Natural point of view

(English) This is an essay. It expresses the opinions and ideas of some Wikimedians but may not have wide support. This is not policy on Meta, but it may be a policy or guideline on other Wikimedia projects. Feel free to update this page as needed, or use the discussion page to propose major changes.

Is there a natural point of view that is even less biased than the neutral point of view? Some argue that there is, and that over time the neutral view tends to the natural view, as empirical evidence displaces dogma and long-held beliefs.

The natural point of view is better known as an "embodied" or "body within ecology" point of view — the word "natural" is however evocative of, and easier to contrast with, views from the Enlightenment era.

What's "natural"? edit

One interpretation of that argument is that science has conquered religion, or more generally, that reason conquered faith. This view is generally associated with w: The Enlightenment and has led to theories of w: natural law which influenced w: Evolution of societies especially in the scientific era. It has been very influential, especially at increasing human physical comfort, increasing tolerance between followers of various religious dogmas, and at the creation of spectacular w: weapons of mass destruction.

These examples highlight why we might choose to avoid a "natural" point of view in favour of a "neutral" view de-escalating the inter-human conflict. Or, alternatively, why we might choose to pursue and extend a "natural" point of view very deeply so as to cast light on the dangers of strict moral neutrality. The debate is unlikely to be resolved in the lifetime of anyone reading this. Some believe that it can only be summarized after the fact, as were w: The Renassiance and w: The Enlightenment, by a history of what some are already calling w: The Embodiment.

The "old neutral"? edit

We English-speaking internet users are by definition privileged people compared to others in the world. Those of us who write for others to read have some obligation to reach "out and down" to those less privileged, and whose traditional world-views are in danger of being threatened by our work compiling what purports to be "useful knowledge" from a "neutral point of view". Most of us would view, in line with this history, a sort of progress through w: The Renaissance and w: The Enlightenment leading to what we think of as objective unbiased thinking. But in all previous eras of history, dominant cultures believed this, no matter how wrong they were.

An alternate take edit

An idea somewhat common among technical people: We speak for ourselves .... if other cultures are too lazy or incapable of publishing their thoughts then we help them publish or wire for broadcast but it is their responsibility to then use the resources provided to engage others with alternate worldviews with regard to their own. The awesome power of the internet; and the Wikipedia or its derivatives; is that when the 3 Billionth or ten thousandth user arrives ..... they can make appropriate tweaks for themselves. We only have to approximate neutral presentation of various cases the best we can, each new consensus should improve the approximation. user:mirwin

The "new natural"? edit

Today, w:cognitive science and w:anthropology appear to be challenging a w:foundation ontology, based on physics and the w:scientific method, that was also inherited from w:The Enlightenment. Some dismiss this challenge as postmodern hogwash. Others take it very seriously and point to advances towards a w: cognitive science of mathematics, the w: anti-globalization movement, and even the rise of w: Green Parties, as evidence that even such commonly-held notions as mathematical proofs and the hard sciences may gain most of their reality from human observers whose hominid body is part of an evolving ecology. This view is popular among those who challenge w: Eurocentrism and mind-sets inherited from an era of w: colonization. It is also popular among those who see humans simply as arrogant w: Hominidae and perhaps identifies more with the plight of the w: Great apes they extinct.

These are tough political questions, challenging our most basic sense of ourselves, and they will not be resolved by a few entries on w: primatology.

Like the "old natural" point of view that characterized w: The Enlightenment, the "new natural" point of view is in opposition to certain established norms and philosophies.

Criticism edit

Everyone obviously has a body, humans are obviously more like apes than like robots, and obviously, we all need to breathe air and drink water etc. - what's the controversy? Things which contradict this just are not real, no matter how many papers have been written about them.

That's a fair statement of the natural point of view. But note that it makes an issue out of contradiction, new technologies that may seem as benevolent, and the animal nature of human beings. And seems to require academe to clear its conclusions with w:ecologists or w:cognitive scientists or w:biologists, which many would see as contradicting w:academic freedom.

It is important to note that there is a continuing controversy regarding the "neutral" versus "natural" point of view, and that w:wikipedia itself seeks to avoid controversy and track the current social idea of neutrality, whether or not it is moving in favor of the "natural" or away from it. If you tend to the "natural point of view", be careful not to impose it on others, nor to add more than a few lines to correct articles that seem to come from a strongly anti-natural bias. Although one could claim that any rewrite "towards the natural" is also "more neutral", that dodges the question of audience and the political necessity of compromises.

Ongoing controversy and editing wars edit

Multiple views should be expressed as fairly as possible and labelled as such so that any remaining bias or predisposition is available to the next viewer, user, or editor attempting to use the Wikipedia. user:mirwin

Enthusiast vs. expert knowledge edit

I am writing articles on scientific facts and models that are not generally known outside professional circles, and which are highly politically charged. What can I do to ensure NPOV, and reduce the number of clowns who are simply destroying my articles every time they read one?

You can't do much about careless editors. The Wikipedia model does allow pretty much anyone to remove key facts, take ideological issue with a piece of what you consider to be valid science, or just remove an article. A degrading of dialogue to this point will mean warring update-bots, so we must be careful not to annoy each other quite to that point. It's a community. So in addition to bringing forth counter-arguments, you must make a case for a natural point of view by subtly highlighting consequences of defying it in favour of a "more neutral" but "less natural" view.

There is almost always a negotiation, and almost always a hidden consensus. Even the most staunch faith groups and pure humanists, those who regard the human being as placed on Earth direct from Heaven, unable to comprehend the implications of a body or an ecology, must be accepting compromises sometimes.

A simple example: if someone was removing E=MC2 from physics articles, you might make note of the controversy that surrounded this theory and the lack of experimental evidence validating it until recently - and then link that evidence. You might make note of the controversy that has surrounded nuclear weapons and nuclear power since their beginnings. Acknowledging these bits of history might reduce the chances that someone censors science.

Resolution edit

That isn't working. Isn't there any bottom line or sense of closure?

Well, yes. Our modern scientific medicine tells us that if it works on a closely related primate, it's likely to work on us. Our psychology tells us that if it works on a child, it's likely to work on us until we get wise.

A Neutral Point of View might refer directly to medicine or cognitive psychology, or even developmental psychology. But it would be hard to prove. Another way to look at this is to imagine, beyond Neutral, that our own Natural Point of View is that of a wild body applying its own senses in a natural ecology.

This suggests a test: If you can explain it to a four-year-old human child, or an ape, in a garden, using only the limited 3000-4000 word vocabulary common to such persons, you can safely assume you have achieved the neutral point of view. If not, not. Your ethical judgement is therefore required.

Sensitivity to other views edit

So, politics or ethical judgements are actually assumed in all words?

Yes. Therefore, you are required by custom to be careful not only with your own political view, neutral, natural or otherwise, but also with those of others who may be offended by your view, apparent goals, or others who they see as sharing those goals and perhaps as some kind of a 'threat'.

Most subjects here are somewhat more complicated than the natural perspective and will assume things about body and ecology that are determined by a context (social, cultural, or otherwise). Don't be too concerned with this.

Politics is necessary to categorization. Even choosing the names of articles is somewhat political - especially insofar as you are excluding other views, and choosing to highlight some features of a subject and simply ignore others.

However necessary politics is, ideology is not necessary to categorization if one is careful about detecting one's own inner conflicts and personal ethic. Start with your body. Move on to breathing, drinking water, food. You're not only building up a body, you're building up a view of an environment surrounding you, which includes both ecology - and other people. This Are The More Important Topic Of The Human Resource Management.

Objectivity edit

I don't have time for all that. What else can I do to get neutral?

If there are multiple points of view starkly defined, then, lay them all out, especially on those points where they are most starkly opposed. Think like a journalist: you may not like Usama bin Laden but you'd interview him anyway.

That example highlights the political and moral nature of the controversy: Depending on who you are, and who or what you perceive your subject to be, you might like to shove a rifle or a microphone in their face. We all have likes and dislikes, moral judgements, and preferred methods of dealing that have worked for us in the past. To put yourself in a neutral state of mind, and comprehend your own natural bias, you may need to visualize something quite contrary to your own moral judgement, offending your own natural bias.

For instance, imagine you find a dead fish on a riverbank, crawling with maggots and swarming with flies. You might initially, naturally, be inclined to vomit or depart. Imagine, however, fighting that urge and sitting down somewhat upwind so the smell isn't overwhelming. Concentrate on the flies. You can deliberately decide that they are loving mothers taking care of their maggot-children in a fish-nursery. You can deliberately decide to perceive them as something normal, natural, even caring. You may be puking up your lunch even as you read this. But you are capable of it. You just did it...!

Perspective edit

OK, fine, I puked but I did it. I now understand what you're talking about, and I also see why the "natural" view is tough on people, and why they avoid it in favour of the "neutral". Why is this relevant to the Wikipedia?

Well, we've all got our politics. And we've all got our own lives, which are lived out with a certain set of loyalties in a certain locality on the Earth. w: Hominidae all share a certain set of emotions, attitudes, desires, one of which is to have some control over their environment and of course their own body. Things which threaten that, like bacteria or warfare, are naturally going to inhibit us from thinking and writing things neutrally.

Personally, when I think hard about the money spent on nuclear weapons or particle accelerators or technologies that threaten to wipe out all animal life and creativity on this planet, I feel much worse than I do thinking about the fly-mothers. I'd like to simply remove a great many articles that attract attention and possibly human talent to these very destructive fields.

The point is, we all feel that way about something. And understanding why someone devotes their life to nuclear weapons yields or the w: particle physics zoo or new ways to do w: biological warfare is essential to your ability to see and write the truth. Someone out there thinks its valuable.

The natural point of view doesn't let you avoid that. You have to face it, tough as that might be.

See also edit

External links edit