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This question was asked yesterday by a new user (Can DNA & RNA be considered as nature's programming language?) which, in my opinion, was totally answerable in a general sense, and would correct a popular misconception about how genetics works.

The full text of the now self-deleted question is:

According to me, the final frontier of Biological Sciences, is understanding what the rearrangements of 4 compounds (A,G,C,T/U) for DNA/RNA could achieve. If after fertilization the DNA of the zygote could be genetically engineered to prevent complications occurring later in the life of that human being, it could become the ultimate medicine. Also maybe, we could modify the behavior of stem cells. Also, we have yet to know what 98% of the DNA is there for, maybe if it wouldn't be there, rest 2% wouldn't function at all (i.e. just become a mass of chemical compounds).

Am I right to assume that, DNA & RNA is the ultimate blueprint of all living organisms, and that all other fields in Biology is just beating around the bush?

However less than an hour after the question was posted it was closed as "primarily opinion based". This was pretty annoying as I'd spent a fair amount of time constructing an answer, only to have it refuse to post it because it was closed. I posted a summary in the comments, which addressed the users question and they then deleted the entire question because it was answered.

This is not the only instance where I think questions by users new to SE have their questions closed immediately for no good reason other than the users reading the question do not know how they would answer it in a succinct, SE-like way.

Basically the point of my post here is not to complain at everyone on SE - there are plenty of excellent reasons to close questions that are picked up well by the reviewers (although I think the "homework" option should be changed to "not enough research shown" or similar, that's another meta topic) - but to highlight that just immediately closing a question because you cannot think of how to answer it does not really help.

With the example I linked to I think it is a popular misconception that DNA is "like a programming language", and this question would come up well in many google searches, therefore having an answer (or preferably several answers) would be a good thing! Now the user has deleted the question entirely because of the premature closing.

My proposal would simply be to leave "questionable" questions, like the linked one, open for more than 50 minutes to see if someone can actually come up with a good answer, rather than assuming nobody can answer it. This would be hard to implement programmatically, as there are plenty of questions that deserve to be put on hold immediately, but culturally we could all contribute to this?

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    $\begingroup$ I've added the text of the question as not everyone can see deleted questions. I can't speak for the close voters, but I doubt that not knowing how to answer it was the reason for their votes. $\endgroup$ – Mad Scientist Feb 19 '15 at 9:10
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    $\begingroup$ As one of the persons which have voted to close, I can say for me the question was badly researched, speculative and opinion based. And in this combination I opt to close them. $\endgroup$ – Chris Feb 19 '15 at 9:39
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks @MadScientist. I realise the asker has not put much work in and their question is common misconception, but that is kind of my point; this kind of question gives us an opportunity to address it. Given the relationship between SE & Google, this question would be a good search result for others, and I do not consider that an answer to the question would be opinion based. Sorry for being seemingly pedantic, and I do not mean to criticise the voters of this particular question, but it would be a positive contribution to our SE to debunk this kind of misconception. $\endgroup$ – Luke Feb 19 '15 at 9:50
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    $\begingroup$ The problem is where you want to draw the line between legitimate questions and those where the persons who asks them should invest some more effort first. There are some threads about this on meta... $\endgroup$ – Chris Feb 19 '15 at 10:01
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    $\begingroup$ That question was painful. I would have voted to close, but it was closed already. If you take the time to answer iffy questions, that's a chance you take. Sometimes I answer bad questions to educate people, but if they got closed while I was doing so, I would not have a single moment of regret, nor would I wish to have a poor question kept open simply because I answered it. I have been known to answer questions I've already voted to close. $\endgroup$ – anongoodnurse Feb 20 '15 at 5:15
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    $\begingroup$ I think new questions should be left open for a minimum time of atleast 12 hours, especially if thery are from new users, to give a chance for answering and correction . Even bad questions can have great answers. $\endgroup$ – One Face Feb 20 '15 at 11:12
  • $\begingroup$ As for your concern about the misconception, there is a proposal [in Area51] which will hopefully turn out to be something and which covers especially misconceptions: "Popular science". Thus, I don't think misconceptions are "biology" enough to be here. $\endgroup$ – M.A.R. Feb 24 '15 at 18:24
  • $\begingroup$ @CRags I don't see anything stopping you from self-answering a corrected version of the original bad question after it got closed, if you so wish. $\endgroup$ – March Ho Feb 25 '15 at 22:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Luke The post is undeleted now. You can post an answer. But I think as soon as you answer we should protect or reclose it so that no new users can post anything there. These kind of topics are attractants for passer-bys $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Feb 27 '15 at 8:24
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for heads up @WYSIWYG - I agree. Don't have time right now but will construct an answer! $\endgroup$ – Luke Feb 27 '15 at 13:54
  • $\begingroup$ Not sure why the post wasn't reopened yet, but I just cast the last reopen so you should be able to post now. $\endgroup$ – March Ho Feb 27 '15 at 21:25
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I was the one who first voted to close, so here is my rationale for voting to close this particular question. To me, this question (as currently stated) ticked almost all of the close reason boxes. It is unsourced, speculative (e.g. "...become the ultimate medicine"), broad, opinon-based ("...other fields in Biology is just beating around the bush") and poorly researched. I therefore think the vote-to-close was an easy choice in this case.

However, I do see your point that answers could have been useful, especially for site traffic and in reference to the "DNA as a programming language" misconception. But in that case, the question needed quite a bit of editing to be ok/suitable. I think questions have to be evaluated in their current form, and not from the perspective of what they could potentially become. The best course of action here would have been to close the question (since it was problematic), to edit it (by the OP or by somebody else - maybe the potential answerer), and then reopen it. I do think it was unfortunate that the OP deleted the question directly after it was closed.

Sure, we could also allow a "grace period" before closing questions, but this would be inefficient and we would risk that poor questions could stay on the site for too long. Some users also only visit the site occationally (maybe because of time constraints), and a grace period would mean that they would often not be able to participate in closing, partly because they don't have the time to follow discussions in the comment section. This is why I think questions should be evaluated in their current form when voting to close.

Finally, I don't have a problem with this Q being undeleted, edited (to target the "DNA as programming" misconception), opened and then answered.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the clarification, and I do understand your point. However, I don't think this point was really made to the OP, as he is new to the SE format. Anyway, in future I will remember that editing the OP's question would be the way to go if they do not, as was the case here. Thanks for answer here. $\endgroup$ – Luke Feb 19 '15 at 17:32
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    $\begingroup$ I am suggesting a temporary solution. If someone wishes to give an answer to a question which seems questionable, you can leave a comment below telling you will answer or better yet, answer it as a stub which can be expanded later. This is the model followed in SO. If you see a question which you think you can answer, answer it shortly first. Then edit your answer to expand it. This model was proposed for SO because of heavy competition for reputation and the fact the first post gets most points. But it can be followed here. Once you give a short answer, you can edit it later and elaborate it. $\endgroup$ – One Face Feb 20 '15 at 11:16

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