Should questions be unbiased?

For example, is it ok to have "and I know it is" in

Lifehacker insists it's fake, and I know it is, but I figured it'd be a useful one to have someone explain the scientific basis or describe what will actually happen, and why.

I'm worried that if OPs declare their bias in a question, then that may influence what answers people decide to give.

Also, if you've come across a claim, and you come across another page supporting or refuting the claim, does including a link to it "bias" the question? For example, in asking https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/16758/does-deutronomy-2213-21-say-that-non-virgin-wives-will-be-executed , would including a link to a page disagreeing with the claim "bias" the question?

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  • If the asker knows the claim is false, then they are not doubtful of its truth, and we're not staying within the purpose of this site. – user5582 Jun 27 '13 at 23:12
  • But, inclusion of links showing bias one way or the other doesn't negate the asker's doubt as to the truth of the claim, and we can proceed. – user5582 Jun 27 '13 at 23:13
  • @Sancho What does the author's opinion matter? As long as they ask about a demonstrably notable claim, they can think whatever they want. – William Grobman Jun 28 '13 at 0:57
  • @WilliamGrobman So, the asker doesn't actually have to doubt the claim they're presenting for examination? I'm okay with that, but could you point to where the community decided that? – user5582 Jun 28 '13 at 7:29
  • @Sancho for example: you can ask and answer a question in one post by using a check box – William Grobman Jun 28 '13 at 13:58
  • @WilliamGrobman So, there doesn't need to be real skepticism in the question and a willingness by the OP to change their opinion? – user5582 Jun 28 '13 at 14:11
  • @Sancho I see the asker's view as both unknowable and irrelevant. – William Grobman Jun 28 '13 at 22:57
  • It's knowable if the asker explicitly says "I know the claim is false" – user5582 Jun 29 '13 at 0:22

A question doesn't have to neutral, but there needs to be real skepticism in the question, and willingness by the OP to change their opinion.

The question that you gave as an example is a bad question. The OP isn't skeptical, they found sources that refute the claim and they find them credible. All they want is an explanation of the mechanics of the phenomenom they are aksing about. This is off-topic here, and should be asked in Physics, Biology, Hermeneutics or another site that does it.

As to a good question, showing real skepticism, it can't always be neutral. Many times, people will ask something like

I was taught that bla bla bla, but this source shows that not bla bla bla. Which is it bla bla bla or not bla bla bla?

In this question a person is not neutral, they have a bias, in the form that they always believed something. But they are considering that it might be not true, so they come here and ask. This is completely fine.

It's ok to put sources that refute/support the claim. This is probably what made you skeptical in the first place. For example, you might find in a forum a posting "Birds are dinosaurs" and you say to yourself "Dinosaurs are clearly lizards that can't be true" and leave it at this. But then you read an article in National Geographic saying "Birds are Dinosaurs" and then you are confused, because you thought it's ridiculous, but here NG is saying that it isn't. Now you are skeptical and want to know the truth.

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  • Fair enough, this is better answer than mine and hits the head spot-on. – Wertilq Jun 28 '13 at 9:50

No, a question doesn't need to be unbiased or neutral.

It doesn't matter: if it's a notable claim, and there are grounds for scepticism, and it fits within the rules, then it's OK. In many cases, judging whether or not a question is unbiased or neutral is going to be subjective and messy anyway. This isn't so much my personal policy, as my observation of the way this site actually operates, and has operated, for at least the last 16 months. Claims that questions are edited so at to be neutral don't stack up: it rarely happens, at least on the questions I read.

Nor does the OP have to be willing to change their opinion.

We don't care what the OP does or doesn't think. The purpose of the site is to build content. Reading into other people's intentions, flexibility, open-mindedness, sanity, reasonableness, or whatever, is irrelevant. If we're going to get rid of questions where the OP won't change their mind, we're going to be deleting a lot of good content.

But a question isn't a blog in disguise

So a question shouldn't be used as a platform for ranting, with a thin (possibly rhetorical) question at the end.

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  • 1
    Goal should always be neutrality. You apply slippery slope to "questions should be neutral", and then suddenly all non-neutral questions should be deleted and the page should be worse off?! Skeptics have an edit button, and removing bias should be a legit reason for edit, and I have seen it done more than once. The mods often do it as well. Why? It makes better answers, and less flamewars. – Wertilq Jul 4 '13 at 7:33

Any question and answer should AIM to stay neutral. This is objectivity is one of the pillars of science, which allows you to do research on anything. Without being neutral and objective, or at least TRYING to, you results will be coloured and damaged by your bias. That will upset people, and they will be less willing to cooperate when you work on a topic important to them, and you might get into lots of trouble.

Neutrality and objectivity is EXTRA important on sensitive topic like religion and politics, where people have strong opinions. Even when staying neutral chances are it will flair up heated emotional discussion, that doesn't lead much of anywhere.

Even if the source of your claim is not neutral, the questioner should be, and all answers should be neutral as well.

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