Type of site
|Available in||English, Russian|
|Created by||Volunteer contributors|
|Alexa rank||22,404; 6,622: United States (March 2017[update])|
|Launched||May 22, 2007|
|Written in||MediaWiki software|
RationalWiki (RW) is a wiki whose stated aims are to critique and challenge pseudoscience and the anti-science movement, explore authoritarianism and fundamentalism, and analyze how these subjects are handled in the media. RationalWiki was created in 2007 as a counter to Conservapedia after an incident in which contributors attempting to edit Conservapedia were banned. Unlike Wikipedia's neutral and encyclopedical articles, RationalWiki's articles are written from a skeptical, secular, and progressivist point of view and are often sarcastic or humorous.
In April 2007, Peter Lipson, a doctor of internal medicine, attempted to edit Conservapedia's article on breast cancer to include evidence against Conservapedia's claim that abortion was linked to the disease. Conservapedia is an encyclopedia started by Andy Schlafly as an alternative to Wikipedia, which he perceived as suffering from liberal and atheist bias. Conservapedia "administrators, including Schlafly, questioned his [Lipson's] credentials and shut down debate. After administrators blocked their accounts, Lipson and several other contributors quit trying to moderate the articles [on Conservapedia] and instead started their own website, RationalWiki."
In 2010, Trent Toulouse incorporated a nonprofit organization, the RationalWiki Foundation Inc., to manage the affairs and pay the operational expenses of the website. In July 2013, the RationalWiki Foundation changed its name to the RationalMedia Foundation, stating that its aims extended beyond the RationalWiki site alone.
Mission and content
- Analyzing and refuting pseudoscience and the anti-science movement
- Documenting the full range of crank ideas
- Explorations of authoritarianism and fundamentalism
- Analysis and criticism of how these subjects are handled in the media
RationalWiki differs in several ways from the philosophy of Wikipedia and some other informational wikis. It has a "snarky point of view" (SPOV) policy, as opposed to Wikipedia's neutral point of view policy. Following this mission, many RationalWiki articles mockingly describe beliefs that RationalWiki opposes, especially when covering topics like alternative medicine, or fundamentalist Christian leaders.
A significant fraction of activity on RationalWiki was critiquing and "monitor[ing] Conservapedia". RationalWiki contributors, many of whom are former Conservapedia contributors, are often highly critical of Conservapedia. Lester Haines of The Register stated, "Its entry entitled 'Conservapedia:Delusions' promptly mocks the claims that 'Homosexuality is a mental disorder', 'Atheists are sociopaths', and 'During the 6 days of creation G-d placed the Earth inside a black hole to slow down time so the light from distant stars had time to reach us'." According to an article published in the Los Angeles Times in 2007, RationalWiki members "by their own admission" vandalize Conservapedia.
Andrea Ballatore of University of California, Santa Barbara described RationalWiki as a "debunking" website, finding it to be the most visible "debunking" website of conspiracy theories in terms of Google and Bing search results, slightly more visible than rense.com and less visible than YouTube or Wikipedia.
In Intelligent Systems'2014, published by the IEEE, Alexander Shvets stated: "There are few online resources and periodical articles that provide some information about pseudoscientific theories. Such information helps non-experts to acquire the necessary knowledge to avoid being deceived. One of the online resources that can be distinguished is international resource "RationalWiki" that was created to organize and categorize knowledge about pseudoscientific theories, personalities, and organizations."
In Crowdsourced Knowledge: Peril and Promise for Complex Knowledge Systems, Mary Keeler et al. stated: "As W. Lippmann warned in 1955, 'When distant and unfamiliar and complex things are communicated to great masses of people, the truth suffers a considerable and often a radical distortion. The complex is made over into the simple, the hypothetical into the dogmatic, and the relative into an absolute'. To help sort out the complexities there are sites like RationalWiki.org."
The magazine American Thinker criticized RationalWiki after the latter called it a "wingnut publication". Author Paul Austin Murphy wrote: "There's a lot of sarcasm (as I said); though not much logical reasoning, argumentation or even discussion."
In The Social Pollution Prevention Guide, Chester Davis described RationalWiki as "like Wikipedia, but with a focus on science and social issues. They promote logic, critical thinking, and expose scammers and nonsense."
RationalWiki has occasionally been quoted in popular and academic sources. Tom Chivers of the Daily Telegraph cited and quoted RationalWiki for background on several Internet laws. Snopes has repeatedly quoted RationalWiki for background on Sorcha Faal of the European Union Times. RationalWiki was quoted by Magnus Ramage in Perspectives on Information about the "Lenski affair". It was quoted by Thomas Leitch in Wikipedia U: Knowledge, Authority, and Liberal Education in the Digital Age on the history of Citizendium. RationalWiki was cited by Reiss Rubinstein and Lois Weithorn in Responding to the Childhood Vaccination Crisis about the website Whale.to, saying that "Whale.to ... is sufficiently familiar to science advocates to be identified as a particularly noncredible source for citation and reliance", using RationalWiki as a source.
- "About". RationalMedia Foundation. Retrieved January 26, 2015.
- "General disclaimer". RationalWiki. Retrieved January 16, 2015.
- "Rationalwiki.org Site Info". Alexa Internet. Retrieved March 1, 2017.
- Multiple authors. "Freedom of religion", "Atheism", "Feminism", "LGBT rights", "Conservatism", "Libertarianism", RationalWiki.
- Simon, Stephanie (June 22, 2007). "A conservative's answer to Wikipedia". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 2, 2007.
- Haines, Lester (June 20, 2007). "Need hard facts? Try Conservapedia". The Register. Retrieved January 19, 2015.
- "Introducing the new RationalMedia Foundation". RationalMedia Foundation. Retrieved January 16, 2015.
- Keeler, Mary; Johnson, Josh; Majumdar, Arun. "Crowdsourced Knowledge: Peril and Promise for Complex Knowledge Systems" (PDF). p. 4. Retrieved January 17, 2015.
- Murphy, Paul (November 19, 2014). "American Thinker is a Wingnut Publication". Retrieved January 19, 2015.
- "RationalWiki Main Page". RationalWiki. Retrieved March 20, 2015.
- "What is a RationalWiki article?". RationalWiki. Retrieved January 16, 2015.
- Davis, Chester (2014). The Social Pollution Prevention Guide. Booktango. p. 37. ISBN 1-4689-4317-0.
- "William Kristol – RationalWiki". rationalwiki.org. Retrieved March 11, 2016.
- Ballatore, Andrea. "Google chemtrails: A methodology to analyze topic representation in search engine results.". 20.7 (2015). First Monday. Retrieved March 15, 2016.
- Shvets, Alexander (October 2, 2014). Filev, D.; Jabłkowski, J.; Kacprzyk, J.; et al., eds. Intelligent Systems'2014: Proceedings of the 7th IEEE International Conference Intelligent Systems IS’2014, September 24–26, 2014, Warsaw, Poland, Volume 2: Tools, Architectures, Systems, Applications. Series: Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing, Vol. 323. Springer Publishing. A Method of Automatic Detection of Pseudoscientific Publications, page 533 et seq. ISBN 978-3-319-11310-4.
- Chivers, Tom (October 23, 2009). "Internet rules and laws: the top 10 from Godwin to Poe". The Telegraph. Retrieved January 19, 2015.
- "Russia Warns Obama: Monsanto". Snopes.com. May 29, 2013. Retrieved January 19, 2015.
- "Loose Change". Snopes.com. October 10, 2013. Retrieved January 19, 2015.
- "Rapid Fire". Snopes.com. October 15, 2013. Retrieved January 19, 2015.
- "Outboxing Helena". Snopes.com. January 27, 2014. Retrieved January 19, 2015.
- Ramage, Magnus; Chapman, David (2012). Perspectives on Information. Routledge. p. 90. ISBN 1-136-70763-8.
- Leitch, Thomas (2014). Wikipedia U: Knowledge, Authority, and Liberal Education in the Digital Age. JHU Press. p. 145. ISBN 1-4214-1550-X.
- Reiss, Dorit Rubinstein, and Lois A. Weithorn. "Responding to the Childhood Vaccination Crisis: Legal Frameworks and Tools in the Context of Parental Vaccine Refusal." (PDF) Buffalo Law Review 63 (2015).