Here we go again: we have another question of the sort "Is this claim true, or a myth", where the answer is "No evidence for its truth, and theoretically impossible". The question is: Does stacking cellphones drain the battery of the top one?

Any answer of that sort will get shot down through the "No theoretical answers" rule. Moderators even shoot down comments of that sort. This essentially leaves the question unanswerable.

I made a suggestion that the rule should be modified but that was left entirely without consideration.

So what do we do about this? It is extremely frustrating that answers that shows the impossibility of a claim gets shot down on what is essentially a technicality, or worse: a faulty wording, in that the rule conflates "theoretical" with "speculative".

How are we supposed to answer questions about claims when the question can only be answered by pointing to the impossibility of the claim?

  • The question has been deleted...
    – Laurel
    Apr 6, 2018 at 17:16
  • 1
    @Laurel The problem will arise again.
    – user32299
    Apr 7, 2018 at 3:31
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    @laurel Seems to have cropped up again. skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/41043/…
    – user11643
    Apr 7, 2018 at 16:52

2 Answers 2


Your question has actually two parts and I'm going to answer both separately:

How to give the answer “There is no evidence for that”?

We discussed this in the past and there is a subtle distinction.

If there can be no evidence, or the question can only be proven or disproven but not both, then the question should be closed as primarily opinion based.

If there can be evidence, but you think there's none, then you should not answer. It's your opinion that there is no evidence, and we are not interested in opinions.

If there could be evidence, and you have evidence there's none, as it often happens in medicine for example, then by all means answer giving evidence of no evidence.

How to give the answer “it seems impossible”?

That is an argument from disbelief, which is a logical fallacy. It would have been to call "impossible" that light is affected by gravity in 1900, yet such an opinion would have been wrong. In fact, a relatively simple experiment a few years later produced evidence of the contrary. That's why we allow the latter kind of evidence but not the former.


If you can cite a source that says "There is no evidence that stacking cellphones drains the battery of the top one, and it is theoretically impossible", then go ahead!

If you can't, then your answer, even if it could be helpful, would not be a good fit for this site. It's better to post novel theoretical arguments on specialist sites (such as https://physics.stackexchange.com) so that the theoretical arguments can be reviewed (to some extent) by other experts in that area. You could encourage the original poster to post a related question about whether this phenomenon is theoretically possible on another Stack Exchange site.

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    "If you can't, then your answer, even if it could be helpful, would not be a good fit for this site. " Why not?
    – user32299
    Apr 5, 2018 at 16:03
  • @MichaelK: This answer presents my interpretation of the existing rule that you are already aware of. You've mentioned modifying that rule, but that's a different discussion. I would be against modifying the rule for basically the reason I give here--I think a primarily theoretical answer will be improved by being posted on a site that has many users who are familiar with the relevant theory, but Skeptics SE doesn't select for users who are specialists in any one particular field.
    – paradisi
    Apr 5, 2018 at 16:07
  • "This answer presents my interpretation of the existing rule" And I think that modifying rule is one possible way of solving this particular problem that I am asking about, so it is not a different discussion. And I disagree with your objection because a specialist can very well give an informative and digestible answer that can be used by non-specialists. Also your objection then negates the proposition that referring to a an external specialist site is a good way to answer a question.
    – user32299
    Apr 5, 2018 at 16:14
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    @MichaelK: A specialist may give an answer that can be used by non-specialists, but part of the way Stack Exchange sites are supposed to work is that specialist answers are vetted to some extent by votes and comments from other specialists. And a physics-based answer posted on this site is less likely to get that kind of feedback from physics specialists than a physics-based answer posted on the Physics SE site.
    – paradisi
    Apr 5, 2018 at 16:32
  • "Stack Exchange sites are supposed to work is that specialist answers are vetted to some extent by votes and comments from other *specialists"*. Are they?! hold on, I have seen nothing to indicate that votes should preferably come from specialists. Where did you get that?!
    – user32299
    Apr 5, 2018 at 16:41
  • @MichaelK: I said "to some extent" because I meant that specialists are supposed to vote on posts, not that all votes are supposed to come from specialists. For example, completely new users cannot cast votes -- you need to earn at least 15 rep points to vote up (although the "association bonus" does mean that you don't have to have earned points on the relevant SE site to vote up) and 125 rep points to vote down (that does require earning at least some points on the specific SE site).
    – paradisi
    Apr 5, 2018 at 16:47
  • @MichaelK: For many of the more theoretically oriented SE sites, the tour section makes some reference to a community that includes experts in the field. Students and interested non-experts are welcome as well, but a SE site isn't supposed to have a user base composed entirely of non-experts.
    – paradisi
    Apr 5, 2018 at 16:48
  • @MichaelK it's absolutely a fact, e.g. physics stack exchange is a site for physicists and relies of having physicists voting; stack overflow is a site for programmers and relies on being moderated by programmers; etc. Skeptics is a site for people who excel at finding and evaluating evidence, not models.
    – Sklivvz
    Apr 7, 2018 at 16:42

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