We see a lot of substandard questions here. Some are more troublesome than others. Some good questions get deplatformed for being mistaken as "push" or whatever.
This meta post is about clearly substandard questions being pushed onto the Hot Network Question list apparently solely for the opportunity to push a virtue signaling answer, even if that's somewhat oblique to the vague claims presented.
'Pushed' here means that enough regular users upvote quickly a substandard post without making sure that it is indeed a 'good question'. That HNQ-post is indeed chosen by an automated algorithm but also a result of collective action, or rather: inaction and neglect.
Notice that it was the first revision of this question that ballooned onto the HNQ:
Not enough close votes, not enough editing into shape, and that despite a bag of problems that is filled to the brim:
Typo in title, mismatch of unclear title and body, misspelled author of a book that's presented as being the 'real' source for claimS. No quote given for the content of the book. Apparently not even access to the book contents by QP. Just a link to a video of unknown provenance (at least it's a short video).
First claim presented is "wasn't as virulent as thought", then follows a list of five separate claim_s_.
One claim from that bullet list commented on by QP with a link (the FDR (mis-)diagnosis) — that promptly says the exact opposite of what the QP comment asserts. This was only found out to be that contradictory in nature — after 10 regulars voted this into HNQ — in a comment, where that info rested for a while before not QP but I myself tried to edit out this inconsistency. Those regulars upvoting the question in that state obviously didn't check the links.
Then follows a graph that's not attributed transparently. The question made it look as if from the book. It is really taken from a link that QP asserts would be like the book (in question presented quite understated just as "others"). But we have no way to tell if that's true or a misrepresentation, as the content on that link never mentions said book, except for in comments on that page. But that comment there seems to indicate that webpage and book are really quite different. The graph from that website then is taken seemingly at random, as it is from a series of similar graphs building up to the argument on that webpage that it would be the combination of effects that might explain something, not just the observation from that one graph in isolation. The webpage has a compound effect graph, supposedly showing what the webpage author concludes, the question leaves that out — thereby misrepresenting the content of the argument on that webpage. And which claims do we address now? Those from the unquoted book or that website?
Then we get an explanation from QP on the supposed purpose of that graph:
The purpose of this presentation from the author, is to show that the Polio vaccine wasn't as effective (if not effective at all) as once claimed. Many anti-vaxers are using this as a reason to prove that vaccines aren't actually as effective as claimed.
Which author? Without digging it would seem to me 'the book author'? But it is taken from the other website. Do we know whether the book author uses the same or at least a closely matching graph? Are book author and webpage author really saying the same thing? I don't know from the question and can't ascertain either way without any quotes or access to that book. And as we see, no-one, neither QP, nor regulars liking the question, has accessed that book. All reference to that book on tis site are based on some level of hearsay. That's bad.
We notice that regulars are content with it, do in their mass not click on links and do not follow up what's claimed. That's reason for concern.
Because that first graph again is a also a misrepresentation of what's actually said. That website goes on to claim that the graphic would show that the commonly attributed virulence and disease effects would show a correlation and explanation between chemical poisoning and paralysis. Thus a large and previously neglected confounder. Not that eitehr 'there is no virus' nor that the vaccines would be completely ineffective, rather that they would present a sort of solution to a problem that wasn't caused by any virus alone.
Although that website then goes on to indeed construct an argument as QP presented. But crucially — also in light of the warmly received answer — at this point QP jumps ahead and thus distorts the source with his foreknowledge and interpretations, leaving out too many steps.
The question then goes on to mention pesticides, giving two examples (arsenic & DDT; remember that the first and lonely graph only showed two DDT correlates and polio).
The explicit subquestions we read are:
- "Is there any research into these claimS? __[plural emphasis added, LLC]
- Specifically, if Arsenic, DDT, or other pesticides used during that time caused paralysis similar to that of the Poliovirus? [Question mark added, LLC]
- Has there been any research into the lowering of Poliovirus cases directly related to the reduction in the use of these harmful substances?
- Finally, is there definitive proof that the vaccine is directly tied to the "eradication" of the Poliovirus?
Apart from obviously asking multiple questions, and not 'challenging one notable claim', these questions also frame the problem in peculiar ways:
Will have to be answered with a yes: QP itself presents such research from apparently two sources. The website linked to contains 24 references. Are they relevant, professional level, good quality etc? That's another subquestion for this one…
This asks if there are other possible causes, confounders of diagnosis, for poliomyelitis paralysis. In short: is it possible/true that (related to bullet point 5 at the start: "parents pushed for a Polio diagnosis due to the funding") the case numbers also rose due to wrong incentives for posing a diagnosis?
Confounds 'cases' with paralysis, ie different disease outcomes—for allegedly different problems (according to claims). As one comment expressed it:
misrepresentation of the actual source. It claims the effects of polio were caused by other factors as were their decline not that polio was eliminated by other factors. [And it is indeed an established fact that polio must have been around for far longer but only started to be a pandemic-like problem with often much dreaded outcomes from first description in 1860 over to 1880, when severe cases took off, LLC]
What I read for the 'book as claim source' this again looks like misrepresentation, as it seems that the book author seems not to claim that the polio vaccines were totally ineffective, but that they would have played a much "smaller role" in freeing humanity of debilitating effects attributed to the virus and the resulting disease alone. That those other factors contributing to virulence were overlooked despite being really quite large.
Epidemics of paralysis began to rage in the early 1900s, seemingly out of nowhere. Doctors, parents, and health officials were at a loss to explain why this formerly unheard of disease began paralyzing so many children (src)
So which of the many claims do we address? If we allow multiple questions in one post we must address all of them in an answer. Are they from the website, the book, or mainly 'made up' by the asker — meaning: misrepresented, misunderstood, or maybe even manipulated (I do not say that here it is the latter, honest mistakes happen all the time). I have no way of making sure from the question alone, not even when trying to dig around the net & literature myself, that what I read in question is what the book says. Do we chase an imaginary rabbit?
Such a bunch of quality problems, quite a few of them noted rightfully in comments, should not be allowed to stay in that way on HNQ. Any answers on such questions run a high risk of making things worse.
As the much loved answer shows: it focused on DDT alone (not pesticide usage as the wider claim), ignores the confounder issues (as the claim seems to assert those to be crucial), and finally presents a testimonial for 'vaccines for polio do work' (while the claim seems to not deny that, but describes just different weights for contributing to observed effects?). In short: the answer ignores the complexities of the claims and in effect largely talks past the claim, but all the while saying 'vaccines are great'.
We get a bunch of claims, have no way to ascertain who really claims what and whether the question accurately present those claims. Thus we have no focus in the question and answers are free to pick one or a few and then just run with those, as the answers also didn't bother to assure those quality issues to be addressed — whether in question or the answer itself.
Thus we see highly upvoted posts on HNQ, that would achieve probably not much for actual readers of that book who are impressed by its contents into convincing them otherwise (if that would be warranted, and I can't really say…)
Note that the quality problems of that post are really secondary for the meta-post. Although everyone reading along here is really invited to take the criticism and indeed improve the specific example post on main…
The primary problem is about the collective efforts or lack thereof and the resulting detrimental effects in general. This is not the first time to observe these effects.
Why can't we fix questions with so many problems in time but instead send those as 'representatives for the site' onto HNQ?