Comedy Hour, Conservapedia Style

Today is apparently some sort of ‘Atheist pride’ day, so I shall quickly fulfill my contractual obligations:

I am extremely proud to be an atheist. Well, that’s not entirely true; I don’t see being an atheist as something that one should be ‘proud’ of. But I’m not ashamed of being an atheist, so I guess that’s something.

But instead of engaging in intellectual self-gratification, let’s all celebrate atheism by dissecting a truly miserable example of an attempt at discrediting it. You may be lucky enough to have never visited Conservapedia – if so, keep your unsullied cursor as far away from that vile link as possible. (Should you be using some sort of newfangled touch-screen device, even greater caution is advised.) Those of you who have already been exposed to its toxic influence, however, may safely peruse its decaying ‘Atheism’ series with me.

Conservapedia likes to say that it’s  ‘honest’ and ‘trustworthy’, unlike that hippy-infested other encyclopedia. This is a filthy lie, and everyone involved probably knows it. The Conservapedia editors engage in just about every act of intellectual dishonesty in the book, all of which are present in their Atheism series. Taken as a whole, it resembles a sort of deadly cocktail of stupidity, ignorance and dishonesty the likes of which you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere on the internet. Here’s a brief rundown of its biggest failings.

Accentuating the negative. There are very few movements or ideas that are completely bad. Even the Nazi party, who most people would agree are pretty close to being the living embodiment of pure evil, did some good during their reign. Intellectual honesty demands that one admits this.

The Conservapedia editors apparently disagree, as their main atheism article is almost entirely negative. Nietzche and other ‘unsavoury’ atheists are brought up frequently, and atheists in generally are implied to hold a great many unpopular beliefs. (Beyond the obvious ones, I mean). This habit of accentuating the negative aspects of atheists reaches a ludicrous height with the heading ‘Tenuousness of Atheism in Prominent Atheists’, which cites exactly two examples as evidence: Charsles Darwin and Jean-Paul Sartre. Well, I’m convinced.

The God-damn quote mining. I don’t have to explain what ‘quote-mining’ is, do I? It’s one of the most irritating practices that Creationists engage in (among much else, of course), and you can find examples of it on the less reputable Creationist websites and blogs. Which is to say, 99% of them.

According to Munich theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg “Atheism as a theoretical position is in decline worldwide.”[108] Given that the evolutionary position is a often cited component of the ideology of atheism in the Western world, the gradual loss of public support of the evolutionary position is one of the many factors which are eroding the ideology of atheism. Oxford scholar Alister McGrath cites a number of additional factors in regards to the decline of atheism as an intellectual position.[109] [110]

Given the many factors which are eroding atheism as a intellectual position McGrath states:

…Atheism is in trouble. Its future seems increasingly to lie in the private beliefs of individuals rather than in the great public domain it once regarded as its natural habitat.[111]

This is not how you write an encyclopedia article, you twits.

Conservapedia is pretty much built on the practice of quote mining. Its articles are positively stuffed with quotes, usually taken as authoritative evidence for sweeping generalisations or even for factual statements. (The evolution article is, predictably, the absolute epitomy of this. Horrifyingly, it’s also their current ‘Article of the Year’.) The quotes they use are very obviously picked in order to fit with the general ‘atheism is bad’ theme of tha article, which brings us to the next problem…

It’s biased as hell. Despite Conservapedia’s stated mission, it’s one of the most blatantly biased sites on the internet. The atheism article is not an explanation of what atheism is, it’s an explanation of what atheism is plus endless poorly thought out reasons for believing that atheism is bad. The evolution travesty is the same, except that it doesn’t even include a coherent explanation of the theory.

Perusing Conservapedia’s sources and references reveals an unsurprising bias at work there as well – WorldNetDaily (yes, really), Christian apologetics websites and Creationist books are frequently used, while places where you’re likely to find opposing views seem to be largely ignored.

The writing is terrible. It’s really, really terrible. The first paragraph of the Atheism article is confusingly worded as if it’s the introduction to an essay rather than an encyclopedia article, and most of the headings are laughable. There’s no real order to anything, which is why we’re treated to such diverse and important topics as ‘Atheism and Deception‘ and ‘Anti-Atheism Blogs‘. The Wikipedia article, on the other hand, moves from definitions to common rationale to history, but I guess coherent structure is a hallmark of liberal-commie-homosexual-evolutionists.

I’m sure there’s more, but trawling through the site’s seedier back-alleys is giving me a headache. It’s not all bad, though – I found a book called Refuting Evolution, which is available online for free! Having skimmed some of it, I can heartily recommend it. Not as anything even remotely resembling science education, mind you, but it does serve as an excellent compendium of Creationist stupidity.

If you’ve got any more hilariously awful sites that need to get more attention, let me know in the comments section.


10 Responses to “Comedy Hour, Conservapedia Style”

  1. 1 futiledemocracy March 20, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    The very name “Conservapedia” is ridiculous, so imagine my surprise when my browser displayed the ridiculous content, behind the ridiculous name.

  2. 2 shamelesslyatheist March 20, 2009 at 10:29 pm

    Refuting Evolution, huh? Nah. I’ll stick to my copy of the Countercreationist Handbook. I need to watch my blood pressure.

  3. 3 sunnyskeptic March 20, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    That’s a lot how I feel, even though I’m considered an ‘activist’ now. I don’t feel proud that I’m an atheist, I’m just not embarrassed or about to let other people put me down.

  4. 4 augustine March 21, 2009 at 12:54 pm


    Exactly. I feel the same way about being gay – it’s not really something to be proud of, it’s just not something to be ashamed of. The way I see it, being proud of your sexual orientation would be the same as being proud of your skin colour or your right- or left-handedness. I’m sure a lot of people would disagree with that, though.


    I’ve been meaning to get that one. Is it good?

  5. 5 shamelesslyatheist March 21, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    It’s purely a reference book, so if you are looking for bedtime reading I wouldn’t recommend it. But for chatting with your friendly neighborhood cdesign proponentsist, it is first rate. Name a creationist claim, this thing homes in on it like a Sidewinder missile and is just as destructive. Great for parties, I’m sure. Or barbecues. Mmmmm… Barbecue. It’s basically a book version of the index maintained at Talk Origins, so you can get a feel for it here.

  6. 6 augustine March 21, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    A book version of Talk Origins sounds fantastic…I’ll have to add that to my ever-expanding reading list ;)

  7. 7 shamelesslyatheist March 21, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    Yeah, my supply keeps getting larger and larger, too. My wife ribs me about my seemingly endless thirst for good science literature. Yesterday, my wallet took a big hit when I bought Einstein’s Telescope, Death from the Skies and Kluge in one shot, all hard-covers. And I have Why People Believe Weird Things and another one on the way from the Skeptic’s Shop. I suppose it’s better than a heroin habit, but not monetarily….

  8. 8 augustine March 21, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    Why People Believe Weird Things is excellent. The section on Objectivism is particularly interesting, since it’s not the kind of thing you usually see in a book about general skepticism.

    If you don’t have Why Evolution Is True, that’s another good one to add to your hardback collection.

  9. 9 shamelesslyatheist March 21, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    I have Shermer’s The Science of Good & Evil, which is a lot less weighty than Marc Hauser’s book on the same subject, Moral Minds. Man, that was a slog to get through. Good, but a monstrously long book. Shermer covers basically the same material but treads more lightly.

    I finished Jerry Coyne’s book a while back. I’m wondering if Dawkins is feeling a bit scooped because he has a similar book coming out later this year. I didn’t learn all that much from Why Evolution Is True – he was preaching to the well-read-on-the-subject converted – but there were a few examples in there that I didn’t know about. If you’re into the evolution side of things, Sean B. Carroll’s The Making of the Fittest and the somewhat more technical Endless Forms Most Beautiful are really, really excellent introductory forays into evo/devo.

  10. 10 Joshua Zelinsky March 29, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    Even many Young Earth Creationists have become unhappy with Conservapedia. Phil Rayment for example is a YEC who was an administrator on Conservapedia and found so much wrong with the project that he resigned in disgust and wrote a series of essays on the topic:

    Even given Phil’s YECism, he hits pretty accurately most of what is wrong with Conservapedia.

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