Wikipedia guideline: "Verifiability, not truth"

“Wikipedia defines the threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia as verifiability, not truth.”

Just a mild vent. I’ve been on the losing (for the time being) end of an edit war (erroneous DOB for a celebrity) for a while. The erroneous information (from studio records) is available everywhere, and is thus “verifiable.” The official (government) records are available only thru subscription or mail order, and not just a click away online. Therefore, I’ve been smacked up one side and down the other because the widely published date, while *almost certainly erroneous, is most definitely “verifiable.”

I’ll keep the subject anonymous, at least for the time being. His page is locked anyway, until it’s resolved.

*I say “almost certainly” since not being there personally at his birth, all I have to go on are the government records (census and death cert.), and they’re at odds with what the parents told the studio.

Well, if “everybody” knows something, how can they be wrong?

I can see the point of their standard for some things. For example, the existence of God, while possibly true, is not verifiable. It therefore should not be confirmed by Wikipedia.

However, I sympathize with your position. I would hope that when/ if someone ponies up a few bucks to provide a copy of the official document, they find a way to recognize that some sources are more credible than others. There’s no real value to Wikipedia in being just a compendium of “what the internet says about stuff.” For that, we have the internet.

I found on some topics it’s hopeless. For instance, there’s the old “Robert R” the kid from St Louis that supposedly got AIDS in the lates 60s. That was disproven years and years ago.

I’ve tried to get that in but they won’t allow it. I have sources from the New York Times (a retraction), The Virus Hunters (Book), St. Louis Post-Dispatch (a retraction), and Johns Hopkins, all which confirm the sample was contaminated and that they could never reproduce the HIV+ result of “Robert R.”

But I have never been able to get it in. The editors will not accept it. I even tried to say “Let’s put BOTH in.” Nope, anything that goes contrary to what an editor want, is a lost cause. All I get is “No the NY Times said so.” I reply, “Yes, but they printed a retraction admitting the story was an error.” Of course that’s left out

This is why I say Wikipedia is a good SOURCE, but it’s not the ONLY source. There are lots and lots of varifiable sources that simply aren’t allowed in, if the guy who controls the article wants to slant a view point.

That’s the thing with the Internet, Google doesn’t index what is correct it does what’s most popular and most people won’t look past the first or second page. You’d be surprised what you’d find by starting your Google search at page 10

Is it possible that the wikipedia criterion is simply the result of a Pragmatist approach (a la HJohn Dewey) to inclusion – they want verifiable statements, rather than what someone believes to be “Truth” with a capital T

I recall an excellent chapter in Martin Gardner’s book The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener entitled “Why I Am Not a Pragmatist”, where he described this viewpoint and how it caused incredible amounts of confusion and rancor, basically because Dewey redefined common words in a technical manner in order to express his philosophy. People were annoyed at his claimed that things weren’t True until they were tested, and that such verification was “manufacturing Truth”. As Gardner said, he believed that Dewey didn’t really believe that, say, a card was in an undetermined state until you turned it over and was shown to be a King of Hearts, even though the language, taken as used in normal English, seemed to state that. He was simply saying that until its status was verified, it was useless as a practical thing to speak of it as having a definite rank.

Sounds like this objection to Wikipedia’s policy may be due to a similar set of different definitions for the same commonly used words.

Verifiability doesn’t mean “only those things that are easily found online,” so if an official record can be found it trumps other info, as long as it is sourced.

And the thing Markxxx is talking about shouldn’t be happening. The fact that the info is wrong is verifiable. Newer info trumps older info. Someone there is just being stubbornly ignorant.

Unfortunately, those are the type of people Wikipedia attracts. The way it is set up, you have to be able to fight to get your “information” included. The people who like to fight are often the type that don’t want to be proven wrong. And yet, because they like to fight, they are more likely to win against those who don’t.

Don’t get me wrong, you could still win, but you need to understand how. is a good start. I’d probably suggest going the policy page route. You can start with the essential facts: ask whether official government records trump numerous magazine articles. Once divorced from the situation at hand, you’re going to more easily find people who will agree with you.

Edit warring is never a good idea. It’s specifically used to bite newbies for not following the numerous guidelines. If you add back the information a fourth time, there’s a rule that could even get you banned.

Yeah, but I have yet to find any credible cites to support his contention (about Robert R.), either.

And so far as my own case, even though I can order a death certificate, and post it, I can see that that might be construed as “original research,” which Wikipedia also frowns greatly upon.

And that’s the Truth.