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taeto

Web scientific pollution

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I feel like opening another thread, because this phenomenon bothers me increasingly.

Quite a lot of people, if they are not sure about the exact explanation of a topic, they may go to Wikipedia, or if they have more time, sit down and watch an educational youtube video. Most of us will have to admit to doing this, on occasion.

The problem is what kind of experience this may bring to you. Mostly I am personally interested in mathematical topics. I can read a Wikipedia page and identify mistakes in maths, and make corrections, so that is fine, it seems. Except when the work required to do so begins to exceed my capacity. I cannot spend every working hour on this project. I have to live with the fact that increasing amount of Wikipedia content consists of inaccuracies and misinformation. This is bad enough, but...

Youtube is even worse, because you can obviously not enter into a video and correct its mistakes. You may make a comment to the video. Then you either end up as the 180'th commenter, and the poster may answer that, oh yeah, I said it wrong there, it should really be etc. in the best case scenario. Or you get no response, or you get a nonsensical response that makes it obvious that the poster of the video really has no idea of the subject.

Youtube does not distance itself from videos that argue that gravity does not exist, irrational numbers do not exist, or the earth is flat as a pancake and the sun is a little electric powered lamp that moves around above the surface. This still is kind of okay, because posters, however misguided, present accounts of the world as they see it individually. Which makes it a document of the diverse cultural and non-scientific attitudes to topics some of which happen to be scientific. 

I do however have a problem with the youtube categories, that allow exactly such videos to be labelled as "Educational". I can provide examples, if necessary, but I do not imagine they are hard to come by.

Am I wrong in thinking that such a practice is unethical? I could be just old-fashioned in this respect. But to me, there is a certain responsibility attached to certifying, as it were, content as having educational value. 

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Posted (edited)

I agree completely, although there is some good quality channels on YouTube, if you don't understand the details and are just a layman it can be hard to tell if it's real or just a hypothesis. 

But if you think their bad, you should see some of the stuff on Quora :lol:

Edited by Curious layman

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Unless a YT video is by or of a person I know knows their stuff I don't generally class it as an educational portal; it is for entertainment. The thing with Wikipedia is to check the references.

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46 minutes ago, StringJunky said:

Unless a YT video is by or of a person I know knows their stuff I don't generally class it as an educational portal; it is for entertainment. The thing with Wikipedia is to check the references.

I agree, though I found that the references in wikipedia for many topics are not that great, sometimes general textbook references are given other times there are papers but not always the ones that folks in the field would consider to be really relevant or important. The reason of course being that the editors are often not experts themselves and there is the tendency on the web to cite whatever google shows up in a given topic. The danger there is that there is a disconnect in terms of what the internet seemingly tells you what important research is being done versus what experts actually think. But obviously, the quality varies and especially for basic concepts linking to text books is not actually a bad thing. 

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On 1/8/2020 at 11:57 PM, StringJunky said:

Unless a YT video is by or of a person I know knows their stuff I don't generally class it as an educational portal; it is for entertainment. The thing with Wikipedia is to check the references.

Sound advice. But I try to think of myself when once I was just a high school student, and pitifully naive. Back then we did not have the massive presence of pseudoscientific material which exists now. It scares me to think of such a vulnerable mind, somewhat interested in scientific subjects, and not yet able to tell the difference between actual evidence and stuff that is purely made up. How will you react to hundreds of anti-science propaganda videos with "easy refutations" of just about every scientific topic. And as I started saying, it is kind of okay that YT keeps videos available that are propaganda, misinformative, conspiratorial and presenting made up evidence. What bothers me is that some such videos get clearly marked by Youtube as being "Educational". YT videos by Ken Wheeler get placed by Youtube in the "Educational" category. 

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That's what our resident experts are there for.

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Quite. But I read in another thread something to the effect that if someone has gotten convinced to believe something other than by facts, then any facts presented to them may not change their beliefs. What we do experience is actually a little stronger than that, namely that they are increasingly likely to avoid confronting facts. Of course "Impossible to see - the future is" (Yoda, ~4.7B BC).

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