The Loom

I suspect poking around Conservapedia will become one of my new tools for procrastination. You’re guaranteed a jaw drop within a couple minutes of searching on this Wikipedia for conservatives. It occurred to me that I had not yet bothered to look up “creationism.” The entry is a whiplash of a read, with critics and backers of creationism having it out, sometimes within a single paragraph. What really struck me was the section on “Attempts to Criticize Creationism.” The history page shows that it is authored by “Aschlafly”–presumably Andrew Schlafly, founder of the entire site. It is marked “Don’t delete these changes.”

And what has been set in stone? After some discussion of St. Augustine, we get to some good stuff:

(2) Young-earth creationism, which holds that the earth is about 7000 years old, is consistent with many observations, such as the existence and nature of the freshwater Great Lakes, the young moon and the Grand Canyon. Opponents repeatedly attempt to censor the sale of publications by the U.S. Parks Service near the Grand Canyon containing differing views of its development.

(3) Creationism is accepted by most Americans and by the most significant scientists in history. Intolerance by opponents of creationism has led to a silencing of contemporary scientists on this issue, but many risk their careers by speaking out against theories that earth is somehow billions of years old.

Conservapedia describes itself as “one of the largest user-controlled free encyclopedias on the internet.” Just keep your hands off Noah’s flood.

Oh, by the way–perhaps you’re wondering about the young moon?

“There is no plausible non-creation theory of origin for the Moon at this time.”

Update: 3/1/07 11:30 am: Looks like the “attempts to criticize evolution creationism” section has been shipped over to the entry for Young Earth Creationism. But astronomers will be dismayed to learn that apparently there is still no plausible non-creation theory of origin for the Moon at this time.


  1. #1 Eva
    February 27, 2007

    Just from their front page (“(…) Wikipedia, which is increasingly anti-Christian and anti-American”), I’m not sure the Conservapedia editors know the difference between “anti-” and “non”.
    Oh, I mean I’m “anti-sure”.

  2. #2 Fred Garvin
    February 27, 2007

    Seems there’s no way to create a new account on Conservapedia. I wonder why.


  3. #3 Gabe
    February 27, 2007

    Excellent post to CZ and Eva. 😀

  4. #4 Polonius
    February 27, 2007

    Our solar system is one of the few that has only one sun. Only one sun and only one moon: this uniqueness may reflect the existence of only one God.

    Now there’s an insight – each solar system has as many gods as it has suns, or moons, or something.

  5. #5 Alp Div
    February 27, 2007

    I’ve been watching this whole thing developed, and although I admit the humor factor is a definite lure of sorts, I really think it would be best if we stopped giving them all this attention they so desperately crave (specifically in the case of Conservapedia, as this thing will obviously wither and die in a few months).

  6. #6 Martin Wagner
    February 27, 2007

    Moronopedia would have been a more honest title.

  7. #7 Carl Zimmer
    February 27, 2007

    Martin–Conservapedia claims to have gotten over half a million visits since it launched a couple months ago, so I would not assume it will die soon. People will come across it whether we discuss it or not. But we can point out entries that are wrong.

  8. #8 Lindsay
    February 27, 2007

    I suspect poking around Conservapedia will become one of my new tools for procrastination.

    Word up, me too. As if I needed another one of those.

  9. #9 BC
    February 27, 2007

    Wow, Aschlafly might be Andrew Schlafly? I guess I didn’t make the connection. I happened to be looking at Conservapedia the other day, reading the horrible “Theory of Relativity” entry. Looking through the history of the article, I noticed one user kept posting some really ignorant information. That user? Aschlafly. I really thought that he was someone pretending to be an conservative in order to parody the site. Sometimes, you just can’t tell the difference between conservative stupidity and a parody.

    Here’s what Aschlafly added to the entry on the “Theory of Relativity” (Revision as of 13:48, 3 January 2007):

    “Unlike most advances in physics, the theory of relativity was proposed based on mathematical theory rather than observation. The theory rests on two postulates that are difficult to test … From this proposed bending of space the expression arose that “space is curved.” But experiments later proved that space is flat overall. Nothing useful has even been built based on the theory of relativity. [[Albert Einstein]]’s work had nothing to do with the development of the [[atomic bomb]], contrary to popular opinion….

    Eddington next promoted the theory of relativity to the English-speaking world in his Mathematical Theory of Relativity (1923). As the title suggests, this theory was more a mathematical vision of how the universe should be, rather than what it actually was.”

    Someone came along and (in contrast to Aschlafly’s claim that E=mc^2 has nothing to do with the atomic bomb) changed the entry to read:

    One of the mathematical consequences of the theory – the well known equivalance between energy and matter, E=mc^2 – predicted the release of energy in nuclear reactions, explaining the source of the sun’s fusion energy and spurring the development of fissile weapons (the [[atomic bomb]]). Another was the effect of high-relative-speed (“relativistic”) travel on the passage of time: from this relativity was able to explain, and accurately predict, the anomalous orbit of the planet Mercury (travelling at high speed very close to the sun).

    At which point Aschlafly came along and altered it (13:22, 24 February 2007 versus 01:43, 25 February 2007).

    “The famous equation attributed to Einstein, E=mc^2, describes relativistic energy but had nothing to do with the development of the atom bomb, which does not involve anything close to the speed of light. Relativity is credited with predicting the advance of the perihelion in the orbit of the planet Mercury, but Newtonian physics can also explain this advance based on very slight changs to its theory.”

    Aschlafly also added:

    Relativity has generated a huge following by advocates of moral relativism. The idea of moral relativity may exist independent of (and substantially predates) the theory of relativity, but invocations of the theory are used in attempts to lend legitimacy to this version of morality.

    Many of the predictions of relativity have never been observed, despite searching for decades. Gravitons, predicted by relativity, have never been observed despite spending billions of taxpayer dollars and decades of complex experiments. There is no overall curvature of the universe; experiments have demonstrated it to be false. Relativity is incompatible with [[quantum mechanics]], which has been tested and proven.

    It’s funny to see users come along, remove an earlier edit with the comment “removed liberal attempt to discredit Conservapedia with parody”, and then have another conservative revert the changes because “it wasn’t a parody”.

    Seems to me that the Conservapedia is Andrew Schlafly’s attempt to write an encyclopedia that catalogs Andrew Schlafly’s views on the world. Oh, what an ego he must have.

  10. #10 Claire
    February 27, 2007

    I liked how the mutations entry says that mutations can not add material to the genome. That’s so very true – obviously a geneticist of some stature is contributing.

  11. #11 Jason M
    February 27, 2007

    Gravitons are predicted by relativity? … … I’m going to have to walk that one off…

  12. #12 JS
    February 27, 2007

    Gravitons, predicted by relativity

    Chez wha?

    Gravitons are, AFAIK, not ‘predicted’ in the usual physicist sense of the term, and certainly not by GR. Methinks he’s talking about gravitational waves, which is something completely different.

    – JS

  13. #13 John Faughnan
    February 27, 2007

    The wonderful thing about conservapedia is that it improves the pool of people contributing to wikipedia. If they stay busy on conservapedia, they won’t vandalize wikipedia.

    Really, it’s a great defensive strategy. We should do everything possible to keep conservapedia going, including emulating wacky right wing/theocratic positions. Don’t try to “correct” conservapedia, instead right your best version of a theocratic article for them. Not a parody, the real thing.

    We want them to be happy. And far away …

  14. #14 Jon H
    February 28, 2007

    I so want someone to edit the Moon page to say

    That’s no moon…

  15. #15 Jon H
    February 28, 2007

    “Seems to me that the Conservapedia is Andrew Schlafly’s attempt to write an encyclopedia that catalogs Andrew Schlafly’s views on the world.”

    Or, more likely, his Mom’s views.

  16. #16 Marlene
    February 28, 2007

    Hey is it just me, or do you guys have problem with conservapedia too? Its really really slow, sometimes it wont even open!

  17. #17 Marcelo
    February 28, 2007

    Common, forget about Aschlaflypedia. He already had his minutes in the spotlight…
    Who is to deny the result of the life and effort of so many talent scientists? Not someone who deserves any credit.

  18. #18 Thomas Palm
    March 1, 2007

    Another funny thing is that the discussion about the similarity of the apparent size of the moon and the sun claims “That symmetry will not last forever.” This implicitly assumes timescales of many millions of years, contradicting the concept of a young Earth.

    When it comes to E=mc^2 and the nuclear bomb Aschlafly is somewhat correct. There really is no connection. E=mc^2 is just as correct in describing the energy release in a chemical bomb, and just as useless for designing one. The motivation for the nuclear bomb was observation of energetic fission reactions not this equation and it could have been built just as well with no theory of relativity. In fact, one can speculate about another world where it was the mass loss in nuclear reactions that gave inspiration to the theory of relativity.

  19. #19 Ico Lycan
    March 1, 2007

    I personally like the entry for INQUISITION:

    A [sic] investigation by the Church. It used horrible, sometimes life-threatening torture to make people confess their sins.

    Doesn’t get much more straightforward than that.

  20. #20 Ross
    March 4, 2007

    > E=mc^2 is just as correct in describing the energy release in a chemical bomb, and just as useless for designing one.

    Wrong. With chemical explosives you start off with 1kg (say) and get energy from the release of chmical bonds, resulting in ikg of products (gases, shards, etc). With a nuclear explosion you start off with ikg (say) of radioactive material and actually convert some of that mass into energy, resulting in (say) 0.9kg of radioactive material and a whole lot of energy. You actually convert mass into energy and that is why there is so much energy in a nuclear explosion.

  21. Since many eager readers are misspelling “” and inadvertently typing “,” the latter has been registered and now redirects to the former. Huzzah for ‘merica!

  22. #22 Breklor
    March 7, 2007

    Ross: 0.99kg, if I recall correctly.

    But you know what they say: close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and tacnukes.

  23. #23 Tarmo Toikkanen
    March 10, 2007

    Moronopedia is certainly a resource I will promote to students as good study material – in media criticism exercises.

    I did enjoy the short article on changes in chromosome structure (, which is written by Andy himself, with no-one contradicting him:

    “A situation in which the chromosome loses or gains genes during meiosis”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t that just kind of open the door to the possibility of evolution? Oopsy! Meiosis is what happens with sexual reproduction after all.

  24. #24 Robster, FCD
    May 3, 2007

    If moronopedia’s registration is closed, I would bet that certain internet heroes (who shall remain anonymous) had been raiding it out of sheer love of annoying people.

  25. #25 Kiran
    September 4, 2007

    Ross, your post about chemical explosives is… wrong. According to relativity, mass and energy are literally the same thing. Energy (e.g. light) can therefore have a gravitational field, just like any other form of mass. Mass is energy, and can sometimes be converted into a form of energy that can do work. In chemical explosions, energy (and therefore mass) IS released, just as in nuclear explosions. The difference is that in nuclear explosions, a much higher percentage of the mass is “lost” (actually, released as energy).

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