Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Dangers of Wikipedia

In my spare time and in during my bouts of boredom at work, I find myself editing Wikipedia or at least debating the merits and weaknesses of various articles. Although I frequently lapse into Wiki-binges and spend hours navigating through its plethora of knowledge, I have to point out the inherent dangers of such a project: anyone can write or re-write history.

I was debating another editor the other day on the validity of a fringe theory that is soundly rejected by the vast majority of pundits, experts, scholars, and learned laymen. Even the main proponent of this particular theory--who is neither a subject matter expert nor anywhere near a respected commentator on the issue--has jokingly belittled his own ideas as fantastic and approaching the scholarly significance of an opinion editorial. I argued that this theory be included in the article, but not be put forward as the predominant theory for obvious reasons.

In his infinite wisdom and enlightenment, my antagonist argued that this theory should be listed as the predominant theory because--pay close attention--a movie promoting elements of the theory "...was seen by millions of people worldwide and grossed over $220 million at the box office...", the producer has "...proven popularity..." and "...a film peddling 'fringe' theories does not gross $220 million."

Based on this argument, the Star Wars saga is probably codified somewhere in stone, the love story on Titanic was absolute fact, and Harry Potter's magical universe is accessible from King's Cross Railway station in London. Does anyone else see the terrifying direction this sort of logic can take us in? As far as numbers of people who saw the film, we can make comparisons to real-world fringe theories. I guarantee that more people believe that the Holocaust is a myth and that AIDS can be cured by having sex with a virgin. Yet no one with a shred of common sense would even entertain such nonsense--save my anonymous antagonist for the day.

Fortunately, common sense prevailed and vast majority of editors agreed with me. For now. Score: Common Sense: 1 Lunacy: 0

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Lost Faith

I've lost faith in the next generation.

When I get off work every day, I come home and tutor a 9th grader. My county has two of the top ten public schools in the country. Keep this in mind.

I asked three questions throughout our discussion.

He's been studying the Israel/Palestine debate for two weeks in class.
Question 1:
Me: So, which political party controls the West Bank and is represented by the President?
Student: Fajita

Question 2:
Me: Jerusalem is a very important city for all the Abrahamic religions, as you know.
Student: Is that why the Christians are fighting the Jews?
Me: Excuse me?
Student: You know, Israelis are Jews and Palestinians are Christians.*
Me: How long have you been studying this?

*(I realize that about 10% of Palestinians are Christian. He, however, thought it was their defining characteristic.)

Question 3: (Not related to the Middle East)
(Listening to "O Fortuna", from Carmina Burana, by Carl Orff)
Me: Do you know where that music is from? I know you've heard it.
Student: Ya, its from Jackass the Movie. Jackass is what made it famous.

Is there a God?

These, of course, join my huge list of fantastically enlightened quotes from around the world. They'll be published in the near future; book forthcoming.