On a recent question about reasoning the constant existence of ice-walls around a flat-earth there has been this one answer leading with upvotes:

As there is not scientific basis for anything like a flat earth, any explanation will do.

I´d go with: The Elephants, carrying your Earth-disc through space, fart magical freezing gases.


It reads like a comment with a bolted on cheap-let's-go-for-the-giggles answer so it can escape Not an Answer-Flags. And looking at it closely it really just seems to be a critique of the question, rather than a whole-hearted attempt of answering the given problem.

If it is meant as a serious answer, then to my understanding it is coasting close to the Be Nice Policy, especially the point about:

Be nice.

Whether you've come to ask questions, or to generously share what you know, remember that we’re all here to learn, together. Be welcoming and patient, especially with those who may not know everything you do.

It doesn't even try to take the premise of the question seriously, but rather does down with it as something not worthy of receiving proper answers.

If it is not meant as a serious answer (which is how I understand it), then it clearly clashes with the Answering Guidelines:

Answer the question

Read the question carefully. What, specifically, is the question asking for? Make sure your answer provides that – or a viable alternative. The answer can be “don’t do that”, but it should also include “try this instead”. Any answer that gets the asker going in the right direction is helpful, but do try to mention any limitations, assumptions or simplifications in your answer. Brevity is acceptable, but fuller explanations are better.

..and especially:

Answer well-asked questions

Not all questions can or should be answered here. Save yourself some frustration and avoid trying to answer questions which...

...are unclear or lacking specific details that can uniquely identify the problem.
...solicit opinions rather than facts.
...have already been asked and answered many times before.
...require too much guidance for you to answer in full, or request answers to multiple questions.
...are not about worldbuilding as defined in the help center.

If the answerer wants to imply that the question is bonkers, then why not VTC it instead of writing an unhelpful answer that mainly mocks the question and thus the querent?

Another point speaking against the question not being answerable would be the very good and serious answer by Cort Ammon

If the answerer is not happy with the amount of detail given by the querent, as can be understood from the first phrase of their answer, then they should instead comment on the question asking for clarification.

The comment history shows that the answerer did not request any such clarification so we have to assume that at least the first part of their 'answer' must indeed be an attempt to comment, using the answer button by accident(?)

The Answerer has 2k+ rep at the time of this, mine, post. And subtracting the 80ish rep they got from 8 upvotes and a downvote still is near the 2k rep mark - that means they have should have been on the site long enough to not simply drop plain provocations. Which is why I move this issue to the meta..

  • $\begingroup$ In the end the answer ended up being deleted by a mod, which makes it impossible to cast undelete votes. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 17, 2018 at 11:16
  • $\begingroup$ So deletionism is rampant on SE as well? I thought that's only a WP problem. The answer was a great answer, it answered the question asked, it was funny, on point and short. $\endgroup$
    – Tom
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 20:34

5 Answers 5


I think it's important that we can answer with "anything goes." I've had a lot of questions where the reality is that the OP had no idea how much freedom there was in the idea they were exploring. It happens a lot with time travel, where people make the mistake of thinking that there is exactly one time travel theory. If you look through my history, I've written quite a few in that form (mostly about time travel, go figure)

They don't bother me as answers, though it does bug me when they crowd out the answers of people who are trying to get closer to an answer the OP wants to see. I like to see more helpful answers rise to the top. The helpfulness of the "anything goes" answers is limited unless you write them really well. When I'm doing my best, I try to answer these as "anything goes... but here's some direction you can use"

As of typing this, my answer is accepted, and has more upvotes than the answer in question, so I think the situation is resolved (disclaimer: I'm not biased... nope nope nope!)


My two cents: If "fries and ketchup" kind of answer actually is an acceptable answer, then question itself is problematic and should probably be closed - as seen in linked older meta discussion. It is one close vote from being closed already. Maybe we are not putting on hold fast enough?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It's not just about closing fast enough (although, yeah, I totally agree with this answer), but also about preventing people from answering questions that should be closed in the first place $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 8:25
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Mithrandir24601 "preventing people from answering questions" is exactly what on hold / closed is. $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 8:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Sure - I'm trying to say that this needs to be done on a more meta level (as well), convincing people to not answer questions that they think should be closed in general - if someone flags or VTC's and also answers, then that kinda defeats the purpose of flagging/VTC-ing (in at least a large number of cases, anyway - and yes, people do exactly this) $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 9:15

Allow me to quote the well known little writing on investment and to apply it in the context of this community

Past performance is no guarantee of future results

None of the reputation (and moderation) privilege exempts the user from being subjected to community reviews and votes, and we all can take a false step (myself included) and post content which some can see as controversial.

In cases like this I would say that it's the community to have the power of deciding: you as user can respectfully comment, downvote and flag the post, and then let it follow the usual path.

Mind, it's not guaranteed that the outcome will be the desired one.


If not because it's unhelpful or almost insulting, the answer is invalid because it uses magic. The question clearly states "Is there any "possible" scientific way to have this kind of Ice wall?" To me, that is the equivalent of a answer. The answer is essentially using an anything goes handwave when the OP specified that wasn't an option. This answer should be deleted because it does not follow the rules outlined by the OP. You can't use magic to explain science, and the answer doesn't even attempt to justify magical elephants as pseudo-science or string theory or whatever.

  • $\begingroup$ Yet thie other answer, which boils down to "because yes", has upvotes and has not been shot down. worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/a/126601/21222 $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 17, 2018 at 11:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Renan Which one? You gave me the link to the answer I was talking about. $\endgroup$
    – John Locke
    Commented Oct 17, 2018 at 11:19
  • $\begingroup$ The one you were talking about has been deleted, so you can't see it anymore. The one I linked is another one. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 17, 2018 at 11:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Renan Oops, my bad. I glanced at the answer and thought it was the elephant one. $\endgroup$
    – John Locke
    Commented Oct 17, 2018 at 12:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Renan It was flagged as low quality, I have voted to delete it. $\endgroup$
    – John Locke
    Commented Oct 17, 2018 at 12:25

Let me start by quoting the answer being discussed:

As there is not scientific basis for anything like a flat earth, any explanation will do.

That should be all the discussion about it. Anything past that is beating on a dead horse - and I think I arrived here to see a horse corpse beaten past any recognition, but let me add my two kicks:

  • Since there is no scientific answer anyway, it all boils down to speculation, and that answer is the shortest and simplest. It wins by Occam's razor. I am serious on this.

  • Gases are able to take heat from other bodies, otherwise fire extinguishers would be way less efficient at best. If there are elephants under the flat earth whose flatulence is composed of gases that are colder than the Earth, or will react with it endothermically, then the rim of the disc will be constantly losing heat to space escaping gas. If you guys cannot understand that, go back to high school.

  • Reputation has nothing to do with it. I have over 30k and the only reason I did not post that answer myself is because I got ninja'ed.

  • Respect the will of the community. More people find that a good answer than a bad one.

  • If you are offended by the answer, you need help, because some flat earthers, who have the fame you know they have, have already considered a similar model (giant beings holding the earth and cooling the rim with their breath).

Seriously, stop. If you don't like the answer, do like L.Dutch suggested and move on.

  • $\begingroup$ But there is a scientific answer, it assumes megastructure engineering capability but you can theoretically build a couple of different flat Planet-Like-Objects. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Ash the fact that there is a convoluted answer does not invalidate straight-to-the-point ones. And the answer being discussed is scientifc. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 15:17
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    $\begingroup$ The fact that there is a scientifically valid answer appears to preclude your argument that all answers are purely speculative and therefore the simplest answer will do regardless of content. It can't be scientific when they are magical fart gases, if they were another sort of gas yes but they're magical therefore not science. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 15:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Ash we don't know whether dark matter is real or not, so it's also pure speculation. Doesn't make it any less worthy of attention in papers and journals. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 15:25
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry that appears to be a complete non sequitur in the current context. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 15:28
  • $\begingroup$ I think we just got into a labirynth of semantics. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 15:29
  • $\begingroup$ That being the case we'd better quit while we're ahead. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 16:07
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    $\begingroup$ A few comments on this: 'flat planets are not known to be naturally occurring phenomenon' isn't the same as 'no scientific basis' (not that that actually matters, because this is Worldbuilding, where we don't always deal with what's possible). You cannot say that 'it wins by occam's razor' - 'simplest is best' really isn't always true (I've yet to see an example where it is true in reality). "If you guys cannot understand that, go back to high school" - that's quite condescending, which isn't appropriate for this site. Also, it's not obvious to me that in a near vacuum, that actually holds $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 18:50

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