Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Wikipedia is an open source, user-generated internet encyclopedia. (As if anyone was unaware.) It's useful, if not always especially trustworthy, and it has become a ubiquitous part of internet culture. There are now numerous specialized "wikis" and "pedias" of various kinds floating around on the web, some of them using Wikipedia's architecture and some of them not. For example, there's the nominally humorous "attack comedy" site Encyclopedia Dramatica, which is apparently dedicated to explaining why everything in the world sucks, as well as the ever-useful WikiZilla and Nintendo Wiki. And, because there's a Christianized, right-wing Bizarro World doppleganger of everything in the freakin' universe, there's Conservapedia.

Generated by and for folks who watch Fox News and think books by Bill O'Reilly rightfully belong in the political science section of the book store*, Conservapedia gives its readers "trustworthy" (read: "conservative") articles about everything from the Ten Commandments to atheism to evolution. Many of the "facts" on Conservapedia are startling. For example, the author of the Ten Commandments entry claims that the third commandment has been enshrined in U.S. law because "[taking Yahweh's name in vain] may be in violation of broadcast decency laws if shown on television or radio." The article on evolution informs readers that "the most prominent and vocal defenders of the theory of evolution which employs methodological naturalism have been atheists" and is dominated by a large picture of Adolf Hitler.

Another notable article is the one on dinosaurs, which contains distinct sections for dinsaurs as they pertain to an old earth vs. a young earth. It is dotted with claims by "creation scientists" and often refers to "multiple problems" with non-creatarded theories about dinosaurs without ever really explaining what they are. The "explanations" that are provided by the creatards are often just delightful. Feast your eyes:

Creationists note that the fossil record contains mainly marine organisms and that a small sliver of the fossil record contains vertebrates and thus assert that we shouldn't expect to find many human fossils at all. Μoreover, as the biblical Flood would be a marine catastrophe, it would be expected that marine fossils would dominate the fossil record. Τhis is in fact what we find.

All this because, clearly, it's fish and other marine creatures that would be most effectively decimated by are worldwide flood. I mean, how could fish, dolphins, and octopi survive underwater...?

...Oh, wait...nevermind.

I'm actually having trouble editing this post because every time I click on a new Conservapedia link I encounter something else that I think is hilarious. Take a look at some of these:

From the Barack Obama article:
The odds of Obama being truthful in his claim that he converted to Christianity are less than 100 to 1 against it, as fewer than 1% of Muslims convert to Christianity.
From the article on atheism:
The history of the atheist community and various studies regarding the atheist community point to moral depravity being a causal factor for atheism.
Honestly, I'm having a bit of "target confusion" here. Should I point out that the article on the United States of America is less than a third the length of the article on homosexuality? Should I wonder aloud why there's a really, really long article about Dungeons and Dragons?** Should I ask why someone felt compelled to write a Conservapedia article about zombies? Was the Wikipedia article on zombies too liberal? It's all so tempting!

In any event, taking a stroll through Conservapedia will provide the reader with a brief glimpse into the parallel reality in which insular social conservatives elect to live. It's not unlike hanging out on more overtly odd conspiracy websites, and in all honesty the sensation is probably nearly identical to the feeling one would get from perusing one of the internet's multitudinous super-liberal sites. (Ever look at a PETA website?) Still, it's an odd feeling to realize that you've wandered into a completely different neighborhood. Trot over there and have a look.

*Just as Borders has instituted a "Speculation" section for silly pseudoscience books, I'm all for the institution of an "Opinion" section to separate TV news host (O'Reilly and Olberman alike) punditry from the work of real political scientists.
**In all fairness this article is pretty mild and presents a fairly accurate depiction of the game. It even notes that "[Presenting players with moral dilemmas] is a valuable tool for players to learn the implications and results of playing both good and evil characters." Still, what the hell? It's longer than the article about freakin' dinosaurs!

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