The issue

I have been bothered for a while now by this answer to Why do men have nipples?.

As @Corvus and I mentioned, the answer is misleading and IMO and arguably, incorrect. However, the answer received 24 upvotes and 5 downvotes. I would assume that most of those who upvoted have little reputation associated with the tag "evolution", while those who downvoted have higher reputation associated with the tag "evolution". I suppose, we have a case where the ignorant majority has more impact than the knowledgeable minority.


Should we do anything for this answer or is the majority always right?

Can we do anything for this answer?

  • $\begingroup$ I think @dustin once proposed a solution (here) to this issue. He suggested that such questions can be shared on the chat (as opposed to flagging) so that the active users get notified and can cast a downvote or a delete vote. However, I am not sure if we have 20+ active users to reverse the upvotes. So I guess we can decide in this meta post whether to delete that answer or not. $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Oct 19 '15 at 6:43
  • $\begingroup$ Actually this post is much better and well written both w.r.t the question and the answer. $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Oct 19 '15 at 6:57
  • $\begingroup$ Isn't the biggest problem here that a really good answer hasn't been added to the question, that contains the information in the comments from you and @Corvus? At the moment, no answer is clearly expressing the issue of evolutionary constrains, lack of evolutionary pressure in one sex, etc. I would assume that deleting an answer with 15+ upvotes is controversial in the Stack Exchange network (better to downvote), but I don't know how this is usually handled. To remove the "accepted" tag could also be a start (so that it's not pinned to the top), but also goes against normal SE-proceedures. $\endgroup$ – fileunderwater Oct 19 '15 at 7:55
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ This is a major problem with the stack exchange format. The correctness of an answer is inherent and not dependent on the number of votes it receives. Unfortunately, that is not what is portrayed here. $\endgroup$ – canadianer Oct 20 '15 at 17:25
  • $\begingroup$ I think we have a consensus that the community wiki should replace the currently selected answer. Unless someone screams loudly I'll do that in the next few hours. $\endgroup$ – Shep Oct 21 '15 at 14:02
  • $\begingroup$ StackExchange occasionally selecting wrong or useless answers is to be expected, given that natural selection has caused men to have nipples. The only way to avoid such problems is to have biology experts peer review proposed answers and only allowing correct answers to be published. Similarly if we had designed ourselves, men would probably not have ended up with nipples. $\endgroup$ – Count Iblis Nov 3 '15 at 21:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Remi.b this is another shining example biology.stackexchange.com/questions/42050/… - 55 Up, 2 down, and accepted. It doesn't attempt to answer the question, thus is wrong. $\endgroup$ – rg255 Feb 22 '16 at 8:00

OP here,

First off, I HAVE NOT FORSAKEN YOU (as another answer suggested)

But I have taken a bit of a leave of absence. The sudden flurry activity on this question has brought me back. So…

Why did I accept the currently "accepted" answer?

Well as has already been pointed out, there weren't any other high quality answers to the question:

  • The most upvoted answer mentions something about how "the female body plan is the default one", which is a fun sound byte but not really sound logic. I'm happy to go into the details as to why I think this is logically flawed, but hopefully it's clear to anyone reading this. In any case, I couldn't just leave that answer on the top to gather upvotes.
  • Several other answers were just random (vaguely sexist) conjecture.
  • I'm a physicist, so I'm cool with logic and math and stuff, but I honestly didn't know of a better term than "neutral theory of evolution".

I like the community wiki answer. I don't really like introducing mathy terms like "coefficient" and then explaining them vaguely (again I'm not a real biologist), but otherwise I think it's a great answer.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Good to have you back on Biology.SE! Hope you didn't feel any offense in the fact that I doubt that you would check out our discussion given you absence. I edited the answer to clarfiy the definition of selection coefficient. Thanks for the advice. $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Oct 19 '15 at 20:45
  • $\begingroup$ You might consider accepting the CW answer so that we may resolve this issue. $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Oct 21 '15 at 6:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Remi.b, clearly this is just my pedagogical bias, but I don't really see why the word "coefficient" has to come up at all. When I hear coefficient I generally expect to see some kind of quantitative definition, which isn't given. As the post stood, it nonetheless spent a lot of time explaining what a selection coefficient was, when a simple "men and woman seem to have different evolutionary requirements" gets the same point across. I edited the post, but feel free to revert if you think I've removed too much. $\endgroup$ – Shep Oct 21 '15 at 9:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Remi.b, I also added links to a few wikipedia articles to the bottom of the post. I prefer to start out with a very simple qualitative explanation and then move into the details. Again, feel free to revert… $\endgroup$ – Shep Oct 21 '15 at 9:15

Following the first part of the above @fileunderwater's comment, I posted an answer here on Why do males have nipples. I made it a community post (thanks to @fileunderwater's help).

I suppose that we will fail to bring this answer to a significant number of upvotes. Also, because the OP hasn't been active since almost a year, (s)he will probably not see this new answer and will probably not change the answer that (s)he checked.

  • $\begingroup$ Well, there you go. I suspected that I could push you over the edge to provide another answer ;) +1 from me. There is a checkbox under the edit window where you can make it a community post (only visible to the OP I think, and seen after you have clicked "edit" under the answer). $\endgroup$ – fileunderwater Oct 19 '15 at 15:08
  • $\begingroup$ ha ha;) Thank you. It now is a community post. $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Oct 19 '15 at 16:14
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The original question is something that most people could wonder about and be interested in, which is why it is so popular. The problem with your answer is that, while presumably correct, it is inaccessible to the vast majority of lay people (and even people in the sciences) who view and vote on the question and answers. $\endgroup$ – canadianer Oct 20 '15 at 17:25
  • $\begingroup$ I realize that. It was a little easier before having to improve the definition of "selection coefficient" as asked by the OP (for good reasons). If you can think of a way to simplify the answer without leaving out any truth, please do so. In the meantime an easy-to-accept lie is receiving all the honours on our dearest website $\ddot \smile$ $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Oct 20 '15 at 18:03

Actually, while I wouldn't necessarily say that the female body plan is the template, there could very well be more to that answer. If the cells that differentiate to form the chest (for simplicity) are set on their developmental path prior to the expression of SRY, then that is the answer, that the body plan is gender neutral up until the expression of SRY, and therefore, all of the related architecture that lead up to nipples is in place prior to sex trait expression.

That SRY acts to suppress the further development of more prominent breasts, functional mammary glands, increase in areolar and nipple size and enervation that actually allow for suckling of the young, at puberty, doesn't mean that it will delete them from the body plan of males all together. You are not going to get genetic drift in males because you aren't losing the selective pressure on the species as a whole to maintain breasts and nipples in mammals. We have infants that are born with digestive systems and immune systems that require time to mature and need the nutrients, antibodies, and microbes from the skin of the mother while that maturation takes place.


I think there is another example of the wrong answer getting highly upvoted (& accepted) in this question, which got on to the hot network questions (HNQ).

I made a meta stack exchange post about it to seek advice because I've exhausted the normal routine. At the end of the day, the post does not answer the question. It got massively upvoted because it is, nonetheless, an interesting post (it deals with a different question, see my comments on the post). I believe it got upvoted so much because of being posted quickly on a HNQ, and suffered from voting bias (people see it is upvoted, assume that means it must be a good answer, and add an upvote themselves). The post is interesting, hence it gathered some upvotes, but if one actually critiques the answer, they would conclude it does not answer the question.

There is a normal routine to follow for bad answers:

  1. Downvote and comment (request improvements, highlight the problems)
  2. Post an alternative answer

However, as a community I believe we should be going one step further - flagging or deleting such posts. This is because (as demonstrated by the post that I have highlighted) downvotes and comments can be ignored, and it is unlikely to "overtake" highly upvoted answers by posting an alternative later on.

Personally I feel that if the post fails to address the question which is being asked, then the user has not attempted to answer. I'd say this qualifies for flagging as not an answer: while the post may be interesting, it is not a relevant answer for the post and should be removed by the mods.

Likewise, if we are allowed access to delete votes (>10k rep?), then we should be voting to delete.

Another alternative is to post the question the user does answer and ask them to transfer their answer, but I don't think this a good alternative - the user who posted the answer is unlikely to be tempted to delete their big rep earning answer.

  • $\begingroup$ Reading the question and most upvoted answer (for the first time) also makes me a little unhappy. I'd like to say two things: 1) The answer uses a poor semantic in regard to natural selection. 2) I think your critics of the current answer also boils down to the question being a little bit unclear. The expression "not being about improvement" is typically quite unclear. "being about" could for example refer to a "goal" or to a common outcome of a process. Thanks for bringing attention on this issue. $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Feb 22 '16 at 8:09
  • $\begingroup$ fortunately I'm well on my way to the 10k rep barrier thanks to some increased activity of late, first thing on my to do list is cast some delete votes!! $\endgroup$ – rg255 Feb 22 '16 at 8:59

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