The concept of an online encyclopaedia that anyone can access is a great idea. It's an idea that I thought would never work, simply because I couldn't envisage anyone spending hours a day editing pages of information, totally unpaid and unthanked. But some people do it and they’ve been doing it for years. Today Wikipedia is a ideal starting point for many subjects and is a credit to its many editors.
However, there are exceptions. One of the more interesting pages to visit on the Wikipedia site is the Expanding Earth page. Not, I hasten to add, because the information contained on the Expanding Earth page is reliable but rather to look at the peculiar editing war that has been festering there since the page was started in January 2006.
Today, the Wikipedia page on expansion reflects many of the wide-ranging misperceptions about expansion on the Internet. Many of the details within the article are so clearly wrong it can only reinforce a resolution not to believe anything you read on Wikipedia. Take for example the Wikipedia claim that Charles Darwin was the first to discover the Expanding Earth. Yes, that Charles Darwin!
Apparently one Wikipedia editor noticed that Charles Darwin used the word expansion in one of his geological articles and this was enough to proclaim him as the first to discover expansion. Despite many people pointing out that none of the well-known experts on expansion have ever considered this a remote possibility, (people like Drs Sam Warren Carey, Hugh Owen, Giancarlo Scalera and James Maxlow for example) the claim is repeatedly inserted in spite of continual attempts to remove it. This incorrect claim has continued on the page for years in one form or another.
It might seem a simple matter to place the basic facts about the Expanding Earth theory on a page in Wikipedia: what the theory is, how it was developed, who has worked on the theory, time scales, evidence for the theory etc. but this seems to be too difficult. As soon as one group of editors adds important facts about the theory a different group removes it and replaces it with clearly wrong or misleading information. Is this deliberate misinformation? The claim that Charles Darwin was the first to develop the theory is an obvious inaccuracy but there are many others, some of which are more obscure.
One of the first statements on the page visible on 30 August 2014 was that while “suggested historically, since the recognition of plate tectonics in the 1970s, scientific consensus has rejected any significant expansion”. This statement attempts to confine the whole article to what was known about expansion over 40 years ago. Those early investigators realized that it might have been caused by changes in universal gravity, or changes in Earth’s density or mass. The Wikipedia article never progresses beyond that point to detail any of the research in the last 40 years. It simply abandons us in the past as though there has been no progress in the last few decades. There is no mention of the several scientific conferences discussing expansion or the many science papers and books published since then. There is no mention of any research into ancient gravity which effectively limits the mechanism of expansion. Only mass increase fits what we now know about ancient gravity but you would never learn that reading the Wikipedia article.
Having abandoned us a few decades in the past some Wikipedia editors have added a list of “proofs” that expansion is impossible. Unfortunately for any faith in this claim, these are clearly wrong in various ways.
Firstly, take for example the claim that measurements made “with modern high-precision geodetic techniques [are] evidence that Earth is not currently increasing in size to within a measurement accuracy of 0.2mm per year.” This claim fails to mention that another science paper was published in the same year, and that research group found that the Earth was expanding. Nor does it mention that several other research groups have measured expansion in previous years. Nor does it consider that the evidence indicates most expansion has happen over the last 200 million years, not the 30 years of GPS measurements.
Secondly, look at the statement that mass “accretion on a scale required to change Earth’s radius … releases a lot of energy, which would warm the planet's interior”, presumably implying that this would be impossible. Yet we only need a layer of cosmic dust less than 0.1 mm per day to expand the Earth by the required amount. One rainy day can easily drop up to 30mm of water on the ground, so 0.1mm of cosmic dust would be simply washed away. It’s not even close to releasing “a lot of energy” as I’ve explained before. The other claims that expansion is impossible are similarly naive.
This use of misleading and clearly wrong information about the Expanding Earth theory is fairly typical of the misinformation on the Internet but what makes the Wikipedia site so interesting is the ability to clearly track this editing war as it progresses. If you link to the Wikipedia page and then click on the view history tab (at the top to the left of the search box) you will be presented with the revision history. On this page you can look at all the previous versions of the page and even choose to compare two pages to clearly see the edits.
The more interesting edits for me concerns the concept of reduced gravity. It’s clear to many modern scientists that ancient reduced gravity supports the geological evidence for an Expanding Earth. Perhaps even more importantly for the Expanding Earth theory it also clearly shows that expansion must be caused by mass increase of the Earth. It’s a point that has now been repeated over the last few decades by many of the leading experts in the field including: Prof Sam Warren Carey, Dr James Maxlow, Prof Giancarlo Scalera and many others. It was the main point covered in my own book. Remarkably, this important information was added to early editions of the Wikipedia page but then deleted in one of the many attempts to remove any evidence in support of expansion from the page.
The very first page in January 2006 attempted to explain in a clear and concise way what the theory was without qualifying if it was correct or not:
“The Expanded Earth theory is an attempt to explain the position and movement of continents on the surface of the Earth. It is an alternative to the much more widely accepted Continental Drift theory. The main difference between the two is that in the Expanded Earth model the size of the planet is increasing, whereas in Continental Drift it remains static.”
Initially early edits and additions to the page presented a balanced view of evidence both for and against the theory and over the next few years it developed into a useful resource. But then a very notable prejudice in the editing began to develop.
On the 21 March 2009 Sophergeo noted that;
“A common way of introducing bias is by one-sided selection of information. Information can be cited that supports one view while some important information that opposes it is omitted or even deleted.”
In particular Sophergeo objected to the phase "Modern scientific evidence does not support this idea, rather plate tectonics is almost universally accepted as correct" being added to the page. He then gave a list of over 35 scientific papers that discussed expansion. His evidence clearly showed plate tectonics was very far from being “universally accepted”.
His efforts resulted in him being personally attacked that “he generally just repeated [about] suppressing information …” and so on.
One opponent to expansion then issued a "call to arms” to start an editing war. Wikkidd noted this “call to arms” on the 23 March 2009 and complained:
“The following people have conspired to edit war for the sake of inserting their POV thus violating NPOV and suppressing information. See their conspiracy to edit war and, this is their words not mine ‘call to arms’ here [page has now been deleted] i.e. where they call for an edit war.”
Yorrike tried to trivialize his “call to arms” the same day;
“That is my blog post. I was not calling for a crushing of fringe views, I was calling for geologists to tidy up a page that had obvious problems. Calling it a "call to arms" was probably a bit strong, but I never intended it to incite an edit war. Rather than incite people to edit, it has brought about a discussion of whether or not Wikipedia should be linked to [it?] at all, with such unsubstantiated fringe views having such prominence.”
After a while new editors were “tiding up” the page. In a number of particularly savage cuts beginning on the 27 June 2010 Michaelbusch did “a partial clean-up”. Among many other deletions, first one cut and then another removed any reference to ancient gravity or why the latest thinking amongst leading expansionist was that expansion must be caused by mass increase.
By the 22 October 2010 Blue Tie commented “The article is improved over its condition a few months ago.” The “improvement” had been the gradual deletion of any evidence in support of the Expanding Earth theory and removal of any reference to modern scientists developing it further. The article now claimed that Charles Darwin was the first person to propose the theory.
Naturally, various people objected that this is not a fair and unbiased description of the Expanding Earth theory. But it seems others were even more determined that misinformation, errors and omissions would dominate the Wikipedia page on expansion. All this effort seemed to be expended solely to convince everyone they must believe the constant diameter Earth model of Plate Tectonics without question or further consideration. We were forbidden to contemplate any alternatives. It seemed a small number of people believed no one was allowed to examine the evidence more closely or even be told about the progress in recent decades.
By 2011 the bias against expansion wasn’t even being hidden. An attempt was made by CopyKat0t0 on the 15 March 2011 to add two references:
“Terra Non Firma Earth by James Maxlow and Dinosaurs and the Expanding Earth by Stephen Hurrell” [because they were] “a presentation of present day theorists who take up the mantle of Samuel Warren Carey”
This was deleted 43 minutes later by Dougweller.
One editor tried to add a paragraph about the well-known Australian geologist James Maxlow, who is widely esteemed as a leading exponent of the expansion theory by his peers:
“Australian geologist, Dr James Maxlow offered a presentation about this hypothesis, in 2004, that is now available on YouTube. His Masters degree is based on demonstrating how this theory is more viable than "plate tectonics" theory. He argues that his calculations are based on a geological map put forward by modern satellite technology that was not available to his predecessors. He also says that this map was made in order to prove and support the "plate tectonics" theory, but failing to do so, it is no longer used by current geologists. He claims to explain and calculate with exact precision all of Earth's geological history and evolution, where as the mainstream "plate tectonics" theory only goes back 20% in geological Earth time, and has multiple contradicting simulations of moving landmass. He released a book called "Terra non Firma Earth: Plate Tectonics is a Myth" and his website is http://www.jamesmaxlow.com”
Within only 4 minutes AndyTheGrump deleted the reference to James Maxlow with the comment that there was “no evidence that this individual is in any way notable - we aren't here to provide him free publicity”
On the 13 September 2012 Daniel Helman, who tells us he is trained in geology and science and math generally, has a few scientific publications, and has done some editing for a geology journal, tried to add references to two modern day scientists researching the concept:
“Italian Geologist Giancarlo Scalera has written several papers <ref> Further, Stavros Tassos, a geophysicist at the Institute of Geodynamics at the National Observatory in Greece has been publishing extensively on Earth expansion, and especially data critical of plate tectonics. <ref>”
Here are clear examples of how some Wikipedia editors hope to control our thoughts about expansion. I could use many more examples but I’m sure you see the general trend. It’s a technique that’s been used for centuries to suppress any research into some of the major revolutions in science but with the new age of the Internet we can see exactly how this suppression works. It shows how some people, usually hidden shadowy individuals, seek to control what we are allowed to ponder.
Before we have even read the first paragraph of the September 2014 version we are left with the clear impression that it is not a theory, it is old and outdated and nobody believes it. Just the first paragraph contains an amazing number of lies and half-truths.
The concept of Wikipedia is a fine ideal but the problem with the Expanding Earth page clearly illustrates some of the difficulties its organisers face. Whilst blatant vandalism is removed relatively quickly the more underhand control of the information by misguided and largely uninformed individuals with an obvious agenda to suppress the expansion theory is mostly unchecked. They habitually remove all scientific evidence in support of expansion. Information about the scientists who are widely regarded as being the leaders in this field is hurriedly deleted. Misleading information is added, seemingly in an attempt to muddy the water. Details of science papers, books and week-long science conferences on the subject are removed from the further reading section. It seems one of my friends was correct when he succinctly remarked “you can't believe anything you read on Wikipedia.”
What can we make of all this? It seems that there are a small minority of people who are becoming increasingly petrified that key facts about the Expanding Earth theory will become more widely known. One of the most evident dreads for them results in the regular removal of any mention of Dr James Maxlow’s work from the Wikipedia page. Yet when dozens of scientists attended the week-long Expanding Earth workshop in 2011 it was James Maxlow who was invited as lead presenter by the organisers. He is widely regarded amongst scientists as one of the key present-day experts on the subject. We can see this almost unthinking panic on Wiki and in many other places as well. It seems to lead to supremely foolish actions; the most startling for me was the use of a clear lie by one blogger whilst he was misrepresenting the concept of expansion.
I'm not demanding that you should believe the Expanding Earth theory is true. That’s your decision. But I do believe you should be able to make that decision for yourself. I like to think we can approach the idyllic concept that we can all read the arguments in favour of a particular theory if we want to. If we don’t like it we can disregard it. We can even decide not to read the article if that’s what we decide. I like to have that right and care about it. It’s my decision. You should care about it too because most of us live in a free country. It is a powerful idea that we are all masters of our own thoughts. It’s a magnificent way to live. We are all free to make up our own minds but there have always been people who want to decide what we can and can’t think. Do we want to be shoehorned into their narrow way of thinking? I certainly don’t. That’s not freedom of thought.
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Wikipedia deletes a founder of expanding Earth theory
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