Conservapedia to Wikipedia, a natural progession
This is something I wrote for the front page. Comments welcome.
I am one who believes that the growth of Conservapedia will have a wonderful and mystical effect, on both the readers, but more especially the writers of its "evolving" content.
I do not think that any commentary written on Conservapedia so far, in all that analysis - supportive or derogatory - has dealt with what might yet ensue from this holy quest. And it is something I see occurring in the articles as they are being emended at this very time. Emended, I might add, not by saboteurs and vandals, but by the knights of Conservapedia themselves.
Can you think of what this wonderful process might be? Well, here is a clue. Read the Einstein article as it first appeared. Embarrassing drivel, isn't it? Read it now. A lot more coherent, accurate, presentable. So in this way, by writing on subjects, whether theologically conservative or not, and then putting the content of those articles up for analysis, commentary and even dispute, and emending the following, and then adding new and fresh material, and so forth in a dialectical fashion, well, now do you see what you have done, and what will inevitably ensue?
Contrary to the opinions of some, there are many strains of conservatism, and it might surprise Young Earth Creationists that not only are they not alone in this field, but that they are not even in the forefront. Their truths are handed down on sacred parchments, and admit of no revision. They ask for complete and utter - essentially unquestioning - faith. And this process, one in which a novice is indoctrinated with the “full gospel”, complete with everything they need to know, and with strong proscriptions against going further or emending what has gone before, is, as anyone can see, the VERY antithesis of what is being built by the wiki process.
Don't you see, brothers and sisters? It is not Wikipedia, as such, which promotes liberalism and agnosticism of every kind. It is the wiki process itself! As Marshall McLuhan said, The Medium is the Message. It is not the CONTENT of Wikipedia that is iconoclastic and rebellious, it is the VERY NATURE of the compilation of that content – and that process, the wiki structure and protocol - this is the very thing that we ourselves have adopted so enthusiastically here. And what is that wiki process but the concept of a debating forum, a learning exchange, a conversation, a dialogue, a democracy - essentially the very things that are the foundations of the United States Constitution.
Now, the wiki concept is a development of all that, much more sophisticated and advanced than any of its predecessors could have imagined. Ivan Illych, in the 1970s, could hardly have foreseen how far the concepts of learning exchanges could have come. He was thought an impractical dreamer when he was talking about communal noticeboards and town hall meetings! Now it is upon us with everything that microchips and the speed of light can give us, and far more. And it is a process that has an unstoppable momentum.
So, if Wikipedia is a natural technological progression of what are fundamental American values of plurality, liberalism, democracy, freethinking etc what then does that say about the future of Conservapedia, a project founded on the errant notion that Wikipedia’s deviations are the result of its content rather than the natural outcome of its structure? Well, it means, in brief, that in attempting to outdo Wikipedia, you WILL BECOME WIKIPEDIA!!
It is happening already. It does not require spies and interlopers. It is a perfectly logical progression. As you debate ideas, you will find it necessary to include those ideas, even if only for to rebut them. But in their inclusion will come also the bane of all that is orthodox, the serpent of comparison, of deviation. Once a heresy has been listed, and properly defined, and accurately described, why, who can say that some child may not read it and be swayed by its argument, even if covered in odium by the presenting writer? And looking at lists of different types of creationists, Young Earths, Old Earthers, Geostationers, Flatearthers, and many others, and reading of the hundreds of creation myths of various indigenous cultures, may not a perceptive child ask himself, “Well, what a lot of dispute there is out there over such issues, I did not know there was so much going on! I suppose that what Sunday School told me is the RIGHT and the ONLY Truth, like Miss Crabapple says, of course, but then, I suppose all those OTHER folk, well they went to their own Sunday School or whatever they have in its place, and they get told DIFFERENT stuff, which they sincerely believe, and I figure THEY must thing WE are the ones who have got it all skew-whiff and backwards…” and so forth. And what is that but the precursor of deism and even agnosticism, and the apology for heterodoxy and ecumenism, and plurality of every kind?
Now, how can that be avoided? Well, the nature of encyclopaedias is to be “complete”. And by its nature that makes them rather a different kettle of fish to a book of dogmatics, a catechism, a holy text “handed down”. And when you combine the innate tendency of encyclopaedias to feed the syncretic tendency over the particular one, with the naturally anarchic and polymorphic nature of the internet itself, I simply cannot see how Conservapedia can be constrained by the avowal of its simple and pure intentions. No, keeping Conservapedia pure will be like trying to herd cats - everyone has tried it, but in the history of Man, not one person has yet succeeded.
But here is the nub of my thesis. There is nothing to fear in this progression. It has been a God-given chance to advance in knowledge and philosophy. Look at the first draft of the Einstein article again. It ridicules the theory of relativity, without even understanding it. Basically, it calls Einstein a fraud and a charlatan; it all but calls him a duplicitous Jew. And look at it now. A lot more like Wikipedia, isn’t it? Perhaps even better, in some respects. Now look at the absolute nonsense on the China entry. Is this an example of the “educational, clean and concise entries” Conservapedia purports to support. Watch thoughtful, interested and knowledgeable writers transform this shameful drek into a decent article on this ancient and fascinating place. And then, we well have occasion to note, isn’t this a lot like what we had in that dreadful biased Satanic Bible “Wikipedia”? And so it will go, article by article, theme by theme, as the currents of thought, dialectical and polymorphous, turn the dogmatic into something that is more tentative and discursive, but at the same time, much richer and more interesting.
So that is the Holy Quest that God has bequeathed you. That you shall remove the braces from your brain, by the practice of writing and thinking of all that is on God’s Earth, and that, through this, you will become educated people, and not remain hicks visiting the city. That in the process of expanding your intellect, you shall become your enemy. You shall become better liberals than the liberals themselves. For you shall be holy liberals.
There is a story of a prince whose betrothed died before they could be married. After a long year of mourning, he vowed that he would build her the finest mausoleum in the world. And the grand project began. And so it grew - the columns multiplied, the ornate statues of jade, the friezes of alabaster, the hanging gardens, the avenues of fine marble, the bowers of birds. Every year, new plazas and wings were added, new windows of crystal, new treasures from every corner of the world. Then one day, as the prince - now an old man - surveyed the peerless creation he had spent 50 years in creating, he was a little disturbed. Everything was NEARLY perfect, but there was just one tiny detail which marred the whole effect. Then he saw it. “Have that removed!”, he ordered. And the workmen came and took the sarcophagus of the princess away.
And so it will, I believe, be with Conservapedia. In writing it you will find your liberation from the narrow view of what it is to be conservative, you will free you mental feet from their bindings. You will write a book to break the neck of your enemy, and when you finish the last page, you will turn to the front leaf, and dedicate it to him. Myles Paulsen email@example.com March 26, 2007 (my name here myles325a)
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