I always accept answers/posts that are logical (mathematically or philosophically). But here (and in some other forums or generally in non-exact sciences) there are questions that you can almost prove it in very detailed answer and also you can almost disprove/reject it in very detailed answer.

For example, recently someone posted the question Is there video evidence that Palestinians avoided targetting civilians during the Oct 7 attacks on Israel?

Some users responded using known resource/news to answer it "NO".

But I found a lot of evidence that shows there are more than a handful of exceptions.

Some users accused me (now deleted) of playing with words. Another user commented that my answer is not acceptable, arguing:

They didn't kill the girls because they tried to kidnap them.

If so, isn't the question trivial? Because there are hundreds of women in the captivity of Hamas, which shows that they did not kill them.

Any evidence that can support the question affirmatively one can repeat the above argument to weaken/reject/disprove the answer.

Posts like this confuse me.

How should we answer questions that can be both yes and no? Wouldn't it be better to ask "Is there ANY ..." that would be less ambiguous?

2 Answers 2


You don't have to answer yes or no

…and in a situation like this, you probably shouldn't even try.

People are sloppy with their language; rarely does a claim have a single rigorous interpretation. We can't stop this from happening (otherwise we probably wouldn't even need this site).

In this case, we have the claim:

There is a great deal of video evidence that they deliberately avoided targeting women and children.

  • What does "a great deal" mean? Dozens of videos from every corner of the area? Enough to fill the above-the-fold area in Google (less than 5)? One but it's hours long? More than you thought there would be?

  • What does "deliberately avoided" mean? Does that require they looked extensively before leaping every time? Only sometimes? Or just once showed restraint?

  • What does "targeting" mean? Killing? Committing crimes against? Any type of negative interaction?

Simultaneously, different people have different interpretations, none of them incorrect per se (though they probably won't believe that any other interpretation could be correct). Some of these interpretations are true according to the evidence. Some are false according to the evidence. There's no one word that you can use to answer the question for everyone except "maybe". So consider not trying to answer the question in a single word and only presenting the evidence so that each person can decide if their interpretation of the claim is factual or not.

About your answer

For your answer in particular, it would be good to acknowledge the evidence in the other answer. It doesn't have to be much: "While [link to answer] lists videos where X happened, there is also video evidence that shows Y" (where Y is a summary of what the videos linked in your answers show). Note that another comment on your answer says that your descriptions are omitting some important context, which would be good to include if true.

  • Thanks for your detailed answer. IMO the moderators should react quickly because as you can see this post has been viewed almost 9k times and a usual reader consider the upvoted answer as a valuable answer (but I don't recognize it as a valid answer because it talks about captives while the OP quoted in the post that There is nothing wrong with Palestinians taking prisoners. This is obviously is not an answer.). This is really problematic. I commented and flagged the answer but they deleted my comment and rejected my flag and after a while the post has been closed.
    – C.F.G
    Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 17:58
  • @C.F.G What do you think moderators should have done? The question was closed by the community (and may well be reopened by it too). I don't think the other answer should be deleted, though there are plenty of ways the wording/structure/etc. could be better (as is true for many answers).
    – Laurel
    Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 18:09
  • Closing/improving the post after its first views/comments not after 9k views.
    – C.F.G
    Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 18:24
  • Moderators (the people with a diamond after their name) didn't close the question, perhaps because they feel it's on-topic. They also don't have a particularly good way of ensuring the community doesn't close a question. The philosophy of SE is that the community is usually supposed to decide what questions should be closed anyway.
    – Laurel
    Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 18:35

If the question is trivial (in the sense that its literal answer is both obvious and of no use as an argument supporting some larger claim that the question arose in connection to), then a good answer would point that out.

It's certainly helpful to provide an answer to the literal question. However, if you only provide an answer to the literal question without giving the broader context that sheds light on the flawed premises behind the trivial claim and the ways in which it is used by people to draw misleading or false conclusions, then your literal answer, while true in a technical sense, can itself be highly misleading and even harmful. In that case, it would be quite reasonable for people to downvote it even though it is technically "correct".

How should we answer questions that its answer can be both yes and no?

If you feel the question is too vague to be able to be answered meaningfully, it is good to point that out in a comment.

If the question is well-phrased and therefore can be given a meaningful answer, but you feel it is in some sense "the wrong question to ask" (because it is based on incorrect assumptions, or does not imply what the claimant wants people to believe it implies), then it's reasonable to post an answer that both states what the answer to the literal question is, and explains the problems with the literal question by providing suitable context.

As an example, in one of my Skeptics answers, I wrote

[...] I thought it was important to discuss not just the literal question of whether Feynman said something, but also the implied question of whether what he said actually means what some of the people citing his quote seem to think it means.

To which a user replied in a comment (that I vaguely remember was upvoted by quite a few people but has since been moved to chat):

"I thought it was important to discuss not just the literal question of whether Feynman said something, but also the implied question..." - That is a very Feynmanesque thing to say, which makes this answer all the better.

  • Please do not extend comments in the main post.
    – C.F.G
    Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 7:21
  • Dan, In your opinion what kind of evidence can answer to the linked post affirmatively? I think nothing. Do you agree?
    – C.F.G
    Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 7:26
  • 2
    I don't think Meta is the place to discuss it. A discussion of the linked post belongs on the linked post.
    – Dan Romik
    Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 7:33

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