I was a little surprised when this question got partially poor reception

Can phobias be genetic, but created in one generation and not by natural selection?

The problem people had was that I was asking about a fact that came out of a single study, and there is no research past that study that anyone could site to prove or disprove the fact.

I do not feel like this fact makes my question unanswerable. There are hundreds of news stories all the time where the study does not actually back the news item and there is a lot of room for skepticism. The study could also be obviously bad when look at by someone with knowledge in the field and they could explain that. Passing those two steps, and answer of "the news story correctly supports the study" with some citation, seems perfectly acceptable to me

2 Answers 2


Yes, the question is on topic. Our scope of topics is: notable claims - claims believed by a bunch of adults.

A news article usually makes a claim notable.

In the case that only a single study has been performed, our answer will simply point that out, and echo the conclusion of the paper, pointing out its limitations.


I wouldn't say the reception to this question was particularly poor. It wasn't embraced with excitement, but it only earned one downvote, which is pretty much noise. A couple of mods made simple edits or suggestions for edits.

The question of whether it was in scope didn't provoke the feedback.

One issue was that your summary of the study in the title didn't match what was said in the piece of the article you quoted. The actual claim was that the offspring of mice trained to fear an odour seem to have passed that fear onto their offspring. Your title said it was "genetic", when the claim is that it is epigenetic. This was eventually addressed in the first answer.

A second issue is that it isn't clear whether you are challenging the original scientists or the reports in the Telegraph. If the question is "Did the newspaper accurately report what the actual study concluded?", sure that can be addressed simply by looking at the final report. This was eventually touched on, perhaps too obliquely, in the first answer.

If the question is "Is the science sound?", this question is harder to answer, because to address it when need to find a source of evidence that is stronger than a peer-reviewed article. Meta-studies, literature reviews, and reproductions would all help there. If it is a new result, that is likely to take time. This was partially (not definitively) addressed in the final answer.

We do have a Close clause to cover that - research level items are officially out-of-scope. In practice, this clause is rarely invoked (whether it should be invoked more often is a subject for a separate meta-question), and it wasn't done here.

The question was left open, and eventually earned an answer.

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