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Directory:The Wikipedia Point of View/Peter Damian Evidence

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Evidence for the Arbitration Committee

This page is the evidence presented by Wikipedia editor Peter Damian (and his previous accounts) to the Wikipedia Arbitration committee in order to contest the community ban placed upon him in August 2009. The ban was for an alleged "history of harassment, and off-site attacks" against the Wikipedia administrator known as FT2.

Defence. Principled and good-faith criticism of another person is not the same thing as a personal attack or harassment. Everyone accepts that fair and principled criticism of another editor's action is essential to the continued survival of the Wikipedia project. But the evidence below shows that my criticism of the editor called FT2 has been principled and in good faith. My actions should not therefore be labelled as 'harassment'.

Summary. The sections below contain detailed evidence in the form of 'diffs' (time-dated edits to the Encyclopedia). First, I present a list of the articles I have written (or been the main contributor to) since June 2003. This shows beyond reasonable doubt that I have been a good-faith contributor to the 'mainspace' (article space) of Wikipedia over a long period. I have never had a block for an 'edit war' over an article, and nearly all my articles have stayed in their original form to the present date (September 2008).

In the section concerns about Wikipedia I present the issues that I feel are dividing the project. The first problem is the rise of an administrative 'class' in Wikipedia whose priority has shifted from writing an encyclopedia to the blocking of vandals and abusive 'sockpuppets' (multiple accounts). While they are a solution to a real problem (vandalism caused by the lack of editorial vetting) they have become a Frankenstein's monster that is almost destroying the project (which is to write an encylopedia). The second problem that afflicts Wikipedia is the proliferation of 'cruft' and of crank material. (Cruft is non-encyclopedic, unsourced material that is placed in the encyclopedia for financial gain, since Wikipedia gets a high or top ranking in most search engines, crank is material that is tendentious, non-encyclopedic, and unsourced).

In the section Criticism of FT2 I argue that FT2's contributions to the Wikipedia project are net negative. The point is not the criticism itself, but to set out the reasons why I have been critical, and to show why these were made in good faith. (Even if the criticism was misplaced, it was nonetheless bona fide, and should not be misconstrued as 'harassment').

Peter Damian Background

The following summarises the articles to which I have made significant contributions in my time at Wikipedia. The articles in bold are those to which I was the main contributor, and whose subject is important or notable (e.g. History of logic, which had not been covered properly until 2008). My main area of expertise is in Anglo-American analytic philosophy (I graduated from a good British university in the 1970's, did my PhD there, and taught there until the late 1980's. I have published in a number of good quality journals, and continue to work and publish, although I no longer teach). I also have an interest in medieval philosophy, and set theory and mathematics. My contributions to the project mostly reflect these specialisms.

For the entire time I have edited at Wikipedia I have been concerned about the way that experts are treated on the project (often with disdain, often with complete misunderstanding of the principles underlying true expert editing). I was a founder member of the Expert retention project.

Mathematics, logic and set theory

Philosophy and Logic

Medieval philosophy and logic



Gospel music


My concerns about Wikipedia

I still remain deeply committed to the project. I have a background in teaching (which is still an important part of my job) I and I love the idea of communicating difficult ideas about intellectual history in a plain and jargon-free way. Wikipedia is a brilliant way of doing this and in some ways it works very well. But it is plagued by a number of problems that the administration has failed to address

First, the shifting of priorities in Wikipedia from writing an encyclopedia, to the blocking of 'vandals'. This is connected with the rise of a apparatchik class of politically adept editors who do not work in article space at all, except to revert vandalism. These administrators are obsessed with a narrow-minded conception of civility, and they tend to regard good-faith but strongly-worded objections as a form of vandalism. It is no coincidence that my first block ever, four years since I began editing, was over my strongly-worded complaints over the departure of a good editor Worldtraveller, because of a spectacularly ill-judged block[1].

Second, by a plague of cruft, promotional and crank material on an almost Biblical scale. I include in the latter (crank) category the rash of articles on 'alternative sexuality', for example the atrocious Historical and cultural perspectives on zoophilia and Pederasty are excellent examples of the latter. Now these subjects should certainly be dealt with in an encyclopedia. But dealt with carefully. They should engage with the problem that there is little mainstream academic research on such subject, and that almost any theory about it is bound to be speculation. [2]. An article on the subject of bestiality, for instance, should stick to broad statistics, medical views, carefully balanced views of ethicists, and should avoid academic research that is now known to be flawed or slanted. Anything else is pure original research, and does not belong on the project. Another example is Neurolinguistic programming. This falls in between the areas of crank psychology and promotional material.

Criticism of FT2

The problem with FT2 is that he combines both of the defects above: he is an untalented apparatchik with a penchant for blocking decent but abrasive content contributors, and the kind of promoter of crank material and cruft that I have been battling en-wiki for more than five years. He embodies everything that is bad about the project and which needs fixing, as follows:

  • He has no real knowledge of the subjects he edits, although he claims to have it.
  • He does not really understand the basics of neutral editing (although he claims to[3]). He cites websites and self-published sources. One academic said that "his promotion and advocacy is unsophisticated and lazy in the sense that it is apparently exlusively based on Google". He quotes authors like Nancy Friday, whose work is pure pulp fiction.
  • He does not understand the principles of peer review. He imagines the fact that someone is published in the field, or has a doctorate, or is well-known, or has had their writings vetted by somebody else of note, is of itself sufficient to merit inclusion in an article. His understanding of the relative merits of publications is seriously flawed, e.g. in referencing journals like the one published by The International Society for Anthrozoology (which is not a recognised journal). The following list suggests he is unable to distinguish between a training course and a university department.
  • He persistently misattributes material. For example, he claimed that the eminent linguist George Lakoff had endorsed Neurolinguistic programming - a significant and important fact if true, but had he bothered to check his source, he would have seen that the quote was not by Lakoff.
  • He misunderstands the Wikipedia policy prohibiting 'synthesis'. See this for his citations of papers that do not mention Neurolinguistic programming at all, but are cited as if they did. Synthesis is a type of original research that is strictly prohibited in Wikipedia.
  • If this is pointed out or challenged, he indulges in long-winded denunciations in a way that is guaranteed to escalate hostility, or he conceals his lack of understanding behind an impenetrable thicket of words. This makes any reasonable discussion of the subject matter impossible. At the same time he cloaks himself an aura of righteousness by his interminable invocation of Wikipedia rules and tenets. He tends to personalise all editorial discussion with ad hominem attacks.
  • He seems to many to be driven by a personal agenda. One person said that his editorship "absolutely stinks of partiality and POV motivations", and that his claims of making an article "more neutral" amount to watering it down to suit an agenda of which he himself may not be fully conscious. There is a clear advocacy and promotion in FT2s edits.
  • His edits are replete with unsubstantiated opinion. One editor said that 'the "NLP and Science" article is a mass of unsubstantiated verbiage" [4].
  • His manner seems almost deliberately calculated to annoy and infuriate editors with an academic background. His insistence on absurd and trivialised standards of 'civility' to the exclusion of all editorial or content determined material, is having a marked and deleterious effect on the project.

With the important position he holds on Wikipedia, and the reverential awe in which he is held by less knowledgeable and somewhat impressionable administrators, FT2 exercises a malignant and pernicious influence on the encyclopedia. He has driven off a stream of excellent and well-qualified editors. He has gathered around him a group of administrators who hold him in high esteem for his supposed impartiality and neutrality, and who will block upon a single word from him.

These criticisms are harsh. But they are not personal.


  1. ^ WT complained to an administrator that "Your continued rudeness and failure to remotely discuss your controversial administrative actions just confirms for me that you are a terrible administrator. Whatever I can do to get your administrative tools taken away from you, I will do. Worldtraveller 20:25, 1 March 2007 (UTC). [1]. He was blocked for this
  2. ^ For example, the thesis that the almost universal repulsion against bestialism and man-boy sex is a comparatively modern phenomenon in human history, and that the modern view is a direct result of Judaeo-Christian culture. Supposedly before that most human cultures and societies had a benevolent and supportive attitude to such proclivities. The thesis was proposed (re pedophilia) by Warren Johansson and William Percy (and adopted enthusiastically by NAMBLA), and has an obvious motive: to make a minority seem persecuted, fits snugly into the liberal-left hatred of the church. But it is mere speculation, and there is plenty of evidence against it
  3. ^ This edit by FT2 clearly shows the problem. FT2 accuses two academic researchers with "persistent cognitive inability to comprehend WP:NPOV and a dozen other standards". FT2 was instrumental in getting both of these experts banned. For the contributions of one of these, see here
  4. ^ [2]