There is an interesting article on Wikipedia on BBCNews today. If you don't know Wikipedia, it's one of those great things that have come out of the internet and the evolution of information. It's a free encyclopedia that allows users to publish articles and information on any topic.
The BBC article is about the proposed changes to the way that users can publish information on the site. Instead of allowing registered users to edit and publish articles, the site has proposed that each new article and user edits will have to be approved.
Wikipedia is such an interesting site and represents the democratization of information in the modern day. We are not limited to what elite scholars or publishers hold as truth or important. We are allowed to participate in the scholarship that has been inaccessible in the past. It is also what makes blogging a powerful and rich tool as it allows regular people to publish ideas and information, free from editors or publishers with social or political agendas.
Wikipedia doesn't come without it's share of problems and as pointed out in the article, is a target for pranksters and vulnerable to misinformation. The problem with a source like Wikipedia is that 'truth' may be distorted and must be used with a degree of caution. I don't find this to be an argument against this exercise in free information just as I will not watch the nightly news and believe the stories to be 'true'. All information even if it is from the hand of a respected scholar or journalist must be held up and examined. Every good historian knows that you must cross reference every piece of information you present as 'fact'. Wikipedia simply demands the same care and attention and requires it's readers not to take everything at face value. Like all scholarship, it is dynamic, changing all the time as new information comes to light.
I found it a bit amusing how some people reacted to the news that Pluto was being removed from the list of planets and reclassified as a 'dwarf planet'. Some people don't want change and changing the classification of Pluto seemed to challenge what they held as truth all their lives. For me it confirms the idea that the world is dynamic just as we are dynamic. I quote Emerson again:
"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think today in hard words, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today."