Conservapedia: The theory of relativity is a liberal plot

Except when it is being used to defend the 6000-year age of the Earth or attack Copernicus.

The theory of relativity is a mathematical system that allows no exceptions. It is heavily promoted by liberals who like its encouragement of relativism and its tendency to mislead people in how they view the world.[1] Here is a list of 24 counterexamples: any one of them shows that the theory is incorrect. would have filed this under Signs of the Apocalypse, but we are way past that.  This is more like, Signs that the Apocalypse happened a long time ago but we were all too busy watching American Idol to notice.

Yes, there is a Conservapedia and its main benefit to society is that it  apparently occupies the  time of the great many conservatives who  post  meticulously-footnoted articles like the one above, titled, “Counterexamples to Relativity.”

It is hard to know what is the most  mind-boggling thing  about this particular article.  Footnote 1 reads:

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.

Really?  The Bible outsells The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by a hundred-fold?   Well then it must be literally true word-for-word.   That’s how we know, for instance, that the Sun moves around the Earth*.  But still,  I am puzzled how this is a counter example:

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

You can click on the second link to read the story in the conservative translation of the Bible —  didn’t know there was a conservative translation, did you, ye of little  ideological faith?

But I don’t see how that story of Jesus healing somebody proves action at a distance instantaneously.  Indeed,  in the conservative translation of the relevant verse

So he asked them the exact hour when he began to feel better, and they told him, “His fever broke yesterday, at about one pm.”

Then the father realized that this was the exact hour when Jesus said to him, “your son lives,” so both he and his entire house believed.

Silly conservatives.   You would need to demonstrate that  the healing took place exactly when Jesus spoke to disapprove the special theory of relativity —   rather than say a fraction of a second later.  But in your retranslation, the testimony is only “about one pm” —  rather than the King James version:

And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.

And  for the record,  I was taught and believed relativity and I continue to read the  King James Bible.  It contains much one can learn from and is one of the two definitive  rhetoric texts in English along with the complete works of Shakespeare.  But I digress.

You may be wondering how Barack Obama ” allegedly” used  the theory of relativity  to mislead people.   For that you have to go to the Conservapedia entry on the “Theory of relativity“:

Some liberal politicians have extrapolated the theory of relativity to metaphorically justify their own political agendas. For example, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama helped publish an article by liberal law professor Laurence Tribe to apply the relativistic concept of “curvature of space” to promote a broad legal right to abortion.[45] As of June 2008, over 170 law review articles have cited this liberal application of the theory of relativity to legal arguments.

Before clicking on the link to the footnote, PLEASE PUT YOUR HEAD IN A SECOND VISE!

I know that you are thinking now that this is some  sort of massive spoof by The Onion. But DailyKos actually recalled that the Onion had mocked the anti-science  ideologues of the right years ago:

The second law of thermodynamics, a fundamental scientific principle stating that entropy increases over time as organized forms decay into greater states of randomness, has come under fire from conservative Christian groups, who are demanding that the law be repealed.

The truly sad thing about the Conservapedia entry is that it treats the theory of relativity like global warming or evolution — as some  insidious liberal plot that needs to be debunked using pseudoscience.

And so we learn that one of the counter examples to relativity is:

The universe shortly after its creation, when quantum effects dominated and contradicted Relativity.

But where in the Bible does it say that the universe, shortly after its creation, was dominated by quantum effects to the exclusion of relativity?  Geez.  I  have no freaking idea where these guys get their information!

Seriously, or rather, semi-seriously,  how can you possibly quote astrophysics to refute relativity?  Why even bother?

Weirdly,  the entry on the theory of relativity includes this:

Creation scientists such as physicists Dr. Russell Humphreys and Dr. John Hartnett have used relativistic time dilation to explain how the earth can be only 6,000 years old even though cosmological data (background radiation, supernovae, etc.) set a much older age for the universe.

Conservatives need to get their story straight on Einstein!  Is he liberal — conservative?

*If you go to the Conservapedia entry on  Copernicus to find out what conservatives believe about whether the Earth goes around the Sun and that part of Joshua that suggests the Sun does move around the Earth, you learn this:

The reception to his work was initially positive within the Catholic Church. Years later, the Church reconsidered in connection with claims by Galileo that the Copernican model had been proven correct. Copernicus’ book was suspended until corrected by the Index of the Catholic Church in 1616, because the Pythagorean doctrine of the motion of the Earth and the immobility of the Sun “is false and altogether opposed to the Holy Scripture”. [1] [2] These corrections were indicated in 1620, and nine sentences had to be either omitted or changed.[3] The book stayed on the Index until 1758. In the 20th century, scientists adopted a view closer to the Church scientists. The consensus is now that motion is relative, that Earth-centered and Sun-centered coordinate systems are equally valid for astronomical calculations, that Galileo’s main argument for the Copernican system was fallacious,[4] and that the doctrine of the immobility of the Sun is false.[5]

Yes, the earth-centered system is equally valid to the  sun-centered … because of  Einstein’s theory of relativity.  Darn it,  I forgot to put my second vise on!

And how do we know that the doctrine of the immobility of the sun is false?  The footnote says:

“The Sun orbits around a black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy.”

But were does the idea of black holes come from?  Here’s  the Conservapedia entry on black holes:

Black holes are theoretical entities which cannot be directly observed and may not exist. Suggested by the theory of relativity (see Counterexamples to Relativity), black holes are postulated to be collapsed objects, usually stars, which have so much mass that within a certain radius the effect if it’s [sic] mass results in an event horizon, past which both light and matter inevitably move towards the center over time….

Black holes have generated much interest among liberal publications, such as the science page of the New York Times and glossy magazines, as well as science fiction writers.

Damn you, glossy magazine!

So black holes are another relativistic liberal plot.  But if so, that how can they be cited as evidence that the doctrine of the  immobility of the sun is false?  So  that means the doctrine of the immobility of the sun must be true — and the  literal translation of the Bible is false.  And that means all of Conservapedia must be bunk….

Ironically, few things have done  more to undermine religion than  this bizarre notion that every single word of the Bible is literally true — or, to  be more accurate, that every single word of whatever particular translation somebody likes, and whatever particular books one accepts as part of the Bible, are literally true.

But still,  this all begs the question,  who actually wastes their time coming up with all of this Conservapedia nonsense?

54 Responses to Conservapedia: The theory of relativity is a liberal plot

  1. mike roddy says:

    As a trained physicist, this must have been painful for you, Joe.

    There is a school of thought that Americans are getting dumber, since fundamentalism and paranoid conservatism are gaining strength. Maybe all the flat screens and cell phones are traps, keeping people from taking the trouble to actually learn something.

    [JR: If you think of Conservapedia as one huge special issue of The Onion, then its actually quite amusing. You can spend hours there going down various self-contradictory rabbit holes.]

  2. Joss Garman says:

    Ah ha, so the anti-relativity movement continues…! I did a blog on the anti-relativity movement of the 30s and their parallels to modern climate denial community here:

  3. Lou Grinzo says:

    Thank you, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, the corporate funded non-thinking think tanks, the right-wing blogosphere, and all the other tireless liars and spinners on the Right for doing so much to turn us into a society where many of us have convinced ourselves that belief takes precedence over reality.

    Sadly, the universe didn’t get the memo, and it will continue to demonstrate infinite indifference to our needs, wants, desires, and beliefs.

  4. Daniel Ives says:

    Joe, all I can say is thanks for the advice on the second vise. I’m pretty sure one wouldn’t have cut it.

  5. catman306 says:

    ‘We are DEVO…’ played on the radio as toddlers played in their rooms, and now we have evidence that those 30-somethings learned their lesson well.

    Some right-wing statistician keeps track of the hits at Conservepedia in keeping with Voltaire:

    “Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices.”

  6. cervantes says:

    When you start thinking backwards from a ridiculous and self-refuting conclusion — e.g., that The Bible (as you conceive it to be) is true — and then assembling facts and logic around that absurdity, you inevitably end up being ridiculous and self-refuting. There’s no way out of it.

    But if you have Faith, it doesn’t matter. Richard Dawkins, in The God Delusion, quotes several theologians to the effect that reason is the enemy of God. Indeed it is so.

  7. Sarah Smith says:

    E = mc2, which reveals the equivalence of mass and energy.
    Which came first? Energy or Mass? What caused the “big bang”?
    Tell us how electrons first started into motion. Please show your work.

  8. Rick Covert says:

    We truly live in the age of stupid.

  9. Let us not forget this one:,1778/

    There are scientifically legitimate objections to the Standard Model, by which I mean, they pass peer-review and propose workable lines of research that are at least as testable as the orthodox GR based theory.

    But beyond the general antipathy toward facts and logically rigorous inquiry typified by much of what constitutes conservatism these days, it pretty well beggars the imagination how any political implications or conclusions could be found in such work.

  10. Nick Dearth says:

    Sarah, that’s an easy one.

  11. Doug Bostrom says:

    Commercial interests promoting cultural dementia in the interest of maintaining cash vectors don’t care that no borders circumscribe the rot they’re promoting.

  12. DavidCOG says:

    Talking of conservative numbskulls, the Daily Mail seems to have caught a dose of reality:

    * “Global warming is real and deeply worrying” .

  13. Peter Mizla says:

    The theory of relativity—

    in Astronomy-space travel- ‘time Dilation’ the faster one approaches the speed of light (186K A second) time slows to nothing.

    A Spaceship and its travelers going 90% the speed of light traveling to a star 40 light years away- could travel and return to earth- without aging a more then a few months- while earth had progressed 80 years- fascinating stuff-but creationists would yell sacrilegious’ —-

  14. Alan says:

    Since the Conservapedia folks don’t believe in relativity, I suggest that a second Global Positioning System be created just for them, with all calculated adjustments for relativity effects removed. They might change their minds…quickly!

  15. Not A Lawyer says:

    Oh man, I should NOT have clicked on any of those links.
    I like this one in particular from the page about general and special relativity.

    “Relativity has been met with much resistance in the scientific world. To date, a Nobel Prize has never been awarded for relativity.”

  16. Albert says:

    How about the first law of thermodynamics? Which “mandates the conservation of energy”?! That’s an unfunded mandate! Government scientists conspired to make up this law to keep their funding. Of course, while opposing that law conservatives still support the idea of “no free lunch,” at least for people who cannot afford lunch.

  17. Colorado Bob says:

    Pay no attention to the thermonuclear device behind the curtain .

  18. Anonymous says:

    Now that the Earth is right back where God intended it, the immovable center of the universe, we are going to resolve the issue of the retrograde motion of the planets by… ah, yes! Now where did I put those danged epicycles?

  19. The persistance of anti-science anti-rational ideas among conservatives even centuries after science has refuted those ideas is one of the primary reasons why it is pointless to argue with and debate the global warming deniers. These people have already dogmatically accepted a non-negotiable viewpoint and they are either not interested in reality or they are actively opposed to science.

    I encountered this condition years ago when I was engaged in an argument with a preacher regarding the creation account of Genesis 1 – 2 and the preacher insisted at the outset that science was out of bounds.

    What is so ironic is that the preacher was an adherent to creation science and a devout reader of Institute for Creation Research material. Science was only useful to the extent that he could place a scientific veneer upon anti-scientific ideas.


    I have a tropical storm forming overhead today:

    It isn’t a threat to Florida but might become one to Louisiana.

  20. Jeff Huggins says:

    The Blogfish

    I’m starting to feel like the Blogfish whose picture is on the front page of The New York Times today.



  21. Jim Groom says:

    Would someone please tell me these folks are just kidding. I find it hard to believe that anyone could be soooo..stupidddd! Ignorance is one thing, but stupidity is something else. You can’t fix stupid!

  22. Pete Best says:

    All science is bad to them. If it was not for their potenital impact on US politics through the republican party then it would be pathetically laughable but for decades the right has manged to lobby, sponsor, disinform and ultimately delay action on everything that does not appeal to them. To be fair the democrats are not doing all that much better and certainly as a whole the USA is more right wing then left. Well thats how it appears to us Europeans anyway (well this one)

  23. PSU Grad says:

    @20: You mean the blobfish? Seems to have a passing resemblance to the cartoon character Ziggy.

  24. Prokaryotes says:

    Between about 133 and 122 thousand years ago (ka), the southern parts of the Saharan-Arabian Desert experienced a wet period with increased monsoonal precipitation, around 200–100 mm/year. This allowed Eurasian biota to travel to Africa and vice versa. The growth of speleothems (which requires rainwater) was detected in Hol-Zakh, Ashalim, Even-Sid, Ma’ale-ha-Meyshar, Ktora Cracks, Nagev Tzavoa Cave. In Qafzeh and Es Skuhl caves, where at that time precipitation was 600–1000 mm/year, the remains of Qafzeh-Skhul type anatomically modern humans are dated from this period, but human occupation seems to end in the later arid period.

  25. Mike says:

    We thought it was a joke,
    then suddenly,
    we lost our power to laugh.

    Gunter Grass
    The Rat

  26. darth says:

    Lol. They seem to be confusing Einstein’s theories of relativity with the concept known as “cultural relativity”. I’m not sure how anyone could possibly get those things confused, but apparently they have.

    Of course one of the big problems in physics now is reconciling relativity and quantum mechanics, but that doesn’t refute relativity as a theory.

    On the plus side I now have another great comedy site to go to besides “The Onion”.

  27. Nice Article! Thanks for sharing

  28. Jeff Huggins says:

    PSU Grad (Comment 23), I hope you are well, and don’t forget humor now. (I must admit, it’s easy to lose one’s sense of humor these days.)

    Yes, my intention was to update the poor Blobfish’s name — although it may well be having a great time behind that face — in order to bring it into the postmodern age of information: Blogfish. The Blogfish label will give the Blobfish more relevance and a better framing, I think. It will get better coverage as a Blogfish than as a Blobfish, in these days when it’s hard to attract media attention.

    I’m personally hoping that Jon Stewart will host the Blogfish one night, or maybe as a series. After all, if wisdom is born of the trials and tribulations of life, the Blogfish certainly looks like it probably has lots of wisdom to share, if we could only understand it anyhow.

    Cheers for now, and Be Well,


  29. Doug Bostrom says:

    Albert says: August 10, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    How about the first law of thermodynamics? Which “mandates the conservation of energy”?!

    No problem Albert, it’s conservative.

  30. Some European says:

    I’m having a hard time trying to convince myself this isn’t parody.
    You guys are actually lucky that many Europeans don’t know just how bad the situation is in the USA.
    And to say that these people are allowed to call with cell phones powered by nuclear energy or get medical treatments… that these people are even allowed to walk the streets! What an amazing country!

    If you think in system dynamics, a climate U-turn in the rest of the world might not be enough or achievable without the USA. The recent failure of the climate bill is an example of yet another path not taken. The big tipping point is in getting more than half of Americans BELIEVE that AGW is happening. How hard can it be?!

    The world is waiting for you but is also slowly waking to the fact that it’s waiting for a monkey to push the green button instead of picking the banana.
    How sad, how desperate, how funny!

  31. Anderwan says:

    Thank you for this. I have something to link to half-seriously when I comment on denial blogs.

  32. Yes, all the stuff in Conservapedia is sad garbage. On the other hand, invoking the concept of “curvature of space” from General Relativity to bolster a legal argument about abortion is also garbage. In order for the relativistic theory to impact the legal issue, the authors would need to show that the legal issue obeyed the same equations and rules as space, time, and matter. They don’t.

    Even though I’m not a legal authority of any kind, I have seen a few cases now in which legal authorities introduce a scientific concept and say it supports their argument. I think they just want to make their readers think they’re smart or to intimidate the readers who don’t know what it’s about.

    Straighten up, Tribe, Obama, and all legal scholars! I hold you to a higher standard than Conservapedia.

  33. Mike#22 says:

    Well at least we know where some of the fact checkers at WaPo and WSJ are doing their research.

  34. Michael Tucker says:


    Nuclear powered cell phones? NO. NO ONE is allowed to use them but I will take one of your cars. Does it come with a MR FUSION?

  35. Not A Lawyer says:

    Geez, Tribe’s paper is a giant metaphor, and it isn’t only about abortion.

    “My conjecture is that the metaphors and intuitions that guide physicists can enrich our comprehension of social and legal issues. I borrow metaphors from physics tentatively; my purpose is to explore the heuristic ramifications for the law; my criterion of appraisal is whether the concepts we might draw from physics promote illuminating questions and directions.”

    Also, Obama, as editor of the Harvard Law Review, is one of several people listed in a footnote as having helped with research. That says nothing about how heavily involved he was in writing the paper, or whether he even agreed with the overall argument.

    here’s the paper to read for yourself:

  36. Bob Doublin says:

    #26 darth, In the 20’s and later Einstein’s work gave an immense boost to cultural relativism.A LOT of artists took his ideas and simply RAN with them every which way almost as much as Social Darwinism did with Darwin’s work. So it’s not that far fetched for it to be mentioned in this context.(wrong as Conservapedia is)
    The thing that always got me was that Einstein was always clear that the laws of physics pretty much remained valid no matter which frame of reference you chose,so his work simply didn’t seem to provide much support for the contention that moral principles changed with frame of reference.(if you took laws of physics in Einsteinian Relativity = moral laws)

  37. Berbalang says:

    Many years ago I built an interface for someone who had faked the specifications for the interface. As a result, the interface didn’t interface to anything real. The person’s “reasoning” was that since the specifications were faked, they didn’t have anything to do with anything and so had nothing to do with the interface not working. Besides, since the design of the interface was based on the specifications, by faking the specifications he could simplify the design.

    After much argument he announced that if I thought he was stupid before, just wait, he was going to show me stupid like I have never seen stupid before. He then proceeded to do so.

    I now know there is no upper limit to stupidity. Stupidity is to them like the Force is to Luke Skywalker. Something to be used to do and get what they want.

  38. James R McKain says:

    I have to say that the sun round the Earth round the sun issue is absurd. It depends entirely on your point of view. You can create an equally accurate algorithm for either proposition. This is where my understanding of the argument breaks down. Hell, the universe could have been created by an all powerful being half an hour ago, for all we know. Science has no idea when the universe was created. Only what it looks like now, and that’s a lot more important.

  39. Rob Honeycutt says:

    Sarah Smith @#7 might enjoy watching this video titled “The History of the Universe Made Easy.”

    For everyone else, if you have friends without a background in science who are curious about science, this is a great channel to point them to. He also has an excellent series on climate change.

    His name is Peter Hadfield and he is a very well respected science journalist.

    Probably the best channel there is on youtube.

  40. peter whitehead says:

    Don’t laugh too much, folks.

    There is a Robert Heinlein story about 21st Century America being run by a wierd theocracy. Called “If this goes on”, it involves the election of a backwoods preacher as President, followed by the formation of a religious dictatorship (and no more elections). Written in about 1940, the date of the Presidential Election in question is …2012! (Wiki “If This Goes On”)

    It could happen yet. The collapse of the Age of Reason is going rather well.

  41. Mark says:

    yes it’s funny in a very sad way.


    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

  42. Gord says:

    It would all be quite a laugh if there were no consequences.

    But that is not the case. The consequences of such contrived and intentional ignorance will be many, right up to the termination of our species.

    These people desire ideological correctness and thought purity. And god knows it has happened in other times with other people in other societies.

    But it’s different today.

    Today we are in a War with CO2. The outcome of this War is either our survival as a species or our death by a thousand calamities. By any standard we are losing the War at this point in time.

    Conservatively minded people are at the very highest levels in US society. This is World War IV and the USA is seen by many as the natural world leader in this fight … the USA is the lynch pin. Inside the USA the lynch pin is the conservative movement. They have the power to make or break the War effort.

    Indeed, it is different today.

    We are committing suicide by means of Ideology.

  43. I would love to hear what Hershel Shanks would have to say about this.

  44. OK, I read the whole thing and words fail me.

  45. Dave E says:

    #15 I liked your quote:
    ‘“Relativity has been met with much resistance in the scientific world. To date, a Nobel Prize has never been awarded for relativity.”’
    You might have commented that a Nobel Prize will never be awarded for relativity, since the prize is never awarded post humorously–I forget what they gave Einstein his prize for, but at the time relativity was in fact still a little too controversial. Of course, that was then and this is now.

  46. PurpleOzone says:

    Okay, I am not going to get sucked into the maze of Conservapedia. My brain might rot. Joe, take a drink of whatever Alice had to get back to her right size.

  47. Einstein’s prize was for his study of Brownian motion, one of his 5 1905 paper in the Annalen, his “annus mirabilis.”

  48. Chris ODell says:

    @9, Gary, that onion link is hilarious. I think I missed that article when it originally came out. My favorite line:

    “Traditional scientists admit that they cannot explain how gravitation is supposed to work,” Carson said. “What the gravity-agenda scientists need to realize is that ‘gravity waves’ and ‘gravitons’ are just secular words for ‘God can do whatever He wants.'”

  49. labman57 says:

    Hey, there was a time when the notion that the earth was not the center of the universe was regarded as a liberal heresy. Likewise for the existence of a vacuum and tiny particles known as atoms.

    Today, the denial comes in the form of evolution by natural selection, man’s impact on climate change, and — who would have thunk it — relativistic physics.

    Early church doctrine was not that much different than that of modern conservatives.

  50. homunq says:

    It’s best not to get too hung up on Conservopedia. Some significant percentage of its users are not actual idiot conservatives, but just trolls trying to see what the idiot conservatives will swallow. I remember reading about one documented case – but it’s not worth your time or mine to look it up, conservatives and trolls can play with each other all they want and I don’t care.

  51. Eli Snyder says:

    What I find amazing is that these clowns apparently couldn’t find a single conservative physicist. This conservapedia article was obviously written by a non-scientist who has read a couple of “layman level” books on the subject. It actually cites the laws of electrodynamics as a counterexample to relativity, for example. Amazing.

    This also demonstrates the basic conservative misunderstanding of what science is. Because they deal in absolute Truth as handed down by a literal interpretation of the Bible, they can’t seem to understand the inherently conditional nature of scientific truth.

    Relativity is true within its domain (large, high energy), probably as an approximation to some sort of Grand Unified Theory. That is, it’s true except when it’s not, and until we come up with something better. That’s about the best you’re ever going to get from science, so you may as well get used to it. But to a conservative, the very idea that there might be some problems with the theory in some areas means the whole thing is bunk and a liberal plot.

  52. Michael Morrison says:

    Do you suppose that the Conservapedia folks know that the GPS units on the dash of their trucks requires a relativistic correction in order to accurately provide a location? As I recall there were a faction of the original GPS engineers who thought it was not needed, but software for “with relativity” and “without” was installed. Without the correction, the provided positions were significantly off—with, they were correct and it is the corrected approach that is used today.

  53. Tony Sidaway says:

    homunq, yes I have documented one case of a troll article on Conservapedia prominent enough to be featured in an article at Wonkette written by Ken Layne.

    The conservapedia article was a list of Democratic senators in states with Republican governors, the obvious premise being that if some mishap befell one or more of these people the relevant state governor would be able to nominate a Republican as a replacement. The article was quickly taken down by Conservapedia, and a few days later a troll or parodist admitted that he wrote it in order to embarrass them.

    The troll had been around on Conservapedia for several months and was in good standing, which I think speaks rather disturbingly about the lengths these fellows will go to just to make Conservapedia look worse than it already does. Andrew Schlafly really doesn’t need that kind of help, he’s quite barmy enough!

  54. Re: “Really? The Bible outsells The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by a hundred-fold? Well then it must be literally true word-for-word.”

    A coworker discovered this site yesterday. The best part about the quote you were referencing above is that, according to Conservapedia’s own “Liberal Tricks” section, its “logic” is actually a manifestation of Liberal Trick #13: “Claiming that because everyone else supposedly believes in something, therefore it must be right.” Whoops.

    The rest of the list (and website) is good for a laugh or cry, depending on your mood: