Conservapedia is an English-language wiki-based web encyclopedia project written from an Americentric socially conservative and Conservative Christian point of view. It was started in 2006 by lawyer and history teacher Andrew Schlafly, son of conservative activist and Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly. He stated that he founded the project because he felt that the open-source web encyclopedia Wikipedia had a liberal, anti-Christian, and anti-American bias.
Many editorial practices of Conservapedia differ from those of Wikipedia, some of whose policies Schlafly feels contribute to bias. For example, only users logged in to registered accounts can make changes to Conservapedia articles. Primarily, a set of policies known as the Conservapedia Commandments guide editorial procedures on the site on such issues as bias and accuracy. Additionally, articles and other content on the site frequently includes criticism of Wikipedia as well as of liberal ideology. The site has received much criticism from those who have accused it of factual inaccuracies and bias.
History and overviewEdit
Conservapedia originated as a project for homeschooled, high-school-level students in New Jersey by Schlafly, a U.S. history teacher for the Eagle Forum University educational program. He felt the need to start the project after reading a student's assignment written using Common Era dating notation rather than the Anno Domini system that he preferred. Although he was "an early Wikipedia enthusiast", as reported by Shawn Zeller of the New York Times, Schlafly became concerned over bias after Wikipedia editors repeatedly reverted his edits to the article about the 2005 Kansas evolution hearings. Schlafly has expressed hope that Conservapedia becomes a general resource for American educators and a counterpoint to the liberal bias that he perceives in Wikipedia. The "Eagle Forum University" online education program, which is associated with Phyllis Schlafly's organization Eagle Forum, uses material for various online courses, including U.S. history, stored on Conservapedia. Editing of Conservapedia articles related to a particular course topic is also a certain assignment for Eagle Forum University students.
The site uses the free MediaWiki software originally created for Wikipedia, but is not affiliated with Wikipedia or Wikipedia's umbrella organization, the Wikimedia Foundation.  The site's earliest articles date from November 22, 2006. As of May 10, 2008, the site estimated that it contained over 23,000 pages, not counting pages intended for internal discussion and collaboration, minimal "stub" articles, and other miscellany. Regular features on the front page of Conservapedia include a daily-selected Bible verse and links to news articles that the site's editors consider relevant to conservatism. The site also hosts debates in which its users may participate; subjects discussed include religion, history, and politics. Editors of Conservapedia also maintain a page titled "Examples of Bias in Wikipedia" that compiles alleged instances of bias or errors on Wikipedia pages; at one point, that page was the most-viewed page of the site.
Editorial viewpoints and policies Edit
When he launched the online encyclopedia project, Schlafly asserted the need for an alternative to Wikipedia due to editorial philosophy conflicts. The site's "Conservapedia Commandments" differ from Wikipedia's editorial policies, which include following a neutral point of view and rules against original research. In contrast to Wikipedia's core policy of neutrality, Schlafly has stated that "It's impossible for an encyclopedia to be neutral. I mean let's take a point of view, let's disclose that point of view to the reader." and that "Wikipedia does not poll the views of its editors and administrators. They make no effort to retain balance. It ends up having all the neutrality of a lynch mob."
In a March 2007 interview with The Guardian newspaper, Schlafly stated, "I've tried editing Wikipedia, and found it and the biased editors who dominate it censor or change facts to suit their views. In one case my factual edits were removed within 60 seconds — so editing Wikipedia is no longer a viable approach." On March 7, 2007 Schlafly was interviewed on BBC Radio 4's flagship morning show, Today, opposite Wikipedia administrator Jim Redmond. Schlafly raised several concerns: that the article on the Renaissance does not give any credit to Christianity, that Wikipedia articles apparently prefer to use non-American spellings even though most users are American, that the article on American activities in the Philippines has a distinctly anti-American bias, and that attempts to include pro-Christian or pro-American views are removed very quickly. Redmond argued that Wikipedia attracts contributors worldwide and so must use CE notation to be more neutral, since CE notation in his opinion had only a nominal, not numerical, difference between AD format. He also cited the Wikipedia policies regarding citation of sources and cooperation with other contributors as basis for allowing any factual information to be added.
Religion and science Edit
Many Conservapedia support the Young Earth creationist point of view. An example of such article content differences is the subject of evolution, which Conservapedia presents as a scientific theory lacking support and conflicting with much evidence in the fossil record that creation scientists perceive to support creationism. The entry also suggests that sometimes the Bible has been more scientifically correct than the scientific community. In contrast to the mainstream viewpoint, Conservapedia's article on the kangaroo states that all kangaroos descend from a single pair that were taken aboard Noah's Ark. Schlafly had defended the statement as presenting a valid alternative to evolution. Another claim is that "Einstein's work had nothing to do with the development of the atomic bomb." An entry on the "Pacific Northwest Arboreal Octopus" has received particular attention, a page which Schlafly has asserted was intended as a parody of environmentalism. As of March 4 2007, the entry has been deleted.
Another scientifically-rejected point of view that Conservapedia is known to support is the abortion-breast cancer hypothesis. In April 2007, Peter Lipson, a doctor of internal medicine, attempted to edit the article on breast cancer to include evidence against Conservapedia's statement linking abortion as a major cause of the disease but found his medical credentials being questioned by Schlafly and other Conservapedia administrators, all of whom ended the debate by deleting Lipson's edits and blocking Lipson's account. Consequentially, Lipson and several editors started a rival website, RationalWiki, from which they monitor and comment on Conservapedia. Some members of RationalWiki have admitted to having vandalized Conservapedia.
Science writer Carl Zimmer points out that much of what appears to be inaccurate or inadequate information about science and scientific theory can be traced back to an over-reliance on citations from the works of home-schooling textbook author Dr. Jay L. Wile. On March 19, 2007, the British free newspaper Metro ran the article Weird, wild wiki on which anything goes articulating the dismissal of Conservapedia by the Royal Society (The British academy of science), saying "People need to be very careful about where they look for scientific information."
Political ideology Edit
Many Conservapedia articles criticize values that its editors associate with liberal ideology. The Conservapedia article about liberalism lists grievances over liberal opposition to school prayer and other values that the editors consider important to conservatives. Another article titled "Professor values" alleges a liberal bias in academia. Schlafly said in an interview with National Public Radio that Wikipedia's article on the history of the Democratic Party is an "attempt to legitimize the modern Democratic Party by going back to Thomas Jefferson" and that it is "specious and worth criticizing". John Cotey of the St. Petersburg Times observed that the Conservapedia article about the Democratic Party contained a criticism about the party's support for same-sex marriage and associated the party with the "homosexual agenda". The Conservapedia entries on prominent Democratic senators and presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are critical of their respective subjects. In contrast, the articles about conservative politicians Ronald Reagan, a former United States president who was a Republican Party member, and Margaret Thatcher, a former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, have been observed as "heaping praise" on their respective subjects. Schlafly has stated Wikipedia is "six times more liberal than the American public"; that claim has been labeled "sensational" by Andrew Chung of the Canadian newspaper The Star.
Licensing of content Edit
Conservapedia allows users to "use any of the content on this site with or without attribution." However, the copyright policy also states "This license is revocable only in very rare instances of self-defense, such as protecting continued use by Conservapedia editors or other licensees." Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has raised concerns about the fact that the project is not licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL) or a similar copyleft license, stating that "People who contribute [to Conservapedia] are giving them full control of the content, which may lead to unpleasant results".
Other editorial policiesEdit
Editing is disabled for most users between 1:00AM and 6:00AM (EST). Additionally, the site has stated that it prohibits users from editing entries on the site from IP addresses due to concerns over vandalism and defamation. While Wikipedia allows both American English and British English to be used on its articles, Conservapedia states on its "Manual of Style" page that "American English spellings are preferred but Commonwealth spellings, for de novo or otherwise well-maintained articles are welcome". It prefers that articles about the United Kingdom use British English, while articles about the United States use American English, to resolve editorial disputes. Initially, Schlafly and other Conservapedia editors considered Wikipedia's policy allowing British English spelling to be anti-American bias. The "Conservapedia Commandments" also require edits to be "family-friendly, clean, concise, and without gossip or foul language" and that users make most edits on their site quality edits to articles; accounts that engage in what it considers "[u]nproductive activity, such as 90% talk and only 10% quality edits" may be blocked. The commandments also cite the United States Code as justification for legal action against edits that contain obscenities or are vandalism or spam.
Reactions and criticismsEdit
Wikipedia's co-creator Jimmy Wales says that he has no objections to the project, stating "free culture knows no bounds," while acknowledging that sites such as Conservapedia are directly in line with Wikipedia's goals. Wales denied Schlafly's claims of bias on Wikipedia. Two Conservapedia editors were quoted as giving favorable views of Conservapedia in a June 2007 Los Angeles Times article about the website. However, the Conservapedia project has come under significant criticism for factual inaccuracies and factual relativism. Conservapedia has also been compared to CreationWiki, a wiki written from the perspective of creationism, and Theopedia, a wiki covering the Bible. Tom Flanagan, a conservative professor of political science at the University of Calgary, has argued that Conservapedia is more about religion than conservatism and that it "is far more guilty of the crime they're attributing to Wikipedia [than Wikipedia itself.]" Matt Millham of the military-oriented newspaper Stars and Stripes called Conservapedia "a Web site that caters mostly to evangelical Christians". Its scope as an encyclopedia, according to its founders, "offers a historical record from a Christian and conservative perspective." APC magazine reports this to be representative of Conservapedia's own problem with bias. The project has also been criticized for promoting a dichotomy between conservatism and liberalism and for promoting relativism with the false dilemma that there "often are two equally valid interpretations of the facts."
Allegations of racism and homophobia have also been raised against Conservapedia. Brian Murphy, writing for the Ohio State University student newspaper The Lantern, considered Conservapedia's statement about Democratic senator and 2008 presidential candidate Barack Obama that he "has no clear personal achievement that cannot be explained as the likely result of affirmative action" as "idiotic and despicable". Some Conservapedia editors urged that it be changed or deleted, but Schlafly responded by asserting that the Harvard Law Review uses racial quotas and by stating: "The statement about affirmative action is accurate and will remain in the entry." Bryan Ochalla, writing for The Advocate LGBT magazine, referred to the project as "Wikipedia for the bigoted." On the satirical news program The Daily Show, comedian Lewis Black commented about the claim on Conservapedia calling homosexuality "an immoral sexual lifestyle" on its article: "On Conservapedia, 'gay' sounds way more interesting!"
Wired magazine reported that Conservapedia was "attracting lots of derisive comments on blogs and a growing number of phony articles written by mischief makers." Iain Thomson, writing in Information World Review, has written that "leftist subversives" may have been creating deliberate parody entries. In November 2007, what is believed to be an automated click bot attack struck Conservapedia, driving many of their homosexuality-related articles into the top ten most viewed pages on the site.
Lenski dialog Edit
On June 9, 2008, New Scientist published an article describing Richard Lenski's 20-year E. coli experiment, which observed the bacteria evolve the ability to metabolize citrate — a rare and complex mutation. Skeptical, Schlafly contacted Lenski to request the data; Lenski explained that the relevant data was in the paper and that Schlafly fundamentally misunderstood it. Schlafly wrote again and requested the raw data; Lenski replied again that the data was in the paper, that the bacterial strains necessary for replication of the experiment would be willingly shared with qualified researchers, and that he felt insulted by the brusque letters and offensive comments on Conservapedia including claims of outright deceit. The Lenski dialog was reported across the web on news aggregate sites and weblogs. Carl Zimmer stated that it was readily apparent that "Schlafly had not bothered to read [Lenski's paper] closely", and PZ Myers criticized Schlafly for demanding data despite not having a plan to use it nor the expertise to analyze it.
See also Edit
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