Exclusive to STR
August 16, 2006
Wikipedia is getting a lot of bad press. It doesn't deserve it.
If you are not familiar with Wikipedia, it is a web-based encyclopedia which is totally (with very few exceptions) open to the public. By open to the public I don't mean that anyone can view it for free; I mean that anyone can write it, edit it, delete entries, change things, correct errors, enlarge upon topics, clarify issues, or totally trash the joint.
It is OPEN to the public.
Stephen Cobert, live on his Comedy Central TV show, proceeded to change his own Wiki entry repeatedly in an effort to (well, who can say what goes on in that mind!) demonstrate that one cannot take anything on the Wikipedia as accurate. It was a quite funny and convincing skit.
But he was wrong.
Or he was right.
It all depends upon your world-view.
You see, the ability for anyone to make any changes to a "wiki" is both its strength and its weakness.
A standard reference source is valuable because it is written-in-stone, so to speak, by people we can count on. They are the authorities, after all. If they say that the earth is flat and that the sun revolves around the earth and that Jesus was born of a virgin ' well, you can count on it! It was, after all, written by experts in the field who have the confidence of those in positions of power and authority.
Not just any boob off the street can write an encyclopedia, you know.
If you can't trust these people, then just who can you trust?
Now the Wikipedia is pretty much the antithesis of the above model of the world. Those in highly regarded positions of power and authority have no control over what is on a "wiki" page. It is quite amusing, as a matter of fact, to watch the changes that show up more or less spontaneously on some political windbag's wiki page!
A wiki page is frequently the combined efforts of a variety of people from disparate locations, educational backgrounds, time zones, inclinations, ages and perspectives. Galileo, for instance, could have, if wikis had existed back then, modified the pages regarding the nature of the universe. A more contemporary example might be that "Deep Throat" could have corrected Nixon's page on the Watergate issues. Or perhaps you might even go so far as to question the idea that Weapons of Mass Delusion were used by the White House.
Now, obviously, if you are the type of person who seeks to have a concrete, true, trusted and proven vision of the world around you, perhaps you might feel outraged and totally distrustful of any source of facts that any anarchist off the street can come along and muck about with. You might be more inclined to seek the counsel of those who wear ties, and who keep regular hours.
If, on the other hand, you are the sort of person who has faith in his fellow human beings, who believes that the general inclinations of people are kindly, who recognises that there are people who can be very hateful and destructive, but that those sorts tend to generally migrate toward positions of power and authority due to their own fears-to-trust-to-the-nature-of-the-human animal . . . well then maybe you may come to understand that the Wikipedia is THE truth. It is a source of information which, just as any other, it is up to the reader to judge and weight and consider.
The fact that it is fluid, open and democratic means that it is more likely to have the broadest source of minds, research and information in general informing its pages, and that as knowledge changes and grows there is a much better chance that new ideas will show up there than down at the local funded-by-the-I.R.S.-thug-inspired-taxpayer "supported" "educational" indoctrination institution or library.
Please feel free to base your consideration on whichever worldview you choose to hold. If you believe it then you know it is the truth.