What happened to the dinosaurs? They are used to indoctrinate children

DN Reader David O’Hare passed along a tip to me yesterday to try googling: “What happened to the dinosaurs”. Here is the surprising and highly misguided result:

Screen capture from google.

Screen capture from google.

The top result is from Answers in Genesis, Ken Ham‘s fundamentalist, anti-science, Christian group who believes that dinosaurs existed with humans and they are really a means to fool children into accepting SCIENCE over the Bible. (How I wish I didn’t have to keep mentioning this guy over and over and calling attention to his Creationist agenda and utter absurdity, but he’s like stink on a skunk, he won’t go away.) I asked Google via Tweet to explain what was going on here. (I don’t expect an answer.) This entry is OBVIOUSLY incorrect and should not even be showing up high in search results. My social media posts got some range thanks to retweets from high-impact twitterers like Michael McKean (Better Call Saul, This is Spinal Tap) and Tom Tomorrow (Dan Perkins, political cartoonist). So, it appears many people provided feedback to Google and repeated my opinion that it’s NOT a good idea for an information site to promote nonsense. This clearly appears to be PROMOTION.

Many people, including myself, thought that it was a search algorithm fail (Knowledge Graph is a knowledge base used by Google to enhance its search engine’s search results with semantic-search information gathered from a wide variety of sources), a paid ad, or a hack. Merseyside Skeptics posted a Facebook status about it noting that Google has been using “a technology that attempts to give you the answer you’re looking for, even before you’ve clicked on a search result. Sometimes, however, this software can go wrong.” Indeed.

Note that Ken Ham wrote a book called “What Really Happened to the Dinosaurs”. It’s not new. How did it appear as the answer to this query? And why now? And for how long has this been going on?

Google should probably consider quality control on the search results or at least, note that many people have responded to this obviously blunder as being really problematic. Is religious propaganda really a good answer for ANY query on Google? I think not. I should hope Google would not continue to promote anti-science; it’s not great for one’s image, I’d say.
Dinosaurs

Want to know the BEST answers about dinosaurs by people who actually studied them? Go here.

Also, in case you are wondering what REALLY happened. Here is a good answer from Karen Westphal.

dinobird

Juvenile Little green heron

  13 comments for “What happened to the dinosaurs? They are used to indoctrinate children

  1. Christine Rose
    May 26, 2015 at 2:34 PM

    Cue Ken’s blog post talking about the oppressive scientists suppressing his Google win.

    If it’s an algorithm fail we probably won’t get to hear about it–Google has no motive to explain their algorithms unless the media make a stink about it.

    If it’s a manipulation then someone might be able to work out what happened. The thing is that clever new algorithm manipulations are usually not wasting their time trying to mislead children.

    If it’s a paid placement that would be pretty interesting and has the potential to slap Google in the face. I didn’t think that they used paid data to fill that highlighted results box.

    I doubt if it’s a hack just because a hacker could have done something funnier. But if it is a hack, Google has no motive to tell us plebs that they were hacked.

  2. Bonnie
    May 26, 2015 at 2:38 PM

    The cartoon reminded me of “The Unicorn Song,” sung by the Irish Rovers. Thanks for the memories! 🙂

  3. Dan Beach
    May 26, 2015 at 2:44 PM

    Just flagged it as incorrect.

  4. May 26, 2015 at 8:30 PM

    This story has been picked up (sans credit) on other websites. But, you heard it here first. (Actually, it was on my twitter first but thanks to our tipster David! Cracking good find!)

  5. Alice
    May 27, 2015 at 6:25 AM

    Excuse me while I squee over the baby therapod there.

    *squeeee*

  6. Xythe
    May 27, 2015 at 8:57 AM

    Well at least the feedback button on those results seems to do something. It was there for me when I searched it last night, but this morning it is gone (although Answers In Genesis is still the top result).

  7. Andrew
    May 27, 2015 at 10:18 AM

    Looking at the results, I’m pretty sure it’s innocuous, and just the result of that phrase being almost exactly the same (it misses the really) as the title of the creationist book, Google try and rank matches like that higher automatically, without any human intervention. For example, try searching for “great dinosaur mystery solved?” and, OMG! There’s a creationist book, higlighted in a BOX 😉 Really, I wouldn’t worry, with the number of recent blog posts quoting this story, they are now ranked higher due to age and quantity of links, so Google’s algorithm shows them first now. And all that happened without anyone at Google changing anything, either.

    Cheers, and keep up the good work – nice site.

    Andrewl

  8. Michael Bigelow
    May 27, 2015 at 12:17 PM

    I suspect the rational secularists at Google are in hyperdrive overtime mode to fix this. What an embarrassment.

  9. Headless Unicorn Guy
    May 27, 2015 at 10:49 PM

    Cue Ken’s blog post talking about the oppressive scientists suppressing his Google win.

    i.e. (Conspiracy Conspiracy Conspiracy Conspiracy Conspiracy Conspiracy Conspiracy Conspiracy…)

    All I can say is BioLogos Forum: http://biologos.org/blog

    God of Evolution: http://www.godofevolution.com/

    and the Creation Wars archive at Internet Monk: http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/category/creation-wars

  10. May 28, 2015 at 6:35 AM

    Somewhat related…

    Just found this on a comment on this page.

    Google Is God real. And you get a card with this:

    Answer: We know that God is real because He has revealed Himself to us in three ways: in creation, in His Word, and in His Son, Jesus Christ. The most basic proof of God’s existence is simply what He has made.

    Edit: I created those links manually, but the target=”_blank” attribute gets removed somehow, so they don’t open in a new tab.

  11. May 29, 2015 at 1:08 AM

    Man, creationism is stupid! Do people like Ken Ham have any idea how dumb stuff like this makes them look to like the people who have actually passed a high school biology class and have a rudimentary understanding of how evolution actually works, and how we know that the world is much older than six thousand years?

  12. Russian Skeptic
    May 29, 2015 at 4:02 PM

    Don’t be gullible with Google. It is a mixture of promoted results and direct censorship. 1) It yields tons of advertisement and/or dictionary definitions instead of sites giving information on the subject; 2) It presumes you are a complete idiot and corrects supposed misspellings even in the Scholar service; thus, I was searching for a scholar called Ranke and instead got million entries with the word ‘rank’; 3) It automatically redirects you to the version in your native language even if you need specifically Google.com in English (presumably, all non-Anglophones are so dull that they cannot read a word in other languages than their own).
    If any VERY-VERY CLEVER person begins to tell me that there is such thing as ‘settings’, go to hell – they just don’t work for more than one session.

  13. Linda
    May 31, 2015 at 4:28 AM

    I just googled it and Ham’s crazy website and a boxed promo for his book are still at the top of the heap. His website shows up 2nd (after the wiki entry) if you google “when did dinosaurs roam the earth” without the quotes too. Crazy!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *