In respect to the question here on Meta: Does adding context hurt questions?

I was checking out that discussion because I think my most recent question (and, I feel like a lot of my questions) is suffering from this somewhat

Blind Humanoid Species - how would they discover the concept that some species have sight?

  • I am trying to focus on a scientific path which would be plausible for an intelligent, blind, non-hunter society to discover that other species have sight.

I am struggling with the view that "this setup is not possible", or "never". This is not a reality-check question, and I'm encountering a lot of resistance when it comes to the existing conditions. It's actually got me a bit frustrated, and regretfully a bit defensive, which is why I'm posting here to try and figure out what I'm doing wrong, or if its just a bad question for this site, or if I should just get used to having those answers generally being top-voted.

Am I asking my question incorrectly? Should I just go and explain the entire world, even though my particular question shouldn't need to incorporate all those details? Maybe all these details are things which a reader would have to discover as they are reading my story!

If I'm not asking incorrectly, do we need to police for "this is not possible" more closely? None of the answers which directly disagree with the base setup conditions are useful, so I have downvoted them - but is that enough? Other people seem to upvote them, because they are more realistic, but they are not helpful.

It's related to the problem in: Possible new 'non-reality-check' tag? (though I don't believe a tag should be necessary if this is even a problem)


3 Answers 3


These kinds of questions are very difficult on SE. To work with you to get proper context, we are obliged to engage in a conversation rather than the query/response format preferred by SE. This does get done in comments.

It is impossible for a question poster to provide all relevant context. The answers always make some assumptions about what you are looking for. In many cases (especially with the scientific tag), realism is the default metric for measuring how good an answer is. In this case, that wasn't the right metric for us to use, because you weren't really looking for a "realistic" situation. You had another metric in mind, and that's fine. Not everybody should be bound to making worlds that are agreed upon by a consensus that they are "realistic." Writing would be boring if that was the only acceptable definition of realism. Consensus leads to staleness.

However, without the agreed upon default metric for "realism," answers have a real challenge: how do we figure out what is the right solution to the problem. We have to question how deeply you expect a reader to probe into the world. If you plan on never having the reader break the surface of your society, and the society plays little to no part in the story, one set of answers becomes most valid. If you plan on having your readers not only read the story, but also build their own stories in the world, a different set of answers becomes valid. Looking at the issues with evolution of blind humanoids, I'd actually be tempted to work up an answer involving the Xel Naga watching the species from orbit, tweaking its evolutionary path because the Xel Naga need a blind species to combat the Zerg (For those who don't know, the Xel Naga are a race from the Starcraft world which shaped the genetics of species for milinina, before their own creations turned on them).

I've been struggling with this challenge for a while. How do we fit a proper discussion of metrics into the SE format. It's usually bad form to change the question, but if someone points out something contradictory, can you drop it from the question? The best I've found so far is to use comments, just like they were in this question.


I think the problem is that you cumulate three points:

  1. a very stretched starting point,
  2. a certain incoherence
  3. a wrong tag

In our world, the view was always developed when there was light. There are some sonar-like systems, but it usually complement the view instead of replacing it. This is because the view helps protect the individual and make more precise actions at close distance. So it's hard to accept. Plus suddenly there a new part in the world, full of light and creatures with functioning eyes.

If they have evolved not seeing, it is very likely that they developed other form of recognising the space. Basically because any species which would do that would dominate the whole animal kingdom. So think sonar, advanced touch, smell, etc. In that case how can they not notice the new animals? They should have good senses which should allow to gather some information, at some distance.

The and the question about scientific definition of light. Which seems to be orienting on the , even if you did not use it.

So I think the problem of that question is the combination of those three different points.

I cannot judge your other questions, as I haven't checked them.

  • $\begingroup$ Note that I downvoted your question. But then I reconsidered, but unless you edit your question, I'm not allowed to remove it. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 18:37
  • $\begingroup$ Well, that's true. When I saw that scientific-development tag, I jumped on reality-check mode. Not sure if that was adequate, tho. $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 18:45
  • $\begingroup$ To me, the tag seems to be central to what the question is about - the development of science to explain how they had not been able to catch the new animals before and how they would discover that, somehow, the animals could recognize their "space" instantly, it's not clear to me how that results in the reality-check. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 18:48
  • $\begingroup$ @DoubleDouble, mixing scientifically implausible settings with scientific background is not very coherent. I think that's the core of the issue here. It's like saying "I have a world full of magic, which for all we know follow does not follow any rule. How do I choose the best mate for having the most powerful child?" $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 19:05
  • $\begingroup$ I agree - that is probably the problem, along with my disagreement about the setting being implausible - but I'm trying not to get into that discussion here. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 19:07
  • $\begingroup$ So at this point, maybe I do have a world full of magic - but other than what I already stated in the question, what other rules or interactions are necessary to answer the actual question? For your example, I could say that the magic power of the children is the average of the two parents, and then we could go from there without having to work out the rest of the magic in the world. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 20:03
  • $\begingroup$ @DoubleDouble, except if it's a god playing dice at birth, it would prove useless. I just provided my point of view on your question. If you don't agree with it, there's not much I can do. Maybe wait and see if someone else add a different view. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 20:13
  • $\begingroup$ It would be useless, is the answer - with that rule. By making that analogy, you have basically said my question is unanswerable with the details I have provided. I am just trying to work out what other details would actually be needed. Sorry I've been spamming you kind-of, thanks for your time. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 20:23
  • $\begingroup$ Well if that helps you, I don't mind the spamming :D Anyway I think the key is that your premises and your question make it hard or very difficult to answer. This is why you received such mix views. So you might consider adding some details, which would solve that ambiguity. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 20:26
  • $\begingroup$ At this point I have greatly expanded on the information available in the question. I hope it helps clarify things. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 21:54

If you know your answer won't pass the [Science] or [Reality Check] tags but you still explicitly want the answer to your question, then I'd include that information in your question.

As in "I do not want a reality check, I'm using a different set of constraints."
"How this situation arose in my world isn't relevant to the question at hand."

If you simply want the answers to assume some portion of reality does not apply, then explicitly state that.

I recently posted a question about architecting a refuge for the Zombie Apocalypse. I completely ignore the fact that no zombie like plague is known AND I state in my question that the answer need not consider attacks by other humans (although it may be that other humans are the most dangerous enemies to survivors).


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