Christian keeps making this edit: https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/posts/18073/revisions

My answer addresses the claim... I basically ignore his question about "impression". Initially, I chalked this up to just a wording choice, and assume he meant to ask "is this more or less accurate", but because he has explicitly rejected that interpretation by editing back to his original wording several times, I'm left with no other way to interpret his wording than literally: it seems he really does want to ask about the "impression" that the words give, rather than ask about the claim.

I've handled it so far by editing to two interpretations that I thought would be reasonable (and believed that Christian meant), but since Christian reverted both times, its clear what he means now, so I won't edit to change that meaning anymore.

4 Answers 4


I chalked this up to just a wording choice

Yes. That’s my impression as well.

but because he has explicitly rejected that interpretation by editing back to his original wording several times

No. I don’t think he rejected the interpretation. He rejected the gratuitous change of wording. I would have done the same: I don’t mind edits that improve my posts but I do object (and I assume Christian is the same) to edits which merely attempt to replace my style by theirs.

Of course that’s merely a guess.


Disclaimer: I don't see any important difference, between your wording ("Are these claims more-or-less accurate") and Christian's ("Does that give an accurate impression of [...]").

To answer your question, at least a couple of times, i.e. Did Gandhi express admiration for Hitler early in WW2? and Did Pascal write: “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction”?, we've been asked about quotes which were presented out of context.

The quotes-out-of-context imply one meaning, the quotes-in-context imply a different meaning: IOW the quotes give a different "impression" to the reader when they're in or out of context.

Perhaps you can't say what "impression" a text has on other people, but your answer will be informed by what "impression" it gives you at least.

For the record, Christian's own explanation for his choice of wording is given here:

It not forbidden to address the implication that a claim makes. If you take an article like Why are there so few male programmers? Evolution. A brief history of women’s work in the field of computing you find that the facts that he cites are all right. The implications that the article make are not. If you limit questions to the very specific you allow people to create false models of how the world works by making arguments that are made up of individual facts that check out.


Only Christian can tell, but given that he is not a native speaker, I would assume that by "impression" he merely means "representation":

Does that give an accurate representation of how much time US congressman spend fundraising?

In other words: is it misleading?

Asking whether available evidence supports a claim is on topic -- even if the claim is presented with weak evidence, there might be more evidence, or evidence to the contrary.


I think that the OP can ask for an evaluation of impression. The question is should this be addressed by the answer?

In most questions the Answer should give the facts and address the claim, and leave to the reader to chose whether or not the "impression is correct".

If we address the post in question Do US congressman spend most of their time fundraising?, even if a congress person spends 4-5 hours a day fundraising, it's each persons' subjective view that will determine, whether this is too much or not. And more importantly, each reader of the original article can get a different impression. Christian didn't specify what is the impression he got, and whether it's true (for example: Is it true that on average during their term a congress person will devote more than 50% of their time to fund raising?). We are left only with a vague and undefined "impression", we can't address it in a meaningful way, nor can an answer address the many different impressions that each person reading the article can get.

A very obvious example for this was an question posted a few days ago, that has been removed since then, which wanted to know whether the People's Republic of China claim on Taiwan is legitimate. We can't determine who of two (or more) rival parties in a dispute is right, and whose claims are more right. The only think that we can do is to fact check those arguments. But their moral validity is left to each reader.

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