I have noticed on a number of occasions that people complain that their question or answer has received attention from people asking them to fix it up, when there are other questions that are just as bad or worse that have managed to pass by unnoticed.

To me this is directly analogous to the driver who has been pulled over by the police complaining that other drivers are breaking the law too, and why aren't they getting tickets?

I hope it is clear that two wrongs do not make a right. If there are other posts that are of poor quality, the correct response is to fix both, rather than neither.

Sometimes these posts will have escaped unnoticed because they are old and were written before the (still evolving!) community standards were established. Sometimes, it is because they just managed to slip past while no-one was looking; there are only so many resources to go around. Sometimes, it is because one person has a genuine insight into a flawed answer that no-one else noticed.

IMHO, the typical questions and answers here on Skeptics.StackExchange are of a very high-quality. I have often commented that, since becoming a regular here, when I visit other forums I cringe at the nonsense that is propagated. The moderators (and I hope much of the community) are concerned about the occasional "broken windows" giving the wrong impression to visitors about what they can expect here.

You can help out. If you see a question or answer that doesn't meet our community standards, use a (polite!) comment to ask the author to fix it, or be bold and edit it yourself, or flag it to bring it to the attention of the sleeping busy moderators.

  • I hope to use this post as a quick link for when I see these complaints in the future.
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Commented Jul 22, 2011 at 2:05
  • 2
    This comes up on Wikipedia all the time, they call it the "other stuff exists" argument or WP:OSE. Seems like it would apply to any site that allows open posting and crowdsources the editing/moderation. Read more here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:OSE
    – Tim Farley
    Commented Aug 11, 2011 at 14:11

3 Answers 3


It is very rare that the second "wrong" is fully analogous to the first "wrong".

On a site like this, many situations have differences that distinguish them from all previous situations.

In deciding how to handle a specific case, we apply standards, guidelines, and community feedback (votes, flags, comments).

If situation A is deemed by the community to warrant a particular action and situation B is not, that is likely because of differences between the two situations, regardless of how closely they may appear to be when cherry-picking similarities.

If you have received feedback or points for improvement about your own content or behavior, take it only as that. Focus on your content, not the content of others.


This is a good point. When a question slips by that doesn't seem to meet notability requirements or is somehow considered not appropriate that shouldn't be used as justification for other questions that are similarly not appropriate to be acceptable.

People make mistakes, things slip by, etc etc etc.

The problem here is that questions that should be considered wrong are continually allowed, up voted and all but endorsed while other questions are closed for not being notable or being too vague. Reasons that seem every bit as applicable to the questions that are allowed to remain open.

The "Two wrongs don't make a right argument" only really holds when the wrongs are exceptions. That isn't the case on Skeptics.SE

When questions that seem like they should be considered "wrong" are endorsed and upvoted, then how are people not supposed to use that as justification for their questions also being acceptable?


  • Did dragons exist - There is absolutely no claim at all. There is no evidence that someone is claiming that yes, dragons as portrayed in illustrations existed in reality. Conversely this question relating to tourists remains closed, despite having more evidence of people making the claim or the question being based on a widespread belief.
  • These questions asking if Tupac and Elvis are still alive are not great questions for this site, since they tend to rely on proving a negative. They would seem to have little to do with scientific skepticism. Yet, they are considered acceptable.
  • This question on the Bat-Signal is considered acceptable with Jeff himself saying it was a good question, despite no one claiming that it is possible. This question on nuclear power plants seems to be based on just hearsay, yet is fine. Meanwhile this question on Australians and facial features which has a clearly defined and notable claim is closed.
  • This question on reverse psychology is asked because the poster is curious. There is no evidence of a claim or it being a widely held belief and questions about idle curiosities are explicitly not appropriate, yet it remains.
  • This question on throwing a coin of the side of a building is based on a discussion had a long time ago, with no reference to show notability. This question on glass flow is based on anecdotes, without any reference to a claim. This question about scientists interviewed in the WSJ is curiosity. There is no one making the claim being asked about.
  • The question asking do atoms exist is a great example. Originally no claim in the question at all, simply idle curiosity without even evidence of a search to show why the asker doubted the claim. The question was closed by the community yet this was reversed by the moderators without justification. Perhaps the popularity of the question has something to do with it.

Most of these questions are from within the last month, however there is a similar pattern throughout the site for at least the last six months.

I like most of these questions, I think they are interesting and I learn a lot from both reading the questions and seeing the answers. I don't think any of them should be acceptable as they are however. This high degree of inconsistency simply isn't fair to users who have their questions closed for reasons that are equally applicable to questions that remain open.

You can't use the argument that two wrong's don't make a right when questions that are "wrong" are continually accepted.

Some of these questions are interesting topics that would benefit the community. But in that case they should be closed until a claim is cited or whatever the problem with the question is fixed. That's what the close functionality is for. It would be good to see it start being used evenly and consistently, so that the "wrongs" are exceptions rather than the norm.

The idea is to eliminate trollish, lazy, non-scientific, poor quality, idle curiosity or otherwise inappropriate questions. Since there is a high degree of inconsistency in whether a question is acceptable or not, I think this warrants further discussion.

Perhaps having firmer, clearer guidelines would help alleviate this problem. Unfortunately the discussion on that topic was closed.

  • Thank you for identifying some "wrongs". How many of these have you flagged for moderator attention?
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Commented Feb 1, 2012 at 13:05
  • Quite a few, they were ignored. Commented Feb 1, 2012 at 13:07
  • 3
    One point, we don't absolutely require a source for notability, if the claim is well-known. E.g. the nuclear power plant, reverse psychology, throwing a coin from a building and glass flow questions are all well known claims (I heard every one of those before reading those questions).
    – Mad Scientist Mod
    Commented Feb 1, 2012 at 13:35
  • 2
    I picked three to look at (coincidentally, the first three that @Fabian just mentioned). None had been flagged. I spent a few seconds on each finding a notable claim, and adding it as a comment for people who hadn't already heard it. No longer "wrongs". Sklivvz added a notable claim on the dragon question - a find that surprised me - people really believe in them?
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Commented Feb 1, 2012 at 13:38
  • The issue with the tourism question was explained THREE TIMES in three different ways in the comments. I don't propose to debate it any further.
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Commented Feb 1, 2012 at 13:45
  • @Fabian sure, but the problem is when people are claiming something is widely believed yet the question is closed because the moderators haven't heard that claim. The tourism question being a good example of such a question that is currently closed. Commented Feb 1, 2012 at 14:11
  • 2
    @Oddthinking sklivvz did not add a claim to the question, he added an anecdote as a comment. That shouldn't be enough to keep the question as open, not when other users have stated they have heard claims on questions that remain closed. Commented Feb 1, 2012 at 14:16
  • @Fabian & al.: Since nobody, except Fabian, knows, which claim Fabian had heared before, this should be a criteria. Commented Feb 1, 2012 at 21:59
  • @SonnyOrdell: If you want to clarify which questions you've flagged that have been ignored, you can look up which questions you've flagged by going to your user profile, and clicking on the number to the right of "helpful flags".
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Feb 3, 2012 at 10:37
  • 1
    I flagged the bat-signal, dragons and wsj scientists questions. I didn't flag the others as they were not as recent and I have flagged others since then. I argued for the tourism question. I was wanting to bring attention to the many inconsistencies rather than specific examples. @AndrewGrimm thanks, I was just late in replying. Commented Feb 3, 2012 at 13:01

Historically, many hundreds of "wrong" questions and "wrong" answers have been deleted, for one reason or another.

Your new "wrong post" might be more similar to the many "wrong posts" which were deleted, than to any of the relatively few "allegedly wrong" or poor-quality posts which remain to be seen.

  • 1
    As of today, it's less than 2000 deleted posts (this includes deleting closed questions, spam, etc...)
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 12:13

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