Wikipedia’s Culture of Institutional Bias
Richard Gale and Gary Null PhD
Progressive Radio Network, June 11, 2019
Weekly, millions of people Google their concerns about their health and a large variety of illnesses, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, dementia, etc. They expect, with speed and accuracy, to find the current scientifically based and clinically proven information. The majority of people begin to approach a personal health crisis by turning exclusively to established medical, drug-based protocols. However, these treatments do not always relieve symptoms nor reverse disease. Certainly they do not prevent it.
Increasingly people are seeking second and third opinions. More often than not Google will take a person immediately to Wikipedia. There is an assumption and a reasonable expectation that the information we find on Wikipedia is 1) accurate, 2) soundly researched and referenced from high quality and reliable resources, 3) written by credentialed writers and editors with expertise in the subject, 4) unbiased, and finally 5) objective and balanced. Therefore it is at minimal assumed that at least the content on Wikipedia is scientifically validated and would appear on the National Institutes of Health PubMed database for medical information and research. Whether it is pharmaceutical, surgical or radiological approach, or perhaps a more natural medical modality such as lifestyle change, nutrition, medical botanicals, Chiropractic and Chinese Medicine, it is expected the information will be accurately provided and described. Then using our freedom of choice and informed consent, we can select the medical route that we believe would be most safe and effective.
Unfortunately, our two year investigation into Wikipedia’s treatment of health issues appears to reveal exactly the opposite. In fact, there are many individuals with outstanding credentials who are terrified of having their biographies appear on the open-source encyclopedia. Once a person’s biography is added they will never have control over its content. Often he or she will be faced with slander, character assassination and denigration about their careers and life’s work. All efforts by attorneys and experts in their field will not be able to change a single syllable on a Wikipedia page. Their biographies are frozen as if confined in a Russian gulag for a political crime. They will seek redress by reaching out to the media; but the media too is fully compromised. They may seek open hearings on Wikipedia’s back side to expose unfair behavior and misinformation but will be met either by deafening silence or censorship. They may even seek redress from the IRS or state’s attorney generals for Wikipedia’s gross serial violations of its non-profit status. Consequently, it becomes political and assumingly nothing will happen to correct the errors.
As a result, a small group of relatively uncredentialed , hate-filled individuals commonly known as Skeptics, empowered by Wikipedia’s co-founder Jimmy Wales, have been using the encyclopedia as a social media platform to condemn all non-conventional and alternative medical therapies and its practitioners, even those who seek to benefit from these therapies.
There are hundreds of thousands of clinical trials, research papers and review analyses confirming the authenticity and effectiveness of these natural medical systems. However, for the Skeptics who control and edit these Wikipedia pages, knowing full well that they have Jimmy Wales’ unerring support, the truth is largely irrelevant. Today Wikipedia succeeds the worst of McCarthyism’s witch hunts in the 1950s where there is no proper channel for redress. Even attorneys representing the Silicon Valley titans, Wikipedia among them, have gamed the system.
Should we ask the media — 20-20, Nightline, 60 Minutes, the New York Times and all the other leading newspapers and magazines — why they fail to protect the American and global public from misinformation on a social platform and indulge in a shameful complicity to permit Wikipedia’s deception to continue without proper review and public exposure? Yet none have the guts to undertake an objective investigation to uncover the truth.
Below is a detailed review about what we have uncovered. For deeper investigations about how Wikipedia is on all accounts an enemy of public health, we invite readers to read more thorough articles at https://prn.live/garys-wiki-articles/
Wikipedia and the Medical Profession
In 2012, Americans spent $14.7 billion on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) and non-conventional medical services, such as chiropractors, massage therapies, acupuncturists, and energy medical practitioners and healers. This is almost a third of what is personally spent on conventional medical services. In addition, $12.8 billion was spent on natural supplements, accounting for approximately 25% of what Americans spend on pharmaceutical drugs. The US National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, a division of the National Institutes of Health, calculates that 9% of out-of-pocket healthcare costs are spent on alternative medicine and as of June 2016 the Center estimated that 38% of adults were using CAM and 44% in the 50-59 age bracket. Moreover, this increase is not limited to the well-educated but has been growing across all income levels and racial groups.
These trends pose a serious dilemma for the pharmaceutical industry and the federal health agencies that promulgate only the drug-based paradigm. The gaining popularity of CAM therapies threatens drug company profits and the hospital and healthcare system. It also threatens the private insurance industry which limits itself, with few exceptions, to conventional medicine.
Therefore it is not unreasonable to find concerted efforts underway by the private medical industry to undermine CAM’s and natural medicine’s therapeutic benefits and its long history of safety.
A review of the many individual Wikipedia pages about alternative medicine and natural, non-drug based therapies, should immediately apprise viewers that Wikipedia supports and promulgates the pharmaceutical paradigm. The encyclopedia’s treatment of CAM practices are both negligent and a misrepresentation of the actual peer-reviewed medical literature that confirms CAM’s efficiencies in treating a wide range of diseases, illnesses, and physical and mental health conditions. CAM also provides a preventative strategy to prevent disease, which conventional medicine is neither equipped to prescribe nor has the expertise to advise. Consequently, the drug-based paradigm of medicine is solely therapeutic, and grossly limited at that.
Clearly, if the federal National Institutes of Health acknowledges CAM’s health benefits and medical schools are increasingly offering CAM courses in their curriculum, we would expect this to be accurately reflected in Wikipedia. Unfortunately, this is far from the case. Consequently we should take pause and question the reasons for these omissions. Our investigations clearly indicate that Wikipedia’s exclusion of accurately presenting CAM therapies in a proper and balanced manner is not an act of carelessness or a lapse in editorial oversight. Instead, it is a personal bias that runs throughout the Wikipedia Foundation, starting at the top with its co-founder Jimmy Wales, and trickling down to a large loose-knit network of individuals who have an aggressive agenda to denigrate all CAM systems and alternative, natural medical modalities because they are contrary to the pharmaceutical paradigm. This agenda in turn strengthens the upper echelons of the federal health agencies, notably the Department of Human Health Services and the Centers for Disease Control that have become a revolving door with the pharmaceutical drug industry.
Wikipedia mirrors the agenda of conventional medicine as it is perceived and lobbied for by the leaders and executives of conventional drug-based medicine. And Jimmy Wales has given his full support to the Wikipedia editors, who present themselves as objective volunteers, but in fact hold agendas, beliefs or conflicts of interest aligned with corporate medicine.
Jimmy Wales takes personal measures to protect the seeming integrity of his open-source encyclopedia. In 2018, Jimmy supported his editors’ ban of the British newspaper the Daily Mail as a reliable resource for information to be cited as a reference in Wikipedia entries. There are sound reasons to believe that Wales’ banning the Mail was an act of conflict of interests and personal revenge. The Mail has on occasion published 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 Mail’s major newspaper competitor The Guardian. The Mail also published a story about research coming out of Campbell University about the widespread inaccuracy of medical information on Wikipedia’s 20,000-plus health-related pages. It is feasible to regard the Mail’s article as a public service to warn readers not to rely on Wikipedia for high quality medical research or to attempt to self-diagnose based upon Wikipedia’s misinformation. In 2017, the paper reported on a study by Oxford Internet Institute noting that algorithmic bots have been used for over a decade on Wikipedia pages to “enforce bans, check spelling, links and import content.” This includes the undoing of manual and robotic edits made to Wiki pages. And in 2014 the Mail instructed all of its writers and reporters to never rely on Wikipedia as a single source for conducting journalistic research.
For many current and contemporary subjects, Wikipedia may be understood as both a large public relations behemoth as well as an open-source encyclopedia. Unlike the Encyclopedia Britannica, which relies upon highly learned experts and scholars in chosen fields, Wikipedia accommodates numerous amateurs and individuals with no solid background in the subject manner they have risen to administrate. It is unnecessary for an editor to reveal his or her real name and identity, education level or professional background in order to climb the Wiki ladder to a senior administration position. Many senior editors keep their real identifies and affiliations hidden and only use anonymous names. The deep fundamental flaws and failures in Wikipedia’s structural base have been noted repeatedly by frustrated editors and observers since its founding. And the site continues to degenerate parallel with its growing worldwide popularity and deepening pockets of large donations. Some of the larger donors remain hidden or anonymous.
New York Times best-selling human rights author Edwin Black best described the dangers Wikipedia poses for social progress in his article “Wikipedia: The Dumbing Down of World Knowledge” published on the History News Network:
“…. Wikipedia, the constantly changing knowledge base created a global free-for-all of anonymous users, now stands as the leading force for dumbing down the world of knowledge. If Wikipedia’s almost unstoppable momentum continues, critics say, it threatens to quickly reverse centuries of progress… In its place would be a constant cacophony of fact and falsity that Wikipedia critics call a “law of the jungle.”
Prior qualifications and experience in any given subject clearly mean little to Wales and the Wikipedia community. Wikipedia’s original co-founder Larry Sanger has accused the encyclopedia of overt hostility toward credentialed experts. Sanger is far from being the only academic to be turned off by Wikipedia’s behind-the-scenes chaos which is being led by a recruited group of Skeptics who tend to be disproportionately young and overwhelmingly male.
Wikipedia’s Misuse of Term “Pseudo-Science”
Wikipedia’s page describing its Arbitration Committee on Pseudoscience sets forth principles and criteria to determine what can be properly labeled as a “pseudoscience” on Wikipedia entries. The “scientific focus” of articles is expected to “reflect current mainstream scientific consensus,” however no further definition is provided. A “neutral point of view” is also required, which means “fair representation of significant alternatives to scientific orthodoxy… and legitimate scientific disagreement.” This would include “non-conventional” therapies that now have volumes of peer-reviewed research published in medical journals throughout the world. Skeptics repeatedly violate this rule. Only astrology is listed in the Arbitration rules as an example of what can properly be called a pseudoscience on a Wiki page.
With respect to “questionable science,” if a theory, for example acupuncture or Chiropractic, has a substantial following, although some would allege it to be a pseudoscience, it should not be characterized as such. And finally, under “alternative theoretical formulations,” if a theory has a following “within the scientific community” then it must not be labeled a pseudoscience because it is “part of the scientific process.”
Therefore, the many non-conventional medical modalities supported by clinical research, medical schools and hospitals, should not be framed in derogatory terms. Based upon these criteria alone, a living person who practices or follows any medical system that is not qualified as a pseudoscience should not be referred to as a quack or in Jimmy Wales’ terms a “lunatic charlatan.” Nevertheless, Skeptic editors break these rules repeatedly and the victims have no recourse to correct Skeptic biases and misinformation.
Wikipedia and Skeptics
Ever since Wikipedia came online, it has had its detractors and critics. Yet increasingly its reliability is being questioned by prestigious institutions and credible journalists, including the MIT Technology Review and the recently launched Wikipedia Project at Yale University. Writing for the Huffington Post, journalist Sam Slovick asked a question we should all be asking ourselves every time we click into Wikipedia. Slovick asks, “Has Jimmy Wales’ marauding encyclopedic beast finally corrupted the Internet? Has Wikipedia lost all credibility, its purported neutral system compromised by toxic editors?” The most toxic Wikipedia editors now terrorizing and sabotaging the encyclopedia’s pages more often than not are anonymous non-experts and computer hacks who identify themselves with an extreme form of scientific materialism known as Skepticism. These editors now control and dominate large numbers of Wikipedia entries dealing with non-conventional medicine, parapsychology and doctors, researchers and health practitioners who advocate these disciplines.
Wikipedia’s rules insist editors “assume good faith,” but this rule does not pertain to persons or subjects that Skeptic administrators disapprove of. Those who question both political orthodoxy and “accepted wisdom” in other areas – health and medicine, for example – are mercilessly targeted for the sole purpose of inflicting damage on the reputations of living persons.
This prolific group of so-called Skeptics has embraced a mission to eradicate from all areas of science elements that they term “pseudo-science” or “woo.” Skeptics target not only alternative medical practitioners but entire disciplines and they have Wales’ approval to carry out the Skeptic agenda. Skeptic editors collaborate to declare a person or a topic “Fringe,” after which the standards for reliability and neutrality decrease substantially, allowing editors to add false and defamatory content without worry another editor will come along and revert their libel. “Fringe” articles are fair game for Skeptic editors to test out their efforts to discredit their opposition. It’s normal to see pioneering alternative medical and health doctors and practitioners, who have helped thousands of people, denigrated as “quacks,” and the problem is so widespread that over 11,000 users actually submitted a presentation to Wales urging him to address the problem. Wales effectively laughed in their face, responding that Wikipedia would not consider the work of “lunatic charlatans” – classifying all non-conventional health practitioners as such.
Efforts to add reliable and well-referenced information that may taint the Wikipedia biographies of leaders in the Skeptic movement are immediately removed. Former stage magician and a leading Skeptic spokesperson James Randi’s bio is an example of the shameless flattery these editors offer their idols. Were it merely a case of both sides having a forum to criticize each other, Wikipedia would at least be fair. But permitting one side to break all rules in pursuit of ideological domination while the other side is trapped in an impenetrable thicket of rules destroys the myth of Wikipedia as a neutral platform.
Earlier in the year we had conversations with Wikipedia editor Rome Viharo who has been documenting his unsettling experiences on the encyclopedia for several years. On his blog Wikipedia, We Have a Problem, Viharo writes:
“A number of skeptic activists on Wikipedia believe that only they are qualified to edit a large swath of topics and biographies on Wikipedia, and they seek to purge other editors from those articles or Wikipedia itself. Skeptic activists take this very seriously and treat Wikipedia like a battleground for their activism, where online harassment, slander, bullying, character assassination, and public shaming are all used as tactics to control editing permissions on the world’s largest repository of knowledge.”
Jimmy Wales has repeatedly shown his intolerance towards topics he disagrees with, particularly non-conventional and alternative medicine or whatever he decides is phony or “fake news.” Wales also presumes the prevailing pharmaceutical drug paradigm and the Skeptics’ support of the Science-Based Medicine ideology is science’s final word for determining the diagnosis and treatment of disease; all other medical modalities outside Big Pharma’s purview is fair game for ridicule, incrimination and ultimately censorship.
It is not uncommon to find Skeptic sites praising Wales’s embrace of Skepticism and acknowledging him as one of their own. The site’s Skeptical Science and Skeptools portray 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.”
The Skeptics are a very small contingent of individuals who have been given direct permission and received inspiration and license from Wales to capture Wikipedia’s pages on natural and alternative health. Categorically their goals are to seemingly distort the debate in their favor. Instead of following Wikipedia’s rules to magically produce valuable and objective information out of conflicting analyses, arguments, and conversations, a tiny group of Skeptics have been granted permission to impose its own solutions for how Wiki pages should be reframed and according to their own unpopular ideological beliefs. None of the many non-conventional medical disciplines disparaged by Skeptic activists accurately qualify as pseudoscience based upon Wikipedia’s own arbitration criteria and yet Skeptics have moved the boundaries and evidence clearly shows Wales condones this.
Dr. Stephen Barrett and Quackwatch
The personal website of Dr. Stephen Barrett, better known as Quackwatch, has served as the primary resource for Wikipedia’s Skeptic editors to find information to stage personal attacks against their opponents in the non-conventional medical and natural health professions. As a trained psychiatrist, Barrett has no formal scientific background or credentials to qualify him as a pundit either for or against chiropractic, nutrition and supplements, herbal medicine, homeopathy, or many other alternative medical practices.
Barrett is widely recognized as an ardent Skeptic within the movement. One of his big fans is Wikipedia’s co-founder Jimmy Wales. Both share their mutual support for the Skeptics’ cause to advance scientific atheism and create a pharmaceutical regime. Furthermore, Barrett has been the co-Chair of the Health Claims Subcommittee at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, perhaps the Skeptics’ foremost flagship organization, since 1980. Finally, other prominent Skeptics such Steven Novella, are listed as advisers on Quackwatch.
In addition, Barrett’s membership on the American Council on Science and Health’s (ACSH) Board of Scientific Advisers for over four decades indicates that he has served as a spokesperson for private corporations. The organization’s platforms are radically pro-industry and advocate for genetically modified foods and industrial agriculture, nuclear power, vaccine mandates, natural gas and the deregulation of toxic chemicals. Practically every Trustee member has direct ties to large corporations. Journalist Gary Ruskin has identified the ACSH as a front group for the “tobacco, chemical, fossil fuel, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries.” It has defended Monsanto against lawsuits charging glyphosate or Roundup is carcinogenic. Court records revealed that Monsanto funneled money to the organization, and a Le Monde investigation found the ACSH lobbying on behalf of the agro-chemical industry. Skeptics equally support the Big Agricultural agenda to persuade GMOs are safe and pose no health or environmental risks. A Mother Jones report uncovered that ACSH donors included Chevron, Coca-Cola, Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation, Bayer Cropscience, Procter and Gamble, Syngenta, 3M, McDonald’s, and tobacco giants such as Altria and Phillip Morris. The organization initiated efforts to receive funding for lobbying services rendered from Pepsi, Monsanto, British American Tobacco, Dow Agro, Exxon-Mobil Foundation, and Reynolds American. It also cemented close ties with the Koch family, the owners of Koch Industries and the major funders of the Randian pro-industry American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC; this includes receiving funds from the David Koch Foundation, the Koch family-controlled Claude R. Lambe Foundation and Koch Industry’s allied public relations firm the Bradley Foundation. This is the organization Barrett has been directly affiliated with and benefited from for over 40 years.
Similar to the ACSH, Barrett’s Quackwatch regards itself as a “consumer advocacy” organization and claims to support evidence-based science. Yet in fact they appear to be a small and loose-knit group of Skeptics who focus their full attention on discrediting any all medical protocols contrary to the drug-based medical model. It seems to function as a surreptitious clearing house of misinformation and scientific denialism that has become the most referenced source by Skeptics on Wikipedia.
The serious problem that Wikipedia repeatedly fails to address is the fact that the US Court System has ruled that Barrett is “biased and unworthy of credibility.” In a separate legal case, Barrett v. Rosenthal, the California Supreme Court judge ruled that “Plaintiffs Stephen Barrett and Terry Polevoy are physicians primarily engaged in combating the promotion and use of ‘alternative’ or ‘nonstandard’ healthcare practices and products.”
This is sufficient reason for removing all references to Barrett and his Quackwatch faction as legitimate sources for scientifically reliable information. In the meantime, Quackwatch holds scriptural authority among Skeptics and continues to be a major resource for their aggressive efforts to eradicate alternative medicine by misleading and confusing the public.
Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia
Wales is steeped in Skeptic philosophy and has been an invaluable enabler of the movement. Richard Dawkins, the modern founder of the New Atheism and a principle thought-leader among Skeptics, attended Wikipedia’s tenth anniversary celebration; Wales was photographed alongside his hero. During a 2007 TED talk, Dawkins presented his case that only atheists can serve as the intelligentsia necessary to preserve civilization and continue its march towards progress. He scornfully made the call for “militant atheists” to become more aggressive in the fight against superstition.
Susan Gerbic, with the support of her Skeptic mentor James Randi, took up Dawkins’ call to arms by founding Skeptic Guerrillas on Wikipedia along with her colleagues Mark Edwards and Tim Farley. Farley, a software engineer specializing in internet security and a fellow of Skeptic James Randi’s foundation, also runs the website Skeptical Software Tools. Farley’s sole mission is to provide the virtual tools and applications for Skeptics to dominate the internet and sites such as Wikipedia in order to advance the Skeptic dogma. During an interview at one of the Skeptics’ Amazing Meetings, Gerbic stated, “We rewrite Wikipedia, and proof the pages, we remove citations that are not noteworthy, we add citations, we do just about everything in Wikipedia to improve content.” In a July 2018 issue of Wired magazine, the author reported, “The Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia project has more than 120 volunteer editors from around the world, each of whom Gerbic has recruited and trained herself.” And according to the newspaper Voices of Monterrey Bay, Gerbic claims that as of August 2018 the Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia project had written or fully rewritten over 600 Wikipedia pages, which had collectively received over 30 million views.
Gerbic has earned Jimmy Wales’ approval too. In her video posted on YouTube, Gerbic brags about her team’s success in “drastically” changing Wikipedia’s page on homeopathy and inserting the word “quackery.” She shares her success publicly about how she uses Wikipedia to increase the visits on external Skeptic homepages, primarily the James Randi Educational Foundation, which likely funds her organization. Elsewhere in her training lecture, Gerbic makes a Freudian slip, you can “change the rul (rules)…. er… pages.” Bending the rules includes redefining reliable references, such as including the Skeptics’ main journal, Skeptical Inquirer, which is not peer-reviewed and represents only a tiny fraction of America’s readership. Stephen Barrett’s Quackwatch and the Science-Based Medicine blog started by Skeptic physicians Stephen Novella and David Gorski are also recognized as reliable resources. However, both sources are situated on the far margins of mainstream consensus. Both, in our opinion, are deeply flawed scientifically, lack objectivity, and are written for the sole purpose of promoting a heavily biased ideological perspective about medical science and practice.
Gerbic’s work has received the highest praises from the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) and Center for Inquiry — the leading flagship organizations of the Skeptic movement. She was elected as a Center for Inquiry fellow to join other leading Skeptics such as Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse, Carl Sagan, Michael Mann among others. This network of Skeptic associations, along with the fringe Science Based Medicine organization, now serve essentially as an influential deep state operating freely and with impunity on Wikipedia.
In a sermon to her fellow Skeptics, Gerbic reveals that her recruits do not require any professional expertise or knowledge in a field in order to edit Wikipedia pages. She writes, “Pick your topic, psychics, vaccines, cryptozoology or whatever gets your heart rate going. You can work with the Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia team (we train) or hundreds of other ways to take care of these issues. Quit bitching in your beer, rolling your eyes and DO SOMETHING!” Gerbic’s guerrilla efforts also target the debate over the benefits and potential health risks of genetically modified crops or GMOs. Skeptics give their full weight in support of GMOs and the agricultural chemical industry. Wikipedia continues to argue that “there is a scientific consensus that currently available food derived from GMO crops poses no greater risk to human health than conventional food.” The entry makes no reference to French molecular biologist Gilles-Eric Seralini ground breaking study first published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, and later in Environmental Sciences Europe, which reproduced Monsanto’s own research to prove that rats fed with genetically modified Roundup Ready corn had a dramatic increase in tumors and shorter lifespans. Since GMO crops are heavily laced with glyphosate or Roundup, and other pesticides, there is also no reference to the August 2018 California court ruling that glyphosate- based weed-killers cause cancer. Monsanto was ordered to pay $289 million for its cover-up of this fact. Lawsuits are piling up rapidly against the company for deceiving regulators and users of its products. For Wikipedia’s entry for Dr. Seralini’s biography there is far more emphasis on referencing criticism of his research. The actual results of his research are not mentioned. In our opinion, this is a case example of how Skeptics revert knowledge to align with and shield corporate interests by denying the readers the truths that could protect them.
There is a seemingly direct relationship between agricultural scientists shilling for Monsanto and Gerbic’s activists on Wikipedia. Kevin Folta, chairman of the department of horticultural sciences at the University of Florida, received his fellowship from the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry alongside Gerbic. In 2015, a Freedom of Information Act submitted by the California organization US Right to Know caught Folta shilling for Monsanto and the agricultural industry. An article in Nature confirmed the details. In 2016, Gerbic interviewed Folta for the Center of Inquiry. The discussion confirmed that the Guerrilla Skeptics are also active on editing Wikipedia’s GMO pages. None of this is reported in Wikipedia.
Gerbic’s and Farley’s efforts are having an enormously deleterious impact on Wikipedia and its credibility. In one of Gerbic’s training videos, she states:
“So they’re getting their information from here, so, we can control this, this is so powerful you don’t understand when you put one of these guerrilla skepticism edits up on Jenny McCarthy’s page or Priceline, or Walmart or just some of these pages you’re like glowing inside it’s so powerful to feel like I’ve made such an impact , hundreds of thousands of people can be reading my edit, homeopathy, we’ve changed that page drastically, the lead, the very very first couple of sentences of the page which most people it’s the only thing they read we use the word “quackery” I mean it’s so awesome.”
And Gerbic doesn’t hold back her acknowledgement that her Guerrilla Skeptics own Wikipedia pages:
“Nobody owns their Wikipedia page, we control the Wikipedia pages, the editors. Everyone. And because we’re organized and we have this project we as a skeptic since we’re focused on this we’re not updating bowling page or Internet fans or something like that . . . this is our thing, we need to have this, scientific pages are pretty dang good they’re in really great shape…”
Gerbic makes it clear that she and Farley recruit through the international network of Skeptics who have no professional experience whatsoever in accurately editing a page on medicine or parapsychology:
“I can’t give my opinion on Wikipedia but I can through our spokespeople give an opinion of how I feel about a topic and so on so I’m writing through other people but I need that content first from the JREF [James Randy Educational Foundation] or the CSI [Committee for Skeptical Inquiry] or from Ben Radford or from Ray Hyman whomever, I need the content first. And then I can [edit the page.]”
Weiler concludes, “Much of skeptical sourcing is merely skeptics citing opinions from notable skeptics or from articles in skeptical publications. Rarely do they venture far outside of the skeptical echo chamber to get their information.” In no uncertain terms, Wikipedia distinguishes what are reliable and unreliable sources for reference purposes on its pages. Skepticism’s newsletters, magazines and blogs do not qualify as legitimate, objective references. They are not peer-reviewed. None are acknowledged as mainstream publications. And their articles speak to only a tiny segment of the English-speaking public. Nevertheless, these sources are repeatedly found throughout Skeptic-controlled Wikipedia pages in order to promulgate their narrow perception of science and discredit others.
Gerbic has also launched a separate project called “We Got your Wiki Back Project!” The project’s goal is to further improve Wikipedia pages solely for the benefit of Skepticism’s leading spokespersons. Speaking on a Data Skeptic podcast, she said that this is protect and increase the exposure of Skepticism’s leading spokespersons when they appear in the media. She said, “When they are in the media’s eye, we know that their Wikipedia page views are going to spike.”
Below are summaries of Wikipedia’s tendentious treatment of the more important non-conventional medical systems. Each of these entries has viable research to support claims of efficacy and safety. However, Wikipedia pages on these topics rely solely on critical and negative citations in order to disparage the discipline. The seemingly sole purpose of this effort is to discourage visitors about the authenticity and benefits of these medical therapies. Separately we have written more extensive summaries and analyses for each other subjects.
Wikipedia’s entry for Chiropractic begins immediately by associating it with “pseudoscience”:
“Chiropractic is a form of alternative medicine mostly concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, especially the spine. Proponents claim that such disorders affect general health via the nervous system, claims which are demonstrably false…. Its foundation is at odds with mainstream medicine, and chiropractic is sustained by pseudoscientific ideas such as subluxation and “innate intelligence” that reject science.”
Other noteworthy flaws and misrepresentations in the Wikipedia entry is that Chiropractic’s premise that “disorders [that] affect general health via the nervous system” are “demonstrably false.” And, “spinal manipulation was no more or less effective than other commonly used therapies such as pain medication, physical therapy, exercises, back school or the care given by a general practitioner. There is not sufficient data to establish the safety of spinal manipulations.”
Again, the evidence is clear that Skeptics are controlling the Chiropractic page. Skeptics always leave their footprints because they place undeserved reliance upon their own generated sources as the final authoritative word on issues they criticize. Rarely would a non-Skeptic ever turn to Skeptic publications for acquiring objective and unbiased information. The majority of Americans have never heard of Skeptic’s major publications. Consequently much of Wikipedia’s erroneous claims are taken directly out of Skeptic textbooks, such as Eric Swanson’s Skeptical Science and Society, a seriously flawed diatribe that regards anything outside of conventional medicine as quackery. Swanson happens to be a professional physical astronomer with no credentialed experience in human biology and medicine.
However, based upon Wikipedia’s Arbitration Committee on the matter of “pseudoscience,” Chiropractic does not come close to qualifying. According to the American Chiropractic Association, there are over 77,000 chiropractic doctors practicing in the US today and 2,500 new graduates from the 20-plus leading chiropractic schools enter the workforce annually. A joint Gallup-Palmer College poll in 2015 estimated that over 35 million people visit chiropractors. Therefore Chiropractic has an enormous following, its own theories, its own professional journals and acceptance by admirable percentage within the scientific community. According to Wikipedia’s own definition, therefore, Chiropractic cannot and should not be labeled a pseudoscience because it is “part of the scientific process” by Wikipedia’s own definitions.
Wikipedia vilifies the entire medical system of Homeopathy outright with blatantly derogatory language,
“….is a pseudoscience – a belief that is incorrectly presented as scientific. Homeopathic preparations are not effective for treating any condition; large-scale studies have found homeopathy to be no more effective than a placebo, indicating that any positive effects that follow treatment are only due to the placebo effect, normal recovery from illness, or regression toward the mean…. Outside of the alternative medicine community, scientists have long considered homeopathy a sham or a pseudoscience, and the mainstream medical community regards it as quackery. There is an overall absence of sound statistical evidence of therapeutic efficacy, which is consistent with the lack of any biologically plausible pharmacological agent or mechanism. 
The remainder of Wikipedia’s entry follows this fundamental strategy, and provides no references to support the rationale for why Wikipedia’s opposition towards Homeopathy is so adverse that its entry is one of the largest among non-conventional medical practices referenced in the encyclopedia. It is based solely on literature and references that disparage the discipline while ignoring the huge body of other literature showing how and in what circumstances Homeopathy has been shown to be effective; Wikipedia cites are over 350 references about homeopathy. In fact, a 2013 Rutgers University study, later reviewed in the Washington Post, concluded that homeopathy and Jesus were the two most controversial pages on Wikipedia that inflamed the most contentious debate. Yet among the greater than 1,000 clinical trials and 2,200 basic science experiments and observational studies in the homeopathic literature comprises none showing homeopathy’s effectiveness for certain medical conditions is mentioned. Wikipedia editors have determined that magician James Randi is a reliable, accurate resource according to Wikipedia’s editorial rules. The article also makes the effort to denounce the late Dr. Peter Fisher, the personal physician, and practicing homeopathic doctor, for the current Queen Elizabeth II of England.
The publications of Edzard Ernst, an academic physician and researcher, are especially pronounced to support Wikipedia’s anti-homeopathy stance. Ernst is regarded as a leading opponent of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) in Europe. He was a leading foe of the Smallwood Report commissioned by Prince Charles that concluded CAM was a cost effective strategy and should be included in the UK’s National Health Service. In some respects, Ernst is Europe’s twin of Dr. Steven Barrett, the founder of Quackwatch. Ernst is also a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) in the US. Skeptics frequently rely on CSI articles and members of the organization as authorities to reference in Wikipedia entries. Harriet Hall, a member of the more radical and fringe Science-Based Medicine faction of Skeptics and a contributor to CSI’s magazine Skeptical Inquirer, has called Ernst “the world’s foremost expert … on CAM”.
Wikipedia ignores that fact that India has over 200,000 practicing homeopaths and approximately 12,000 new graduates begin their practice annually. Roughly 800 million people globally rely on homeopathy regularly. Moreover 95% of all French general practitioners, dermatologists, and pediatricians prescribe homeopathy. Homeopathy is included in Switzerland’s national healthcare program. When private drug interests succeeded in getting a policy on the Swiss voters’ ballot to remove Homeopathy from its health system, Swiss voters unanimously defeated the effort.
The Banerji Homeopathic Research Foundation in Kolkata, India, has been successfully treating severe brain, breast and lung cancers for several decades. The clinic now
averages 800-900 patients daily, 300-400 are treated free of charge. Its protocols for brain and breast cancers have been studied at the prestigious MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Department of Molecular Genetics in Houston, which confirmed that the Foundation’s preparations selectively killed cancer cells without harming normal cells. Their joint paper “Ruta 6 selectively induces cell death in brain cancer cells but proliferation in normal peripheral blood lymphocytes: A novel treatment for human brain cancer” was published in the International Journal of Oncology and a joint-investigation with the National Cancer Institute was published in the journal Oncology Reports. Today, the Banerji model is being used in over 80 countries. However, there is no reference to this homeopathic accomplishment on Wikipedia. Why not? Simply stated, the Skeptics who control Wikipedia’s Homeopathy page will not permit it.
In 2013, Wales posted a letter on his personal page on the website Quora sharing 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 support for flu vaccines, 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? … In The Guardian article, “Take-up of flu jab drops” it was reported that the percentage of high-risk elderly people in the UK receiving the vaccine was just under 50%. How many of the other 50% chose not to take it because they believe this hoax remedy will protect them? … My understanding is that the legal situation in the UK is particularly bad. 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.”
For the record, a Cochrane Collaboration review of Oscillococcinum trials concluded that the remedy did not prevent the onset of flu; however four other trials “suggested that Oscillococcinum relieved flu symptoms at 48 hours.” Another statistical review of the published 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 has provided plenty of assistance. Susan Gerbic replied to Wales’ offer:
“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.”
Gerbic clearly blows Wales’ cover as an impartial observer of Wikipedia editing. In a video of a lecture Gerbic presented at a Guerrilla Skeptic workshop, she informs participants about her team’s success in frustrating other Wikipedia editors who oppose their tactics and subsequently removed themselves as editors.
The medicinal properties of plants and natural products found in nature are humanity’s oldest known medicines. The practice of botanical medicine has developed into large, complex medical systems in China, Greece, India, and Persia among indigenous cultures throughout the world. Indian Ayurveda and Classical Chinese Medicine are highly developed medical systems, with very large compendiums of medicinal plants and their properties that developed over the course over 2,000 years. It is estimated that approximately sixty percent of pharmaceutical drugs on the market are developed from bioactive molecules originally found naturally in plants and other living organisms. Many of the more effect anti-cancer and tumor drugs such as Taxol, Vinblastine and Lapchol are plant derived. This not only the case for non-European civilizations, Dr. Norman Fanrsworth, who was head of the Pharmacology department at the University of Illinois at Chicago had compiled a database with thousands of botanical plants’ bioactive properties for the purpose of conducting future drug discovery for diseases. In the 1990s, the publicly traded biotechnology corporation on Wall Street, Shaman Pharmaceuticals, employed ethnobotanists and anthropologists to visit healers and shamans in their native settings, such as the Amazon and the Andean mountains, to learn which plants were used and for which conditions.
Therefore, outside of the Skeptic movement, today the medicinal properties of plants are an unquestionable scientific fact.
Aside from Ayurveda and Chinese medicine, botanical medicine is primarily practiced as Naturopathy. Wikipedia’s description of the medical system begins:
“Naturopathy or naturopathic medicine is a form of alternative medicine that employs an array of pseudoscientific practices branded as “natural”, “non-invasive”, and as promoting “self-healing”. The ideology and methods of naturopathy are based on vitalism and folk medicine, rather than evidence-based medicine. Naturopathic practitioners generally recommend against following modern medical practices, including but not limited to medical testing, drugs, vaccinations, and surgery. Instead, naturopathic study and practice rely on unscientific notions, often leading naturopaths to diagnoses and treatments that have no factual merit.”
In an earlier article, based upon a market report published by the University of Minnesota, each of the top selling medicine plants sold in the US compared Wikipedia statements for those plants and the actual scientific evidence. In every case for curcumin (the primary bioactive ingredient in the root turmeric), ginkgo biloba, resveratrol (the anti-oxidant compound found in grapes and berries), Wikipedia had grossly misrepresented and undermined the supporting scientific evidence. For example, for curcumin alone, the National Institutes’ of Health (NIH) PubMed database records over 11,800 science papers investigating the plant’s biochemistry, medical properties and use in traditional societies. On the contrary, the Wikipedia source to discredit curcumin’s health benefits only looked at a single review of 120 studies.
This is one example of how Skeptics deceive the public by selecting studies and analysis that only support their pre-determined biases against non-conventional medicine. However, the same is true for many other popular and research-supported botanicals that Skeptic editors attempt to discredit on Wikipedia. In addition, you are far more likely to discover Skeptic editors placing more evidence on possibly risks of medicinal herbs rather than their benefits.
Wikipedia Skeptics refuse to acknowledge that compared to pharmaceutical drugs, which account for countless injuries, the large majority of medicinal plants pose minimal dangers. The number of actual deaths caused by botanicals and reported in the federal government’s Vital Statistics System is negligible.
Putting this into perspective, among American seniors alone, there are 9.6 million adverse drug reactions annually. It is estimated that for every day, over 4,000 Americans experience a serious drug reaction requiring hospitalization. Almost 8% of Parkinson cases are induced by drugs for treating other unrelated health conditions. Approximately 61,000 seniors will come down with drug-induced Parkinsonism annually. Psychiatric drugs kill 50% more people than heroin overdoses; in 2014, psychiatric medications accounted for 15,778 deaths. In one meta-analysis of 19 trials following over 326,000 patients taking digoxin or Lanoxin, the most common prescribed form of digitalis for atrial fibrillation and heart failure, there was a 21% increase risk of death compared to patients not taking the medication. And there are other US iatrogenic statistics showing that conventional pharmaceutical medicine poses far greater risks than botanicals: 41,000 hospitalized and over 3,300 dead from ulcers caused by NSAIDS; 163,000 cases of serious mental impairment, memory loss and dementia due to tranquilizers, high blood pressure and antipsychotic drugs; 2 million American adults addicted to sleeping pills; 73,000 cases of irreversible drug-induced tardive dyskinesia from antipsychotic drugs. And this is only the beginning. With a growing awareness about drug health risks, a person would be foolish to not explore the benefits of alternative non-drug-based therapeutic regimens. Yet, Wikipedia’s entry for “Iatraogenesis” fails to mention any of these alarming statistics and barely mentions the urgency of this humanitarian crisis being created by the pharmaceutical industry.
Scientists at the USDA-funded Western Human Research Center in Davis California are collaborating with university medical research labs around the nation to identify promising phytochemicals in herbs and foods to fight cancer. The Center’s state of the art laboratory has already been able to identify half a dozen plant molecules to destroy cells in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia. These include carnosol in rosemary, curcumin, resveratrol in grapes, and ellagic acid and kaempferol in strawberries. And hundreds of other universities and laboratories throughout the world continue to explore the wonders and secrets of the plant kingdom that have yet to discovered.
Skeptic organizations favor pharmaceutical drug discovery over the use of nutritional supplements, including medicinal herbs, as employed in traditional medical systems. The pharmaceutical industry perceives the increasing popularity of the natural health movement as a competitive threat to their drug-based paradigm for treating disease. Wikipedia’s editors make their motivations well known, perhaps unknowingly: “Naturopathy is considered by the medical profession to be ineffective and possibly harmful, raising ethical issues about its practice.” In other words, Skeptics adopt the conventional medical position and undermine botanical medical practice by emphasizing its assumed risks over its confirmed benefits.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM is a complete system, which includes distinct theories of human biology and disease, diagnostic methodologies, acupuncture and moxibustion, herbal medicine, dietary protocols, Qigong and other energy-based therapeutic techniques. Over the course of 5,000 years, it has developed and evolved into becoming the standard form of medicine practiced throughout Greater China. During more recent decades TCM has become increasingly interchangeable with and practiced alongside conventional Western medicine.
In May 2019, the World Health Organization officially recognized the therapeutic value of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as an effective and valuable medical system. This happened after almost a decade of the Chinese government petitioning and lobbying the WHO for TCM to gain acceptance. The consequence is that TCM will now be recognized as a viable medical intervention for treating medical disorders globally. Nevertheless, the WHO was verbally assaulted with outrage from the Skeptic medical community and conventional physicians associated with the pharmaceutical drug industry. Hundreds of millions of people turn to TCM for a variety of minor and severe health conditions. Off the China coast is Hainan, renowned for its TCM programs. A story in the magazine Nature reported that every year tens of thousands of tourists, mostly Russian, visit the city for TCM treatment. Back in 2006, the Boston Consulting Group estimated that the US market for TCM was $13 billion. Now a decade later, TCM has continued to gain popularity as conventional medicine continues to fail to treat diseases.
Wikipedia introduces its entry on Chinese herbology with:
A Nature editorial described TCM as “fraught with pseudoscience”, and said that the most obvious reason why it has not delivered many cures is that the majority of its treatments have no logical mechanism of action….. Research into the effectiveness of traditional Chinese herbal therapy is of poor quality and often tainted by bias, with little or no rigorous evidence of efficacy.”
Wikipedia has a noteworthy amount to say about traditional Chinese herbal medicine. However, its major criticisms rely heavily upon dated five-plus year old reviews of the peer-reviewed research. Some references in fact have nothing to do with Chinese herbology. The majority of clinical research into Chinese botanicals and medical preparations are only found in Chinese databases. Therefore, Western analytical reviews, including the Cochrane reports, are extremely limited, inconclusive and biased. As such, it is disingenuous to assume Wikipedia’s editors have any reliable knowledge in this massive body of science to make any sound judgement about TCM’s efficacy.
Wikipedia’s entry for Chinese botanicals notes one deceptive tactic employed by Skeptic editors who write about subjects they have no knowledge of. For example, Skeptic editors reference an article from the South African Medical Journal to discredit Chinese medicinal plants. However, none of the six botanicals mentioned in the journal article are found in the Chinese pharmacopoeia. Each was an African plant. Nevertheless, since the article was critical of medicinal claims associated with each of these plants, Wikipedia editors referenced it nevertheless seemingly as a means to confound visitors to the page.
With respect to acupuncture, which is also central to TCM, Wikipedia relies upon the personal subjective writings of Skeptic and Science Based Medicine movement founder Stephen Novella, who calls this ancient medical practice a “theatrical placebo.” Ignoring an enormous body of scientific literature confirming acupuncture’s efficacy for treating pain, Skeptic editors instead emphasize its “negligible clinical significance.”
Energy Medicine and Psychology
Energy Medicine and Energy Psychology have developed into a broad discipline that includes energy healing, acupuncture, homeopathy, bio electromagnetic and magnet therapies, light therapy, electrodermal therapy, psycho-neuroimmunology, applied kinesiology, mind-body techniques such as meditation, and traditional hands-on healing techniques. The latter can include traditional therapeutic touch and massage, reflexology, cranial-sacral and polarity therapies, external qigong, and intentional faith healing.
According to Wikipedia’s entry,
“Energy medicine, energy therapy, energy healing, psychic healing, spiritual medicine or spiritual healing are branches of alternative medicine based on a pseudo-scientific belief that healers can channel healing energy into a patient and effect positive results… While early reviews of the scientific literature on energy healing were equivocal and recommended further research, more recent reviews have concluded that there is no evidence supporting clinical efficiency. The theoretical basis of healing has been criticized as implausible, research and reviews supportive of energy medicine have been faulted for containing methodological flaws and selection bias, and positive therapeutic results have been dismissed as resulting from known psychological mechanisms.”
In addition, Wikipedia sharply criticize energy medicine’s scientific theoretical rationale, which is otherwise based upon the physics of bioelectrical and biomagnetic activity instead of conventional medicine’s biomolecular chemistry. The encyclopedia states,
“Physicists and sceptics roundly criticize these explanations as pseudophysics – a branch of pseudoscience which explains magical thinking by using irrelevant jargon from modern physics to exploit scientific illiteracy and to impress the unsophisticated.”
Wikipedia references the biased and opinionated website Quackwatch for assessing Energy Medicine. On that site it denounces the therapy as completely senseless and the proposed mechanism of action impossible.”
In 2014, a volatile exchange occurred on the internet between Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales and 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 make changes to the Wikipedia entry, according to 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. 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.” Energy Medicine relies more upon physics and the theory of “biofields” rather than conventional molecular biology. This is an emerging field in medicine that Wikipedia Skeptics show no familiarity, expertise nor experience with. Even Wikipedia’s entry on biofields reveals an extraordinary amateurish and uninformed knowledge about the subject. Wikipedia Skeptics write, “Biofield therapies are intended to affect energy fields that purportedly surround and penetrate the human body. The existence of such fields has not been scientifically proven.” On the other hand, entries for other scientific subjects that directly support the theory of biofields, which are not being controlled or written by Skeptic editors — such as electrophysiology (electrical properties of cells and tissue), electroreception (sensory electric fields of organisms) and bioelectromagnetics (organisms’ sensor magnetic fields) — are treated accurately.
In response, ACEP launched a campaign on the grassroots activist site Change.org to sign a petition that for signatories to agree 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.”
Vajda provided Wikipedia with 51 peer-reviewed studies from the scientific literature, 18 which were randomized controlled studies. These were published in highly respected journals including the American Psychological Association, the Journal of Clinical Psychology, the Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases, Psychotherapy Theory Research and Practice and others showing positive statistical results outside the range of chance. For example, a University of Wisconsin review of clinical studies utilizing biofield therapies in cardiac patients found efficacy in reducing anxiety and stress, improved muscle relaxation, heightened sense of well-being, and a reduction in pain. Another review conducted in 2016 review found that while most “novel interventions” for PTSD treatment have not demonstrated efficacy, four energy-based or mind-body techniques (acupuncture, emotional freedom technique, mantra-based meditation, and yoga) had “moderate quality evidence from mostly small- to moderate-sized randomized clinical trials” and were worthy of further study.
Regardless of these references that qualify on all counts as a legitimate Wikipedia sources, Wales has continued to align himself with the Skeptics to describe Energy Medicine and Psychology as a “pseudo-science.”
Wales’ statement mirrors the same or similar ideological positions that flourish throughout the Skeptic movement and organizations. “Lunatic charlatan” is a common expression found in Skeptic literature and blogs. Furthermore, Wales’ response clearly indicates that he has absolutely no intention to interfere with the editorial process for Energy Medicine and Psychology and encourage the entry’s Skeptic editors to properly review the literature and make the necessary corrections, additions and changes for a balanced and accurate explanation about this medical system.
In a study published in the May 2014 issue of the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, researchers at Campbell University in North Carolina conducted an analysis of references on Wikipedia for ten of the most costly disease conditions (i.e., coronary artery disease, lung cancer, depressive disorder, osteoarthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, diabetes, back pain and hyperlipidemia). The study randomly selected medical professionals to conduct the reviews. The results found statistically significant inconsistencies and discordance between Wikipedia’s cited resources and the corresponding peer-reviewed medical literature. The study concluded that “physicians and medical students who currently use Wikipedia as a medical reference should be discouraged from doing so because of the potential for errors.”
Wikipedia and AIDS/HIV
The term “AIDS denier” has entered the medical lexicon to demean certain individuals, primarily medical experts and virologists, who have raised questions about the consensus view regarding the HIV virus and its bio-molecular activities as a causal agent for Autoimmune Deficiency Syndrome or AIDS. Because of the term’s unflattering connotations, Skeptics have employed it to defame their enemies. Wikipedia’s entry for AIDS, HIV and in particular the primary drug of choice for treatment, azidothymidine or AZT, does not permit dissenting views. There remains a debate about how exactly this retrovirus causes the many horrendous life-threatening conditions associated with AIDS. One area where Skeptics show the least tolerance, reflected in the encyclopedia, is the AZT entry, which against all evidence is described as “the most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system.” In fact, the manufacturer’s insert for AZT has a long running list of warnings and adverse effects including: hematologic toxicity to bone marrow reserve, aplastic and hemolytic anemia and neutropenia, rapid reduction of hemoglobin, myopathy and myositis with pathological changes, lymphadenopathy (an inflammatory disease of lymph nodes), pancreatitis that may lead to cancer, cardiomyopathy, hepatic encephalopathy and many other equally dangerous conditions that could lead to death. You will not find most adverse effects listed under AZT”s Wikipedia page; moreover, is this what Skeptics define as a safe drug?
In fact, The British-French Concorde AIDS study was perhaps the largest AZT clinical trial ever conducted at that time and enrolled 1,749 patients over a three-year period. Rather than focus on patients displaying serious AIDS symptoms, it included patients testing positive for HIV but who had not shown symptoms. The participants were roughly divided equally to receive either AZT or a placebo. The results were significant. Among the AZT group there were 79 AIDS-related deaths but only 67 deaths in the placebo group. The AZT group also showed a lot more adverse effects. The study concluded that AZT was a waste of time.
The Concorde study was very significant and presented strong clinical evidence that AZT is likely not the most effective course for treatment. Considerable debate arose within the scientific community and barely made known to the public. Nevertheless, any reference to the Concorde study is absent in Wikipedia. In our opinion, the reason for this is an intentional silencing of vital information that Skeptics are determined to keep hidden from the public. In the meantime, individuals who have raised questions about the course of conventional AIDS treatment, such Dr. Gary Null and French physician Emanuel Revici, are wrongfully branded as deniers in order to discredit their reputation and accomplishments.
Abuse of Biographies of Living Persons
The primary leaders and spokespersons for the Skepticism movement such as Quackwatch founder Stephen Barrett and Science Based Medicine’s Steven Novella have pristine Wikipedia biographies. The same is true for all of the leading spokespersons in the Skeptic movement, including Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, Paul Kurtz, Daniel Dennett, James Randi, and Susan Gerbic, as well as the movement’s more prominent medical doctors such as Jerry Coyne, David Gorski, Harriet Hall and Paul Offit. According to Wikipedia’s criteria, both the Wall Street Journal and Scientific American are very reliable sources to reference. Nevertheless, attempts to cite criticisms about Jerry Coyne’s seriously flawed research and books, for example, cannot pass the Skeptics guarding his bio. And there is plenty of criticism to cite for each of these individuals to bring balance to their biographies and permit users to decide for themselves. Just as factual evidence and references are not permitted to support the scientific credibility of alternative medicine, parapsychology and its proponents, nor can factual criticism of publicly visible Skeptic thought leaders be added for Wikipedia users to have a more accurate image about who these people really are and what they stand for. Sadly, all biographies about living Skeptics are maintained and protected by Skeptics. There is absolutely no balance whatsoever in Skeptics’ personal Wikipedia biographies. Criticisms, conflicts of interest and controversies are not permitted to be added. Editors attempting to bring a realistic balance to these people’s lives can be quickly banned.
In a letter posted online to Dr. Deepak Chopra, biologist Dr. Rupert Sheldrake opines:
“… Wikimedia skeptics are the self-appointed frontier guards of science, a job for which they think they need no credentials except their fervor….. It is easy to be a media skeptic. You get the last word. You can say what you like. You don’t have to spend years doing actual research. And you yourself can remain immune from criticism, because those you criticize have no right to reply.”62]
The Wikipedia entries for Drs. Rupert Sheldrake, Deepak Chopra, Dean Radin and many others have been repeatedly victimized by radicalized Skeptics for many years. Although all of these individuals possess impeccable credentials and are visionaries in their own right, their positions on consciousness, non-conventional and natural medicine, mind-body theories and psychology have been anathema for Skeptics’ materialistic and reductionist beliefs. Earlier, Chopra and Sheldrake were forced to recruit the assistance of Wikipedia editor Rome Viharo to make editorial efforts on their Wikipedia pages and correct the blatant falsehoods. Viharo was largely unsuccessful and found himself silenced and censored by Skeptics controlling these pages at the time.
Rupert Sheldrake is a British biologist and author of over 85 scientific papers and 13 books. He has been was a scholar at Cambridge University, where he earned his doctorate in biochemistry, and was later a fellow at Harvard University, where he studied the history of science. While at Cambridge’s Clare College, Dr. Sheldrake was the Director of Studies in biochemistry and cell biology. He is credited with co-discovering the functions behind the transportation of the hormone auxin in plants. He has also held positions at the world-renowned Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Trinity College at Cambridge University and is currently a Fellow at the Institute of Noetic Sciences in California. He was ranked among the top 100 Global Thought Leaders for 2013 by the Duttweiler Institute, Switzerland’s leading think tank. As impressive as his Sheldrake’s credentials are, however, you will not find many of them on his Wikipedia page. Instead his entry is largely devoted to discrediting his theories because they directly confront and debunk some of Skepticism’s most cherished beliefs in radical reductionist Scientific Materialism.
If anyone, including Dr. Sheldrake himself, attempts to present the case for corrections in the biography on his Wikipedia “Talk” page, they will find the message:
“The subject of this article is controversial and content may be in dispute. When updating the article, be bold, but not reckless. Feel free to try to improve the article, but don’t take it personally if your changes are reversed; instead, come here to the talk page to discuss them.
“The Arbitration Committee has authorized uninvolved administrators to impose discretionary sanctions on users who edit pages related to living or recently deceased people, and edits relating to the subject (living or recently deceased) of such biographical articles, including this article.
“The Arbitration Committee has authorized uninvolved administrators to impose discretionary sanctions on users who edit pages related to pseudoscience and fringe science, including this article.
Here we observe Wikipedia’s own Committee aligning itself with a flagrant bias to identify Sheldrake’s scientific research with “pseudoscience.”
Very likely, Prof. Jerry Coyne, an American biologist, former professor at the University of Chicago, and a hardened Skeptic ideologue is a major administrator overseeing Sheldrake’s entry. Coyne has also had a long-standing conflict with Rupert Sheldrake. However, more important, Coyne is closely affiliated with the internet militant group Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia and its founders Tim Farley and Susan Gerbic.
Deepak Chopra is a world renowned medical doctor, author and speaker best known for bringing Ayurvedic medicine to a mainstream audience. He is board certified in internal medicine and endocrinology and focuses on mind-body spiritual healing through multiple modalities. Wikipedia’s introductory paragraph for Chopra makes no reference that he is in fact a medical doctor. The very lengthy entry is littered with the criticisms of Skepticism’s most ardent ideologues such Richard Dawkins, David Gorski, Harriet Hall, Timothy Caulfield, Paul Kurtz, Jerry Coyne, Paul Offit, and others — every name mentioned belongs to the same cultist club in the fringe movement of Skepticism. In our opinion, not a single person in this list should be regarded as an objective unbiased voice to rely upon and reference for a legitimate encyclopedia.
Dr. David Perlmutter’s Wikipedia page is nothing less than a Skeptic hit job. Criticisms far outweigh his actual biography and theories despite his receipt of the 2002 Linus Pauling Award, the National Nutritional Foods Association Clinician Award and the “Communications and Media Award” from the American College of Nutrition. Perlmutter is also a medical adviser for television’s Dr. Oz Show. His biography fails to note he is a neurologist and simply calls him a “celebrity doctor.”
Dr. Dean Radin is currently the Chief Scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) and a distinguished Associate Professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies. He is on record stating that his role has been strictly that of a scientist investigating and researching para-psychological phenomenon. He was one of the first to develop the first computer-based artificial intelligence training system. He has held appointments at AT&T Bell Laboratories, Princeton University, the University of Edinburgh and the Stanford Research Institute International (SRI). In Wikipedia’s introductory paragraphs for Radin, there is no mention of his expert credentials bust simply labels him as a “parapsychologist.” Again, Skeptics are prominent in the citations on Radin’s Wikipedia entry, including a reference to The Skeptic’s Dictionary, which is hardly a reliable or widely acknowledged source for objectivity. No mention is given to the fact that Dr. Radin’s books have been praised by two Nobel Prize winners (Dr. Kerry Mullis who invented PCR technology and Dr. Brian Josephson, who received the Nobel in Physics at the age of 22 while at Cambridge University). Other noteworthy voices praising his work are molecular biologist and neuroscientist David Presti at the University of California at Berkeley, cognitive neuroscientists Mario Beauregard at the University of Arizona and Michael Block at the University of San Francisco, Dr. Paul Werbos (program director at the National Science Foundation), Stanford professor emeritus of physics Peter Sturrock, and the renowned public advocate attorney Daniel Sheehan, best known for his roles in the Pentagon Papers, the Silkwood Murder, Iran-Contra, Ten Mile Island and Standing Rock trials.
Dr. Radin’s Wikipedia page, launched in August 2004, has been edited numerous times during the past 14 years. It is an excellent example of Skeptics’ editorial strategies. The original biography was short and innocuous. Five short paragraphs containing a straightforward biographical profile of 11 sentences has now morphed into a lengthy essay devoted to referencing Radin’s critics in a manner that promulgates the Skeptic doctrine that paranormal experiences do not exist and such claims are simply wishful thinking or hoaxes by charlatans. In his page’s editorial history, a typical Skeptical editor under the pseudonym Susha23 attempted to include the sentence, ”’Dean Radin (born February 29, 1952) is a pseudoscientist who defrauds millions of people a day with his books The Conscious Universe.” Fortunately Susha23 was banned from editorial privileges.
The National Vaccine Information Center was founded by health and vaccine activist Barbara Loe Fisher. The Center has been in existence as a watchdog organization since 1982 and played a constructive role in the passage of President Reagan’s National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act. Oddly, the NCVIA has turned into a revenue boon for the vaccine industry because the bill excuses private corporations from lawsuits due to vaccine-related injuries and deaths. But Wikipedia in its first paragraph describes the NVIC “as a leading source of fearmongering and misinformation about vaccines.” Wikipedia is staunchly pro-vaccination and presents the argument that vaccines are unanimously safe and effective. This is the Skeptics’ position as well. Consequently, Skeptic editors are quick to delete any and all scientific publications that cite studies that offer evidence contrary to this dogma.
Blame Jimmy Wales
In our opinion, Wales refuses to take personal responsibility for the gross misinformation, covert marketing, and editorial censorship that plagues Wikipedia. Rather, he consistently hides behind the ruse of the encyclopedia being an open invitation for anyone to edit content, or at least attempt to do so, and reaffirms his belief that truth will prevail through the infighting between Wikipedia editors. Wales consistently reassures critics that he is aware of the problems and that Wikipedia’s editorial process is not perfect. However, the fundamental corruption on the site resides within the administration of content, which is not based upon any expertise whatsoever in a topic under review, but on seniority based upon how many successful edits a person has made.
As noted in examples above, it is common to find Skeptics and their websites praising Wales’ embrace of Skepticism and acknowledging him as one of their own. After giving undue applause to the success of Susan Gerbic’s Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia, the site Skeptools remarks,
“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.”
There can be no doubt that the Skeptic movement has fully hijacked the encyclopedia. A deep analysis of Skepticism’s strategy, its rhetoric and lines of logic incorporated into Wikipedia reveal that Skeptics are applying the very same tactics used by the tobacco industry. The goal, in our opinion, is to generate doubt about cheaper, safer, effective, less toxic natural remedies that may compete with the pharmaceutical industry and its culture of drug-peddling. It is also an attempt to seduce Wikipedia users and persuade them to stay clear of anybody who offers a safer and perhaps more effective treatment for disease other than pharmaceutical drugs and surgery. To be clear, Skeptics, whether or not they receive direct funding from drug companies, are ardent supporters of the private medical industry and the drug-for-every-disease paradigm. And Wikipedia has served as a perfect vehicle to further profit the pharmaceutical’s hold on conventional medicine and reduce the public information about healthier, non-drug-based, alternative medical regimens.
1 Thompson, Dennis. “Alternative medicine taking hold among Americans: Report,” Healthday, June 22, 2016. https://consumer.healthday.com/alternative-medicine-information-3/mis-alternativ e-medicine-news-19/alternative-medicine-taking-hold-among-americans-report-712167. html and “The use of complementary and alternative medicine in the United States.” National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. thttps://nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/2007/camsurvey_fs1.htm
3 Edwin Black best described the dangers Wikipedia poses for social progress in his article “Wikipedia: The Dumbing Down of World Knowledge” published on the History News Network
9 Viharo, Rome. “Factual harassment versus fictional harassment, Deepak Chopra’s Wikipedia article reflects larger problem,” Wikipedia We Have a Problem. March 26, 2016. http://wikipediawehaveaproblem.com/2016/03/factual-harassment-versus-fic…
27 Hall, Harriet (2018). “The Case That CAM is Unethical”. Skeptical Inquirer. 42 (5): 59–61.
29 Prasanta Banerji Homeopathic Research Center. http://www.pbhrfindia.org/cancer-and-the-banerji-protocols/types-of-cancers-treated-at-pbhrf.html
30 Banerji Protocols. http://www.banerjiprotocols.in/
34 Wikipedia entry for “Naturopathy,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naturopathy
35 Richard Gale and Gary Null, “Wikipedia’s Skeptical Assault on Botanical Medicine,” Progressive Radio Network, May 18, 2018
36 Wikipedia entry for Curcumin. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curcumin
37 US Department of Agriculture. “Food Compounds that Kill Test-Tube Cancer Cells Analyzed.” Science
Daily. March 10, 2008 https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080307080638.htm
38 K Anderson. “Psychiatric medications kill more Americans than heroin.” January 5, 2016. https://www.rehabs.com/pro-talk-articles/psychiatric-medications-kill-more-americans-than-heroin/
39 M Vamos, J Erath, S Hohnloser. “Digoxin-associated mortality: a systematic and meta-analysis review of the literature.” European Heart Journal 015) 36. 1831-1838.
42 Wikipedia. op.cit.
44 Weiss AJ, Freeman WJ, Helsin KC, Barrett ML. “Adverse Drug Events in U.S. Hospitals, 2010 Versus 2014” Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project. January 2018
45 “Hard to swallow,” Nature. Volume 448, 12 July 2007, pp 105-6.
46 Wikipedia “Chinese Herbology.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_herbology
47 Siegfried, N. L; Hughes, G (2012). “Herbal medicine, randomised controlled trials and global core competencies”. South African Medical Journal. 102 (12): 912–3. doi:10.7196/samj.6392
48 Ekor, Martin. “The growing use of herbal medicines: issues related to adverse reactions and challenges in monitoring safety.” Front Pharmacol. 2013; 4: 177. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3887317/
49 Rubik B, Muehsam D, Mammerschlag R, Jain S. “Biofield science and healing: history, terminology and concepts,” Glob Adv Health Med. 2015 Nov;4 (Suppl): 8-14
50 Wikipedia entry for “Energy Medicine” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_medicine
53 Lily Hay Newman. “Jimmy Wales Gets Real, and Sassy, About Wikipedia’s Holistic Healing Coverage” Slate. March 27, 2014 http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2014/03/27/jimmy_wales_denies_petition_from
54 Wikipedia entry for “Biofield” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biofield and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Biofield_therapies
55 Change.org. https://www.change.org/p/jimmy-wales-founder-of-wikipedia-create-and-enforce-ne
56 Lily Hay Newman. op cit.
58 J. A. Rindfleisch, “Biofield therapies: energy medicine and primary care,” Primary Care, vol. 37, no. 1, pp. 165–179, 2010