My answer to this question was arbitrarily deleted by a mod. It was sourced, and was not (despite the allegations) theoretical. I carefully read the definitions of "theoretical answers" and I provided sources. No "theory" was involved except some straightforward projects back in time about staffing of a government agency, which (as I said in comments) could have been off by 100% and still would not have affected the answer.

Several of the mods seem extremely keen on over-enforcing the 'theoretical' deletions to include anything that is doing anything other than quoting sources directly, presumably on the grounds that critical thinking has no place on a website called Skeptics (the deep irony does not go unnoticed). I am prepared to be tolerant because this mod is a relative newcomer to the site, and has a relatively low reputation, but let's get this fixed.

Please undelete this or explain in detail why you consider this answer to be theoretical and allow me a chance to rebut the accusation.

This is not the first time this mod has deleted my answers as "theoretical" when they do not deserve it.

Why it isn't theoretical

Back of the envelope calculation

No calculations are involved except the trivial one of estimating the size of the FBI workforce in 1968, and the one of calculating the percentage. As I point out in comment my 'estimate' can be out by 100% or even 200% and does not substantially change the answer.

As for the percentage calculation, are we really going to delete an answer because I point out of that 1600 is about 20% or 8000, and don't cite a source?

Research Level Calculation

Definitely not that.

Pure logic/pure maths answers

The only math is a linear extrapolation (which doesn't really affect the result, and which I'm pretty sure all the readers of this site can follow) and a percentage. Again, does my percentage calculation need a source?

Let's say there was a question about a claim was made that a million square kilometres of Alaska had been paved over, without anybody noticing. If I pointed out that Alaska was only 1.7 million square kilometres in size and a million square kilometres was half the area of the state (meaning that somebody would notice) would that answer get deleted for being "theoretical"? Why not?

Common sense answers

Not that either. Also, let's remember that a lot of conspiracy theories are only disprovable by reference to how likely something is. I can't disprove Russell's Teapot, but that doesn't mean it's there.

Let's Consider Another Theoretical Answer

Suppose I ask "Can I fire the Space Shuttle into orbit by exploding a stick of dynamite under it?"

I hope we all agree the answer is no. And also that nobody has bother to write a refereed paper on the subject. So my answer says:

  • Energy to get Space Shuttle into Orbit: 3,120,500,000,000 Joules
  • Energy in a stick of dynamite is about 1,000,000,000 Joules
  • That is only about 0.03% of the energy required - whoops, there's a calculation, delete it as a theoretical answer!!!

Yes, you can delete the answer and hope that somebody write a scholarly treatise on the subject, but in the meantime how about we actually tell our readers what they want to know, in a form that everybody can understand, and stop imposing rules for no reason.

For reference I draw your attention to this question on a similar subject.

1 Answer 1


I didn't delete the answer, but likely would have had I seen it first.

The question was: Were 1 in 6 protesters at the 1968 DNC FBI agents?

The only sourced part of your answer was that the FBI employed 13.6K special agents in 2019.

With only this factoid, we can't answer the question without a lot of guessing. Thus, an answer based just on this just isn't up to the standards we set here.

Relevant parts of your answer that weren't sourced include:

  • the number of FBI agents in 1968 (the year in question). Guessing based on the population growth is rather unreliable as there can be any number of reasons that the number deviates (possibly significantly) from population growth.
  • the number of FBI undercover agents.
  • your unsourced assumption that there is a strict division between undercover and "normal" agents (it's not inconceivable that usually not-undercover agents or even non-agent FBI employees were deployed as undercover agents for this event).
  • your guess that the FBI would not deploy X% of their (undercover) agents to a single event.

The first and last of these are imho the most important points that definitely need a proper source.

As for your theoretical question: it would likely have been closed as not notable (or moved to physics.SE or similar). If it were a notable claim, it is likely that you can quote a reliable and notable source for your answer. But in either case, it requires a lot less guesswork than your answer did.

  • Re bullet3: have trouble with terminology in use here. Not sure which terms are used, how they were used, how they differ. Do you mean things like 'assets', 'on their payroll', unofficial collaborators (like IMs, sth that your 'non-agent employees' might mean as well? — & how all these are would have been counted then, or now. This might be my weakness alone, or partly that of this metaA, or in need of clarification in the A on main as well? Jan 14, 2022 at 19:04
  • @LangLаngС Mostly what I meant is that I don't know. Sure, IMs would be one option. Theoretically, some people who have desk jobs at the FBI could also be pulled to go in civil clothing for a large event, right? The point is, it's something to consider, hence the need for reputable sources on the subject instead of personal guesses.
    – tim Mod
    Jan 15, 2022 at 15:01

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