13

These questions should be made off-topic because they are not answerable based on available evidence. In other words, there is nothing scientific in the investigation of the evidence.

Also, they may be mainly rhetorical questions. They may not be motivated by real curiosity, but by wanting to make a statement of sorts—often implicitly in the question.

This site should not concern itself with any of the following:

  • Religious, philosophical, theological disputes: a metaphysical position is not addressable via scientific skepticism.
  • Political arguments which are based on ideology and not on fact.
  • Dietrology (the idea that people can presume motives based on actionssource)

Therefore the following types of questions will not be welcome here:

  • Questions about someone's faith or beliefs or metaphysical positions: e.g., "Was X [Christian/Jewish/Hindu/Pastafarian/atheist]?"

  • Questions about personal and political motivations and other intangibles: e.g., "Did X do Y because of Z?", "Did politician A endorse policy B because he had agenda C?"

  • Questions which are not strictly scientific evidence based: e.g., "Was X the only one believing that Y?", "Does [your chosen deity] exist?", "Will X thing happen in the future?"

To incorporate some feedback:

Questions may have a political or religious undertone, but they should not be about politics or religion. There are some good questions related to politics or religion (some questions about news reporting of political figures, some question regarding religious texts or artefacts).


Example questions to burninate:

  • Was Hitler a Christian?
    We don't know what he believed. We can guess from his writing or from his actions, and imply motivation from there, but there is no way of scientifically investigating belief.
  • Was there a pact between the Mafia and the Italian government in the 1990's?
    Impossible to prove. There is wildly diverging evidence, and the whole question is heavily politically loaded in Italy, making most evidence basically unconvincing.
  • Did Gore support climate change because of personal gain?
    We don't know why Gore did anything. Did he gain something? For sure, e.g. a Nobel prize, but asking whether he did support climate change because of the personal gain cannot be answered through proof.
  • Was Bush the only one believing that Iraq had WMD?
    We don't know what people believe - especially politicians, who have all interest in saying what makes them popular, instead of publicly stating their true beliefs.

Related questions:

  • I agree that "Did Gore support climate change because of personal gain?" is unanswerable. The question is "Are his holdings structured to ensure that increased carbon offset trading increases his wealth" ontopic? – user5341 Apr 30 '11 at 11:18
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    @DVK: No. It's not on topic, as it's equivalent to "Did Gore structure his holdings to ensure that increased carbon offset trading would increase his wealth?" -- so, it's a personal motivation question. – Sklivvz Apr 30 '11 at 11:24
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    @Sklivvz - Sorry, it's not equivalent at all. Does X cause Y is not equivalent "did someone choose X because they want Y". For specific example, think of the difference between "Will you make extra $$$ by holding Apple stock if there is a law passed that every school child must be provided an iPad", vs "Are you supporting a law to require that every child provides an iPad BECAUSE you own Apple stock". The second one is about motivation. The first is straightforward finance. – user5341 Apr 30 '11 at 11:36
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    @DVK: if you have something meaningful to say, do it in an answer so people can vote on it. – Sklivvz Apr 30 '11 at 11:41
  • @Sllivvz - BTW, while in some sintances what you said is true, saying "Also, they are mainly rhetorical questions. They are not motivated by real curiosity, but by wanting to make a statement of sorts — often implicitly in the question." - seems incredibly ironic sitting right next to a reference to "Dietrology (the idea that people can presume motives based on actions)" – user5341 Apr 30 '11 at 18:37
  • Point taken. Fortunately this is meta, where opinion is ok. – Sklivvz Apr 30 '11 at 18:45
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    @Sklivvz:Why is it impossible to prove that Hitler was a Christian? For all you know, he may have been written somewhere 'As a good christian, it's my duty to get rid of jews?' or written 'Even though I'm jewish, my duty to my country requires me to get rid of jews.' Similarly there may exist memos about the question on bush, or a police investigation report on the mafia question. – apoorv020 May 1 '11 at 9:35
  • @Sklivvz:I see your point. But when somebody says 'Is X a christian', he does not usually mean to start a philosophical discussion. The accepted answer above starts philosophizing, but I don't think that was the intention of the question. – apoorv020 May 1 '11 at 9:50
  • @apo: if you have something meaningful to say, do it in an answer so people can vote on it. – Sklivvz May 1 '11 at 9:51
  • If anyone knows of some example(s) for good questions related to politics or religion (which should be allowed according to this question), please add links to them in this question. – Jason Plank May 4 '11 at 15:29
  • What about questions like "what percentage of women trafficking are consensual". I think I got that question closed too. – user4951 May 28 '12 at 5:32
7

More a request for clarification than an answer, but...

Religious disputes
Political disputes

I think there's value to be had in questions motivated by both of these - but the question itself should hold strict to claims that can be objectively proved / disproved:

Does Al Gore profit from the sale of carbon offsets?

Either there are publicly-available disclosures to back this up, or there aren't. Speculation can be safely removed.

Does Al Gore profit from his AGW activism?

Without a specific claim, this starts to get sketchy, as it opens the scope up to philosophical disagreements. Both questions are clearly politically-motivated, but that's fine - so long as the role of this site is limited to providing solid information and not constructing arguments for, or hosting the debates themselves.

...Which, incidentally, seems to be a bit of a problem. DVK pointed out this question last night, which raises a specific claim and is by and large a decent question... The top-voted, accepted answer spends its last paragraph trying to argue against the political motivations of the original claim. It's understandable, but adds a strong subjective element to the answer. Strict NPOV may be too much to hope for, but if the answers to these questions are going to devolve into dietrology then any effort put into keeping it out of the questions themselves is for naught.

  • As a clarification: that Obama question has political undertones but is not political in nature. It's not a "politics" question but a "news" question, in particular about the accuracy of Vanity Fair. The Al Gore ones are just bad questions because they target a person (obviously not subject to any scientific study). Also the generic one is a tautology/rhetorical question ("Does the Dalai Lama profit from his Buddhist activism?") – Sklivvz Apr 30 '11 at 17:44
  • The Al Gore questions would be 1 million times better if they were formulated impersonally: "Does the AGW movement profit more from the sale of carbon offsets than any other entity?" – Sklivvz Apr 30 '11 at 17:46
  • @Sklivvz: That's kinda what I'm getting at: political undertones should be fine, that's what gives questions like this a purpose - otherwise why would you care how much money Obama's brother or Al Gore make? I disagree that making them impersonal necessarily improves anything: the answers to that last question that stick to addressing "how's Obama's family doin'?" devolve quickly into "Depends on your definition of 'family'..." and I'd expect the same from a question on "the AGW movement" (DVK's "not influenced by GWB" group had the same issue). Well-defined inputs -> well-defined outputs. – Shog9 Apr 30 '11 at 18:11
  • @Sklivvz - I agree partially. One reason why Al Gore specifically is worth noting is that his personal net worth increased IIRC by 2 orders of magnitude since 2000. Speaking fees, profits from the movies and monetary values of Oscar and/or Nobel aren't remotely enough to account for that, so the rest are the profits from his trading offset business ventures. I don't know if the data for any other major holder of that venture is publically available as evidence - if it is, he is 100% not useful for the question. – user5341 Apr 30 '11 at 18:31
  • Frankly, I believe we are overextending the scope (originally "woo and pseudoscience"), and in the worst possible way: by including inflammatory topics (not to say barefaced trolling in some cases), which are of limited interest to the international community we have. Honestly, questions about internal politics of a particular country are just not that interesting. – Sklivvz Apr 30 '11 at 18:34
  • @Sklivvz - Considering how much traffic those headlines pull in the newspaper, it seems to me like it's pretty hard to argue that they aren't interesting to the broader audience. Also I consider it to be a benefit to society if we tackle those issues and expose them as the rhetorical absurdity they are rather than shun away from them. – Kit Sunde May 1 '11 at 15:13
10

In order to prevent skepticism (only believing that for which there is evidence) from degenerating into nihilism (not believing anything), one needs to admit that one has to deal in degrees of certainty. (I will elaborate on this if it is a contentious claim.)

However, we must then admit that we can know what people are thinking with some degree of certainty. Maybe it's not a very high degree of certainty, but I think, for instance, we would be safe assuming that Martin Luther King Jr. thought that segregation and discriminatory practices of the 1950s in the U.S. were unfair and unjust for African Americans, given that he said as much on numerous occasions and devoted his life to changing those practices.

In particular, questions about the public or historical record can answer, for some individuals anyway, to a reasonable degree of confidence, the question of whether X was a Y. For example, if one hears that "Cary Grant was a L.A. Dodgers fan", one could certainly look for supporting evidence; if one found that old newspaper accounts put him at Dodgers games, that he had season tickets, that he often talked about the Dodgers, etc., then I think the sensible conclusion is that most likely, yes, he was a Dodgers fan.

Likewise, substituting a religious or political figure in for some other individual does not change whether and how a question can be answered, but may cause a question to take on the air of a religious dispute. For example, "Can Oprah Winfrey cure leprosy with a touch", "Could Mother Teresa cure leprosy with a touch", and "Can Mike Huckabee cure leprosy with a touch" are all questions that a skeptic should feel comfortable addressing by looking for supporting or contradictory evidence.

Now, one could make a policy that religious questions are forbidden for entirely different reasons than whether or not they can be answered, namely that people feel strongly about the answers and thus asking such questions may contribute to hostility and other negative consequences, and that the benefit from increasing our confidence in the answers to these questions is outweighed by the social problems caused.

But the premise that these questions "are not answerable based on available evidence" is false. Some such questions are answerable to a reasonable degree.

And if the answers must be "scientific" in any deep sense, then not just (most of) religion and politics, but almost anything relating to the humanities, a very large fraction of the social sciences, a good deal of medicine, etc., should be off topic. For example, if a rumor is going around that "Microsoft sued Anderson Windows to change their name to Anderson Glass and Portals", one could debunk this by examining public information, but without doing anything particularly "scientific".

  • 2
    I agree, and in fact, I can hardly see what kind of questions cannot be addressed skeptically. Now - either we make practically everything on topic, or we put limits to the scope. I think the correct policy is to set the bar a bit higher than you propose, namely to avoid issues that by definition can only be guessed at. The problem is the guessing, of course, which will inevitably generate useless aggravation. – Sklivvz May 6 '11 at 18:33
  • @Sklivvz - I agree with the no guessing-required questions rule, but I reiterate that we cannot equate the categories of question in the original post with guessing-required. For example, we do not need to guess much to know that Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Christian (Baptist, no less); it's a matter of historical record. If someone started a rumor that he was in fact a Muslim, people should rightly be skeptical of the claim, and the claim could be settled to a very satisfying degree of certainty with evidence. – Rex Kerr May 6 '11 at 19:47
  • Rex, my point is merely that the statement "the Reverend Martin Luther King was secretly a Mormon" cannot be disproven, so it's off topic. I am pointing this out here because I don't want the community-at-large to misunderstand this policy. – Sklivvz Jun 20 '12 at 10:00
  • @Sklivvz - I fundamentally disagree. As I posted above, this stance is nihilistic. If there is no evidence of his Mormonism, the appropriate response is "there is no evidence, and as a highly public figure it would have been very difficult to hide". This is about as close to disproof as you can get in any of very many areas which we allow. If there is a reason to avoid this sort of question it is not because it is unanswerable, but because Skeptics users are not expert enough to make high-reliability statements about mental states of public figures so we too often would be guessing. – Rex Kerr Jun 20 '12 at 13:19
  • Rex, there is no possible evidence to my made up question, because it's just a conspiracy theory. Either people believe that MLK was a secret Mormon based on something, in which case that can maybe be disproven, or else it's just random noise which is not addressable. We can't have a million question whose only answer is "read about Carl Sagan's dragon". Skepticism is based on Positivism, thus evidence is required to acquire knowledge. The correct skeptical answer is always "We don't know". – Sklivvz Jun 20 '12 at 13:32
  • @Sklivvz - If skepticism is not based upon a Bayesian or similar treatment of the likelihood of a state of affairs given available evidence, then it is philosophically equivalent to nihilism and only custom and ignorance prevents us from treating it as such. The correct well-informed skeptical answer (given what I imagine the evidence to be) ought to be "We don't know for sure but it is very unlikely". That said, how many people here are experts on the life of MLK and have the relevant evidence? Therefore, the correct skeptical answer for us may be "We don't know." – Rex Kerr Jun 20 '12 at 13:43
  • Skepticism is based on the null hypothesis principle. Whether the null hypothesis is "Dunno" or "Baptist" is relatively unimportant. What is important, is that either answer is a default answer which we give, lacking information. What we want to avoid is having a million questions with only a default answer, or debating what the null hypothesis should be. None of these possibilities are supportable by evidence - the null hypothesis is unprovable by definition. – Sklivvz Jun 20 '12 at 13:52
  • @Sklivvz - You are missing the point. I am saying there is evidence to be had where you claim there can be none. Since we're not even talking about the same thing, there's no reason to continue. I agree that having a million questions for which the best possible answer is "dunno" would be undesirable. – Rex Kerr Jun 20 '12 at 14:00
2

Also, they may be mainly rhetorical questions. They may not be motivated by real curiosity, but by wanting to make a statement of sorts—often implicitly in the question.

Isn't that a mainly rhetorical argument. I don't think we have a rule that says you have to be genuinely curios about something to ask a question, otherwise we would have to go and delete a bunch of questions. Not only that but you'd need insight into what people believe to judge that. I'm pretty sure there has been plenty of people that have been curious what Einstein believe reading something where he invoked God.

We don't know what people believe

Maybe, but peoples beliefs aren't an unknowable black box or cognitive science, sociology and psychology wouldn't exist. We can't know something 100%, but science doesn't require that, so why should we? We can certainly gather the evidence for, and against and conclude whatever seems more likely and make a comment about that, adding that the answer is sometimes simply we don't know.

Was Hitler a Christian

Is in principle no more unanswerable than:

Is Richard Dawkins an atheist?

In some cases we have evidence in letters where historical figures explicitly deny belief in God (like in Einsteins case). If someone admits to openly to being of one religion, in private correspondence, goes to church every day and so on. We can with a fair degree of certainty say: "Yes, the Pope is indeed a Christian."

I think it's completely irrelevant to his action if Hitler was a Christian or not, and the question "Did Hitler commit war crimes because he was Christian?" is not the same as "Was Hitler Christian?", but both of those questions are answerable. In Hitlers case there should even be plenty of scholarly articles on the subject.

Was there a pact between the Mafia and the Italian government in the 1990's?

What if the question was:

Was there a conspiracy involving high level officials to re-elect the president of the United States in 1970?

A: Watergate

Has there ever been a Corporate conspiracy to perform a military coup-de tat in the 20th century?

A: Business Plot

Has the British and Americans ever plotted to overthrow a democratically elected government?

A: Operation Ajax

Did Gore support climate change because of personal gain?

This is what you could do:

  • Go over all the Interviews with Gore talking about his motivations.
  • Show if he do earn money from climate change.
  • Compare his earnings to positions that he could like be in based on his merits other than climate change issues.
  • Compare his earnings to other people in similar positions.

If there's no evidence that suggest he's talking about climate change primarily for monetary-gain then the answer should be no or we don't know. Plenty of people have expressed their primary motivators, and unless we have good reason to think they are lying or are wrong, I don't see why we should give a different answer.

Was Bush the only one believing that Iraq had WMD?

I don't understand how that's hard to answer, you would only need to show a single person that seem to have a deep conviction that Iraq had WMDs? Refer to interviews with people who was in the loop, collaborate their stories.

This sites purpose isn't original research, it's largely to gather the evidence from other sources. As such I don't see how it would be a huge issue to answer these questions as we can't do it by reasoning alone.

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    Can the person downvoting please give a reason. I feel this is the beast of all the answers here. – apoorv020 May 2 '11 at 5:03
  • You are cherry-picking. Using the same argument, I can say that "Is there a God?" is on topic. – Sklivvz May 2 '11 at 14:14
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    @Sklivvz - Considering that I made a case against every single example you gave, I don't see how I'm cherry picking. Your main argument is that it's hard or impossible to answer these question, and I'm saying that it's not. I'm not sure why "Is there a God?" would be off-topic, but it's also not a fair comparison to the examples you gave as I could trivially show that Richard Dawkins is an atheist, but showing that there is a God seem like something you could write about for ages. – Kit Sunde May 2 '11 at 14:50
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    You are cherry picking the evidence, and furthermore if you think that the G question is on-topic here, you are mistaken. – Sklivvz May 2 '11 at 14:51
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    @Sklivvz - I'm cherry picking evidence by suggesting that in some cases these questions are perfectly answerable? I think you are confusing cherry picking and me presenting evidence that show your arguments to be wrong. Fine the God question is off-topic according to some previous meta discussion, but that hardly applies to a question about Al-Gore. If you want to create a generalized rule that says "Questions about anything that people care about is off-topic" you should just go for that instead. – Kit Sunde May 2 '11 at 15:04
  • Being polemic does not help you make your point come across. As I say in my OP, there's no doubt that Gore gained something by promoting CC, but there is no proof possible that he did it because of that. You are cherry picking evidence when you state that evidence of the former is evidence for the latter. – Sklivvz May 2 '11 at 15:07
  • @Sklivvz - Can you please stop attacking the way I argue instead of addressing the actual points that I've made, or I'm just going to drop this discussion as being wildly uninteresting. If there's no evidence that Gores primary motivator is money, then that should be the answer. I wasn't suggesting that Gore making money by promoting CC was evidence that it was his primary motivator, I was saying that if you could show that he could easily make more money doing something different (since NPO CEOs make very little compared to private CEOs), then that would suggest there's more in it for him. – Kit Sunde May 2 '11 at 15:22
  • @Kit - you are still missing the point, which is there is never any evidence of what the real motivator is. All those questions have only this answer, skeptically. So they are not good for this site, because the answers can only be that or flaming/trolling/arguing/speculation. Point of reducing the scope is trying to limit the site to what skepticism excels at, and the point of the policy above is not to redefine skepticism, is to define what skeptics.SE is about. – Sklivvz May 2 '11 at 15:26
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    @Sklivvz - I've been trying to argue that very point several times, that we can develop an understanding of individuals through their actions and words, or at least the experts seem to believe we can. The soft sciences are always less certain than the hard, as such historians are going to be less precise than physicists, but I don't think it's fair to say that historians are so inaccurate that we can't allow their research here (and yes speculation is bad, but we don't allow that already). Are you sure that it's a good idea to limit the scope when we've dropped from 1200 to 800 visitors? – Kit Sunde May 2 '11 at 15:56
  • I think we need to have a cutting point or we will turn into Yahoo Answers :-) Also, the policy stems from cases of people pretty much abusing the system (and I'm not particuarly referring to DVK at all here). – Sklivvz May 2 '11 at 16:09
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    The problem with inferring something from Al Gore's investments is that the causality may run either way. It's possible that he talks about AGW to increase the value of his investments, and it's possible that he strongly believes that we need to stop AGW, thinks we will, and invests accordingly; or, for that matter, that he wants to push his agenda with his investments. I have no idea how to tell if Gore is sincere. I have my opinion, but I couldn't support it with evidence. – David Thornley May 4 '11 at 2:53
  • @Sklivvz - the point is that the Gore question was not meant to be "is profiteering the only reason Gore does this". It was "Is the belief that Gore profits from this based on provable evidence?". I fully agree that the former is almost always unprovable if you prohibit basic logic as the basis for the answers ("no original research" rule) - but the latter CAN be either proven OR disproven with hard facts. So, are you arguing that the second question is off-topic (in which case IMHO you're wrong), or that the question as worded was closer to the former version than the latter? – user5341 May 6 '11 at 13:29
  • @DVK: I've always said that Gore profits from it, is a self-evident statement. – Sklivvz May 6 '11 at 15:58
  • @KitSunde I've re-read this a few months later and my tone was over the top in my comments. Apologies for that. What I meant to say is that these questions don't work because they don't have a "right" answer, even if there is some evidence to be looked at. One could equally agree, based on some evidence, that Hitler was a Christian and an atheist! This is because we need to interpret evidence pretty substantially... However, StackExchange explicitly discourages questions where all answers are equivalent. avoid asking subjective questions where every answer is equally valid (FAQ) – Sklivvz Jun 20 '12 at 9:57
  • @Sklivvz That's quite alright, and I completely agree that an answer to a question where every answer has equal value is neither a valuable question nor has valuable answers. :) – Kit Sunde Jun 20 '12 at 10:47
1

All the hypnosis question on the website fall more or less under dietrology. They are about the intentions of participants. Should we declare those questions off topic?

1

If, under this policy, the question "Is Barack Obama a Muslim?" is off-scope, then the policy is wrong.

Edit: Even if we can't be 100% sure about what someone believes, doesn't mean we can't debunk spurious evidence that he is a Muslim. Leaving such nonsense unchallenged would be waving the white flag of surrender.

  • Maybe you would like to elaborate a bit more? – Sklivvz May 4 '11 at 6:04
  • @Sklivvz: Ok. I'll do so soonish. – Andrew Grimm May 4 '11 at 6:21
  • We can never prove that he does not secretly believe in Allah, but I still think that this question can work if we focus on certain aspects. You can ask for evidence that he was was raised muslim, taught in a madrassa, etc. For most of the questions that would be off-topic due to this rule, there are better ways you can ask the question that don't rely on motivations or beliefs we can never really now. – Mad Scientist May 4 '11 at 6:51
  • I think @Fabian nailed it. "Is BO a Muslim" is poorly worded and probably should be fixed. Questions should be NPOV if possible. Compare with "Was BO raised as a Muslim?" – Sklivvz May 5 '11 at 0:29
  • @Sklivvz: Should each piece of "evidence" have its own question, or should all the "evidence" be handled in a single question? – Andrew Grimm May 5 '11 at 0:31
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    In theory it should be one question per... question, otherwise normally people don't address all of them. In any case the point is how he was raised, etc, are facts and are addressable; his personal beliefs can only be speculated on and are not addressable skeptically. – Sklivvz May 5 '11 at 0:35
0

I agree that questions about whether motivations exist or not are unprovable and therefore off-topic.

However, I would caution to differentiate between questions that ask about someone's motivation, and question that ask about straightforward provable/predictable facts that could be used by someone as motivation if they are true (as long as the question explicitly clarifies that "speculating about whether this fact was in fact the motivation is off topic for this question").

An example of difference:

  • Does passing a law mandating all houses be painted pink have material impact on projected revenue of a company producing pink paint?

    vs.

  • Did Senator X push for the law that all houses have to painted pink because his nephew owns stock in a company producing pink paint?

The latter is impossible to prove (unless there's a document/hidden recording where the person expressed their motivation). The former is very easy to prove or disprove based on standard finance.

To use a non-imagined question:

  • Do people sell bonds because they want to punish government for inflationary policies? (motivation impossible to prove).

    vs.

  • Do people sell bonds when they make an assumption that government policies are inflationary? (On-topic. Basic finance. If someone is convinced that inflation is coming, you make money by going short treasury. Reference - any finance textbook). As long as the question clearly states that whether the belief of the seller is justified or not is not up for discussion (to avoid the question devolve into "this policy will cause inflation" vs "No will not" discussion).

  • 1
    "Do people sell bonds when they make an assumption that government policies are inflationary?" is still off topic and not basic finance. Basic finance is: "Do people sell bonds when they make an assumption that prices will drop?" – Sklivvz Apr 30 '11 at 12:48
  • I agree with your first example though, but I don't see how it can be mistaken for what I am proposing. – Sklivvz Apr 30 '11 at 13:02
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    @Sklivvz - I'm sorry, given the fact that there's a basic causation between inflationary policies and dropping bond prices, your example ion the first comment doesn't appear any different from my question other than the length of causation chain (your version merely mentions the last link, mine the first). – user5341 Apr 30 '11 at 13:18
  • @Sklivvz - because my Al Gore question was an exact veresion of the first example I gave (which you said you agree with). If you believe certain wording in it made it different, please explain how. – user5341 Apr 30 '11 at 13:25
  • For example, it's a question about a law, not about a person. – Sklivvz Apr 30 '11 at 13:27
  • 1
    The problem is that your later examples, which you seem to think are skeptical, are not. The questions themselves beg speculation, and politically motivated speculation at that. – Scott Hamilton May 1 '11 at 15:51
-1

Maybe Politics, Religion and Motivation questions should not be allowed and Maybe not.

I believe the more important part is that it must be allowed in the ANSWER when it is necessary to explain the who's, how's, and why's.

Al Gore above is a great example. I am not taking political sides, as most would describe me as a left leaning environmentalist

  • It was a fact that Al Gore's investments were in-line with what he was selling (and I'm a believer in global warming).

  • Argument: smart to invest in what you believe: But why then did he sit on his hands while he was a VP?

  • Before he was elected he punched his meal ticket by passing as one of the most ardent environmentalists in main stream politics at the time.

  • Thus IMHO it can not be ignored that he was aligned to make lots of money and was a contributing factor

I do not believe one should eliminate Motivation from an answer when it could very obviously play a large role in the question "why". If a certain person, faction or group had a large monetary gain in the outcome - an many times this happens to involve politics (as it regulates or deregulates) and religion (as it plays on the emotions of the masses and is largely recognized as a tool to persuade, control or at least have a large percentage of people side with a particular view or action).

Unfortunately this does happen and if one were to look at my answers you can see where it was done. When there is a pattern and history of a certain behavior how can this be dismissed? Apparently it's ok to identify an immoral pattern of behavior carried out by a corporation and thus it can not be used in context of explaining skepticism. If you were to put person in place of corporation it would be seen completely differently. Example: It would be like setting free a man that has a history of violent & aggressive acts towards women. After found that the man was guilty of another instance of a violent act of aggression towards a woman he once again walks. Then when you show skepticism of this man's next moves it is completely out of line?

  • The point of my post is that you can never prove those whys. Now, people are convinced to be very good in inferring motivation from facts, but they are not as good as they think. Thus, by allowing speculation, we make this site less useful, because answers become a matter of opinions, but we don't want that. Even in your example you felt compelled to add a "IMHO" when you speculate - this is not the kind of answer that is "scientifically skeptical" or "fact based". For example: "The universe exists, thus IMHO there must be a creator", see the problem? :-) – Sklivvz Oct 11 '13 at 21:52
  • I often feel compelled to add IMHO as I am a reflective person that in the grand scheme of things feels I know no more than anyone else. I do believe I laid out a pattern of behavior that shows intent. Al Gore if such the environmentalist did very little when in a position to do so while VP. It surprised many environmentalists as to how little was done. If he cared so much why not follow through when one he is in his greatest position to do so? Years after and with investment portfolio in line he comes out with a Marketing video? That is looking at it logically more than speculating no? – Charlie Brown Oct 12 '13 at 5:17
  • I honestly don't see the difference between inferring motives and speculating. Motives are not facts. People act against their best interest all the time, and act illogically or inconsistently. People are oft governed by emotions, or intuition. Projecting intent on people's behavior is an something we do all the time, but it's not a scientifically sound or reliable way of acquiring knowledge. – Sklivvz Oct 12 '13 at 7:38
  • People are imprisoned every day for their motives. – Charlie Brown Oct 12 '13 at 7:41
  • A problem with the determination of science or pseudoscience are when they are sponsored by people, corporations or organizations with much to gain or motives. Science can be manipulated like statistics. Take for instance Tobacco or Pharmaceutical industries – Charlie Brown Oct 12 '13 at 7:57
-2

I think political motivation is on topic.

For example, Russia attack Finland under justification of being attacked first. Did Russia fire missiles from Finland to Russia to justify attacking Finland? Of course.

Political motives are actually pretty obvious when we are objective and disinterested. That means as long as it doesn't involve current politics or religions, the motives are pretty obvious.

However, when current politics and religions gets involved, the motives gets pretty sketchy. Even the status quo is the one that requires suspension of disbelief more.

What humans typically want, money, mates, preventing others from being happy, is within the realm of scientific.

  • a) "Preventing others from being happy" is a motive well-known to science? b) In the Finland example you can say that "missiles were used to justify" ... there's no need to (further) claim the unknowable, that they were "in order to justify". c) Political motives are obvious as long as it doesn't involve current politics: isn't that an over-simplistic view of history? – ChrisW Dec 5 '14 at 10:07
  • "Did Russia fire missiles from Finland to Russia to justify attacking Finland? Of course." Good luck proving that :-) There's a couple of factual questions hiding in there ("Did the Russian army shoot missiles from Russia to Finland? Was that used as a cause for invasion?") so the question can be reworded somewhat, but removing motivation is what makes the question answerable and viable. – Sklivvz Dec 5 '14 at 12:25

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