This is my scary Halloween posting! This may read like some kind of dire warning which is not the usual posting here on Conscious Bridge….but that’s not my intention….I really do see some good news in this story….and those positive thoughts are how we will conclude this article below!
But first….the story of Wikipedia and the battle behind the scenes:
I use Wikipedia a lot! I suspect you do too. Our immediate access to this seemingly unlimited online source of information is one of the major benefits of the Internet. Wikipedia – which can basically be edited by anyone – feels very egalitarian and open. I like that. No longer is our access to the information contained in our major encyclopedia dictated solely by the “experts” selected to write the articles by the encyclopedia’s editorial board. Now, we can all be experts! Of course, the obvious hazard here is that the people writing the articles may not be well informed on the topic or use questionable sources for their citations. I recently discovered there’s another weakness in the wiki system – more on that in a moment.
Generally speaking, I’m against censorship. There are some obvious exceptions where I think reasonable people would agree – situations where one person expressing their freedom of speech could cause harm to others.
I am for freedom of speech and the freedom to share our ideas in public forums such as the press. This whole idea is part of my recent series on our rights and responsibilities Although there’s a lot of content out on the Internet that disturbs me and I wish didn’t exist, I would rather this troubling stuff was there than to live in a world where we could not freely express our opinions.
There has always been a degree of conflict over the content placed in the sources of our general information. There’s an old saying that the victor in a war gets to write the history. The point being – whoever has control gets to write the story that’s presented to everyone as “the truth”. Of course, we just get “story” without realizing or considering the underlying bias in its creation.
Most of us would like to believe that there’s only one version of “the truth”. I’ve come to realize that in most of our stories, that simply is just not the case. What we label as “the truth” is more often than not controlled by an invisible worldview that sits silently in our consciousness guiding both what we selectively choose to experience about the world and the stories we tell ourselves about those experiences.
Conflicts generally arise when people of differing worldviews try to control the content that will define how all of us look at a topic. Consider the efforts by fundamentalist Christians in Texas to rewrite high school textbooks around the topic of evolution. Their efforts to downplay “the truth” of Darwin and evolution and replace it with their “truth” of intelligent design or creationism is seen by most of us as an unfortunate attempt to censor a central source of our educational material for young people. Textbooks are essential content on “the story we tell ourselves as to what is true”.
Of course, I don’t agree with the efforts to censor high school textbooks around the topic of evolution. However I do understand why those individuals with a traditional worldview (blue meme under Spiral Dynamics) are attempting this censorship. If one’s worldview is based upon the inerrant literal truth of the Bible (and includes a relatively short historical period of Earth history), then those “inconvenient facts” (such as evolution and the long time frames dictated by the theory) that dispute the underlying truth upon which your worldview is based are something you’d like to do away with – even if through censorship.
Which brings me back to Wikipedia – I recently read about an ongoing battle over the content to be presented in the Wikipedia article about Rupert Sheldrake. This article from the website Reality Sandwich is worth the read (including clicking through on some of its links). It piqued my interest such that I skimmed through the background Wikipedia page where the various authors of the article discuss and debate content changes(see note and link on top of this page). I also visited the page where so-called “skeptics” plan their efforts to rewrite Wikipedia content.
(An interesting side note is that the term “skeptical” used to mean someone who was questioning of information and facts presented and that such doubt led to a favorable degree of discernment. Although skeptics may still like to see themselves in such a light, the unfortunate reality is that their application of “skepticism” has led them into their own form of dogma and close mindedness such that many now view the term “skeptic” to mean someone who has adopted a strict “scientific materialism”.)
In reading of these efforts, I couldn’t help but note the parallel between these “skeptics” and the Texas fundamentalists. The bottom line is fundamentalism is fundamentalism whether it’s based upon a strict reading of the Bible or a strict adherence to scientific materialism.
I do understand why those individuals with a modern worldview (orange meme under Spiral Dynamics) are attempting this censorship. If one’s worldview is based upon “the truth” that everything can be explained via physical matter (including consciousness), then those “inconvenient facts” (such as the statistical evidence for the non-material reality of psychic phenomenon) that dispute the underlying truth upon which your worldview is based are something you’d like to do away with – even if through censorship.
Now, even though I understand why both of these groups seek to change the information that is presented to us as “the truth”, I disagree with their methods. I believe that no matter what our worldview, we should be careful whenever we seek to control the openness of the information that is presented to everyone. We should not limit the ideas presented because they are not in alignment with our worldview. Instead, we should encourage open dialogue and the unbiased presentation of ideas so that they may get a complete analysis and consideration. Whether they can personally accept it or not, neither the religious fundamentalist nor the “skeptical” fundamentalist has a monopoly on truth.
So what should we include in Texas schoolbooks or in Wikipedia pages about Rupert Sheldrake or psychic phenomenon? Whose “truth” gets to win the battle for our attention and our minds? I have my opinions (which are probably evident), but that’s not the point here. The point is that whenever we become so locked on our version of what is “true” that we become closed to truly considering another viewpoint, then we are blocking humanity’s evolutionary growth to greater knowledge and wisdom. We need to be aware of when we are doing this. Just as religious fundamentalists need to be open to the fact that certain truths are beyond the stories of the Bible, material fundamentalists need to be open to the fact that certain truths may be beyond explaining in purely physical terms.
So what is the good news in all of this?
First, I know at some level that all of these debates and attempts to control our information and sway our thinking to the vision of truth by each of these worldviews is ultimately serving humanity’s evolution. There is some part of us that pushes back against the attempts at censorship –no matter how well intentioned the individuals are—and in that pushback we move to a place where we have free access to all information and the freedom to make up our minds as to what is “true”.
Second, the similarities in the efforts of these two worldviews to “write the story” can assist all of us in ultimately seeing that what we believe to be our “truths” are impacted by this viewpoint we carry within us. And, it helps us to see that our evolution is moving us to even higher and more expansive worldviews than the traditional and modern ones. We can already see a movement towards the cultural creative as well as integral worldviews where at such levels of consciousness we seek to include all truths leading to an integration of science and spirituality –the melding of the material and the non-material world truths.
Thirdly, it is in knowing that such underlying actions to control what we read that we can become wiser consumers. I, for one, already had an open mind as to the underlying biases of many of our broadcast news sources….and not to take everything they say at face value. I now will have that same sense of healthy questioning (being a true “skeptic” in the original meaning of the term) when I am reading Wikipedia as well.
Since posting the article above, a couple of interesting articles connected to this story have come to my attention that I would like to share:
Alexi Paulina (who serves as the editor of my books) wrote about her first hand experience in trying to update Wikipedia pages to what she knew to be accurate about a topic only to run into her information being censored out by individuals who had less information but disagreed with her viewpoint. Here is a link to that article.
David Watkins on the website The Critical Mass Machine does an excellent job of covering the whole effort to censor and discredit Rubert Sheldrake for his interesting TED talk. Although I did not mention it in the article above, it was actually my viewing of the TED talk and reading about that controversy that led me down the rabbit hole of the whole Wikipedia struggle. Thanks to David, for great coverage on the TED issue–here is a link to his article. And my appreciation for his link to this article!
Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!