Sources, sources

Behold conservapedia, which calls itself “an online resource and meeting place where we favor Christianity and America”–and where we don’t like Wikipedia at all. My fellow Sciencebloggers have been finding all sorts of factual troubles with the site over the past few days. I didn’t think I had all that much to add, until I started entering a few basic science terms in the search engine and detected a certain pattern…

The study of the earth’s history as revealed in the rocks that make up the earth.[1]

1. Wile, Dr. Jay L. Exploring Creation With General Science. Anderson: Apologia Educational Ministries, Inc. 2000

A weakened or inactive version of a pathogen that stimulates the body’s production of antibodies which can destroy the pathogen.[1]

References

1. Wile, Dr. Jay L. Exploring Creation With General Science. Anderson: Apologia Educational Ministries, Inc. 2000

Two or more atoms that have the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons.

1. Wile, Dr. Jay L. Exploring Creation With Physical Science. Apologia Educational Ministries, Inc. 1999, 2000

A non-cellular infectious agent that has two characteristics: It has genetic material inside a protective protein coat, and it cannot reproduce itself.[1]

References

1. Wile, Dr. Jay L. Exploring Creation With Biology. Apologia Educational Ministries, Inc. 1998

What is Apologia Educational Ministries you ask, the ultimate source of scientific information for conservapedia? Their web site sells lots of books for homeschooling, and also includes hand outs that declare,

The Bible Indicates That Humans and Dinosaurs Lived Together. Is there any evidence for this? YES!

Is this what conservatives consider sound science? Is this…wait…what’s this?

Parasitism is a form of symbiosis where the parasite benefits and the host is harmed. While it used to be thought that parasites were very simple creatures generally with little impact on their ecosystems, biologists now understand that parasites can be very sophisticated, precisely evolved to take advantage of their hosts and that parasites can have significant effects on their environment and on their host’s evolution. A common parasite in humans is Toxoplasmosis. [1].

References

1. Carl Zimmer’s Parasite Rex

I guess there’s always hope…

[Amazon link shamelessly mine]

Update, Thursday 2/22 10 am: Below the fold, I trace the struggle for Conservapedia’s soul!


Here’s why I love our open source age. We can watch a struggle for Conservapedia’s soul take place. In the comments, Dave Carlson drew attention to a striking change in the entry for parasites. Like Wikipedia, Conservapedia lets the world peer into the discussion behind the changes. Let’s take a look:

On January 3, “DeborahB” wrote the first parasite entry.

An organism that feeds on a living host.[1]

References

1. Wile, Dr. Jay L. Exploring Creation With Biology. Apologia Educational Ministries, Inc. 1998

Then last week on February 15 “JoshuaZ” broke out of the “exploring creation” mold and changed the entry to the one I quoted above, “expanding, replacing inaccurate definition with accurate one.” For a reference, he included Parasite rex.

That’s the definition I saw yesterday when I blogged on it. Then, hours later, “LOrDsSeRvAnt” changed it to the following:

A parasite is an organism that has become dependent on other life forms as a result of the fall. There were no such thing as parasites before the fall, it was only afterwards that they became numerous and now almost every non-parasitic animal on earth has parasites unique to them.

In the history discussion, LOrDsSeRvAnt wrote:

Zimmer is an evolutionist! you can’t trust that guy.

Half an hour later, JoshuaZ stepped in and changed it back to the previous version, with the note,

revert. claim about “fall” was unsourced, nowhere in conservapedia guidelines does it say one can’t use an “evolutionist” as a source or that they can’t be trusted

For the moment, JoshuaZ is prevailing.

The important issue here is not me (although I don’t mind someone spreading the word on my book) but rather how we judge scientific information. LOrDsSeRvAnt is making a mistake that’s all too common these days. He or she seems to think that all you need to do is put a mark on someone–“evolutionist” in this case–and then everything he or she says must be wrong because he or she says it. And anything that is opposite to the marked person’s claims must be right.

In fact, what LOrDsSeRvAnt really ought to do is test my claims by looking at the scientific literature that I cite, or leading college-level textbook such as Foundations of Parasitology. Of course, LOrDsSeRvAnt may not be very happy to discover no mention of “the fall” there, and lots of information on the evolution of parasites. But I can’t help that.