Why does Worldbuilding Stack Exchange allow irrational ontological questions i.e. contrary to scientific reasoning as espoused by Saint Thomas Aquinas?


migrated from worldbuilding.stackexchange.com Jul 10 '15 at 19:19

This question came from our site for writers/artists using science, geography and culture to construct imaginary worlds and settings.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Masturbation, in all of its forms, hinders nothing except the continuing growth of the authority of moral intolerance. As for irrational world building, scientific reasoning is just the latest fad philosophy to capture the attention of humanity. Science can only find what exists. It cannot prove with adequate certainty the non-existence of any possibility. We proudly propose irrational worlds here because YOU cannot prove that they couldn't exist! $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Jul 10 '15 at 6:44
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @HenryTaylor: considering the original poster's reference to "Saint Thomas Aquinas," I'd guess he has a view of masturbation more in line with that of traditional Catholic philosophers. $\endgroup$ – sumelic Jul 10 '15 at 7:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I can only thank Cthul^N^N^N God for the fact that Lovecraft's editor obviously didn't share your views re:masturbation, to name a popular example (not that we don't have examples of high class masturbation thanks to e.g. the Greeks) :-) $\endgroup$ – Tobia Tesan Jul 10 '15 at 7:51
  • $\begingroup$ (Natural theology == scientific reasoning? I wouldn't be so sure, but admittedly I'm no philosopher) $\endgroup$ – Tobia Tesan Jul 10 '15 at 7:53
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Ah, what's a little hindering if the information era is growing exponentially? At least it's not email spam offering you a herbal supplement that will enlarge the object of your mental masturbation. Scientific reasoning isn't a panacea. World building is more about Shakespeare than Aquinas. $\endgroup$ – candied_orange Jul 10 '15 at 8:38
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Frank I can appreciate that this site may not be for everyone and that is fine...but I find it crass and disrespectful for a stranger to come to a community and tell us we are all stupid and wasting our time. What I do with my time is none of your concern. If you don't appreciate what this community has to offer...don't be a part of it. xkcd.com/1357 $\endgroup$ – James Jul 10 '15 at 15:32
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ 1: Worldbuild is about having fun too (not all the time). After all, there is a reason it's classified in the art section of stack exchange.2: Some question are more: This is not possible, is it? prove me wrong, with science! Sometimes the answers will use some speculative sceinces, but not always. I'm confident we also have very good content. 3: Magic: this is not science and magical explanations are much less popular than scientific ones. $\endgroup$ – Vincent Jul 10 '15 at 17:19

World-building is about exploration, not about rational limits along the line of the world as we know it.

This branching out can be messy and frustrating at times. It is that phase in brainstorming where brand new avenues are investigated. This can be baffling, frustrating and in the end when looking backwards pointless after all.

This is the price of breaking through boundaries of current thinking into the unlimited unknown. If you have suggestions making the process more efficient, please put it forward at meta site.

But in any case the process needs to stay effective and free as well because you never know what you will find further along the (admittedly initially unlikely) road. (Many of us enjoy this uncertainty during the chase)


Perhaps you'll find this answer convincing - if the others aren't good enough, which I think they are - given that it comes from someone who has probably been the biggest advocate of , the inclusion of scientific reasoning into any situation possible, and rigorous answers designed to be up to the standard - if not to a higher standard, if possible - of the science sites.

Have you ever read The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and/or other works by Tolkien? I have. I love it. I actually think that it's the single most impressive work of fiction I have ever read.

See, Tolkien didn't merely stick a plot somewhere. He stuck a plot in an actual world. This means developing all the aspects of the setting to the extent of details in the real world.

Let me give you some examples:

  • Languages. It might interest you to know that Tolkien created many languages for his books. The Elves have their own language - in fact, they have many languages, which reflects the fact that not everyone in a given race is the same. Many writers overlook that.
  • History. Tolkien came up with the idea of Ages long periods of time in the history of the world. He wrote detailed timelines of all of these ages, showing the evolution of Arda. It's quite incredible.
  • Cartography. Tolkien's maps are absolutely incredible. They show places and kingdoms in Middle Earth (and beyond, into other continents). The maps let you realize the relationships between people and events. They add one more touch of realism to the stories.
  • Deities. "Deities" is the best term I can come up with to describe some of the higher beings in Arda and beyond. The key example is, of course, Eru Ilúvatar, the creator. The Maiar and Valar are more beings that do not obey the laws of science.

Many things in the whole Tolkien compendium do not agree with science. There are deities, magic, and creatures that could never evolve on Earth (I hope!). Yet I think that many people would agree that Tolkien's universe is an incredible example of a beautifully built world. No science needed.

It is for this idea - that great worlds do not need to obey the laws of science - that we allow - and cherish - questions that are "contrary to scientific reasoning".

  • $\begingroup$ Sorry to dash your hopes, but there are trolls all over the place! :) $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jul 12 '15 at 12:04

Worldbuilding is about building fictional worlds, right?

That means the questions should be amenable to rational debate, and the initial posters should do some basic research first. Yet sometimes questions get closed and sometimes the answers fill the gaps.

Here are some closed questions:

Others remained open and attracted answers and views, despite being similarly hard to answer:

I wonder if our challenges produce many of the bad questions, as people try to ask questions without having a world to build ...


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .