For example, imagine Skeptics StackExchange existed 500 years ago and the question was asked:

"Is the heliocentric model correct?"

I'd imagine that the answer "No it's false (and here's my reasoning)" would get the most votes.

And Galileo's answer of "Yes it's true (and here's my reasoning)" would get downvoted by a lot of people.

Another way of asking this question is "What proportion of top voted answers on this site will turn out to be false in the future?"

  • 1
    Interesting question, but I think it better belongs on meta.skeptics.
    – John Lyon
    Commented May 9, 2011 at 2:30
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    I did consider that but feel it's a fairly core question
    – nevster
    Commented May 9, 2011 at 2:31
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    +1 top question! Yeah, i think the biggest problem with this SE site is that really, there's no "subject experts". It's just a bunch of people googling a topic, and other people voting on which link they think is the right answer.
    – Samuelson
    Commented May 9, 2011 at 2:42
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    This site does have a "show your work" policy, which i think would help with this somewhat. Commented May 9, 2011 at 3:12
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    +1 Love this question, and it definitely belongs on the main site here, not on meta. Of course, sites like this don't purport to tell you what is true (or the best answer), but rather what the majority of site users think is true. You should put your trust in your own research/experience if it's a topic of importance to you. Answers here can help point you in the right direction.
    – Austin
    Commented May 9, 2011 at 3:22
  • It definitely doesn't belong here. What claim does it question? Is there a claim "You should trust SE sites 100%"? I doubt it.
    – user288
    Commented May 9, 2011 at 3:58
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    This is really off-topic on the main site, I've moved it to meta.
    – Mad Scientist Mod
    Commented May 9, 2011 at 5:56
  • @sejanus : I think the "claim" it is challenging is that votes on here have any bearing on the actual accuracy of the answers.
    – Samuelson
    Commented May 9, 2011 at 10:26
  • @ stickman: how many cases have you seen where they dont?
    – user288
    Commented May 9, 2011 at 11:29
  • @Sejanus : I'm not saying I agree with him but you asked what the claim is. Having said that though, by the nature of the questions asked, I would say that most of the answers don't have conclusive evidence so I think it's fair to question whether popular consensus is a fair assessment measure of how good an answer is.
    – Samuelson
    Commented May 9, 2011 at 13:33
  • Why this question tags here at detail are different from the list page? Commented May 10, 2011 at 1:32
  • That's the great thing about science. Over time, it constantly self-corrects based on new evidence. Commented May 10, 2011 at 3:33
  • There is an issue (which will only be spotted by subject matter experts) that plausible but wrong answers will attract a lot of votes but correct but counterintuitive answers will not. This is compounded by the fact that even the peer-reviewed scientific literature contains large quantities of contradictory results so selective sampling of it can often demonstrate whatever answer you want. It may take some time for voting alone to correct that.
    – matt_black
    Commented Mar 21, 2012 at 22:41

3 Answers 3


I don't think that this website should be about trust. We aren't preaching truth. We provide the reader with the relevant arguments about a topic to find his own opinion. In the ideal case the reader should still check multiple sources.

If readers would start to trust blindly than the mission of the website would have failed.

  • 1
    very well put. +1
    – user288
    Commented May 10, 2011 at 9:55

As with anything you read, there is a degree of responsibility on the part of the reader. If it turns out that the sky really isn't blue, no amount of voting is going to rout that out. Voting isn't a panacea.

But voting counters the current state of blogging (and web sites in general) were one person's writing exists in a vacuum and all you have to go on is how persuasive they make their arguments. At least in a peer-reviewed forum of "experts," if a claim receives wide-spread consensus without any dissenting opinions, you have waaay more information than the "trust" of a piece of random prose you found in a 10th-page Google search.


Democracy is the worst method possible, except for all the others.

I assume Winston Churchill said something like that, but I don't know who to trust about that quote...

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    But Churchill spoke about the worst form of government, not about science production, afaik. Commented May 9, 2011 at 22:39
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    "The trouble with quotes on the Internet is that it's difficult to determine whether or not they are genuine." - Abraham Lincoln Commented Mar 21, 2012 at 20:49

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