Wikipedia:Don't "teach the controversy"

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Well-meaning Wikipedians, fully aware of our core content policies and our guideline about fringe theories and covering them only with due weight, sometimes innocently suggest that we "teach the controversy" when presented with a real-world conflict in reliable sources.

"Teach the controversy" is not a general statement to apply to remaining neutral about a subject of social or research conflict. It’s the catchphrase of a specific group of anti-evolution lobbyists, the Discovery Institute, to promote injecting creationism into the curricula of American public schools.

Even if it weren't a misappropriated slogan of religious pseudo-science, the idea is off-base anyway, for multiple reasons.

Instead, neutrally document the conflict[edit]

Wikipedia does, indeed, have a duty to accurately reflect what the reliable sources are telling us, including when real-life experts are in sharp disagreement. This is not Wikipedia "teaching" anything – Wikipedia is not a textbook, guide, tutorial, handbook, or how-to of any kind.

Nor is every such conflict in the sourcing a "controversy". Assuming there is one is original research. Often it's simply a factor of having looked at only two sources, one of them more current or more authoritative than the other.

If there is in fact a genuine controversy in the field in question, which we might write about as such, sources from and about that field will tell us that this is the case. If they do not, then simply note the conflict ("According to.... However, according to...."), and bring it up on the article's talk page. Chances are, someone else knows where to get more information and has some idea of the weight that particular sources should afforded (or a consensus discussion may ensue to determine this). If there's an accuracy dispute between scholars, it is described by Wikipedia without taking part in the dispute, or manufacturing a controversy.

See also[edit]