free debate

October 12, 2009

Wikipedia's Evil Cousin, Conservapedia

I am in college, and this semester I am taking some online classes.  Like most teachers, my astronomy professor said that we could not use Wikipedia as a source in class assignments.  So, in a recent group project, one fellow student linked to a site that is about a million times worse: Conservapedia.  I had heard of Conservapedia before, but I had never visited the site.

The link my classmate posted was to the article about Europa, one of the most interesting moons in the Solar System. The first thing that made me cautious was the section titled "Problems for Uniformitarian Theories." Uniformitarian is the idea that natural process over long periods of time shape the universe as we see it today.  The most famous example of this is the Colorado River carving the Grand Canyon over hundreds of years.

Their argument is that Europa's young surface means that Europa is actually young, when its orbital character implies an old age.  To any astronomer, this argument is ridiculous. Europa is a old world (it was formed with the rest of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago) with a young surface because of the ice. We date surfaces based on the number of craters, more craters = older surface.  Europa's surface is constantly being reshaped by ice moving, cracking, and stretching.  This, over time, erases craters and viola, young surface.

The other atrocious bit was their section call "Speculation about Life."  My real problem with this was they make is sound like Richard C. Hoagland is the only person considering the idea that there is life on Europa.  The reality is that we have no idea whether or not there is life in the oceans of Europa, but there is reason to think life could exist.  And then there is the endorsement of Hoagland.  This is the face on Mars guy, whom I have written about before.  Not only is Hoagland not a real scientist, but there are other legitimate scientists who are looking into the plausibility of life on Europa.

Yes, any Wiki is going to have bad articles. The problem is that horrible information is the standard on Conservapedia.  If it at all disagrees with their political and ideological views, it won't make the final edit.  While they accuse "Darwinists" of censoring the scientific literature, they simply ignore any evidence that conflicts with their sacred cows.  Sometimes Wikipedia is wrong. Conservapedia is outright deceitful.