Inspired by this question, and it's subsequent reedited into this form

The original form of the question did not comply with Skeptics rules, however Oddthinking reformatted the question into the form I linked to. I'm curious about whether the edited form is on topic, but more generally I'd like to ask; are requests for existing skeptical material on very specific subjects on topic?

I don't think that they are since they're not addressing a specific claim but are instead seeking literature recommendations, in this case debunking a book.

However I am uncertain because it is actually possible to answer this question in a fairly definitive way: he is requesting material debunking the specific claims of the book (claims that by themselves would be on-topic). He is, in a sense, requesting Skeptical responses to a claim by proxy. And since Skeptical responses to claims is the purpose of this site I'm not sure that the process being removed by 1 step actually invalidates it. Either the literature exists or it doesn't and a little research could find it.

Obviously the original asker, or anyone who has read the book "The Cosmic Serpent" could edit this question to be fully on-topic by asking about the specific claims. However assuming that this doesn't happen, or that the asker really only wants reading recommendations, is this form of the question on-topic?

  • My question is a little hard to explain clearly since the title of Oddtihnking's edit is very much an on-topic question. But the body of the question is still restricted to the original askers request - i.e. for reading material.
    – Ian
    Jun 11, 2013 at 15:15
  • About this particular case, I changed the question from a request for reading material to a direct challenge of the claim. But, your question here is still a good one, and we should be able to answer it in the general case.
    – user5582
    Jun 11, 2013 at 18:39

2 Answers 2


From the FAQ/Help:

Skeptics Stack Exchange is for challenging unreferenced notable claims, pseudoscience and biased results. (What topics can I ask about here)

If your question is not about a particular claim, [...] the following sites may be better suited for your needs: (Id.)

The asker can also challenge several claims simultaneously. (What should we do with questions not directed to a claim?)

Regarding the title being on-topic, but the body not being on topic, we look to the body of the question for the claim and challenge, not the title. The title can even ask a question that the asker is not interested in, if it gives readers a reasonable idea what the whole question is about. (https://skeptics.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2285/rejected-edit-review)

The asker needs to challenge a particular claim, or several mutually exclusive claims simultaneously, and that challenge needs to come from the question body.


I would say that questions that are purely asking for "skeptical reading material" (ugh, something about the way that sounds strikes me as being off) since they detract from the Q&A format and stand a strong likelihood of just ending up being a list of things with no real usefulness to anyone past that initial question.

However, on the Meta side of things, they might be on topic because I can see how that style of question might be useful to gather up enough information to be able to write a response to a question on the main site.

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