Wikipedia and Shonky Charlatans

It’s been a long time between posts. This got under my skin though.

Jimmy Wales has been asked via a change.org petition to include complementary and alternative medicine as scientifically sound articles in Wikipedia. The petition is thus:

[Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia: Create and enforce new policies that allow for true scientific discourse about holistic approaches to healing.

1. Petition by
Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology

Wikipedia is widely used and trusted. Unfortunately, much of the information related to holistic approaches to healing is biased, misleading, out-of-date, or just plain wrong. For five years, repeated efforts to correct this misinformation have been blocked and the Wikipedia organization has not addressed these issues. As a result, people who are interested in the benefits of Energy Medicine, Energy Psychology, and specific approaches such as the Emotional Freedom Techniques, Thought Field Therapy and the Tapas Acupressure Technique, turn to your pages, trust what they read, and do not pursue getting help from these approaches which research has, in fact, proven to be of great benefit to many. This has serious implications, as people continue to suffer with physical and emotional problems that might well be alleviated by these approaches.

Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia, left the organization due to concerns about its integrity. He stated: “In some fields and some topics, there are groups who ‘squat’ on articles and insist on making them reflect their own specific biases. There is no credible mechanism to approve versions of articles.”

This is exactly the case with the Wikipedia pages for Energy Psychology, Energy Medicine, acupuncture, and other forms of complementary/alternative medicine (CAM), which are currently skewed to a negative, unscientific view of these approaches despite numerous rigorous studies in recent years demonstrating their effectiveness. These pages are controlled by a few self-appointed “skeptics” who serve as de facto censors for Wikipedia. They clothe their objections in the language of the narrowest possible understanding of science in order to inhibit open discussion of innovation in health care. As gatekeepers for the status quo, they refuse discourse with leading edge research scientists and clinicians or, for that matter, anyone with a different point of view. Fair-minded referees should be given the responsibility of monitoring these important areas.

I pledge not to donate to your fundraising efforts until these changes have been made.]

ACEP’s logo. Pretty and pretty meaningless
ACEP - The Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology

I find the arrogance of this organisation breathtaking. That there are currently 7,781 signatories is depressing in the extreme. There is nothing scientific about CAM and Wikipedia rightly doesn’t allow spurious claims rather than peer reviewed research into Wikipedia.

Of course, Larry Sanger wasn’t talking about ACEP even though they try to co-opt his reasons for leaving Wikipedia. Everyone has a tendency to confirmation bias and cherry picking but this citing of Sanger’s words out of context is egregious. Here is where and why Sanger said what he did – it is under the heading We can do betterhttp://blog.citizendium.org/?p=286

Here is Jimmy Wales’ response to ACEP’s petition on change.org:

‘No, you have to be kidding me. Every single person who signed this petition needs to go back to check their premises and think harder about what it means to be honest, factual, truthful.
Wikipedia’s policies around this kind of thing are exactly spot-on and correct. If you can get your work published in respectable scientific journals – that is to say, if you can produce evidence through replicable scientific experiments, then Wikipedia will cover it appropriately.
What we won’t do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is the equivalent of “true scientific discourse”. It isn’t.’
________________________________________
Posted on March 23, 2014

There are currently four hospitals of homeopathy in the UK. This number has decreased because many more GPs are not referring their patients to these places. That they ever did is a worrying reflection on the standard of medical training in the UK.

The hospitals are funded by the National Health Service, the UK’s publicly funded health system. No one really knows how much is spent by the NHS on homeopathy and other complementary ‘medicines and treatment’. In 2009, The Guardian ran an article based on an FOI that turned up some horrendous figures.

‘Homeopathy, which many doctors argue has an effect only in the mind of the believer, cost the cash-strapped NHS £12m over three years, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act.http://www.theguardian.com/society/2009/jun/10/complementary-medicine-nhs-more4

Another article cites some more alarming figures:

‘However, the Committee’s report suggests the figure could be even higher. The £12 million does not take into account the running costs of the four homeopathic hospitals in the UK, nor the £20 million spent refurbishing the Royal London homeopathic hospital from 2002 to 2005.https://fullfact.org/blog/homeopathy_how_much_does_the_nhs_pay-2206

That’s enough to make me spit chips.

To get back to the reason for this post, I checked out the group that tasked Jimmy Wales with including CAM as scientifically sound articles in Wikipedia.

It is an American organisation – I suppose I should have guessed that – though with the scientific Dark Age spreading its envelope far and wide, ACEP could have originated anywhere. Here is their self-description:

ACEP is the Home for Energy Psychology: Championing EP techniques such as Thought Field Therapy (TFT), Tapas Acupressure Technique (TAT), Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), Comprehensive Energy Psychology (CEP) and more.

Well, that made me spit more chips. This organisation offers certificated training courses in this guff and from the photographs on the site I see quite a number of oldies like me. It must be lucrative. Of course, they are registered as a non-profit organisation ‘of licensed mental health professionals and allied energy health practitioners who are dedicated to developing and applying energy psychology.’ “Energy” here used in the literal meaning of “activity” or “operation”. Well, whoopee do.

Wikipedia has an article on energy psychology here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_%28psychological%29
Much of the attempt to garner authority is citing references from Freud and Jung. They also try to credit their theories by citing fMRI studies. There is no citing of anything that would stand as research or a proper study.

I have a few friends who are psychologists and I used to know a couple of psychiatrists. I doubt that anyone of them would touch ACEP with a barge pole. I certainly wouldn’t. I am glad that Jimmy Wales won’t either.

 

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