Anti-science extremists have declared war on Wikipedia. While Wikipedia is usually a reliable source for scientific information these days, a new study has found that anti-science zealots have been conducting a terrorist campaign on controversial topics, including acid rain, evolution, and global warming, as reported by Gizmodo.
The study of anti-science actions on Wikipedia, conducted by researchers Gene Likens of the University of Connecticut and Adam Wilson of the University of Buffalo, was recently published in the journal PLOS ONE. The study examined three “politically-controversial topics,” comparing them with four that are generally considered to be non-controversial.
The findings were startling. The Wikipedia articles on acid rain, global warming, and evolution were contrasted with the Wikipedia articles on continental drift, the theory of general relativity, the standard model in physics, and heliocentrism. The edit history of the articles was examined over an almost 10-year period, according to Yahoo News.
As the Inquisitr has previously reported, global warming (or, more scientifically-accurate, climate change) is still a hot-button issue in American politics.
Even Likens wasn’t expecting the results to be as damning as anticipated.
“In the scientific community, acid rain is not a controversial topic. Its mechanics have been well understood for decades. Yet, despite having ‘semi-protected’ status to prevent anonymous changes, Wikipedia’s acid rain entry receives near-daily edits, some of which result in egregious errors and a distortion of consensus science.”
As Likens and Wilson put it in the paper, “Following a long-standing research interest and expertise in acid rain, we noticed that some corrections we or others made on the acid rain article had been changed by major edits to introduce (or re-introduce) balderdash and factual errors into the content.”
Bear in mind that this is acid rain we’re talking about, a term most readers likely haven’t heard in years. The study did not include topics such as genetically-modified organisms (GMOs,) organic food or vaccines.
“Wikipedia’s global warming entry sees 2-3 edits a day, with more than 100 words altered, while the standard model in physics has around 10 words changed every few weeks. The high rate of change observed in politically controversial scientific topics makes it difficult for experts to monitor their accuracy and contribute time-consuming corrections.”
The paper warns that “As our society turns to Wikipedia as a primary source of scientific information, it is vital we read it critically and with the understanding that the content is dynamic and vulnerable to vandalism and other shenanigans.”
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