Once in a while (and at least twice recently) someone asks questions about, say, “alternate” scientific claims (flat Earth and sight explained by rays from the eyes). This questions are generally closed as off-topic for this site, and I can see why. However, I believe they might be relevant to the spirit, if not to the letter, of this site: they tackle questions – and answers – through which (at least some thread of) the scientific thought has passed, and which can still be convincing, or puzzling, to young or non-well-educated people.

So, would it be even thinkable to modify the topic description for Skeptis.SE to allow such questions to be asked? Or, could we admit a strained, reversed interpretation of our “notable claim” charter? The challenged notable claim could be the one about, say, the roundness of Earth or the existence of photons (or whatever), and the answers could confirm the claim. After all, a claim challenged here could be true, a photo could be legit etc.

  • duplicate of meta.skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/864/…
    – Sklivvz
    Jul 3 '15 at 13:20
  • Sorry, @Sklivvz, I am not sure I see the overlapping with that question. It was where the “notable claim” importance was fixed, and I gave that for granted, and mentioned it myself.
    – DaG
    Jul 3 '15 at 13:29
  • That's where the discussion about the rule should happen, though.
    – Sklivvz
    Jul 3 '15 at 13:39
  • @whoever_downvoted, I appreciate a downvote, but I appreciate even more its reason, so next I won't do the same mistake.
    – DaG
    Jul 3 '15 at 14:04
  • According to skeptics.stackexchange.com/help/whats-meta a downvote wouldn't be saying "you made a mistake", it's just saying "I disagree with this feature-request". I did just now change the tags on this question though, because I think that the 'scope' questions count as 'discussions' not as 'feature requests'.
    – ChrisW
    Jul 3 '15 at 17:27
  • @ChrisW, and I had tagged it as a discussion, indeed.
    – DaG
    Jul 3 '15 at 18:34
  • Indeed, yes, looking in the edit history I see what you're saying. Anyway I hope your question is answered now. Have you looked at "History of Science and Mathematics.SE" to see whether questions like these might be on-topic there?
    – ChrisW
    Jul 3 '15 at 18:39
  • Thanks, @ChrisW. Actually I never asked any of those questions nor like those, and presently I was more interested in understanding whether they might be allowable here than in their actual answer.
    – DaG
    Jul 3 '15 at 18:45

In line with the FAQ: Welcome to New Users page, I don't think these questions are categorically off-topic, but instead poorly posed

'A guy in my class says...' is insufficient justification to be posting on Skeptics.SE, however, given the body of past philosophy and science around flat Earth and extramission vision in the past, a little research could lay the ground for notability, historical or otherwise.

Obsolete theories should make for interesting questions as such theories were held because of past intuitions that we now know do not hold. How such intuitions are dispelled is core to scientific skepticism and really should be appropriate, also supported by the FAQ where it says "It sometimes happens that we get questions challenging basic science, or answers challenging scientific consensus. Both are allowed and welcome."


This site wants questions to be about "notable claims", i.e.:

  • One or more people make the claim
  • Several people believe the claim

It's unclear whether "flat earth" (or other obsolete theories like phlogiston, or the five humours) meets those criteria.

Such questions might be slightly difficult to answer too:

  • If no one is claiming it then no experts are writing to debunk the claim.

  • Furthermore when people answer they're allowed to state as fact, without references, things which are known at high-school level. The "earth is round" is, what, elementary-school geography?

I recommend that you look to see, instead, whether the question might be on topic on the History of Science and Mathematics.SE.


Obsolete theories are not very useful questions to answer. In fact, the definition of "obsolete belief" is that "few believe in it now".

Old beliefs are fine, but there must be a sizable number of people to help.

Remember: the purpose of any Stack Exchange question and answer is not only helping the asker, but also to help the future visitors.

Such questions help no one, they simply reaffirm our current beliefs (and often would do so without evidence).

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