Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Is Islam the Oldest Religion? A Featured Snippet Goes Horribly Wrong (Judean Rose)

Is Islam the oldest religion? This is the not-so-innocent question a friend in South Africa put to Google a month ago. She was looking for factual information to use in an online debate regarding which religion is the older: Judaism or Islam. The friend sent me the above screenshot of the featured snippet that came up in response to her question.

The text of said snippet:

'Islam is the oldest religion in the world, founded by Adam, and it was reborn with Abraham and a second time with Muhammad. Between Abraham and Muhammad, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and Christianity emerged in this order. Then Sikhism emerged after the time of Muhammad. These are the six world religions.'

Nu, so what exactly is a featured snippet and why should we care? A featured snippet is a box with a brief text answer followed by a source URL (a link). You might see a featured snippet above your search results, especially if your search is framed as a question. The purpose of the featured snippet is to preempt the need for the user to click on search results by providing a fast answer right out of the gate. 

Here, for illustrative purposes, I asked Google: What color is milk?

Featured snippets are often accurate and answer your most burning questions (such as, for example, what color is milk) without any need for further searching or clicking. But in the case of my friend asking about the chronology of world religions, the featured snippet went horribly wrong, featuring nothing so much as bullpucky.

It literally makes no sense to claim that Islam is the oldest religion. Mohammed wasn’t even a gleam in his mama’s eyes when Abraham, the first JEW, was born.

Exhibit A:

Note that Google corrects my spelling when I try to type "Mohammed."

Exhibit B:

The birth of Abraham may have preceded Mohammed by 2720 years or so (you did the math, right?), but repeat a lie often enough, for instance the silly lie that Islam is the oldest religion, and it may, in fact, be accepted. (Hence the people talking about Israel’s “ethnic genocide” and “displacement of peoples.” Hence the idiots who understand Iron Dome as some kind of weapon or an imbalance of power rather than as a purely defensive technology that saves lives by intercepting and destroying the missiles that Arab terrorists shoot at Jewish civilians. Hence the people who refer to bold lies that demonize Jews as “your truth” and get away with it by professing their love for Israel after the fact—and hence the idiot people who are grateful to accept such professions of love, because Democrats.)

But I digress. (Perhaps not.)

There's a problem with that featured snippet that told what might have been hundreds of thousands of idiots that Islam is the oldest religion: People are sheeple. They think that Google is the word of God. Anyone who happened on this snippet during a search may now believe and repeat the lie—kind of like media "clarifications" and "corrections." People may not see the tiny print of a correction or clarification, but they sure read the lie in the first place. And more often than we'd like to think, they believe it.

The good news regarding that snippet about Islam gone wrong (calling Dr. Freud) is that I couldn’t replicate that result, not even when searching incognito. Nor could my friend when I had her check again, today. The snippet gone wrong is now merely gone (poof!). Instead, there's a featured snippet from the History Channel website which says the opposite of that earlier snippet. Islam, says the new and improved feature snippet: “is the youngest of the world religions.”

The source cited in the original misbegotten featured snippet has now dropped down to second place in the search results. That’s a good thing. People are no longer being misled about the place of Islam in the chronology of world religions. At least not by Google today, though we see from what happened here that a featured snippet can change in a flash. 

The other piece of good news is that the original source of the earlier snippet for "Is Islam the oldest religion"—actually links to a refutation of that idea, hosted by, of all things, a Malaysian website. Click the link and you’ll be taken to a letter citing and rebutting the very text that Google had earlier so promptly supplied us:

All of which makes Google’s horribly wrong momentary mistake even worse, presented as it was, completely out of context. But let's face it: some Google algorithms suck worse than others. For us, the devil is in the details. And those details all too often tend to walk all over the Jews, their religion, and the Jewish State.