The “Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology” put up this petition at Change.org, demanding that Wikipedia loosen its criteria for posting about alternative medicine. The petition argues that areas like acupuncture, energy psychology and other such mishigass “are being controlled by a few self-appointed ‘skeptics’ who serve as de facto censors for Wikipedia.”
I’m not sure what “comprehensive energy psychology” is, but its website describes it, in part, like this (my emphasis):
Energy psychology (EP) is a family of integrative approaches to psychotherapy, coaching and healthcare treatment rooted in mind-body healing traditions that are up to 5,000 years old. EP methods blend the bio-energetic insights of these traditions with the best of contemporary psychological practice, and have been refined through 35 years of modern clinical experience with millions of clients throughout the world.
Energy psychology gently and swiftly release traumatic events that are frozen in time in the body-mind system. These events can negatively influence how a person sees the world, experiences and regulates emotion and relates to other people.
Embracing what modern physicists and ancient wisdom traditions know, energy psychology acknowledges the role of bio-energetic systems within and between people as important determinants of health and well-being, illness and pathology.
Energy psychology theory suggests that psychological problems are a reflection of disturbed bio-energetic patterns within the mind-body system—a system that involves complex communication between a person’s neurobiology and their cognitive-behavioral-emotional patterns.
And that sounds like classic woo to me—a combination of Scientology and past-life regression. In fact, it’s just a fancy description, in “bio-energetic terms” of the fact that mental problems may result from bad social interactions as well as their biology. But the part about “gently and swiftly releasing traumatic events” is very woo-ish.
Regardless, if the field has claims, and those claims, like all scientific claims, are to appear on Wikipedia, they must be documented with results from peer-reviewed journals. For that is the policy of Wikipedia, and it’s a good one, too—preventing people like Rupert Sheldrake from dominating the pages with unsubstantiated woo. (Remember, these woo-meisters have legions of rabid followers eager to “sit on” their Wiki pages.)
Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia, a group headed by Susan Gerbic, and one I like a lot, has taken up the cudgels to ensure that “wooish” claims are documented scientifically. Their agenda is only that extraordinary claims be supported by solid evidence, yet they’ve been excoriated by the likes of Sheldrake and Deepak Chopra, neither of whose pages they’ve touched. So they’ll be please by the announcement that Wikipedia’s founder, Jimmy Wales, will have none of this nonsense, and he’s responded to the petition as follows:
That is what is know in the trade as a “pwn”. Indeed, look at how he characterizes some of these people: as “lunatic charlatans.” It’s rare, but refreshing, to see such no-nonsense language used by such a powerful person.
Over at Skeptical Software Tools, Tim Farley describes the kerfuffle:
In the last year or so, the success of Susan’s project has gotten many paranormal and alternative medicine advocates riled up. They’ve repeatedly floated conspiracy theories that skeptics are somehow rigging the game on Wikipedia, or even bullying opponents off the site. Even personalities like Rupert Sheldrake and Deepak Chopra have gotten involved. None of these accusations have been supported by facts, and both Sheldrake and Chopra have been subsequently embarrassed by their own supporters’ rule-breaking behavior on the service.
With this response, 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.
. . . This petition has dribbled along for several months since it was posted, failing to reach the 10,000 signatures that were sought. (And, as some have pointed out on Twitter, the wording of this petition was not well chosen. By quoting Larry Sanger, who famously disagreed with Wales early in Wikipedia’s life and quit the project, they were almost sure to antagonize Wales. This tone-deafness and lack of research is not unusual, as skeptics know). [JAC: by this morning it had accrued 7875 signatures out of the required 10,000.]
And Farley adds a list of useful links:
Some additional reactions to this from around the skeptic blogosphere:
Kylie Sturgess at Token Skeptic is “cheered.”
Steve Novella at Neurologica says “we have standards. Deal with it.“
I’d love to see what Orac says, but I am flying out of Chicago soon. Do post any further developments below.
It might be very informative to see the names of those who have signed that petitition, as I believe some of them are public. At the bottom of the petition are a list of reasons why people have signed it, including gems like these:
h/t: Grania, Don