Guerrilla Skepticism is a team led by Susan Gerbic that consists of Wikipedia editors who have a specific focus on improving the quality of the available information. In fact they are quite open about what they are all about, and have their own website here where they invite anybody to join them, and describe their goal to be as follows:
The mission of the Guerrilla Skepticism editing team is to improve skeptical content on Wikipedia. We do this by improving pages of our skeptic spokespeople, providing noteworthy citations, and removing the unsourced claims from paranormal and pseudoscientific pages. Why? Because evidence is cool. We train – We mentor – Join us.
The challenge here is that nobody is neutral and to some degree everybody has a specific agenda, so it can be observed that if Wikipedia is indeed to remain a reliable source of credible information of universal value, then the only real standard that can be applied to ensure that is to practise scientific skepticism.
How do I define that term … well hey, let’s turn to Wikipedia and find out a bit about it. There you will find a great article that is in fact quite good …
Scientific skepticism (also spelled scepticism) is the practice of questioning whether claims are supported by empirical research and have reproducibility, as part of a methodological norm pursuing “the extension of certified knowledge”. For example, Robert K. Merton asserts that all ideas must be tested and are subject to rigorous, structured community scrutiny (see Mertonian norms).
OK, so to translate all that – what Guerrilla Skepticism is actually all about is simply cleaning up pages about skeptics, science educators, and science-based medicine proponents who push back against pseudoscience and the paranormal in the media, and also purging the whacky unsourced claims that often pop up. The classic example is that lots of obscure psychics have Wikipedia pages full of nutty claims that often turn out to be written by the psychics themselves.
Net Result of such activism: The Kooks get upset
If indeed somebody’s agenda relates to a specific bit of woo, then it is inevitable that they will get upset by all this.
Tara MacIsaac writes an article in the New York based Epoch Times that more or less sticks the knife into Guerrilla Skepticism and twists it a few times.
Claim: A team of activists under the label “Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia” are making concerted efforts to change science content on Wikipedia.
Observation: Er no, that is not the focus at all. Their remit is accurate and fully cited information and is all about improving the quality of what is there.
What is also quite fascinating is that her primary go-to source of criticism is Rupert Sheldrake, a well-known crank who has a reputation for the promotion of crazy pseudoscientific ideas that don’t have a single jot of credible evidence.
He in fact personally claims … This summer, soon after the TED controversy, a commando squad of skeptics captured the Wikipedia page about me. They have occupied and controlled it ever since, rewriting my biography with as much negative bias as possible, to the point of defamation.
The ever so slight flaw with that claim is that it is not factual at all, according to skeptic Tim Farley, “none of Susan’s editors (Susan leads the Guerrilla Skepticism team) are editing that article. It’s completely a conspiracy theory.”
Mr Sheldrake’s real problem is not Guerrilla Skepticism, but rather the complete lack of any credible evidence for his claims, so he will not be a target for one specific team of editors, but rather all of them. He really really does not like the term “scientific materialism” which is perhaps driven by the observation that he has no evidence, so his criticism of that concept is perhaps understandable.
Meanwhile … can we trust Wikipedia?
Yes we can, as long as the information is backed by a credible source.
But perhaps for a more detailed discussion on that topic, the place to turn to for information on the accuracy (or not) of Wikipedia is the Wikipedia article all about the accuracy of Wikipedia.