Saturday, February 28, 2009


Some of you out in Readerland might have heard of Conservapedia, while some of you might not. While you can figure out what it's like by reading the front page and a few controversial articles, (try "Feminism", "Liberal" and "Atheist") I'll summarize.

Conservapedia was started by a certain Andrew Schaflay, when (really!) he objected to a student using the BCE and CE dates on an assignment. It sets itself up as a noble crusader against the waves of "liberal bias" from Wikipedia, the "Liberal Media", and really everyone else who doesn't agree with them.

You can see for yourself what kind of place it is; suffice it to say that it has at its base a fundamental flaw. The first, proudly displayed Conservapedia Commandment is:
Everything you post must be true and verifiable. Do not copy from Wikipedia[1] or elsewhere unless it was your original work.[2]
The second is:
2. Always cite[3] and give credit to your sources,[4] even if in the public domain.[5]
And the fifth is:
5. Do not post personal opinion on an encyclopedia entry. Opinions can be posted on Talk:pages or on debate or discussion pages. Advertisements are prohibited.

These rules are widely and constantly ignored, as long as it is a conservative doing so. The vast majority of controversial pages contain completely unsourced opinions throughout them. A good example is that of Liberal, where the introduction says that:

A liberal is someone who rejects logical and biblical standards, often for self-centered reasons. There are no coherent liberal standards; often a liberal is merely someone who craves attention, and who uses many words to say nothing.
Edits to change or remove such unsourced, opinionated material are reverted (if the page itself isn't locked), sometimes leading to user bans. While there is a basis for such actions, namely Conservapedia's self-proclamed conservative viewpoint, it's obvious that the opinions of conservatives (namely Conservapedia's founder and sysops) are treated as fact.

However, this is an entirely ridiculous basis for an encyclopedia. Would anyone trust a source that openly championed its own bias? Conservapedia effectively definies "truth" as "what I think". The problem is that the opinions of one person or a small group of people will always be biased, however subconciously.

Wikipedia, while it has issues of its own, doesn't do this at all. It accepts that any establishment of absolute truth is futile or impossible, and instead takes the opinions of reliable, respected people and condenses them into a coherent discussion. Whatever Andrew Schaflay may think, "NPOV" does not mean that factual articles are diluted with wrong opinions. It merely means (as someone stated on Wikipeida's talk page for its Conservapedia article) that, if 90% of reliable sources have one view and 10% have another, the page should express the first opinion 90% of the time and the other 10%.

Furthermore, many users of Conservapedia, particularly Mr. Schaflay, despite repeatedly decrying liberals as small-minded, beady-eyed and hypocritcal personal attackers, frequently act in such a manner. Browse the talk pages of controversial articles if you want more examples of this. I simply direct you to this page (I'm Umlaut). While I agree that I was unclear, his conduct was unacceptable.

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