Wikipedia Inquisition



We present a case study of how Wikipedia controls knowledge in the same way as the Inquisition did in the 17th century.

The Roman Inquisition

In 1542 Pope Paul III established the Congregation of the Holy Office of the Inquisition with the tasks of maintaining and defending the integrity of the faith and of examining and proscribing errors and false doctrines.

The most famous case tried by the Roman Inquisition involved Galileo Galilei in 1633. The Congregation changed name in 1965 to Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,  and is presided by a cardinal appointed by the Pope, and usually includes ten other cardinals, as well as a prelat and two assistants all chosen from the Dominican Order. The Holy Office also has an international group of consultants, experienced scholars of theology and canon law, who advise it on specific questions.

                                                      Galileo facing the Roman Inquisition


Science is the pillar of modern society with the objective of increasing human understanding and control of the physical world.  Science is based on observation of physical phenomena, and in this respect differs from religion, and one may ask if there is also a difference in the way science is controled by scientific communities, or not.

Scientific Inquisition

One of the basic disciplines of science is fluid mechanics and a basic problem in fluid dynamics concerns the drag or resistance to motion of a body moving through a fluid. The mathematician d’Alembert proved in 1752 that inviscid potential flow has zero drag, which was named d’Alembert’ s paradox, since motion through a slightly viscous fluid such as air and water invariably has substantial drag.  The paradox showed to be difficult to resolve and a resolution has only been presented recently. This resolution is referred to as the new resolution presented as a Knol, to be compared with the official resolution presented on Wikipedia which relies on a suggestion by the German fluid dynamicist Ludwig Prandtl from 1904.

The presentation of d’Alembert’s paradox on Wikipedia offers a case study of scientific inquisition of today. The official resolution presented on Wikipedia is claimed to represent the fluid dynamics community as a form of secret congregation without faces, and every trace of the new resolution is carefully removed by a coordinated group of Wikipedia editors speaking for the congregation. 

A good thing about Wikipedia is that the revision history of the Wikipedia article is recorded and can be followed. The history shows the following key events: 

Notice that the new resolution survived one year, but was suppressed as soon as references to publication of the new resolution was made.  The discussion relating to the different versions of the article shows the arguments used by the group of Wikipedia editors, including those on the talk page  culminating in the following threat :

Notice that the new resolution on Knol ranks 2nd on Google after the official resolution on Wikipedia, which shows that Wikipedia, like the catholic church today, cannot exercise complete control. It seems that Knol has an important mission to fill.

For an analysis of Wikipedia discovering in particular censorship and a contempt for expertize, of relevance in the present context, see the informative Knol article Criticism of Wikipedia. 

The coordinated action by WP editors of suppressing information published in refereed scientific journals has now culminated in an indefinite block according to the following messages:

You may be able to avoid a block for edit-warring if you undo your last change to D’Alembert’s paradox. This is by now a well-known issue. I doubt you will be able to provide us a list of other editors who have switched to supporting your version since the last time around. It is unfortunate that you still seem to have no interest in waiting to get consensus for your edits. EdJohnston(talk) 15:40, 14 December 2008 (UTC)

I am preparing an indefinite block notice for other administrators to read. If you see any mistakes in the following draft, I would welcome correction:

  • Spamming his own work to fluid mechanics pages. Repeatedly inserts the same material after it is reverted by others. This has gone on for months. Many people have tried to reason with him but without success. I am not aware that he found *any* other editor to support inclusion of his paper at D’Alembert’s paradox.
  • Other admins are welcome to modify this block, but please read all the previous discussions:


You have been blocked indefinitely from editing in accordance with Wikipedia’s blocking policy for repeated abuse of editing privileges. If you believe this block is unjustified you maycontest this block by adding the text {{unblock|your reason here}} below.