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Do we need another encyclopedia?

If you have used the Internet for research or pretty much anything you have probably found Wikipedia useful. But perhaps you want your big bang with a little less bang. Or you may be looking for more information about how humans and dinosaurs lived contemporaneously. Your search is over. Now there is an alternative to Wikipedia called Conservapedia. Conservapedia is a reaction to Wikipedia’s liberal bent.

Conservapedia is new so it only has 18,500 articles to Wikipedia’s 2+ million articles in English (as of this writing). Conservapedia is only in English and I’m not sure there would be any point to opening it up to other languages, which is a shame because I bet some Arabic speaking peoples could put it to good use. For example Islam and Christianity share some views on homosexuality.

The quantity of articles is not the only indicator of an encyclopedia’s value. What about accuracy, is it a trustworthy source of information? You will be relieved to know that it is. The first of seven commandments (why not 10?) for editing Conservapedia states that everything you post must be true.

It should come as no surprise that Wikipedia and Conservapedia present different views on such topics as evolution and creationism. Nothing either side says will ever sway the other. But what about less controversial topics. I compared a few topics in Conservapedia – picked from the top of my head – (tiger, programming, and integer) with their counterparts in Wikipedia (tiger, programming, and integer). Check them out for yourself.

The differences are telling. Each of the above Conservapedia articles is much shorter and has less content then the corresponding Wikipedia article. Also they each break the second commandment by not citing any sources. They don’t provide links to external sources either. To be fair a number of other non-controversial topics do contain external links. Here is my favorite example from the Conservapedia two paragraph topic on programming: “Free software is fun and useful because one can play with and learn from the comfort of one’s own home.”

My assessment: Conservapedia is of no use and has no value as an encyclopedia.

Of course these articles could change by the time you read this. Some industrious conservatives could improve these articles any time; bringing them up to par with Wikipedia. But why bother? Do we really need another wiki style encyclopedia? I don’t think so. It seems much more likely to me that Conservapedia is intended as at best a rebuttal to Wikipedia and at worst an attack on it. Conservapedia defines itself in relation to Wikipedia and has a huge list of gripes against it. The articles unrelated to controversial topics look like a cheap facade to me.

So what if you think the Earth is 6,000 years old. Can’t you still get information on tigers, programming and integers from Wikipedia? Perhaps I’m being naive. I had no idea that conservatives have a problem with imaginary numbers until I read this Good Math, Bad Math post. (That article is also how I learned of Conservapedia.) If we can’t even agree on the square root of negative one then perhaps all is lost.


  1. Susan A Holton
    Susan A Holton Friday, October 26, 2007

    Conservapedia is fascinating…and frightening. I worry that students may actually use this as a source for “knowledge” and that folks may believe the content. It is another instance where someone could do a line by line rebuttal of much of the content. That would only lead to higher blood pressure. I do hope that it dies a slow death – perhaps a plague of locusts!

  2. David G.
    David G. Sunday, October 14, 2007

    Conservapedia is a good example of how citations do not necessarily make information more accurate. Many people complain about lack of citations in Wikipedia, but citations from people who are equally wrong are meaningless.

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