After watching last night’s Colbert Report, I have become obsessed with Conservapedia. I'm sure it'll soon pass, but right now I can't stop going there. I keep thinking of new topics to search for that could potentially tick me off. You ever have one of those canker sores inside your lip that you can't stop touching with your tongue, even thought it stings when you do? It's kinda like that.
For the uninitiated, Conservatpedia ("The Trustworthy Encyclopedia") was launched three years ago by a man whose other project is rewriting the Bible to remove its “liberal bias.” Think about that: he leans so far to the right that he’s accusing Christians from the 17th century of being too progressive. Of course, the King James Version was written by the Church of England, which was formed just so Henry VIII could ditch his wife, so I guess there could be some truth to what he’s saying. Still, it reminds us why we shouldn’t take the Bible literally. You think he’s the only guy in the history of the gospels to try this?
Back to Conservapedia, though. Like my previous rants on the religious right, I don't care what they think of health care or economics. As Bill Hicks once said: it doesn't matter if you like the puppet on the left or the puppet on the right, if you look up you'll see there's one guy controlling both puppets. My only interest/problem is their opinions of science and the ways they distort the nature of science and what scientists do.
For example, scientists, by their very nature, are skeptical. They reserve judgment until they have enough proof to make an informed decision (as I tell my class each semester, there’s a difference between a skeptic and a cynic: when a skeptic asks “What’s the point,” he actually wants to know). Conservapedia’s entry for a skeptic is very brief, simply stating that skeptics practice skepticism, followed by their sole example of a skeptic: Jesus’ disciple, “Doubting” Thomas. They also have an entry for skepticism, which only has a brief, extremely broad — and misleading — definition of the term, followed by another mention of ‘ol Tom (poor guy), and a couple of references that link to forum posts.
But the quickest benchmark for scientific illiteracy, as always, can be found in the section about evolution:
“The theory of evolution is a naturalistic theory of the history of life on earth (this refers to the theory of evolution which employs methodological naturalism and is taught in schools and universities).”
Nothing really wrong with that, I suppose, but then when you get to the end of the paragraph:
“Since World War II a majority of the most prominent and vocal defenders of the evolutionary position which employs methodological naturalism have been atheists.”
O.K., there you have it. If you're an evolutionist, odds are you're an atheist, too. Even that friend of mine that once took me to see Passion of the Christ? Wow, I never would've guessed. What about Francis Collins or Gerald Schroeder? Them too? Man, they had me fooled. Wait, this is my third tirade on the subject. Apparently, I'm an atheist, too. Son of a bitch.
But since it's a science entry I'm sure they list credible references, like those heathens at Wikipedia, right? Nope, just a bunch of links to anti-Darwin websites and sites on intelligent design. If there was a reference to a scientific journal, I didn't see it. Their entry on intelligent design, by the way, also has a similar list of footnotes. Come on, guys, if you really are being blacklisted from Nature you could at least start you own jounal. If they have, for the love of God someone please tell me.
And if you’re wondering what “methodological naturalism” is (a term I’ve never heard of — and I’ve apparently been practicing it for nearly 20 years), they define it as
“a strategy for studying the world, by which scientists choose not to consider supernatural causes - even as a remote possibility”
That’s what scientist are supposed to do. Like I said before, you can’t factor divine intervention into a scientific experiment because it’s not something you can normally control. If you can, congratulations. You're the Messiah.
I really don’t want to make a habit out of blasting the religious right’s ignorance every few months. That’s not why I started this site. Stuff like this irritates the piss out of me, though. It’s not just a matter of professional pride, either. I was raised Christian and, if asked, that’s still what I’d say I am. Christianity is my home team, my alma mater, and what these people are doing to my faith is like what Matt Doherty did to Carolina's Men's Basketball team (or for you football fans, what Matt Millen did to the Detroit Lions), except in this case no seems to care and those that do just sit back and let it happen. My religion of choice is a politicized joke: a punchline for the left and a money-grab for the right. Maybe it was that way when I was a kid, too, but that still doesn’t mean I have to like it. So until things change, any palavering I do with Jesus will be in the privacy of my own home. I’m pretty sure he’ll be OK with that.