Are We Alone: Conservapedia relativity denialism

By Phil Plait | August 18, 2010 3:37 pm

arewealonelogoAt SETIcon last week, I talked with Seth Shostak as part of our regular "Brains on Vacation/Skeptic Check" segment of the SETI podcast/radio show "Are We Alone". The topic this time was Conservapedia — a frothingly antiscience and antireality website — and how it has a grotesquely wrong entry on Einstein’s Relativity (as well as a laughable 29 "counterexamples" to relativity).

The podcast is available on the Are We Alone site, and here’s a direct link to the MP3.

MORE ABOUT: Are We Alone, SETI

Comments (122)

  1. Conservapedia pretty much encapsulates the biggest problem with the anti science movement in America, it’s not just a desire to have their own opinions, it’s a desire to have their own facts.

  2. Ken

    I thought of emailing this to you to see what you thought.
    But yes…we should have the Church of Entanglement, as per one article I read on this extreme misuse of human intellect.

  3. Craig

    Aside: I *thoroughly* enjoyed Seth Shostak’s ‘Search for Intelligent Life in Space” lecture series/audio book from The Teaching Company. Sadly it looks like they no longer sell it, but you can find used (free?) copies online or probably in your library.

    It is completely engrossing, interesting, and somewhat ironically, very down to earth. Also, he’s quite funny. I’ve listened to it several times, and recommend it highly.

  4. As thought approaches infinitely dense objects it will travel back into time.

  5. Mark T.

    Read the article. I’m a university student majoring in physics and math so I can claim to have understood what was said. The twisting of fact and emphasis on odd details certainly presents a distorted picture. This is what happens when the writer begins with an agenda and seeks only “facts” that support it.

    I always feel my computer has become soiled when I visit those sites.

  6. This website’s been up for ages and its purpose was pretty explicit from the get-go – for those not satisfied with the “liberal bias” that was presented on wikipedia, and required information more inline with their narrow worldview (for a laugh, look up “Kangaroo” It’s hilarious). It’s always been seen as a bit of a joke; why start elevating its credence to “threat”? Let’s keep laughing at them. Just taking a look at their top articles Oh – and for the sake of not linking back to it, good idea to use the method that the Pharyngulites are using:

    (Remember, we have spam filters in place because Conservapædians tend to go nuttily excessive in their whining; don’t link directly to the site, and always name it as “Conservapædia” to avoid the filters.) – from PZ Myer’s blog.

    UPDATE: I just went back to Kangaroo article. It’s been updated, somewhat since I first visited, to be more disturbing, and inline with the YEC view. The old version was hilarious, something about the genus descended from the original two brought onto Noah’s Ark. They’ve obviously tidied that up, using big phrases like “in accordance with Creation Science Theory”. Oooh. Now that makes it legit! (Not).

  7. Cairnos

    I’d have to say that the conservapedia entry was straightforward, educational and accurately portrayed the true current thought on relativity….compared to timecube that is. If your not sure what I’m getting at wikipedia timecube ;-)

    I particularly like the bit about how Barack Obama helped a LIBERAL lawyer publish a paper that used the curvature of space to promote abortion. I had to read that twice just to be sure that’s what they actually said.

    UPDATE: Ok looked at the kangaroo article, ahem “they are only found on the continent of Australia apart from some species in some areas of Papua New Guinea” sooo they are only found in australia except when they’re found outside of australia, well that clears that up

  8. Crux Australis

    Listened to that yesterday. Very nice job! I had seen the conserv… site but oculdn’t wade through the bs. Thanks for doing it for me!

  9. Chris

    Phil I know you said “Don’t be a dick” but they are making it too tempting.

  10. There are some that link the big bang with evolution and there is link to the big bang and relativity. Also there are the electric universe people who link think the pioneer anomaly is evidence that relativity is faulty. So there could be a few who overlap all these who think pioneer anomaly disproves relativity and therefore it disproves evolution.

  11. MikeS

    I”m a conservative and conservapedia ain’t conservatism. It’s bizarre anti-thinking website that claims the mantle of conservatism. It’s a fun kicking target for a lot of conservative blogs.

  12. MikeS

    I think you also missed the point of relativity denial. The point is not just their objection to “relativism”. it’s also that they want to undermine cosmology.

  13. IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE

    The entire entry in Conservapedia for the “Rocket” article reads:

    A rocket is an object which gains thrust by expelling a hot gas out of its back. There are two major types of rockets: solid fuel and liquid fuel. Rockets have been used since ancient times and more recently were used for space travel since many rockets are able to carry their own oxygen.

    Note the first line: “A rocket is an object which gains thrust by expelling a hot gas out of its back.”

    Yeah, just like a creationist/conservapedian when talking about ‘science’. ;-)

  14. MikeS, yes there is link to relativity denial and trying to deny modern cosmology and therefore evolution most be faulty. I was just trying to tie the pioneer anomaly.

  15. hello

    lol, “The Trustworthy Encyclopedia”

    that’s just like how Fox News calls themselves “Fair and Balanced”

  16. @Ivan3man, the stupid burns.

  17. #11 MikeS, I blogged about it and have also had a couple of my more conservative friends denounce Conservapedia in no uncertain terms. Found if comforting that they were smart enough not to automatically latch on to anything that claimed to be conservative!

    I would recommend that when you link to sites like that (you know, the ones that you don’t want to imply are credible) that you use the nofollow tag so that search engines don’t take it into account when ranking sites. Of course, I didn’t link to conservapedia at all when I blogged about it and they still found my post…and promptly edited the site of course!

  18. ND

    “The architect sketch! The architect sketch!” :)

    sorry, going completely off the tangential here thanks to IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE.

  19. I think my favorite part is the insinuation that relativity cannot be correct because it hasn’t saved any lives. *headdesk*

  20. Don’t let Seth see their ID article.
    “In a broader sense, Intelligent Design is simply the science of design detection — how to recognize patterns arranged by an intelligent cause for a purpose. Design detection is used in a number of scientific fields, including anthropology, archeology, forensic sciences, cryptanalysis and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). An inference that certain cosmological and biological features of the natural world may be the product of an intelligent cause can be tested or evaluated in the same manner as scientists daily test for design in other sciences.”

  21. ND

    Interesting that they have an image of the test done using Cassini probe, but no mention of the test itself!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassini-Huygens#Tests_of_Einstein.27s_Theory_of_General_Relativity

    Vanessa,
    where does it say that? I could not get through the whole article!

  22. ad

    Conservapedia is such superbly and subtly crafted satire as to be wasted on most here. Stick to the Onion folks, it’s more your level.

  23. Tithonium

    Argh! I wish you hadn’t linked to those … ‘counterexamples’. That screaming noise is several million of my brain cells committing suicide.

  24. ND

    http://www.webandall.net/education/board-of-education-conservapedia-debunks-relativity-part-1/

    Also, in the counter-examples page:

    “28. In Genesis 1:6-8, we are told that one of God’s first creations was a firmament in the heavens. This likely refers to the creation of the luminiferous aether.”

    simply wow! Worthy of a Nobel. Fortunately there is no Nobel prize for anti-science.

  25. Jeremy

    Possibly the most horrifying thing there is to read the cited material lists. I mean, how would you debate the authenticity of a page like this, with a proponent who truly believes that these sources are somehow credible?

    It’d be like arguing about whether or not Puff the Magic Dragon is a good source for information about Dragons.

  26. Grand Lunar

    If I hadn’t seen it for myself, I’d call the site a parody.

    I noticed this howler from the second link;

    “Today we have no firm answer on whether the aether exists or not.”

    Right. And if you believe THAT, I have some land in Florida to sell!

  27. I'd rather be fishin'

    “28. In Genesis 1:6-8, we are told that one of God’s first creations was a firmament in the heavens. This likely refers to the creation of the luminiferous aether.”

    Just a minute…since when could the aether be part of the firmament if everything in the Universe must be moving THROUGH it in all sorts of directions? The properties of such a substance would be amazing, even miraculous. I think the only true firmament is between Conservapedia authors’ ears.

    I know, I agree with your comments about not being a dick, but why do some people present themselves as such easy targets?

    As for the corectness of Relativity, I wonder how many lives have been (medically) saved by such conservative theories as YEC, OEC, (and just to be balanced) Middle Age Creation?

  28. Jeffersonian

    #22

    You’re sure about that?
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservapedia
    rationalwiki.org/wiki/Conservapedia

    Try posting there and see how far you get with satire.

  29. Matt

    It’s not worth wasting any energy on Conservapedia. The entire website is troll-bait in my opinion. People write ridiculous things to get a reaction. A handful are in earnest, but most of the rest are just trolling that same handful.

  30. Old Rockin' Dave

    RE #27: The Conservapedia people don’t have a firmament. They have a fundament, and that is where you will find their heads.

  31. D^2

    The main thing that concerns me about Conservapedia is that the founder and main curator, Andy Schlafly, is very involved in the homeschooling movement, and I fear many children are being taught that his site is a trusted reference.

  32. @Jeremy
    “It’d be like arguing about whether or not Puff the Magic Dragon is a good source for information about Dragons.”

    You’re verging on heresy there. We all know that the source of all canon on dragons is HR Puffnstuf.

  33. I am still hoping that Conservapedia is a spoof website…

  34. Kevin

    http://www.conservapedia.com/Theory_of_relativity#cite_note-45

    It is well known that one should not trust an encyclopedia written by someone lacking a fundamental understanding of the purpose of footnotes.[1]

    1. A sentence that I wrote on some website, some time.

  35. Old Rockin' Dave

    Responding to myself: “The Conservapedia people don’t have a firmament. They have a fundament, and that is where you will find their heads.” I didn’t see it before – it must be why they are called “fundamentalists”.

  36. Blaidd Drwg

    Time travel? Hell, that’s easy. I accomplished it just this morning – I overslept my alarm clock, but I cannot start the day without my coffee. I put some instant coffee in the microwave, and PRESTO! I was on time for work!

  37. @ Ivan:

    Note the first line: “A rocket is an object which gains thrust by expelling a hot gas out of its back.”

    To be fair, when I was in high school my otherwise fairly rational calculus teacher tried to explain that a rocket worked because of the gas flying out the bottom and pushing against the launching pad.

    He could not answer what happened after the rocket left the pad.

  38. jcm

    With Conservapædia, it is difficult to distinguish where one thing begins and the other ends.

  39. Messier Tidy Upper

    Many of the folks here will think I’m pretty conservative & old-fashioned individual. I’d have to agree with them at least when it comes to some issues.

    But this sort of ignorant, willful stupidity and unwillingness to see reality and accept the scientific experts when they are talking about the areas of their expertise is just infuriating and gives conservatives a bad name. :-(

    “Conservapedia” is a sick joke and utter rubbish that does NOT reflect most conservative people’s opinions methinks. Please don’t judge the more old-fashioned and conservative among us by it.

  40. Cairnos

    I would like to say that I don’t think that most people here (I hope) think that Conservapedia actually represents the views held by most people who consider themselves Conservatives. That would be like saying that because there are some ‘liberals’ who are F#$%ing nutjobs that all liberals are. I think that all can recognise that the nutjobs are out there whoever they (unfortunately) decide to associate themselves with. I mean imagine if some moon hoax/homeopathy guy started a Skeptipedia page, if one doesn’t already exist.

  41. I just tried to sign up for unconsciouservapedia to ask them whether kangaroos lived in Australia before the flood too, or if they just were sent there after. But it seems they’ve restricted the “wiki” so that only administrators can make new user accounts. The real world with its liberal bias and people with different thoughts, is probably too much for them to handle.

  42. hevach

    @#33 MichaelL: It’s really hard to tell sometimes. Some time back it was a very popular target for high school/college age liberals. Maybe still is, for that matter, but it stopped being funny a long time ago (and I can still occasionally get a chuckle from good juvenile pranks). They’d make over the top spoof edits making fun of conservative/creationist talking points, but a lot of the jokes ended up being folded into the articles permanently and a great many are still there years later.

    Even when they show some trace of humanity and make fun of themselves (like the Pacific Northwestern Arboreal Octopus article a few years back), somebody takes it seriously. The arboreal octopus found it’s way into a couple young earth creationist talks and still comes up among people too crazy for Conservapedia.

    I know most conservatives aren’t this far gone, but it’s almost unfair to downplay them as just a few whackjobs. Support for young-earth creationism has been steady around 45% for decades. The increased belief in naturalistic evolution in recent years has come at the decrease in theistic evolution, not creationism – just people who already accepted scientific precepts in general disconnecting God. The combined evolution numbers still barely crack 50%, and that’s not far from where they were in 1982. There’s other kinds of crazy on conservapedia, too – tea party support nationally is around 28% according to Gallup, and higher from some polls, and birther support is still very high, if declining.

  43. Nigel Depledge

    @ Ivan3Man (13) –

    Interestingly, the Cons definition of “rocket” also encompasses all kinds of jet-powered vehicles (well, I say all kinds, I mean the usual understanding of jet propulsion and not hydrojets).

    So, even without the kindergarten-level language, it’s a useless definition.

  44. Nigel Depledge

    @ ND (18) –

    I’m sorry, did you say “knives”?

  45. Nigel Depledge

    Vanessa (19) said:

    I think my favorite part is the insinuation that relativity cannot be correct because it hasn’t saved any lives. *headdesk*

    And not only is that utterly illogical and wrongheaded, but it’s also flat-out wrong.

    How many lives have been saved by GPS navigation, I wonder?

  46. Nigel Depledge

    Ad (22) said:

    Conservapedia is such superbly and subtly crafted satire as to be wasted on most here. Stick to the Onion folks, it’s more your level.

    Don’t forget Poe’s law: unlabelled satire sending up such stupidity is indistinguishable from the real thing.

    (This is more or less my nderstanding of Poe’s law.)

  47. Nigel Depledge

    Jeremy (25) said:

    It’d be like arguing about whether or not Puff the Magic Dragon is a good source for information about Dragons.

    LOL!

  48. Nigel Depledge

    @ kuhnigget (37) –
    That’s really sad. A “calculus” teacher who is unfamiliar with Newton’s laws of motion.

  49. Nigel Depledge

    Hevach (42) said:

    Support for young-earth creationism has been steady around 45% for decades

    From what I have read, that proportion is US citizens who don’t accept evolution, so it includes OEC and other varieties, not just YECs.

  50. Brian Waddington

    Third on a match comes fr0m (or so I was told) from World War 1 where that was long enough for a sniper to line up his sites.
    Brian

  51. hevach

    @49. Nigel Depledge

    The polls I’m going from specify “within the last 10,000 years” with a 45% response. On the same page there’s a 2006 poll that doesn’t specify with a combined creationist number of 55% and a lower theistic evolution response and very similar natural evolution response. That poll doesn’t distinguish YEC and has a much narrower view of theistic evolution than the general polls at the top of the page – an OEC responding to those polls would have little choice but theistic evolution or falling into the 9% that the summary doesn’t list, whatever other options were available.

    ref: http://www.religioustolerance.org/ev_publi.htm

  52. Josh

    I think the best part of that page is the bottom where it links to more pages of Counterexamples for various subjects, one of which is The Bible, which caught me off-guard. So I clicked it, and the first line of the article is “There are no Counterexamples to the Bible. This is in contrast with: [list of the other Counterexample pages from the previous list]”

    Too funny.

  53. From the About us page:

    Conservapedia is a clean and concise resource for those seeking the truth. We do not allow liberal bias to deceive and distort here. Founded initially in November 2006 as a way to educate advanced, college-bound homeschoolers, this resource has grown into a marvelous source of information for students, adults and teachers alike.

    I feel like it has to be some kind of satire. It couldn’t possibly be real. Its just a really big joke…
    The worst part is that I can’t think of any way to get rid of the damn thing. I mean its not a money maker, so we can’t surreptitiously buy it and dismantle it. Even if we did, it would probably be rebuilt. Its not illegal in any way that I can think of, unless we make stupid illegal. And the more of a fuss we make the more likely it will become the next meme.

    Sigh.

  54. People, it is not satire. It is real. And it is relatively tame compared to some other religious fundamentalists in the States.

  55. hdhondt

    Did anyone read reference 1 in the Counterexamples? It says:

    ” See, e.g., historian Paul Johnson’s book about the 20th century, and the article written by liberal law professor Laurence Tribe as allegedly assisted by Barack Obama. Virtually no one who is taught and believes Relativity continues to read the Bible, a book that outsells New York Times bestsellers by a hundred-fold.”

    That’s the real reason why relativity is wrong: once you believe that, you won’t read the bible anymore. And of course Obama is to blame for that, too. Of course, the fact that it outsells the NYT proves its accuracy.

    I wonder if those guys trust their GPS, or do they use a special christian version that does not rely on relativistic time corrections?

  56. Timmy

    Remember when a “conservative” was just someone who wanted to preserve the status quo, and a “liberal” was someone who wanted to reform certain policies in an attempt to improve our society? I miss those guys. Now everyone is a right-wing fanatical nutjob or a leftwing hippy tree-hugger.

    I think I’m a contrarian, I don’t want to be considered part of any group.

  57. Daniel

    oh my word – they’re not sure whether kangaroos walked to australia when the sea level was lower during the last iceage, or whether they moved there before the supercontinent pangaea broke apart.

    so..really…either we’ve had an iceage that nobody noticed that dried up the !@%#ing oceans so much you could walk the f- across the seabed to australia or the continents have been fair whizzing about since the flud which apparently happened about 2000bc when all land on earth was still bunched up together yet nobody noticed that either.

    oh good grief, the stupid, it just went nova.

  58. IIRC – and my brain couldn’t stand going through that garbage again to find it – they claim somewhere in that “article” that “the only device based on relativity is the atomic bomb”. So even disregarding the inherent stupidity of that statement ( haven’t they heard of nuclear power? ), they are claiming that relativity is completely wrong, and then acknowledging that at least one device is “based on it”… HUH????!!!!

    #19 Vanessa:
    “…the insinuation that relativity cannot be correct because it hasn’t saved any lives.”

    Well, if you accept their own statement that the atomic bomb is “based on relativity”, then it could be argued that the use of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs actually saved a million or more lives – all those which would have been lost, both American and Japanese, in the further year or more of war which would have followed, had the bombs not been used.

  59. SLC

    I will pose the same question here that I posed over at Ed Braytons’ blog which had a thread on this subject. If relativity is a wrong theory, how does one explain the fact that quantum electrodynamics produces computations that agree with the observed value of the anomalous magnetic moment of the electron to 10 significant digits. Pretty good for a wrong theory. As Richard Feynman put it, it’s like measuring the distance between the Empire State Building in New York City and City Hall in downtown Los Angeles to the nearest inch!

    http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2010/08/theory_of_relativity_liberal_p.php

  60. That entire site was just whoa… I got a good laugh from a lot of it. :)

    Sad thing though is how it is taken as fact by so many people for no other reason than how it is labeled.

  61. IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE

    @ Timmy (#56),

    Here in the U.K., we still have (thankfully) those ‘traditional’ conservatives and liberals; they have formed the current Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government. Can you imagine that ever happening in the U.S.?

  62. OtherRob

    I don’t know enough about the math to debunk that page, but I did notice that one of their “arguments” against special relativity is that no one has found a graviton. Even I know that just because someone hasn’t found something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Sheesh.

  63. Simeon

    By far the funniest bit is the ‘talk page’ on the counterexample page!

    Some people are genuinely trying to add at least some fact and ‘Andy Schaflur’ (can’t remember the spelling but he is the owning) sits and refutes it with garbage. Then, when someone clearly knows more, he tells them that there time would be better spent translating the bible!

  64. On one hand, I feel compelled to debunk their “counterexamples” but on the other hand, I know they aren’t worth my time. Still, this one has me shaking my head:

    The action-at-a-distance by Jesus, described in John 4:46-54.

    Now, I’m not Christian but I’m guessing the people who wrote this are. And, as Christians, they probably accept the whole “Jesus is the son of God” thing. Now, if you were the son of a god, don’t you think you’d have some abilities that wouldn’t be explainable by current scientific theories? That seems to be their whole point behind Creationism (oops, I mean Intelligent Design): “This couldn’t have happened naturally, therefore God did it.” Or is God (and his son) subject to the conditions that govern the Universe and thus any actions they take in the Bible that run counter to current scientific theory means that the scientific theory is wrong? They can’t have it both ways. (And that’s the last I’m thinking about that. Any more and I risk a massive headache as my brain tries to process the conflicting views that they seemingly accept as givens.)

  65. Nemesis

    @62

    If they could only apply that kind of close-mindedness to every issue of faith.

  66. @OtherRob,

    It’s been years since I studied Relativity, but I did notice at least one of their “counter-examples” was based on over-simplification.

    The Twin Paradox: Consider twins who are separated with one traveling at a very high speed such that his “clock” (age) slows down, so that when he returns he has a younger age than the twin; this violates Relativity because both twins should expect the other to be younger, if motion is relative. Einstein himself admitted that this contradicts Relativity.[13]

    The simplification is that they ignore accelleration/decelleration. When the space travelling twin slows down and then speeds up for his round trip, it will cause effects that resolve this “paradox.” (More info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twin_paradox )

  67. thetentman

    Do they believe in Santa Claus too?

  68. The Turtle Shed

    Sorry – I still don’t get it. What would be the point of “disproving” relativity from a religious perspective? If Relativity is wrong then so is all of science? That’s like saying if we can prove that 0.999… = 1 then “numbers” are wrong.

    Oh, hang on a minute…

  69. ND

    Aren’t holy books from other religions counter examples to the Bible?

  70. The page is best read with the retorts to hand, on the RationalWiki page on the subject:

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Conservapedia:Conservapedian_relativity

    To give you a small dose of the unremitting horror: Andrew Schlafly has a degree in electrical engineering and worked as an engineer for several years before going to law school. He will have had to learn this stuff and has sufficient mathematics to understand it.

  71. John F

    “To be fair, when I was in high school my otherwise fairly rational calculus teacher tried to explain that a rocket worked because of the gas flying out the bottom and pushing against the launching pad.”

    To be fair, the NYT once attacked Goddard’s statement that rockets could operate in a vacuum, by stating that to every action there may well be an equal and opposite reaction, but you still need something to react AGAINST…

    I think it’s very easy to confuse how rocket works with how bullet in gun barrel accelerates

    What your calculus teacher thought is something that just seems intuitively obvious to most people- unfortunately it also happens to be wrong

  72. John F

    “Aren’t holy books from other religions counter examples to the Bible?”

    The most surprising thing, to me, regardng that Conservapedia entry on Kangaroos is they actually give a nod to Aborigine beliefs…

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the administrators of that site remove it when its brought to their attention.

  73. Jason

    @techyDad
    I am a Christian, and in fact would probably be labeled a “fundamentalist” but quite a few people. However even I cringe at that particular example of “At a distance.” The creator of the universe is not constrained by physical law when performing a miracle. In fact, one of the very core tests for a miracle is that it occurs contrary to physical laws or principles. Are they arguing that the ability to do things at a distance is evidence for the failure of relativity, or that the events occurred instantly violating speed-of-light? Which, given the distances involved, would be difficult to measure NOW, much less 2000 years ago. But in either case, Jesus was not bound to follow physical law in the performance of miracles so this particular proof falls apart whether you believe Christianity or not.

    As far as Conservapedia, This seems to fall in line with things i have seen in and on “scientific” sites and shows aimed a Christian audiences. much of it admittedly is pure garbage. A result of people who, however sincere, put God in a box and limit him to match their particular interpretation of scripture and in the process throw out well established science. When I see conflict between science and what I see as the truth in my faith I take the position that science is giving the best explanation they can at the moment. I could go into a long treatise here, but there isn’t room to try and detail it out.

  74. Minos

    How can he say “for the last 4 billion years, outer space has been pretty benign” (paraphrasing) in the same episode that he has you on? Unless he draws the line for “benign” somewhere between “killing most life on Earth” and “utterly destroying the planet”.

  75. RobT

    I think my favourite thing about that article on conservapedia is the link to Arthur Eddington. While Wikipedia has a large article about him, including references and external links, the conservapedia entry only mentions him to try to discredit him, and by association, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

    As many of my teachers loved to say “Check your references!” And that was back before the internet gave everybody a pulpit to expound their opinions; we had to go to the library to research. Now kids look it up on the internet in 5 minutes, get half of it wrong, and hardly learn anything.

  76. @IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE (#61)

    UK liberals are what I consider moderate conservatives whereas conservatives are mostly just off of the scale.

    anyways, out of all those so-called “proofs” that SR & GR are wrong my favorite is #31 (the barn and ladder paradox) because it (mainly the last two sentences) nicely demonstrates that they don’t understand the very basics of the theory!

  77. Ed

    @kuhnigget #37

    Sounds like my high school calculus teacher who thought gravity was caused by the rotation of the planet. I had a huge argument with him about that during class. Later, my physics teacher refused to believe me that he tried to tell the class that.

    The most frightening part: My calculus teacher used to be a physics teacher at one point.

  78. Pat Z.

    Wow, look up the ATHEIST entry … first paragraph !

    “Unlike Christianity, which is supported by a large body of sound evidence (see: Christian apologetics), atheism has no proof and evidence supporting its ideology. ”

    LARGE BODY OF SOUND EVIDENCE ??????????? ah ?

    Too bad they don’t have an entry about pot-of-gold-at-the-end-of-rainbows, I think I’ve seen large body of sound evidence of cereal boxes about that gold. must be true.

  79. John F

    It’s like that joke that every now and then a teacher learns that some of his students thought carpe diem meant “cease the day” rather than “seize the day”…

  80. Jason

    @78 JohnF :

    There are days I like that interpretation better!

  81. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ JohnF & Jason :

    There are certainly *some* days I wish would cease! ;-)

    Then, ideally, if I could have them back again sometime later when I’m in a better mood & got out on the right side of the bed for that day ..

  82. SLC

    Re Other Rob @ #62

    Gravitons are a quantum mechanical construction and have nothing to do with relativity.

  83. When I first hit Conservapedia’s page a week ago, the page DENIED that relativity played any role in GPS. The exact quote at the time was

    “…the effects of relativity, where they are different from the effects predicted by classical mechanics and electromagnetic theory, are too small to matter – less than one centimeter, for users on or near the earth.”

    Their citation was vague (surprise) bit I managed to track down the quote after a couple of google searches. It came from“GPS AND RELATIVITY: AN ENGINEERING OVERVIEW” by .Henry F. Fliegel and Raymond S. DiEsposti.” Of course, they didn’t give you the full quote. The full quote is,

    “The Operational Control System (OCS) of the Global Positioning System (GPS) does not
    include the rigorous transformations between coordinate systems that Einstein’s general theory
    of relativity would seem to require – transformations to and from the individual space vehicles
    (SVs), the Monitor Stations (MSs), and the users on the surface of the rotating earth, and the
    geocentric Earth Centered Inertial System (ECI) in which the SV orbits are calculated. There
    is a very good reason for the omission: the effects of relativity, where they are different from
    the effects predicted by classical mechanics and electromagnetic theory, are too small to matter
    – less than one centimeter, for users on or near the earth.”

    The VERY NEXT PARAGRAPH of the paper states,

    “If two observers determine what intuitively we call the same quantity – the distance between two points, or the time interval between two events – they will measure different lengths and times, if (1) they are moving with respect to each other, (2) one is higher or lower than another in a gravitational field, or (3) one is accelerating with respect to the other. Users of GPS encounter all three effects, and should correct their measurements accordingly, by formulas which we now explain.”

    So there is ONE MINOR relativistic effect that modern GPS systems do not take into account because it is very small (which is not uncommon for engineers to determine some effects are too small to include…he should think about that next time he is on a plane, but I digress) but there are several large effects which must be taken into account.

    I blogged this last week and later in the day, that reference was totally gone from the counterexample page. Now it appears to be back in altered form. A never ending tide of stupid.

  84. John F

    “Gravitons are a quantum mechanical construction and have nothing to do with relativity.”

    but, I read from a VERY RELIABLE source that the failure to find Gravitons disproves relativity

    Seriously, Conservapedia is run by and the result of the vision of one man, man who is quite likely the dumbest person ever admitted to Harvard Law, what you see on the site is his vision, his view of the world.

    What does he and his fellow travelers have against relativity? the NAME, that’s right, relativity/moral relativism, it’s all connected in their minds- they don’t understand relativity (who does) :-), and they’d have no problems with it if it had different name

  85. Richard Wolford

    Now now now, don’t make fun of them, that would be being a ‘dick’. Instead we need a nice, honest, and open dialog, because that has worked in the past and will surely work now *rolls eyes*

  86. Darth Wader

    So the main point of Conservapedia seems to be “Morals are absolute, reality is subjective.”

    Does anyone expect Conservapedia to end up being a elaborate Poe hoax? I really cannot understand how it could be anything other than that.

  87. ND

    “It is important to note here that Andrew Schlafly, founder of Conservapedia and author of most of these articles, has a degree in electrical engineering and worked as an engineer for several years before becoming a lawyer. ”

    What is it with electrical engineers?!!!

    With apologies to EEs who have a sound head on their shoulders.

  88. Jason

    @86 Darth Wader.

    Of course there are those of us who believe Reality AND morality are objective and that there are Absolutes of right and wrong as well as absolutes of reality.

  89. There’s nothing conservative about Conservapedia, since they are far less interested in conserving anything than in turning the world upside down and inside out. In the public interest it should be be renamed, and my candidates are: Radicalapedia, WooWoopedia, ExtremeNationalistapedia, or the geographically apt Troll Town, USA.

    ND — Agreed in triplicate! Seems like at least half the cult creators described so humorously by the late Martin Gardner in his “Fads and Fallacies In The Name Of Science” were electrical engineers.

  90. Michael Cook

    “32. Spin is an effect introduced by relativity into quantum mechanics. Spin stands for a rotation of electrons, but that rotation makes the surface of the electron move faster than the speed of light, which is prohibited by relativity itself.”

    This makes me want to throw my Physics degree at my computer.

  91. John F

    “What is it with electrical engineers?!!!”
    “Seems like at least half the cult creators described so humorously by the late Martin Gardner in his “Fads and Fallacies In The Name Of Science” were electrical engineers.”

    With respect to Andrew Schlafly it’s pretty clear that his beliefs stem from his upbringing…
    with respect to E.E.s in general? A friend of mine- whose father was a plumber- used to claim than every electrician and rock guitarist over 30 was bit fried because, well, the odds were that at some point in time they got a jolt bad enough to scramble some synapses permanently…

    Seriously I have no idea, but I once read an interview with a prominent Paleontologist discussing “scientists” who did not believe in evolution, and he said there were no legitimate published (per reviewed) scientists who believed in a 5000 year old earth, etc., the writers asked what about so and so, his biography lists publications in legitimate publications, the paleontologist said, “Stress fractures and material fabrication processes, he’s a mechanical engineer who writes about stress fractures in various airplane surfaces, he’s as well qualified to criticize modern biology as I am to criticize material fabrication processes.

  92. @ John F:

    To be fair, the NYT once attacked Goddard’s statement that rockets could operate in a vacuum, by stating that to every action there may well be an equal and opposite reaction, but you still need something to react AGAINST…

    Yeah, but at least the NYT finally apologized!!!!

    Myself and one other classmate argued the issue, and ended up getting docked a few points for getting the answer “wrong”! My life went down hill from there!!!

  93. John F — Being the son of Phyllis Schlafly certainly explains Andrew’s interest in stress.

    Looking around the site, I particularly enjoyed Schafley’s question, “Why the big push for black holes by liberals, and big protests against any objection to them?”

    Indeed, the almost daily big protests in my neighborhood wreak havoc on the traffic flow. One can barely cross the street due to the bumper to bumper traffic jams. Obviously, instituting a public education system was a tragic mistake.

  94. ND

    My outbursts on EEs is half humor and based on anecdotal evidence. I hope most readers here pick up on that.

    Michael Cook,

    surface of an electron?!?! good [someone’s fictitious] lord!

  95. Bill

    #56…. yes……

    I am a card carrying Liberal, full-on Atheist that has several guns. To, me the whole political party thing comes down to whether or not you have the smallest vestige of a conscience. How can you deny anybody the most fundamental of sustenance?

    Today’s Republican is simply a greedy scumbag, IMHO.

  96. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    @ #55 hdhondt:

    That’s the real reason why relativity is wrong: once you believe that, you won’t read the bible anymore.

    Nice catch!

    But I believe it is a confluence of reasons, and Phil only focused on one of them. They also argue that there is a problem (by way of a Nobel prize lecture noting that this happens) that people mistake relativity for relativism. Their solution seems to be to support the mistake and then declare relativity bad!

    Also, the creationism problem that if relativity is correct, either the fundie gods are liars (last thursday-ism) or they have a problem making their “world” YEC.

    @ #66 TechyDad:

    they ignore accelleration/decelleration

    They also ignore the fact that Einstein labeled it paradox precisely because ignoring this would lead to the conflict. It is the acceptance of relativity’s predictions that is needed!

    This, btw, is a very common mistake among relativity crackpots. And isn’t it funny in this context how “Galileo was claimed to be wrong, but was correct” goes to “Einstein was claimed to be wrong, so was wrong”.

  97. MarcusBailius

    Mmm. Just a thought, but could we start calling those who follow that site, “conservapaediaphiles”? Maybe that will sort them out… If I were a parent, I might want to know if there was a conservapaediaphile living anywhere near my children’s school, spreading ignorance, fear, prejudice and superstition…

    And then, as a physicist, I have to say it’s so obviously nutty that we really have to bring the full weight of such weapons as “sarcasm” to bear. Don’t engage with Schlafly and his ilk, it simply won’t work. Just use humour. One horse laugh, etc. Waiter, there’s Schafly in my soup… Must be a joke in there somewhere?!

    …People are actually thinking in too complicated a way regarding uses of relativity. Magnetism itself, is a relativistic effect. Which means that even the dynamo powering the lights on some bicycles (and of course every large generator!) uses relativity – and the lights on bicycles save lives every day.

  98. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    @ #87 ND:

    What is it with electrical engineers?!!!

    “Engineers think that equations approximate the real world.
    Scientists think that the real world approximates equations.”

    (And: “Mathematicians are unable to make the connection.”)

    HT TheBlackCat.

    In general engineers are very adept in modeling the world, and get stuff to work within these models. Particularly in electric engineering/computer engineering, where both hardware and software can build massive and complex functionality.

    Engineers may however not be so adept in telling when these contingent models aren’t general theories. A good model (Newton gravity for low energies) can be a bad theory (Newton gravity for higher energies).

    [Or rather it isn’t germane to engineering. What matters there is that heuristic methods works on systems that are close enough to those known already. (Actually that is much the same in mathematics.) Science is generally what you want to use to learn new stuff.]

  99. #64 TechyDad:
    I LMAO at the “action at a distance by Jesus” argument. This shows that these idiots don’t even understand their own beliefs!
    Those who believe in God/Jesus ( I certainly don’t ), believe that he is “supernatural”, i.e he somehow exists independently of the physical universe, and is not constrained by the laws of physics. So claiming that a supposed “miracle” – which means, by definition, a violation of the laws of physics – performed by Jesus disproves a particular law of physics, is a non-argument, even within the context of their own belief system!

  100. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    @ #58 Neil Haggath:

    Well, if you accept their own statement that the atomic bomb is “based on relativity”, then it could be argued that the use of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs actually saved a million or more lives

    It can be argued, but it is a bad argument since the question remains unresolved.

    “The role of the bombings in Japan’s surrender and the U.S.’s ethical justification for them has been the subject of scholarly and popular debate for decades. J. Samuel Walker wrote in an April 2005 overview of recent historiography on the issue, “the controversy over the use of the bomb seems certain to continue.” Walker noted that “The fundamental issue that has divided scholars over a period of nearly four decades is whether the use of the bomb was necessary to achieve victory in the war in the Pacific on terms satisfactory to the United States.”[11]”

  101. Daffy

    I am sick to death of conservatives saying things like, “Oh, well THAT site doesn’t represent mainstream conservative thinking.” Yeah? Well then get out and start denouncing these idiots!

  102. Torbjörn Larsson, OM — Your comment about how “people mistake relativity for relativism” reminds me of how not so long ago “moral relativism” was a favorite and frequently used bugbear by the Christian Right to criticize not only the “godless secular world” but also other Protestant denominations. I haven’t seen it used so much lately, possibly due to all the scandals that have come to light over the years, or maybe because the megachurches consider the concept too complicated or harsh for their congregations.The fundamentalist sects have become a bit watered down since the heyday of Falwell and the PTL Club, which is a real downer for those of us who do so enjoy the show. Can’t help but notice though that the present Pope likes to deal the “moral relativism” card quite frequently himself.

  103. @ Daffy:

    I am sick to death of conservatives saying things like, “Oh, well THAT site doesn’t represent mainstream conservative thinking.” Yeah? Well then get out and start denouncing these idiots!

    They don’t have time. They’re too busy demanding Muslims get out there and start denouncing violent jihadists.

  104. JurijD

    29 counterexamples you say?

    well let’s have a look

    #1 The Pioneer anomaly.
    #2 Anomalies in the locations of spacecraft that have flown by Earth (“flybys”).[2]
    #3 Increasingly precise measurements of the advance of the perihelion of Mercury show a shift greater than predicted by Relativity, well beyond the margin of error.[3]
    #4 The discontinuity in momentum as velocity approaches “c” for infinitesimal mass, compared to the momentum of light.
    #5 The logical problem of a force which is applied at a right angle to the velocity of a relativistic mass – does this act on the rest mass or the relativistic mass?
    #6 The observed lack of curvature in overall space.[4]
    #7 The universe shortly after its creation, when quantum effects dominated and contradicted Relativity.
    #8 The action-at-a-distance of quantum entanglement.[5]
    #9 The action-at-a-distance by Jesus, described in John 4:46-54.

    #9 stopped me in my tracks, I had to close firefox and reboot my computer to PURGE the stupid bits off my RAM

  105. amphiox

    Conservapedia is such superbly and subtly crafted satire as to be wasted on most here.

    If the satire is so subtle that the majority of those reading it think it is real, then it is badly crafted satire.

  106. Daffy

    @Kuhnigget: “They don’t have time. They’re too busy demanding Muslims get out there and start denouncing violent jihadists.”

    LOL! Well, there is that.

  107. kuhnigget — LOL or in the case of my own eponymous neighborhood, they’re too busy raising holy hell over an Islamic community center replacing an abandoned and rotting former coat wholesale operation, when they should be helping to improve their own neighborhoods that are reeling from the dastardly effects of years of conservative free-market economic policies. As Margaret Hamilton so succinctly put it, “What a world, what a world.”

  108. By the by, since this post is about Conservapedia, shouldn’t the heading be “Don’t Be A Dick Part 4″?

  109. Jason A.

    Conservapedia — a frothingly antiscience and antireality website — and how it has a grotesquely wrong entry

    Golly, how dick-ish! You’ll never win them over like that!

  110. OtherRob

    @SLC, #82

    Re Other Rob @ #62

    Gravitons are a quantum mechanical construction and have nothing to do with relativity.

    Uh oh, my liberal arts education is showing. ;-)

    I didn’t really know that. I was just pointing out that Conservapedia was apparently arguing that an absence of evidence was indeed evidence of absence. Which is, of course, nonsense.

    Oh no, *liberal* arts! According to them, I must be going to the hot place…

  111. Roberto

    Has anyone checked the article on “Liberals”? Surely this must have been written by some very sick and hard-hitting stand-up comic!
    I am not convinced that this wiki is a spoof, but I sure hope it is!

  112. Nigel Depledge

    @ hevach (51) –

    OK, looks like the figures I have seen are different from the figures you are quoting here.

    Of course, all of these polls are deliberately skewed by the phrasing of the questions, and none of them offers the full range of genuine beliefs from which to pick. So the absolute figures must be taken with a pinch of salt, even if they give a general idea of what people think.

  113. jfb

    ad @22 and others:

    There is no doubt in my mind that many of the articles at Conservpædia are spoofs; I think there’s an unofficial competition to see who can write the most ridiculous article that will be accepted.

    However, the founders and principals of the site (notably Andy Schlafley) are deadly serious. They’re so focused on combatting “liberalism” (here defined as anything Andy Schlafley doesn’t like) that they’ll swallow just about anything that reinforces their worldview, no matter how ridiculous it sounds to anyone who’s sane.

  114. Jason

    @daffy (101)
    I think I have done that if you will look at my posts. I have not read the full width and breadth of conservapedia, in fact that is the first time I have come across it that I remember and the stupid is incredible at times. .. On the other hand, People not only have a right to believe what they want, they have a right to spout whatever stupidity they want as well.

  115. Daffy

    Yep, Jason, they do have that right. And the rest of us have the obligation to point out the stupid…politely as possible, but still point it out.

  116. Steve

    @Daffy

    I am sick to death of conservatives saying things like, “Oh, well THAT site doesn’t represent mainstream conservative thinking.” Yeah? Well then get out and start denouncing these idiots!

    Yeah! They should go onto popular blogs and denounce those sites rather than hanging out here on a popular blog and publicly saying those sites are wrong.

    Wait, what? I think you’re criticizing someone for doing the very thing you want them to do?

  117. Daffy

    Steve,

    When there is a groundswell of conservative protests against the liars like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, I will be impressed.

  118. J

    OtherRob Says:
    Even I know that just because someone hasn’t found something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Sheesh.

    So Bigfoot could be real!

  119. Nigel Depledge

    Ivan3man (61) said:

    Here in the U.K., we still have (thankfully) those ‘traditional’ conservatives and liberals; they have formed the current Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government. Can you imagine that ever happening in the U.S.?

    Yeah, but several satirists have already pointed out that it’s a bit of an oxymoron.

  120. Nigel Depledge

    Jason (73) said:

    When I see conflict between science and what I see as the truth in my faith I take the position that science is giving the best explanation they can at the moment. I could go into a long treatise here, but there isn’t room to try and detail it out.

    This is actually quite a simple question.

    How do you define “truth”?

    In science, something is understood to be true based on the coming-together of evidence and reasoned theory (i.e. if the theory is logically sound and is supported by a large body of data, and contradicted by either no or very little data, it is accepted as being true).

    New evidence often leads to modification of a theory and occasionally requires that a previous theory be overturned in favour of a new one. But this latter case only happens when a new theory is shown (by evidence) to be better than the previous one. The motto of the Royal Society is “take nobody’s word for it”. IOW, accept as true only that which can be so demonstrated.

    What is the “truth” in your faith? Is it something you can share with someone through reasoned argument? Is it based on a feeling of rightness? Is it based on the teaching of someone you respect and trust? Is it distinguishable from an hallucination?

  121. Nigel Depledge

    ND (87) said:

    What is it with electrical engineers?!!!

    It’s the solder fumes.

  122. Shadowen

    A late comment, but meh.

    I think the main reason they oppose it is because it locks the speed of light as a universal constant, and if the speed of light is constant it’s one way of proving the age of the universe. The “God could have created the universe with light already on its way 6000 years ago” argument is easily countered with “and He could have easily done it last Tuesday, or before you started reading this sentence”.

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