Issuepedia:Reinforcement by Contradiction
- Given Issuepedia's wiki nature, it is possible for anyone who disagrees with any statement in Issuepedia to post an argument against that statement.
- It is often difficult and tiresome to attempt to track down documentation to support statements of judgment, especially if they are the result of a novel thought-process; requiring that all such statements be supported by documentation (or else be deleted) would greatly reduce the ability to set down such statements in the first place.
- Conversely, it is useful to have a compendium of points of view and judgments on various issues (along with any counter-arguments to those arguments, further discussion, and hopefully some sort of ultimate resolution) because they will no doubt be raised many times in other venues (TV, letters-to-the-editor, person-to-person talk) regardless of accuracy, and such a collection will thereby help prevent the wasted effort of re-hashing those same arguments repeatedly. This is often especially true of arguments which turn out to be incorrect or indefensible.
- Therefore, Issuepedia has a policy of allowing unsupported statements in its pages, as long as any part of the statement which could be seen as opinion (rather than fact) is reasonably sound (or is attributed to a particular person, for purposes of accountability, if it is obvious hogwash).
- However, it should be noted that readers should carefully consider unsupported statements, rather than accepting them uncritically.
- This is especially true with regard to statements of judgment which stand uncontradicted. Supporting facts can be misinterpreted, but the sense (or lack thereof) of counter-arguments is generally easier to determine.
- Hence: Issuepedia proposes that statements of judgment which have successfully withstood the test of contradiction are more likely to be reasonable and accurate than those which have not been contradicted, regardless of whether they have supporting facts.
Issuepedia's policy on statements which have been contradicted and whose reasoning has not survived that contradiction is to leave them in place but with a strikethrough,
like this, so that they are available for reference (including searches) and so that it is (hopefully) clear that the statement is not valid.
Readers are, of course, encouraged to comment on any statement which inspires them to do so. (Eventually we'll have something in place to make it easier to find out what the level of consensus is on various statements; as it is, we don't know if uncommented statements haven't been read much or if everyone simply agrees with them.)
As a matter of politeness and entropy-reduction, please try to indicate statements which are probably more personal opinion than reasonably sound opinion as such – either by signing them, by putting them in an "Opinion" section, or by putting them on the "Discussion" page for that article. (We do recognize the difficulty in differentiating here, so just do your best; hopefully we'll be able to come up with a clearer definitional distinction as more examples accumulate.) You can also give purely personal, unsubstantiated opinions anywhere within your userspace (e.g. User:Yourname or User:Yourname/a_subpage). See Issuepedia:Viewpoint for Issuepedia's viewpoint policy.
- Issuepedia's editorial policy is based on this principle.
There are many recursive algorithmic processes in which an initial "guess" is made essentially at random, and the algorithm works repeatedly to get closer and closer to the truth (this is called "successive approximation"). The closer the initial guess, the faster the algorithm will reach an answer of predetermined accuracy – but even with a completely random initial guess, the algorithm is still guaranteed to produce a correct answer.
The process of Reinforcement by Contradiction is at least partly modeled on this idea:
- An initial "guess" as to the truth is put forward. Hopefully it is correct, but it doesn't have to be.
- Any notable departures from a reasonable interpretation of reality will be noticed by others, and pointed out.
- Notable departures-from-reality in any of the responses will be pointed out by still others...
- ...and so on, until something resembling consensus emerges.
Obviously this description is somewhat idealized; only actual practice will reveal where the weak points are.