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Wikipedia

A dubious source, but a powerful tool for suppressing dissent

by

Published: 31 July 2018 (GMT+10)
wikipedia

Since its inception in 2001, Wikipedia has been a controversial website, plagued with problems, the greatest of which is the serious concern of biased and inaccurate content.1 This is no small problem for the internet at large, since Wikipedia has become a go-to source on nearly everything, appearing in a very high percentage of Google searches as one of the top results.2

More recently, Google was embarrassed by a gaffe in which their search results pulled data automatically from Wikipedia which labeled the California GOP (Republican party) as Nazis—attributed by Google and Wikipedia to ‘vandalism’.3 This only goes to show the deep extent to which Google, the world’s most-used search engine by far, is utilizing the information contained on Wikipedia pages, and the dangers this presents.

Wikipedia is rife with overt falsehoods and bias against biblical creationists. It is serving to reinforce this bias across the world as Wikipedia continues to see broader and broader application.

Neutral Point of View?

Wikipedia is governed by various guidelines which are supposed to regulate how articles are administered on the site. According to their guideline called ‘Neutral point of view’,

All encyclopedic content on Wikipedia must be written from a neutral point of view (NPOV), which means representing fairly, proportionately, and, as far as possible, without editorial bias, all of the significant views that have been published by reliable sources on a topic.

Already you can see a potential here for bias since we have subjective terms such as “significant” and “reliable” being used. Who gets to determine what constitutes significant or reliable? Well, the editors themselves, as it turns out—that means you, me, and literally anyone with a computer who knows how to edit Wikipedia. But here’s the catch: anyone can also revert any changes made by another editor. This means ultimately that articles represent a ‘consensus’. This would be bad enough in itself, since we know that truth is not decided by majority vote, and ‘consensus science’ is anti-science. But it is worse than it seems on the surface, since most Wikipedia articles are not being watched or edited by a very large number of people. Here, the ‘consensus’ is really only the agreement of a relative few people who, by chance, happen to be the only ones monitoring a given page at a given time. This means that the less popular a page is, the more likely it is to contain errors and bias, or, in the words of wiki expert Alexander Halavais, “The high-traffic areas are going to be the cleanest.”4

Even high-traffic areas, though, are not going to be free of bias if the topic is of a controversial or contentious nature. Since Wikipedia is essentially mob-rule applied to encyclopedia content, the prevailing view of the mob is going to determine the bias of the articles. It is naïve to expect people to police themselves when dealing with topics they are averse to, like biblical creation.

Who are ‘Wikipedians’?

When you consider who “the mob” is on Wikipedia, it is that subset of people who have access to the internet, know about Wikipedia and care enough about it to make changes on it—and additionally have the technical expertise to do so (since modifying Wikipedia is a bit like using programming language). Wow! Come to think of it, that is a pretty specialized group, isn’t it? And would we expect that particular group to fit into any categories? Probably largely younger people, for starters, and largely Westerners, since the internet is originally a product of the West and is still dominated largely by the West.

It turns out my predictions were right on the money. A 2010 study on Wikipedia editors shows that the greatest number of editors are in the USA (20%), followed by Germany (12%) and Russia (7%). The only non-Western country in the top 10 was India (3%), which of course also has a strong Western influence due to the history of British colonialism there. 59% were ages 17 to 40.5

So if Wikipedia editors tend to be younger Westerners, what biases would we expect to find there? We know that younger people in the USA are tending more and more towards the abandonment of religion.6 This trend is even more severe in Europe, which is now being described as post-Christian.7 The trend among younger people in the USA is also towards the acceptance of Darwinism and rejection of biblical creation according to a Pew Research Center report (according to one reporter, “ … if you ask a younger American how humans arose, you’re likely to get an answer that has nothing to do with God”).8

Bias, bias, bias!

This all adds up to a stark and sad reality: Wikipedia is very likely to be hopelessly, terribly unbalanced in articles dealing with God, religion and creation science. In digging through some relevant pages, I found some really cringe-worthy, egregious examples of this. In the Wikipedia guidelines section on ‘Fringe theories’, it says this:

“Pseudoscience usually relies on attacking mainstream scientific theories and methodology while lacking a critical discourse itself (as is common among Biblical creationists)” [emphasis mine] 9

They didn’t even attempt to hold back, claiming that creationism is pseudoscience. Creationists certainly do not lack a critical discourse; all the articles on this site, for example, undergo a peer review process. In addition, creationists publish in peer-reviewed journals such as the Journal of Creation, and go to collective meetings such as the International Conference on Creationism, where ideas are debated and discussed, among many other avenues. Creationists even also publish in secular peer-reviewed journals as well!10

Wikipedia openly and blatantly classifies biblical creationism as ‘pseudoscience’:

“Creation science is a pseudoscientific attempt to map the Bible into scientific facts. It is viewed by professional biologists as unscholarly, and even as a dishonest and misguided sham, with extremely harmful educational consequences.”11

The level of bias and misrepresentation here is almost beyond words. It is sad that this is coming from what may be the internet’s most-used source of information, but this is the reality we must face in the 21st century. The wording here implies there is a total lack of any professional scientists who support and engage in creation science—a claim which is flat out wrong.

Ideology is a big motivator

According to Wikipedia’s policy on neutrality, “Articles must not take sides, but should explain the sides, fairly and without editorial bias. This applies to both what you say and how you say it.”12 However, according to a study from 2007, “ideology” was among the most commonly indicated motives for editing Wikipedia articles.13 There is obviously a major conflict of interest present if people are commonly making edits to Wikipedia for ideological reasons, which is exactly the opposite of Wikipedia’s stated policy of neutrality. Predictably, the result is that bias is rife within the articles on the site.

The proper response to this is twofold: first, Christians and biblical creationists should lobby whenever possible against the rampant bias at Wikipedia and make others aware of it. How else can we ever hope to see a positive change? Christians should engage themselves in the debate online by taking part in the editing of Wikipedia articles to remove clear instances of bias (but not to attempt to introduce pro-Christian biases of our own in the text).

For my part, I raised a fuss at Wikipedia over Jonathan Sarfati’s biographical page including a defamatory quote from Eugenie Scott calling Refuting Evolution 2 a “crude piece of propaganda”.14 To make a long story short, I wound up getting banned indefinitely on that account, and one of the Wikipedia editors had this to say (a clear admission of purposeful defamation and discrimination):

“There is zero chance that Wikipedia will ever treat pseudoscientists who believe that everything was created in 7 literal days 10,000 years ago the same way we treat the actual scientists -- astronomers, physicists, geologists, paleontologists, etc. -- who have solid evidence that the earth is much, much older.”15

Of course, this comment betrays ignorance of the biblical account itself, since God created in 6, not 7 days. In addition, it commits the No True Scotsman fallacy in asserting that creation scientists are not ‘actual’ scientists.16

Second, it should be clearly understood in general that Wikipedia is not a good source of information, especially on lesser-known topics and on any potentially controversial topics. That does not make it useless, however. For example, I have found Wikipedia to be a great source of other sources. Sometimes this can be a great shortcut to finding relevant pages, papers, books, etc. on a topic of interest.

It has been documented time and again that there is a battle going on in academia and in the media to attempt to silence all dissent against Darwinism. Because Wikipedia is so driven by consensus (rule of the majority a.k.a. mob rule), it suffers from all the problems that such systems of governance typically do, such as the ‘tyranny of the majority’, where the majority acts against the interests of minority groups.17

The problems at Wikipedia are only symptomatic of a larger struggle that has been going on much longer than Wikipedia has been around. With God’s help, let us do our part to represent and defend the truth of the Bible and of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world, in every medium possible.

References and notes

  1. Fletcher, D., A Brief History of Wikipedia, content.time.com, 18 August 2009. Return to text.
  2. Petrilli, M., Wikipedia or Wickedpedia? Assessing the online encyclopedia’s impact on K-12 education, educationnext.org, 2008. Return to text.
  3. Grunin, L., Wikipedia says vandals caused Google to display Nazism as GOP ideology, cnet.com, 1 June 2018. Return to text.
  4. See ref. 2. Return to text.
  5. Glott, R., Schmidt, P., Ghosh, R., Wikipedia Survey - Overview of Results, UNU-MERIT, 28 August 2011; quoted at Wikipedia:Wikipedians, en.wikipedia.org, Accessed 6 June 2018. Return to text.
  6. Jones, Robert P., Daniel Cox, Betsy Cooper, and Rachel Lienesch. “Exodus: Why Americans Are Leaving Religion – and Why They’re Unlikely to Come Back”, PRRI.org, 22 September 2016. Return to text.
  7. Sherwood, H., ‘Christianity as default is gone’: the rise of a non-Christian Europe, theguardian.com, 20 March 2018. Return to text.
  8. Gross, R., Evolution Is Finally Winning Out Over Creationism, slate.com, 19 November 2015. Return to text.
  9. Wikipedia:Fringe theories, en.wikipedia.org, Accessed 6 June 2018. Return to text.
  10. For one example of this, which confirms the predictions of Sanford’s Genetic Entropy, See Carter, R. and Sanford, J., A new look at an old virus: patterns of mutation accumulation in the human H1N1 influenza virus since 1918, Theor Biol Med Model., 2012 Oct 12, doi: 10.1186/1742-4682-9-42. Return to text.
  11. Creation science, en.wikipedia.org, Accessed 6 June 2018. Return to text.
  12. Wikipedia:Neutral point of view, en.wikipedia.org, Accessed 7 June 2018. Return to text.
  13. Nov, O., What Motivates Wikipedians?, Communications of the ACM, 2007, 50 (11): 60–64, doi:10.1145/1297797.1297798; quoted at Wikipedia:Wikipedians, en.wikipedia.org, Accessed 6 June 2018. Return to text.
  14. See Jonathan Sarfati, en.wikipedia.org, accessed 11 June 2018. Return to text.
  15. Comment from user ‘Guy Macon’, Talk:Jonathan Sarfati, en.wikipedia.org, accessed 11 June 2018. Return to text.
  16. According to the definition at logicalfallacies.info, the No True Scotsman fallacy is “a form of circular argument, with an existing belief being assumed to be true in order to dismiss any apparent counter-examples to it. The existing belief thus becomes unfalsifiable.” Return to text.
  17. See Tyranny of the Majority: Definition & Examples, study.com, Accessed 7 June 2018. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Busting Myths
by J Sarfati & G Bates, edited
From
US $15.00

Readers’ comments

Ian B.
I have just recently spent a day at Ulladulla S. NSW, carrying my copy of Dr Carl Werner's book, Living Fossils, and looking at the shell fossils there. I spoke to 3 people at some length, about fossils, the age of the Earth, etc.. The fascinating thing with all 3, was that whatever evidence was brought to bear that shoots down the Theory of Evolution, could all neatly be explained away. The plants/animals evolved as far as they needed to to survive, then just stopped evolving. THE THEORY was not to be questioned - it had obviously been written in tablets of stone on Mt. Sinai by the finger of God, and handed to man. Not to be questioned - you don't even go there. When asked to present proof of their beliefs, they couldn't (funny that), yet the THEORY remained rock solid and unassailable. When I explained to them that many evolutionists think that Christians are stupid to believe something that they can't prove, they were stumped. Fascinating! Clearly, these people were desperately CLINGING to this theory, I guess hoping to escape having to face up to the fact that one day they will be judged by their maker. Truly, this is a spiritual deception of the first order, and a VERY SUCCESSFUL one at that (and I have been caught in my share of spiritual deceptions in my time as well.) I am just so thankful, that I have been called out of darkness into HIS MARVELLOUS LIGHT. I would love to think that it's my great intellect that has caused me to arrive at this most favoured position, but I'd only be kidding myself.
Leon M.
Always done graciously and intellectually honestly, we need to get this word out to our Christian and non-Christian friends––especially those who are tech savvy. Thanks for the reminder.
Brian S.
I would like to suggest a third possibility to the Wikipedia issue of thought policing, which is to use an alternative. I suggest Infogalactic which was set up specifically because of some of the reasons listed in this article (among others). From their introduction page:

"Infogalactic does not share the highly centralized structure of Wikipedia or the ideological dogma of the Wikimedia Foundation. The primary requirements are for the information contributed to be true, relevant, and verifiable, rather than cited from a so-called “published reliable source”, since experience has proven how reliance upon the latter can be easily gamed by editors and administrators alike. There is no culture of notability, ideology, or deletionism at Infogalactic. The addition of perspective filters and two levels of Context and Opinion to every page means that the average editor's contribution is much less likely to be deleted for political reasons or fall victim to edit wars over controversial pages."

It would be an interesting exercise if Paul Price created an Infogalactic account and tried the same edits to the Sarfati article on Infogalactic, I'm fairly confident that the outcome would be significantly different.
Paul Price
I appreciate the recommendation, and I'll look into it (I have never heard of Infogalactic). Actually that is the problem, isn't it? Even if it's a great source, not many have heard of it and its impact is never likely to equal Wikipedia's. Now perhaps if there were some kind of unified public outcry against Wikipedia, that could achieve something; but at the moment most people are 'asleep' to this issue and accept what they're given.
Jamil A.
I noticed the bias of Wikipedia against Creation and Christianity on a number of articles whenever searching for information about biology or science in general. All of the articles have a foundation based on evolutionary theory and this is no neutral point of view. If you want to write an article about the study of Biology or any field of Science relating to the origins of the Universe, you need to mention both the Creation model and the Evolutionary model and leave the decision to the reader in choosing what best explains the world we live in.
Aiden B.
When I saw this article headline my eyes got big! So much to say about the atheistic evolutionary bias they contain in Wikipedia! Or Wickedpedia. But they’re Darwinians, right? So they must worship Darwinism and anyone willing to raise an objection is pseudoscientific in their thinking! I’m pretty sure you can search up any animal in Wickedpedia and you will find they did a whole section on how they believe that animal evolved in their imagination. Also, whenever someone edits a section to correct Wickedpedia’s false claims they’re refused! How could they don’t come out of their shell and debate? But anyway, they are created in the image of God as well, so they need our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ like everyone else.
Norman P.
Good to be alerted to this, though I suppose, not really surprising, when we look around at the way the world is going. What I have found is that anti-biblical bias is now a 'given' (and in fact, inherently predicted in the Bible itself, e.g Jesus was 'a sign destined to be rejected');. Moreover, when a person comes to Christ, which is a spiritual transaction, the Spirit himself leads them into all the truth. It's at this point the believer understands the creation narrative, and associated apologetics, although this can take time, and carnal (i.e. social and intellectual) resistance can impede progress. Even Christ's disciples were slow of heart to believe - some more than others - but the Spirit swept all such resistance away, until they were thoroughly 'renewed in their minds', and in fact, came to have 'the mind of Christ'. And since he is the Creator, for whom all things were created, it is a joy to see the truth - and 'TRUTH WILL OUT' (a phrase which, according to Wikipedia, first appeared in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice! :)
Tomislav O.
"with extremely harmful educational consequences."

The name of this emotional manipulation tactic is called "Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt." It is extremely dramatic and over-the-top.

It is unreasonable to call creationism pseudoscience.
Gian Carlo B.
To Brian S., and also Paul Price; regarding Infogalactic; unfortunately, for a website that relies on the same engine as Wikipedia, it appears to have taken similar bias against biblical creationists and creationism in general. For example, this is directly from Infogalactic regarding Young-Earth Creationism:

"Young Earth creationists believe that God created the Earth within the last ten thousand years [...]" This statement is 4,000 years above inaccuracy, biblical creationists believe the Earth and the Universe (according to Earth clocks) that the world is around the ballpark of 6,000 or so years. That's not all, this next statement under the heading Creation Science:

"Creation science, or initially scientific creationism, is a pseudoscience[23][24][25][26] that emerged in the 1960s with proponents aiming to have young Earth creationist beliefs taught in school science classes as a counter to teaching of evolution."
I tried to see if Infogalactic had any view that reflects positions of science and creationism to the likes of Jason Lisle, Richard Fangrad and even Sarfati, but I found nothing. The one about 'neo-creationists' is the one I could found closest but those are, according to Infogalactic, unaffiliated and distance themselves from 'creation scientists'. If you ask me, Infogalactic, although not as bad as Wikipedia, it's also just as weak and inaccurate as its cousin website (they use the same engine after all). Now, I'm not trying to paint Infogalactic in the same light as Wikipedia, but both still present a level of inaccuracy regarding creationism one way or another, although not as pitiful as Wikipedia's. Needless to say, we need to be careful where we get our information and it's important to corroborate, ensuring no position is misrepresented.
Steven V.
Thank you for this helpful article. Just a day or two ago I was reading a Wikipedia article on William Dembski and I quickly realized that it was nothing more than a "hit" piece on him and his integrity. The lengthy article begins by asserting that Mr. Dembski "was a proponent of Intelligent Design (ID) pseudoscience." Indeed, the dismissive term "pseudoscience" is used throughout the article as though it were a simple statement of fact rather than opinion. The article continues to catalog, in great detail, the various "controversies" surrounding the subject's academic career with barely a mention of the ideas proposed by the theory of Intelligent Design, as well as the efforts of the academic community to marginalize and de-legitimize efforts to raise questions about the glaring problems with the Evolutionary paradigm.

Perhaps a solution might be to establish a department within CMI dedicated to setting the record straight by joining in the Wikipedia editorial process on selected articles that are brought to your attention. Indeed, such an effort should be brought to the attention of your readers in the fund raising materials you send to supporters. Thank you, CMI, for your wonderful work to inform the body of Christ, and to awaken those whom God may call to look for answers to their own questions regarding the destructive pseudoscience of Evolution.
Paul Price
Yes, even the biography pages of notable figures who contest Darwinism are not spared (as I mentioned in the article about Dr. Sarfati's page). But I will correct you on this one point: CMI will never be able to "set the record straight" on Wikipedia. The only hope for that to ever happen is a grassroots effort by Christians (and indeed anyone who cares about getting objective information online). If we were to attempt such a thing, 1) we would still be grossly outnumbered and 2) the admins would detect this and ban our IP addresses. The Church of Scientology actually attempted what you are describing (for much less honest reasons, you can be sure) and got banned- look it up!
graham P.
Very cool piece. I've also edited these God-hating wikipedia articles, with some success. The article on Dr Henry Morris was controlled by an atheist called Auntie M, who closed her wiki account after I appealed to the 'Wiki gods' over her behaviour.
I wrote a poem to her, which I shared in a link with her, which described her, metaphorically, as a dragon eating the poor creationists alive as they dared her fury in their desire to edit Morris's page. I found that by being persistent and non-abusive, I could eventually get the more senior editors to decide in my favour. The article on IO, the Maori deity, was also something that took a long time to resolve, but now bears the truth about the amazing similarities between IO and the history of the Jews.
We must remember that, in our edits, we are forcing the atheists to read our words, which is like preaching to them, and many undecided readers also see our conduct and can compare it to that of the God-haters.
Paul Price
Great work! We need much more just like it. Unfortunately most of the senior editors and administrators are extremely hostile to religion and Christianity / creationism in particular. They have written loopholes into their own codes of conduct (i.e. WP:FRINGE, etc.) which legitimize (in their own eyes) the overtly discriminatory and biased behavior they engage in.
Gary T.
From the article: "But here’s the catch: anyone can also revert any changes made by another editor."

Several years ago, I remember reading a blog post by novelist Neil Gaiman in which he mentioned a fellow author's complaint about Wikipedia. The complaint was that some things written about that fellow author were flat wrong. Gaiman told him, "I believe you can change that yourself." His friend's response was that he had done so, but that his change had been reverted by someone else.

I believe that this suggests that in some instances *ego* could be a source of bias. In this case, it would be a fan who believes they know the so-called "facts" about the point in question. Between fandom and the potential "celebrity" of being the author of a particular article — especially if it's an article on a celebrity — ego would very likely come into play.

When I was in college pursuing my web design degree (graduated Cum Laude, btw), our instructors always *forbade* using Wikipedia as a source, but acknowledged that it could be a good place to start one's research. But we were not at all allowed to use Wikipedia as a source.
Han A.
I've noticed a lot of atheistic bias on other articles on Wikipedia. On the articles of the history of Israelites, Abraham, Jacob, the united monarchy of Israel. The authors cite the personal opinions of some historians on the pre-two kingdoms period who claim that Israelites were some random Canaanite group that abandoned polytheism and somehow became the majority of the population in Canaan, and they claimed this without any shred of archeological evidence(historians still don't know much about the pre-two kingdoms period due to lack of archeological evidence). The authors used this source to say that abraham and the migration out of Egypt and conquest of Canaan was a national myth invented by Hebrews treating the opinion and speculative hypothesis as absolute proof. This is very dishonest and deceives numerous people who are interested in history and trust Wikipedia as a source for their understanding of the past.
James H.
"...it should be clearly understood in general that Wikipedia is not a good source of information, especially on lesser-known topics and on any potentially controversial topics."

Paul, this statement is flat out false. You are being hypocritical by making the same mistake that the evolutionists/atheists make against us: throwing out the whole thing because of certain areas that you strongly disagree with. I have used and edited Wikipedia for years, often double checking its information, and have found it to be an amazing resource. Like anything in life, you must have discernment when you use it. You have to eat the meat and spit out the bones. Yes, almost every article on animals will have a section on evolution, but you ignore that and use the good parts. Yes, it can be "unbalanced in articles dealing with God, religion and creation science," but still has reams of good information on those topics - if nothing else, it gives the Christian valuable insight into how non-believers think. If you ignore its speculation on origins and evolution, and simply look out for other secular biases, its pages are accurate 99% of the time.
Paul Price
James,

I appreciate your readership and response. Wikipedia is huge, with millions of articles. I have to say that just because you have been editing it for years does not mean you can make sweeping generalizations any more than I can; but my arguments were based on issues with the fundamental way Wikipedia functions; your statements seem to be based on your necessarily limited personal experience and preferences. I certainly do not disagree with your sentiment that Wikipedia can be useful (as I mentioned in the article, I like to use it as a jumping-off point for research to find sources), and I agree we should "use the good parts". My article is written to bring attention to the horrible bias and flawed practices at Wikipedia. Keep in mind that Wikipedia is being used to indoctrinate millions of people into anti-Christian biases. It is not the Christians I am concerned about (they are supposed to know better)! When you say its pages are accurate "99% of the time", I wonder where you could have gotten such a statistic from.
Cowboy Bob S.
People have told me that they attempted to edit and correct Wikipedia articles on creation science, and the changes reverted back very quickly. Also, an atheopath was complaining about this article, saying that it is right in calling creationism "pseudoscience" because it IS pseudoscience. Not only was this circular reasoning, but the fallacy of ipse dixit. Oopsie daisy!

The reliability of Wikipedia in other areas has been doubted by many people, and reports were made that students in some areas were forbidden from using it in reports. I have seen not only bias, but questionable material in articles, including claims that conflict with other sources about more prosaic matters. It can be fun, and sometimes useful, but caution is required. When dealing with evolution and materialism in general, expect dogmatism.
Jennifer C.
At the risk of sounding like I'm asking you to increase your workload overmuch, and possibly suggestng something you've already considered, have you considered adding a section to relevant articles about creationist theory, clearly labelled as such? If you're following the prescribed format, quoting peer-reviewed journals and openly admitting your bias from the start, it might be accetable.
Paul Price
If you're suggesting what I think (namely, adding a separate section on Wikipedia articles labeled something like "creationist interpretation"), then no, it would never be acceptable at Wikipedia. It would be considered a violation of their WP:FRINGE policy of not giving undue mention or weight to fringe theories or 'pseudoscience', which is how they classify creationism. In short, there is no place at all at Wikipedia for the kind of information we provide here at creation.com.

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