I ask this question because of the number of questions which could (and should, I think) be considered off-topic, because the crux of the question is not skepticism. This question about statistics is one example. This question about physics is another.

In both cases the question was motivated by skepticism, but in both cases the skeptical elements of the question could have been removed (Bem's precognition research in one case, and creationism in the other), and the crux of the question would not be altered. In one case it would still be a comparison of methods of statistical analysis, and in the other case it would still be a question about physics.

That is a very different situation to, say, questioning the existence of ghosts, or questioning the benefits of a homeopathic 'treatment'. In those cases the facts are non-existent or highly dubious. It's not possible to remove the dubious elements of those questions without removing the question.

Borror0's answer to this meta question gets at the issue most clearly, I think.

If you're skeptical of a claim, is that enough for the question to be considered on topic for this site?

  • 1
    The crux of my question on statistics were about the claims that Bayesian statistics are the "next big thing" for science research. These are big claims that people are making and they can have a profound impact on research as a whole, especially in the behavioral sciences. You could have a question about whether the claims of building and using a fleet of hybrid cars is really more environmentally friendly than building and using a fleet of gasoline-powered cars. Skepticism can be applied to this question, just as it can be to any claims that A is better than B. Commented Mar 15, 2011 at 16:03
  • "I got '5' for the answer on this math homework question, but I'm skeptical that I got it right. What's the right answer?"
    – endolith
    Commented Mar 16, 2011 at 19:07

1 Answer 1


No, I believe that every question-asker must make some attempt to apply Skepticism in the content of their question.

Otherwise this site is essentially a less social-networked Quora and you can ask anything about any subject.

The problem is that the experts here are supposed to be focused on Skepticism, rather than a Jeopardy-like knowledge of everything.

If a question does not have a direct reference to skepticism or a claim they are skeptical of, then a comment should be left asking the asker to improve their question. If they do not, then downvote or vote-to-close. If they are a repeat offender, then you may even skip the comment part.

Of course, every user has a right to police the site how they see fit.

  • I'd love to see some variant of this answer posted here: meta.skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/882/…. I think this needs a clearer explanation of what this means though. Shouldn't you apply skepticism to everything you hear? Are you saying only post claims you hear that you think are likely wrong? I don't yet know how to determine whether a question satisfies this rule.
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Commented Jul 5, 2011 at 6:46
  • Do questioners need to apply skepticism or address issues where skepticism is warranted? I think there are good questions where the place for skepticism is the answers and the question itself merely highlights the issue.
    – matt_black
    Commented Oct 11, 2011 at 22:05

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