A dubious source, but a powerful tool for suppressing dissent
Published: 31 July 2018 (GMT+10)
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
- Fletcher, D., A Brief History of Wikipedia, content.time.com, 18 August 2009. Return to text.
- Petrilli, M., Wikipedia or Wickedpedia? Assessing the online encyclopedia’s impact on K-12 education, educationnext.org, 2008. Return to text.
- Grunin, L., Wikipedia says vandals caused Google to display Nazism as GOP ideology, cnet.com, 1 June 2018. Return to text.
- See ref. 2. Return to text.
- 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.
- 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.
- Sherwood, H., ‘Christianity as default is gone’: the rise of a non-Christian Europe, theguardian.com, 20 March 2018. Return to text.
- Gross, R., Evolution Is Finally Winning Out Over Creationism, slate.com, 19 November 2015. Return to text.
- Wikipedia:Fringe theories, en.wikipedia.org, Accessed 6 June 2018. Return to text.
- 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.
- Creation science, en.wikipedia.org, Accessed 6 June 2018. Return to text.
- Wikipedia:Neutral point of view, en.wikipedia.org, Accessed 7 June 2018. Return to text.
- 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.
- See Jonathan Sarfati, en.wikipedia.org, accessed 11 June 2018. Return to text.
- Comment from user ‘Guy Macon’, Talk:Jonathan Sarfati, en.wikipedia.org, accessed 11 June 2018. Return to text.
- 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.
- See Tyranny of the Majority: Definition & Examples, study.com, Accessed 7 June 2018. Return to text.