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In this thread about religion, there is an extensive series of answers that are based on patent falsehoods and misinformation. As a professional scholar of religion (who happens not to be in any sense religious), I don't see that I can stand by idly. This is the kind of nonsense I've spent 16 years teaching students to stop spouting.

The problem is, I don't see a good way to address such issues without either being exceedingly rude or simply playing "gotcha." What's needed -- and this is going to come up constantly when religion (among other things) gets discussed -- is a formal explication. But I can't see how that would work on this site.

EDIT: Is there perhaps a good way to use the "ask and answer your own question" thing? I don't entirely grasp that (and yes, I've read the SE blog entry).

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If any of the posts or comments are objectively offensive -- that is, the "reasonable man" would find them so, not just that you do -- then flag them for moderator attention.

If any of the comments are not constructive, or too chatty -- if side conversations are happening that are not about improving the post to which they're attached -- then flag those too.

If any answers fail to address the question -- if they answer some other question that wasn't asked, or offer some tangential opinion or anecdote -- then flag those as "not an answer", which will send them to a review queue for other users to look at and possibly delete.

If, on the other hand, an answer is merely wrong, then downvote it. Being wrong isn't, by itself, cause to delete an answer. People are allowed to be wrong on the internet, just as we are free to -- and expected to -- express our displeasure through votes.

Finally, if you can offer a better answer to a question, do so and reap the rewards -- the minor reward of some reputation when people upvote your answer, and the major reward of making the Internet a better place by sharing your knowledge.

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  • $\begingroup$ A helpful set of distinctions. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – CAgrippa Oct 2 '14 at 1:28
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There is no formal explication option on a Stack Exchange site, really. You should write your own good answer to that question so we may upvote it! Of course we should also downvote bad answers (if an answer can be improved, comment with that suggestion; otherwise the downvote is sufficient).

I strongly recommend against creating a separate question-and-answer purely for the purpose to telling people how they're wrong, as it's not really how the Stack works and it'll get purged pretty fast.

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  • $\begingroup$ Ooh -- creating a Q&A to tell people they're wrong? No, certainly not what I had in mind! $\endgroup$ – CAgrippa Oct 2 '14 at 1:29
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The question is a very bad fit in the first place

As you have said, you have studied these issues for 16 years. This isn’t a topic for a quick Q&A, this is the topic of books – plural, many have been published trying to answer that question.

To try to answer it in the SE format is, I think, absurd. An expert of your caliber might be able to do a summary justice here, and I’d be thrilled to see that answer, and upvote it – but I wouldn’t necessarily expect an expert of 16 years in religious studies to be answering questions on worldbuilding, and I don’t think the question belongs here in the first place.

So my ideal answer to this situation is to see your answer, upvote it, and then see the question closed anyway.

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  • $\begingroup$ No, well, there are zillions of books about "what is religion" and "how are religion and science related" and so on. But I took it that the intended (and very ill-formulated) question was something along the lines of, "If I want to design a culture that doesn't have religion, does it make sense -- a la this Star Trek episode -- that they'll be in the Stone Age?" Still a dingy question, of course. $\endgroup$ – CAgrippa Oct 2 '14 at 1:32
  • $\begingroup$ @CAgrippa and with your experience, do you think that is a question that can be adequately answered in an authoritative way in a few paragraphs? $\endgroup$ – KRyan Oct 2 '14 at 1:36
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    $\begingroup$ Authoritatively? No, of course not. But the same goes for a good deal of stuff on this site, of necessity. What I am now working on sketching out is a self-Q&A along the lines of, "What is a good way to go about designing a religion for a world/culture I'm creating," followed by "A. First, let's set aside some misconceptions. B. Now, here are some concrete steps you could go through to get a pretty decent result." $\endgroup$ – CAgrippa Oct 2 '14 at 1:38
  • $\begingroup$ PS: "decent result" here meaning "something that could by some stretch of the imagination actually exist among humans as we know them," with an admixture of "something that wouldn't make any self-respecting scholar of religion wince." :) $\endgroup$ – CAgrippa Oct 2 '14 at 1:40
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    $\begingroup$ @CAgrippa See, questions are supposed to be answered authoritatively. Yes, many, many questions on this site are too broad, allowing only vague or speculative answers. It's a problem that needs addressing, and that a few of us are attempting to address. But it's not necessary, it's not necessary at all. $\endgroup$ – KRyan Oct 2 '14 at 1:40
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    $\begingroup$ I suppose it depends what you mean by "authoritative." If you mean, "the last word, definitive," then I don't see that any of the more cultural questions is answerable that way. If you mean, "a genuine expert on this topic would say, 'yeah, that's okay with me, given the amount of space you've got to work with,'" then that's different. $\endgroup$ – CAgrippa Oct 2 '14 at 1:42
  • $\begingroup$ @CAgrippa I think "What is a good way to go about designing a religion for a world/culture I'm creating," would be an awesome question or article. If you have written it, or end up writing it, I would love to see it. $\endgroup$ – Dronz Dec 10 '14 at 19:39
  • $\begingroup$ @CAgrippa Aha! You did do this here: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/824/… and it was CLOSED as too broad! Sigh... $\endgroup$ – Dronz Dec 10 '14 at 19:48
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In this instance you could downvote the question and provide an answer detailing why the other answers are not good answers, you do not need to be rude.

If you feel this is a bad fit, flag it for moderator attention.

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