I have been told my question asking about facial features and nationality is unsuitable. This is after I did extensive cleaning up and editing.

In the comments there is no question that the claim is notable. Rather there seems to be an issue that the question is to vague or not properly answerable.

Note: After extensive editing I flagged the question for reevaluation. Sklivvz gave his reasons he thought the question remained unacceptable, however the reasons he gave are not the reason the question was closed, nor did he close the question.

The reason given that the question remains unacceptable is, to quote:

The claim is really a blurry concept and thus, impossible to answer with facts/too broad/too vague.

To quote the example given:

The problem is that some Turkish people will look English because they are immigrants. And some English people will look Turkish because they are immigrants.

I don't understand how this makes my question problematic. I went to great lengths to clarify that for the claim to be true only a subset of the population would have to have a distinct look.

That immigrants may not have a distinct look in common with a subset of the population doesn't matter. As long as a subset of the population who have been there for at least a few generations have distinct look unique to that region, the claim is true. It would be up the the people answering to demonstrate that.

If the claim is true then should it not be given a chance to be answered. Claiming the question is impossible to answer with facts and then closing the question eliminates any possibility of an answer based on facts. There is at least one person in the comments who stated they would like to answer the question (curiously that comment has been deleted).

I think this is an example of a question being closed unnecessarily, which only harms the site.

  • 3
    As an improvement - you assume way too much and I think this hurts your case: 1) comments are not "curiously" deleted, but for a reason - you asked for a clean up; 2) if you "don't understand why" a question is closed, that doesn't mean that it is "unnecessarily closed". It only means that you don't know why it is closed.
    – Sklivvz
    Jan 28, 2012 at 16:24
  • @Sklivvz I know, however I don't think the original critical comments are relevant given the editing I have done before I asked for reevaluation. -- I find it curious that a comment was deleted, hence my use of the word. I'm aware I don't understand why the question remains closed, hence this question on meta. Jan 28, 2012 at 16:24
  • Please Note: To allow the discussion to remain here and not be split in two places, I've cleaned up the comment thread on the original question - so if you see references to comments that are not there, you know why.
    – Sklivvz
    Jan 28, 2012 at 18:06

2 Answers 2


The question, as written, simply is not worth answering for the same reason we would not accept "Is the sky blue?" as a question. Sklivvz makes it clear why that is:

Surely, for some countries the answer is yes, and for some others, not so much. E.g. pygmies, aborigines etc. have very distinct phenotypes and geographical origin. North Americans, much less

If the claim were more specific, then perhaps that would be an interesting claim. As it is, though, I don't think it's valid to question whether some geographical region have very distinct phenotypes. It is too vague to be falsifiable. The pygmies, for example, have very particular appearances, statistically-speaking. Similarly, you wouldn't confuse the average Africa from the average Japanese. However, it is harder to distinguish the average Argentinean from the average Uruguayan.

Then, you get into places like North America which have a very diverse population. For example, about 20% of Canadian residents were born outside the country. To those, you add second-generation immigrants you start to have a very ethnically diverse population. In British Columbia, for example, about a quarter of the population is a visible minority and only 18% of the population describes their ethnicity as "Canadian".

As Oddthinking notes in the comment section, Sydney is also one of such places. This is a point that the article you cite also makes:

Mike notes that Sydney boasts one of the most multicultural populations in the world and this was reflected in the faces he photographed. 35 per cent of Sydney's population were born outside of Australia and this rises to 70 per cent in downtown Sydney, Mike claims.

Facts like these make the claim very hard to investigate.

After all, the claim is only:

In many cases, however, the likeness is so strong that it's possible to guess the nationality just by taking a cursory glance at the photo.

It's not "in all cases" nor does it list specific examples. Rather, it's a rather vague comment about how some pictures gives you a good idea of which country it was taken in. And that's all that he is claiming, here: that it's possible to guess the nationality. He does not say it's obvious, that you can pick in which South Asian country the "person" is from, but that it's not misleading enough to make it impossible to guess.

That is why it's "not a real question." It's not answerable. It's too vague.

  • [Removed thread that had gone completely off topic]. Please use the chat for discussing stuff and use this place only to speak about this answer.
    – Sklivvz
    Jan 30, 2012 at 23:22

OK, so this answer is my explanation of why I consider the questionable answerable.

The reasons given for the question being closed come down to the question being to vague. It's obvious to everyone that some people have a distinct look based on where they are from, e.g. Some Japanese, some Dutch or Pygmies.

That is not the claim I am questioning and I agree questioning such a claim would have little purpose.

The people given in the examples above tend to have features that are the result of selective pressure from the region they inhabit. I gave an example of epicanthic folds in my question.

I am specifically asking if a distinct look/defining facial features can be possible:

  1. for reasons other than selective pressure
  2. after a relatively short time span (in the case of Australia ~200 years)

A very specific example question that would come under my question would be:

Is it possible for some Australians to have distinct facial features in common with other Australians, that are unique to Australia? Thus, allowing some Australians to be recognized as Australian.

Which can be expanded to some people being recognized by their nationality.

Australia is an interesting example due to being settled so recently, due to a potentially smaller gene pool than other countries when settled and because people make the claim about some Australian people.

It is for these reasons that I don't consider the question to bee to vague or unanswerable.

I think comparing it to a question asking if the sky is blue is not analogous and is misrepresentative.

An answer could consist of some or all of the following:

  1. Studies or other evidence showing that people can be recognized by their nationality by facial features alone. Eliminating other variables that may account for false positives.
  2. Evidence that people can develop a common look after a relatively short time period.
  3. Evidence that the environment can influence facial features or distinctive traits
  4. Any other reasonably theories supported by evidence.

Note: A few people have made have brought immigrants into the question. Such a point is irrelevant to my question.

Using Australia as an example, the following points illustrate why immigrants are not a relevant point:

  • Recent immigrants will not have been in Australia long enough to develop a distinct look

  • The fact that some Australians may not have a distinct look, does not mean that no Australians have a distinct look in common.

  • Immigrants who have been there for a generation or more may have inherited genes responsible or been influenced by environmental factors responsible for a distinct look.

So either immigrants will be a part of the population that does not share a distinct look in common, or if they have been there for long enough they may. Their status as immigrants is not relevant.

As a final point, I want to reinforce the fact that closing a question only precludes the possibility of a good answer.

  • [Removed thread that had gone completely off topic]. Please use the chat for discussing stuff and use this place only to speak about this answer.
    – Sklivvz
    Jan 30, 2012 at 23:21

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