Why I Don’t Use Wikipedia For Debate

Is there a better source that you can go to? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’d like to clarify that this is for the purpose of debate. As a gamer, I have no problem going to something like the Final Fantasy Wiki for information on something in Final Fantasy and I don’t mind pop culture wikis as well. These are areas that are controlled by a fan base where much of the information is agreed upon. What I do object to is in regular debate on controversial issues, people using Wikipedia as a source.

I do not doubt that Wikipedia was founded with a good goal in mind. Surely if we can get the people to come together and share their knowledge and correct one another, then we can get a good and reliable source. The problem is the same as happens when you often have a Bible study. You do not often get common knowledge with some as much as you get common ignorance. When people come together with misconceptions, all that is required is the mass speak very loudly and the minority who actually knows what they’re talking about be shut down by gatekeepers.

Unfortunately, Wikipedia has this problem. When you read something on Wiki, you have no idea who really wrote it. It could be by someone who is a Ph.D. in a relevant field. That’s always a possibility. It could instead be a fifteen year-old kid who is just sharing what he learned in his high school classroom that day.

Most likely, it will be the latter. People who are Ph.D.’s and work hard to get where they are don’t generally just freely give out their information. They might be glad to give a talk somewhere, which happens, and they could have a blog, but for their best information, you have to go and buy the books that they write. That’s how it should be.

Unfortunately, Wikipedia can be badly misused because the gatekeepers are quite likely not really knowledgeable in each subject they watch over. How do they know how to separate the wheat from the chaff? Also, as it stands, Wikipedia can be easily fooled and the misinformation can sometimes be hilarious. (For some hilarious reading on bad writing on Wikipedia, I recommend the Ebooks “Citation Needed.” They can be a bit crude at times, but there is much in there that will literally have you laughing out loud, and I do mean literally in this case.)

One example of Wikipedia being misused was the Shane Fitzgerald case. Fitzgerald was a student at Dublin University and was doing a test. He wanted to see how well the media would do its research in out globalized age. His poetic but entirely fake quote did make several newspapers because, hey, it was on Wikipedia.

More recently is the case of Neil Degrasse Tyson. Many quotes Tyson had given had been fabricated or ripped out of their context. The gatekeepers of Wikipedia worked to stop this from being mentioned on his Wikipedia page. This should be enough to cause anyone to be concerned, and there’s no picking on Tyson because he’s a non-Christian. It’s because fabrication like this is wrong whoever does it. We should condemn a Christian doing it just as much.

Now someone might say “But Wikipedia can have good references.” Okay. If you want to give me information in a debate, then point me to those references, unless of course you haven’t read them. The problem with the internet is anyone can look like an expert when you just do a cut and paste job from a blog or a web site such as Wikipedia. (And yes, I have seen this happen online repeatedly and I always make it a point to call out someone when they do a cut and paste job without proper citation because hey, sometimes there is a citation needed.)

Until then, if you debate me, do not bother citing Wikipedia. I have a firm rule. If it is a debate on these matters, I will not even bother reading Wiki. I will not click the link. Give me a real source because if your claim is true and it is being said by scholars in the field, then you can find a real source.

That could require work. I realize that. If you’re not willing to work in the debate, then don’t show up. That applies to Christians and non-Christians both.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

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