I had a search on various metas, but couldn't find an exact answer to this.

Occasionally there are posts, such as this one Disproof mitochondrial eve is 6500 years old, that are poorly written and generally don't follow the conventions of how to write a good post. It has rightly received a couple of downvotes (although not from me).

However, I think that there is an interesting biological question to be answered within the post, despite the post itself being in a poor state. I had a go at editing the question, since I also quite fancied doing some research and providing an answer.

My question here is:

Should I leave poorly formatted/written posts with little effort shown to be downvoted and left to die and be closed, or should I go ahead and edit the post and try and 'resurrect' the question in the aim of giving (what I hope) is an interesting and useful answer?


1 Answer 1


My opinion is that you should first think carefully whether the post after editing will satisfy the SE Biology criteria. If so, and it is an original and interesting question, fine. If not, just leave it. When you have enough reputation you can down-vote it or vote to close it.

In the example you cite, my first reaction was that this was completely off-topic. We do not to provide ammunition to people who are probably incapable of using it to “disproof” cranks who are not open to argument in the first place. If people want to judge scientifically whether evolution is the likely explanation for the way things are there is a massive body of evidence to consider — the case does not stand or fall on the interpretation of one observation. Indeed, the observation may well correct — it could be the interpretation that is wrong.


…one might make something of this by cutting 95% of the post (including any mention of creationists) to leave the question, something like (and I haven’t read the paper and it’s not my field):

“What explanations are there for the high rate of mutation of the human mitochondrial control region reported by Joe Bloggs, other than all other estimates of mutation rate are incorrect (or whatever the term is).”

I personally would be prepared to go in with the knife and do something like that if it really interested me. I’m not too bothered if people dislike what I do, but I would post a comment explaining why you had edited it. But I wouldn’t do it because the poster hasn’t bothered to run an English spelling check. And the poster could always revert my efforts, so I might be wasting my time.


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