Examples of Jimmy Wales Statements Supporting Skepticism and Vice Versa
Wikipedia’s co-founder Jimmy Wales has stated on public record his personal opposition to Complementary and Alternative/Integrative Medicine (CAM) and by extension those who advocate and practice these non-conventional medical therapies. The two individuals that are being focused upon for this document are Drs. Gary Null and Deepak Chopra, although there are many others. Mr. Wales has also stated on occasion his intention to support efforts to discredit these therapies’ medical efficacy. The primary entity that spearhead efforts to discredit, and are making concerted efforts to limit the public’s access to CAM practices, is a large network of organizations, groups, publications, and individuals that fall under the name of “Skeptics.” See the attached PDF visual graph that maps the Skeptic network and its relationship with Skeptics who have administrative privileges on the Wikipedia encyclopedia.
Below we are providing the evidence we have gathered from our investigations to support the argument that Wales and his Wikimedia Foundation (the parent non-profit organization that governs the Wikipedia encyclopedia) either act in direct collaboration with the Skeptic network and/or are providing special privileges to Skeptics to control over a 1000 Wikipedia health-related entries without due oversight to correct inaccuracies, unscientific biases, and blatant falsehoods on the biographical pages of CAM health practitioners and advocates, such as Drs. Null and Chopra.
Jimmy Wales Support of Skepticism
In an email exchange in February 2017 regarding what can be determined as best quality resources for referencing content added to Wikipedia, Wales acknowledged his preferential treatment for “skepticism” being a reliable source of information.
Replying to @DPJHodges
My own view is that Wikipedia should be very careful about sourcing, including stepping up skepticism across the board.
5:12 AM – 9 Feb 2017
Replying to @jimmy_wales
Right. And presumably by “stepping up skepticism across the board” we can expect that to include other titles.
Democratic communities are hard to predict, as we know, but I would suppose that such an expectation would be reasonable.
And there we have it. Skepticism is to be the determining arbiter for what can be ruled as “authentic” medicine on Wikipedia. Hence, the Foundation’s Board members and all of its fiduciaries are put on notice that Wikipedia is not objective, is unfair, and it is creating original content based upon a Skeptic agenda that Wales believes is correct despite the fact the scientific literature proves otherwise. Therefore, we believe that all parties involved, from the Skeptic editors to the WikiMedia Board and officers should be held legally accountable.
Dr. David Gorski, an oncologist at Wayne State University’s medical school, a co-founder of the Science Based Medicine blog along with the national recognized Skeptic Dr. Steven Novella at Yale University, and one of the more outspoken and popular Skeptics speaking out against CAM, has claimed he has no communication with Mr. Wales. We have filed FOIAs to Wayne State (a public Michigan state university) requesting correspondence between Gorski, Jimmy Wales and certain Skeptic editors on Wikipedia. We have yet to hear a reply. The writings of Drs Gorski and Novella are very often referenced by Skeptic editors on Wikipedia pages. However, the following Twitter of Gorski’s article criticizing an essay we wrote about Wikipedia indicates there is some level of communication between the two.
Jimmy Wales Retweeted
Indeed it is. Those peddling unscientific medicine just don’t like that.
8:11 AM – 14 Oct 2019
Mr. Gorski, you don’t represent science, you represent naïve realism. Luckily, intelligent people are not swayed by biased terms like “peddling”. Medicine has become integrative because young researchers are intelligent and care abt patients, not about winning some feud.
Wales Twitter Response to Our Article about Deepak Chopra
Why Does @Wikipedia Want to Destroy @DeepakChopra ? I have wondered for a long time. Check out this article and explain please @jimmy_wales @RichardDawkins @Evolutionistrue @SamHarrisOrg @gorskon @michaelshermer . Thanks!
♡ Aurora ॐ added,
Progressive Radio @prn_radio
Why Does Wikipedia Want to Destroy Deepak Chopra? – http://prn.fm/wikipedia-want-destroy-deepak-chopra/ …
The article claims that I called Deepak Chopa one of the most dangerous people on the planet. That is a lie. Many other things in the article are blatantly false.
1 reply0 retweets15 likes
I once met Dr. Chopra at an event in Mexico City. I found him to be pleasant. I certainly would not characterize him as particularly “dangerous”.
2 replies0 retweets9 likes
I haven’t read the article on him recently but when I last did I could understand why fans might be upset. But the problem is not with Wikipedia.
1 reply0 retweets13 likes
We report fairly on his reputation with scientists. We can’t omit that – it is fsctual, it is a relevant part of history.
3 replies0 retweets15 likes
The problem is there’s no source for the “scientific community’s” position, that’s just an assertion. When ten prestigious scientists went on record specifically defending Dr Chopra, all mention of them was prohibited from his page.
Wales Support of Wikipedia Bans of Critics
Wales claims he is neutral over Wikipedia’s content, nevertheless, he has taken personal measures to protect the encyclopedia from criticism.
In 2018, he supported the ban of the British newspaper the Daily Mail from being recognized as a reliable resource to reference on Wikipedia entries. There are sound reasons to believe that Wales’ banning the Daily Mail was an act of conflict of interests and perhaps personal revenge. In 2014 the Mail instructed all of its writers and reporters to never rely on Wikipedia as a single source for conducting journalistic research. On occasion the Mail has printed stories that challenge Wikipedia’s claims of neutrality. One story accused Wales of being a neoliberal insider with the intention to destroy conservatism. Furthermore, Wales has sat on the Board of the Guardian Media Group — the Daily Mail is the Guardian’s major competitor. The Foundation’s executive director Katherine Maher has also written for the liberal-leaning newspaper.
The Mail published a story about the inaccuracy of medical research originating from Campbell University that is frequently referenced on Wikipedia’s 20,000-plus health-related pages. In effect, the Mail was providing a public service to warn readers about Wikipedia’s unreliable information and grossly biased entries on health topics. This is all the more important because many patients rely upon Wikipedia in their attempts to self-diagnose adverse symptoms. It is also estimated that approximately 50 percent of physicians refer to Wikipedia on a regular basis.
In 2017, the Mail reported on a study conducted by the Oxford Internet Institute that found Wikipedia has been relying upon algorithmic bots for over a decade to “enforce bans, check spelling, links and import content.” This includes the undoing of manual and robotic edits made to Wiki pages, a common occurrence on alternative health pages.
Jimmy Wales Adversity Towards Homeopathy
In 2013, Wales posted a comment on his personal Quora page and shared his experience at a London pharmacy where he was offered the popular homeopathic remedy Oscillococcinium for a sore throat and cough. Besides writing that Oscillococcinum “is a complete hoax product,” Wales reveals his contempt for homeopathy, and offers his services to prevent its use. He wrote,
“What I want to know is this: why is this legal? Or, if it is not legal, then what can be done about it? … Homeopathic remedies of no value whatsoever are legally marketed as cures for specific diseases. Who should I talk to about this in order to encourage the creation of a campaign to stop this? This is not my primary area of interest and so I am not the right person to lead it myself. But I would like to help.”
In a later comment, Wales stated, “Well, since I live in London, and the problem of homeopathic quackery seems much worse there [i.e., the US] to me, I think I should meet people working on the problem over there first,” and “we know with full rational certainty that they [ie homeopathic remedies] do not work at all. They are nothing more than placebo sold fraudulently.” Clearly, the people Wales turns to and supports are the Skeptics who are the most militant and aggressive opposition to homeopathy as well as the most ignorant on the subject. The Skeptical Center for Inquiry has even filed lawsuits against major pharmacy corporations such CSV and Walmart for selling homeopathic products.
When a group of homeopaths reached out to Wales to put forth their case of the gross misinformation about Wikipedia’s “homeopathy” entry, they were refused for the simple reason that themselves being homeopaths characterizes a conflict of interests.
For the record, a Cochrane Collaboration review of Oscillococcinum trials concluded that the remedy did not prevent the onset of flu, however its analysis of four clinical trials “suggested that Oscillococcinum relieved flu symptoms at 48 hours.” Wikipedia recognizes the Cochrane research as one of the more preeminent resources for reliable medical information. Another statistical review of the scientific literature conducted by Sloan Kettering Cancer Center concluded that the same homeopathic preparation “probably reduces the duration of illness in patients presenting influenza symptoms.” This information is blocked from being posted on Wikipedia’s page for “Oscillococcinum.”
Wales Adversity Towards Energy Medicine and Energy Psychology
In 2014, a volatile exchange occurred on the internet between Wales and Dr. Debby Vajda, then President of the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology (ACEP). Skeptic Wikipedia editors had viciously ridiculed and condemned Energy Medicine and Psychology. Every effort to correct Wikipedia’s entry, according to Dr. Vajda, was “summarily deleted.” Practitioners of these medical modalities were unsuccessful in their attempts to provide peer-reviewed scientific evidence of Energy Medicine’s successes, nor Energy Medicine’s positive endorsement by professional associations and science publications including the American Psychology Association, the Association of Social Work Boards, the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors, the Journal of Clinical Psychology, the Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases among others. Dr. Vajda concluded that the Wikipedia page for Energy Medicine and Psychology “is out of step with existing peer-reviewed research on this topic, and opinionated, self-described “skeptic” editors are resisting any change.”
In response, ACEP launched a campaign on the grassroots activist site Change.org to sign a petition to refrain from donating to the Wikipedia Foundation because of its prejudiced and preferential treatment given to Skeptics. The petition gained over 11,200 signatures.
In retaliation, Wales replied publicly,
“No, you have to be kidding me. Every single person who signed this petition needs to go back and check their premises and think harder about what it means to be honest, factual and truthful. Wikipedia’s policies around this kind of thing are exactly spot-on and correct. If you can get your work published in respectable journals, that is to say, if you can produce evidence through replicable scientific experiments, then Wikipedia will cover it appropriately. What we won’t do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is equivalent of ‘true scientific discourse.’ It isn’t.”
Wales’ reference to practitioners of alternative medicine as “lunatic charlatans” inspired Skeptics to create a Wikipedia entry: Lunatic Charlatans. The page specifically attempts to align with Wales’ hostility towards these medical systems and notes this is Wikpedia’s official policy:
“This unapologetic endorsement of the NPOV policy on pseudoscience and the policy on fringe science is the clearest indication yet that Wikipedia’s robust response to cranks, quacks and charlatans is solidly in line with Wikipedia’s foundational goals. We should document these things, we should politely explain why we will not follow the line of Natural News, Mercola and Dr. Oz, but will instead follow reputable scientific sources. If science rejects your favored alternative therapy, Wikipedia is not the place to fix it. Instead, come up with robust, replicable scientific evidence, published in reputable journals, and then we will tell the world all about it.”
There is no ambiguity in the above statement. Wikipedia’s stated intention is to censor peer-reviewed medical literature supporting alternative medicine’s efficacy and will make every attempt to continue discrediting it. Wales, in effect, is shutting down free inquiry. Nevertheless most of the greatest advances in science have been by people who dared to think outside the status quo of the dominant paradigm.
Skepticism’s Support of Jimmy Wales
It is not uncommon to find Skeptic sites praising Wales’s embrace of Skepticism and acknowledging him as one of their own. Sites such as Skeptical Science and Skeptools praised Wales in glowing terms for his attack against energy psychology. “Wikipedia’s co-founder Jimmy Wales this week” reports Skeptools, “sent a clear signal to skeptics who edit the user-created encyclopedia – he agrees with our focus on science and good evidence.” After giving undue applause to the success of Susan Gerbic’s network Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia, the article continues,
”Wales makes clear what I have been saying all along – the rules of evidence on Wikipedia are pro-skeptic and pro-science. If you are pushing an idea that science rejects, Wikipedia will reject it too…. Paranormalists and pseudoscientists take note: skeptics are not bullying you off Wikipedia. We are only enforcing the rules of evidence as clearly stated on the service. If you cannot provide adequate evidence for your ideas, they will not be accepted. So says Jimmy Wales, so say we all.”
Wales has provided plenty of assistance to Skeptics based upon Skeptic comments on the internet. Replying to comments Wales made on Quora to offer his help to rid the world of homeopathy, Susan Gerbic replied:
“Jimmy you have already done more than anyone could possibly dream that can be done. You created the most amazing resource in the world. I mean that, not only in English but in every language possible. The English homeopathy page alone gets over 140K views EACH MONTH. That is a lot of people being educated about homeopathy. Thank you. Allowing us editors to ‘do our job’ and keep these articles honest and correctly cited is enough. I can’t imagine what else you can do, my brain is teeny tiny compared to your mighty brain, if you come up with something please oh please let us in on it, we want to help.”