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'The truth shall set you free', claims Wiki rival
The Wikipedians among you should take note that your days of punting liberal bias may be numbered. Enter stage right Conservapedia, a "conservative encyclopedia you can trust", which has been enjoying a certain amount of attention stateside for its unashamedly and decidedly non-liberal content.
Conservapedia (Motto: "The truth shall set you free") is the brainchild of Andy Schlafly, who was moved to act when "teaching a history class to home-schooled teens" and confronted with the term "BCE", or "before the common era", in one student's assignment. "Where did that come from?" he asked, only to receive the chilling reply: "Wikipedia."
At this moment, according to the LA Times, Schlafly "knew he had to act". While Wikipedia was "written and edited by self-appointed experts worldwide" and "riddled with liberal bias", it was also drier than a nun's chuff in the Jesus Christ Our Lord department.
Schlafly, described as "the son of Republican activist Phyllis Schlafly [and] a Harvard-educated attorney who practices in Chester, N.J", cites the disturbing example of Wiki's entry on golfer Zach Johnson, winner of the 2007 Masters, which contains "not a single word about how Johnson gave credit for his win to Jesus Christ".
Conservapedia made a low-key entry into the burgeoning irrefutable fact market last November, with Schlafly "urging his students to post brief - often one-sentence - entries on ancient history". Since then it had "grown explosively", attracting increasing numbers of "fair, scholarly articles" to the "largest and most reliable online educational resources of its kind", according to the mission statement.
A trawl of Conservapedia's fair, scholarly articles, quickly located the aforementioned Zach Johnson:
"This is very surreal - very, very surreal," Johnson said as he talked with reporters near the 18th green that the victory meant even more on Easter, as he credited Jesus and his late grandfather for helping him steel nerves. "This being Easter, I cannot help but believe my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ was walking with me. I owe this to him."
Brits, meanwhile, will doubtless enjoy the entry on our very own Iron Lady, described as "a strong supporter of the the United States", who was "a good friend of President Ronald Reagan", and who united with him "in actions against the Communists". Whether the latter is a reference to Nicaragua's Sandinista government or the National Union of Mineworkers is not noted.
Some Americans, however, are less than impressed with Conservapedia's treatment of Hillary Clinton, which sensationally asserts:
Hillary Clinton may suffer from a psychological condition that would raise questions about her fitness for office. A recent book entitled The Extreme Makeover of Hillary Rodham Clinton examines the Senator's instability, incoherent speeches as both student and First Lady, casual disregard for the law, and ever-changing opinion on the Iraq war. These character flaws, analyst Bay Buchanan writes, make Hillary overly dependent on gurus and outside experts, with no internal compass to guide her, displaying all the classic symptoms of "clinical narcissism." The American Psychiatric Association describes this condition to include feelings of superiority, self-importance and "fantasies of unlimited success, fame or power." The author further states, "We are not talking about self-infatuation, we are talking about a clinical condition that could make her dangerously ill-suited to become President and Commander in Chief."
Schlafly admits the armchair psychology is "borderline in acceptability" for the site, the LA Times notes, but he "defends the Clinton article on balance as 'an objective, bias-free piece from a conservative perspective'".
Those of you who are warming to this conservative perspective are directed to the lengthy discourse on evolution, which lays its cards on the table thus:
The concept of materialistic evolution differs from the concept of Theistic Evolution in positing that God does not guide the theorized process of macroevolution. It asserts that unguided natural processes such as mutation can create new species. A majority of the most prominent and vocal defenders of the naturalistic evolutionary position since World War II have been atheists.
If said atheists need further evidence on the error of their ways, they should proceed directly to the dinosaur section, which starts promisingly by describing the beasts as "large, reptilian creatures which are now generally believed to be extinct".
The Stegosaurus, for example, was "a dinosaur with plates on its back and spines on its tail". The entry continues: "Some creationists believe the spines on its tail were to stop other dinosaurs from treading on it before the Fall."
Hmmm. Here's more:
Young Earth Creationists believe, based primarily on Biblical sources, that dinosaurs were created on day 6 of the creation week, approximately 6,000 years ago, along with other land animals, and therefore co-existed with humans. As such, they reject the Theory of Evolution and the beliefs of evolutionary scientists about the age of the earth.
To be fair, Conservapedia also notes:
The view of evolutionists and others who accept the uniformitarian timescale is that dinosaurs existed on earth from 230 million years ago to 65 million years ago. In this view, the entire population of dinosaurs were wiped out by a mass extinction event (usually thought to be an asteroid) about 65 million years ago. Of course this precludes humans and dinosaurs co-existing.
Well, you pays your money and you takes your choice. The LA Times says there is no "ideological conformity" among the "elite" group of trusted contributors which Schlafly promotes to editorial status. One example is Terry Koeckritz, who "doesn't take the creation account in the Book of Genesis literally", and says of Conservapedia: "It is what it is. A family-friendly, Christian-friendly encyclopedia."
Conservapedia hasn't, though, been quite as friendly to dissenting voices. The LA Times explains: "Dr Peter A Lipson, an internist in Southfield, Mich., repeatedly tried to amend an article on breast cancer to tone down Conservapedia's claim that abortion raises a woman's risk. The site's administrators, including Schlafly, questioned his credentials and shut off debate."
Lipson duly enlisted other disgruntled editors and started RationalWiki, whose aims include: Refuting and analysing the anti-science movement, ideas and people; Refuting and analysing the full range of crank ideas; Writings on political authoritarianism and religious fundamentalism.
The site doesn't mess around, either. Its entry entitled "Conservapedia:Delusions", promptly mocks the claims that "Homosexuality is a mental disorder", "Atheists are sociopaths", and "During the 6 days of creation G-d placed the Earth inside a black hole to slow down time so the light from distant stars had time to reach us".
Unfortunately, RationalWiki admits it, and others, have engaged in "cyber-vandalism" against Conservapedia during which they've "inserted errors, pornographic photos, and satire". The entry for Atty Gen Alberto R Gonzales was apparently amended to read: "Mr Gonzales is a strong supporter of torture as a law enforcement tool for use against Democrats and third world inhabitants."
This, in turn has led to the accusation from Conservapedians that "left-wingers are out to suppress their free speech". One anonymous 15-year-old in New Jersey, who penned an entry on Irish dancing and "uses the site to research papers", said: "I had heard it spoken of, but it had never really hit home before just how hostile they are. There are people who want to destroy us." ®
We at El Reg are looking forward to the final, Ragnarök-style confrontation between Conservapedia, RationalWiki and Wikipedia. The outcome of this titanic battle will be decided by either natural selection or according to God's will, depending on which one of them is really telling the truth.