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The Santa question was closed without making the reason explicit in the comments: should the Santa question be allowed here? If not - why not?

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    To the downvoters: Note that you're not downvoting the controversial Santa question here. You're downvoting the uncontroversial meta-question about the controversial question. – Oddthinking Dec 23 '11 at 10:41
  • This is an 8 year old question, but I'm gonna go ahead and put on my tin foil hat for this one... I do not think that the answer below represents the opinions of the user base. – tuskiomi Aug 2 at 16:49
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I was going to add a comment, but I think the format is more proper for an answer of its own, and I think it does answer the question, so bear with me that this answer references another answer.

3: an exception to our usual sternness is only going to be beneficial to the community.

This argument is the exact reason why I reacted strongly against this question. I'm sorry if I'm getting personal here, but being a moderator does entail elevated personal responsibility, so I think it's called for. I think that few have been driving this sternness as extensively as yourself, Sklivvz, relating over and over how detrimental it is to the community to allow a single poor question, as it lowers the bar for the entire site.

With that in mind, I was appalled to see that you of all people would go ahead and post such a question, and comment to close voters that they lacked a sense of humor. As a moderator, you should post better questions than everybody else. Your responsibility in setting the standards here are higher than that of anyone else. If I see a random person publicly and overtly violating the law in some regards, I might assume that that was a reckless person, and that there was only coincidentally no police around to enforce that law. If I see a high profile politician perform the same act just as overtly, however, I might instead be inclined to consider that perhaps it is I who have misunderstood the law in the first place. If a moderator posts these questions, they must be OK.

And I really must add that the perseverance with which this question makes the whole thing worse as well, as exemplified by the comment about close voters lacking a sense of humor. To my mind, this disqualifies the question even further, as it doesn't even meet the questionable objective that it was created for (i.e. it produced discord rather than light-hearted enjoyment).

1: the question is notable
2: similarly obvious questions have been allowed in the past

All your example of other allowed questions are questions that are about topics at the very heart of skepticism. Creationism, conspiracy theories and woo woo are the very cornerstones of pseudo-science that plague the scientific community. These are the very reasons that scientific skepticism came into existence. These claims all have adherents among the influential grown-up otherwise-educated public that will tenaciously defend their truth values, and as skeptics, we have a commitment to question these claims.

The same is in no way true for your Santa question. Santa Claus is an invention intended to entertain kids. When we tell our children that Santa Claus exists, we don't even intend for them to grow up believing this.

I do not agree that the existence of Santa Claus is a noted and well adhered to belief among legally competent adults, as is – sadly – the case with ghosts.

My verdict is that this question should be closed and possibly be deleted not only because of its inherently poor quality but also because of the example it sets by being a question posted by one of the community's trusted moderators who have personally pushed the sternness agenda to new extremes as it applies to questions other than his own.

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    "I do not agree that the existence of Santa Claus is a noted and well adhered to belief among legally competent adults, as is – sadly – the case with ghosts." I think this is a very good point. I think we should discuss it a bit more without specifically referring to this question. – Sklivvz Dec 23 '11 at 10:37
  • I was about to comment likewise. That sentence made me stop and rethink my previous acceptance of the question's notability. (Not that the rest isn't cogently argued too!) – Oddthinking Dec 23 '11 at 10:44
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    "A meta question trying to justify its existence." this is completely unfair. I've asked this question because I did not understand the closure, and it's something that gives the community voice :-( – Sklivvz Dec 23 '11 at 10:52
  • "Highly upvoted objections in comments being deleted." the "objection" was simply calling this site "the anti-programmers". Hardly on-topic. – Sklivvz Dec 23 '11 at 10:59
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    re: close votes, yes, that is what I meant, thanks for editing. the meta question is perhaps motivated, I didn't mean to criticize it per se, but rather to enlist it as I think it reflects the tenacity with which the question was defended. If the intention was a joke question, then this is like interrogating your peers as to why they didn't laugh at your joke. Again, I'm not questioning the meta discussion, but using it to drive home another argument. – David Hedlund Dec 23 '11 at 11:08
  • @DavidHedlund opened a meta question about the "adult" requirement: meta.skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/1297/… – Sklivvz Dec 23 '11 at 11:10
  • It's obvious to everyone that this question was intended as humour. To recommend its closure based on an analysis that totally ignores the humour aspect misses the point. If you don't think the occasional joke question should be here, just say so. No need to dress it up in fake logical analysis. – DJClayworth Dec 23 '11 at 16:37
  • ...unless this whole answer was a kind of ironic meta-joke, in which case my apologies for not getting it. – DJClayworth Dec 23 '11 at 16:38
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    My last point: "being a moderator does entail elevated personal responsibility" -- while I agree wholeheartedly, and I accept the personal criticism, I think it's a really bad precedent if a question is closed based on who writes it. I do hope you reconsider your answer based on this fact: close vote should not be discriminatory of the user – Sklivvz Dec 23 '11 at 17:14
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Really? We can't let our hair down once a year?

To be clear it is, I believe, obvious to everyone that this is a question intended to be humourous. It is equally obvious that the normal standards don't apply. The only question is - do we want to allow a humourous question once or twice a year. The inventiveness of the answers clearly indicates that many Skeptics have warmed to the idea.

There is of course the danger that we get a wave of humorous questions that threaten to engulf the site, or that people ask offensive questions claiming this as precedent, but frankly that hasn't happened. We can deal with it when it does. To ban ALL questions like this is like deciding not to eat any food at all, because too much makes you fat.

  • While you nailed down my original sentiment, it's clear to me that we should close any question that proves as divisive as this one. I really thought it would have been good to relax once a year, apparently we can't afford it. – Sklivvz Dec 23 '11 at 17:12
  • I do not like the Santa question but not because it is a joke but rather someone is bound to try to answer it and put something on the site that is family unfriendly. A theme day on April 1 or Halloween could be good for the community. There is no real upside to this question though. So long as everyone agrees to play along the question would be fine IMO. Unfortunately inevitably some one would not. – Chad Jan 3 '12 at 16:34
  • @Chad Your argument would hold true for any question about sex. I don't think we would delete all sex-related questions because of that. If you're concerned that small children might discover certain things about the existence of Santa that their parents would rather not know: if you believe in Santa, then you are too young to be surfing the internet unsupervised. – DJClayworth Jan 3 '12 at 16:39
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    @DJClayworth - I do not think that is true that any question about sex is a)on topic in the first place b) going to be family unfriendly. I do not think there is any place for a joke question about sex here though. – Chad Jan 3 '12 at 16:58
  • Later answers might come in at every day, lifting the question to the top in January to November. – user unknown Jan 4 '12 at 0:42
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I wasn't a fan of the question from the beginning, but I didn't feel strongly enough about it to act myself or start a discussion about it. The question is bending the rules quite a bit, and while I'm not categorically opposed to making the occasional exception, I don't want to create a precedent here.

It's far more consistent to disallow joke questions entirely, I really don't want to get into the argument later, why other questions of that kind are closed and a moderator was allowed to post one. That discussion won't lead to anything constructive.

So, I think the question should be closed.

  • Why allow "Do ghosts exist?" then? Or should it be closed on halloween? :( – Sklivvz Dec 23 '11 at 9:23
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    While I find YEC and the moon-landing hoax equally implausible as the existence of Santa Clause, there is a significant number of people that actually believe in the former two. The latter is a story for children, the idea of this site is not to debunk the Tooth fairy. – Mad Scientist Dec 23 '11 at 10:24
  • Tooth fairy and santa: no; Casper: yes. Why? – Sklivvz Dec 23 '11 at 10:30
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    This is why – David Hedlund Dec 23 '11 at 10:35
  • @DavidHedlund en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Sklivvz Dec 23 '11 at 10:43
  • @Sklivvz: Ah, yes. That's an interesting discussion of its own, albeit outside the scope of skepticism, perhaps. I was only trying to drive home the point that there's a non-negligible number of adults who actually believe in ghosts. I've already extended my arguments as to why the ghosts and santa questions are different, though, in my own answer. – David Hedlund Dec 23 '11 at 10:49
  • @DavidHedlund yep, my comment predates your answer – Sklivvz Dec 23 '11 at 10:53

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