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According to its tag wiki, is

a form of biology that is not familiar to science and is not found in Earthly life

the wiki and its contrast with the following imply that it is about aliens.

And is

For questions about living things. Does not exclude aliens, but additional information is usually necessary


I believe there is a significant overlap between, and confusion with, these tags.

  • Not all aliens are xenobiological. Most questions involving alien organisms are not "not familiar to science". They may ask about evolution, or anatomy, or some other well-understood concept, but it is rare to find something completely unheard of. Therefore, most "alien biology" is not "xenobiology" by the tag definition, even though the tag is implicitly about aliens.
  • Not all xenobiology is alien. Some of the questions that do describe processes "not familiar to science" are eligible for "xenobiology" by definition, but they are not about aliens, which the tag implies.

Why do we need overlap and ambiguity? I'm suggesting this:

should for questions about all living things, fictional, real, alien, Earthly, etc. because it is the study of life. Alien life is still life.

should be merged with biology or synchronized. Its usage is not clear, as explained above, but all questions with this tag do discuss the study of life or aspects of life.

is relevant if the creatures are truly alien, and their peculiarities can be tagged separately.


or alternatively to the above "xenobiology" can strictly be about "aliens" because "processes not known to science" can happen on Earth, too.

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  • $\begingroup$ The biology tag is correct. The xenobiology tag is mish-mash of misunderstanding. It looks like someone tried to devise something and missed the target. Yes, basically, xenobiology means alien biology. Unknown biology does happen on Earth too. $\endgroup$ – a4android Feb 6 '17 at 12:01
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android Then isn't an edit warranted? $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Feb 6 '17 at 12:30
  • $\begingroup$ Absolutely agree. But the idea is to improve the tag not simply edit it. $\endgroup$ – a4android Feb 6 '17 at 12:44
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android My intention is to improve it, and I gave my input. Whether I succeeded can be discussed in the answers. $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Feb 6 '17 at 13:01
  • $\begingroup$ Obviously you want to improve the tag. Paradoxically some your suggestions are logically correct. However, as tags they aren't the most helpful. Tags need to place questions into appropriate categories of accessible information. Consider I if you wanted to find questions about alien life & you had to dig through Qs with every sort of biological topic. Your approach makes sense if tags were part of a Dewy Decimal Library Cataloguing system. Simplicity & clarity is needed for tagging. $\endgroup$ – a4android Feb 7 '17 at 7:19
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This answer has copies the text of Zxyrra's question (see above) for easy reference. It has been italicized for clarity. Apologies for any formatting problems

According to its tag wiki, xenobiology is

*a form of biology that is not familiar to science and is not found in Earthly life*

the wiki and its contrast with the following imply that it is about aliens. And biology is

*For questions about living things. Does not exclude aliens, but additional information is usually necessary*

I believe there is a significant overlap between, and confusion with, these tags.

*Not all aliens are xenobiological. Most questions involving alien organisms are not "not familiar to science". They may ask about evolution, or anatomy, or some other well-understood concept, but it is rare to find something completely unheard of. Therefore, most "alien biology" is not "xenobiology" by the tag definition, even though the tag is implicitly about aliens.*

*Not all xenobiology is alien. Some of the questions that do describe processes "not familiar to science" are eligible for "xenobiology" by definition, but they are not about aliens, which the tag implies.*

Why do we need overlap and ambiguity? I'm suggesting this:

There is no harm in overlap and some ambiguity. This is inevitable with any classification system like WB SE's tag system. The problems here are trivial compared to real classification systems. Besides xenobiology can be specifically about alien biology, despite alien biology being dealt with under Biology.

One further point of necessary clarification. Xenobiology can dealt with two fields of biology (1) alien biology concerned lifeforms beyond planet Earth, (2) strange, bizarre, and weird biology involving organisms that can be Earth-based. The tag as currently written, vaguely wanders between the two fields and could be a source of confusion. Though, probably, only to persons who have some knowledge and understanding of the relevant biology.

biology should for questions about all living things, fictional, real, alien, Earthly, etc. because it is the study of life. Alien life is still life. xenobiology should be merged with biology or synchronized. Its usage is not clear, as explained above, but all questions with this tag do discuss the study of life or aspects of life.

creature-design is relevant if the creatures are truly alien, and their peculiarities can be tagged separately.

Agreed. A good idea.

or alternatively to the above "xenobiology" can strictly be about "aliens" because "processes not known to science" can happen on Earth, too.

This is a good point. It makes sense here on WB SE to strictly corral "xenobiology" to alien biology. Although this means questions about strange, bizarre, and weird biology will have to be dealt with under "biology". This shouldn't be a problem as these questions are likely to be rare. I may be wrong, but if so, then consideration will have to be given about using "alien biology' as a tag and restricting "xenobiology" tag to weird biology.

Having read the text of the current "xenobiology" tag, it does need editing, if for no other reason than to expunge one awful spelling error, but the "hard-science" requirement (mostly overlooked) is unnecessary hinderance. "science-based" would be better. The current "biology" tag is not unreasonable, and may only need minor edits.

There was a suggestion about using "alternate-biology" (for reasons I won't go into here, "alternative-biology" is to be preferred). This makes better if used as a tag for "alternative-biology" in "alternative-universes" or "parallel-universes" (or worlds for universes) in the same sense as "alternative-physics" in "alternative-universes" or "alternative-cosmos"

Note: other terms that could be used as tags for alien biology (apart from "alien biology' itself) include exobiology and astrobiology. "Exobiology" has mainly fallen out of usage, so may be ignored safely. While "astrobiology" is in vogue in the scientific community.

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  • $\begingroup$ I agree with your edits, and I think alternative biology is a better fit than "alien" based on the current tag wiki. Where would you suggest going from here? A rename of xenobiology or better definitions? $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Feb 7 '17 at 20:13
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I like keeping "xenobiology" as a unique tag. It is one of those terms that needs to be a part of Worldbuilding. It's an aesthetic thing. :-)

I'd keep xenobiology as about aliens when they diverge from known biology -- things like silicon life forms, hydrochloric acid blood, etc., i.e., where we are completely hypothetical for the base principles. "biology" would be for where the base principles of life match what we know and the question is about applications of those principles.

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  • $\begingroup$ What about dragons on Earth with acid blood? They aren't aliens, but they're divergent from known biology. That's the kind of thing the question asks about --- as written, the tags have some undefined areas. $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Feb 6 '17 at 2:31
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    $\begingroup$ Dragons are aliens if they aren't a carbon-water mix. $\endgroup$ – SRM - Reinstate Monica Feb 6 '17 at 2:36
  • $\begingroup$ Not if they're on Earth. For instance, these ones breathe acid but they are still implicitly carbon and water-based, and still live on Earth. They're not aliens, yet have an unfamiliar biological process. How does that get handled? $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Feb 6 '17 at 2:40
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    $\begingroup$ Even on Earth, they're still alien biology from a worldbuilding standpoint. $\endgroup$ – SRM - Reinstate Monica Feb 6 '17 at 2:43
  • $\begingroup$ Then you could see why using the word "alien" is confusing! I'm all for an "Alternate biology" but "xeno" or "alien" gives the impression of extraterrestrial which is not always true. $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Feb 6 '17 at 2:45
  • $\begingroup$ No, I actually can't see why it would be confusing. It's a non-Earth biology being introduced to Earth by your story. "Alien" as in "foreign". $\endgroup$ – SRM - Reinstate Monica Feb 6 '17 at 2:51
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    $\begingroup$ Dragons are mythological creatures. Fictional attempts to make them "real" or 'realistic" or "naturalistic" fall into "speculative biology". A tag not included on WB. Exotic biology is better than alien biology concerning dragons. Strictly speaking, "xeno" means "strange" & "alien" means "foreign" includes outer space. $\endgroup$ – a4android Feb 7 '17 at 8:40
  • $\begingroup$ Exactly what @a4android said. And that's fully in agreement with my answer. $\endgroup$ – SRM - Reinstate Monica Feb 7 '17 at 9:58
  • $\begingroup$ Of course, @SRM if the dragons were native to another planet, then that would be alien biology. Context, history, and explication can determine what tag is needed. $\endgroup$ – a4android Feb 7 '17 at 10:45
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    $\begingroup$ Ah. I see the point of disagreement. I would tag "xenobiology" on dragons native to fictional Earth if their biology is different from real Earth biology. The tag means we aren't dealing with real bio and hypotesization is encouraged. $\endgroup$ – SRM - Reinstate Monica Feb 7 '17 at 16:42
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The original tag shows a confused definition. It's close enough to being plain wrong.

Xenobiology is the field of biology concerned with extraterrestrial and extrasolar lifeforms of all kinds. This can include space-based lifeforms (if any exist).

Biology is, in the strictest sense, is the global term to cover absolutely all lifeforms. This can include xenobiology. But biology tends to be used when dealing with lifeforms that we know about, because currently xenobiology is a speculative field of science since we know of totally zero extraterrestrial and alien lifeforms.

Most of the proposed "improvements" are starting from a place of confusion and proceed to muddle their way to not significantly better.

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  • $\begingroup$ Could you be more specific? If you're saying the original is confused I'm not sure how my suggestions are making it worse. You seem to be taking two very different sides here. $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Feb 6 '17 at 12:30
  • $\begingroup$ This is awkward. If I was more specific it would be easier to have edited the tags myself. Therefore, it might be better if that's what I do. Will get back to you later. it's shutdown time here. $\endgroup$ – a4android Feb 6 '17 at 12:54
  • $\begingroup$ I wouldn't advise editing the tags yet because it seems there is still discussion to be had - as well as disagreement. $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Feb 7 '17 at 2:04

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