As far as I can tell, evaluating the truth of notable claims involves quite a lot of discussion of philosophical points of contention, such as:

  • Questions of definition: Many claims being asked about have one or more ambiguous terms. Depending on the way that the answerer defines (or doesn't define) those terms, opposite conclusions can be reached as to whether the claim in the question is true. Sometimes it takes some discussion to discover and resolve this conflict of definitions, and this discussion is sometimes necessary to evaluate the logic of an answer (especially if the answerer doesn't explicitly define the ambiguous term).

  • Questions of provability and falsifiability: If an answer asserts that a claim that is not provable is proven true, or if an answer asserts that a claim which is not falsifiable is proven false, then there is naturally going to be some discussion on whether that is justified. This may occur because the answerer's implicit definitions of ambiguous terms changes the perception of the claim into something that is provable/falsifiable, or it may occur because of something more fundamental, like a disagreement on the definition of "falsifiable" itself, or it may occur because the answerer is simply in error. Discussion of these philosophical points helps to clarify the answerer's intent and allows for the proper evaluation of the answer's logic.

  • Questions of evidentiary standards: There are a myriad of different forms of evidence that are presented in answers here: scientific studies, new reports, document metadata, photographs, and many other types of evidence have been seen at one point or another. Discussions over whether individual pieces of evidence are admissible as proof, and whether the collection of evidence presented in an answer is sufficient to prove a statement, can shed light on the evidence itself and bolster or detract from the logic of the answer.

These are all purely philosophical points, and also serve a purpose: to clarify the intent of the answerer so that the answer's logic can be properly evaluated.

In the question Did President Obama tell President Trump he was close to starting a war with North Korea?, there was one such discussion under the accepted answer about part of the evidence provided, namely, the part of the New York Times report that said, "It is impossible to prove a negative, of course." The precise definition of "prove a negative" was gradually clarified, and it became clear why the answerer might have chosen to include this particular statement in the evidence they presented, with (as far as I can remember) no instances of verbal abuse or other misconduct, and all parties generally agreeing toward the end. My memory of this, unfortunately, is all I have at this point, since, rather than moving the discussion to chat, the discussion was deleted in its entirety, with only this message remaining:

Please avoid discussions on whether "it's impossible to prove a negative" is true or not -- they are perhaps worthy philosophical discussions but are worthless elsewhere and in particular here.

(As a side note, even after this comment was posted, both my reaction to it and the reaction of one of the other participants in the conversation were deleted, so that there is now no evidence of either the presence of a reaction or the upvotes that that reaction received.)

So that leads to the questions:

What is this site's policy regarding the "worth" of discussions that are arguably material to evaluating the logic of an answer? Based on the answer to that question, why was this discussion deleted, rather than being moved to chat?

1 Answer 1


I'm sorry you took offense but I acted on flagged material that was obviously offtopic. Here's what comments are for:

When should I comment?

You should submit a comment if you want to:

  • Request clarification from the author;
  • Leave constructive criticism that guides the author in improving the post;
  • Add relevant but minor or transient information to a post (e.g. a link to a related question, or an alert to the author that the question has been updated).

When shouldn't I comment?

Comments are not recommended for any of the following:

  • Suggesting corrections that don't fundamentally change the meaning of the post; instead, make or suggest an edit;

  • Answering a question or providing an alternate solution to an existing answer; instead, post an actual answer (or edit to expand an existing one);

  • Compliments which do not add new information ("+1, great answer!"); instead, up-vote it and pay it forward;

  • Criticisms which do not add anything constructive ("-1, see previous comments you scallywag!"); instead, down-vote (and provide or up-vote a better answer if appropriate);

  • Secondary discussion or debating a controversial point; please use chat instead;

  • Discussion of community behavior or site policies; please use meta instead.

The discussion I deleted was certainly a "secondary discussion or debating a controversial point" -- it was not even incidentally about the answer! -- and is still partially available in chat.

  • So you're saying that discussing a quote that's part of the answer doesn't qualify as being "about the answer"? Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 20:06
  • And regarding the "secondary discussion or debating a controversial point" idea - immediately afterward it says "please use chat instead," so why was the discussion not simply moved to chat? Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 20:07
  • 2
    @probably_someone note that all the "when should I comment" points are comments made to the author. In no case back to back discussions are OK in comments.
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 20:28
  • So you're not going to answer either of the questions I just asked, then? Also, I'd like to note that the original asker of the question was one of the main participants in the discussion; are you saying that discussing the information contained in the answer with the person who asked the question isn't allowed? Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 8:43
  • And by the way, since the comment thread was deleted entirely, you've essentially destroyed any evidence that could support either of our claims. Isn't that at least a little bit problematic? Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 8:46
  • 4
    I was going to answer but your accusatory tone and conspiracy theories really put me off. Have a nice day and try to deal with people in a more positive manner next time.
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 8:47
  • What "conspiracy theories"? And apparently calling a discussion "worthless" doesn't carry an "accusatory tone"? Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 8:51
  • 6
    Maybe move to chat instead. This exact argument happens frequently here, so you might find it happening less if you move to chat. They can continue discussing there and can't accuse you of anything other than tidying up.
    – user11643
    Commented Feb 20, 2019 at 0:14
  • The chat had already been largely moved, I wouldn't move it twice @fred
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Feb 20, 2019 at 8:22
  • @Sklivvz It wasn't "largely moved." Well over half of the comments don't exist in what remains of the chat, as you can see by the 13 replies by the original asker of the question which are addressed to multiple people whose comments no longer exist. What was moved was the comments of only two users. Commented Feb 20, 2019 at 10:59
  • 2
    @Sklivvz And for the record, there was and still is no indication whatsoever that even this small fraction of the conversation had been moved. There is no link to it under the answer; everything else besides your response has been deleted outright. Commented Feb 20, 2019 at 11:04
  • 2
    @fredsbend Indeed, that seems to be the standard practice on the other SE sites I frequent. Commented Feb 20, 2019 at 11:07

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