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Are questions tagged more appropriate for History.SE?

Yes, there are a lot of questions tagged as history on Skeptics.SE. Especially when it concerns historical matters involving religion, it's not clear which sources are valid on Skeptics.SE.

For example, the community wiki on meta List of useful sources for Skeptics.SE does not provide specifications for either category of A) history or B) topics involving religion.

Certain topics historically attract bias and conflict of interest (such as topics with scientific and religious interfaces)--there's just no way around that. This site needs a specification for dealing with such topics because this site is full of such questions (observable upon reviewing available question tags).

Can anyone offer here proposed improvements to the acceptable sources spec?

Related post: Skeptics.SE users must judge for themselves whether information/references are useful or valid.

  • The 2 questions I've answered here have been tagged with history. As a lover of history and someone who took lots of extra history classes in college just for fun (can't make money that way :P) I'd say the history questions I've read and answered here are not at all appropriate on history.se. History.se is really for questions about events acknowledged to have happened. The questions I've answered here have been more along the lines of 'did something like this happen?' I think that's a pretty clear demarcation line and way to judge each question tagged with history and where it should go. – Ryan Jun 21 '16 at 17:34
  • @ryan thanks for your comments. I suppose that may not only be a good demarcation, but also a good description of most such questions asked here (e.g. "did something like this happen?"). At the same time, how does that description not invite subjectivity (bias, COI)? How to then deal with this? To what extent (as the related post in the OP describes) should the readers on this site be allowed to judge for themselves? Any proposals for improving the referenced community wiki? – tniles Jun 21 '16 at 17:47
  • "Certain topics historically cull bias and conflict of interest" I can't parse this sentence, sorry. Is "cull" the verb you meant? – Oddthinking Jun 22 '16 at 4:36
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    @Oddthinking: edited. – tniles Jun 22 '16 at 15:47
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    The issue your coming against here is that this community naturally does not attract professionals in historical criticism, so the effect on these questions is shallow, appeal to authority or majority kinds of answers. Combined with confirmation bias, which I believe is strong in most people, you get "authorities" of only one variety. Fight this if you want, but it's probably not worth your time. – fredsbend Jul 8 '16 at 18:45
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I don't see a problem with how this site currently deals with notable claims that happen to be about a historical event or thing.

Currently, the approach is:

  1. present the best available evidence
  2. state the consensus expert opinion (with references) or,
  3. state the nature of expert disagreement (with references).

DavePhD has authored some great answers about history. Here are a couple of examples:

The sources vary so much in historical questions that it is near impossible to add specific sources to the list of useful sources. However, Wikipedia gives some guidance on identifying reliable sources for history, and a set of example reliable sources on history.

Wikipedia tends to disfavour primary sources and prefers referring to a reliable source's interpretation of those primary sources. I think primary sources are more acceptable here, but we should avoid subjective characterizations or synthesis of those sources unless that it supported by a reliable source or expert.

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I am not sure where you see a conflict of interest, maybe you mean bias?

The short answer is that, yes, this community has a bias -- we are absolutely biased towards anything which is provable by evidence.

Skeptically speaking, history is the evidence based consensus of historians. There is no need for unanimity in order to have consensus. Therefore in a vast majority of cases we simply do not consider minority or fringe opinions.

This sometimes goes against religious beliefs, and sometimes favors them.

For example, the historic consensus is that there was no Noah's ark, and Jehova's witnesses stance on the matter is not a good point of view to present here.

On the other hand, the vast majority of historians agree that there was a historical Jesus, and our site reports that, even though some atheists disagree on the matter.

Scientific skepticism is only concerned with what we are able to prove with evidence. There are always going to be things which are true or false which we cannot prove or disprove because it's either impractical, not known yet or downright impossible. We do not claim to have access to any absolute truth, however it is our philosophical stance that empirical evidence settles debates. In other words, we have "strong opinions, weakly held".

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