Up front, imo the SE system is better for skeptical questions than whatever i saw on the web. There are some obvious PROS, that i will not describe further...
BUT reading here for a while, there are IMHO some serious fundamental problems one has to overcome, otherwise one does achieve the opposite this site is actually looking for. Verification & Falsification of not existing correlative/causal connections, truthening of prejudices,...
From my POV, as i saw the AREA51 here emerging (which wil get IMO alot used by international students, as i see no competing system on the web) IMO the goal of this section should be:
- giving concise reliable answers without in-depth expert analysis/terminology (IMO the voting per user per visited question rate could be higher, but i just saw this section is only few months old, so probably be more patient). I dont see here dozens of answers coming on a question like in stackoverflow, where a little better/more detailed answer will often be much more appreciated. Here the answers are principally more different and logically competing, so the qualitative, short, correct answer can be detected with help of linked scientific sources by unexperienced readers and often "wins"
- give people having a scientific education and interdisciplinary knowledge (which is often crucial for answering/googling appropriate quotes on questions here) the feeling not to read just hoaxes someone heard on a party ;) In best case he should have tried to find some keywords/make unsuccessful google search he can link. That will also show how detailed you can answer, what the pre-knowledge is
How to do this:
- reformulate bad/vague questions by moderators (closing questions often looks esp. to newbies like shutting the door in front of their nose, so maybe reformulate a bad qestion into a bigger picture/more reasonable question in a scientific context might be a compromise. The Do Teddy help you sleep better question is a good example, likely closed as looking pretty childish, i thought myself, but after reading i fastly remembered a association to this question. Reformulating it in a more general way "Do stuffed animals have a distinct psychological function?" would have been a solution (so its too general for exp. psychology, but a question arising in everybodys life), esp. to attract more other watching the question at all and maybe responding. This also prevents that principally similar questions are appearing on and on.
- If it is possible (i dont know all options and limitations of the SE System), i would suggest to put a standard bounty on questions like this to force more people writing an answer at all. Or, what imo would be even better, only show all given answers publicly after 12-24h. So the first plausible looking answer has not the biggest chance to succeed. Answering this IMHO from scientific pov very tricky question requires knowledge in social sciences, genetics, behavioural science (why i judge the single and often voted answer incorrect i wrote here). Stating, that religious upcoming or even our genes determine our critical rationality is highly problematic. If this would be scientific paper, no one would cite it, or rate it up. Here due to interdisciplinary lacking knowledge it got the best & correct answer. Thats the beginning of creating prejudices!
I would also ask some of the regulars here to join the AREA51-Natural Sciences and Scientific Method Section as this will likely be a good section where deeper questions can be migrated to and more interdisciplinary knowledge is placed. Non-scientists can gain there then some methodic knowledge they can use to answer more questions on skeptics here. (Would be quite interesting to know how the questioner/answerer ratio here is and how many users here have scientific background - can one do polls here?)
I personally like skeptics.SE especially because of the typical interdisciplinary questions arising here. But alot of skeptical questions are not answerable just by experience/reasoning like in physics/programming. You have to combine scientifc method with reasoning and googled data to be able to draw a valid conclusion. This implies IMHO giving the responding people some time/more incentive (bounty) to do these steps or hold the rating system a bit back on tricky questions.
Thoughts, Critics welcome...