For hundreds of years people believed that water contracts when it freezes. Why? Because Aristotle said so, and Aristotle was an unimpeachable authority. During hundreds of winters someone could have learned the truth and refuted the great man by leaving a bottle of water outside on a frosty night, but the force of authority overruled experience.
Wikipedia operates by the same medieval principle. When I was researching Stockhausen’s Mantra for my 12-tone class, I finally turned in some desperation to the Wikipedia page on the piece. It contains some true statements, but it says that there are 13 sections in the piece, the beginning of each one marked by a stroke on the crotales (antique cymbals) outlining the 13-tone row on which the piece is based. This statement is apparently based on Stockhausen replying “Exactly” to an interviewer who asked him if this was the case. But if you start looking at Mantra, the first thing you notice is that the crotales go through the row not once but twice, the second time in inversion, and so (since the rows are linked by one note) there are actually 25 crotales gestures in the course of the piece (or really 23, since in each row two of the notes are combined in quick alternation). This misinformation had cost me some waste of time, so I wrote correcting the error on the article’s talk page. No matter: since Stockhausen said “Exactly,” the statement must stand. I was told: “we can’t just go filling up the article with ‘facts’ that we ‘know to be true.’” For me to count the crotales strokes was “original research,” and violated the Wikipedia principle, “Who ya gonna believe, us or your lying eyes?” (For the record, I am now aware that Richard Toop’s “Lectures on Stockhausen” contains a different explanation of the crotales strokes that fits the phenomena.)
I’m reminded of years ago when I taught a graduate 20th-century analysis class at Columbia, and brought in an electric keyboard to demonstrate Harry Partch’s 43-tone scale. Some Great White Hope who’s now probably teaching set theory analysis somewhere raised his hand and asked, “Have there been any studies done to see whether we can actually perceive these intervals?” I played a sequence of them for him and said, “Can you hear this one? Can you hear this one? Can you hear this one? What do you need to read a study for?”Related