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We do get a lot of questions that ask for why evolution did not lead to situation-X?

Recent examples:

The answer to all such questions is that there is not enough selection pressure towards situation-X, and evolution does not try to find global optimum. Should we keep repeating the same answer again and again? What do you think should be done for these questions? If you close them as a duplicate of some other question, the OP will argue that their question is about a different situation.

I think that these should be closed unless the OP asks for a specific hypothesis, but should we keep retyping the same statement for the custom close? An option is to clearly mention this rule in the tag-wiki for and cite that as a close reason. What is your take?


Based on terdon's suggestion, I have created a community wiki post:

Why do some bad traits evolve, and good ones don't?

Those who are good at the subject, feel free to refine the post or add more information.

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    $\begingroup$ Maybe a community wiki answer could be written and we could point these users to read it first and edit their post accordingly. In my opinion these questions come from the lack of understanding evolution in general and basic biology principles..... $\endgroup$ – Nandor Poka Jun 26 '15 at 11:35
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    $\begingroup$ Very nice question and solution. You are addressing the same concern as my question from a few weeks back, meta.biology.stackexchange.com/questions/3000, but in a more focused manner - and you also came up with an actionable solution. $\endgroup$ – rumtscho Jun 27 '15 at 11:53
  • $\begingroup$ "The answer to all such questions is that there is not enough selection pressure towards situation-X" ... or mutations for such a situation simply haven't occurred, or stochastic processes removed such mutations. $\endgroup$ – ELL Jun 30 '15 at 8:41
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Write a general question and post a general answer, then close them as dupes of it. For example:

Q: If trait X would be advantageous to an organism, why hasn't it evolved?

Then, just write a general answer explaining that evolution is not guided and has no knowledge of the "perfect" state. Nor is there such a thing as a perfect state, etc.

Basically, we need a question that's broad enough to apply to any trait X and an answer that explains the basic reasoning behind why not everything that would be good for a species will necessarily occur.

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    $\begingroup$ Ah wonderful. This should do. $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Jun 26 '15 at 11:50
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    $\begingroup$ It would also make sense to create such canonical answers as community posts. $\endgroup$ – fileunderwater Jun 26 '15 at 11:59
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    $\begingroup$ @WYSIWYG pro tip: make the answer community wiki so that 1) it makes it easier for others to edit it and 2) you don't get accused of self promotion and mod power abuse. $\endgroup$ – terdon Jun 26 '15 at 12:10
  • $\begingroup$ @terdon Done that already :) $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Jun 26 '15 at 12:10
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    $\begingroup$ To add to this, I'm wondering if there should be a similar post dealing with a related question, "Why does X trait, which appears to have no selective advantage, exist?" I also see this question crop up from time to time. $\endgroup$ – C_Z_ Jun 26 '15 at 17:52
  • $\begingroup$ @CactusWoman sounds good, in fact, such "canonical" answers exist on most sites and serve as dupe targets. $\endgroup$ – terdon Jun 26 '15 at 18:41
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Beside the canonical question (which I support), I think that we can do a bit more. Specifically, somebody who asks this type of question probably can benefit from a tutorial on the basics of evolution written for laymen. Not everybody will read them, but some will. And the more people learn, the more we can expect them to come back with interesting questions.

Corvus suggested such a resource some time ago, and I promised that I'll make a community ad suggestion out of it. Now I made the graphic and posted it in the Meta thread. Your upvotes, downvotes and improvement suggestions are welcome!

The site also has a nicely compiled list of misconceptions about evolution. The direct link to that could be added to an auto-comment used when closing this type of question as a dupe to the cannonical one. This may improve the chances of it being spotted and read by the people who need it.

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  • $\begingroup$ We can also try to add some basic info and site links in the tag wiki $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Jun 28 '15 at 14:01
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    $\begingroup$ @wysiwig Sure we could, but in my experience, people don't read tag wikis. Especially the ones who come to ask very basic questions - they are rarely established community members and don't discover such an obscure feature. Even ones coming from other parts of the network don't bother. We have a problem on cooking with people asking thousands of variations of "I left my food at room temperature, is it safe to eat" despite having both a short and a thorough explanation of food safety in the tag wiki. Still, doing it is better than not doing it, even if the impact is small. $\endgroup$ – rumtscho Jun 28 '15 at 15:07
  • $\begingroup$ if the asker do find the appropriate tags, then in my experience, people (at least I) do read it, if we make the first line ALL CAPS and says: "before using this tag, read the information in this tag first" $\endgroup$ – Ooker Sep 12 '15 at 15:09

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