One of the key tenets of skeptics is that a notable claim must exist before a question can be asked. I understand why this exists, to avoid flooding the boards with irrelevant random questions and speculation that answers lack time to answer, or worse yet frustrate skeptics enough that they stop visiting the board at all. Already a good percentage of questions go unanswered on this site, though I'm not sure how much is due to lack of research to answer the claim vs lack of time/desire from skeptics to do the research. Currently the only time a claim does not need to be cited if it is a easily accepted as a widely held belief according to the FAQ

I know that removal of the requirement to cite a claim entirely would never ever happen. However, I'm wondering is there any set of rules one could imagine which may allow a very small subset of questions without claims to site be allowed to ask, so long as they fit a very strict and limiting set of prerequisites which demonstrates the question was clearly asked due to legitimate skepticism of a very real situation or fact? In short is there any type of question that feels in keeping with application of skepticism that would not flood the board with noise but instead produce good high quality results that fellow skeptics could appreciate seeing?

If there are theoretically any such question that may seem acceptable, then is there realistically any way that rules could be written to be understandable and enforceable to ensure we actually get this subsection of good questions without undesirable noise?

For instance, look at questions about statistics, such as one I recently answered a question elsewhere asking what percentage of those wishing to legalize marijuana intended to use it if legal. There is an implied skepticism that goes into this question, skepticism of the motives for legalizing marijuana, or perhaps skepticism of those who try to paint people pushing for marijuana legalization as drug addicts who should be ignored. In either case if I came to skeptics and saw this question I would have found it interesting enough to read, or answer obviously.

In the above example one could infer that there was a certain skepticism driving the original question. Had he quoted someone who claimed anyone wanting to legalize marijuana was a drug addict then same analysis would have been done and accepted as valid.

Is there some room between these two then. If he lacks an exact quote claiming marijuana users were drug addicts is there still a way that skepticism about this concept could be sufficient to qualify the question. What if our theoretical asker pointed to situations in which the implication that the motivation for legalizing marijuana was 'to get high', is there some point where one can prove the implication, insinuation, or presumed fact, of an argument existed and they were skeptical of it; even if they lack a direct quote?

As a completely different example, what about a question with clear skepticism but a more focused direction. For instance a question about "is someone born homosexual" is allowed and I'm sure was already asked. if someone wanted to ask "has any twin study been performed which demonstrated that two identical twins grew up to have one identify as homosexual and one identify as heterosexual" and qualify it as a question driven by skepticism over rather someone is born homosexual since twin studies showing different sexualities may argue against the trait could they ask the question; in this case they may have to prove their question can be linked to a specific skeptical claim per our requirements, but is more specific then a claim they might quote.

These are just examples, I don't need someone to specifically argue why or why not either of the above examples should be allowed. I'm asking more general, can anyone suggest any set of non-cited questions which could still increase the quality of skeptics boards instead of decreasing it, rather those examples are one of my above or something completely unrelated?

It should go without saying, but the example questions are simply things I cam up with on the fly as examples, and don't reflect any specific beliefs or questions myself

1 Answer 1


In my opinion, the underlying "hard" requirements for a potentially answerable skeptical question are the following:

  • That the question is factual
  • That the question is well specified and logically sound

To that, specifically for this site, you need to add:

  • That answering the question only requires knowing how to find reliable sources and not research-level expertise in the subject

And more in general, for any stack exchange site:

  • That the question has general value beyond the specific case
  • That the question is objectively answerable (not speculatively)

It's easy to see that notability helps in this regard quite a lot. We could still allow non notable questions that follow these rules, but I can't readily think of an example that would satisfy them without being notable

  • I don't know if I can fit this into your argument, but I find a lamentable part of public discourse on important issues is that people talk past each other, and focus on strawmen versions of the other side's arguments. Notability - especially in the form of direct quotes of a claim - helps prevent that, too. I'd hate to spend effort answering a claim that no-one actually supports.
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 4:34
  • 1
    @Oddthinking I agree, and I'd say it's included in "well specified", which in my opinion is more important. Even a verbatim claim can be cited out of context, so that doesn't insure correctness.
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 0:42

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