4
$\begingroup$

There is a continual problem on SE Biology of people using (I would say trolls abusing) the site, not to ask real questions, but to express an opinion on a subject. The expression of opinion is then concluded with a pseudo-question of the type:

So my question is “How does the biological orthodoxy on this topic explain away my arguments?”

Although there are several themes that come up, the majority of these pseudo-questions relate to evolution. When I have voted to close such questions I have been told that we shouldn’t do it as it appears that we are censoring opinions that we disagree with. The purpose of this post is to demonstrate by my own answer that the such posts run contrary to the clearly stated purposes of this site, and that deleting them is not censorship but a duty to maintain the site for its intended purpose.

Hard cases make bad law, but I will come clean and quote the question and comment that provoked this post. The question was: Tumor-suppression, cell differentiation, and apoptosis: How do macroevolutionists justify dismissing such strong evidence for intelligent design?. And the comment was from @BryanKrause:

I disagree that the post should be closed, because posts like this can often generate good responses, like the one Remi.b posted. I fear that closing posts like this without a robust refutation seems a bit like censorship and there is benefit to engaging to some extent.

That particular question happens to be currently on hold, but I think the principle needs addressing.

$\endgroup$
8
$\begingroup$

There are at least 3, if not more, meta discussions on this already:

Are questions about creationism or intelligent design on-topic here?

Permanent Off-Topic criterion: Questions based on religious/mythical stories and intelligent design

Can we find a better way to support users who ask questions based on a flawed concept of evolution?

(not saying that makes this post invalid, just wanted to share some background on the topic)

From those previous discussions, the one that fits best with my own opinions is this one by @terdon: https://biology.meta.stackexchange.com/a/3223/27148

I want to add that people posting these sorts of questions may be trolls, but they also may not be. People come to this site from all over the world, including many countries where biology education is lacking, including the United States. Just because someone is espousing a viewpoint motivated by intelligent design doesn't mean they are a troll, they may be misinformed and I think this site has as much potential to inform them as any other. Sure, they may not agree with the answer and might not leave convinced, but I'd rather try.

On further thought, I think it's reasonable to close the linked question for being too broad because it contains several sub-questions (i.e., it fails the terdon test of:

such questions should be welcome here as long as they are good questions by the standards of SE

...but I don't think a question that has a wrong presumption makes it a rant. We have had discussions before in meta where it was agreed that questions shouldn't be closed merely because the OP doesn't understand something.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

The reason that this type of question should be removed are made clear on the site.

1. The Introductory Tour

I quote:

Biology Stack Exchange is a question and answer site…

and

This site is all about getting answers. It's not a discussion forum. There's no chit-chat.

and

Focus on questions about an actual problem you have faced. Include details about what you have tried and exactly what you are trying to do.

and

Not all questions work well in our format. Avoid questions that are primarily opinion-based, or that are likely to generate discussion rather than answers.

and

Use comments to ask for more information or clarify a question or answer.

i.e. Comments are not intended for discussion.

2. The principle of the SE format

This difference of SE from other question and answer sites and the fact that it is not a discussion site is clearly explained in a lecture given to Google at Mountain View. OK, the video is an hour long, but if you want to understand the SE model (or you think you have the right to ignore or break it) you have a duty to watch it first.

3. Help Section on “What types of questions should I avoid asking?”

I quote:

To prevent your question from being flagged and possibly removed, avoid asking subjective questions where …

• every answer is equally valid: “What’s your favorite ______?”

• your answer is provided along with the question, and you expect more answers: “I use ______ for ______, what do you use?”

• there is no actual problem to be solved: “I’m curious if other people feel like I do.”

• you are asking an open-ended, hypothetical question: “What if ______ happened?”

• your question is just a rant in disguise: “______ sucks, am I right?”

I personally would not use the word ‘rant’, but questions of the “How do macroevolutionists…” are expressions of opinion and attempts to start a discussion (to put it politely) in disguise.

Let me make it clear, it is fine if someone who is sceptical about a scientific point of view asks a factual question which has a possible answer, e.g.

How does the RNA world theory deal with the evidence that life likely arose in an alkaline environment?

As long as he does not then use the answer to express a counter-view in long comments. (The question is deliberately on a different point — evolution isn’t the only subject people have strong opinions on. But you could substitute a blind watchmaker type question, if you want.)

So we are not censoring genuine questions — we are preventing SE Biology from being abused by people who are not interested in finding answers to questions but wish to use any forum they can find to present their opinions. (And they can be directed to this answer if they make such accusations.)

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ So basically only remove the question if they answer their own question? Thus expressing a disinterest in receiving an actual answer, but instead an intent to express an opinion. $\endgroup$ – John Jul 2 '17 at 20:51
  • $\begingroup$ @John — I don't understand your first sentence, but agree with the second. I chose the RNA World example because people like Chuck Kurland have expressed it (in a review, not on SE) and not long ago I read another review that dealt with the problem. If it had been on SE you might still have argued that the questioner didn't believe there was an answer and any answer was a matter of opinion, but the question is precise, and the response rested on genuine scientific considerations. $\endgroup$ – David Jul 2 '17 at 21:58

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .