Stated goals are:
- Analyzing and refuting the anti-science movement, ideas and people.
- Analyzing and refuting the full range of crank ideas.
- Explorations of authoritarianism and fundamentalism.
- Analysis and criticism of how these subjects are handled in the media.
RationalWiki runs a large collection of specially customized extensions, most of which were created by Nx, implementing a wide range of features such as up-down voting (WIGO, or what-is-going-on), slider voting, a site wide intercom system, a signature checker, and easy Bible quotations. The source code of most of these extensions has been made publicly available.
RationalWiki also has a namespace dedicated to Conservapedia and a collection of recipes, some of which are pseudo-recipes whose real purpose is to impart jokes or religious commentary. The site's slogan rotates among several dozen possibilities, some of which are weighted more heavily than others.
Table of contents
RationalWiki started in May 2007 after a group of editors at Conservapedia were banned over ideological differences with the authorities there. Their edits had consisted mostly of debating on talk pages, attempting to counteract what they perceived to be overwhelming anti-scientific and far-right political biases. Although the site was called RationalWiki to highlight the apparent pro-scientific worldview of the founders, the content was largely weighted to the perceived lunacy of events at Conservapedia. As of January 2014, voting was ongoing concerning whether to expand RationalWiki's mission. It appeared unlikely that RationalWiki was going to explicitly embrace the idea of becoming a general encyclopedia.
While Conservapedia continues to be a major source of traffic to RationalWiki (mainly, their What is going on at Conservapedia? page), they have branched out into many areas of skepticism. Many articles focus on unfounded medical claims, pseudoscience, and Biblical literalism. Despite a seemingly pro-atheist, anti-religious stance, some editors are practicing Christians, Jews, Muslims, or Odinists (among others) tending towards the more liberal aspects of their religion rather than fundamentalism. However, most of the regular contributers to RationalWiki are devout atheists.
The site works to refute a range of faith-based ideas as well as superstitions. They have critical material on Scientology, Christianity, Creationism, Astrology, "New Age" philosophy, and many others. It also comments critically on other Christian creationist wikis, like the relatively unnotable if it weren't for their editors joining up to argue with the founder, A Storehouse of Knowledge (see RationalWiki: A Storehouse of Knowledge).
The website has a rather idiosyncratic sense of humour, which includes widespread intentional misspellings and other peculiar phrases. There are many "inside jokes", particularly in the material relating to Conservapedia, and the writing often has the tone of a close-knit social group. Some dialog takes place through log summaries for ultra-short-term (or even zero-duration) blocks.
RationalWiki has one or two great features — readers can vote on their "what Is Going On" pages; there are random text generators for entertainment purposes — usually for parodying various figures at Conservapedia.
Example of RationalWiki's perspective:-
As a site we have a point of view, and that point of view is that the scientific method and the information gained from its application is better than almost anything else humanity has come up with. We believe that the support of, profiting from and creation of pseudosciences is dangerous and wrong. RationalWiki:What is a RationalWiki article
Policies and guidelines
RationalWiki has a set of community standards to which it sometimes/somewhat adheres. For example, it states "Talk pages should never be deleted" but in actual practice, talk pages deemed to consist of trolling sometimes are deleted. RationalWiki does not aspire to be a general purpose encyclopedia like Wikipedia; therefore, pages deemed to be off-mission are deleted. Such decisions are made through a mobocratic process.
Former Conservapedia sysop and A Storehouse of Knowledge founder Philip J. Rayment harshly criticized RationalWiki as, "[A] place of filthy and blasphemous language, replete with name-calling, smearing, innuendo, hypocrisy, and other undesirable attributes". RationalWiki is often criticized as intolerant toward dissident opinions, since many ideas later accepted as factual are initially regarded as "crank" ideas. Encyclopedia Dramatica argues, "RationalWiki doesn't seem to realize that science is dynamic, and established theories may be rejected in the future."
Many of those critical of RationalWiki refer to the website as "RatWiki" or "IrrationalWiki". Although Liberapedia is mostly supportive of the wiki, it is critical of its perceived conservative bias.[citation requested] One of the more famous essays on this topic, linked by hundreds of pages and probably more by broken external links to the defunct RationalWikiWiki page, is "I thought this was supposed to be RATIONALWiki". One of the more thorough critiques of RationalWiki's claims to rationality is Maratrean's "Is RationalWiki really rational?" Customarily, one is entitled or encouraged or required to imbibe whenever someone complains that RationalWiki users' thinking or behavior is irrational and that this is contrary to the ideals implied by the site's name.
Among the wikis that have articles positively or negatively critiquing RationalWiki are ChildWiki, Encyclopedia Dramatica, Liberapedia, Libertapedia, PolyWiki, SuicideWiki, and TV Tropes. Wikipedia has a brief description of RationalWiki in its Conservapedia article. Conservapedia seems to prefer to pretend that RationalWiki doesn't exist and to treat it as an unwiki (in the Orwellian sense). Three RationalWiki articles have been hurled down the Conservapedia memory hole, and presently it is protected from being re-created. This has been mocked at New Conservapedia, whose RationalWiki article states, "We do not include a link. Pseudoscience must be censored beyond all coasts."
- RationalWikiWiki meta site for RationalWiki
- Liberapedia started as a parody of Conservapedia; it is a less formal wiki that is inclusive of both humor and serious content
- RationalWikiWikiWiki criticism and discussion site of RationalWiki and RationalWikiWiki
- Debatepedia wiki also discusses controversial topics – but puts both viewpoints side-by-side on the same page – RationalWiki also has side-by-side articles
- Psiram – a wiki similar in attitude (multilingual)