Wikipedia:Wikipedia only reports what the sources say

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Josh Billings was an American humorist of the nineteenth century. This article deals primarily with application of one of his aphorisms to editing on Wikipedia.

"It ain't ignorance causes so much trouble; it's folks knowing so much that ain't so."

attributed to Josh Billings with variants[1]

Which is sometimes cited as "The trouble ain't what people don't know, it's what they know that ain't so."

Ronald Reagan recycled it as: "Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they're ignorant; it's just that they know so much that isn't so.”[2]

Wikipedia requires reliable sources. Wikipedia only reports what those sources say.

Wikipedia has many different kinds of editors, with many different backgrounds. Even if an editor is sure he knows the truth, another editor might note that sources point to a different "truth."

Thus it makes sense for all editors to admit their own fallibility when they assert that they "know" something to be true. Don't report what you know (or think you know), but what the sources tell us.

Benjamin Franklin in his speech on the Federal Constitution[3] said:

It is therefore that, the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment of others. Most men, indeed, as well as most sects in religion, think themselves in possession of all truth, and that wherever others differ from them, it is so far error.
On the whole, sir, I can not help expressing a wish that every member of the convention who may still have objections to it, would, with me, on this occasion, doubt a little of his own infallibility, and, to make manifest our unanimity, put his name to this instrument.

Wikipedia is a bigger project than the Constitutional Convention, and so Franklin's words should resound clearly here.


  1. ^ Readings in true and fair R. H. Parker, Robert Henry Parker, P. W. Wolnizer, Christopher Nobes 1 Review, Taylor & Francis, 1996 page 74
  2. ^ Reagan, Ronald. “A Time for Choosing”, 27th October, 1964.
  3. ^ On the Federal Constitution Benjamin Franklin 1787