Encyclopedia > Wikipedia talk:Neutral point of view

  Article Content

Wikipedia talk:Neutral point of view

Supporters of the NPOV policy include: Larry Sanger, Koyaanis Qatsi, sjc, tbc, AxelBoldt, JHK, -- April

Opponents include:

The Cunctator (see comments)
user:mirwin I agree substantially with The Cunctator. It also needs serious editing for concision and clarity, since it serves as our defacto introduction to objective writing for newcomers. It is currently too long to edit in Navigator 4.7, perhaps it could be broken up into sections as per the table of contents after the original formulation and the new executive summary.

It's worth adding that this is one of the rules that Jimmy Wales and many others on Wikipedia have said--contrary to what Cunctator and mirwin imply above--is non-negotiable, and really is a rule. So I'm not sure why there's a list of proponents and opponents here. --Larry Sanger
Are links to 'Verified Scientific Sources' a problem? This is relative to some work I'm doing with the Dyson_sphere article. In other non-wiki articles I see numbers bandied about with no verification. Would it be proper to refer to a Nasa site as the source for average earth orbit, or mean earth diameter? I suppose those are numbers everyone is just supposed to 'know', but as I do NOT know those numbers, I find it useful to refer to a source that isn't likely disputed. NASA, agree or disagree with their policies, should be a fairly reliable source that particular data.

I also recently added to an 'Immigration Week' post for January 1. I had zero idea what 'Immigration Week' is, but it turns out I could find a source that stated explicitly their origin from the 'Net. Without realising it might be a 'Neutral point of view' issue, I added the link as a reference.

If such links are inappropriate, I can understand the removal, or modification. I'm simply of the 'doubtful skeptic' crowd, and I'm anxious to see external verification references where possible and fitting. --Romaq

Romaq, check out the new NPOV draft article on meta.wikipedia.com. Sourcing things is always good, but there are issues with regards to having Wikipedia self-contained (ie, if the data is important, make a wikipedia article out of it, put the reference there, and reference the article), and disrupting the flow of the article. --Robert Merkel

First, let me give my belated congratulations to the authors of this page. I also want to withdraw a suggestion I made earlier: while I like "perspectivist point of view" better than 'neutral', I grant that use of the former term would probably hurt the project more than it would help. That said, I have questions about one part of the policy as it appears on this page. I would like to see an explanation of both the meaning of the policy against original research and the reasons for it. If I keep pestering mathematicians, some of them will attempt to correct some of what they call the false math on wikipedia. Do people want them to attribute every correction to a known mathematician? This doesn't fit wikipedia practice as I've observed it, and I think it would strongly discourage participation by mathematicians. On the other hand, if someone wants to correct or add a non-mathematical argument, I would want that person to at least say something like "One might think" first and also mention any rebuttals he or she knows. (Although I might have problems defining 'non-mathematical' precisely.) What exactly does Larry say about adding arguments? I recall a mention of "significant, published" arguments in the entry. How do I recognize a significant argument? For that matter, how do I recognize a published argument? Do webpages count? What if I contributed to the webpage? --Dan
Good questions, but better to discuss them on Meta-Wikipedia (http://meta.wikipedia.com). --LMS

The stricture to avoid bias increases the effort of writing an article and therefore (presumably) results in less writing getting done. Filling an article with bias seems to have the opposite effect - it results in more writing getting done, because someone else is bound to jump to add a conflicting bias. Then someone else can come along and refactor all this into a more neutral article.

So to encourage the creation of more articles, perhaps the rule should be, be as biased as you like.

Tim Shell

A nice theory, but I am sure it would be a disaster in practice. There would be just too much bias for people to correct, and people wouldn't correct it in the long run, I think. I just think it's a lot more important that Wikipedia articles be unbiased. I can't stress how crucial I think this is. If you want me to explain why I think it's so crucial, I can do that in an essay--I don't think I've really explained it yet. (I've only explained why I think they should be unbiased, not why I think it's so goll-dang important that they should be.) --LMS

I agree with Larry. I think such a policy would turn Wikipedia into a big mess. -- Stephen Gilbert
Thirds. Remember, it is important to have people reading Wikipedia as well as writing to it, and I think that if a large amount of biased material built up it would not encourage people to change it so much as find someplace more tolerant of their viewpoints. --JG
I love the implicit meta-debate going on here, which is whether or not it's possible to avoid bias. That it isn't is the cornerstone of postmodern philosophy. LMS's position is based on the presumption that it's possible to be unbiased. However, I understand what he means. He's really talking about the avoidance of certain forms of bias. The "neutral point of view" is something of a better approach. That said, I too encourage "unbiased" articles. But one thing that does is encourage overuse of words like "usually" and "most", etc. etc. If entries have such vague qualifiers, then they should either be rewritten in a way to eliminate the ambiguity, or the ambiguity shouldn't have been added in the first place. Wiki, like other encyclopedias, does have an inherent bias: that of authoritativity. Which I think is good. People should be unable to argue with the content of entries, but because they're authoritative, not because they're wishy-washy.

That said, I largely agree with LMS, though I think biased material has a place in Wikipedia, sometimes under Wikipedia commentary. For an example of another approach, see the OS Advocacy page.

--The Cunctator

What I've observed in practice is that biased articles and comments get pounced upon very quickly. This rule was proposed after observing this. The fact of the matter is, the wikipedia process makes being highly biased unrewarding because a biased article is amended very quickly. As such, there is no need to have strictures against biased writings. Since there is little reward for biased writings, there is little need for discouraging that sort of behavior.

Perhaps people think that Wikipedia is collaborative in that one person will write one article, someone else will write another article, etc., until we have a big pile of content created by many different people. But the real essence of the wikipedia process is that articles themselves evolve under the loosely collaborative effort of numerous editors, unknown to one another and separated by an indefinite amount of time. Articles started today may one day be amended by editors yet unborn. The result of this process is that articles will gradually come to represent a consensus view, one that is mostly satisfactory to most people.

All this process needs is input. Bad input is not a significant cost because it is corrected very quickly. It may have value because it incites people to include other inputs. And this gets the process of evolution started.

Tim Shell

It's equivalent to pitching the legion's eagles into the opponent's camp. It gets people moving, but not because they are happy or like what is happening, and I wouldn't be surprised if most people find it gets old fast. Something to be used sparingly at best. Surely we have more respect for our authors than to try to get them to work in such a fashion. --JG

Tim, maybe the reason biased articles are pounced on so quickly is precisely that we have a firm rule against bias; if we were to remove the rule, maybe they wouldn't be pounced on so quickly. I don't know if this is true, but it sure seems plausible anyway. New people (and maybe the old ones) might begin to view biased claims made in a given article as the "right" of the person who added them, and be less likely to de-bias the claims (after all, if there's no community animus against bias then what justification is there to render the article unbiased?). --LMS

I think and hope that Larry's right. I hope that I will jump on an article that is biased, even if I happen to enjoy the bias. Why do I do that? In part because we have all loosely committed ourselves to an ideal. The commitment itslef, as expressed in the loose community mores, is important to me in my role as a contributor.

The expressed consensus rule also serves as a reference point in case someone comes along and gets mad about us editing out their bias. They may say "Hey, why can't I be biased? Why do you jerks keep editing my article to be unbiased?" Because we have an expressed commitment to a lack of bias, we have a reasonable answer: because that's the community consensus of what Wikipedia is about. --Jimbo Wales

24 - the idea that any author can avoid bias, or that any informal process of m:governance can reduce it to zero is absurd. Each group and study has its own standards for assessing a statement of fact, and of course if it is possible to identify why you believe something matters, you can use (3), or if you're aware of looking at something very differently, you can use (2), but any author will find sneaky ways to do (1) - like reverting everything that has a point of view at all. This rule is entirely wrongly stated. What matters is to notice a Governing Ontological distinction (http://meta.wikipedia.com/wiki.phtml?title=Governing+Ontological+distinction) that guides your own cognition. That done, you can start to share it, and see how it differs from the views that drive the world...

Unless somebody can provide a good reason not to, I will move this article to the wikipedia namespace. --maveric149, Saturday, April 6, 2002

With Larry Sanger gone, much of the context of NPOV has been lost... obviously just saying "this is NPOV" or "this is not NPOV" does very little to tell you how to fix it, or how to balance sources, or deal with outright catfights. I think this is why meta is so full of articles about ethics... some of this material would be useful to those presently discussing the issue.

I'm not sure what meta does vs. what wikipedia does, but "meta" in my mind implies a guiding philosophy or "meta-physics" by which we determine how real we think things, e.g. physics, "actually are". It's stuff of current interest, as opposed to historical or "community" commentary which I think is best moved to wikipedia.

If someone wants to form a political party to take over the wiki, to me, that's meta, since they'll have a philosophy and they'll expound it as one. If a bunch of people just want to complain or point out each other's faults, that's not meta, and it should go in wikipedia.

So it all depends on how you see this article... and the commentary...

This really is more suited to be in wikipedia talk:Neutral point of view, because that is what it is. It really isn't appropriate to just dump this in the meta. I wish it was possible to make wikipedia talk archive:Neutral point of view[?]. So I don't know what to do with it. --maveric149

First of all, I was reading this article, and when I saw the NPOV acronym I was completely lost, that is until I clicked over to this talk page. Now I realize that NPOV stands for Neutral Point of View, but it may be nice to provide that definition in the article itself. Also in the sentence:

"[...] we often use so-called scare quotes. In the Middle Ages, we "knew" that the Earth was flat."

I'm pretty sure that should be "square quotes" and not "scare quotes" unless I'm mistaken.

From http://www.dictionary.com/search?q=scare%20quotes, scare quote n. Either of a pair of quotation marks used to emphasize a word or phrase or to indicate its special status, especially to express doubt about its validity or to criticize its use.

BTW, how come this page is protected? Has there been any sort of vandalism here? A lot of the stuff is pretty outdated (ask Larry?) and I wouldn't mind fixing it, but I don't want to be an administrator... djk

The text 'In the Middle Ages, we "knew" that the Earth was flat' needs correction. Scholars in the "Middle Ages" (the concept of a Middle Ages is highly debatable as well) knew the earth was spherical. What Columbus tried to turn into a controversy was the size of the earth, not its shape. Columbus was wrong, and the scholars knew it. This myth of ignorance dates from the late 18th century. It is easily traced to fanciful biographer Washington Irving and Antoine-Jean Letronne of the Institut National. [Russell: Inventing the Flat Earth, Praeger 1991]

I don't have any problem with the NPOV doctrine. The objections tendered on this page seem either logically fallacious or pedantic to the point of impracticality. I want a useful encyclopaedia. strebe

There were several medieval "scholars" who believed in a flat earth (Lactantius, Diodorus of Tarsus, Cosmas Indicopleustes, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. John Chrysostom and many others), and the more wide-spread belief that people could not live on the opposite side of the Earth (antipodes[?]) may also have frequently been connected to a belief in a flat Earth. Russell writes from a typical apologetic perspective, he is just as biased as those he criticizes, only from a different point of view. For a reasonable debate of Russell's book, see this page (http://ethicalatheist.com/docs/flat_earth_myth). --Eloquence 21:56 Feb 9, 2003 (UTC)

This would be an example of pedantism to the point of impracticality. There are people even today who believe in a flat earth, apparently. That doesn't make it a prevailing view. The very site Eloquence quotes admits that their original attacks on Russell were uncalled for and admits that the flat earth myth, if there was any such thing, largely predates the "Middle Ages". Yes, there were specific scholars who subscribed to a flat-earth theory, and yes the antipodes were a controversial topic, but none of that detracts from the fact that our modern belief in a flat-earth culture dates entirely from the late 18th century. I have history books on my bookshelf dating from the 1700s that discuss Columbus in detail. The flat-earth problem is nowhere to be seen, but the question of the earth's size certainly is. strebe

I'm going to exaggerate the point a bit, but the current way the NPOV is presented is misleading and dangerous. True neutrality is unachievable without omniscience, and that's unachievable. A neutral point of view is something that can be worked toward, but we are imperfect beings with imperfect knowledge and imperfect language. Only perfect beings can be truly neutral. --The Cunctator
The article seems pretty modest in its aims, if awfully long. Somewhere in the middle it makes exactly the point you just made. Ortolan88

One change I might suggest for this page is a re-ordering of the non-English languages listed. For instance, hardly anyone speaks Esperanto; that should be listed last. Hephaestos

Um, the Esperanto Wikipedia is our third most popular after English and (iirc) German. -Montréalais

Can we put a little usage note? Some people say "This article is very NPOV" or "stop being so NPOV" when they mean that it is not neutral. (This should be "POV" or something.) Montréalais

"NPOV" means "Neutral Point Of View." People figure this out eventually, but it would be good to add the note. --Larry Sanger

Quote from document: The neutral point of view attempts to present ideas and facts in such a fashion that both supporters and opponents can agree. Of course, 100% agreement is not possible; there are ideologues in the world who will not concede to any presentation other than a forceful statement of their own point of view. We can only seek a type of writing that is agreeable to essentially rational people who may differ on particular points.

I think this statement while practical is inaccurate. I believe that with enough effort and thought, anybody can be shown the truth of another valid opinion. The reason why anybody ever disagrees with somebody else is because there is something about the presentation that offends them, but doesn't bother the presenter to the same degree. If the presenter modified his presentation, then the other party will agree no matter what you want to communicate.

In other words, I don't believe that anybody is irrational. Irrationality is just a short hand way of saying that you cannot make the effort right now to understand the other person.

So I believe that 100% agreement is possible in every case, it just takes so much work that it cannot always be achieved immediately.

just a note that the essay on neutral point of view states that we should go ahead and edit it, but when i tried (to add a link to quotation marks where the text refers to "scare quotes") i was informed (off to the side) that it was a protected page. someone who can edit this page should remove the line that says we should feel free to edit it, or it should become unprotected. in either case, could someone make the scare-quote link. I'd never heard the term before but its a good one. also, does anyone know the name for the action people some-times do to create "sign-language scare-quotes" like Christ Farley: "in a van down by the river" style?

Edit bit removed (for now at least: this page needs help so the creation of a unprotected /Temp page to rework it may be in order). How exactly to you want this link to be displayed? --mav

Why does this page need to be protected? Protection should only be applied to prevent vandalism. Otherwise I see no reason why the wiki process shouldn't work here. --Eloquence

Agree. It appears this page was set a long time ago, and is now carved into stone :-)

I liked Mav comment about someone being given the keys of a castle, but unfortunately not being handled the rule-book, though the rule book already existed. The neutrality rule is presented as being one of the 3 or 4 rules to follow against winds and tides in all wikipedias. So, it has to be protected against all possible vandalism by sysops-knights.

It's just interesting it is implied here that sysops can not be responsible of vandalism.

Also, notice how much this very much general rule is one that can be only modified by english sysops though it is supposed to apply to all of us. Limits of what community is : It is not one huge castle, with several outbuildings, but a set of friendly castles. One has the key of his castle, but not of next door castle. Limits of trust, no ? :-) Thanks Brion for putting international links on protected pages for us.

Anybody to simplify and shorten that neutral point of view page ? Concision would make it easier...

Perhaps we would be better served by implementing something like MeatBall:FileReplacement instead of the sysop-only lockdown. --Brion 10:31 Jan 7, 2003 (UTC)

Hm. So in effect this automatically creates a type of temp page that can be edited for a time while leaving the active page alone and after a time-out the temp page replaces the active page? If that is the case then I like the idea. This should save giga-quads of hard-drive space since only one version is posted instead of fifty (like in an edit war). But who is credited for the edit after the time-out expires? --mav

Moving further discussion to m:Protected pages considered harmful... --Brion 22:44 Jan 7, 2003 (UTC)

I've unprotected this page. If it gets massively vandalised I'll protect it again. If it gets reworked into something concise yet beautiful I shall be happy. If nothing happens I shall shrug my shoulders and move on.

scare quotes

something like that...

Maybe is it time to add a little something about media sources alleged neutrality, and how non-english media sources and non-english pages referenced by google, but not understandable to english-speaking people, may be used for articles as source, or as back-up.

see also m:Media Bias

Looking to shrink it? A good start would be by changing all those pesky HTML "<h2>"'s to "=="s, that oughta save a couple bytes. ;) -- John Owens 23:01 Apr 14, 2003 (UTC)

The "neutrality" of articles in Wikipedia is intellectually dishonest. For the proscription of overtly partisan content is itself a violation of neutrality. If Wikipedia were truly neutral such partisanship would be welcomed, rather than rabidly deleted. One user diffused an edit war by moving my article to "meta" and that cooled my ire. What is not acceptable is outright arbitrary deletion.

Whether this encyclopedia is truly open not just to minority opinion, but minority races (in the United States) is open to question, inasmuch as the dominant culture, which is white, carries its inescapable baggage. An honest acknowledgement of that baggage through openness to interpretations and criticisms of its contents ought to be a vigorous challenge, not anathema.

This is an encyclopedia, not a forum for political debate. I was the person who repeatedly removed your NPOV remarks. You can find another forum for your comments, and I find your rather bold statement that minority races are unwelcome here to be offensive. -- Zoe

We accomplish this by stating opinions as opinions, like this:

Foo is a kind of bar.

Some people, the pro-fooists, think that foo is good. Here's why.

Other people, the anti-fooists, think that foo is bad. Here's why.

Still other people, the nullibarists, deny the existence of bars altogether. Here's why.

The following is not a Wikipedia article:

Foo is a very good kind of bar. or Foo is a very bad kind of bar. or Foo is a spurious concept since bars don't exist.

What we don't do is publish unattributed screed. This is an encyclopedia, not a soapbox. A thorough and thoughtful discussion may be found at NPOV. I wasn't involved in your case, so I won't make any more specific comments - perhaps someone closer to the issue would like to. - Montréalais

"What we don't do is publish unattributed screed." Screed runneth over nonetheless, some attributed, much unconscious. As for the pump, it would operate much better without the haughtiness (we shall strive for the Holy Grail of Knowledge in Wikipedia, but the pump shall remain the same tired repository of flaming crap all opinion boards are). As I asked elsewhere in this page, do you have room for humor as you pick the fly feces from the pepper, or is this apparent state of misery a Village constant? mailto:f.g.wilson@sbcglobal.net

Who are the "we?" The Wikipedia has ingeniously solved the problem of attribution, and may ultimately contribute to the evolutionary demise of that questionably useful species of human need. However, the problems of distinguishing absolute truth, which is abstract, from knowable fact, and of ever trending toward truth as better evidence brings more solid facts, should be recognized. The problem of objectively determining what is neutral and what is not should also be recognized, for it is a deep one. If I have to edit the final product only second-hand, by influence, I like to know that the Uber Arbiters are subtle enough to make these recognitions. {8:52 P.M. -- preliminary addendum based on partial reading of NPOV: I admonish Montrealais that we the unelect would hold your feet to the fire by stating that Wikipedian rigor would say "One man's screed is another's truth, so be very careful what you characterize as screed."}

No, one man's screed is another man's opinion. You are correct to distinguish truth from fact. The job of Wikipedia is not to lay out the truth, but to mention what facts are available for a situation. "X is good" is not a fact; it is an opinion. "Group Y believes that X is good" is a fact. - Montréalais

"No, one man's screed is another man's opinion." -- Strictly your opinion, of course. mailto:f.g.wilson@sbcglobal.net

If you don't sign your name, then we won't be able to judge the worth of your assertions, not to mention the worth, if any, of your articles. As it is, this is the only article linked to your name. For my money, what you have written here is content-free. ("I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house down!") I've written a lot of articles in the past few months, but I haven't found the uberarbiters yet. On the other hand, any number of people have added to, extended, and, yes, changed, what I have written, usually for the better, and I've done the same to any number of other people. You should read Wikipedia is the dopiest thing I've ever heard of. Ortolan88 04:12 Oct 18, 2002 (UTC)

btw, what's the Monopoly(TM)/Wikipedia:Village pump currency exchange rate these days? -- mailto:f.g.wilson@sbcglobal.net -- Frederick George Wilson -- attribution as worth...let me run that through the Computer of Truth, I'll let you know what it crunches out...btw2, is humor outlawed here?

One last rant --er-- opinion, before I pack it in for the night: the move of my "genocide denial" article from metapedia to redirect was a net entropic increase, i.e., stupid. mailto:f.g.wilson@sbcglobal.net -- Michel Foucault -

Above from village pump archive - salvage anything useful - delete the rest

All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

  Search Encyclopedia

Search over one million articles, find something about almost anything!
  Featured Article

... This was first proposed in the 1930s by C. B. van Neil of Stanford University, while investigating photosynthetic bacteria, many of which do not release oxygen. One ...

This page was created in 25.4 ms