I am on Stack Exchange's new CHAOS team and while posting a question like the narwhal question, that's ripe for meme-style attention, is certainly a "chaotic" thing to do, that sort of activity is not the goal of our team. My coworkers and I did not intend to bring negative or unproductive attention to Skeptics.SE. I simply got a little too tongue-in-cheek with the phrasing of my question. 

All of what I posted in the question is true. We do have a coworker who believes narwhals are a myth, like unicorns and jackalopes. We did try the methods I listed in the post, and she continued to think we were pulling her chain. 

So I posted on Skeptics.SE believing it was a place to get a legitimate answer - not to "are narwhals real?" but to "how do I convince a skeptic that something exists without either of us leaving the room?" 

I feel the latter could be an appropriate question. I read the FAQ before posting the original question and felt like the core of our question was on-topic. I think that where I went wrong was in choosing a flippant, joke-y title and theme for the question. With the community's permission, I would like to post  a new question in a more professional manner and see what answers Skeptics.SE can come up with. 

  • And now I've botched posting in meta by not making this a question. Great first impression, eh? (Mods, I promise we were hired to help, not hurt!)
    – hairboat
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 23:01
  • 1
    That's kind of meta. The FAQ says, "It is not for philosophical discussions about skepticism itself."
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jul 30, 2011 at 2:13
  • @ChrisW Hum. Sounds like maybe it belongs on Philosophy.SE, or something.
    – hairboat
    Commented Jul 30, 2011 at 2:15

2 Answers 2


A big welcome to the CHAOS team; I look forward seeing what happens when Skeptics.SE gets put under the CHAOS spotlight.

I think that where I went wrong was in choosing a flippant, joke-y title

The problem with the question wasn't the title, and it certainly wasn't that it was attracting attention!

Skeptics.SE is about investigating and finding evidence for dubious (and notable) claims. If there was a widespread issue of narwhal-denialism, then asking "Are narwhals real?" would be quite reasonable.

However, the question was "How do I convince someone that..." which is more of a meta-question about skepticism and the nature of argument than about the narwhal-existence claim itself. Philosophical discussions about skepticism itself are considered off-topic.

This is a subtle point, and I would be hypocritical to be upset, as it took me two or three closed questions during the private beta before I could understand it myself.

With the community's permission, I would like to post a new question [...] and see what answers Skeptics.SE can come up with.

Our permission? They are our demands! :-)

  • Ok. I think I get it now. And I am glad nobody thought we were pulling anyone's chain. Narwhals are serious business.
    – hairboat
    Commented Jul 30, 2011 at 12:35

Either way you pose your question, it would be closed as "off topic."

In your first version — Questions are considered an issue of "skepticism" when you are questioning the accuracy of a public claim made by the media or some other well-established, referenced source. "Someone I know doesn't believe in narwhals" doesn't really qualify.

In the second version you are proposing — You are no longer asking about a claim of pseudoscience. You are asking about techniques of debate and debunking claims. This is a site about "applied skepticism"; i.e, discussing the validity (or not) of specific pseudoscience claims. Skeptics SE is not about discussing the tenets of skepticism (how to debunk claims, providing proof, etc).

Both versions of your question would be considered off topic and closed.

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