About Me

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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Wikipedia vandalism - a happy story

Someone at an anonymous IP address vandalised the Wikipedia article on "Russell Blackford" not long ago, deleting some text and claiming that the distinguished writer blah, blah in question is HIV-positive - which I can assure anyone who has an interest in the matter that I am not. :)

You'll be pleased to know that the vandalism was reverted out (not by me - I knew nothing about it) in one minute. So that's a happy story of Wikipedia dealing quickly and effectively with its vandals.


Roko said...

Now that is very interesting! I would love to know who did it and why. Did you know you can use wikiscanner to track anonymous edits from corporate IP addresses?

I suspect that it is someone with a serious *TRADITIONAL SEXUAL MORALITY* bee in their bonnet (I'll bet anyone £10 it was a hardcore-christian), trying to smear you because you think that sexual promiscuity is, all other things being equal, not such a bad thing (I totally agree on this).

What I'm still trying to work out is the following: people who argue for traditional sexual morals, i.e. no sex before marriage, often cite, say, prevention of STDs as a justification for their moral standards being superior. But incidents like this undermine that position: they're just using STDs as a convenient rhetorical device to convince people to accept their morals, so in their minds there must be some other actual justification that they're keeping secret from the rest of us. But what is it? That's what I just don't get.

Russell Blackford said...

I think it was probably just a random vandal, judging by the person's talk page and record ("my" article isn't the only one vandalised by that address) ... but who knows? Go and have a look, if you like, and see what you think.

On the sexual promiscuity thing, well the "all other things being equal" part is pretty important, of course. I think that people should try to be rational and responsible about sex. But yeah, there are situations, perhaps many, where some degree of promiscuity is not really irrational or irresponsible.

I suppose the interesting question might be whether we should take something like a rule-utilitarian approach, and advocate some relatively inflexible moral norm that we think might work better than letting people think for themselves about what is responsible, etc. Then we could teach this norm as an absolute moral truth ... even knowing ourselves that it's no such thing.

I'm not actually advocating any approach like that, though, quite the contrary; I'm just putting the question out there. But it might have made sense to have quite significant and rather inflexible restraints on sexual conduct in the circumstances of past societies. Problems can arise if these then get rationalised on a false basis.

I'm sure Thomas will have a view about this if he's reading.

Anonymous said...

I have been battling my memes for such a long time, it is scary. The persistence of memes in the human brain really tells me something of our genetic make-up. I'll be reading up more about memetics. I saw someone has published a book titled "The Selfish-Meme".

The twilight-zone experience was when the post-graduate coordinator told me he listens to only two things: someone speaking from experience, and someone stating "God told me"...


"God told me you will give me my degree right now." (No, I didn't say it.)

Having battled the Bible for such a long time, I have recently been able to concoct a story where everything fits. I understand thus how the writers thought, the poets of old. They had so much power. They had God. They had creativity. With creativity they ruled nations. And my realisation? Had this been a pre-modern time, I could be one of those people. A good, benevolent memetic engineer, or an evil monster.

So what happens when we have a hard-wired meme ingrained in humanity, and one single individual manages to break free? That one single individual becomes God over all the other humans, ruling them yet again by pulling the strings in their mind. God is waayyy too dangerous. It is time for God to set sail from the Grey Havens.

So why did I not read one of the books that could have eased my transition out of The Matrix? Because I was too busy with my thesis. Why did I not get my thesis finished? Because I was too busy trying to make sense of the world and all of humanity without having to think they are stupid.

And so I sit. Due to a combination of an obsessive-compulsive tendency and a tendency to look for the good in everything and everyone. These two characteristics kicked me out. And now what... nasty.

I'm thinking childhood belief in Father Christmas is a vital addition to religious belief. Disappointing your kids time and again teaches them to not take beliefs seriously. I only had the local equivalent of the tooth fairy, which helps with getting over tooth pain, and fades into your memories before you get to the point where you have to question it. There is no big "reveal" that has to take place with teeth. But, I had no Father Christmas.

I fear any absolute meme. Human creativity belongs to all of us. Either that, or we will kill off creativity. Which of the two? Have every human worship creativity individually? No hierarchical structure?

Questions. And more questions. And no answers.

Sorry about my verbosity. I'm not blogging today, so now it ended up here. ;)

Blake Stacey said...

One day, I too shall achieve such heights of fame! :-)

Although, I gotta say, I'm not getting there fast: I can't even egotistically link to myself on the RichardDawkins.net forum. I'd wanted to quote my Misanthropic Principle in the discussion about the Dinesh/D'Souza debate (now that was an alliterative sentence!). However, all I got were error messages from the forum software. I check that cookies are enabled in my browser, I re-generate passwords. . . no success.

And if I can't shamelessly advertise myself, I'll never get my own Wikipedia article! Oh, woe.

Russell Blackford said...

Can't you just paste in the URL?

Blake Stacey said...

I could, if I could log in!

It looks like creating a new account from scratch might be the simplest choice.