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Julius and Steve, and others interested in Truth and Honesty,
Let me tell you a story about Wikipedia.
A couple of weeks ago I came across a book in my "weirdness" section called "You and Your Palm", by a guy named "Cheiro" (pronounced like the two Greek letters Chi and Rho). It turns out he was a late 1920s and early 30s sort of palm reader to the stars. The book contains palm prints and diagnoses of a number of famous movie stars of the day. I don't know how you feel about palm reading and these related skills, but I am not a fan except in the sense of mockery and derision.
Well, I looked up the good doctor on Wikipedia and found a very flattering account of his life. Among the testimonials to his greatness as a seer was what was purported to be an excerpt from a guest book he kept. The entry was from Mark Twain and indicated how pleased Twain was with the results of his sessions with the master.
As it happens I know some things about Mark Twain. Among them is that Mark Twain was a huge skeptic. In fact, there is a whole section in his autobiography (Chapter 13) in which he discusses some controlled experiments he had done with both palm readers and phrenologists of his day. Interestingly, they all concluded that one thing his personality lacked was a sense of humor (!). These were done by Mark Twain (and his agent) without revealing his identity. Curiously, when he presented himself to a couple of the same jokers as his real self, they managed to conjure up that he had a strong sense of humor. So much for the veracity of the occult sciences.
Anyway, I thought I'd add an item to Wikipedia relating to this and suggested that the views quoted there might be compared with Mark Twain's own testimony with its not-so-veiled skepticism about same. I was diplomatic. I merely pointed readers to something that might shed more light on the subject.
This morning I checked the Wikipedia site and, sure enough, my comment had been deleted and the entry about Mark Twain's endorsement of Cheiro's abilities remained unaltered. In the past two weeks I suppose some partisan of palmistry had reversed my efforts.
I was immediately doubtful when I first learned of Wikipedia. I have stronger doubts about it now, after my experience. Better, I think, is to rely on peer-reviewed matter, such as Aroideana, for one's information about scientific topics. For non-scientific topics we are at the mercy of our own judgment, I suppose.
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