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Wikipedia and the Sociology of Darwinian Belief

David Klinghoffer

I wish I worked as efficiently as Wikipedia’s editors. Last week I noted here that notwithstanding the impressive volume of pro-ID peer-reviewed publications, by researchers within and outside the intelligent-design movement, Wikipedia’s article on ID carries the ridiculously false statement that “The intelligent design movement has not published a properly peer-reviewed article in a scientific journal,” with a footnote to the six-years-old Kitzmiller v. Dover decision.
Writing us at ENV, a reader in South Africa promptly took it on himself to try to correct the Wiki article and report back about the results. A worthy gesture, but I could have told him he was probably wasting his time.
As anyone knows who’s followed the popular Darwinist blogging sites, Darwinism is an ideological movement seemingly rich in believers unhindered by responsibilities to family or work or both, with little better to do day and night than engage in (usually anonymous) skirmishes on the Internet. Editing the Wiki article, our South African friend inserted references to the 50-plus peer-reviewed articles from our updated list of pro-ID scientific literature. Sure enough, within just 30 minutes, someone had erased his additions and substituted snide and again false language to the effect that:

The Discovery Institute insists that a number of intelligent design articles have been published in peer-reviewed journals…. Critics, largely members of the scientific community, reject this claim, stating that no established scientific journal has yet published an intelligent design article. Rather, intelligent design proponents have set up their own journals with peer review that lacks impartiality and rigor, consisting entirely of intelligent design supporters.

This is preposterous, as anyone who has looked at the list of papers would have to honestly admit. Our South African friend went a few rounds with the Wikipedia editors but, last time I checked, without ultimate success. They kept erasing or editing his edits. The main Wiki article on intelligent design still falsely reports, “The intelligent design movement has not published a properly peer-reviewed article in a scientific journal.”
Our friend suggested despairingly,

I’m afraid that the only way to get some balance in Wikipedia is if the [Discovery Institute] appoints people on a full time basis just to monitor and correct the articles…Given how important Wikipedia is as a source to the common man, it might well be a worthwhile investment.

A nice suggestion, if totally unrealistic. Of course he’s right, though, about Wikipedia’s cultural importance. Many a high school or college student or curious adult will rely on that article and conclude erroneously with Judge Jones, on whose cribbing from the ACLU six years ago the article explicitly relies, that ID has no serious scientific backing.
It’s pathetic, but also revealing. As I noted at the American Spectator the other day, Darwinists and other liberals are very big on seeking sociological or medical explanations for the persistent tendency of most Americans to “deny science” by doubting Darwinism, politically correct climate science, and the rest. It tells you something that, in defending their doctrine at Wikipedia, the Darwinian cause can draw on such an impressive body of apparently unemployed and socially isolated devotees.
Intelligent design can’t do that. If I had to estimate, based on ample experience, I would say that the sociology of ID leans far, far more in the direction of people tied in with other people — work, family, friends — in other words, with reality. We don’t live just virtually on the Internet. And so, despite the fact that Darwin-doubting represents a majority view in American culture as a whole, we can’t muster the needed forces among the unemployed and isolated to monitor Wikipedia for falsehoods around the clock. We just don’t have the time. We have other things to do.
That’s a big challenge. But if the sociology of belief means anything — if you can tell something about an idea from the people who hold it — it speaks well for our side in the evolution debate and gives some reason for longterm hope.