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The twisted nature of Wikipedia

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Jimmy Wales’ and Larry Sanger’s idea of an online encyclopedia created by the people, for the people, seemed like a brilliant idea at the time. Wikipedia’s concept of crowd-sourcing information on anything and everything, and making it accessible to everyone, was a game changer—and in many ways it continues to be so, albeit for different reasons.

As Wales states on his website: “Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That’s what we’re doing.” Fabulous stuff. Democratic information and real freedom of speech—for all of us.

But ultimately these laudable ambitions depend on who has the most influence.

In many scientific areas, Wikipedia has comparable accuracy to the peer-reviewed literature or the Encyclopaedia Britannica (search for “Reliability of Wikipedia” in Wikipedia for details), and it has become something of a gold standard for a consensus view.

For example, UK regulators determined that the herb black cohosh should be reclassified from a dietary supplement to  a medicine because, according to Wikipedia, it is used to “treat gynecological and other disorders” despite there being “no high-quality scientific evidence to support such uses.”

This gives you a clue about Wikipedia’s perspective in the area of natural health.

It reflects the profoundly restricted and closed minds of Wikipedia’s growing band of skeptic “volunteers.” These are not people like you and me, as we all originally envisaged.

If you can spare a few moments, check it out yourself. Take naturopathy for example. In the US, naturopathic doctors (NDs) undergo at least four years of training at a level that is comparable to medical doctors, including detailed study of the same biomedical model as well as clinical training, often shadowing a practicing ND.

With this extensive knowledge, both theoretical and practical, of dietary and lifestyle approaches to bring the body into balance, promote healing and reduce disease risk, NDs can often provide much more relevant guidance on chronic health challenges than MDs, who usually have little more than a day of formal training in these topics.

But Wikipedia has got it in for naturopaths, branding them “charlatans and practicing quackery,”  and claiming that “The ideology and methods of naturopathy are based on vitalism and folk medicine, rather than evidence-based medicine.”

“Naturopathic practitioners generally recommend against following modern medical practices, including but not limited to medical testing, drugs, vaccinations, and surgery.Instead, naturopathic practice rely [sic] on unscientific notions, often leading naturopaths to diagnoses and treatments that have no factual merit.”

Just to drive the point home, the Wikipedia reader is reminded: “In some countries, it is a criminal offense for naturopaths to label themselves as medical professionals.”

Any volunteers for a rewrite, using Wikipedia’s famed open editing system? Let’s see how long it lasts before the text reverts. We’ve tried.

What about Ayurveda? It’s the oldest surviving system of healthcare and philosophy on the planet, practiced continuously on the Indian subcontinent for over 4,000 years and recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a viable traditional system of medicine—something it strongly supports.

In fact, the WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014–2023 aims to get nearly 200 member countries to develop proactive policies and implement action plans to strengthen the role traditional medicine plays in keeping populations healthy.

Surely that’s as good as a mainstream consensus view?
Well, it’s entirely at odds with Wikipedia, which states, “Ayurveda medicine is considered pseudoscientific.” The site then warns, “In a 2008 study, close to 21% of Ayurveda U.S. and Indian-manufactured patent medicines sold through the Internet were found to contain toxic levels of heavy metals, specifically lead, mercury, and arsenic … The public health implications of such metallic contaminants in India are unknown.”

How about writing off all mainstream Western drugs on the basis of adulteration by a few dubious operators? Or because of the Vioxx scandal? Or because properly prescribed drugs are the third-leading cause of death?

It is increasingly being recognized that many of the edits on more controversial topics on Wikipedia are the work of people who have a specific view that supports some of the most powerful industries on the planet.

The now defunct WikiScanner (2002–2007) showed that millions of anonymous editors were already linked to business interests. Whatever they’re doing today—perhaps with the support of the world’s most powerful governments and businesses—is likely many times more sophisticated and much harder to track.

  Wikipedia is so deeply biased against any form of natural therapy, I implore you never to rely on it if you care about looking after yourself naturally.Please look elsewhere, and preferably consult with someone who has extensive experience working with natural medicines and therapies.

If you feel up to it, try correcting things you find are blatantly wrong. But don’t be surprised if they revert back quickly. We can no longer pretend that Wikipedia entries on natural health reflect “the sum of all human knowledge.”

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