Andy Schlafly's “success” story

Another major paper has a story on Conservapædia. I'm sure Andy is proud of his accomplishment — the truly stupid would be proud of promoting stupidity.

Schlafly, 46, started small, urging his students to post brief -- often one-sentence -- entries on ancient history. He went live with the site in November. In the last six months, it's grown explosively, offering what Schlafly describes as fair, scholarly articles. Many have a distinctly religious-right perspective.

There's some complaining at the end—there's a rival wiki, RationalWiki, that comments on Conservapædia silliness, and some of its members also edit Conservapædia, prompting much outrage at those liberals who want to "destroy" them. I don't think we can blame liberal mockery for these entries, though:

Take the Pleistocene Epoch. Most scientists know it as the ice age and date it back at least 1.6 million years. But Conservapedia calls it "a theorized period of time" -- a theory contradicted, according to the entry, by "multiple lines of evidence" indicating that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, as described in the Book of Genesis.

"We have certain principles that we adhere to, and we are up-front about them," Schlafly writes in his mission statement. "Beyond that we welcome the facts."

Conservapedia defines environmentalists as "people who profess concern about the environment" and notes that some would want to impose legal limits on the use of toilet paper.

Femininity? The quality of being "childlike, gentle, pretty, willowy, submissive."

A hike in minimum wage is referred to as "a controversial manoeuvre that increases the incentive for young people to drop out of school."

And the state of the economy under President Bush? Much better than the "liberal media" would have you think: "For example, during his term Exxon Mobile has posted the largest profit of any company in a single year, and executive salaries have greatly increased as well."

What a mess. I refuse to accept papers turned in to me that cite Wikipedia, and I tell students that Wikipedia is not a reliable source. I haven't warned them about Conservapædia so far, but maybe I'm going to have to start, and let them know that I'll flunk them if I spot the kind of credulity that would think Conservapædia has any credibility at all.

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Seriously. And if you want to see the very definition of 'clueless git', watch this video of Andy Schlafly droning on. Would you believe he accuses wikipedia of bias, and then says that he founded Conservapædia to strengthen Christian faith?

"We have certain principles that we adhere to, and we are up-front about them," Schlafly writes in his mission statement. "Beyond that we welcome the facts."

Wow, he actually admits that they only welcome facts that don't contradict their idiology. er, I mean ideology.

And the state of the economy under President Bush? Much better than the "liberal media" would have you think: "For example, during his term Exxon Mobile has posted the largest profit of any company in a single year, and executive salaries have greatly increased as well."

So what...wait a minute...let me catch my breath from laughing...so what...ow, my sides hurt ... so what... ...aw, forget it.

By RamblinDude (not verified) on 21 Jun 2007 #permalink

What is up with the "controversial manoeuvre that increases the incentive for young people to drop out of school" business?

Has Conservapedia abandoned the preference for American spelling? Or did the good conservatives wiki editors simply never learn how to spell either maneuver or manoeuvre?

And the state of the economy under President Bush? Much better than the "liberal media" would have you think: "For example, during his term Exxon Mobile has posted the largest profit of any company in a single year, and executive salaries have greatly increased as well."

In the "No Shit Sherlock" category, this has got to be the funniest thing I've read this week.

That state of the economy one has to be sabotage. Not even Conservapedia are that dumb. Besides, they're trying to be populist.

By Ginger Yellow (not verified) on 21 Jun 2007 #permalink

This is one of those cases of something being so stupid that it's hard to tell whether it's supposed to be a joke or not. Until i read this i was pretty sure that it was a joke.

I disagree with liberals editting it though. Makes it harder to gage exactly what these idiots really think.

I don't know Ginger. I've found that even the most skilled satirist cannot hold a candle to the idiocy the believers can spout. It really is impossible to tell the difference between someone sarcastically spouting gibberish to mock them and one of them spouting what they believe.

According to Wikipedia, Andy is Phyllis's son. In this case, the nut doesn't land far from the tree.

"Are you aware of the study Nature conducted..."

I'm not a teacher, but I'm a student (again). And I've had teachers tell me not to use it. I can think of reasons for them not accepting it. After all, if a particular wikipedia statement does in fact have a reference to it, you mind as well click on the link and go for the source of the wiki article.

Beyond Wikipedia's credibility issues (and there are many errors and controversies, notwithstanding the Nature study), the problem with citing Wikipedia is that the article probably will change. I'm a librarian, and I use Wikipedia for things like word definitions or to get a handle on something I know nothing about, but I would never consider it a scholarly source.

Well done, Andrew Schlafly.

You have proven once again that a person can utterly waste their short span of life on this planet spewing ideological lies and distorted facts and fostering stupidity, all the while receiving the approbation of like-minded idiots.

Wasn't difficult, was it?

By CalGeorge (not verified) on 21 Jun 2007 #permalink

In response to PZ's statement that he won't accept papers that cite Wikipedia, D.R.M. (#9) cites a study that purports to show Wikipedia is as accurate as Britannica on "science."

I guess the question would be whether PZ accepts papers that cite Britannica, or indeed any such secondary source.

and I tell students that Wikipedia is not a reliable source.

If I were a college professor teaching some advanced subject I probably wouldn't allow my students to cite wikipedia, but I wouldn't go as far as telling them it's not a reliable source. I can't speak for all the history, math, popular culture, and stuff like that, but from my experience wikipedia is surprisingly reliable.

The vandalism is blatantly obvious. Nobody goes to the Mus musculus article and decide to put in some semi-plausible lies. For example that the centromere in the chromosome is unusual because it is 2.3 times as big as Homo sapiens. Experts may know that's a blatant lie (or not? I just made it up on the spot :P), but most people wouldn't. No, vandals go in and blank out pages, put curse words in random places, say "hi Sahrah!", etc.

As for honest mistakes, most editors know a fair amount about the subject they are editing on. While they're not (always) experts (as there ARE some botanists, biologists, physicists out there), their collective knowledge is something you can put a fair amount of trust in. It's almost like a peer-review kind of thing, although of course the peers are usually not quite as knowledgeable... but the system works surprisingly well.

err... to clarify,

I can't speak for all the history, math, popular culture, and stuff like that, but from my experience wikipedia is surprisingly reliable.

means that I can't speak for those subjects but from my experience with science articles, it is surprisingly reliable.

When I TA for an upper division lab course, I also don't accept Wikipedia citations on papers. It might be very reliable (and sometimes it is), but part of the point of looking up references for a research paper is to learn how to find relevant journal articles. If I counted on Wikipedia to stay abreast of current research in my field, I wouldn't get very far at all.

An undergrad class is a good place for students to put in some time and learn how to find the peer-reviewed articles that they need rather than just going with the first Google search result.

I agree that Wikipedia is an excellent starting point for investigation.... especially if the authors have included citations...

However, even (good) citations need scrutiny (as I tell my son when he uses the web for research)...

Reliable does not equal truth.... but unreliable generally equals untruth.

If you don't know -- form your own opinions from primary source material. You may (ultimately) be wrong or misguided... but you'll at least get credit for your analysis!

"I disagree with liberals editting it though. Makes it harder to gage exactly what these idiots really think."

They're pretty militant about what gets entered. So if the post is not 100% in line with their ideology it's deleted.

What I find particularly exasperating about the Conservapdeia entries is what they don't say. Like the one for Ho Chi Min doesn't even bother to mention he was a communists. You'd think a Conservative would at lest note that.

As much as I hate Conservapedia, they are pretty close to the truth about the minimum wage thing. Minimum wage and pay rate controls discourage merit-based rewards and discourage competing via high performance productivity and customer service.

I'm a retired librarian and I love wikipedia. It's there for a quick, generally reliable reference on just about anything I want to know (Where is Uzbeckistan? What sort of French name is Sarkozy? You know--Life's trivial but burning questions. It's not an academic reference source, but if I were still working, I'd use it as an entry level source, to get a handle on a subject I knew nothing about.

"Oran Taran - before you get too carried away with wikipedia's facts, you need to view the Stephen Colbert Elephant articles..." -J Dog

That disinformation was immediately edited out and is only a single case.

@ #1. Craig, you took the words right out of my mouth (er, fingers? keyboard?). I look forward to the day when information and evidence will be recognised for what they are: ideologically neutral.

As it is, Conservapædia's use of 'theorised' and 'controversial' indicate they've taken a page from the wedge strategy of suggesting a scientific debate where there is none.

Perhaps the name Conservapedo would more accurately describe the childish nature of their articles.

Oran Taran - before you get too carried away with wikipedia's facts, you need to view the Stephen Colbert Elephant articles...

That's a popular culture thing, not a science article. I was specifically talking about the science articles.

Besides, that's the exception, not the rule.

I agree that Wikipedia is an excellent starting point for investigation.... especially if the authors have included citations...

Like it or not, Wikipedia is an excellent starting point for any investigation.

I certainly don't let students cite it as a source of peer-reviewed science; they must read the papers.

But as scientists we should contribute our expertise to Wikipedia as well as to our official publications. It doesn't take much time to check out the articles in our field and make corrections and additions where appropriate. That's the best way to make sure everyone gets accurate information.

He sounds like a moron, but considering who his mother is it's a wonder he's not climbing-the-walls, shit-munching nuts. Phyllis Schlafly is one of the most stupid and vile people ever to live to the age of 150 (without looking a day over 200).

The problem with Wikipedia for use in scholarship is that it changes.

Entries may be reliable one day and get worse the next.

How the heck is a professor/teacher supposed to deal with that?

By CalGeorge (not verified) on 21 Jun 2007 #permalink

Apologies -- I should have prefixed my earlier comments with "FOR NON PROFESSIONAL PURPOSES"

If you're a professional, you should (generally) be using professional sources for your citations (regardless of your profession, but especially in sciences)

I would EXPECT teachers and professsors to deal with 'mutable' references in the way that PZ suggests - Wikipedia is not a citable reference. period. (doesn't mean you can't use it for ideas, or an overview, though)

Aaron - re: Minumum Wage

You must be fucking joking?

Unless you postulate a minimum wage that is so outrageously high that it inflates local prices/costs (Switzerland, anyone) then its worth is certainly visible. The minimum wage stops the worst outrages of 'robber baron profiteering'. It does not confer anything but basic poverty on its recipients, and hopefully avoidance of total poverty.

Perhaps you'd rather we change to the 'libertarian' ideal of full-on free markets... In that case you'll be happy to accept that we've reduced your salary by 50% since you're obviously incapable of thinking, and spend too much time on the 'net.

Be careful what you wish for, buddy...

The newspaper sez,

He went live with the site in November. In the last six months, it's grown explosively, offering what Schlafly describes as fair, scholarly articles.

I'm pretty sure that explosive growth can be blamed on ScienceBlogs.com.

Conservapædia? Oh, how unkind to use the British-English spelling.

Bob

Just noticed another doozy:

"Schlafly calls the armchair psychology "borderline in acceptability" for his site, but he defends the Clinton article on balance as "an objective, bias-free piece from a conservative perspective." [Emphasis added.]

He doesn't know what words mean, does he?

"it's a wonder he's not climbing-the-walls, shit-munching nuts"

He's not? I can say with a 95% degree of certainty what your stance is on school prayer and evolution, and that's all that's needed for scientific accuracy. (Full Disclosure: I've been banned from Conservaepedia. Not for editing. For putting on my userpage that I was a Godless Liberal Heathen. But they welcome differing viewpoints!)

Conservapædia is a good example of grassroots/astroturf misinformation and an attempt to push revisionist history. It would probably make a very interesting case study in a sociology course set alongside other more centralized propaganda examples.

In a brief defense (of a sort) for wikipededia... I agree it is not a citeable source beyond informal conversation, but it does provide a fine starting place and summary in many many cases to figure out methodology and sources to actually use. Just as one doesn't cite News and Views in Nature, but they are damn useful.

I don't accept encyclopedia citations, either.

And yes, of course, I don't somehow ban them from reading Wikipedia or Britannica, but I tell them those are only starting points, and if you're going to endorse a fact by citing it you need to dig into the primary literature to do so.

Wikipedia also has the virtue that it provides a limitless source of "teachable moments." Every day, somewhere on the site, an event transpires to which a teacher can point and say, "And that, Johnny, is why we need bibliographies!"

It's also a good training ground for aspiring nonfiction writers.

CalGeorge: You can create links to particular versions of wikipedia articles. For example, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Octopus&oldid=135014268 is clearly vandalism, while http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Octopus&oldid=139164467 seems to contain links to potentially interesting sources.

Presumably, if you're going to talk about a wikipedia entry, you're going to want to talk about a particular version of it.

In a course I took this spring, the instructor was handing back one of the papers, and discussing them a little bit. Things like, "A lot of you did ____, which was very helpful" and "Any number greater than 4 digits needs commas." Then the kicker: "Wikipedia is not a valid source." This brought chuckles from many in the class, which was part of his intention.

Oh, did I mention this was a graduate level class?

I agree with the person above who said that if the info is in Wikipedia, it ought to have a citation. Just go to the original & verify it, and there's your source.

An interesting sidebar is the actions and methods the admins at Conservapedia use to keep unpleasent facts out of articles like Intelligent Design. Unlike the encyclopedia Conservapedia exists to counter, Wikipedia, admins at Conservapedia have literally carte blanch to mete out whatever measures they choose. The results have a long string of credible editors blocked without warning for ridiculously long periods, usually months, for adding readily verifiable facts to articles. Probably the most egregious abuser of his admin position at Conservapedia is a former Wikipedia admin. He was not just an admin at Wikipedia, but a bureaucrat, a role that indicates the highest level of trust by the community, and one that comes with a powerful set of tools. First he was defrocked of his bureaucrat role by Wikipedia's arbitration committee for abusing his position. Not long after his was stripped of his admin status and tools for again abusing his position by blocking his opponents in a fight over biased content. In both instances his conservative pov played a role in his inability to restrain his abusing his position. Now he's largely running the show at Conservapedia. Draw your own conclusions as to the likelihood well-meaning editors will ever be able to contribute unbiased content to articles at Conservapedia.

By triviality (not verified) on 21 Jun 2007 #permalink

As one of the early members of Rationalwiki I wanted to point out that while a great deal of rationalwiki is about detailing and reacting to the anti-science, anti-reality stance of conservapedia we are attempting to do a whole lot more. I think many of the commenters and readers here would be interested in exploring it a little deeper. For example we are starting a collaborative effort to do a point my point refutation of Behe's "interview" defending his new book: http://www.rationalwiki.com/wiki/Behe:_The_Edge_of_Evolution%2C_Intervi…

"Be careful what you wish for, buddy..."

Yeah, isn't it interesting how the proponents of such a system always think they will be the winners, that the losers will always be somebody else.

By Obdulantist (not verified) on 21 Jun 2007 #permalink

"Beyond that we welcome the facts."

Classic. There's really nothing more needed to be said here...

By Brain Hertz (not verified) on 21 Jun 2007 #permalink

Ah, yes. Phyllis Schlafly. She spent much of the seventies traveling around the country telling mothers they should stay home with their children.

You can link to a specific version of an article.
ex. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Elephant&oldid=135671028
As for the effect that Colbert had on the elephant article, it's been noted that the length and quality of the article increased significantly during and after the 'attack'.

Citing wikipedia is a bit silly, of course, since you should use the original sources cited by the article (possibly after verifying they're legitimate (and editing the article if not!)). If an article is poorly cited, then it should be considered questionable. Fix it! :)

Whoops, people covered most of my points by the time I submitted... Stupid work, getting the way of my posting! :)

Back in April, this was the entry for Margaret Atwood's "Handmaid's Tale":

The Handmaid's Tale is a novel set in the near future in which conservative Christianity has achieved ascendancy over the United States of America. Though often thought of as a dystopia, the novel contains many positive aspects, such as the outlawing of abortion, and the abolishion of the separation of church and state.

What can be more positive then hanging women and doctors who perform abortions. And hanging people who are critics of the regime.

Seems that people who actually read the novel realized just how stupid that entry was so it has been updated to this:

The Handmaid's Tale is a dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood set in the near future in which an oppressive authoritarian government has achieved ascendancy over the United States of America. She apparently intended it to be a fable about a backlash against feminism[Citation Needed]. It was made into a movie in 1990.

Yeah, this is a site I CAN TRUST.

Hah. Sometimes when I'm bored, I create an account on Conservapedia, put in a fact, and watch gleefully as my account is blocked in minutes. I edited the gorilla page by just changing "Comparison of DNA sequences of humans and gorillas show them to be 99% identical, but even with these similarities there are so many gaps in the sequence that it is nigh impossible for them to have descended from a common ancestor." to simply read "Comparison of DNA sequences of humans and gorillas show them to be 99% identical."

I was blocked, and the reason for the block was just the word "VANDAL".

The really funny thing is that the sysop who blocked me, BethanyS, has a line in her profile that says

"As a Conservapedia Sysop, I will NEVER ARBITRARILY block anyone who is not in violation of the Conservapedia Commandments or related CP Guidelines."

Wikipedia: The ultimate in revisionist history...

The saving *grace* is that you CAN see the old versions ! The challenge is that the 'majority' prevails.... let's hope that majority is never 'Moral'!

(sorry for the gawdly word, but their memes have infected the english language to too great an extent... I can't even swear without invoking a gawd!)

Conservapaedia: simply revisionist.

No good, all bad, and damn ugly!

Phyllis Schlafly is particularly good at sneeringly explaining "obvious" things that turn out upon investigation to be untrue. She's been a thorn in the side of the body politic for a long, long time, having first come to fame for her Barry Goldwater campaign book (A Choice, not an Echo). She dislikes political polls (sometimes I agree with her there), but she is a statistical ignoramus and criticizes them on completely specious grounds. She truly doesn't know any better (and doesn't even suspect that she doesn't know).

And she was right! Look how screwed up her kids are!

I dunno about that. How much more screwed up might they be if she'd stayed home with them?

As much as I hate Conservapedia, they are pretty close to the truth about the minimum wage thing. Minimum wage and pay rate controls discourage merit-based rewards and discourage competing via high performance productivity and customer service.

Have a short look outside the USA. Any halfway First World country will do.

We're in science here. Observation trumps theory.

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 21 Jun 2007 #permalink

she is a statistical ignoramus

Which she's passed on to her children. There have some hilarious conversations around Andy Schlafly's "statistics", like his claim that Wikipedia is 6X more liberal than the American population. And his claims about his statistical predictive superpowers, which amuse me no end.

re comment 22:

Conservapedo would have (it's not a standard word) a curiosly fitting meaning in Spanish - roughly "fart repository"

By pleistoscenic (not verified) on 21 Jun 2007 #permalink

"As a Conservapedia Sysop, I will NEVER ARBITRARILY block anyone who is not in violation of the Conservapedia Commandments or related CP Guidelines."

Get a life. Jeeeeeebus.

By CalGeorge (not verified) on 21 Jun 2007 #permalink

You don't accept Wikipedia citations, P-Zed? Do you accept Britannica?

In fact, other than the occasional defacement (that will get fixed extremely quickly, often within seconds) I have yet to see someone point out where Wikipedia is inaccurate. There are some political pages and things like that where it seems they're trying to be too "fair" but that's the society we live in and I don't think that any other Encyclopedia is going to be any more likely to take those issues on properly anyway.

"Conservapedo"--isn't that former Congressman Mark Foley's nickname?

By Captain C (not verified) on 21 Jun 2007 #permalink

No instructor should be accepting either Wikipedia or any other encyclopedia as a primary source in a paper. Anyone teaching research stresses the importance of the primary source and the scholarly source. An encyclopedia is a starting point, but by its very nature not the in-depth, up-to-date resource that most research other than the historically-based requires.

Accuracy is not the sole issue; depth, breadth, and recency are of equal or greater importance.

By Faithful Reader (not verified) on 21 Jun 2007 #permalink

Back in April, this was the entry for Margaret Atwood's "Handmaid's Tale":

The Handmaid's Tale is a novel set in the near future in which conservative Christianity has achieved ascendancy over the United States of America. Though often thought of as a dystopia, the novel contains many positive aspects, such as the outlawing of abortion, and the abolishion of the separation of church and state.

I think he's just mad because the conservative woman in that bookws clearly modeled after his own mother. She, too, used to like to leave her family to travel the country and speak about how women belong at home with their families. When she actually got her way, but now had to stay home all the time, she got rather depressed.

I don't accept Wikipedia as a source for High School papers let alone college level work.

I haven't had a conservapedia citation pop up yet, but given the leanings of some of the families in our school district, I expect to see them before too long.

By dogmeatib (not verified) on 21 Jun 2007 #permalink

Timothy--

PZ said (#36) he doesn't accept citations from encyclopedias. He's right not to, especially for a college class.

But I strongly agree with you that, for day-to-day use, Wikipedia is a wonderful, surprisingly accurate (on the whole) resource.

I tend to agree that Wikipedia is usually accurate. I agree that encyclopedias of any kind are inappropriate resources for research papers.

For me the interesting question becomes: Is Wikipedia accurate because it mimics the traditional encyclopedia it purports to replace? That is to say, is it accurate because it relies on experts to write, edit, and monitor entries on the subjects of their expertise? Does this mean that Wikipedia is merely parasitic on more established forms of knowledge production?

By fardels bear (not verified) on 21 Jun 2007 #permalink

Of course Wikipedia is "parasitic" on more established forms of knowledge production, its explicitly stated in their editing guidelines: "no original research." All of the information is supposed to be cited with a footnote providing a link or page reference to a generally accepted source, which in practice vary from top tier journals to sketchy websites.

Wikipedia is good at aggregating a variety of knowledge from a variety of sources very quickly, but of course it is not providing any new knowledge, all of the claims can all be found elsewhere, or else they are deleted (in theory). Therefore, I think that a policy of not accepting citations from Wikipedia is certainly the correct policy, because the student can still use Wikipedia, they just must only use it as an intermediary step. If the article in Wikipedia is reputable it will be extensively cited, and the resources that are cited can be found and used by the student to get the same information, and likely a lot more.

Wikipedia is for quick knowledge, and also works very well as a starting point when doing initial research, to get a feel for the topic, and to get a bibliography from which one can jump off to more in depth and scholarly research.

By eukaryote (not verified) on 21 Jun 2007 #permalink

One of the things I'm fascinated by with the Conservapaedia thing is its stated purpose -- to be a source for research for high school students. By the time I was in sixth grade, I knew that encyclopedia cites were not valid for a real research paper and by high school it was completely disallowed. (Granted, I grew up in a very good school district.) To encourage students not to find primary sources seems to be just very bad education. But then, it is aimed at fundamentalist home-schoolers...

I heard a story on NPR in March about this. For fun, look up "Kangaroo" on conservapedia and learn that kangaroos (like all animals) originated in the middle-east and either migrated to Australia over a land bridge (which no longer exists) or floated on jetsom[1].

In bending over backwards and exposing my buttocks and spreading my cheeks in fairness that conservipedia in no way deserves, conservipedia does not "only welcome facts that don't contradict their idiology". They just have an agenda to place conservative opinions first and state that they are more believable than any other, and place creatist theories and terminology ("A baramin is a lineage of earthly life which is believed by creationists to be created by God during the Creation Week, and corresponds in some functional aspects to the secular concept of species. However, unlike species concepts that are based on Darwinian thinking, the baraminic barrier is inviolable, as other baramins do not evolve from earlier baramins.") above scientific facts, er, unsupported highly controvesrial beliefs. Other than that you get the same level of information as an elementary school book. ("Kangaroos have large ears on top of their small heads, a long snout, and short arms with clawed fingers. Their legs are strong, powerful, and are made for leaping. Their feet have four toes at the end of elongated metatarsi that they rest on when standing. They also have a powerful, thick tail that is used as support when standing, a third-leg when walking slowly, and for counterbalance while leaping. Like all Marsupials, female kangaroos have a pouch on their stomachs in which they carry their young.")

=====
[1]Consistent with their view that the fossil record as a whole does not support the evolutionary position[2][3], creationists state that there is a lack of transitional fossils showing an evolutionary origin of kangaroos:

The Macropod family is alleged to have evolved from either the Phalangeridae (possums) or Burramyidae (pygmy-possums)...
However, there are no fossils of animals which appear to be intermediate between possums and kangaroos. Wabularoo naughtoni, supposed ancestor of all the macropods, was clearly a kangaroo (it greatly resembles the potoroos which dwell in Victoria's forests). If modern kangaroos really did come from it, all this shows is the same as we see happening today, namely that kangaroos come from kangaroos, "after their kind." [4]
According to the origins theory model used by young earth creation scientists, modern kangaroos 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. It has not yet been determined by baraminologists whether kangaroos form a holobaramin with the wallaby, tree-kangaroo, wallaroo, pademelon and quokka, or if all these species are in fact apobaraminic or polybaraminic. There is, however, no evidence of a genetic bottleneck in the kangaroo species which would be expected if all kangaroos were descended from two individuals.

After the Flood, these kangaroos bred from the Ark passengers migrated to Australia. There is debate whether this migration happened over land[5] with lower sea levels during the post-flood ice age, or before the supercontinent of Pangea broke apart[6], or if they rafted on mats of vegetation torn up by the receding flood waters.[5] The idea that God simply generated kangaroos into existence there is considered by most creation researchers to be contra-Biblical.

Other views on kangaroo origins include the belief of some Australian Aborigines that kangaroos were sung into existence by their ancestors during the "Dreamtime" [7] and the evolutionary view that kangaroos and the other marsupials evolved from a common marsupial ancestor which lived hundreds of millions of years ago.[8]

A majority of biologists regard evolution as the most likely explanation for the origin of species including the kangaroo.

Note that despite reluctantly admiting the evolutionary viewpoint and even admitting that the majority of biologists accept it, the give it the dead-last position and give an aboriginy creation myth (which they clearly don't believe) higher priority. Also the details is as scanty as possible.

Actually I read this first in march and then it claimed the evolutionist viewpoint was a religious opinion and shouldn't be considered science. A few days later they retracted that it was religious opinion but explained that evolution theory was questionable. This "majority of science" is new and actually blows me away.

I get the feeling they put the creationist stuff with high priority mainly as a sense of solidarity in that somehow belief in science, oops I mean evolution, is "liberal" and the religious faith is "conservative" and you can't be religious without literalism. But I imagine enough conservatives who actually know anything about biology have complained or edited. After all, conservapedia pertains to be an encyclapedia and represent conservative views. Actual conservatives probably don't want to be embarrassed.

Also when I first viewed the page it insisted ant the top in claiming there were "There are at least sixty-nine baramin of kangaroo" (italics mine) and now it has replaced baramin with species. So even in something this idiotic, common sense is advancing.

I guess that's a good thing...

By woozy (but I'm… (not verified) on 21 Jun 2007 #permalink

That is to say, is it accurate because it relies on experts to write, edit, and monitor entries on the subjects of their expertise? Does this mean that Wikipedia is merely parasitic on more established forms of knowledge production?

Promulgating the results of other people's research to a wider public (properly referenced, of course) is not in any way, shape or form to be considered 'parasitic' on the production of knowledge. Quite the contrary. One of the tenets of the Enlightenment that is dearest and closest to my heart is the notion that knowledge should be spread, shared and studied simply for its own sake.

In this sense, some Wikipedia articles resemble the review articles that you will sometimes find in professional journals (and while the vast majority fall short of such professional articles, I have actually seen a couple that I would not have been surprised to read in a real journal) - they sum up the state of the art, giving credit where credit is due and providing an introduction and review for new readers (that being said, Wikipedia still isn't a valid citation for professional research).

- JS

Femininity? The quality of being "childlike, gentle, pretty, willowy, submissive."

... women are childlike now? Margaret Thatcher. gentle? Angelina Jolie. pretty? the Queen of England. willowy? Dawn French, Rosie O'Donnell, i could go on... submissive? anyone who's not religious...

oh dear.

One thing I love about Wikipedia is it's a gold mine for trivia on pop-culture that would NEVER grace the pages of a more stuffy, proper reference work like Brittanica or even World Book Encyclopedia...obscure sh*t from the 1970s, 1980s, especially television, music, video games, whatever...simply AMAZING. Internet culture, too, of course. I read my fair share of BoingBoing, but I certainly don't catch every trend, novelty, etc. It's a great starting point for a lot of stuff. Also an excellent time-killer while doing otherwise boring-ass nightshift work.

It's not a "proper" resource for scholarly research, but hell, I use it at work because 1) it's FREE and 2) it's fast/cheap; If I need a quick overview of some obscure country where a client is locate (I work in Travel Insurance), bingo, Wikipedia has saved my @ss more than once--that & Google-Earth--and Yahoo! Maps (though the way they "improved" Yahoo! Maps lately REAALLLY sucks--no where near as reliable as they used to be).

I wonder how many others out there who work as office clerks for various corporations use Wikipedia in the workplace on account of the cost-factor (free versus $$?? for a real online Encyclopedia)...?

Beyond Wikipedia's credibility issues (and there are many errors and controversies, notwithstanding the Nature study), the problem with citing Wikipedia is that the article probably will change. I'm a librarian, and I use Wikipedia for things like word definitions or to get a handle on something I know nothing about, but I would never consider it a scholarly source.

Will I ever meet a Wikipedia detractor who's noticed the "permanent link" button on every page?

The vandalism is blatantly obvious. Nobody goes to the Mus musculus article and decide to put in some semi-plausible lies. For example that the centromere in the chromosome is unusual because it is 2.3 times as big as Homo sapiens. Experts may know that's a blatant lie (or not? I just made it up on the spot :P), but most people wouldn't. No, vandals go in and blank out pages, put curse words in random places, say "hi Sahrah!", etc.

It can be more insidious than that. Someone recently uncovered an article about a fake battle won by a fake general, replete with detail on both.

Though the infantile sort of defacements you mention do seem to be far more common.

As for changing text, citations of Web sites are supposed to include the date it was referenced, and at Wikipedia it is trivially easy to pull up the version of the article as it existed on a given date. (But maybe the citation should have a timestamp too, given how frequently some articles are edited.)

I don't recall any teacher from high school on ever allowing any kind of tertiary source attribution(Primary--first hand account, secondary--from someone relying on eyewitness accounts, tertiary--compilation of primary and secondary sources, like encyclopedia, wikipedia, or textbook [comment #13]). We were always expressly directed away from such sources-- they could be used to locate sources, but could not be used as a source. Of course, all my term papers were written on an IBM Selectric, but that's another matter.

I'm a retired librarian and I love wikipedia. It's there for a quick, generally reliable reference on just about anything I want to know.

I know it comes in bloody useful for clarifying subject cataloguing and access when you simply need a feel for how something fits into LoC or some other controlled vocabulary.

I analysed it for a library paper, once. I'd provisionally accept it for an overview - *provided* other cites were given as well.

I have to love the person who edited the article on homo florensis (the pygmy man they found near Indonesia) to include a link to Ronnie Corbett...

By Phoenician in … (not verified) on 21 Jun 2007 #permalink

The thing is, most good Wikipedia entries have sources listed at the bottom, so it's only a matter of one more click or two to get to the original material. I tell students to think of Wikipedia not really as an encyclopedia, but as a mini-database that has a nice summary at the beginning of the search results. That helps take them out of the mindset that Wikipedia is a source in its own right, and helps teach them to follow references.

The article in Nature that appeared to show that Wiki was almost as error-free as Brittanica was somewhat debunked. If the criticism is true, Nature used some shoddy and possibly mendacious practices in their study.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/03/25/britannica_wikipedia_nature/

Wiki's great for pop-culture stuff that nobody else would bother to catalog. If you want to know about obscure Star Wars characters, then it's your source (actually, for Star Wars caharacters, wookiepedia is your REAL source). For more serious topics, the contributors are simply lifting and paraphrasing the original sources, with all the possibility for error and misinterpretation that that entails.

I noticed you could not point out one flaw in the Conservapedia theory of evolution article.

By PeterMoore (not verified) on 22 Oct 2007 #permalink

PeterMoore,

I noticed that there was no mention of a Conservapedia theory of evolution article in the comments, just one about kangaroos. There's a slight difference between the two.

Dear PZ Myers,

re: the age of the earth

I notice that you failed to mention that Conservapedia cites the work of William Corliss who has been cited frequently by the scientific literature. I would also point out that a biography of Corliss's career catologing anomalies was done by New Scientist. According to Corliss and please feel free to contact him there are around 100 old earth paradigm anomalies and Conservapedia provides a citation to many of them: http://www.conservapedia.com/William_Corliss and http://www.conservapedia.com/Young_earth_creationism

Please let me know when you get a handle on the 100 or so anamolies for the old earth paradigm as I have never seen a evolutionist tackle the work of Corliss in regards to the anomalies he has cataloged in the old earth paradigm. You can find the anomalies here in the works having to do with geology: http://www.science-frontiers.com/sourcebk.htm

By peter moore (not verified) on 03 Nov 2007 #permalink

Why are my comments not being immediately posted as before. Is PZ Myers the owner of the blog beginning to censor material that he is unable to dispute? I ask this question because if memory serves I am getting a message that the blog owner is currently holding back my comments pending review and PZ Myers has yet to respond to my comments which I believe are quite reasonable.

By peter moore (not verified) on 03 Nov 2007 #permalink

Why are my comments not being immediately posted as before.

Is another paranoid ranting "victim" claiming false persecution YET AGAIN?

don't you idiots ever tire of hearing yourselves speak?

Dear PZ Myers,

Why is my post regarding the old earth paradigm anomalies that Wiliam Corliss cataloged being censored? Don't think the censorship will not be made known to the public.

Given that Corliss has been cited by the scientific literature and given that the science magazine New Scientist has featured a article on Corliss's career cataloging anomalies I found the censorship quite unreasonable to say the least. Here is a biography of Corliss's career: http://www.conservapedia.com/William_R._Corliss Please look at his work on old earth geology paradigms which can be found here: http://www.science-frontiers.com/sourcebk.htm#Geology

Please feel free to contact Mr. Corliss as he will tell you that he has catologed about 100 old earth paradigm anomalies (if memory serves he has catologed about 80-100 old earth paradigm anomalies in terms of the field of geology). Some of them can be found in his work in respect to geology anomalies as mentioned before: http://www.science-frontiers.com/sourcebk.htm#Geology

I have never seen a evolutionists tackle the work of Mr. Corliss in regards to old earth paradigm anamolies. I wouldn't be surprised if you chose not to tackle his work as well.

By peter moore (not verified) on 03 Nov 2007 #permalink

PZ Myers,

Could you please stop censoring my reasonable comments?

By peter moore (not verified) on 03 Nov 2007 #permalink

Peter Moore is a nom-de-blog of the editor "conservative" at conservapedia. Which is itself the name of infamous Internet retard creationist Ken Demyer.

For what its worth there is plenty of material on CP and their delusional admins at RationalWiki as well as some other interesting material (I am biased of course) involving pseudoscience and cranks.

Ken is after publicity and page hits, he obsessively monitors the views at CP and I guess he has gotten tired of making up lies about homosexuality and is going back to his old standby.

Dear Tmtoulouse,

You allege lies are told about homosexuality at Conservapedia by editor conservative. However, I noticed a complete absence of you citing one lie. Given the Conservapedia article cites mainstream medical sources and eminent pathologists your absence being able to cite one lie is quite telling.

By peter moore (not verified) on 03 Nov 2007 #permalink

Ken,

Let us not pollute the good Dr. Myers' blog with your brand of pathetic, self-serving, smarmy, lies and lunacy. Bring it RW where people might care, nobody here cares about your denial of reality and delusions.

Dear Tmtoulouse,

Small revision of last post:

Given the Conservapedia article cites mainstream medical sources and eminent pathologists your absence of being able to cite one lie in regards to your allegation is quite telling.

Addendum:

By the way, I did notice your publicity plug of RationalWiki here but given the paultry performance of RationalWiki in terms of web traffic I think you are kidding yourself if you think your plug here is going to do much to kick start RationalWiki. I would also state that I do think it is important for Conservapedia to take on its critics when warranted.

By peter moore (not verified) on 03 Nov 2007 #permalink

"Moore" is spamming.

pure and simple.

off with his head (or stick him in the dungeon, at least).

I do try to be fair. Upon further reflection, I do wish to say that it is not necessarily PZ Myers who is currently censoring certain post and the possibility certainly exist that a moderator maybe doing the censoring. However, if the reaonable material alluded to earlier does not appear here it certainly would reflect badly on PZ Myers.

By peter moore (not verified) on 03 Nov 2007 #permalink

re: previous post

The word "post" should be "posts"

By peter moore (not verified) on 03 Nov 2007 #permalink

PZ Myers,

Could you please stop censoring my reasonable comments?

Are you sure he has ever censored a reasonable comment...?

But, you know, ScienceBlogs has a somewhat annoying spam filter. If a comment contains more than one link (apparently), it is not posted immediately but sent to the blog owner for approval. It's now after midnight in the USA, so you'll probably have to wait. Your comment will appear in the right time slot if that was the cause.

The matter conceringing reasonable material being withheld and not immediately posted like the other posts has duly been made public here:

Paranoiac. The spam filter doesn't understand what you wrote. It's a program, not a person.

Just recently a long post by me answering a creationist was held up for several hours. Reason? There were too many links in it.

The argument from ignorance is a logical fallacy, don't you know?

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 04 Nov 2007 #permalink

Oops, sorry, it's early morning in the USA. So you won't have to wait that long.

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 04 Nov 2007 #permalink

Ugh. Kenservative is dragging his dirt across multiple blogs now: Conservapedia (which is NOT an encyclopedia) and this one.

"...but given the paultry performance of RationalWiki in terms of web traffic..."

Hmm, no he doesn't care at all about publicity in terms of page hits. Not one bit.

What's the matter, Ken? ...or should I say Peter? Did TK revert your credible, factual, totaly non-politically motivated articles on "Gay Bowel Syndrome"? Or "Homosexual Homicides and Brutality"? or "Homosexuality and Lymphogranuloma Venereum Outbreaks"? Or what about the "Homosexual Agenda" (with a disambiguation to "The Marketing of Evil" (!!!))

As an ex-editor who was banned from Conservapedia for debating on the "debate pages" (gasp!), I saw firsthand the propagandist drivel that he and the other several "Sysops" excrete. Maybe Ken's animated .gif on "Evolution - a fairytale for grown-ups!" says it all, but it's hard to imagine the powerful human mind so firmly entrenched in its own stupidity and refusal to improve.

By AdamNelson (not verified) on 04 Nov 2007 #permalink

Peter. There's a spam filter on the comments. If a post looks suspiciously like spamming it's automatically killed.

You might want to figure out what link are in it that might cause the killfile to work.

I like the Homosexuality article. It shows one sentence for definition, and then goes straight into the bible condemning it. It may have one statistic after another that may be "true", but the article itself is no where near encyclopedic. It might be appropriate for a blog, where say, tons of those quotes and pictures might be useful, but it doesn't belong there. Where are the base facts, history, neutrality?

For an article being so long (probably the longest in Conservapedia), it's non-neutral, POV-biased mined information. More than 95% of the edits (you get the point if I'm slightly wrong there) are from one person, and offer no proponents. That same editer in question has blocked numerous users who have done nothing as "likely vandal" and has quite a few blocks upon himself, to which he unblocked himself every time.

Do sysops there hold no accountability for the god complex they have, or does Mr. Schlafly encourage that desecration on his own "encyclopedia"?

By grader Earl (not verified) on 04 Nov 2007 #permalink

It is probably mean-spirited of me, but given Ken's obsession with homosexuality, I am beginning to suspect that he is yet another closeted hypocritical self-loathing homosexual.

I wonder what porn he has on his hard drive? No doubt he would yelp "It's research! For Conservapædia!"

By a random sockpuppet (not verified) on 04 Nov 2007 #permalink

What's even funnier than the fact that these "conservatives", by their own raison d'etre, simply cannot agree with Liberals is their inability to even get along with each other. TK, another power-crazed sysop there (notorious for blocking entire ranges of IPs as "vandal ranges" -- effectively blacking out entire service providers at a stroke) seems to effectively counter Ken at every turn, which is amusing and retroactive to their own goals. However, both are incredible hypocrites, and would do without hesitation what they condemn each other for doing.

The funniest, however, is their broad-ranged labels. Anybody who disagrees with them (politically or philosophically) are "liberals". An exampe is that both Hitler and Stalin (pretty opposite ends of the political spectrum) are liberals, or have liberal tendencies, according to Conservapedia. Anybody who says something that they don't agree with is therefore practising "liberal deceit". No mention yet on conservative deceit, for Conservatives seem to innately be incapable of it.

What a joke.

By AdamNelson (not verified) on 04 Nov 2007 #permalink

Betting odds say he is a closet homosexual for sure, and the fact that he likes to roleplay as an "attractive, young male student looking for friends" just puts the icing on the cake.

"You two are... special friends? But I thought WE could be... special friends!" -Zapp Brannigan

Conservative has built roughly a dozen (probably more) articles on homosexuality. Do you think he's compensating for something?

By AdamNelson (not verified) on 04 Nov 2007 #permalink

"attractive, young male student looking for friends"

...

oh, way too easy.

By a random sockpuppet (not verified) on 04 Nov 2007 #permalink

Speaking of TK, I see he blocked at least one user (maybe others?) for that comment of "Atheists are not welcomed here."? Not only that, but the comments of another user asking about that to Mr. Schlafly show that all the sysops are making excuses on TK's behalf, yet none give reason of proof why that user was blocked.

In other words, they defended the actions of bigotry against a user who didn't break the rules. That is a shining example of their closet hatred towards anyone who they disagree to.

"Unlike Wikipedia, we do not block for purely ideological reasons."

I guess they define that policy for their own sysops, rather than users/editors, to excuse their "idealogical" bias of doing as they please.

By grader Earl (not verified) on 04 Nov 2007 #permalink

Classic Doublethink. There's always some justification for doing exactly what they supposedly stand against.

"1. Everything you post must be true and verifiable."
"5. Do not post personal opinion on an encyclopedia entry."

On Venus:

"Because of its hot and inhospitable surface conditions, it is likely that Venus is the physical location of hell."

Well, there go two commandments with one stone.

By AdamNelson (not verified) on 04 Nov 2007 #permalink

In case someone is interested, the paranoiac's comments (which ask for biologists answering geological questions) are now up. They are numbers 82 and 85. And indeed they contain three links each.

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 04 Nov 2007 #permalink

Ken is a big baby, a liar and a fraud.

Homophobe and young earth creationist too.

Dear Earl,

Conservapedia's homosexuality article is located here: http://www.conservapedia.com/Homosexuality

You wrote regarding conservapedia's homosexuality article:

"It may have one statistic after another that may be "true", but the article itself is no where near encyclopedic."

I can see you are not pleased with the medical science information in the Conservapedia article on homosexuality from mainstream medical sources. As far as your question where is the history, I would state that you failed to show that the conservapedia article in question fails to cite historical occurences.

-------------------
re:other comments in the thread

I would point out that user conservative created one article on homosexuality and the copied to the various sections to form other articles so the charge of obsession regarding homosexuality certainly was not demonstrated -especially in the light of the fact that user conservative has contributed to 50 plus articles on conservapedia and created 40 plus articles as can be seen on his userpage.

By Peter Moore (not verified) on 04 Nov 2007 #permalink

Dear PZ Myers,

Re: the age of the earth

William Coliss is a respected catologer of scientific anomalies who has been cited in the scientific journals and he cites about 80-100 geologic anomalies in the old earth paradigm. The science magazine New Scientist featured Mr. Corliss's career.

If you could kindly comment on why there are so many anomalies in the old earth paradigm and why you neglected to share this information with readers above I would certainly appreciate.

The citation regarding the anomalies in the old earth paradigm can be found at the article on William Corliss found here: http://www.conservapedia.com/William_R._Corliss

By peter moore (not verified) on 04 Nov 2007 #permalink

small correction:

The sentence above should read:

If you could kindly comment on why there are so many anomalies in the old earth paradigm and why you neglected to share this information with readers above I would certainly appreciate it.

By peter moore (not verified) on 04 Nov 2007 #permalink

Dear Peter Moore,

Re: your continued kookrants

William Corliss, despite some past scientific work, is an obsessive compulsive Fortean nutjob -- his maniacal and uncritical stamp-collecting is of no interest to me, and certainly is no threat to evolutionary theory. His "anomalies" are anecdotes of poor provenance. I don't respect him. I don't know anyone who does.

And you, sir, are a whiny little bore. Go find something better to do, unless you care to actually pick some particular piece of Corliss's "evidence" and present it as a serious challenge. Babbling about some worthless catalog of pseudoscientific junk is neither persuasive nor interesting.

You're working too hard, Myers. You're talking to the person who thinks that having a satirical photo of "The Liberal Brain" in their article on Liberal is both encyclopedic and professional.

And Peter, you are obviously "the user conservative". Isn't denying identity one of your alleged "liberal deceits"? Do you really think that because you call someone an "evolutionist", or say that evolution is a myth, or claim that every scientist working on radioactive decay dating is wrong, makes any of it true? Just because Andy Schlafly's mom writes an article or that NewsBusters says it's true. doesn't mean it's worth the paper it's printed on. Once you discover that there's a world of people beyond yourself and the several dozen who share your radical views, you'll be one step closer to realizing your insignificance.

Darwin for supreme overlord of Earth!

By AdamNelson (not verified) on 04 Nov 2007 #permalink

Conservapedia's homosexuality article is located here: http://www.conservapedia.com/Homosexuality

Ahh! Even before looking at the wild inaccuracies and flagrant bigotry -- someone could use some serious education in middle-school organized writing before vomiting their thoughts onto a website.

They don't even have that much information on Jesus.

I think Ken/Peter/User:Conservative got scared off.

By AdamNelson (not verified) on 06 Nov 2007 #permalink

As much as I hate Conservapedia, they are pretty close to the truth about the minimum wage thing. Minimum wage and pay rate controls discourage merit-based rewards and discourage competing via high performance productivity and customer service.

Have a short look outside the USA. Any halfway First World country will do.

We're in science here. Observation trumps theory.

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 21 Jun 2007 #permalink

PZ Myers,

Could you please stop censoring my reasonable comments?

Are you sure he has ever censored a reasonable comment...?

But, you know, ScienceBlogs has a somewhat annoying spam filter. If a comment contains more than one link (apparently), it is not posted immediately but sent to the blog owner for approval. It's now after midnight in the USA, so you'll probably have to wait. Your comment will appear in the right time slot if that was the cause.

The matter conceringing reasonable material being withheld and not immediately posted like the other posts has duly been made public here:

Paranoiac. The spam filter doesn't understand what you wrote. It's a program, not a person.

Just recently a long post by me answering a creationist was held up for several hours. Reason? There were too many links in it.

The argument from ignorance is a logical fallacy, don't you know?

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 04 Nov 2007 #permalink

Oops, sorry, it's early morning in the USA. So you won't have to wait that long.

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 04 Nov 2007 #permalink

In case someone is interested, the paranoiac's comments (which ask for biologists answering geological questions) are now up. They are numbers 82 and 85. And indeed they contain three links each.

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 04 Nov 2007 #permalink