Respectful Insolence

Conservapedia?

Fellow ScienceBloggers Ed, PZ, Afarensis, Tim, and John have all been having loads of fun beating up on a rather amusing and pathetic project known as Conservapedia, which, according to its creators, is designed to “combat the liberal bias” in Wikipedia. There’s not much for me to add, except that I noticed one particularly amusing howler in Conservapedia’s Examples of Liberal Bias in Wikipedia page:

Wikipedia’s entry for the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a conservative group, features a rant against the group by a British journalist who was a former press officer for the leftist Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.[1] The only cited credential for the journalist is that he works for a television “programme-production company,” and there is no citation for any of the factual claims in his intemperate and misleading description of the group, which were prompted by an independent criticism in England of the journalist’s own work. After receiving a complaint about this, Wikipedia trimmed this rant but still kept most of it, reflecting Wikipedia’s bias. Preserving this unpublished diatribe is against Wikipedia policy (e.g., NPOV), but it Wikipedia administrators insist on keeping it. Wikipedia’s entry also features another liberal journalist’s swipe at AAPS from … 40 years ago!

Here’s what the Wikipedia entry says about The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons (JPandS):

The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons (JPandS)[11], until 2003 named the Medical Sentinel[12][13], is the journal of the association. It’s mission statement includes “… a commitment to publishing scholarly articles in defense of the practice of private medicine, the pursuit of integrity in medical research … Political correctness, dogmatism and orthodoxy will be challenged with logical reasoning, valid data and the scientific method”. Articles in the journal are subject to a double-blind peer-review process[14].

The journal is not listed in the major journal databases of PubMed[15] nor the Web of Science[16]. Quackwatch lists it among untrustworthy nonrecommended periodicals[17]. WHO found that a 2003 article on vaccination published in the journal had “a number of limitations which undermine the conclusions drawn by the authors”[18]. Investigative journalist Brian Deer states that the journal “is barely credible as an independent forum for such material. No objective medical scientist with important information of any standard would submit it to such a publication, unless they couldn’t get it published anywhere else”[19].

That’s actually a pretty mild description of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons and JPandS. In truth, they’re a bunch of ultra-libertarian, antivaccination whackjobs, and their “journal” reflects that fully with its racist tirades against illegal aliens, antivaccination screeds, and HIV/AIDS denialist posturings, as I described so long ago.

Oh, and Conservapedia apparently doesn’t like mandatory vaccination, either:

Wikipedia’s entry for the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (NCVIA) reads like an advertisement for vaccine manufacturers, including unsupported and implausible claims about vaccination.[11] Unsupported claims featured there include “Vaccine makers indicated they would cease production if their proposal for the NCVIA was not enacted” and “concern that the NCVIA may not provide an adequate legal shield.” Wikipedia’s entry omits references to leading pro-parent websites concerning vaccination,[12] and instead Wikipedia’s entry lists pro-government and pro-vaccine-manufacturer websites.

I agree with PZ. How long before parodists sneak in to edit articles to make them subtle (or even not-so-subtle) parodies of far right wingnuttery? Or has it already happened?

Comments

  1. #1 Xocolotl
    February 21, 2007

    If it hasn’t happened before, you know it is now. It’s gotten too much exposure not to.

  2. #2 Blake Stacey
    February 21, 2007

    Well, if their server doesn’t melt from being ScienceBlogged! (ScienceBlug?)

  3. #3 anonimouse
    February 21, 2007

    Makes me embarassed to say that I’m (generally) conservative.

  4. #4 G Barnett
    February 21, 2007

    I think a better term would be “SciBled.”(pronounced “Skibbled”) It just flows better.

    But that’s just me.

  5. #5 DragonScholar
    February 21, 2007

    I’d say it’s one Colbert Report Spotlight away from potential meltdown.

  6. #6 Chris
    February 21, 2007

    Did you catch how certain websites are described as “pro-parent”? This is actually a big slipup. What they mean is antivaccination, but they’re revealing a little too much of the (usually subconscious, I bet) motives behind antivaccination: it’s convenient for the parents, and the potential effects on the children are secondary.

    Amusingly, their site is down now when I try to go look at it; slashdotted by those evil libruls, I bet. I wonder if they use the Wikimedia software, and thus their entire existence is only possible because of the liberal decision to release it?

  7. #7 B. Marinov
    February 21, 2007

    When I first saw the name, I laughed my head off – in Bulgarian (my native language) “conserva” literally means “tin can” and it used to be a slur for “conservative” in the time when Bulgaria had a Conservative party (before the 1940s)…

  8. #8 J-Dog
    February 21, 2007

    Chris said: “Amusingly, their site is down now when I try to go look at it; slashdotted by those evil libruls, I bet”

    Yes, it must really gripe their butts to realize that the reason their traffic skyrocketed is because people want to laugh at them!

    Bwa Ha Ha!

  9. #9 chezjake
    February 21, 2007

    As of the moment, there is no Wikipedia entry for Conservapedia. I think someone more qualified than myself should correct that omission.

    Takers?

  10. #10 Robert M.
    February 21, 2007

    How long before parodists sneak in to edit articles to make them subtle (or even not-so-subtle) parodies of far right wingnuttery? Or has it already happened?

    And, in all seriousness, how would we be able to tell?

  11. #11 Blake Stacey
    February 21, 2007

    Wikipedia once had an article on this odd little offshoot, but it was deleted last December, on the grounds that the article provided no reason to think the Conservapedia was worth bothering with (and no evidence to that effect was forthcoming).

  12. #12 Evan
    February 21, 2007

    They have, in their “debate topics” section, a totally serious page titled “Crusades: Good or Bad?”

    There is then heated discussion of this point.

  13. #13 Lucas McCarty
    February 21, 2007

    Robert M has a point, internet parodies of ultra-conservative organisations tend to be mistaken for the real thing quite often because the real ones are so far out there to begin with.

    I’m also considerably more conservative now than I was a few years ago in my teens. I’m wondering which decade will turn me into a proper tin-foil crank.

  14. #14 Pseudonym
    February 21, 2007

    As Stephen Colbert pointed out, reality has a well-known liberal bias.

  15. #15 Lucas McCarty
    February 21, 2007

    Can it be that if anything is investigated thoroughly enough- moleculer physics, thermodynamics, cosmology, quantum and chaos theory, it’s all really just an elaborate pseudo-Marxist scheme to make us pay more taxes?

  16. #16 Bunsgoil
    February 21, 2007

    Sweetness, that is a gloriously hilarious site. The evolution bits are predictably terrible, but did you see some of his (there seems to be only one major writer, that Schlafly fellow) history? Some examples:

    Mengele had obtained a PhD based on Darwinian evolution, and had written his dissertation thesis on racial differences among humans. He supported and reinforced Nazi theories of racial superiority with phony research claims. He was an ardent supporter of “survival of the fittest” and he performed cruel experiments on humans at the concentration camp in furtherance of the theory of evolution. He attempted to prove that disease was the product of racial inferiority, and he would amputate healthy limbs and perform other cruel surgeries on prisoners. Today Mengele is criticized by everyone, but supporters of the theory of evolution omit mentioning how much Mengele’s work was based on that theory.

    …Nope, no bias there.

    At the Council at Clermont in southern France, Pope Urban II gave one of the greatest speeches ever. Promising absolution and assurance of salvation to anyone who died in the crusade, he urged a huge crowd to protect Christian pilgrims from the Turks.

    Anyone else get the feeling he favours one side in particular?

    Critics claim that the Christian crusaders massacred the inhabitants of Jerusalem in the process. But it was a huge military victory and Jerusalem was finally made safe for the pilgrims.

    Pesky critics, always spoiling a good story with their dang facts.

    If it wasn’t written like a high school Freshman’s (being slightly generous) history paper, the stupidity levels might be offensive. I can’t wait until they get their bandwidth back up!

  17. #17 Artistradio
    February 21, 2007

    Is it just me or does most claims of bias are nothing more than people pouting over the fact that the report isn’t stacking the deck in their direction?

    P.S. Simply claiming an article is biased is nothing more than a thinly-veiled argumentum ad hominem?

  18. #18 kat
    February 21, 2007

    *tries to copy-paste the entire WP evolution article into their little project*

    damn. they require you to log in to edit… of course. do i feel devious enough to create a sham account and almost certainly get banned? hmmmm……

    ha! and now the site’s down. we’re obviously doing *something* right!

  19. #19 Doc Bill
    February 22, 2007

    According to the AMA’s own stats, doctors screw up kill over 100,000 a year…more Americans than died in the entire Vietnam war. Every Year…not counting the people paralzyed, blinded, and stroked out by their failures.

    If they started getting prison sentences, and not just lawsuits paid for by insurance companies, for their negligence it might help.

    Another thing might help…recognizing this group of “science” blogs for the use of science they make to front for political and religious rants.

    The intellectuall dishonesty is nauseating.

  20. #20 Orac
    February 22, 2007

    Here we go again with another doctor hater…

    Gored an ox of yours, did I?

    Really, Doc Bill, if you’re goint to do the old “Doctors are a menace to society who suppress alternatives,” you need a new schtick. The one you’re using is an old altie cliche.

    Also, I”m probably the most conservative ScienceBlogger here, politically speaking. True, I’m fairly centrist, but even so, Conservapedia embarrasses the hell out of me. Its creators should be ashamed at how idiotic its contents are.

  21. #21 Dunc
    February 22, 2007
    How long before parodists sneak in to edit articles to make them subtle (or even not-so-subtle) parodies of far right wingnuttery? Or has it already happened?

    And, in all seriousness, how would we be able to tell?

    Judging by the comments thread over at PZ’s, yes, it has already happened – and the really funny part is that some were congratulated on their useful and insightful additions by the admins! Even they can’t tell! :)

    But then I suppose that’s not entirely suprising given the level of education demonstrated…

  22. #22 Blake Stacey
    February 22, 2007

    Conservapedia is now trumpeting an anti-vaccination stand on their Main Page:

    A Conservapedia contributor helps defeat mandatory vaccination; Merck cancels its million-dollar lobbying effort. See Conservapedia contributor’s televised debate here.

    Now, one might well say that vaccinations are good while Merck’s advertising campaign was not so hot, but the placement of this statement is still, I think, quite telling.

    On their Main Page, they also make a big, bold point about receiving 89,000 hits on Wednesday. Checking their statistics page reveals that they’ve received 168,739 page views since they set up their wiki last November! I suspect this is what you get for getting ScienceBlogged (SciBled?).

  23. #23 Blake Stacey
    February 22, 2007

    Oh, here’s a direct link to the Statistics page.

    MSN demands some software which I don’t have and don’t care to install in order to watch that “televised debate” video. Anyone care to find out and tell us who the “Conservapedia contributor” is? (My money’s on Andrew Schlafly himself.)

  24. #24 Legal Eagle
    February 22, 2007

    Hey Orac, looks like Doc Bill really pulled your chain. Surgeons just can’t stand it when they aren’t show the respect they think they deserve. They always think they are God, until they are sued, then the say, “but we are just people too!” I have seen dozens of them is depositons, whining like stuck pigs.

    Hahahahahahahahahahahahah

    But he’s right, doctors have committed too many fuck ups to count.

    I notice you didn’t deny it.

  25. #25 anonimouse
    February 22, 2007

    Dude, you’re a lawyer. You live in a far more tenuous glass house than any doctor.

  26. #26 Prup aka Jim Benton
    February 22, 2007

    Noni:
    No, he’s not a lawyer. Lawyers are more careful with what they write and they can spell the words connected with the profession. Bet if Orac checks both his and “Doc Bill”‘s address he’d find them the same.

  27. #27 Joseph Hertzlinger
    February 22, 2007

    Ultra-libertarian … tirades against illegal aliens?

    Is that anything like colorless green ideas?

  28. #28 Orac
    February 22, 2007

    Actually, the “ultralibertarian” comes in because the AAPS believes that the flood of illegal immigrants is destroying the health care system in border states because of government mandates to provide medical care for them regardless of the cost and because they supposedly bring disease and violence with them.

    It also comes from the AAPS’s apparent belief that physicians should be in essence completely unregulated by the state or any “tyranny” of evidence-based medicine and that doctors should be free to practice based almost entirely on what they believe to be good medical practice, subject only to professional societies to set the standard of care.

  29. #29 Lucas McCarty
    February 22, 2007

    I’m assuming the 100,000 thrown in here is human error and not counting treatments that simply didn’t work for whatever reasons. In which case, how many times do doctors get it right in relation to that figure? What’s the ratio of serious errors to correct practice?

  30. #30 JujuQuisp
    February 22, 2007

    “stuck pig”—commonly used by DaveScot.

    Legal Eagle and Doc Bill are DaveScot—i’ll bet my medical license.

  31. #31 HCN
    February 22, 2007

    Using the random link I got “pilgrims”:
    “Pilgrims were people (mostly puritans) in the 1600’s that traveled to the American Colonies because of persecution in England. These settlers started the very first settlement in the American colonies, Jamestown.”

    Retrieved from “http://www.conservapedia.com/Pilgrims

    Oh, so many errors… so little time!

  32. #32 HCN
    February 22, 2007

    AAAAARGH!!!!

    In the article:
    http://www.conservapedia.com/Stealth_bomber they show a picture of the B-2 (developed in the 1980s, built by Northrop… and if anyone knows any aviation history would realize that Jack Northrop started building flying wings in the 1930s!)… but, but, but there is this utterly stupid description of the completely different stealth FIGHTER, the F-117:

    “A stealth bomber is an aircraft utilizing advanced technology that makes it invisible, or stealth, on radar and other electronic detection systems. The Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk was the world’s first operational aircraft based entirely on stealth technology. It was designed in the late 1970s by the highly creative “Skunk Works” engineering team at Lockheed, and first manufactured in 1981. It is flown exclusively by United States Air Force. ”

    Its “F-” label, usually reserved for fighters, may be for political purposes. The F-117A is not a fighter aircraft but is a “ground-attack” aircraft designed for precision bombing. However, the “F-” label is more politically popular and also may attract better pilots. ”

    No, goof-balls… the F-117 is not a bomber. The stealth bomber is a B-2 (because it came after the Rockwell built B-1).

    Could be worse. About the time this bomber was introduced during the Gulf War, some idiot was claiming the government obtained the stealth technology from aliens they had in Area-51. Idiots.

  33. #33 HCN
    February 23, 2007

    Stupid is as stupid does… from http://www.eagleforumu.org/eagleforumu/ we have “AMERICAN HISTORY 101

    Give your student a real course in American history, starting January 20, 2007! Sign up now and read the first lecture! This free course covers all the major topics in United States history, from exploration to today. This course makes use of the conservative encyclopedia being built by students, parents and scholars at Conservapedia.”

    Oh, great… there will be people reading that the Puritan Pilgrims landed at Jamestown and the Northrop built B-2 Stealth Bomber is a Lockheed F-117.

    Oh, uber joy.

  34. #34 Justin Moretti
    February 23, 2007

    You’ve got to wonder if it’s a put-up job run by the radical left, to make the political conservatives look bad. Right wing conservative militarists have a tendency to know which weapons are which, and are not actually this stupid. The ones who in my experience show the most ignorance of the details of weapons are the peace-protesting Left.

    There’s no need for “conservapedia” anyway; all you have to do is make subtle alterations to the wikipedia article.

    I count myself as politically “conservative” (support the incumbent Aussie govt, support the Iraq war, capitalist over socialist, hawk over dove etc.), but I’d be the first to disown this piece of cr*p. “Conservapedia” indeed.

    Oh, and Doc Bill… pull your head in and try something more original. There are lies, damned lies and statistics, but the sort of lies you tell are the most disgusting of all.

  35. #35 anonimouse
    February 23, 2007

    Orac,

    I’d suggest the AAPS doesn’t have a real, consistent political agenda and that it really serves as a cover for conspiracy theorism and ridiculous woo. After all, their journal is the same one that publishes the “vaccines cause shaken baby syndrome” nonsense. They also publish stuff from the Geiers, which, well, I guess is just as fantastically stupid.

  36. #36 Blake Stacey
    February 23, 2007

    The Conservapedia server is so thoroughly SciBled that it took me about ten minutes to load the page history of their “Judicial Activism” article and find out just who wrote what. As it turns out, both Ed Brayton and Andrew Schlafly fell for a Pharyngula commenter’s joke.

    The satire is now the object of ridicule; the map is now the territory. Oh, if Social Text had been a wiki, and Alan Sokal a blogger. . . .

  37. #37 Lucas McCarty
    February 23, 2007

    Justin, couldn’t I just as easily say that it’s a put-up job by the radical right so they can blame it on the radical left to make conservative ideals more respectable? Right-leaning media outlets have this thing about seeing bias where it isn’t really there and rarely publish corrections about anything until lawsuits are mentioned.

    I’m a lot more conservative in my 20s than I was in my teens because I was put off by some of the dogmatic and repressive garbage spouted by left-wingers, but as I get older I’m finding right-wingers are just as guilty and I’m finding it harder to form solid opinions about anything because biased information is not accurately balanced out by contradicting biased information.

  38. #38 Chris CII
    March 2, 2007

    HCN wrote :
    “No, goof-balls… the F-117 is not a bomber. The stealth bomber is a B-2 (because it came after the Rockwell built B-1).”

    In fact the F-117 is a bomber, the F- designation is covered in the wikipedia.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F-117_Nighthawk#Designation

  39. #39 HCN
    March 2, 2007

    Wikipedia also has it wrong. Which is why you would never ever cite it in any kind of report

    According to the Air Force it is a fighter/attack plane:
    http://www.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?fsID=104
    General Characteristics
    Primary Function: Fighter/attack
    Contractor: Lockheed Aeronautical Systems Co.
    Power Plant: Two General Electric F404 non-afterburning engines
    Length: 63 feet, 9 inches (19.4 meters)
    Height: 12 feet, 9.5 inches (3.9 meters)
    Weight: 52,500 pounds (23,625 kilograms)
    Wingspan: 43 feet, 4 inches (13.2 meters)
    Speed: High subsonic
    Range: Unlimited with air refueling
    Armament: Internal weapons carriage
    Unit Cost: $45 million
    Crew: One
    Date Deployed: 1982
    Inventory: Active force, 55; ANG, 0; Reserve, 0

    Also if you link to the story about its eminent retirement you (linky not included because I am at my two link limit) you will see the story dated 10/28/2006 that says “After 25 years of storied service, the F-117 Nighthawk, the Air Force’s first stealth fighter, is about to retire. The technology that once made it a unique weapon system has now caught up to it and newer fighter aircraft are now joining the fleet. Still, the Nighthawk was the first of its kind, a fact anyone who has spent time around the aircraft is quick to point out. ”

    The “F” designation is because it is a fighter craft. ALso, like most fighter aircraft it could carry some bombs. The B-2 bomber is also what is in the attached photograph.

    And trust me… the B-2 can carry lots more payload:
    http://www.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?fsID=82
    General Characteristics
    Primary function: Multi-role heavy bomber
    Prime Contractor: Northrop Grumman Corp.
    Contractor Team: Boeing Military Airplanes Co., Hughes Radar Systems Group, General Electric Aircraft Engine Group and Vought Aircraft Industries, Inc.
    Power Plant: Four General Electric F-118-GE-100 engines
    Thrust: 17,300 pounds each engine
    Length: 69 feet (20.9 meters)
    Height: 17 feet (5.1 meters
    Wingspan: 172 feet (52.12 meters
    Speed: High subsonic
    Ceiling: 50,000 feet (15,240 meters)
    Takeoff Weight (Typical): 336,500 pounds (152,634 kilograms
    Range: Intercontinental, unrefueled
    Armament: Conventional or nuclear weapons
    Payload: 40,000 pounds (18,144 kilograms)
    Crew: Two pilots
    Unit cost: Approximately $1.157 billion (fiscal 98 constant dollars)
    Date Deployed: December 1993
    Inventory: Active force: 21 (1 test); ANG: 0; Reserve: 0

  40. #40 HCN
    March 2, 2007

    Also, just because it brings out the little kid in me to watch this stuff (okay, I am also an aerospace engineer — I never grew up, but at least I learned to play with 2nd order nonlinear differential equations) go to http://www.af.mil/tv/ … and then select the “Aircraft Spotlights” in the channel menu box.

    Check out the different fighters… You’ll notice that the F-15 Eagle also drops the same stuff as the soon-to-be retired F-117 Nighthawk… Yet, I don’t see anyone calling it a bomber.

    Anyway, here is the retirement story:
    http://www.af.mil/news/story.asp?storyID=123030185 … it also has the linky to the video story.

  41. #41 HCN
    March 29, 2007

    Well, it seems that the folks at Conservapedia fixed their little mistake… EXCEPT they put in the wrong contractor (hint… it was not Lockheed Martin).

    Anyone who knows just a bit about aviation history knows that Jack Northrop tried to create a flying wing. Also, once upon a time Northrop had an engineering school of aero engineers that taught the “left hand rule” instead of the “right hand rule” (the theory being that you could use your left hand to get the coordinates right while writing with your right hand!).

  42. #42 nasw
    March 29, 2007

    Well now you’ve gotten this first-time visitor curious!

    What, exactly, makes the F-117 a fighter? It’s single-seat configuration?

    I’ve long been curious about this, as it seems to me to be, technically, a bomber. It drops bombs. Precision guided bombs, but bombs none-the-less.

    Someone above said:

    “Check out the different fighters… You’ll notice that the F-15 Eagle also drops the same stuff as the soon-to-be retired F-117 Nighthawk… Yet, I don’t see anyone calling it a bomber.”

    And I would agree, save for the fact that the F-15 has an onboard gun (the M61, I think) and often carries missiles. Both of these give it an offensive capability against aerial targets, something that usually separates fighters from other aircraft in my estimation.

    I have heard it said that the F-117 CAN carry AAMs, but I’ve never heard of such a thing actually happening. Is it this theoretical capability that merits the “F” designation? If not, shouldn’t the plane at least be the “A-117?”

    Again, I’m just curious and it seems there’s a few folks here who have given the issue much thought.

  43. #43 HCN
    March 29, 2007

    Aak the Air Force. You can start at the AF website I posted.

    My comments only pertain to the errors perpetuated by Schlafly, not to the details you seem to have got yourself caught up in.

    So do you also think it is okay to post the wrong manufacturer? Or even to credit aliens with stealth technology? (Don’t laugh, when the B-2 bomber first came out someone was doing the talk radio circuit claiming that).

  44. #44 nasw
    March 29, 2007

    I guess I’ll have to ask the AF. Anyway, I was just curious; I wasn’t trying to be snarky or accusatory.

    Of course it’s not okay to post the wrong manufacturer, and nothing I said in my post implies that it’s okay, nothing in the least.

    As far as space people and all that go, of course such claims are silly. There’s nothing so radical about stealth technology that it seems out of place against the backdrop of aerospace technological trends at the time of development. I’ve always figured that if the YF-12/SR-71 could be developed when it was, then why not stealth by the Seventies?

    Anyway, I imagine our most advanced and secret current top technologies would seem pretty quaint to any species that had mastered interplanetary travel by 1947. The basic premise of the B-2 predates Roswell anyway, at least considering the designs of folks like Northrop and the Horton brothers. So you’ll hear no space folk talk from me.

  45. #45 HCN
    March 29, 2007

    I understand now (yes, I thought you were going to be snarky)… You can find more of the “aliens designed stealth technology” if you do a search on Bob Park’s “What’s New” at http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/index.html

  46. #46 HCN
    March 29, 2007

    Oh, crud… I remember Bob Park writing about it, now I can’f find it. Oh, wait… found it:
    http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN00/wn081800.html
    and
    http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN02/wn080202.html

    “He had recruited Paul LaViolette, who claims the B-2 uses anti-gravity, reverse engineered from a crashed flying saucer.”

    Hmmm… getting only one side of the story, I did not know about Horton. Well, off to do some research! Thanks.

  47. #47 nasw
    March 30, 2007

    That’s cool.

    Took a look at some of that stuff and then linked to stuff mentioned there. Pretty far-out, I’d say. Still, I kind of wish it were true, as well as not secret. 20,000+ MPH transcontinental travel would be really nice, I imagine, and anti-gravity sure would make airport expansion cheaper…

    I only learned about the Horton bros. relatively recently myself but was impressed with how beautiful some of their plane and glider designs were.

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