Medical wiki revisited - via Respectful Insolence
As we've discussed the promise and danger of open collaboration wikis for medical information over the last week or so, many have raised concerns about who might be providing information for such sources. Several of us have expressed concern that zealots or others with a particular agenda, usually not supported by science, might hijack entries on more controversial or polarizing issues.
My ever-thorough blogging colleague, Orac, has found one example that takes this concern to an extreme: an entire wiki that is not only supported by, but where authorship is exclusive to, the faction who does not accept that the science that supports HIV infection as the cause of AIDS. Orac's post is enlightening because many of my colleagues don't really think that the HIV deniers are all that significant in the public discourse these days.
Actually, I have been quite shocked at just how influential and pervasive groups have become on the Web who, I believe, have the right intentions initially but refuse to budge on their hypotheses when proven wrong by the body of accumulating data. What do I mean? I mean the people for whom hypotheses become beliefs in the face of numerous studies that refute their position. I mean the HIV deniers that have trolled Tara at Aetiology, the mercury/vaccination/autism movement that comes to visit Orac, and the anti-evolution folks who plague PZ and others.
Many of us in biomedical research often just blow off these "believers" as a fringe element. But most of my colleagues would be shocked by how rabid and pervasive this fringe element has become. I am all for open discourse but the scientific method should carry the day.
Freedom of speech most certainly defines the web. But thinking that is not supported by data has no place in medical reference material. More than misleading, it can be downright dangerous. This is a very serious issue that must continue to be considered by my colleagues and visionaries like Peter Frishauf and Larry Sanger as they move forward with their respective projects.