I noticed today a question, which was only lightly edited by a mod, so apparently there was nothing blatantly wrong with it, but which to me seems to fit the following pattern:

  • quote notable claim from some science publication (A)
  • counter-oppose it an unquoted counter-claim as possibly the real explanation/phenomenon (B)

(Top-voted) answer is devoted mostly to busting B, rather any serious/additional investigation about claim A.

Of course, it's better if questions include a reason for skepticism, so some kind of "B" is better than none. But what to do with questions, which to me sound like XY questions, in which the real question is (the unpublished) claim B? According to Skeptics.SE notability guidelines, if the real question is B then it should be the one supported by quotes etc.


1 Answer 1


In the hypothetical case you mention the problem lies in the answer, not the question.

When someone asks "People say the Earth is round (A), but some people disagree, for example they say it's flat (B). What is the evidence that it is round (A)?" a correct answer will not look at evidence against B.

A correct answer will look at the evidence in favor of A, which is the topic of the question. Evidence for A is also evidence against "The Earth is cubical" (C) and "The Earth is a pyramid" (D), so it's clearly more convincing/effective/etc.

  • You're ignoring the fact that that was the accepted answer. So really, the OP wanted to ask about B. I actually gave an answer about A, which apparently wasn't his real interest. Commented Aug 13, 2018 at 6:59
  • Not in your hypothetical example.
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Aug 13, 2018 at 7:07

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