David Klinghoffer wrote a piece at Evolution News a month or so ago, in which he charged that Wikipedia had removed the entry for the paleontologist Günter Bechly because Dr. Bechly had “converted” to creationism. I think he may have a point.
I had not had a chance to get back to this case, when the English edition of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz posted an article proclaiming, “A Respected Scientist Comes Out Against Evolution – and Loses His Wikipedia Page.”
Thanks to some assistance from the Panda’s Thumb crew, I found Dr. Bechly’s deleted article, which appears to have forthrightly stated that he had relatively recently become critical of “neo-Darwinism” and now supports intelligent-design creationism. The article quotes Dr. Bechly to the effect that he supported creationism for purely scientific reasons.
Dr. Bechly’s Wikipedia entry states only that his website is private and wholly separate from his activities as a museum director. The museum is not named. Mr. Klinghoffer claims that Dr. Bechly was fired from the State Museum of Natural History in Stuttgart, Germany. In a comment on a blog entry, Michael Fugate quotes Dr. Bechly to the effect, “After resigning from my job at SMNS in December 2016 I am still actively working as a paleontologist and publish my research in peer-reviewed scientific journals.” I do not have a source for this statement, but it gives no indication that Dr. Bechly was fired.
The English version of Wikipedia considered Dr. Bechly’s entry for deletion, very possibly because someone had noticed his new creationist credentials. You may find a transcript here. The Wikipedia editors claim, however, that his entry was deleted because he did not meet certain guidelines and that his being a creationist was irrelevant. The guidelines in question are general notability and a guideline that says, basically, just being a professor at a prestigious institution is not good enough. I read most of the discussion, which was marred by an apparent attempt to stuff the ballot boxes by a number of individuals who do not regularly contribute to such editorial decisions.
Dr. Bechly has a long and impressive list of publications (not to mention a handful of species named after him, which Wikipedia deems irrelevant). I looked him up on Google Scholar and found tens to hundreds of citations to the first 10 articles listed. He has appeared on German TV, and he organized what appears to have been a major Darwin celebration in 2009. I am not at all familiar with how Wikipedia applies its guidelines, but I would have guessed that Dr. Bechly would qualify as being generally notable. Indeed, I kind of agree with one commenter, who noted that he should be of interest precisely because of his conversion to creationism.
I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that, had Dr. Bechly not converted to creationism, then he would have flown beneath the radar and his Wikipedia entry would have been safe. Unfortunately, he flew above the radar for a while, and some Wikipedia editor decided to have a closer look and ultimately decided to delete the entry. The editor claims that the creationism issue was irrelevant.
The author of the Haaretz article I cited above, Omer Benjakob, presumably does not believe the editor’s disclaimer, and I think I will let him have the last word:
If Bechly’s article was originally introduced due to his scientific work, it was deleted due to his having become a poster child for the creationist movement.