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Sci Tech    H4'ed 1/25/14

Meet Conservapedia, a Right Wing Encyclopedia at War with the Truth

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Are you tired of educational resources that allegedly present a leftist point of view?   Do you crave one that conforms to your own right wing ideology?   Do you also want one that plays fast and loose with the facts?   If you want such things, then Conservapedia is for you.

Conservapedia is an online encyclopedia that caters to conservatives.   It is the brainchild of Andrew Schlafly, a fundamentalist lawyer who is the son of Phyllis Schlafly, the noted anti-feminist.   Mr. Schlafly launched the encyclopedia in 2006 in response to the supposed left wing bias of Wikipedia.   Never mind that Wikipedia, for all of its imperfections, is generally lauded for its objectivity.   It is also considered by many experts to be a reliable source of academic information.   Regardless, Schlafly deemed it to be far too liberal, and he decided to create an online encyclopedia that was markedly and overtly biased.   Conservapedia may seem ridiculous to intellectuals, but its staff may have the last laugh:   despite its many critics, it's growing.

Frequently, Conservapedia is shocking.   In its entry, "Evolution," it claims that, "The fossil record does not support the theory of evolution and is one of the flaws in the theory of evolution."   This is a fantastic claim, considering that most--if not all--reputable scientists would argue precisely the opposite position.   Another entry, "Age of the Earth," is equally specious.   In this entry, the author writes that, "All verifiable evidence indicates that the Earth is only about 6,000 years old."   That statement isn't true, either.   Virtually all reputable researchers--whether they be biologists or geologists or astronomers--believe that the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old, and they find plenty of evidence (including fossils) to support this contention.   It also proclaims that dinosaurs co-existed with human beings for a long time, and alleges that dragons and dinosaurs may have been the same thing.  

At times, Conservapedia is not only anti-scientific, but anti-Semitic and racist as well.   The publication denounces Albert Einstein's theory of relativity, contending that it "has been repeatedly contradicted by experiments."   That, incidentally, is a bald-faced lie.   The encyclopedia, however, goes even further, implying bizarrely that the theory inspires liberalism.   Why would Conservapedia detest this non-controversial theory so fervently?   Some writers, such as Paul Fishbane, argue that it does so simply because its formulator (Einstein) was Jewish.   Its entry on Barack Obama is even more egregious.   Even today, Conservapedia pushes birtherism.   Furthermore, throughout the article, one gets the impression that its writers are completely convinced that no African-American could possibly possess the intelligence needed to assume the American Presidency.

Not surprisingly, the mainstream media has frequently lampooned this faux-encyclopedia.   The Guardian notes that prominent academics have attacked it.   The Huffington Post has repeatedly ridiculed it.   The online scientific website Skeptoid lists it as being one of the "Top 10 Worst Anti-Science Websites."   Time deemed it to be "insane."   It has apparently attracted numerous parodists.   Moreover, RationalWiki   has accused Conservapedia of blatant plagiarism. This science publication states that, essentially, its staff members copy-and-paste information from respected writers onto their   website, presumably because they are inept, untrained writers with only   a marginal grasp on the issues at hand.  

Educated people may scoff at Conservapedia, but this encyclopedia is clearly prospering.   Alexa reports that its global rank is 80,887, making it a fairly popular website (interestingly, it also states that it is most popular among people who never went to college).   According to Right Wing News, it ranks among "The 50 Most Popular Conservative Websites."   It's not going anywhere.   

RationalWiki asserts that much of Conservapedia's traffic, ironically, comes from liberals and intellectuals, who go there for laughs.   To them, its poorly written and atrociously researched articles are nothing short of hysterical.   They particularly relish its "Worst College Majors" entry.   Among the "worst" majors are women's studies, Black studies, English literature, evolutionary biology, journalism, psychology, forestry, sociology, paralegal studies, and United States history.   Why are these majors bad?   Conservapedia argues that they are worthless because such subjects may not lead to high-paying jobs (and because such subjects are associated with liberalism).   Therefore, according to this encyclopedia, the liberal arts--the traditional lifeblood of academia --are worthless.   Such self-parodying articles have led to speculation that some staff members may be, in fact, undercover liberals who are trying to make conservatives look stupid.

Ultimately, however, there's nothing really amusing about Conservapedia.   Its contents may be boorish, but it looks like a legitimate online encyclopedia (its graphics are particularly impressive).   Therefore, many people, including children, who find themselves on this website simply assume that it must be legitimate.   There's nothing legitimate about it, though.   It peddles pseudoscience and untruths.   It is yet another so-called "educational resource" that actually makes people dumber.   Conservapedia is horrifying.


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Jonathan Maxwell is a professional writer. He holds an MA in English from Jacksonville State University in Alabama and a BA in English from Berry College in Rome, Georgia. He is the author of two books. His first one, Murderous Intellectuals: (more...)
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