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This question is in regards to this post, and more specifically, the answer provided by @Remi.b. I'm not quite sure where to begin (this is my first post in a meta.*.SE site), so I'll just start by expressing my perspective of the question/answer, and then I'll explicitly state my concern/curiosity afterwards...

So, the OP begins by pretensing their question with, what comes off to me as, a seemingly narrow assessment of how much cats do/don't like water, based off their personal experiences with their own two cats. Yes, it is a commonly accepted belief that cats aren't too fond of water, but, for all anyone knows, this could really just be a fallacy (like so many other common beliefs are). That being said, the question doesn't seem to be based on anything definitive, scientific or research-based, and really could just be birthed from perpetual confirmation bias. The OP also asks for "interesting theories" instead of hard science, but that's more of a side note (but may still suggest that the OP knows there is no hard science to make any kind of conclusive statement, and decided to ask anyway).

In an attempt to answer this question, I initially performed a few searches and came across this page, which seemed to directly address the OP's concern. The problem with the page though is that there is literally no scientific basis for their statements; nothing, at all. It's all personal opinion, and has no reliable basis whatsoever. Because of this, I chose to keep searching for other, more credible sources, but I had no luck and decided that someone else may be able to produce better sources in their answering.

Now, when considering Remi.b's answer, it is almost exactly the same as what was stated on the page I just mentioned (here), however, Remi.b claims that their answer is acceptable because they're presenting it in the context of it being a "hypothesis", and because this question is asked so often that it can be answered without supporting evidence. My issue with Remi.b's answer is the following:

  • There is literally zero scientific evidence for their proposed "hypotheses".
  • The hypotheses aren't of their own, but in fact are almost verbatim of what the forementioned site contains.
  • The answer does not provide a link to any of the sources from which they copied so much (claiming that they gathered their hypotheses from three sites).
  • There is no originality in the answer, since the hypotheses were truly the ideas of the author from the other site (Jet Perreault), of whom has also authored articles such as, "Best Grooming Tables for Small Dogs", and, "Renaming a Pet After Adoption: Good or Bad?" (which clearly isn't scientifically related).

With all of this in mind, I ask the following:

  • If there are no scientific findings available that address the concern(s) of an OP, is it okay to then provide nothing but opinion based answers?
  • If a source is (heavily) used and not directly quoted, shouldn't a link be provided?
  • Is it acceptable to "bend" the guidelines of Biology.SE if a question can't be answered with a scientific basis, just because a specific question is asked quite frequently?

Lastly, I will say.. I know that a great majority of the answers that are provided are in fact basically copy/pastes from credible sources, however, these kinds of formatted answers generally contain sources that are much more technical than the actual answer provided, and so, it seems to me that the function of the "answeree" is to translate the technical information into a more understandable format and verbage, but then making sure to provide a link to the study/article/research. However, in this case, there was no technical information, and the answeree didn't need to "dumb down" anything.

Collectively, these are my concerns, and I am posting this in attempts of getting a better idea of what is or isn't acceptable when providing an answer that can not be supported by scientific evidence, since there just isn't any available, and, at what point is an answer considered to be plagiarized (to the point that it's not an acceptable answer).

Thanks in advance.

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If there are no scientific findings available that address the concern(s) of an OP, is it okay to then provide nothing but opinion based answers?

I personally have no problem with people providing opinion-based answers. In this community, their quality is supposed to be judged by voting (there are inherent problems with this too, but that's the system). You are also free to comment on answers and explain why you think they are incorrect or poor quality.

That said, questions that can only be answered by opinion are explicitly off-topic and should be closed.


If a source is (heavily) used and not directly quoted, shouldn't a link be provided?

Yes, absolutely. Doing otherwise is plagiarism and the answer should be deleted. This also includes images.


Is it acceptable to "bend" the guidelines of Biology.SE if a question can't be answered with a scientific basis, just because a specific question is asked quite frequently?

If a question cannot be answered, it should be closed as opinion-based. However, there is a distinction between questions that cannot be answered scientifically and those that have not been answered scientifically. I think the former would be off-topic and the latter allowed.

As for poor, opinion-based questions asked frequently, the following example comes to mind on this site. We get a lot of questions along the lines of Why do some bad traits evolve, and good ones don't? The solution was to create a single question that all similar questions could be closed as a duplicate of.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for responding and directly addressing my concerns. After reading your answer, I totally agree with your perspective. I suppose my concern stemmed from the fact that (with respect to opinion/science based statements) I was muddling the standards for questions with that of the standards for answers. And yes, I most definitely see value in providing a single post that addresses a question that's quite frequently asked, yet doesn't have such a scientifically supported answer available. Even from just the last month, I've seen that question (you mentioned) asked 3 or 4 times. TY again. $\endgroup$ – user22020 Aug 8 '17 at 19:35
  • $\begingroup$ You're welcome! $\endgroup$ – canadianer Aug 8 '17 at 19:55
  • $\begingroup$ "If a question cannot be answered, it should be closed as opinion-based." I strongly disagree. The fact that P/NP problem or some of the mysteries of human brain are not currently resolved questions and cannot be answered does not mean they are purely subject of opinion. $\endgroup$ – Tomáš Zato - Reinstate Monica Aug 19 '17 at 0:08
  • $\begingroup$ @TomášZato Well those would be examples of questions that can be answered… $\endgroup$ – canadianer Aug 20 '17 at 22:58
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    $\begingroup$ @TomášZato I think the distinction is that we believe those questions have an objective answer, we just don't know what it is yet :) $\endgroup$ – arboviral Aug 21 '17 at 15:24
  • $\begingroup$ @arboviral He said "cannot be answered" not "does not have an answer". If you ask me why smoking causes cancer, I cannot answer. Yet, the question has an answer. Same goes for questions with no known answer at this moment. $\endgroup$ – Tomáš Zato - Reinstate Monica Aug 21 '17 at 16:08
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    $\begingroup$ @TomášZato I'm pretty sure we're trying to make the same point. $\endgroup$ – arboviral Aug 21 '17 at 16:15
  • $\begingroup$ @TomášZato I'm not sure why you're arguing about this. Perhaps the meaning was ambiguous, but I think arboviral clarified it well. If you want, I can edit the post to make it clearer. $\endgroup$ – canadianer Aug 21 '17 at 16:17
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Feels like I have to take a chance at answering to this meta post! I will just go through your bullet points to address my opinion and my understanding of our rules.

There is literally zero scientific evidence for their proposed "hypotheses".

When we specifically refer to a claim as a hypothesis, it generally means that there is little to not evidence for or against this hypothesis. It may result from a logical deduction or a vague intuition (which themselves can result from other findings.

The hypotheses aren't of their own, but in fact are almost verbatim of what the forementioned site contains.

Yes, I liked the terms skittish and waterlogged which I did not know before (I am an ESL), so I reused them!

The answer does not provide a link to any of the sources from which they copied so much (claiming that they gathered their hypotheses from three sites).

You're right. Mainly because I closed the windows and was lazy to get back to them. I should provide the links, I agree with you. I have now added three links to avoid being called for plagiarism.

There is no originality in the answer, since the hypotheses were truly the ideas of the author from the other site (Jet Perreault), of whom has also authored articles such as, "Best Grooming Tables for Small Dogs", and, "Renaming a Pet After Adoption: Good or Bad?" (which clearly isn't scientifically related).

There is no need for an answer to be original. We are not requested to be creative, only to be helpful.

If there are no scientific findings available that address the concern(s) of an OP, is it okay to then provide nothing but opinion based answers?

By the term opinion-based, we usually refer to a claim that lack evidence. My claim is only that some people have formulated hypotheses. I do not claim them to be true. Just like I did in this post which was well accepted.

If a source is (heavily) used and not directly quoted, shouldn't a link be provided?

Yes, I think so. Otherwise that would count as plagiarism.

Is it acceptable to "bend" the guidelines of Biology.SE if a question can't be answered with a scientific basis, just because a specific question is asked quite frequently?

I don't think I bent the guidelines. Repeating other people's hypotheses (whether these people are recognize scientists or not) is acceptable and is actually a big part of the interest that people get from our website.

Misrepresenting the readers by letting them think a hypothesis is supported by evidence while it is not would be wrong but this is not what the answer is doing.


That being said.... I am not necessarily very proud of my answer. I think it is a simple answer of little interest but I think that no one can really provide a much better answer due to a lack of research on the subject (or a perceived lack of research from me). Also, reading this meta post makes me realize that my answer lacks the non-peer reviewed sources I found and that have formulated these hypotheses before me. They have now been added.

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    $\begingroup$ The fact that you responded to my post, where in fact it pertains to an answer you provided, seems to have had the effect of people "taking sides", which is ultimately preventing me from getting opinions from other people. I posted on here to get feedback from the community, not to have you further emphasize your point that was already declared in the comments from the question in focus.. so thanks. $\endgroup$ – user22020 Aug 7 '17 at 23:55
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    $\begingroup$ Oh come on Charles! Users reading these meta posts are clever enough to think for their own. But anyway.... What do you suggest? I doubt I should delete my answer here. You can write your own answer to your own question. That would be fine $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Aug 8 '17 at 0:12
  • $\begingroup$ I have already disagreed with most people from the community before twice (here and there). It is frustrating but this is part of being part of a community. Just keep up the good work.You already have numerous very good answers good such a young user. If this kind of problem repeat, you may want to come back to it later on. Btw, I did not down vote your post. $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Aug 8 '17 at 0:12
  • $\begingroup$ I mean, it's really not a big deal.. I just wanted to hear other peoples perspective on the matter. The fact that they can read my post, then immediately read your position and why you answered the way you did, allows for them to "choose" who they think is "right", when in fact all I'm really looking for is clarification from other mods as to what's an acceptable answer when studies/research isn't available. Good to know you didn't downvote. thumb up $\endgroup$ – user22020 Aug 8 '17 at 0:13
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    $\begingroup$ I disagree thoroughly with: "When we specifically refer to a claim as a hypothesis, it generally means that there is little to not evidence for or against this hypothesis" That's not what a scientific hypothesis is at all. A hypothesis is at least an educated guess, which intrinisically means there is some evidence in one direction... $\endgroup$ – Joe Healey Aug 8 '17 at 19:03
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeHealey Well, you based your hypothesis based on previous finding, on intuition and on whatever you want but it still remain that when we refer to a concept as being a hypothesis, most of the time we are referring to a concept for which little to no evidence exist (even if technically, a supported hypothesis remains a hypothesis, it is only supported by evidence). But anyway, I do not think this philosophical issue matter much for our discussion here. I don't know whether you see your point as purely philosophic or whether you think it matters for the current post. $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Aug 8 '17 at 19:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Remi.b Thanks for updating your answer is that other thread, and for explaining more thoroughly your reasoning behind why you answered the way you did. $\endgroup$ – user22020 Aug 8 '17 at 19:37

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