Thursday, March 08, 2007

Conservapedia v. Wikipedia: A Test

For the record, I love the whole concept of Wikipedia, the idea that you can type just about anything into the search box and, at a minimum, get a concise explanation. Plus, the idea that it is a communal project and that anyone can add or edit -- subject, of course, to others' review -- appeals to me. (It's the whole idea that the truth lies somewhere in the middle of all the competing analyses. Of course, if you want a more humorous view, read Gene Weingarten's article on the Wikipedia phenomenon.)

So, when I heard the recent news about Conservapedia, I just had to see it for myself.

For the record, Conservapedia describes itself as follows:

A conservative encyclopedia you can trust.

Conservapedia has over 3,800 educational, clean and concise entries on historical, scientific, legal, and economic topics, as well as more than 350 lectures and term lists. There have been over 2,500,000 page views and over 20,000 page edits. Already Conservapedia has become one of the largest user-controlled free encyclopedias on the internet. This site is growing rapidly.

Conservapedia is a much-needed alternative to Wikipedia, which is increasingly anti-Christian and anti-American. On Wikipedia, many of the dates are provided in the anti-Christian "C.E." instead of "A.D.", which Conservapedia uses. Christianity receives no credit for the great advances and discoveries it inspired, such as those of the Renaissance. Read a list of many Examples of Bias in Wikipedia.

Conservapedia is an online resource and meeting place where we favor Christianity and America. Conservapedia has easy-to-use indexes to facilitate review of topics. You will much prefer using Conservapedia compared to Wikipedia if you want concise answers free of "political correctness".

Of course, this is not entirely without controversy. Wikipedia describes Conservapedia this way:

Conservapedia is a wiki project to construct an encyclopedia with articles that are pro-American, socially conservative and supportive of conservative Christianity.

The project was founded by Andrew Schlafly, son of conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, in response to a perceived anti-Christian and anti-American bias in the articles of Wikipedia. According to recent stories about the site, Conservapedia originated from a project by homeschooled children, with many of its entries created by teenagers as part of a school assignment. In addition to its role as an encyclopedia, Conservapedia is also used by Andrew Schlafly's Eagle Forum University. Material for various online courses, for example, on American History, is stored on the site. Eagle Forum University is associated with Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum. Andrew Schlafly has stated that he hopes the site becomes a general resource for United States teachers.

Conservapedia and Wikipedia

Conservapedia disapproves of what it claims is an institutional aversion on Wikipedia to the use of Christian scripture and doctrine as objective and reliable sources for scientific matters, along with other religious texts, intuitions, and superstitions. Topics relating to natural phenomena, morality, religion, politics and American history have been singled out for particular criticism. Conservapedia provides asserted examples of anti-Christian bias, including the use of the secular CE/BCE notation in place of AD/BC (Anno Domini and Before Christ), and allowing evolution to be defined as based on evidence, in contradiction of the creationism favored by certain Christians. Allegations of an anti-American bias include the acceptance of non-US English spellings of English words, such as "labour" and "theatre", as the various editions of Wikipedia are broken up by language, not region.

In a March 2007 interview with The Guardian newspaper, Schlafly stated, "I've tried editing Wikipedia, and found it and the biased editors who dominate it censor or change facts to suit their views. In one case my factual edits were removed within 60 seconds — so editing Wikipedia is no longer a viable approach." On March 8 Andy Schlafly was interviewed on BBC Radio 4's flagship morning show, the Today programme, opposite Wikipedia administrator Jim Redmond. Schlafly raised several concerns: that the article on the Renaissance does not give any credit to Christianity, that many Wikipedia articles use non-American spellings even though most users are American, that the article on American activities in the Philippines has a distinctly anti-American bias, and that attempts to include pro-Christian or pro-American views are removed very quickly.

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has stated that he has no objections to the project. "Free culture knows no bounds," he said. "We welcome the reuse of our work to build variants."

Criticism and vandalism

The Conservapedia project has come under significant criticism for factual inaccuracies and allegations of a bias of its own (see Factual relativism). Critics such as libertarian conservative writer Andrew Sullivan, conservative blogger Jon Swift, science writer Carl Zimmer and others, have criticized and mocked the Conservapedia website for factual inaccuracy, extremism, hypocrisy, bias, and ignoring the scientific consensus on subjects such as the Big Bang and evolution in favor of biblical exegesis. Widely disseminated examples of Conservapedia articles that contradict the scientific consensus include the claims that all kangaroos descend from a single pair that were taken aboard Noah's Ark, that "Einstein's work had nothing to do with the development of the atomic bomb" and that gravity and evolution are theories that remain unproven. An entry on the "Pacific Northwest Arboreal Octopus" has received particular attention, with it being pointed as a nonsense entry that was able to slip under the radar. Andrew Schlafly has asserted that the page was meant as a parody of environmentalism and he intends to keep it up. However, as of 4 March, the entry has been deleted. Other offending articles have since been revised to include fewer statements of the kind that have brought derision from the blogosphere.

There is evidence that people who object to Conservapedia's stated conservative Christian mission have been creating deliberate parody entries in an attempt to ridicule the widespread use of Christian scripture as a source for Conservapedia articles.

The project has also been criticized for promoting a dichotomy between conservatism and liberalism and for promoting the notion that there "often are two equally valid interpretations of the facts." Conservapedia has also been compared to CreationWiki, a wiki written from a creation science perspective.

(citations omitted)

Sounds even-handed, right?

So, I decided to put the two to the test. First topic, "Hillary Clinton."

The first paragraph, from Wikipedia:

Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton (born October 26, 1947) is the junior United States Senator from New York and a member of the Democratic Party. She is married to Bill Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States, and was the First Lady of the United States from 1993 to 2001. She is a lawyer and a former First Lady of Arkansas.

Clinton was elected to the United States Senate in 2000, becoming the first First Lady elected to public office and the first female senator to represent New York. She was re-elected in 2006. As senator, she sits on the Committee on Armed Services, the Committee on Environment and Public Works, the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, and the Special Committee on Aging.

On January 20, 2007, Clinton announced the formation of a presidential exploratory committee for the United States presidential election of 2008.

Conservapedia, however, tells a different story:

Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton (b. 1947) was First Lady of the United States of America during the Clinton Administration from 1993 to 2001. Though she had virtually no connection to New York, she exploited the resignation of the Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan as an opportunity for her to win a safe Senate seat and prepare for her own bid to become President. With the power of the White House she obtained the Democratic nomination for this Senate seat, and then won easily in the heavily Democratic state of New York in 2000.

After being reelected in 2006, Clinton began preparing for her presidential run as expected, and she formally announced her candidacy in early 2007.

Okay, fine. Admittedly I chose a topic of particular interest amongst conservatives. But does it change if I pick something more in their wheelhouse? Let's try "Rudy Giuliani."


Rudolph William Louis "Rudy" Giuliani III (born May 28, 1944) is an American lawyer, prosecutor, businessman, and Republican politician from the state of New York.

He became a popular figure as a United States Attorney prosecuting high-profile cases, including cases against organized crime and the tax evader Marc Rich. He served two terms as Mayor of New York City (1994–2001), during which time he was credited by many with improvements in the city's quality of life and with a massive reduction in crime that eventually made New York City the country's safest major city after years of being the "Murder Capital of America." Others, however, criticized him as divisive and authoritarian. He then gained national attention for his leadership role during and after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center that led him to be named Time's 2001 Person of the Year and receive an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II. His public visibility in the days following the attacks earned him the nickname "America's Mayor."

Since leaving office as mayor, Giuliani has found considerable success in the private sector. He founded Giuliani Partners, a security consulting business, acquired Giuliani Capital Advisors (later sold), an investment banking firm, and joined the Bracewell & Giuliani law firm. In February 2007 Giuliani filed a statement of candidacy for the Republican nomination for the 2008 presidential campaign. Most polls show him as the leading candidate for the nomination.

It goes on from there, but overall, it seems fair.

And Conservapedia?

There is no page titled "rudy giuliani". You can create this page.

Of course, after I stopped laughing my ass off, I thought that, to really be fair, I would try again.

Mitt Romney, via Conservapedia:

Willard Mitt Romney (born 1947, goes by Mitt), served as the governor of Massachusetts from 2002 to 2006 and is a Republican candidate in the 2008 presidential election. If elected, he will become the first Mormon president.

That's it -- two whole sentences. But from Wikipedia, we actually get information:

Willard Mitt Romney (standard IPA pronunciation: 'wɪlɜd mɪt 'ɹɑmnɪ), usually known as Mitt, (born March 12, 1947) was the 70th Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, elected in 2002. He served one term and did not seek re-election in 2006; his term ended January 4, 2007. Romney is a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, formally announcing his candidacy on February 13, 2007. He made his announcement at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

Romney is a former CEO of Bain & Company, a management consulting firm, and the co-founder of Bain Capital, a private equity investment firm. In 1994, Romney led an unsuccessful Senate campaign against incumbent Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy. He also served as the CEO and organizer of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Romney was born March 12, 1947 in Detroit, Michigan. He is a great great grandson of Latter-day Saint leader and apostle Parley P. Pratt and the son of former Michigan Governor, Housing and Urban Development Secretary, American Motors chairman, and Presidential candidate George W. Romney and unsuccessful 1970 US Senate candidate Lenore Romney. Romney has three siblings: Lynn, Jane, and G. Scott. He was named after hotel magnate J. Willard Marriott, his father's best friend, and Milton Romney, a relative who played football for the Chicago Bears.

Romney married his high school sweetheart, Ann Davies, in 1968. They have five sons (Tagg, Matt, Josh, Ben, and Craig) and ten grandchildren. Ann Romney was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998.

And that's just the first section.

So, in summary, Conservapedia mistakes Wikipedia's ability to actually provide useful information with "liberal bias."

Then again, I'm the stupid one for actually expecting something different.


mad said...

I guess it was inevitable. I mean, the liberal bias of the Internet and all.

LJ said...

Very interesting... I wasn't familiar with Convervapedia (I'm recently self-admittedly way too addicted with Wikipedia).

Anonymous said...

The bond between Christianity and the Earthly political philosophy called conservatism is strong. Christians are useful tools for the fascist/neo-conservative movement. An "encyclopedia" written from the perspective of political conservatives must utilize this bond to be successful. It is sad that intellectually lazy Christians have allowed themselves to be pawns to fascism.