Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Wikiality! (Or, perhaps, Conserviality?)

On The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert invented the term "wikiality" to describe how, through sites like Wikipedia, simply make reality whatever we want it to be. Colbert said that we could all just decide that African elephant populations have been increasing over the past decade, and say so at Wikipedia, and then it would be true! How do we know? Easy! Go look it up on Wikipedia!

The result was that Wikipedia to had to lock down all its elephant pages.

But, of course, Stephen Colbert is making a joke when he suggests we should really accept "wikiality" as reality. There are some, however, who didn't get the joke:

Thus sprach Conservapedia! The "conservative" answer to Wikipedia.

'Cause, you know, reality has a well-known liberal bias. (This line blatantly stolen from Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars).

On its main page, Conservapedia says:

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.

Ah. In other words, not endorsing Christianity is "anti-Christian." A.D., after all, means Year of Our Lord, which is specifically Christian, while C.E. means simply Common Era, which isn't pro- or anti-Christian. It's just neutral. But, you see, to Christians, anything that doesn't specifically endorse their particular brand of zaniness is an affront. There seems to be no difference in Christians' minds between religiously neutral, like C.E., and outright anti-Christian. For instance, if we went from A.D. to, say, A.S., Anno Satanis, or, in the Year of Satan, that would be anti-Christian. C.E. is no such thing.

How, exactly, using C.E. instead of A.D. is "anti-American" I have no idea either. After all, Jesus wasn't an American. He was a Middle-Eastern Jew. Unless you're a Mormon, and I don't think the people behind Conservapedia are, Jesus never saw America and never spoke about America. The fact is that being anti-Christian is not being anti-American, because the US is not a Christian nation but rather a secular nation in which each person is free to practice (or not) his or her religion as he or she sees fit.

And, apparently the creators of Conservapedia are unaware of the concept of irony, as they proclaim on their main page...

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".

...even as they then accuse Wikipedia of bias. This is where Ed Brayton's line that "reality has a well-known liberal bias" is particularly apt.

The definition of bias, according to, is: "a particular tendency or inclination, esp. one that prevents unprejudiced consideration of a question; prejudice." Hmm... let's think about this for a second. Conservapedia's editors "favor Christianity and America."

Hello, pot, this is the kettle. You're black!

Conservapedia may just as well say at the outset, "You will much prefer using Conservapedia compared to Wikipedia if you want concise answers free of 'truth' or 'reality.'"

On Conservapedia's irony-meter destroying page Examples of Bias in Wikipedia, there are some gems like:

The entry for the Renaissance in Wikipedia refuses to give any credit to Christianity.

Uh... so? First off, it's a freakin' wiki, for the love of... If you think Christianity deserves credit, do your research, get your arguments in order, and amend the article! The only reason to crawl into your own hole, plug your ears, and say "Lalalalalalala!" as Conservapedia is doing is if you know that the facts don't back up your case, so you need to go somewhere where no one will question you. It's kind of like how creationists and ID proponents never put their papers out for scientific peer-review but instead publish them in magazines devoted to creationism: because they know the facts won't support what they're saying and so there's no point.

Secondly, this complaint serves simply to highlight the bias of Conservapedia, not Wikipedia, since there's no actual reason given for why credit for the Renaissance should be given to Christianity. This is a pretty transparent plea to the already-converted, who will naturally agree that Christianity should be given credit for anything without needing a reason, so why supply one? Substitute any topic X for "Renaissance" and it would make no difference to most conservative Christian readers, I suspect.

Wikipedia often uses foreign spelling of words, even though most English
speaking users are American. Look up "Most Favored Nation" on Wikipedia and it
automatically converts the spelling to the British spelling "Most Favoured
Nation", even there there are far more American than British users.

Good Lord! Someone call the President!

Who gives a freakin' shit? I think we could just copy-and-paste this text in for the definition of xenophobia and it would be right on. I don't see what the hell this has to do with anything. And, in any case, do these idiots not realize that Britain is far and away closest to the US in Europe and much of the world in terms of being closest to the US in terms of conservatism? Do they not realize that they are the biggest supporters of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq outside of the US? That they are the biggest supporters of the Global War on an Abstract Concept in the world?

I accuse Conservapedia of anti-American bias! How dare they call our langauge "English!" Obviously, they're in bed with British atheist communists! Just like anyone who fails to call fries "Freedom" fries, anyone who calls our language "English" is a traitor! Our language is "American," and anyone who says differently is clearly a liberal cut-and-runner.

Gossip is pervasive on Wikipedia. Many entries read like the National Enquirer.
For example, Wikipedia's entry on Nina Totenberg states, "She married H. David
Reines, a trauma physician, in 2000. On their honeymoon, he treated her for
severe injuries after she was hit by a boat propeller while swimming." That
sounds just like the National Enquirer, and reflects a bias towards gossip.
Conservapedia avoids gossip and vulgarity, just as a true encyclopedia does.

Uh... er... I don't think that sounds like the National Enquirer at all. That sounds like an interesting little tidbit of trivia. If it said, "Nina Totenberg has Threesome with Britney and Christina!!!", that would be gossip. If this is the best Conservapedia has to offer in support of the need for its existence, well...

Edits to include facts against the theory of evolution are almost immediately censored. On Conservapedia, contributions that meet simple rules are respected to the maximum extent possible

Wait, wait, wait... Facts? They have facts? Because I've never seen them. Is Wikipedia the only place they've ever tried to present them? Because none of the normal creationist/ID websites, such as Uncommon Descent, have ever presented an actual fact refuting the theory of evolution. They present false dichotomies, flawed logic, tautological arguments, and arguments from authority a'plenty, but not facts.

As such, I am going to have to call bullshit on this one: I don't think a creationist or ID proponent has ever posted a fact on any website, ever, "against the theory of evolution." This is just an outright lie. And, as such, it is also a lie that Wikipedia has ever censored such, since these supposed "facts" don't actually exist!

Often key facts are missing from Wikipedia entries in favor of meaningless
detail. Wikipedia's entry about Indentured Servitude is massive, but it omits any reference to Bacon's Rebellion, which was the turning point for the use of indentured servants in the New World!
Er... I have no idea if this is true or not. But, once again, nonetheless, it's a freakin' wiki! It depends on users to update the articles to include important facts. If this is true, then edit the damned article! And how, exactly, is having an incomplete article an example of "bias", liberal or otherwise? It's an example of incompleteness, and that's about it, assuming this is true.

Now, for some awesome bullshitting. First, by way of accusing Wikipedia of bias, the creators of Conservapedia say:

For example, even though most Americans (and probably most of the world) reject
the theory of evolution... Wikipedia editors commenting on the topic are nearly 100% pro-evolution.
But then, they turn around and use the following quote to bolster their "bias" claims as well:

Robert McHenry, former Editor-in-Chief for the Encyclopedia Britannica, wrote
about Wikipedia's bias and included this observation: One simple fact that must
be accepted as the basis for any intellectual work is that truth – whatever
definition of that word you may subscribe to – is not democratically determined.
Huh wha-? Which is it? I mean, in the same virtual breath, Conservapedia's creators are claiming that Wikipedia should reflect what the majority believe about evolution, rather than the truth, and thus is biased, but also that Wikipedia is biased because its truths are arrived at democratically?

If evolution is true -- it is -- and the evidence supports it -- it does -- but Wikipedia's "truths" were "determined democratically," well, Wikipedia's evolution pages would be full of bullshit creationist and ID proponent objections to evolution, wouldn't they? But they aren't: They reflect the evidence and actual reality rather than the fantasyland of creationists and ID proponents. And, as such, if Robert McHenry is right, that "truth... is not democratically determined," Wikipedia's evolution pages do, in fact, contain the truth, and as such there is nothing for Conservapedia to complain about.

Do you suppose these jokers even realize their arguments are contradictory and incoherent, or do you think they actually think they've made a point?

Then, the creators of Conservapedia offer up one of the worst conservative canards:

Unlike most encyclopedias and news outlets, Wikipedia does not exert any
centralized authority to take steps to reduce bias or provide balance; it has a
"neutral point of view" policy but the policy is followed only to the extent
that individual editors acting in social groups choose to follow it. For
example, CNN would ensure that Crossfire had a representative of the political
right and one from the political left.

To slightly alter a quote I posted before from Bill Maher,:

New Rule: You don't have to [present] both sides of a debate, if one side is a load of crap.

And that's the "problem" Conservapedia is whining about here. The arguments against evolution are, in fact, a complete "load of crap." But conservatives and Christians have managed to twist the "equal time" idea into a ghastly version of openness and fairness. They've managed to convince us all that both sides have to be shown as equal options, even when one side is a load of crap.

The media has become egregious in how they fall for this. Every story has to have two sides to be "fair," so they find someone to present "the other side" even when that side is manifestly untrue. That's not fairness, that's dishonesty and disingenuousness. Just because you have someone on talking about how the Earth is round doesn't mean to be "fair" you have to find a flat-Earther to provide the opposing opinion.

The interests of "fairness" weren't served by the media when everytime a Democrat mentioned that Iraq wasn't linked to 9-11 and wasn't part of the War on an Abstract Concept, they found some member of the Bush regime to say it was. The result, as I have mentioned before, is that a huge proportion of Americans thought that Saddam Hussein did have a role in 9-11, even though he didn't.

When one side is lying through its teeth, then "fairness" is not served by giving that side the chance to repeat their lies endlessly. What the creators of Conservapedia are upset about is that they can't use Wikipedia as another outlet for those lies, and that's the basis of their actual complaint here.

Some other fun things on Conservepedia:

On the Index page, under World History, they list Ancient History as being from "Creation-500 AD." Nope, no bias there at all. Just throw out Cosmology and the whole dumb Big Bang idea as if there were no evidence behind it.

On the main page, under This Day in History for February 2, Conservapedia asserts:

Did you know that faith is a uniquely Christian concept? Add to the explanation of what it means, and how it does not exist on [sic] other religions.

Nope. No bias there. Christians not only like to claim that atheists don't really exist, as Anon did, but now this. Jews and Muslims will be pretty surprised to learn they don't have "faith." In fact, since Jesus was, himself a Jew, and never said the word "Christianity" once, I guess the creators of Conservapedia think neither he nor any of the apostles had "faith" either.

Bias? What bias? Is is biased to say what everyone knows, that goodness, light, truth, and faith are all unique to Christianity and that everyone else is a godless, hell-bound tool of Satan? Of course not. Lying for Jesus isn't an example of bias. Anything done in the name of Jesus is inherently good, and anything that conflicts with that is bad, and nothing that is good can ever be biased. See?

More of the unvarnished "truth" on Conservapedia:
  • Washington was a devout Christian, and this is a undisputable as his patriotism.
  • The scientific definition of a miracle is "a net decrease in entropy". (Emphasis mine).
Washington went to church and prayed and all that, but he didn't believe in Jesus as his personal savior and was tolerant of other religions. He did, in fact, write a letter to the Jews of Newport Rhode Island in which he guaranteed their religious freedoms. I suspect that most of the fundamentalist Christians who read Conservapedia would have trouble describing anyone who didn't accept Jesus as his personal savior as a "devout" Christian.

I'm also surprised to learn that science has a definition for something that, by definition, is not explainable by science. Very interesting.

No bias in the suggested debate topics on Conservapedia either, such as:

  • Is it even possible to install democracy in a Muslim country?
  • Crusades... Good or Bad?
  • Is the theory of macroevolution true?
  • Does bias impair Wikipedia's reliability?
  • Should creationism/intelligent design be taught as a scientific alternative in public schools?
  • Which is a more powerful ideology, Islam or communism?
  • Should public displays of the 10 Commandments be allowed under the constitution?
  • Were the Puritans right to banish (expel) people for religious reasons?
Hmm. Interesting questions. Kind of like asking someone, "How long did you beat your wife last night?" or, "How exactly does Satan give you your orders?" But no bias there, no...

Last but not least, the articles themselves are just laughable. Let's take a look at one a commenter on Dispatches pointed up as a particularly good example, the entry for Kangaroo:

Kangaroos have large ears on top of their small heads, a long snout, and short
arms with clawed fingers. Their legs are strong and powerful, designed by God
for leaping.

Let us not forget, that even though God is "unknowable" when Christians can't explain something, they do actually know exactly what God was thinking when He made kangaroos' legs.

Like all modern animals, modern kangaroos originated in the Middle East and are the descendants of the two founding members of the modern kangaroo baramin that were taken aboard Noah's Ark prior to the Great Flood.

All modern animals originated in the Middle East? Yeah. Because ancient texts mention kangaroos all the time. And there are tons of cave paintings of kangaroos. And, of course, genetic testing shows that they are related to animals that inhabit the Middle East, right?

After the Flood, kangaroos bred from the Ark passengers migrated to Australia.
There is debate whether this migration happened over land -- as Australia was
still for a time connected to the Middle East before the supercontinent of Pangea
broke apart -- or if they rafted on mats of vegetation torn up by the receding
flood waters.
I'm pretty sure this debate involves about as many facts as debates about when the Elves migrated to Valinor from Middle Earth, and has about as much relevance to actual history as well.

I think we should coin a term for the reality in which conservative Christians like these live, as demonstrated by the fantasies posted on sites like Conservapedia: Conserviality. It's like reality, only with a conservative bent, and not actually real.

Awesome. Why bother with actual "facts," "research," and "evidence?" It's so much easier just to make shit up, after all.


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