Neutral point of view
Wikipedia policy is that all articles should be written from a neutral point of view. According to the Wikipedia founder Jimbo Wales, NPOV is "absolute and non-negotiable". 
For guidance on making an article conform to the neutral point of view (NPOV), please see the tutorial.
The neutral point of view policy states that articles should be written without bias, representing all views fairly.
The policy is easily misunderstood. It doesn't assume that it's possible to write an article from a single, unbiased, objective point of view. The policy says that we should fairly represent all sides of a dispute, and not make an article state, imply, or insinuate that any one side is correct. It is crucial that Wikipedians work together to make articles unbiased. This comprises one of the great merits of Wikipedia.
Writing unbiased text is an art that requires practice. Contributors who have mastered the art of NPOV are invited to help develop the neutrality tutorial.
The basic concept of neutrality
At Wikipedia, we use the terms "unbiased" and "neutral point of view" in a precise way that is different from the common understanding:
- Articles without bias describe debates fairly rather than advocating any side of the debate. Since all articles are edited by people, this is difficult, as people are inherently biased.
The original formulation of NPOV
A general purpose encyclopedia is a collection of synthesized knowledge presented from a neutral point of view. To whatever extent possible, encyclopedic writing should steer clear of taking any particular stance other than the stance of the neutral point of view.
The neutral point of view attempts to present ideas and facts in such a fashion that both supporters and opponents can agree. Of course, 100% agreement is not possible; there are ideologues in the world who will not concede to any presentation other than a forceful statement of their own point of view. We can only seek a type of writing that is agreeable to essentially rational people who may differ on particular points.
Some examples may help to drive home the point I am trying to make.
1. An encyclopedic article should not argue that corporations are criminals, even if the author believes it to be so. It should instead present the fact that some people believe it, and what their reasons are, and then as well it should present what the other side says.
2. An encyclopedia article should not argue that laissez-faire capitalism is the best social system. [...] It should instead present the arguments of the advocates of that point of view, and the arguments of the people who disagree with that point of view.
Perhaps the easiest way to make your writing more encyclopedic is to write about what people believe, rather than what is so. If this strikes you as somehow subjectivist or collectivist or imperialist, then ask me about it, because I think that you are just mistaken. What people believe is a matter of objective fact, and we can present that quite easily from the neutral point of view.
--Jimbo Wales, Wikipedia founder
Why should Wikipedia be unbiased?
Wikipedia is a general encyclopedia, which means it is a representation of human knowledge at some level of generality. But human beings disagree about specific cases; for any topic on which there are competing views, each view represents a different idea of what the truth is, and insofar as that view contradicts other views, its adherents believe that the other views are false and therefore not knowledge. Where there is disagreement about what is true, there's disagreement about what constitutes knowledge. Wikipedia works because it's a collaborative effort; but, while collaborating, how can we solve the problem of endless "edit wars" in which one person asserts that p, whereupon the next person changes the text so that it asserts not-p?
A solution is that we accept, for the purposes of working on Wikipedia, that "human knowledge" includes all different significant theories on all different topics. So we're committed to the goal of representing human knowledge in that sense. Something like this is surely a well-established sense of the word "knowledge"; in this sense, what is "known" changes constantly with the passage of time, and when we use the word "know", we often use so-called scare quotes. In the Middle Ages, we "knew" that demons caused diseases. We now "know" otherwise.
We could sum up human knowledge (in this sense) in a biased way: we'd state a series of theories about topic T, and then claim that the truth about T is such-and-such. But again, consider that Wikipedia is an international, collaborative project. Nearly every view on every subject will be found among our authors and readers. To avoid endless edit wars, we can agree to present each of the significant views fairly, and not assert any one of them as correct. That is what makes an article "unbiased" or "neutral" in the sense we are presenting here. To write from a neutral point of view, one presents controversial views without asserting them; to do that, it generally suffices to present competing views in a way that is more or less acceptable to their adherents, and also to attribute the views to their adherents. Disputes are characterized in Wikipedia. They are not re-enacted.
To sum up the primary reason for this policy: Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, a compilation of human knowledge. But because Wikipedia is a community-built, international resource, we cannot expect collaborators to agree in all cases, or even in many cases, on what constitutes knowledge in a strict sense. We can, therefore, adopt the looser sense of "human knowledge" according to which a wide variety of conflicting theories constitute what we call "knowledge." We should, both individually and collectively, make an effort to present these conflicting views fairly, without advocating any one of them, with the qualification that views held only by a tiny minority of people should not be represented as though they are significant minority views, and perhaps should not be represented at all.
There is another reason to commit ourselves to this policy. Namely, when it is clear to readers that we do not expect them to adopt any particular opinion, this leaves them free to make up their minds for themselves, thus encouraging intellectual independence. Totalitarian governments and dogmatic institutions everywhere might find reason to be opposed to Wikipedia, if we succeed in adhering to our non-bias policy: the presentation of many competing theories on a wide variety of subjects suggests that we, the creators of Wikipedia, trust readers' competence to form their own opinions themselves. Texts that present multiple viewpoints fairly, without demanding that the reader accept any one of them, are liberating. Neutrality subverts dogmatism, and nearly everyone working on Wikipedia can agree this is a good thing.
What is the neutral point of view?
What we mean isn't obvious, and is easily misunderstood. There are many other valid interpretations of "unbiased," and "neutral". The notion of "unbiased writing" that informs Wikipedia's policy is "presenting conflicting views without asserting them." This needs further clarification, as follows.
First, and most importantly, consider what it means to say that unbiased writing presents conflicting views without asserting them. Unbiased writing does not present only the most popular view; it does not assert the most popular view is correct after presenting all views; it does not assert that some sort of intermediate view among the different views is the correct one. Presenting all points of view says, more or less, that p-ists believe that p, and q-ists believe that q, and that's where the debate stands at present. Ideally, presenting all points of view also gives a great deal of background on who believes that p and q and why, and which view is more popular (being careful not to associate popularity with correctness). Detailed articles might also contain the mutual evaluations of the p-ists and the q-ists, allowing each side to give its "best shot" at the other, but studiously refraining from saying who won the exchange.
A point here bears elaboration. We said that the neutral point of view is not, contrary to the seeming implication of the phrase, some actual point of view that is "neutral," or "intermediate," among the different positions. That represents a particular understanding of what "neutral point of view" means. The prevailing Wikipedia understanding is that the neutral point of view is not a point of view at all; according to our understanding, when one writes neutrally, one is very careful not to state (or imply or insinuate or subtly massage the reader into believing) that any particular view at all is correct.
Another point bears elaboration as well. Writing unbiasedly can be conceived very well as representing disputes, characterizing them, rather than engaging in them. One can think of unbiased writing as the cold, fair, analytical description of debates. Of course, one might well doubt that this can be done at all without somehow subtly implying or insinuating that one position is correct. But experienced academics, polemical writers, and rhetoricians are well-attuned to bias, both their own and others', so that they can usually spot a description of a debate that tends to favor one side. If they so choose, with some creativity, they can usually remove that bias.
Now an important qualification: Articles that compare views need not give minority views as much or as detailed a description as more popular views. We should not attempt to represent a dispute as if a view held by only a small minority of people deserved as much attention as a majority view. That may be misleading as to the shape of the dispute. If we are to represent the dispute fairly, we should present competing views in proportion to their representation among experts on the subject, or among the concerned parties. None of this, however, is to say that minority views cannot receive as much attention as we can possibly give them on pages specifically devoted to those views. There is no size limit to Wikipedia. But even on such pages, though a view is spelled out possibly in great detail, we still make sure that the view is not represented as the truth.
- From Jimbo Wales, September 2003, on the mailing list:
- If a viewpoint is in the majority, then it should be easy to substantiate it with reference to commonly accepted reference texts;
- If a viewpoint is held by a significant minority, then it should be easy to name prominent adherents;
- If a viewpoint is held by an extremely small (or vastly limited) minority, it doesn't belong in Wikipedia (except perhaps in some ancillary article) regardless of whether it's true or not; and regardless of whether you can prove it or not.
Bias need not be conscious. For example, beginners in a field often fail to realize that what sounds like common sense is actually biased in favor of one particular view. (So we not infrequently need an expert in order to render the article entirely unbiased.) To take another example, writers can, without intent, propagate "geographical" bias, by for example describing a dispute as it is conducted in one country without knowing that the dispute is framed differently elsewhere.
The policy of having a neutral point of view is not to hide different points of view, but to show the diversity of viewpoints. In case of controversy, the strong points and weak points will be shown according to each point of view, without taking a side. The neutral point of view is not a "separate but equal" policy. The facts, in themselves, are neutral, but the simple accumulation of them cannot be the neutral point of view. If only the favorable facts of a point of view are shown in an article, the article will still be non-neutral.
The vital component: good research
Many POV battles would be made much easier through the practice of good research. Facts are not points of view in and of themselves. So an easy way to avoid making a statement that promotes a point of view is to find a reputable source for a fact and cite the source. This is an easy way to characterize a side of a debate without promoting a view. The trick is to find the best and most reputable source you can. Try the library for good books and journal articles, and look for the most reliable online resources. A little bit of ground work can save a lot of time in trying to justify a point later.
The only other important consideration is that while a fact is not POV in and of itself, adding facts, no matter how well cited, from only one side of a debate is a POV problem. So work for balance. Find facts that aren't from one side or the other and cite the source.
A simple formulation
We sometimes give an alternative formulation of the non-bias policy: assert facts, including facts about opinions — but don't assert opinions themselves. There is a difference between facts and values, or opinions. By "fact," we mean "a piece of information about which there is no serious dispute." In this sense, that a survey produced a certain published result is a fact. That Mars is a planet is a fact. That Socrates was a philosopher is a fact. No one seriously disputes any of these things. So we can feel free to assert as many of them as we can.
By value or opinion, on the other hand, we mean "a piece of information about which there is some dispute." There are bound to be borderline cases where we're not sure if we should take a particular dispute seriously; but there are many propositions that very clearly express values or opinions. That stealing is wrong is a value or opinion. That the Beatles was the greatest band is a value or opinion. That the United States was wrong to drop the atomic bomb over Hiroshima and Nagasaki is a value or opinion. That God exists ... this can be a troublesome one. Whether God exists or not is a question of fact, not a question of value. But as the fact is essentially undiscoverable, so far as anyone knows, whether God exists will usually be couched in terms of opinion or value. To state as a fact that "the existence of God is an opinion", while seeming to be sensitive to the issue, implies that there is no fact being discussed (postmodernism or strong agnosticism), or that it is relatively unimportant (secular bias).
Wikipedia is devoted to stating facts and only facts. Where we might want to state an opinion, we convert that opinion into a fact by attributing the opinion to someone. So, rather than asserting, "The Beatles were the greatest band", we can say, "Most Americans believe that the Beatles were the greatest band," which is a fact verifiable by survey results, or "The Beatles had many songs that made the Billboard Hot 100," which is also fact. In the first instance we assert an opinion; in the second and third instances we "convert" that opinion into fact by attributing it to someone. It's important to note this formulation is substantially different from the "some people believe ..." formulation popular in political debates. The reference requires an identifiable and subjectively quantifiable population or, better still, a name.
In presenting an opinion, moreover, it is important to bear in mind that there are disagreements about how opinions are best stated; sometimes, it will be necessary to qualify the description of an opinion or to present several formulations, simply to arrive at a solution that fairly represents all the leading views of the situation. (Theological and philosophical debates are particularly hard to frame in a non-biased way; this very page bears that out, as it posed in a previous incarnation as an example of an opinion, "God exists".)
But it's not enough, to express the Wikipedia non-bias policy, just to say that we should state facts and not opinions. When asserting a fact about an opinion, it is important also to assert facts about competing opinions, and to do so without implying that any one of the opinions is correct. It's also generally important to give the facts about the reasons behind the views, and to make it clear who holds them. (It's often best to cite a prominent representative of the view.)
Fairness and sympathetic tone
If we're going to characterize disputes fairly, we should present competing views with a consistently positive, sympathetic tone. Many articles end up as partisan commentary even while presenting both points of view. Even when a topic is presented in terms of facts rather than opinion, an article can still radiate an implied stance through either selection of which facts to present, or more subtly their organization — for instance, refuting opposing views as one goes along makes them look a lot worse than collecting them in an opinions-of-opponents section.
We should, instead, write articles with the tone that all positions presented are at least plausible, bearing in mind the important qualification about extreme minority views. Let's present all significant, competing views sympathetically. We can write with the attitude that such-and-such is a good idea, except that, on the view of some detractors, the supporters of said view overlooked such-and-such a detail.
Characterizing opinions of people's work
A special case is the expression of aesthetic opinions. Wikipedia articles about art, artists, and other creative topics (e.g., musicians, actors, books, etc.) have tended toward the effusive. This is out of place in an encyclopedia. We might not be able to agree that so-and-so is the greatest guitar player in history, but it may be important to describe how some artist or some work has been received by the general public or by prominent experts. Providing an overview of the common interpretations of a creative work, preferably with citations or references to notable individuals holding that interpretation, is appropriate. For instance, that Shakespeare is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest playwrights of the English language is a bit of knowledge that one should learn from an encyclopedia. However, in the interests of neutrality, one should also learn that a number of reputable scholars argue that there is a strong case to make that the author of much of the work still attributed to Shakespeare was his contemporary Christopher Marlowe. Notice, determining how some artist or work has been received publicly or critically might require research; but that reception, unlike the idiosyncratic opinion of the Wikipedia article writer, is an opinion that really matters.
A consequence: writing for the enemy
Those who constantly attempt to advocate their views on politically charged topics, and who seem not to care about whether other points of view are represented fairly, are violating the non-bias policy ("write unbiasedly"). But the policy also entails that it is our job to speak for the other side, and not just avoid advocating our own views. If we don't commit ourselves to doing that, Wikipedia will be weaker for it. We should all be engaged in explaining each other's points of view as sympathetically as possible.
In saying this, we are spelling out what might have been obvious from an initial reading of the policy. If each of us is permitted to contribute biased stuff, then how is it possible that the policy is ever violated? The policy says, "Go thou and write unbiasedly". If that doesn't entail that each of us should fairly represent views with which we disagree, then what does it mean? Maybe you think it means, "Represent your own view fairly, and let others have a say." But consider, if we each take responsibility for the entire article when we hit "save", then when we make a change that represents our own views but not contrary views, or represents contrary views unfairly or incompletely, surely we are adding bias to Wikipedia. Does it make sense not to take responsibility for the entire article? Does it make sense to take sentences and say, "These are mine"? Perhaps, but in a project that is so strongly and explicitly committed to neutrality, that attitude seems out of place.
The other side might very well find your attempts to characterize their views substandard, but it's the thought that counts. In resolving disputes over neutrality issues, it's far better that we acknowledge that all sides must be presented fairly, and make at least a college try at presenting the other sides fairly. That will be appreciated much more than not trying at all.
"Writing for the enemy" might make it seem as if we were adding deliberately flawed arguments to Wikipedia, which would be a very strange thing to do. But it's better to view this (otherwise puzzling) behavior as adding the best (published) arguments of the opposition, citing some prominent person who has actually made the argument in the form in which you present it, and stating them as sympathetically as possible. Academics, e.g., philosophers, do this all the time. Always cite your sources, and make sure your sources are reputable, and you won't go far wrong.
It might help to consider an example of a biased text and how Wikipedians have rendered it at least relatively unbiased.
On the abortion page, early in 2001, some advocates had used the page to exchange barbs, being unable to agree about what arguments should be on the page and how the competing positions should be represented. What was needed — and what was added — was an in-depth discussion of the different positions about the moral and legal aspects of abortion at different times. This discussion of the positions was carefully crafted so as not to favor any one of the positions outlined. This made it easier to organize and understand the arguments surrounding the topic of abortion, which were then presented sympathetically, each with its strengths and weaknesses.
There are numerous other success stories of articles that began life as virtual partisan screeds but were nicely cleaned up by people who concerned themselves with representing all views clearly and sympathetically.
|Karada offered the following advice in the context of the Saddam Hussein article:
- You won't even need to say he was evil. That's why the article on Hitler does not start with "Hitler was a bad man" — we don't need to, his deeds convict him a thousand times over. We just list the facts of the Holocaust dispassionately, and the voices of the dead cry out afresh in a way that makes name-calling both pointless and unnecessary. Please do the same: list Saddam's crimes, and cite your sources.
Objections and clarifications
What follows is a list of common objections, or questions, regarding Wikipedia's non-bias policy, followed by replies.
There's no such thing as objectivity
Everybody with any philosophical sophistication knows that. So how can we take the "neutrality" policy seriously? Neutrality, lack of bias, isn't possible.
This is probably the most common objection to the neutrality policy. It also reflects the most common misunderstanding of the policy. The misunderstanding is that the policy says something about the possibility of objectivity. It simply does not. In particular, the policy does not say that there even is such a thing as objectivity, a "view from nowhere" (in Thomas Nagel's phrase)--such that articles written from that point of view are consequently objectively true. That isn't the policy and it is not our aim! Rather, we employ a different understanding of "neutral" and "unbiased" than many might be used to. The policy is simply that we should characterize disputes rather than engage in them. To say this is not to say anything contentious, from a philosophical point of view; indeed, this is something that philosophers are doing all the time. Sophisticated relativists will immediately recognize that the policy is perfectly consistent with their relativism.
If there's anything possibly contentious about the policy along these lines, it is the implication that it is possible to characterize disputes fairly, so that all the major participants will be able to look at the resulting text, agreeing that their views are presented sympathetically and as completely as possible (within the context of the discussion). It is an empirical question, not a philosophical one, whether this is possible; and that such a thing is indeed possible is evident simply by observing that such texts are being written daily by the most capable academics, encyclopedists, textbook writers, and journalists.
This should not be construed to mean that there can be no objective truth in an encyclopedia, in the sense that easily obtainable documents should be quoted or referenced correctly when first-hand sources are available, even if there are second-hand sources which quote them incorrectly. Neutrality does not compel us to introduce inaccuracy when something can be directly verified. Neutrality dictates that there can be multiple prominent interpretations to the meaning or validity of a work, but often the contents can be objectively verified, especially in the case of modern documents.
How are we to write articles about pseudoscientific topics, about which majority scientific opinion is that the pseudoscientific opinion is not credible and doesn't even really deserve serious mention?
If we're going to represent the sum total of human knowledge, then we must concede that we will be describing views repugnant to us without asserting that they are false. Things are not, however, as bad as that sounds. The task before us is not to describe disputes as though, for example, pseudoscience were on a par with science; rather, the task is to represent the majority (scientific) view as the majority view and the minority (sometimes pseudoscientific) view as the minority view; and, moreover, to explain how scientists have received pseudoscientific theories. This is all in the purview of the task of describing a dispute fairly.
Pseudoscience can be seen as a social phenomenon and therefore significant. However, pseudoscience should not obfuscate the description of the main views, and any mention should be proportional to the rest of the article.
There is a minority of Wikipedians who feel so strongly about this problem that they believe Wikipedia should adopt a "scientific point of view" rather than a "neutral point of view." However, it has not been established that there is really a need for such a policy, given that the scientists' view of pseudoscience can be clearly, fully, and fairly explained to believers of pseudoscience.
NPOV policy often means presenting multiple points of view. This means providing not only the points of view of different groups today, but also different groups in the past.
Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. One important task for encyclopedias is to explain things. In the case of human beliefs and practices, explanation encompasses not only what motivates individuals who hold these beliefs and practices, but an account of how such beliefs and practices came to be and took shape. Wikipedia articles on history and religion draw from a religion's sacred texts. But Wikipedia articles on history and religion also draw from modern archaeological, historical and scientific sources.
Many adherents of a religion will object to a critical historical treatment of their own faith, claiming that this somehow discriminates against their religious beliefs. They would prefer that the articles describe their faith as they see it, which is often from a non-historical perspective (e.g. the way things are is the way things have always been; any differences are from heretical sects that don't represent the real religion.) Their point of view must be mentioned, yet note that there is no contradiction. NPOV policy means that we say something like this: Many adherents of this faith believe X, which they believe that members of this group have always believed; however, due to the acceptance of some findings (say which) by modern historians and archaeologists (say which), other adherents (say which) of this faith now believe Z.
An important note on using the term "fundamentalism". Please see the article on fundamentalism for the technical definition of this term. This word is often used in articles on religion, but should only be used in one of its technical senses. We should take care to explain what we mean by this term in order to avoid: (a) causing unnecessary offense, and (b) misleading the reader (most people being unaware of how this word should be used.) We should not use this term as a pejorative phrase. As religion is a controversial topic, be prepared to see some of these articles edited due to what may seem minor quibbles.
Morally offensive views
What about views that are morally offensive to most Westerners, such as racism, sexism, and Holocaust denial, that some people actually hold? Surely we are not to be neutral about them?
We can certainly include long discussions that present our moral repugnance to such things; in doing so, we can maintain a healthy, consistent support for the neutral point of view by attributing the view to prominent representatives or to some group of people. Others will be able to make up their own minds and, being reasonable, surely come around to our view. Those who harbor racism, sexism, etc., will not be convinced to change their views based on a biased article, which only puts them on the defensive; on the other hand, if we make a concerted effort to apply our non-bias policy consistently, we might give those with morally repugnant beliefs insight that will change those views.
On the one hand, Wikipedia does not officially take a stand even on such obvious issues, but on the other, it should not look as though we (the authors of Wikipedia) had accorded equal credibility to morally repugnant views. Given that the authors of Wikipedia represent a rough cross-section of the educated public, our readers can expect us to have a similar cross-section of opinion about extremism: most of us abhor it.
Giving "equal validity"
But wait. I find the optimism about science vs. pseudo-science to be baseless. History has shown that pseudo-science can beat out facts, as those who rely on pseudo-science use lies, slander, innuendo and numerical majorities of its followers to force their views on anyone they can. If this project gives equal validity to those who literally claim that the Earth is flat, or those who claim that the Holocaust never occurred, the result is that it will (inadvertently) legitimize and help promote that which only can be termed evil.
Please be clear on one thing: the Wikipedia neutrality policy certainly does not state, or imply, that we must "give equal validity" to minority views. It does state that we must not take a stand on them qua encyclopedia writers; but that does not stop us from describing the majority views as such; from fairly explaining the strong arguments against the pseudoscientific theory; from describing the strong moral repugnance that many people feel toward some morally repugnant views; and so forth.
See this humorous illustration of the "equal validity" issue.
Wikipedia seems to have an Anglo-American focus. Is this contrary to the neutral point of view?
Yes, it is, especially when dealing with articles that require an international perspective. The presence of articles written from a United States or British perspective is simply a reflection of the fact that there are many U.S. and British citizens working on the project, which in turn is a reflection of the fact that so many of them are online. This is an ongoing problem that should be corrected by active collaboration from people from other countries. But rather than introducing their own cultural bias, they should seek to improve articles by removing any examples of cultural bias that they encounter. This is not only a problem in the English Wikipedia. The French Wikipedia may reflect a Continental French bias, the Japanese Wikipedia may suffer from Japanese bias, and so on.
Lack of neutrality as an excuse to delete
The neutrality policy is used sometimes as an excuse to delete texts that are perceived as biased. Isn't this a problem?
In many cases, yes. Many of us believe that the fact that some text is biased is not enough, in itself, to delete it outright. If it contains valid information, the text should simply be edited accordingly.
There's sometimes trouble determining whether some claim is true or useful, particularly when there are few people on board who know about the topic. In such a case, it's a good idea to raise objections on a talk page; if one has some reason to believe that the author of the biased material will not be induced to change it, we have sometimes taken to removing the text to the talk page itself (but not deleting it entirely). But the latter should be done more or less as a last resort, never as a way of punishing people who have written something biased.
Dealing with biased contributors
I agree with the nonbias policy but there are some here who seem completely, irremediably biased. I have to go around and clean up after them. What do I do?
Unless the case is really egregious, maybe the best thing is to call attention to the problem publicly, pointing the perpetrators to this page (but politely — one gets more flies with honey) and asking others to help. See Dispute resolution for more ideas. There must surely be a point beyond which our very strong interest in being a completely open project is trumped by the interest the vast majority of our writers have, in being able to get work done without constantly having to fix the intrusions of people who do not respect our policy.
Avoiding constant disputes
How can we avoid constant and endless warfare over neutrality issues?
The best way to avoid warfare over bias is to remember that we are all reasonably intelligent, articulate people here, or we wouldn't be working on this and caring so much about it. We have to make it our goal to understand each others' perspectives and to work hard to make sure that those other perspectives are fairly represented. When any dispute arises as to what the article should say, or what is true, we must not adopt an adversarial stance; we must do our best to step back and ask ourselves, "How can this dispute be fairly characterized?" This has to be asked repeatedly as each new controversial point is stated. It is not our job to edit Wikipedia so that it reflects our own idiosyncratic views and then defend those edits against all-comers; it is our job to work together, mainly adding new content, but also, when necessary, coming to a compromise about how a controversy should be described, so that it is fair to all sides.
Making necessary assumptions
What about the case where, in order to write any of a long series of articles on some general subject, we must make some controversial assumptions? That's the case, e.g., in writing about evolution. Surely we won't have to hash out the evolution-vs.-creationism debate on every such page?
No, surely not. There are virtually no topics that could proceed without making some assumptions that someone would find controversial. This is true not only in evolutionary biology, but also philosophy, history, physics, etc.
It is difficult to draw up general principles on which to rule in specific cases, but the following might help: there is probably not a good reason to discuss some assumption on a given page, if an assumption is best discussed in depth on some other page. Some brief, unobtrusive pointer might be apropos, however. E.g., in an article about the evolutionary development of horses, we might have one brief sentence to the effect that some creationists do not believe that horses (or any other animals) underwent any evolution, and point the reader to the relevant article. If there is much specific argumentation on some particular point, it might be placed on a special page of its own.
Concerns about "writing for the enemy"
I'm not convinced by what you say about "writing for the enemy." I don't want to write for the enemy. Most of them rely on stating as fact many things which are demonstrably false. Are you saying that, to be neutral in writing an article, I must lie, in order to represent the view I disagree with?
This is a misunderstanding of what the neutrality policy says. You aren't claiming anything, except to say, "So-and-so argues that ____________, and therefore, ___________." This can be done with a straight face, with no moral compunctions, because you are attributing the claim to someone else. It's worth observing that scholars are trained so that, even when trying to prove a point, counter-arguments are included, so that they can explain why the counter-arguments fail.
I have some other objection. Where should I ask it?
Before asking it, please review the links below. Many issues surrounding the neutrality policy have been covered before very extensively. If you have some new contribution to make to the debate, you could try Talk:Neutral point of view, or bring it up on the Wikipedia-l mailing list.
- NPOV tutorial
- Examples Debate
- Understand Bias
- List of controversial issues
- Words to avoid
- Wikipedia:Guidelines for controversial articles
- consensus reality
- Wikipedia:Avoid weasel terms
- WikiProject Countering Systemic Bias
- AssumeGoodFaith and
- NeutralPointOfView, both on MeatballWiki.
- Blinded By Science: How ‘Balanced’ Coverage Lets the Scientific Fringe Hijack Reality - Chris Mooney, Columbia Journalism Review. A valuable warning to Wikipedians about how attempts to balance the coverage can lead to biased, inaccurate and misleading reporting.