Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Creation Search. Creating a Safer Echo-Chamber.

Fundamentalist Christians currently face a huge problem, the freedom and availability of information on the internet. This probably isn't something you've ever considered a problem, but you likely aren't a follower of a false and harmful ideology that is based on a tissue of lies and the willful misrepresentation of science. In other words, you very probably aren't a creationist. This problem has been approached in various ways since the popularisation of the internet, with many pastors and creationist organisations condemneding the internet and advising followers to steer clear of it altogether.

At a Christian retail show in 2009, Christian apologist Josh MacDowell (left) told attendees

"The Internet has given atheists, agnostics, skeptics, the people who like to destroy everything that you and I believe, the almost equal access to your kids as your youth pastor and you have... whether you like it or not... the abundance of knowledge, the abundance of information, will not lead to certainty; it will lead to pervasive skepticism...A the Internet has leveled the playing field [giving equal access to skeptics].”

Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/internet-the-greatest-threat-to-christians-apologist-josh-mcdowell-says-52382/#be8eMcT61URh5vWp.99

Oh NO! Our children are being exposed to contrary worldviews they may start to *gasp* think for themselves.... we can't have that!

Notice that MacDowell doesn't say an abundance of "false information" just "information". Clearly, it's in the Creationist parents best interest that their children have access to as little information as possible. They, correctly, assume the greatest antidote to indoctrination is education. Whereas once "secular" learning institutes were the main enemies of these ideologues, now the children can be exposed to alternative viewpoints and actually scientific findings in their own bedroom. Fundamental Christians approach to their children going to college had been a simple one, they simply created their own, where the environment could be more strictly controlled. Institutions such as Bryan College make promises such as "Christ Above All" to assure panicking parents that their children will return home as indoctrinated as when they left, if not more.

Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/internet-the-greatest-threat-to-christians-apologist-josh-mcdowell-says-52382/#be8eMcT61URh5vWp.99


A similar approach was taking to educational resources on the internet. If creationists could not prevent their children from viewing scientific and skeptical sites, they would ensure that there was an abundance of counter-information sites available. Many of these sites claim to be practising "creation science" which would be better labelled "counter-science", mainly because as of yet, no creationist I've interacted with has been able to point to a single piece of original research published under the umbrella of creation science. The main drive of creation science is to offer counter points to established science, by starting out with a Biblical stance and then collecting evidence to fit this stance. So not science then.

The problem is, as the internet grows and more "secular" science sites spring up, these creation sites become drowned out. This is contrary to the grip that alternative health and sites and conspiracy theorists sites hold over their respective fields. For example, if you search "Cancer treatment" using Google's search engine you'll pretty quickly come across posts from organisations such as the British homoeopathic association promoting holistic treatments for breast cancer. Even more impressively, Google "9-11 truth" and the results are filled with sites spouting nonsense about "nano-thermite" and the like. Whereas, a search for "what is evolution" yields pages free from creationist nonsense. It's the success of alt-med and conspiracy sites that may well spell doom for the visibility and availability of creationist sites in search engines which currently use an algorithm which ranks sites in terms of popularity.

In March 2015, it was announced that Google intends to begin implementing a move to rank sites on factual content using an established base of knowledge rather than popularity. 
This was based on a paper entitled "Knowledge-Based Trust: Estimating the Trustworthiness of Web Sources" produced by various members of the Google team. The paper states:
"We propose using Knowledge-Based Trust (KBT) to estimate source trustworthiness as follows. We extract a plurality of facts from many pages using information extraction techniques. We then jointly estimate the correctness of these facts and the accuracy of the sources using inference in a probabilistic model. Inference is an iterative process, since we believe a source is accurate if its facts are correct, and we believe the facts are correct if they are extracted from an accurate source. We leverage the redundancy of information on the web to break the symmetry. Furthermore, we show how to initialize our estimate of the accuracy of sources based on authoritative information, in order to ensure that this iterative process converges to a good solution."

Clearly, this would be terrible news for anyone making a living promoting anti-science, especially if one's entire ideology is based on promoting a warped vision of science. It's clear that, if this move was implemented, creationist websites would face a serious visibility crisis, especially if other search engines follow Google's lead. There is a fairly logical solution to this of course. Creationists could just introduce their own search engine to compete with Google.

And sure enough, they've created one. 

Search Creation is the search engine created by the Creation Network, an offshoot of Kent Hovind's Creation Science Ministries, currently ran by his idiot son Eric, whose Creation Today show and Creation Minute show are either the stupidest things ever committed to the internet or parodies of stunning genius. His Creation Minute: Six Types of Evolution, where Eric purposefully confuses the use of the word "evolution" with the concept of evolution by natural selection in order to persuade his followers to write off various scientific concepts which disagree with his view of reality, really has to be seen to be believed. As an interesting aside, Kent asked Eric to run CSE for him whilst he severed a ten-year prison sentence for fraud. He has since been released and is somewhat aggrieved that Eric won't give it back! He claims that Eric is making a living off his name, but ironically didn't complain when Eric reproduced his free lecture series and sold it as a set of premium DVDs. Maybe because he profited from it too?

So clearly Eric, who shamelessly cites Creation search as his "favorite creation resource" on his Facebook page, wants you and your children to be as stupid and poorly educated as he is, so he's created a search engine which he claims draws from a resource of just 20 websites, obviously a massive reduction of the amount of sites available through any other search engine. 

I have to seriously doubt the veracity of this claim, I ran several searches in Search Creation and the vast majority of the returned results were from the same five sites every time! *Ahem* The last search was... *ahem*.... for a friend... who erm... lent my computer?

What about the quality of the information on offer when you Google a complex subject? Unsurprisingly, it's not good. If you live in a Christian creationist household and want to teach yourself "Vector algebra" for example, you've got no chance. Search the term, and you'll find the only article in the top ten results linked that contains any mathematics is from the site Biblical Science Forum and is an argument that the existence of consistent mathematical laws is proof of God's majesty. All the other relevant sites consist of similar arguments. Of the paltry 10 results returned, in comparison to Google's 595,000 results for the same search, there's no actual indication of how one would perform even simple vector algebra, this exposes perfectly the key intent of Search Creation. It's designed to present support for ideological ideas, not to provide information. It's search engine created with the express intent of perpetuating ignorance. This is the only way creationism is going to survive, by creating a robust echo-chamber were followers are not confronted with troublesome facts and information.

One has to wonder, if Christian creationism is true, and can be shown to be such why are it's advocates so opposed to its followers being exposed to "secular" websites?