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If a question only cites a notable news report, a debunking, or some other discussion about a claim (rather than someone making the claim), is that enough to satisfy our notability requirement and ask whether the claim is true?

Inspired by this recent question, which asks about recent claims from some anti-vaxxers who say that the covid vaccines can cause magnets to stick to their skin. When I first read that question and saw that it just linked a news report about a claim, my initial thought was that it was off-topic but I wasn't sure: it didn't cite the claim it was asking about, rather it cited a news report about how people were making that claim and how obviously ridiculous it was.

For this particular question, since the report contains video snippets of people making the claim it seemed straightforward to bring it on-topic by timestamping/quoting the parts of the video that have snippets of the actual claim.

However, let's imagine that the news report linked in that question didn't have snippets of people explicitly making the claims, but it did still have notable people saying that the claims were being made (and suggests that they're widely believed). Would it be acceptable for a question to ask about the claim and link the report to show it's widely believed, or should it be considered off-topic for lacking a link to the claim actually being made?

  • For example, if that 'vaccines cause magnetism' question only linked a notable person claiming that a lot of people believe that vaccines cause people to be magnetic: would it be on-topic to ask "do vaccines cause people to be magnetic", or could they only ask "do people believe that vaccines cause people to be magnetic"?
  • Most of the questions like this just get edited to directly cite the claim and make the question here moot, but there are few existing questions that I was able to find that sort of fit what I'm asking:

So, is it considered on-topic for a question to ask about some claim if it only has a cites some sort of notable discussion about that claim? I.e., do notable discussions of claims transfer their notability to the claims themselves?

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  • I don't understand this. As you said: "obviously" a timestamp on a video link provides the notability for 'claim is said', if there are many, then it is "widely believed"? Seems this is not so much about notability, bit quality or "closeness to source"(?) of the evidence for "notable claim"? Striving for going ad fontes I'd support instantly, but that angle wouldn't be in any way related to 'off-topic'? Off-topic for that scenario requires claim is not notable, or at least shows no proof for it being believed by many? IE: please provide an example for your last sentence (on-site or theory?) Jun 23 at 10:03
  • @LangLаngС: I've just edited it to hopefully clear things up: I've added some other example questions that kind of fit what I'm asking, and clarified that I was wondering how we should handle a (hypothetical) version of that vaccine question in which there was no easy-to-cite person actually making the claim.
    – Giter
    Jun 23 at 13:58
  • Thx. Would you agree to call that: "is 2nd order notability demonstrated for a claim still notable enough?" IE: if we only see the claim either indirectly, or that many people would repeat the claim (that is an assertion that it is widely believed, w/ direct proof; really another claim in itself)? [That would fit the dowsing thing? The others: can't understand why the football thing wasn't edited to be on-topic. Seems easy to fix: has that assoc really stated that as reason ('motivation' replaced by checing historical src) ?] Jun 23 at 14:25
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    @LangLаngС: I was having a hard time phrasing the title succinctly, but yeah that '2nd order notability' you mention is pretty much what I'm asking: whether questions that only cite a notable discussion about some claim are on-topic as-is. Maybe "Is a notable discussion/debunking of a claim enough to make a question about the claim on-topic"? Does that phrasing make more sense?
    – Giter
    Jun 23 at 15:35
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    Yeah, it seems so. Something of/like 'inheritability of notability for an underlying claim in a notable discussion'? Jun 23 at 15:41
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(Just to be clear: The linked question is up to Revision 5 at the time of writing this, and I think the shortcomings have been resolved. So this is addressing the hypothetical question posed.)

I think in such cases, it is worth going back to first principles: Why do we demand notability references?

Several reasons have been identified:

  1. As a proxy to demonstrate that this is widely-believed. It isn't a good use of our answerer's time to settle drunken bar-bets about whether a zebra could beat a mongoose in a fight. We want to spend our time more wisely, by looking at widely-believed claims. It is hard to show that, so we accept widely-read as a proxy for that.

    So the question becomes: Does this hypothetical indirect source link successfully show that many people believe the claim?

  2. To check that the OP has understood the claim. Sometimes, we get people asking questions about claims were the OP has missed an ironic joke, accidentally misunderstood the claim or perhaps has deliberately misrepresented the claim. The result is that the question is about a "strawman" no-one actually believes. Having the link helps us to resolve this.

    So the question becomes: Does this hypothetical indirect source link successfully demonstrate that the claim is being correctly represented?

  3. To check the context of the claim. (This point is related to the previous one.) Sometimes the truth of the claim depends on which definitions of the terms in the claim are used.

    As much as OPs are often keen to define the terms in a way they would accept, the fairest interpretation would be use the definitions the claimant would accept (perhaps with a caveat if they use unusual definitions.)

    My go-to example for this is the financial self-help author, Robert Kiyosaki claims in his books that if you live in your own own house, it is not an asset. This is true, but only if you accept his rather peculiar, but explicitly provided, definition of asset. If you use definitions that appear in accounting and economics dictionaries, the claim is false.

    By looking at the original source, we can see if they explicitly defined the terms. We can also see if there is context to help resolve ambiguities. (e.g. Oh, they are a Texan lawyer talking about defamation? They are probably using the definitions found in the Texan lawbooks.)

So, I haven't got a simple yes/no answer for you, but these are the principles that we should use to decide.

I would suggest that generally the answer to these questions would be "No, this isn't good enough" but that isn't a blanket statement.

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    Can't shake the feeling that the Q is even more 'meta': when we see a claim that is only claimed to be widely believed we got essentially 2 claims, second one conditionally arising from the first. Like a 'debunking site' claiming "many ppl believe that gold can be created out of thin air, here's why that's false". With not a single example of anyone really into that what is to be disproven. (Ignore the ridiculousness of it). Should the alleged claim be considered notable as claimed by siteX' or do we first need to (re-)check that other claim, namely that *that indeed is 'notable'? Jun 24 at 10:47
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    @LangLangC: I agree with your first sentence: If we don't trust the claim that people are making the claim, then it fails the first point in my answer; it hasn't shown it is widely believed. [But, there are cases where we would trust the claim: When we see tweets from a politician with thousands of likes, we routinely trust that they actually wrote it and people agree with it, and it isn't just Twitter techs putting words into the politician's mouth and lying about the likes.]
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Jun 24 at 11:42

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