I’m not ashamed to say it: I love Wikipedia. I use it all the time. Whether I need to lookup random facts (Who died today, one hundred years ago?) or translate devious Dutch medical terms into English: Wikipedia is my go-to website. Sure, I know about its limits – “It can be altered by basically anyone!” but honestly, even most of the scientific information I’ve found on Wikipedia was correctly paraphrased and referenced.
This month, however, I learned about Wikipedia’s evil counterpart: Conservapedia. Or, as they like to call themselves: the “conservative, family-friendly Wiki encyclopedia.” It looks exactly like Wikipedia, but tends to present its entries – softly put- in line with right wing American ideas. Featured article titles on the homepage read “Overrunning Darwinism through Technology” and “Two Ways to Grind Up Atheism Faster.”
OK, so Conservatives do not like evolution and ungodliness – that was to be expected. I was quite surprised, however, when I stumbled upon the entry about Albert Einstein. I had no idea Einstein’s theory of general relativity does not sit well with American Conservatives, nor did I know E=mc2 was disproven by Jesus Christ. Apparently, Jesus’ ability to heal from a distance – and healing powers travel faster than the speed of light – was evidence enough to nullify Einstein’s work.
This month’s magazine, themed “Altered Realities” features a story about Conservapedia’s favorite historian: David Barton.This self-proclaimed historian and Christian reconstructionist, who is determined to enlighten the world with a “Christian nation” version of American history, has sold over a million copies of his books. Disturbing? Yes. But how should historians respond to such claims? Do they enter the debate, or will that only make matters worse? Join the discussion here.