We reported here the other day that distinguished German paleontologist Günter Bechly was erased by Wikipedia. The editors, claiming it had nothing to do with his having come out for intelligent design, explained that they decided he wasn’t “notable” enough.
Now along comes another ID proponent, Walter Bradley of Baylor University. Dr. Bradley is of interest to us as a Fellow with the Center for Science & Culture and as co-author of a pioneering book that helped to set the course of the future ID movement, The Mystery of Life’s Origin: Reassessing Current Theories (1984). But apart from that, he also has an extremely impressive history of research, publishing, teaching, and related decorations and other recognitions of his work. You can read a brief and appropriate biography on his CSC page.
Much of that was captured by his Wiki entry – until, if I’m reading this correctly, April 5, 2017. That day, an editor identified as Luis150902 proposed Bradley for deletion. According to this individual’s User page, here is his entire biography: “My name is Luís.” As the page also indicates, “This user comes from Portugal.”
Despite being a free and open encyclopedia, how and why Wikipedia is edited is often difficult to interpret amid the usual behind-the-scenes welter of ugly jargon and insider web referencing. But four days later, instead of being deleted as recommended by Luís from Portugal, and for reasons I can’t decipher, Bradley’s entry was cut down in size to almost nothing. Most of that was, and still is, represented in two sneering paragraphs headed “Intelligent design.”
The editor responsible for this appears to be someone called Atlantic306. At his User page, he says of himself, “Hi, I’m Jimmy. My interests include animal rights,economics,films [sic] and most sports..At present am located in the highlands of Scotland.”
Reading the history of revisions is a bit bewildering, littered with more editors’ pseudonyms — including Apollo The Logician (since blocked for using multiple identities), Theroadislong (with an interest in ceramics), and Freakshownerd (a “suspected sock puppet of ChildofMidnight” and since blocked).
What’s that about a freak show? As with the case of Dr. Bechly, the idea that Jimmy from Scotland gets to erase most of Dr. Bradley’s life accomplishments and replace them with the expected spray of insinuations (creationism, wedge strategy, etc.) is like something from a weird dream. So it goes with Wikipedia, which your kids are probably consulting right now for their latest school assignment.
Coincidentally, in recent weeks I’ve been pursuing real encyclopedias, the now largely extinct print kind, on eBay. Wanting my family to experience something classic and very different from Wikipedia, I bought a set of the famous 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Published in 1911, it represents a fascinating picture of the world near the height of the British Empire, before the catastrophes of World War I and II.
According to, yes, Wikipedia, articles from this edition, because they’re in the public domain, formed the kernel of many Wikipedia entries, subsequently updated. The old books, for all their prejudices and dated information, are beautiful and a work of literature. The articles include many by famed scholars of the day.
It’s one of the tragedies of the Internet age that a work of that quality is displaced by this techno-nerd online descendant — with no consistent standards, no genuine respect for ideas, and few identifiable authors or editors ready to take responsibility for their treatment of knowledge or their abuse of scientists and others far more accomplished than they’ll ever be.
Photo: Walter Bradley, via Evolution News.