This question is especially for the moderators, but, of course, anyone is free to answer it.

In a recent comment I criticized the accepted answer to a question arguing that it did not answer the question. I was very careful to criticize only the logic of the question and not the person who answered it.

The answerer defended his answer, but there followed an argument about whether the fact that the poster had accepted the answer meant that it must be a satisfactory answer. I can imagine the latter interchange being removed (although I would feel it unjustified) but in fact it was only the original criticism that was removed, and this without comment. I find this rather strange so I am attempting to establish:

“Is it legitimate to criticize an accepted answer with impersonal scientific arguments, even if the original poster has accepted the answer?”

I would argue that this should be legitimate, using the example of Stack Overflow to support my argument. On Stack Overflow many people up-vote or accept answers because they ‘work’ for them — they solve a coding problem. In Biology, people up-vote answers that they subjectively think are correct (or of value), and the poster, who is generally not the best judge of what is or is not correct, accepts answers that seem to make sense, or accepts out of politeness when someone has gone to the trouble to write a detailed answer. There is generally no definitive test of whether the answer ‘works’ (unless it’s homework).

Despite the more objective nature of up-voting or accepting on Stack Overflow one often finds comments arguing that an answer is inadequate, even if it seemed to ‘work’ for some users. This may be because it is buggy and will fail in certain circumstances, because it may present a security hole, or because it will only work on certain platforms. I would argue that there is even more justification on SE Biology to criticize answers one feels are inadequate so that others using them as a source of information can be made aware the reasons that some biologists do not accept the answer.

I know the Help says “be nice”, but surely this does not preclude criticism on the grounds that it isn’t “nice” to criticize. This is science, and as long as we criticize ideas, arguments and erroneous statements, rather than people, we are just doing our job as scientists.

Now it may be that the answer to this question is “obviously yes”, and the comment was deleted by mistake or because it led to the subsequent exchanges, but I felt sufficiently strongly about this to ask for confirmation.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I can't comment on this specific case but yes, comments can certainly be used to criticize the content of answers. $\endgroup$
    – canadianer
    Sep 13 '17 at 5:19
  • $\begingroup$ I see this the same way as @canadianer. If this critique is correct and if you need (and want) to adress it, is another question. $\endgroup$
    – Chris Mod
    Sep 13 '17 at 5:40
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Acceptance is definitely not a safe guard against critiques. Acceptance is a way of saying its useful to other users, no more, no less. $\endgroup$
    – AliceD Mod
    Sep 13 '17 at 6:38
  • $\begingroup$ @AliceD and Chris: I think, then, his question is why his critique on the accepted answer was deleted (presumably by a moderator). $\endgroup$
    – canadianer
    Sep 13 '17 at 7:23
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @canadianer - The only mod-removed comment was Sigh. But you are not answering the question, only describing some aspects of retrovirus replication.; The remaining comments were deleted by their own posters, as far as I can see. I expect this last 'sigh....' comment was flagged because of the general undertone and subsequently removed by the mod team. This apparently annoyed David and he removed all of his comments. By the looks of the timeline, this, in turn, made another.homo.sapiens remove their out-of-context comments too. $\endgroup$
    – AliceD Mod
    Sep 13 '17 at 9:36
  • $\begingroup$ @AliceD — Thanks for that info. I guess the "sigh" did it. Sigh. Not annoyed, just wanted to know before posting a revised criticism of the points in the answer. As it turned out the question was unclear, but the conversation led to an eventual realization of the poster's fundamental misconception (at least as I read it — the OP hasn't responded to a request to approve my clarification of his question). I'll go ahead and post a new comment after checking with my lawyer ;-) $\endgroup$
    – David
    Sep 13 '17 at 12:22
  • $\begingroup$ @David no worries. You communicated fairly. Downvoting would be a good action too if you disagree with the post. $\endgroup$
    – AliceD Mod
    Sep 13 '17 at 12:55
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @AliceD — OK, I have posted a new comment in which I just make points and don't explicitly say "this is wrong". If the poster rebuts them I will let it lie. (In any case I'm busy at the moment.) $\endgroup$
    – David
    Sep 13 '17 at 21:33

You must log in to answer this question.

Browse other questions tagged .