The question What medical treatment advances have cited the theory of evolution as being necessary to make the advance? has received 5 downvotes, and 4 close votes.

By contrast, Does the theory of Intelligent Design make any observable predictions? has received no downvotes and no close votes. Evidently, creationism is within the scope of Skeptics.

The request asked was reasonable: if nothing makes sense in biology without evolution, it would seem fair enough to ask for peer-reviewed medical papers that cite evolution as contributing to new medical breakviews. (It's possible that evolution is so vital to biology that papers don't even cite evolution, but that doesn't make it a deliberately unreasonable request)

The question is to the point, asks a specific question, makes a reasonable request, and is civil. Is there anything the asker should have done differently, apart from trying to rephrase the question so it sounded more pro-evolution?

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    Comment to notify @ericgorr about this post
    – Mad Scientist Mod
    Mar 1 '11 at 22:56
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    @Fabian: that doesn't work when eric hasn't posted here, does it? The way I recall the blog post from when the feature was introduced (it may well have changed since) the author of a post is always notified of comments, and the commenter of a post is notified if you're @-referenced. If you only type @john when several john's have commented, only the last commenter (and the poster) gets notified. Mar 2 '11 at 12:57
  • @David You're right, I thought of the chat notifications when I posted that comment, it won't work like that.
    – Mad Scientist Mod
    Mar 2 '11 at 13:08

If I remember correctly, the downvoting only really started after the discussion in the comments. I would guess that at least some of those downvotes are downvotes by proxy for the comments, as you can't downvote those.

I downvoted that question, my reason was that the formulated criteria are so strict as to be in the end misleading. A question asking how the understanding of evolution helps designing new drugs is completely appropriate in general. This question demands explicit mention of evolution as a necessity for the discovery of drugs in a peer-reviewed paper, that puts the bar just far too high.

My personal, subjective impression of that question is that of a strawman argument against the importance of evolution. It looks to me like the question is setup to fail being answered by being so specific. The question is superficially proper, but in my opinion very misleading, which prompted me to downvote it.

Everyone (with the necessary reputation) is entitled to his vote here, and you can vote for whatever reasons you like. This is direct democracy without any checks or balances, but that is how StackExchange works. If you disagree with the votes, your only recourse is to upvote that question yourself, which is perfectly fine.

I disagree with the voting behaviour of quite some users on Stackexchange sites, as you may disagree with mine. There is just no common standard on how to vote, everyone has his or her own rules.

And the close votes are upon request of the author of the question himself. I personally don't see a reason to close the question.

  • Rather than downvoting the question, I think they should have upvoted the comments they agreed with instead. Also, are you sure you meant "strawman argument against", rather than "strawman argument for", or "fallacious argument against"? Mar 1 '11 at 22:46
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    @Andrew People make their own rules on how to downvote, I was just trying to guess a possible reason for those downvotes. And I meant "against", as the question is set up to fail providing the link to evolution, thereby weakening the position and importance of evolution.
    – Mad Scientist Mod
    Mar 1 '11 at 22:50
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    @Fabian: I agree. Particularly with your 3rd paragraph. From ericgorr's response to my answer I get the impression he isn't concerned with understanding the role our current knowledge of evolution actually plays in science. I'm inclined to downvote as well, but I haven't because I'm not convinced my impression is correct, and because my answer says what I think more clearly than a downvote would. Mar 2 '11 at 9:53
  • @solus Whether I am concerned or not is irrelevant to the very specific and answerable (if an answer exists) question asked. The question I asked was very clear. I only wanted an example of a single medical advance which could not have been made without the theory of evolution. I wanted this example to be a peer-reviewed, published paper which explicitly stated this. I asked it out of curiosity. Your assumptions concerning my motivations are just, well, disappointing.
    – ericg
    Mar 3 '11 at 4:14
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    @ericgorr: As I said, I'm not convinced my impression was correct. If you are disappointed then I suggest you consider why you conveyed the impression that many of us perceived. And yes, your concern is relevant; by insisting on an answer which isn't available, you refuse to consider the (slightly more complicated and subtle) reality. Mar 3 '11 at 5:39
  • @ericgorr: I did give you an example. Immunology. And I gave you better than a peer reviewed paper. I gave you a peer reviewed book. I also quoted a statement which outlines the dependence on evolution. In light of that, can you see why your insistence on stricter criteria portrays you as insincere? Mar 3 '11 at 6:27

I was involved in the comments and also down voted. Why? Because the question is too broad and vague. Also because it became a flame war which should be avoided.

The main point here is that the question is based on a misunderstanding of how important and rooted evolution is in modern biology and medicine, and as such perfectly valid answers were being down voted and flamed.

All in all, it's not whether the OP leans towards ID or evolution. It's about the quality of the question.

  • How does asking for examples of how important evolution is represent misunderstanding how important evolution is? Also, can you provide specific examples of "perfectly valid answers were being down voted and flamed"? Criticized yes, but flamed? I think the downvotes were for legitimate reasons. You may have noticed that the top-voted answer doesn't have any downvotes, whereas you'd expect malicious downvoting to target that one first. Mar 2 '11 at 20:52
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    Because the OP does not accept repeated answers that evolution spawn whole branches of science. Because the OP asks for papers and complains when he gets too many. Because the OP argues in comments that (basically) evolution is an opinion, which on a skeptic site is flame bait.
    – Sklivvz
    Mar 2 '11 at 21:00
  • 1) How many of those answers were backed up by references? 2) Provide answers, not hyperlinks. 3) He never used the word opinion. Mar 2 '11 at 21:08
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    @Andrew, not only I disagree with you, but also I find this discussion tedious. Keep your opinion :-)
    – Sklivvz
    Mar 2 '11 at 21:11
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    The question I asked was very clear. I only wanted an example of a single medical advance which could not have been made without the theory of evolution. I wanted this example to be a peer-reviewed, published paper which explicitly stated this. I fail to see how this could have been to broad and vague.
    – ericg
    Mar 3 '11 at 4:12
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    @eric although algebra is necessary to study rockets, you will be hard pressed to find any papers saying "we can calculate this thanks to algebra". It's just a given. Also, from a scientific point of view there are a zillion different flavours of it: genetics, paleontology, microbiology, even branches of mathematics apply or depend on evolutionary theory to be successful. This is why the question is too broad - when a theory is as successful as evolution it becomes an implicit dependency and it gets branched out. You have to be more specific to get an exact answer.
    – Sklivvz
    Mar 3 '11 at 9:13

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