I have an issue with the "No Theoretical Answers" rule, because in its present wording, if I for instance refer to gravity and hinge my answer on that gravity exists, and that the theory of gravity is accurate, then the post will be deleted.
The problem: good answers get deleted
As stated with emphasis in this post, Skeptics SE do not subscribe to the school of thought "It's just a theory". In science, "theory" is the goal. "Theory" is the thing you get a Nobel Prize for. If in science you say "I have a theory", you rank among people such as Newton, Einstein, Hertz and Maxwell. "It's just a theory" is not a valid means by which to dismiss an answer.
Never the less the rule is an implementation of just that school of thought. The rule and the way it has been applied means that an answer of the sort "Looking at this particular scientific theory, the claim cannot be true" gets deleted under the "No theoretical answers" rule. I find this inherently problematic because to a reasonable person, such an answer is perfectly acceptable.
The users of Skeptics SE are missing out on good and valid answers because of the wording of this rule
The root cause: conflating "theory" with "speculation"
When reading through the text of the rule, I find it obvious that the actual concept that the rule wishes to avoid is not "theory" but "speculation". The confusion comes from that — in daily parlance, by the average person that is not a scientifically minded person — the phrase "I have a theory" actually means "I have a hunch" / "I have a vague idea / "If I speculate a bit".
So the problem is that "theory" can mean two different things depending on context. One of the meanings is good and solid, the other is not.
I agree with the spirit of the rule: we do not want answers based on loose speculation. But I do not agree that scientific theory should also be tossed out, like the proverbial baby with the bath water, because then we lose good answers.
Proposed edits to resolve the issue
Here are a few edits I suggest to remove the issue and make it clear that theory is all right, but speculation is not. The strikeouts is the old wording, the boldface is the new wording.
FAQ: What are
One of the premises of skepticism is the application of the scientific method: empirical
proofevidence validates or disqualifies theoreticalmodels. All questions we allow hereWe only allow posts that are empiricalmaterial in nature, thus answering via a purely theoretical modelspeculation is inappropriate : experiments are not "validated" by theory, but vice-versa.
Here is a list of common examples of types of unacceptable
Section "Back of the envelope calculations"
Answers based on simplified calculations instead of measurements are
theoreticalspeculative. By their nature such calculations implicitly assume a mathematical model, but they generally fail to show that the model is adequate to the circumstances of the question. They also do not investigate their own inaccuracy. They are a form of Original Research.
Section "Research-level answers"
My suggestion is that this entire section is lifted out to its own rule, one that states that "Answers must be accessible to the audience of Skeptics SE". Stuff that requires an academic degree to take in are not accessible to the general public of Skeptics SE.
Section "Pure logic/pure maths answers"
Answers that rely only on logic and maths are
theoreticalspeculative, because they do not connect the material nature of the question with the immaterial nature of the answer. All our questions are inherently referring to experimental evidencematerial reality. If your answer does not contain any material evidence, it is almost certainly not answering the right question.
Section "Common sense answers"
This section looks good as it is to me.