be used, as they inevitably serve to inflame the situation."(wp:Wikipedia:Blocking policy#Cool-down blocks). - Icewedge 15:51, 1 April 2008 (EDT)


I think a large part of our problems lie in the very name RationalWiki. Was this chosen for a reason? I ask because many people seem to equate it with a liberal wiki. I know that the origins of this site lie in a general antipathy for the "fundamentalist" conservative Christian stance of Conservapedia. Now this broad church of exiles covers a wide spectrum of views, from communist Christians to fascist atheists and almost vice versa. There seems to be a general support for debunking science woo but that is not the only sort of irrationality. I believe that most of us have a streak of irrationality, not only is it the basis of our emotions which sometimes cause us to explode with love or rage, but also the what constrains us. Often it takes 20-20 hindsight and a lot of water under the bridge to recognize one's own irrationality.

Many of the arguments posted above seem to say that because someone is "rational" in many facets of their life then somehow their religious beliefs are not irrational. I have asked several times for editors here with a religious inclination to explain how their religion is rational, but have not had any concrete response. Let's face it, it's not and many religious people admit to that. Religion comes from the heart and the irrational side of our minds. Even those who follow a particular dogma tend to pick and choose exactly which bits they want to adhere to and which bits they want to ignore. But are people's belief in resurrection,the power of prayer or divine intercession in our daily lives any more credible than homeopathy (holy water), reiki (laying on of hands) , alien abduction (ascension into heaven) etc. ?

As for tolerance, what should we be tolerant about? It sounds nice and liberal. However, while there is a general disdain for white supremacist, racist, or homophobic attitude, many religions openly condemn homosexuality. So how tolerant must we be of them? Do we tolerate just the individuals, specific faiths or all religious thought? Some religion/religious societies persecute apostates and atheists, are they also exempt from criticism?

Wikipedia has a general mission to provide information with a NPOV, Conservapedia says their mission is to provide a conservative Christian perspective (although that has been usurped by Andy's unique perspective), just what is Rationalwiki's mission and is the name appropriate? Jollyfish.gifGenghis Marauding 15:18, 31 March 2008 (EDT)

(The "mission problem" has already been posted above, so I'll just answer the name question.) I briefly pondered alternative names, but the only thing I thought of that seemed to capture the spirit of the site was "DebunkWiki" or "RefuteWiki", because debunking/refuting things (woo, religion, indiscriminate bashing of religion, pseudoscience, capitalism, communism, and on and on) seems to be our niche. Unfortunately, both names sound ugly and look ungainly. --Star of David.png Radioactive afikomen Please ignore all my awful pre-2014 comments. 16:24, 31 March 2008 (EDT)
I actually don't propose a name change, just a realignment with the name. Jollyfish.gifGenghis Marauding 16:32, 31 March 2008 (EDT)
Well, you got it backwards. Your ideal wiki should be called Atheistwiki. Superstitious animistEd at CP 16:36, 31 March 2008 (EDT)
Whoa, whoa, Genghis, it's just a name. I counsel against turning it into a litmus test. --Star of David.png Radioactive afikomen Please ignore all my awful pre-2014 comments. 17:38, 31 March 2008 (EDT)
Not at all, I'm not proposing an atheist anything. I just want it to be rational, for one thing the site is more than just about religion, although a lot of woo does have a faith-based element. Full blown atheism is not 100% rational as there are obviously many things we still do not know or understand and probably never will. There may be a god, however, what is rational about the religions that purport to worship it? I would like someone with a religious inclination to defend the rationality of their beliefs, especially when it goes beyond just believing that there was an original creator. When people come to RationalWiki what exactly do they think the name means? With Conservapedia, the name is pretty obvious. The founder(s) of the site obviously had reason for calling it RationalWiki. and not MuchNicerThanConservapediaLiberalChristianWiki. Surely all points of view are open to challenge in a rational debate and that includes both religion and atheism. Jollyfish.gifGenghis Marauding 17:47, 31 March 2008 (EDT)
One approach to what is the domain of the wiki is the testability of the subject at hand. Saying that only 144,000 people are going to heaven may be a bit odd to some, but its not something that either we nor them can actually test to see who is right. Whereas saying "the universe is 6000 years old" is something that is testable. Claiming that astrology makes testable conclusions needs to have a "show me the money" bit in the talk page. In instances where it comes down to faith vs faith, we should stay out of it. When it is faith vs objective truth, we come down on the side of the objective truth.
There is a question of "faith vs individual rights" which is awkward - its not testable. Yet, there is a strong feeling of personal liberties. The display in systematic bias which runs counter to the community by those who also spout forth things that are in the wrong and testable would be fair game. This does not mean that one can call people with beliefs that have strange conclusions (believers in the Great Russel Teapot and the Third Reuse of the Teabag) crackpots or other derogatory names. It does not foster communication and polarizes people. When people's opinions become strongly polarized neither group can communicate with the other - making our goal (I would hope) of educating people impossible. --Shagie 18:15, 31 March 2008 (EDT)
I agree completely with Genghis.--Bobbing up 02:57, 1 April 2008 (EDT)

On "Rational"[edit]

I'd guess that originally the name "Rational"Wiki meant something like "Not batshit insane like Conservapedia"Wiki. There seems to have been a drift towards holding the site to a much stricter interpretation ("optimally rational and logical"), which is a pretty dumb thing for a bunch of fallible human beings to try and do. Be content with "not batshit insane" and stop making a rod for your own backs. --Robledo 17:36, 31 March 2008 (EDT)

I'm me too-ing this. I've been taking a backseat on all of this, quite deliberately. I just don't care that much, and there are countless other resources out there that are better than us in almost every field. But we're damn good at 'our thing', and I think it's best described that nebulously. Personally, I just try to get up every day and not be "batshit insane". DogP 17:43, 31 March 2008 (EDT)
Oh, and I also think RA should step away from the computer and get those grades up. :-) DogP 17:44, 31 March 2008 (EDT)
I second Robledo, second DP, and furthermore second DP. RA, get that head in those books and make your ancestor's proud (and give you back broadband in your room)! By the way, I made a lengthy comment on the talk page of this project, but I made it in notepad and only saved it there. humanUser talk:Human 18:03, 31 March 2008 (EDT)
Robledo = EndOfFile. (excuse editing other's comments but ...) Carbon tetrachloride 18:07, 31 March 2008 (EDT)
I see not reason why we shouldn't set ourselves, or at least aim for, the higher standard of rationality.--Bobbing up 03:01, 1 April 2008 (EDT)
This is one of many discussions that has descended into petty snipping and trolling idiocy on RationalWiki.
Here are the others, in case you are curious, bored, or enjoy pain:
- Community Standards/Revamp, January 2009 -- Community Standards/Revamp draft -- Requests for comment/HeartOfGold -- Community Standards/disruption -- HeartOfGold Sysop vote -- Site politics -- User:Copyvio's campaign to stop copyvio -- Serious Business -- Epic debate -- Cat fight -- Barroom brawls -- Voting Procedure -- Inactivity -- Property rights in WIGOs -- Nuclear Option -- Privacy clusterfuck -- The Rationalwiki Reform Society -- Community Standards/TK -- Drama dump -- The case of MarcusCicero -- Voting standards -- User rights and moderation revisited -- Make TK a sysop? -- Analysis of the relative income streams of the National Football League and international rugby union -- The mobocracy -- Statement candidacy for the RationalWiki Foundation Board of Trustees -- Is RationalWiki under the control of Feminist activists? -- Chicken coop/Archive37 -- Chicken coop -