I am giving out a previously non-existent award today to a truly great denialist. Andrew Schlafly, spawn of anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly and some long-forgotten sperm-donor (ironic, eh?), was not content just being the legal counsel to the uber-crank Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. No, he had to take it one step further, and clog our precious intertubes with Conservaepedia, a repository of all things stupid. In fact, there is so much stupid there, an entire wiki is devoted to documenting it. I was newly enraged when a commenter over at the "blogging on peer-reviewed research" site tried to use this pile of electronic dreck as a legitimate reference.
For those of you who might have forgotten, Conservaepedia hit teh 'tubes a little over a year ago, with a mission to counter the horrid liberal bias at Wikipedia. Well, no one is going to accuse Conservapaedia of liberal bias. In fact, the entire site is essentially a demented play book for reactionary Christian cults and denialists.
I don't want to take you too far through the looking glass, but here are some fun examples of reactionary lunacy for you.
As we all know, Phyllis Schlafly gave up her role as a hausfrau to travel the country telling other women to get the fuck back into the kitchen. Her son, who suckled at the teat of this lunacy, has absorbed it well. Conservapaedia has a nice, non-liberal-biased article on the little ladies(emphasis mine):
Compared to men, relatively few women have had impact on history as leaders in diverse fields, but a small number of women have had enormous impact. They include Isabella of Spain, Joan of Arc, Margaret Thatcher, Elizabeth I, Boudicca, Catherine the Great, Cleopatra, Marie Curie, Benazir Bhutto, Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Mother Theresa.
Well, if you're using weighted percentages, how about the enormous group of women who've had moderate impact? The entire premise is absurd.
Where do they get their ideas about women?
Saint Paul also has much to say on the status of women in society, most memorably that women should submit to their husbands just as the church submits to Christ.
The New Testament contains several instructions regarding the role of women:
1. Women are to dress modestly and not wear "broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array."
2. Women may learn in silence, but may not be permitted to teach men. Some interpretations limit this rule to the teaching of doctrine.
3. Women are not permitted to speak in church.
4. Women are to be subservient to and follow the instructions of their husbands.
5. Women "shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety."
So, quoting a two thousand year-old text to decide the role of half of the members of our society is the best they can do...and then quibble on the details. This cult is definitely not for me or my wife and daughter.
Andy Schlafly, being the legal counsel to the fringe organization Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, takes a predictable view on vaccines:
Traditionally a few highly tested vaccines were mandatory for children to protect against deadly or severe diseases, such as smallpox and polio. In the 1990s, vaccine manufacturers began introducing and persuading states to require numerous additional vaccines for non-deadly and even sexually transmitted diseases. About one-third of the states have philosophical exemptions entitling parents to decline the vaccines; 48 out of 50 states have religious exemptions; all states have medical exemptions, but they are hardest to obtain.
So, rather than give objective information about vaccination, this "trustworthy encyclopaedia" talks about conspiracies, and how to avoid vaccination.
One of the best denialist discussions I've seen involved a debate between Schlafly and myself regarding my qualifications to comment on the HPV vaccine (vs. the qualifications of a few Wikipedia rejects and a handful of homeschoolers.
Breast cancer and abortion
Oh, and let's not forget one of my favorites---breast cancer. I suppose I would expect an encyclopedia article on a disease to start with, say, a definition, or something similarly useful and objective. Here is Conserpaedia's first paragraph:
Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women, striking 1 in 7.5 women during their lifetime in America, where the rate is among the highest in the world. Breast cancer is the most fatal cancer for women after lung cancer. The number of cases has significantly increased in America since the early 1970s, when abortion was legalized. Although it is far less common in men, breast cancer can also affect them.
A controversial Harvard abortion study concluded that childbearing before the age of 35 reduces a woman's breast cancer risk.
Another study in 1996:
Animal studies have suggested that estrogen secreted early in pregnancy stimulates the multiplication of immature cells in the breast and that these cells do not mature fully until the end of pregnancy. Theoretically, then, when a woman's pregnancy is cut short through induced abortion, a lot of immature cells remain in the breast that are vulnerable to cancer-causing influences.
Of course, when I tried to engage Schlafly in a debate of his unconventional views, he accused me of profiting from the "abortion industry". Of course, it was shortly revealed that he sues doctors who perform abortion, based on the false assertion that they have put a woman at increased risk for breast cancer. What a piece of work.
Oh, oh! Wait! I just found another fun bit. In his article on STDs, he tried to tie rises and falls in STDs to politics---rises during liberal presidencies, falls during conservative presidencies. I wonder what he'll make of the huge resurgence of gonorrhea and syphilis that have taken place under George II.
He hates those gay folks. The amount of material devoted to homosexuality on a small wiki is staggering. He has dozens of articles on homosexuality, most designed to disseminate lies and hate (with subheadings like "Homosexuality and Murder").
I could go on and on...Conservapaedia is an endless source of reactionary Christian cult ideology. But it's probably more fun to do it on your own. Or even better, just go an edit! It's a wiki, after all!
I'm surprised he didn't mention Hillary Clinton in his list of women who have an impact. After all, entire batallions of wingnuts wet their pants on a precise rotating schedule over her very existence. To the wingnut mind, what more impact is possible?
Sadly, it doesn't seem to have made it into Conservaepedia, but one of Andy's truly spectacular delusions involved Devil's Tower and Noah's Flood.
First an aside: I have posted a lot of comments asking people to qualify their use of the word "homeschooling" in regard to these things. I was homeschooled. I'm not a hippy, I'm not a Nazi, I'm not socially conservative, I'm not religious at all, I'm not insane, nor are my parents; nor were many of the others we found (albeit in a sea of people just like your stereotype). I just took a different educational path. It's like ridiculing me for going to a trade school when I decided to change careers instead of going back to university. All that said, though, I'm tired of mounting the defense, so I guess you can just continue lumping me in with lunatic Biblical "literalists" who want us all to live in their imaginary version of the past. I just had to get it out of my system one last time.
Anyway, I never cease to be amazed when I see quotes from Conservapedia, but until I read this I had no idea about the Schlafly connection. (Actually, I hadn't realized the site was still around, I hadn't heard anything about them in a while and I assumed their editorial policy had finally caused it to shrivel up and die.) That makes a tremendous amount of sense, in a way, like knowing the source of the insanity, I can suddenly understand its nature. I still don't really comprehend it, though - the context makes the crazy assertions on the site seem less random to me, but they aren't getting any less crazy.
Alas, I was banned from Conservapedia about a year ago for creating an entry on "stupidity" that redirected to their main page. Plus a few paragraphs in their Reagan Was the BEST! page about the Iran/Contra scandal. Ah, well.
As an occasional observer from the UK, I find the phenomenon of American conservatism fascinating and slightly scary. What interests me is not so much what they believe, but why they believe it.
Some aspects seem obvious - the rejection of evolution and intolerance of homosexuality for biblical reasons. However, to the best of my knowledge the bible doesn't discuss vaccination, environmental controls or the minimum wage yet these are all listed in the rationalwiki article as things which Conservapaedia is 'anti-'.
Is it just that they take a dogmatic stance against anything that they believe 'liberals' to be in favour of? If not, what is the unifying thread that pulls all of these disparate things into one coherent (I use the word in its loosest sense) worldview? Any pointers to books, essays or blogs which can explain this curious set of beliefs would be much appreciated!
Is it just that they take a dogmatic stance against anything that they believe 'liberals' to be in favour of?
That's at least part of it. The right-wing authoritarian mindset has a great deal of trouble separating the message from the messenger. They love to use the genetic fallacy. In many ways they're like alties in that the fundamental question they ask is "who do you believe in?" rather than "what evidence do you accept?" They tend to treat personal charisma as a guarantor of truth.
Ah, the Wingnuts of Woo: unfortunately not playing 'one night only'.
Andy's older brother John is gay. What a fucked-up family that has to be.
The common thread through the other issues you mentioned is government regulation. Vaccines are required by the government, environmental controls are imposed by the government, and a minimum wage is mandated by the government. One of the major pillars of the Republican party is anti-regulation, mostly due to a fear the regulation will keep increasing and increasing until it turns into communism (some have said as much, while others just say that they believe in personal liberty above all).
However, it's gotten a bit blurry since it's been invaded by what's now called the "Religious Right." They're all for regulation when it comes to religious issues (they're fine with banning abortions, for one thing), but they resist it in other areas. The way they justify this to themselves is by pointing out that communistic states are godless, so religious regulation isn't a threat.
Bonechar: It is true that "homeschooling" has become synonymous with "religious wingnut lunatic", and yes, that is unfortunate. In much the same way, "patriotic" has now assumed an entirely different meaning from its original, and I suppose that's just the way it goes with words.
I know several people who were home-schooled, and who, like you, grew up to be perfectly normal. However, I think you will agree that the extremes to which home-schooling has been taken in the past few years has transformed the term into what we see today. Likewise, I would shudder if someone were to refer to me today as a "patriot"... though of course that would never happen since I never sport the required lapel pin.
Infophile: The common thread through the other issues you mentioned is government regulation.
... which I find quite humorous. I am English, and moved here in the early 90s (I'm still wondering why, but that's beside the point). I was simply staggered by the amount of paperwork and regulation that exists here, in this supposedly "free country", and it made me wonder how the word "free" was being interpreted. The past eight years - The Bush Era - have seen an enormous increase in regulation, which appears to be quite acceptable, since it is for our own good and helps to protect us from the evil-doers.
I guess it is only regulation that doesn't line up with their own view of the world that is bad.
As for conservapaedia, that has to be among the most absurd pieces of idiocy on the internet, and goodness knows there is a lot of that out there. I try to imagine what goes on in the brains of these people, but all that does is give me a headache. It is totally beyond my comprehension.
My original post mentioned homeschooling because Schlafly seems to have accrued a little cult of particular homeschoolers, over whom he has some influence, and they are the primary contributors.
If abortions caused breast cancer, wouldn't miscarriages do the same?
And therefor the best way to prevent breast cancer would be sterilization?
And what causes breast cancer in men?
Does stupid have a critical mass?
The unifying thread in their views is that they are almost completely divorced from reality. You can derive most conservative ideals by asking yourself "what would a reasonable person do/think?" or "what is it like in the real world" and then figuring out the diametric opposite of your answer.
"the media has a well known liberal bias..but then so does reality" - Colbert
Unifying thread of conservative thought? I believe it has to do with the collection of rationalizations for why "things are just as they were meant to be." The rich are supposed to be rich, because they are morally superior to the poor. Men are in charge, because they are superior to women. Anything that tries to change the status quo has the motive of defying God's plan. Abortion tries to avoid the 'miracle' of birth. Vaccinations attempt to avoid the wrath of God. Laissez-faire capitalism because the "invisible hand of the marketplace" IS God to them (who else could it be?).
Wow, this is the best... and I really mean .. the best source of understanding how those crazy conservative neo-con end-timer...etc. people think.
I was looking at the section on porn and they couldn't even get that one right either. I just love how they add foot-notes to their statements making as if it makes their statements all the more credible. They state that "pornography leads to terrible crimes against women and children by pornography addicts." It is then up-held by this foot-note "Scott Peterson, for example, was hooked on pornography when he brutally murdered his pregnant wife."
So because 1 guy in a country of 250 million did this (and no proof to link pornography to the killing) means it will happen to all of us. What is also hilarious is that this means that there are maybe.. 100 million potential children and women murderers out there!
Also with the same logic as these brilliant geniuses.. I can say that bread is the leading cause of lung cancer since all cancer patients ate bread before they died proves and links bread to cancer :P ha ha ha bah
wrpd said "Andy's older brother John is gay. What a fucked-up family that has to be."
Yes, indeed they are!
Sigh... reading this made me nostalgic for the old Usenet days. The days when we had Andy's brother, Roger, to knock about. Like here:
Oh, and of course that is where I met Orac:
I had heard about this some time back, so I just decided to pop over for a quick scan. I decided to scan their heavily hyped article on atheism--gadzooks! You people weren't kidding! It's been a while since I've seen such an extensive and concentrated procession of lies and misrepresentations.
@nanoAl: I know what you mean - the unifying factor seems, at first sight, to be 'everything I (stoat100) disagree with'. I think this is because these people have a different approach to 'truth' than reasonable people:
1) They decide what they want to be true, and that's it - that's where the story ends. They want creationism to be true? Then it's true. No evidence required. When they encounter an inconvenient truth (sic) like global warming, then it's not true. Period.
2) They need things to be very, very simple. The real causes of autism, child hyperactivity etc are either genuinely not known by scientists (yet) or are too complex for them to understand. So they make up, or latch onto, a simple explanation (vaccines, food dyes etc). Whether it's true or not is not important to them.
It's kind of like (what I understand to be) Logical Positivism ie things are 'useful' rather than true or false - but much, much more stupid. More like the 'happy idiot'.