A recent question caught my attention relating to genetic IQ. At first glance its a reasonable question. It attracted 3 upvotes so far, more than many exceptional questions on this site. Disturbingly the paper that the question cites so enthusiastically has been widely discredited by the scientific community. It demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding of evolution, IQ, and scientific philosophy but was ultimately condemned for plagersim. The author, Helmuth Nyborg, was convicted of scientific misconduct during that paper and has a history of controversial pseudoscientific research relating to gender and racial differences as well as being affiliated with neo nazis and holocaust deniers.

This sort of question is rare, but is far more dangerous than a basic lack of understanding like this question.

The IQ question is well formatted and gives the impression that this is legitimate biological science. Its not. I've voted to close, but should I also construct an answer that explains why its a load of tosh? I want to avoid giving any legitimacy to the topic.

Has this type of pseudoscientific question come up before and if so how was it dealt with?

EDIT 1 The question has now been closed. Adding an answer is not an option.

EDIT 2 The question has now been deleted. Problem solved?

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    $\begingroup$ I would post an answer explaining why it's a load of tosh (I've done this before). I think this is a reasonable role of this site for those who want to undertake it. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 5:16
  • $\begingroup$ The question has been closed now so I can't add an answer. I may just comment and link to this meta. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 12:24

1 Answer 1


I don't really see a problem with those questions and I actually would not be afraid of seeing more like them.

We shouldn't expect everyone to be well versed in biology, otherwise they would not need to ask questions here.

I am actually quite surprised that the question about rotting eggs had 3 downvotes. Clearly the OP does not know about spontaneous generation etc. but 1) that is a very good occasion to teach them about it and 2) a very good answer can be given (and the one which was given is quite good).

This type of question should really be used as an opportunity to teach about how the scientific method works, or how to evaluate if a paper is good or not etc. etc.

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    $\begingroup$ I think the rotten egg question has been the subject of debate before. @anongoodnurse as usual did an excellent job of explaining the situation from the ground up. Its along the same lines as the IQ question, as you point out, in that both lack some understanding of biology. However rather than ignorance due to lack of study its ignorance because of gross misinformation (although OP does hint at some level that they is somewhat dissatisfied with the theory). This is moot point though. The question has been closed. I made my peace in the comments. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Commented Feb 13, 2015 at 15:30
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    $\begingroup$ @GoodGravy in a sense is just like the famous turtle question on StackOverflow (discussed here: blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/02/are-some-questions-too-simple ). $\endgroup$
    – nico
    Commented Feb 13, 2015 at 18:23

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