RationalWiki is a wiki whose stated goals are to "analyze and refute pseudoscience and the anti-science movement, document "crank" ideas, explore conspiracy theories, authoritarianism, and fundamentalism, and analyze how these subjects are handled in the media." It was created in 2007 as a counterpoint to Conservapedia after an incident in which contributors attempting to edit Conservapedia were banned. In recent years, the website has explicitly moved its focus away from criticizing Conservapedia.
Type of site
|Available in||English, Russian and more|
|Created by||Volunteer contributors|
|Launched||May 22, 2007|
|Written in||MediaWiki software|
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 established by Andy Schlafly as an alternative to Wikipedia, which Schlafly perceived as suffering from a liberal and atheist bias. He and Conservapedia administrators "questioned [Lipson's] credentials and shut down debate". After they were blocked, "Lipson and several other contributors quit trying to moderate the articles [on Conservapedia] and instead started their own website, RationalWiki".
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Prior to 2010, RationalWiki's domains were registered to Trent Toulouse, and the wiki was hosted from a server located in his home. 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.
RationalWiki differs in several ways from the philosophy of Wikipedia and some other informational wikis. It is written from a self-described "snarky point of view" (SPOV) rather than a "neutral point of view" (NPOV), and publishes opinion, speculation, and original research. Many RationalWiki articles mockingly describe beliefs that RationalWiki opposes, especially when covering topics such as alternative medicine or fundamentalist Christians.
A significant fraction of activity on RationalWiki used to be critiquing and "monitor[ing] Conservapedia". RationalWiki contributors, many of whom are former Conservapedia contributors, are often highly critical of Conservapedia, and according to an article published in the Los Angeles Times in 2007, RationalWiki members "by their own admission" vandalize 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'".
Both Yan et. al 2019 and Knoche et al., two articles about classifying a writer's biases via text analysis, asserted that Conservapedia was "conservative" and RationalWiki was "liberal". Examining RationalWiki, Conservapedia, and Wikipedia, Knoche et al. measured word set correlations, and found biases in gender and religion for all three wikis, though in different ways between them. Racial bias was found only in Conservapedia, in the "pleasant" vs. "unpleasant" attributes, but not the three other attribute pairs. Knoche et al. notes that RationalWiki's "contents often include sarcasm and satire, posing special challenges to statistical analysis".
Andrea Ballatore, a lecturer in GIS at the University of California, Santa Barbara, categorizes RationalWiki as a debunking website in a 2015 study, finding it to be the third most visible website when researching conspiracy theories in terms of Google and Bing search results, slightly more visible than rense.com and less visible than YouTube or Wikipedia. In Critical Thinking: Pseudoscience and the Paranormal, Johnathan Smith lists RationalWiki in an exercise on finding and identifying fallacies.
In Intelligent Systems 2014, Alexander Shvets stated that RationalWiki is one of the few online resources that "provide some information about pseudoscientific theories" and notes that it attempts to "organize and categorize knowledge about pseudoscientific theories, personalities, and organizations". Similarly, Keeler et al. stated that sites like RationalWiki can help to "sort out the complexities" that arise when "distant and unfamiliar and complex things are communicated to great masses of people". Benjamin Brojakowski of Bowling Green State University described RationalWiki as "a Wikipedia-style website aimed at educating individuals with unorthodox views".
RationalWiki has been cited on Internet history. Snopes has repeatedly quoted RationalWiki for background on Sorcha Faal of the European Union Times. RationalWiki's description of the "Lenski affair" was quoted by Magnus Ramage in Perspectives on Information and cited by Tom Kaden in Creationism and Anti-Creationism in the United States. 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 it is an "infamous conspiracy site", using RationalWiki as a source. RationalWiki's explanation of Gish gallops was referenced by The Guardian in an article on climate change denial and Erik Krabbe and Jan van Laar in an article on "quibbles". RationalWiki's description of the history and membership of LessWrong was quoted by Beth Singler in Existential Hope and Existential Despair in AI Apocalypticism and Transhumanism and cited by Saswat Sarangi and Pankaj Sharma in Artificial Intelligence.
The Daily Beast writer Charles Davis alleges that, according to LibCom.org, Angela Nagle's Kill All Normies has "several passages" that "are similar to entries in Wikipedia and another online encyclopedia, RationalWiki".
- "RationalWiki:Languages". RationalWiki. Archived from the original on October 9, 2018. Retrieved October 9, 2018.
- "About". RationalMedia Foundation. Archived from the original on November 10, 2019. Retrieved November 10, 2019.
- "RationalWiki:General disclaimer". RationalWiki. Archived from the original on January 6, 2015. Retrieved January 16, 2015.
- "RationalWiki:Timeline". RationalWiki. Archived from the original on August 10, 2017. Retrieved August 10, 2017.
- "RationalWiki:Copyrights". RationalWiki. Archived from the original on November 5, 2018. Retrieved November 5, 2018.
- Keeler, Mary; Johnson, Josh; Majumdar, Arun (2011). "Crowdsourced Knowledge: Peril and Promise for Complex Knowledge Systems" (PDF). New England Complex Systems Institute. p. 756. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 13, 2015. Retrieved January 17, 2015.
- Simon, Stephanie (June 19, 2007). "A conservative's answer to Wikipedia". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on May 5, 2019. Retrieved June 13, 2019.
- "Template:Cpmothball - RationalWiki". Archived from the original on August 10, 2017. Retrieved May 2, 2017.
- Haines, Lester (June 20, 2007). "Need hard facts? Try Conservapedia". The Register. Archived from the original on February 11, 2015. Retrieved January 19, 2015.
- "A message from our Chair". RationalMedia Foundation blog. July 30, 2013. Archived from the original on April 5, 2016. Retrieved August 22, 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
- "RationalWiki:What is a RationalWiki article?". RationalWiki. Archived from the original on February 9, 2015. Retrieved January 16, 2015.
- Yan, Hao; Das, Sanmay; Lavoie, Allen; Li, Sirui; Sinclair, Betsy (2018). "The Congressional Classification Challenge: Domain Specificity and Partisan Intensity". EC '19 Proceedings of the 2019 ACM Conference on Economics and Computation.
- Knoche, Markus; Popović, Radomir; Lemmerich, Florian; Strohmaier, Markus (2019). "Identifying Biases in Politically Biased Wikis through Word Embedding". Proceedings of the 30th ACM Conference on Hypertext and Social Media: 253–257. doi:10.1145/3342220.3343658. ISBN 9781450368858. S2CID 202640737.
- Ballatore, Andrea (June 19, 2015). "Google chemtrails: A methodology to analyze topic representation in search engine results". First Monday. 20.7 (2015). 20 (7). Archived from the original on March 8, 2016. Retrieved March 15, 2016.
- Smith, Jonathan C. (2017). Critical Thinking: Pseudoscience and the Paranormal. John Wiley & Sons. p. 77. ISBN 978-1-119-02948-9.
- 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.
- Brojakowski, Benjamin (August 2017). "Digital Whiteness Imperialism: Redefining Caucasian Identity Post-Boston Bombing". Bowling Green State University (dissertation). Archived from the original on October 3, 2017. Retrieved October 3, 2017.
- Mikkelson, David (May 29, 2013). "Russia Warns Obama: Monsanto". Snopes. Retrieved January 19, 2015.
- Mikkelson, David (October 10, 2013). "Pentagon Warns to Expect 'Radical' Change in U.S. Government Soon". Snopes. Retrieved January 19, 2015.
- Mikkelson, David (March 19, 2015). "Obama Ousts Top Officers After Nuke Explodes in Ocean Instead of Charleston". Snopes. Retrieved August 19, 2019.
- Mikkelson, David (January 27, 2014). "Obama Plan to Depopulate Montana Raises Crisis Fears in Moscow". Snopes. Retrieved January 19, 2015.
- Ramage, Magnus; Chapman, David (2012). Perspectives on Information. Routledge. p. 90. ISBN 978-1-136-70763-6.
- Kaden, Tom (2019). Creationism and Anti-Creationism in the United States: A Sociology of Conflict. Springer. pp. 22, 111. ISBN 978-3-319-99379-9.
- Leitch, Thomas (2014). Wikipedia U: Knowledge, Authority, and Liberal Education in the Digital Age. JHU Press. p. 145. ISBN 978-1-4214-1550-5.
- Reiss, Dorit Rubinstein; Weithorn, Lois A. (2015). "Responding to the Childhood Vaccination Crisis: Legal Frameworks and Tools in the Context of Parental Vaccine Refusal". Buffalo Law Review. 63: 943. Retrieved August 19, 2019.
- Nuccitelli, Dana (July 25, 2016). "These are the best arguments from the 3% of climate scientist 'skeptics.' Really". The Guardian. Archived from the original on October 6, 2017. Retrieved October 6, 2017.
- Krabbe, Erik; van Laar, Jan (2019). "In the quagmire of quibbles: a dialectical exploration". Synthese. doi:10.1007/s11229-019-02289-4.
- Singler, Beth (March 2019). "Existential Hope and Existential Despair in AI Apocalypticism and Transhumanism". Zygon. 54 (1): 156–176. doi:10.1111/zygo.12494.
- Sarangi, Saswat; Sharma, Pankaj (2018). "Introduction". Artificial Intelligence: Evolution, Ethics and Public Policy. Routledge India. p. 24. ISBN 978-0-429-46100-2.
- Davis, Charles (May 19, 2018). "Sloppy Sourcing Plagues 'Kill All Normies' Alt-Right Book". The Daily Beast. Archived from the original on June 26, 2019. Retrieved November 28, 2018.