Summary of Matzke's Vision for EvoWikiEdit

Version 2 of EvoWiki is an attempt to have a bigger, better, more permanent, more useful version of EvoWiki (see History of EvoWiki).  The primary improvements are: (a) permanent (hopefully) hosting at the wikifarm, and (b) a strong vision for EvoWiki, which is basically to aid scholarship and education in evolution, i.e. with a philosophy similar to that of, NCSE, NAS, AAAS,, the Society for the Study of Evolution, and the research literature.

Think of EvoWiki as Wookiepedia for evolution nerds, instead of Star Wars nerds.


Professionalism: use real names, delete insults, spam, and personal attacksEdit

Audience and toneEdit

The audience for EvoWiki will range from general readers (members of the public, bloggers, journalists, educators) to specialists (evolution wonks, hobbyists, creationism-watchers, and the like).

The tone should therefore aim at being similar to the tone of and NCSE -- professional, or at least moderate. EvoWiki should be the kind of resource one would feel comfortable recommending to a 12-year old, or a 12-year old's teacher, or a school board member. Specifically to be avoided: the insults and religious wars which often erupt on blog comment threads.

Authorship and creditEdit

  • Unlike many wikis[1], signing articles that you make substantive contributions to is encouraged in EvoWiki. Signing can be done at the bottom of a contributed section, or in an "Authors" section at the end. To automatically add your name and the edit date, type this text: --~~~~
  • Having named authors will:
  • encourage professionalism in EvoWiki
  • make it possible for authors to get credit and maintain copyright (every author maintains copyright on their edits -- although they also agree to the EvoWiki license -- but these are difficult/impossible to keep track of, if edits are anonymous)
  • allow readers (such as teachers and journalists) to assess for themselves the authority of those they are reading
  • enable EvoWiki peer-review


My current strong feeling, after dealing with several failed wiki attempts, is that:

  • All contributors asked to be logged in. This avoids anonymous spam, and allows easy fixing of a problem, if a particular contributor starts spamming or otherwise disrupting the wiki. As Wikia has no mechanism for absolutely requiring this, and not everyone will have their login available all the time, and we want there to be some freedom for newbies to start contributing without logging in, we will not make this an absolute requirement, but admins should have the policy of looking especially carefully at non-logged in contributions that do not adhere to the Vision for EvoWiki.
  • Contributors should write under their real names (this encourages responsibility and professionalism, enables contributors to get credit for their work, and coauthorship if a particular article ever becomes sufficiently developed to become part of a published piece (we may need some guidelines for coauthorship; certainly a "substantive contribution" should be required, and agreement of all the coauthors should be achieved)
  • Admins should agree with the basic tenor of EvoWiki; longtime TalkOrigins and Panda's Thumb contributors are the kinds of people who are likely admins.
  • Spammers will be summarily banned. Grow up. And creationist spammers: remember the Golden Rule.
  • It is not completely inconceivable that a creationist or other anti-evolutionist or generic contrarian could agree with and adhere to the Vision for EvoWiki -- but given our past experience, it's not very likely. Those of us committed to this wiki are very busy and do not want to spend time in legalistic arguments. So, if you're not "getting it" (i.e., getting the spirit of the Vision for EvoWiki), you will likely be summarily banned and your edits reverted. Sorry. On the bright side, you are perfectly free and welcome to start your own wiki on Wikia:Wikia or Conservapedia.


Since previous evolution wikis have had problems with work being lost, regular downloads from the wikia server will be made, and the backups will be recorded at EvoWiki backups.

Why do we need an Evolution Wiki?Edit

Wikipedia doesn't do everything.Edit

EvoWiki, version 1 was originally founded in part in order to allow for wiki articles that did not have to adhere to Wikipedia's "viewpoint neutrality" and "no original research" rules.  Such rules, while useful in an introductory encyclopedia, are an impediment for many other uses.  For example:

  1. Critique or collaborative critique of an argument (e.g., a creationist book).
  2. Gradually gathering data.  E.g., instances of invidious comparisons by creationists]].
  3. Development of an article or table for subsequent publication (prevented by wikipedia allowing anonymous edits of articles, and other edits by just about anyone).
  4. Peer-review for certain articles.  On EvoWiki, the users may decide at certain points that an article has become developed enough to undergo peer-review, at which point the article text might be locked, and the statements of reviewers added at the end.  This would be quite useful for e.g. articles written on technical topics, but aimed at general readers such as educators and journalists.  Such readers may wish to have the extra reassurance that a particular article accurately represents the mainstream view, and is not merely the subjective opinion of some guy from the internet.

What Wikipedia does do wellEdit

In the last several years, the quality of Wikipedia articles on many general science topics, such as evolution, has dramatically improved.  Thus, there probably is little need to reinvent the wheel -- Wikipedia is already well-known, and for general topics, EvoWiki can just refer to Wikipedia.  EvoWiki should aim at more specialized uses that are not already covered by Wikipedia. and other static websitesEdit and other static websites (e.g. NCSE, NAS,, various other websites of evolution/science organizations and websites of evolution workers) have long served as a ready source of information for the public and for evolution workers.  However, articles on these websites are often old, out-of-date, sometimes hard to find, and hard to correct.  Many websites (e.g. have had very few updates since the advent of science blogging in 2004.  Blogging now takes up much of the time of many of the volunteers who used to put their time into the websites.


Much of the new content generated by evolution workers and hobbyists is now generated on blogs, but this material suffers from an almost complete lack of organization, little updating, and often an uneven style.  Unmoderated comment threads, for example, often devolve into shouting matches that can scare away readers (such as as public school teachers, students who are forming their first impressions about evolution, etc.) who would be reached with a more sedate tone.  This is assuming that such a reader could even find a relevant blog post on, say, Darwin and Hitler, or on tree rings and climate, in the first place.  (By no means is it guaranteed that such will be possible, given that bloggers themselves often have a difficult time finding old posts!)

Journal articlesEdit

Journal articles are our primary source of high-quality research information about scientific topics, but the information is often inaccessible to the public, to educators and journalists, and sometimes even to other scientists, due to the vagaries of copyright, university subscriptions, and other factors.  However, even when they are available, journal articles are (a) often too technical for nonspecialists; (b) often aimed at some specific technical question (e.g., "What effect does deleting this SINE have?"), rather than a broader question that a more general reader might wish answered (e.g. "Do most SINEs in the human genome have a function?"); and (c) rarely collate data, illustrations, and explanations of basics in a way useful to more general readers.


Books often can serve the role of collating a large amount of research literature for the general reader, but have their own obvious limitations, such as (a) limited access, (b) difficulty of updating material and correcting errors, and (c) any single author can only know so much.

Databases and ProgramsEdit

A great amount of bioinformatics, fossil, and other data is available on the web for research uses, but little of it is available in a form that educators, journalists, and the like will find usable.  Given that most of this research was done with public money, it should be more available; and, public support for and understanding of science is more likely if they are able to "get closer" to the original data that scientists rely on to reach conclusions.

Example uses for EvoWikiEdit

Explanations of confusing scientific terminologyEdit

Evolution, as with many other fields of science, has a great deal of technical terminology.  Sometimes the concepts are simply difficult, and sometimes different researchers, schools of thought, etc., use the terms in different ways.  Wikipedia sometimes can deal with the complexities, but not usually.  EvoWiki can fill this role by providing expert commentary on words that often cause confusion; examples include homology, ancestor, transitional form, etc.


Unless a figure has widespread fame, Wikipedia will usually have minimal information.  Scholars and others would find it useful to have biographies of relevant figures.  For example, creationism-watchers might wish to have a complete list of the publications, talks, interviews, conferences, important quotes, and other activities of someone like Stephen C. Meyer.  Contributors to EvoWiki might wish to have all of their web articles, important blog posts, EvoWiki contributions, etc., listed in one place.

Lists of best resourcesEdit

Typically, for any given book, personality, scientific topic, or event, there are a great many blogposts, reviews, etc. scattered about the internet.  Much of the commentary will be of little worth (unless one is e.g. studying reactions to some work), and there will be just a few reviews or commentaries that "everyone should read to be well-informed on this topic."  EvoWiki is the perfect place to accumulate such a list -- generally at near the top of the EvoWiki article devoted to that issue.

Collaborative critiquesEdit

An EvoWiki article could serve as a location where various critics of a particular work (e.g., Stephen C. Meyer's (2009) Signature in the Cell could gradually build up their critique, lists of important counterexamples, lists of reviews, etc., as material becomes available.  Portions of this critique might become sufficiently coherent to be published as e.g. a book review in a journal at some later point.

Collaborative articlesEdit

Perhaps a group of people are interested in putting together a primer on a topic like junk DNA -- an article that could be passed along to journalists and students just learning about a topic, as well as creationists wondering why evolutionists say what they do about the topic, as well as scientists who think they know what they are talking about on the topic, but actually don't.  EvoWiki provides the perfect place for such a collaboration to take place.

Educational datasetsEdit

An EvoWiki article could serve as a page where a useful educational dataset could be published for general use.  There is no single good repository for such material at the moment.  An example could be the fossil hominin cranial capacity dataset, which Nick Matzke currently distributes by email whenever someone comes across his blogpost here: and asks for it.

Instructions for how to use databases or programsEdit

Databases and downloadable programs (e.g. for phylogenetics, bioinformatics, etc.) will often have instructional manuals online, but often what users really desire is "just the basics" to just figure out what the really important commands and actions are, to get started.  Many researchers have slogged through figuring this sort of thing out; but if you are in the midst of this, why not keep your notes online on an EvoWiki page, so that others may benefit, or so that you may refer your class to these instructions later?

Useful imagesEdit

A great many images and drawings exist which are excellent for e.g. purposes of evolution education.  But, very often, they are poorly known, hard to find, unsourced, hard to rediscover when they are needed, and/or not online due to copyright.  EvoWiki pages could be devoted to collections of images on particular topics, e.g. transitional fossils, and the collections could include categories such as (a) links to images online elsewhere, (b) images reproduced on EvoWiki by permission (e.g., Nature publishing group has an automated system which will give rights to republish images for nonprofit purposes, after a web form has been filled out, (c) images take or made by EvoWiki contributors, who release them under EvoWiki's license.


  1. Wikia:Ownership

Contributors to this pageEdit

--Nick Matzke 02:54, January 5, 2010 (UTC)

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