14 December 2010

Wikipedia research: The creation–evolution controversy in public education

The creation versus evolution debate in public education is mostly considered as an educational issue of the United states (Curry, 2009). Though, the last years news coverage showed that it is not exclusively an American issue, but also a widely discussed topic in European (Curry, 2009) and Islamic countries (Hameed, 2008). The Economist even states in 2007 that the creation-evolution controversy “[...] is rapidly going global.” (The Economist Newspaper Limited, 2007). That means, that many different countries wonder whether or not to include the topic ‘creationism’ in the curriculum of public schools as an addition or even instead of the topic ‘evolution’. In order to see which country votes more likely in favor of creationism, it seems interesting to look closely at the different language editions of the Wikipedia article about ‘creationism’. Therefore, this research tries to examine whether the length of an article about creationism is related to the ranking which shows the different views on human evolution in various countries. Further, it is investigated whether the language editions of countries that more likely believe in creationism contain criticism in their articles, and whether the English language version is written by biased authors.


Which language edition of Wikipedia has the most developed/comprehensive article about ‘creationism’?
Which language edition of Wikipedia contains criticism in their article about ‘creationism’?

Looking at the English language version:
Which country is the most dominant on the history page of the article about creationism? That means, who makes the most edits?
Which Wikipedia contributor edited the most and what is his/her position referring to the creation-evolution debate?


Making a list of comparable countries:

In order to compare countries that more likely believe in evolution with countries that less likely believe in evolution, the following ranking will be used (Miller et al., 2006):

This ranking shows 34 countries and their response to the statement “Human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals” (Miller et al., 2006). The response options were: true, false or not sure.

The data shows that Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, France and Japan are five countries where people responded to the statement most likely with the answer ‘true’. In contrast to Lithuania, Latvia, Cyprus, United States and Turkey, where people responded least likely with the answer ‘true’. Ergo, the following language editions of Wikipedia are compared:

Wikipedia offers no Icelandic article about creationism. Therefore, Norway (Norwegian/Norsk-bokmal) will be included in the comparison, which is the seventh highest ranked country.

Cyprus has two official languages, Turkish and Greek. The Turkish language edition will be examined as a representative for Turkey. Therefore, Greek will be included because Greece is the seventh lowest ranked country.

The United States do not have an exclusive Wikipedia article because Wikipedia articles are sorted by their language. That means, that it is not possible to make a distinction between the United States and the United Kingdom for example, which is the sixth highest ranked country. Therefore, Bulgaria will be included, the sixth lowest ranked country.

Word count:

In order to examine the amount of words, to see which article is the most or least developed one, all texts in each article were selected. These texts were then copied and pasted into a Numbers document because this software has a ‘word count’ feature.

The result of the word count for each language article were then entered into the Bubble lines tool. This tool produces relative sized bubbles which represent the various language articles.

Absence/Presence of criticism:

In order to check whether criticism is absent or present in a certain Wikipedia article, the Wikipedia entry check tool was used. This tool offers two boxes: the top box is for the title of the article or the full Wikipedia URL, and the bottom box is for the key words/phrases.

The tool does not translate automatically the keywords that are related to the language edition. That means, that it was necessary to translate the keyword ‘criticism’ into several languages using the Mac Language Translator.

English language version:

The English language version of the Wikipedia article about creationism does not represent one particular English speaking country. So it is not possible, as already mentioned, to make a distinction between the United States and United Kingdom, Australia, etc. But it is possible to examine which country and which editor edited the most. So in order to study the Wikipedia history and localize the IP, the Wikipedia Edits Scraper and IP Localizer tool was used. This tool is able to ‘scrape’ the whole edit history for a specific Wikipedia article and to find the geo-location of an IP address when there is no user name given. Then, the location of the last two years were ranked to see which country is the most dominant one.

In addition to the examination of the most dominant countries, the contributors  were studied with the highest amount of edits of the creationism article. This study was made with the help of Wikipedia’s own database of tools. One of the tools shows a ranking with all contributors of a particular article, ranked by their amount of edits. It also indicates when the last and the first edit was made, but this was of no interest for this research. More important were five contributors who made the most changes in the article. These five contributors were then examined through their profile pages to see what kind of position they have, i.e. whether they are pro or contra evolution. This gives an overview of the absence or presence of neutrality of the authors.


Word count:

The results of the word count for each language article are as followed: English (9503)
Japanese (6504), French (5477), Swedish (3764), Danish (1727), Norwegian (664), Greek (387), Lithuanian (361), Turkish (286), Bulgarian (169), Latvian (16)

This image shows that the highest ranked countries (Japan, France, Sweden, Denmark, Norway) have the most developed articles of the various language Wikipedias. Further, it is obvious that the lowest ranked countries (Greece, Lithuania, Turkey, Bulgaria, Latvia) have the least amount of words. The English language article has by far the most developed article compared to all other countries which were tested during this research.

Absence/Presence of criticism:

This table presents which Wikipedia language edition does or does not contain criticism. It is clear that the more likely people of a certain country voted in favor of evolution the more  likely does criticism appear in the article. That means, that four (Japan, Sweden, Denmark, Norway) of the highest ranked countries presented criticism in their language version, except of the French article. And four (Greece, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Latvia) of the lowest ranked countries presented no criticism, except of the Turkish article.

English language version:

Examining the last two years to see which country was the most active one recently, shows the following results: people of the United States edited the article about creationism by far the most, the second most dominant editor are the people from the United Kingdom, the third is Canada, the fourth is Australia and the fifth is surprisingly Germany. The result of this examination is that the people of the United States are the most active contributors in the last two years. The question which raises as a conclusion of this result is: What is the position of the contributors? Are they standing in favor of the theory of creationism and intelligent design?

So looking at the five most active users demonstrates that the majority can be affiliated to supporters of creationism. In detail: The five most active users are Joshua P. Schroeder (203 edits), Rossnixon (145), Hrafn (133), Dave Souza (116), Ungtss (109). The user Joshua P. Schroeder can be seen as the only explicit opponent of the belief in creationism because of his extensive definition of pseudoscience where he shows his position against the promotion of pseudoscience, such as creationism for instance. Hrafn, who did not make clear point on his profile page, stated later in a comment that he is not believing in creationism or Intelligent Design. The rest of the active users can be attributed to creationism: Rossnixon wrote on his profile “This user believes in intelligent design or creationism”(http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=User:Rossnixon, retrieved December 9, 2010); Dave Souza said that he is interested in the history of creationism and is fascinated with the great intelligent design con (http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=User:Dave_souza, retrieved December 9, 2010); Ungtss does not claim to believe in either evolution nor creationism on his profile but he shows interest in theistic realism, which is a justification for intelligent design, and in other strongly Christian-related topics, such as ‘Genealogies of Genesis’, ‘Baraminology’, ‘Creation Science’, ‘Dipolar theism’, etc. (http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=User:Ungtss, retrieved December 9, 2010).  This demonstrates that the most active users do not write with a neutral point of view, four of the five editors are biased.


As already written in the assignment description of the subject ‘Digital methods’, it is difficult to examine controversial issues due to Wikipedias policy of a “neutral point of view”. Most of the controversial topics can be found on ‘forked’ articles where criticism is presented, e.g. the article on creationism and the forked article ‘Creation-evolution controversy’. Though, it is obvious that countries where people believe less in evolution and more in creationism, show less criticism in their language version.

Another difficulty is to draw a conclusion from the article size. In this case, all the countries that were ranked highly in Miller’s et al. (2006) comparison, have the highest amount of words included in their language version. But does that mean that the more words an article contains, the more likely they believe in evolution? No. There could be many other factors that give a reason for this result, e.g. size of the country/amount of citizens, presence of a more famous encyclopedia, etc. So in order to measure the real position of a country regarding creationism, it is necessary to use other sources than the collaboratively authored online encyclopedia ‘Wikipedia’.


Curry, A. (2009). Creationist beliefs persist in Europe. Science, 323(5918), 1159. DOI: 10.1126/science.323.5918.1159

Hameed, S. (2008). Bracing for Islamic Creationism. Science, 322(5908), 1637-1638. DOI: 10.1126/science.1163672

N.A. (2007, April 19). In the beginning: The debate over creation and evolution, once most conspicuous in America, is fast going global. The Economist. Retrieved December 8, 2010, from http://www.economist.com

Miller, J.D., Scott, E.C., & Okamoto, S. (2006). Public acceptance of evolution. Science, 313(5788), 765-766. DOI: 10.1126/science.1126746


  1. This was interesting. Thanks. Researching Wikipedia by language is something I would have thought of on this subject, but I would never have even tried to find the time to do.

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