After reading this and several other meta posts, it seems that one of the most important distinctions to be made on this SE is the distinction between questions which should be answered with as hard, logical, science as possible, and those which either, by their nature, demand extra-scientific/magical answers or at least a lot of fudging of the physics involved. Because of this, I suggest that is renamed to , to better distinguish and contrast with the popular .

Possibly there should be a second tag for soft scifi worldbuilders who don't want magic used, but do not require or would actually prefer that the science is not limited to what we know for sure: any type of well-defined phlebotinum or highly speculative 'science' (dark matter, gratuitous nanomachines, crystals with special properties). I would call this tag or , maybe even [tag;pseudoscience-based], but I don't know if it's necessary or desired.


4 Answers 4


Renaming the tag would change the meaning.

The distinction between and is that "magic" is descriptive and "magic-based" is proscriptive.

A "magic" tag says "This question involves magic". A "magic-based" tag says "I want answers based on magic". While the former is a useful piece of information, the latter doesn't really help - we can't just arbitrarily make up your magic system for you to accomplish your goal if you don't provide one, and if you do provide one then it's obvious you want us to work with it.

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    $\begingroup$ It seems to me that if you include magic-based you would therefore have to include magic to describe how magic works in your world. $\endgroup$ Mar 17, 2015 at 16:55
  • $\begingroup$ @DustinJackson - Exactly. And when one tag requires another, then one of them isn't a good tag. $\endgroup$
    – Bobson
    Mar 17, 2015 at 17:02

While I understand where you are coming from I disagree.

is saying "answers should be based in science" hence its name. The person doing the question is specifically calling out they they want answers to use facts and current knowledge to help explain something.

If there is no tag, it allows for more speculative answers and furthermore the question itself will be setting out what it wants. Soft-science isn't a category, it is by definition a vagueness, a vagueness that is narrowed down by the question. However, if you feel the need to create the tag for do so, so that over time we can see if anyone is using it. I suspect the reason it hasn't been created is because nobody has felt the need to declare "I don't need answers based in science" with a tag because they have already done so in the question.

Magic on the other hand has nothing to do with science-based or facts, its not even the opposite. The tag description calls it out as "non-mechanical solutions" to a problem, to differentiate it from technology.

Even and aren't opposites though.

As a final note: feels like an attempt to define/create a tag because its presumed opposite exists, that is not what tags are for.


On the whole, I don't see that adding this tag is likely to achieve anything much. I do not think that "magic" is a consistent enough framework or system in the minds of most readers that it means much to say one's design or question is "based" in it. The "science-based" tag really means "please confine your speculations or formulations to the limits imposed by currently-known hard science." If you replace the last two (or four) words with "magic," the sentence suddenly becomes quite peculiar.

I could imagine a "historical" or "history-based" tag being of value, but I doubt that magical constructions are going to fall into that terribly often.


I'm not all that happy about , actually, and I disagree with adding more members to the -based family.

Tags should characterize the question, not add meta-constraints for answers. The question itself should specify the parameters for answers, whether that's "science-based" or "consistent with current technology" or "compatible with telepathy" or whatever.

If you can't imagine somebody wanting to search on a tag, like people do to find all the questions about or or settlements, then that tag might not be serving one of its primary functions: to index the site. Do you think people will search for ? Science isn't one big thing, so if, say, a physicist does so, he's still going to be skipping over a bunch of questions about chemistry and biology and others. Wouldn't he instead either use a tag, if there were one, or do a text search?

And even if my argument here isn't accepted, I agree with this answer that doesn't have the same need driving it that does.

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    $\begingroup$ I see science-based as being useful in the same way as RPG.SE highly used Rules as Written tag. It means answers must come from existing facts, I'm not interested in personal experience or much else from the rest of the back it up list. It works really well there, and in my opinion would work really well here. I totally agree that the -based family shouldn't really be much of a family. $\endgroup$
    – Mourdos
    Oct 2, 2014 at 14:21
  • $\begingroup$ I agree with both Monica and Mourdos. I don't like "science-based" as a tag, because, as Monica nicely put it, "tags should characterize the question, not add meta-constraints for answers." That said, the classification clearly makes good sense to a lot of users and thus there's no reason to discard it. But that doesn't justify creating a new and more problematic -based tag; rather, it just draws attention to the weakness of the existing one. $\endgroup$
    – CAgrippa
    Oct 2, 2014 at 14:43

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