A recent evolution question made it to the hot network questions list. This caused one of big problems faced by some questions, particularly by evolution questions, in that it attracted a lot of low quality answers, and a lot of non-expert users to the site. The question can briefly be summarised as
If evolution is not an adaptive process then why is there so much adaptation?
To answer this question one needs to do two things, i) clarify for the user that evolution is a process of change not adaptation, and ii) explain that adaptation comes about as a process of selection which is one of the mechanisms of evolution.
Now I believe that this answer does not answer the question. The answer received 56 upvotes and was accepted as an answer, while only receiving 4 downvotes. I can understand why the post itself would get upvotes. It is, after all, an interesting post. However, it answers a different question, that of
Does evolution always increase complexity?
"The fundamental principal of natural selection is that it favours the organism most suited to a particular environment. But, that isn't always the most complex organism."
Now we come to the big issue, it is highly upvoted and accepted as an answer by the person who asked the question. However, this doesn't mean that the post actually answers the question. Anyone can turn up here and vote, regardless of how well they have read and understood the question and the answer. Like I said, the post is a good one so I can understand why people would upvote it, as a stand alone piece it is worthy of upvoting, but it answers the wrong question. Having been on the hot network questions it is likely to have attracted a number of non-expert users, and this is supported by the number of unfamiliar users who contributed comments, chat messages, and answers to the question. Given that the person who asked the question clearly has some strong misconceptions about evolution and exhibited hostility towards existing users on biology SE, I'm not sure that I would place much faith in his/her acceptance of the answer either.
It is a problem because some degree of expertise is necessary in judging the validity of the answer. Therefore, while most won't see the problem, some will. The question is
Is the majority always right?
Well as an evolutionary biologist I see first hand the massive popular misconceptions about evolution, so I can tell you that most people have an extremely poor understanding of evolutionary biology, and that if evolutionary theory was based on popular consensus of what evolution is then it would probably make no sense. Therefore, I think majority rule is potentially grossly invalid in this case, and that credible expertise should be given weight in discussions of the topic. And that brings me to me, I'm not suggesting I'm some world leader in evolutionary biology, but I think it is fair to say that I am considerably more qualified than the average person to comment on the validity of the answer; I have a PhD and Masters degree in Evolutionary Biology, my PhD thesis had the process of adaptation at it's very core, and I am currently doing a Post-doc on the process of adaptation in contemporary humans. My answer to the question deals with the misconceptions the user had about evolution, and explains why adaptation is so prevalent, thus dealing with both problems raised by the original question. This can serve as what I would consider a quite good answer to the question.
So what do we do about the answer? Well I have been researching this, including the existing biology meta posts on incorrect and upvoted answers and making a meta stack exchange post about it. It seems the correct process for dealing with incorrect answers is:
2) Comment to explain criticisms, request improvement/clarification
3) Post an alternative answer
I have used all of these actions, and have made multiple requests to the original poster of the answer, all of which has been ignored (user has been online after each comment and done nothing). I have also commented to ask for references because there is no supporting material whatsoever, but that's another issue.
Obviously though, there is a problem in that the incorrect answer is still highly upvoted and accepted. I think this is a problem because i) as a site we should be striving to have material which is correct and useful and ii) as (evolutionary) biologists we should be striving to ensure that material is clear and consistent in order to straighten out peoples misconceptions, inconsistency in explanation will contribute to further misconception.
In the meta stackexchange answers one suggestion was to raise a flag on the post, but came with warning that it would likely be rejected. However, the same user, a mod on at least four other stack exchange sites and a heavily contributing meta stack user, suggested making a meta post to judge support for deletion of the answer as a popular consensus among the regular users may have more sway with the moderators.
"For answers, any post that is not an answer (should be a comment, doesn't answer the question, etc.) should be deleted. Answers that are wrong or that dispense poor advice should be downvoted, not deleted."
So this is a call, please vote up and down fairly, and add answers or comments below. Should we delete the answer because it does not answer the question which was asked?