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Brought up by this question, the Reality-Check and Hard-Science tags' descriptions aren't in implied agreement (at least, as I read them) on if they can be combined.

Reality-Check reads:

Asks if a given concept is realistic in a given context. Answers should say yes or no, with supporting info. Compare this with the science-based and hard-science tags. This tag should never be the only tag on a question, because this tag frames how a question should be answered, not the topic.

(Emphasis mine)

Verses the hard-science:

Requires answers backed up by equations, empirical evidence, scientific papers, other citations, etc. Contrast with: science-based and reality-check tags. This tag should never be the only tag on a question because this tag frames how a question should be answered, not the topic. Review the tag info before using this tag, and flag your question for moderator attention once posted to have the hard-science notice added.

(emphasis mine, again)

So this question has two points of discussion:

  1. Are these two tags mutually exclusive
  2. Do the wording in these tags need to better clarify this? If so, how?
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  • $\begingroup$ Relevant previous meta discussions: worldbuilding.meta.stackexchange.com/q/3702/627, worldbuilding.meta.stackexchange.com/q/2004/627, worldbuilding.meta.stackexchange.com/q/5287/627, and links therein. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Jun 20 '19 at 18:10
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 Thanks for the links; all three are useful. This is possibly a duplicate of the second, although since this brings up rewording tags it might not be. Your thoughts? $\endgroup$ – Ranger Jun 20 '19 at 18:12
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    $\begingroup$ To be honest, it's been four years since we had that particular discussion, and a lot of things have changed since then, both about the site and in this arena. I don't think it's a bad thing to have another explicit discussion about this, especially because I've seen mixed opinions on the site. My impression has always been that they're not mutually exclusive, but it doesn't seem like that's settled. And yeah, the proposal for rewording (and these tags have seen a lot of that) is definitely valuable. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Jun 20 '19 at 18:15
  • $\begingroup$ Well done asking here $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Jun 21 '19 at 3:29
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 This topic has been 1 month without activity. Is this enough time to close it out/take action on it from a Mod's perspective? $\endgroup$ – Ranger Jul 25 '19 at 21:13
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These tags are not mutually exclusive

Reality-Check implies that you're putting forward an idea, and want the idea to be examined. A Reality-Check with a "Hard-Science" tag holds this "reality check" to a higher and different standard than simply "Science-Based" as per the tag's description.

Further a situation with, for example, magic in use, assuming it provided sufficient detail on how the magic worked, would benefit from neither of these two science tags, as it has "a magical world" as the "given context." Alternatively still, a Reality-Check about a system of government wouldn't use alternative reality rules (like magic) but would be improperly described by either Science-Based or Hard-Science.

Change of Tag Wording

I'd suggest something like:

Asks if a given concept is realistic in a given context. Answers should say yes or no, with supporting info. Compare this with the science-based and hard-science tags, and consider combining these tags, if appropriate.

And:

Requires answers backed up by equations, empirical evidence, scientific papers, other citations, etc. Contrast with the science-based tag.

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    $\begingroup$ I'd argue that science-based and hard-science ARE mutually exclusive but both could be used in conjunction with the reality-check as its currently written. $\endgroup$ – James Jun 20 '19 at 19:45
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    $\begingroup$ I think the original intent was that these three tags would be used to show what level of scientific accuracy was needed. So from less science needed to lots: Reality-Check << Science-based << Hard-science $\endgroup$ – James Jun 20 '19 at 19:48
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I am of the opinion that and are fundamentally unrelated

There has been the opinion that four tags are or should never be used together: , , , and . For some reason, people have thought that is similar to the other three.

It isn't.

I personally agree that , , and are mutually exclusive. Pick one. Period. This is because these tags identify the nature of the answer, not the nature of the question.

However, identifies the nature of the question! The OP should provide a complete scenario for WB users to analyze. Ideally it's a "yes, here's why" or "no, here's why" situation, but most answers are "I love this idea? Think about this..." answers. All are useful. But remember, the tag identified the nature of the question.

You can't ask "how" or "why" or "what" or any other question and use the tag. The whole point of the tag is to analyze something in context of the rules of the OP's world to be sure it is consistent with those rules.

Which is a long way of saying, Any one of the three "science" tags can be used (or not used at all) with the tag. I personally think the combination of and is useful as it demands responses prove their opinions in context with the appropriate set of rules. Not only does that bind the respondents to use those rules, it also binds the OP to provide them!

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  • $\begingroup$ I agree with everything here. In fact this states the viewpoint about exclusivity better than my own. $\endgroup$ – Ranger Jun 25 '19 at 19:47
  • $\begingroup$ I very much agree with this. I have several answers for reality check questions which I see as meeting, at least, the science-based tag due to the research, policies/procedures, practical knowledge, and historical articles I link in them. I many times wish OPs would add hard-science or science-based tags (or maybe we really need a historical tag, as in historical evidence not event, as people forget social sciences are still sciences) to prevent the bloat of answers that can be generated which include 0 research just opinions (esp. if they hit HNQ). $\endgroup$ – LinkBerest Jun 26 '19 at 1:38
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    $\begingroup$ @JGreenwell I'd support a historically-based tag. I could conceive of people believing that such an answer wouldn't be worldbuilding, but I think that would be the best form of worldbuilding - work with what you know before extending into what you don't. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jun 26 '19 at 4:28
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH I've really been thinking about it since the discussions on cultural questions (and earlier discussion on the strategy tag) that have happened on meta. $\endgroup$ – LinkBerest Jun 26 '19 at 18:58
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I would say they are mutually exclusive. It's not about the question itself, but the restriction that the tags put on the answers and the conflict it creates. As a summary of the tags

  • Hard Science: answers backed up by equations, empirical evidence, scientific papers, other citations, etc
  • Reality Check: Asks if a given concept is realistic in a given context. Answers should say yes or no, with supporting info

Now let's just ignore any magic based questions. They will all automatically fail the [Hard-Science] tag because well.. there isn't exactly Hard Science behind magic...

So looking at some of the more popular question with both tags

Stealth in Space: How realistic is it?

  • Under the Hard-Science tag, the answer is No, you can't stealth. You have no way to prevent the detection of certain aspects of the spaceship.

  • Under a reality check tag, the answer would be Yes. It's plausible and present in other worlds, e.g. Star Trek (I'm sure there's more since stealth tech is a huge part of some games )

Could humans alter the moon's orbit significantly with current technology?

  • Under the Hard-Science tag, the answer is again No. Way too much energy
  • Under a Reality Check tag, the answer would be Yes, it's plausible. Again I'm pointing to commercial worlds like Despicable Me or Bruce Almighty.

How quickly can I form a mountain chain?

  • Under the Hard-Science Tag, the answer is Yes
  • Under the Reality Check Tag, the answer is Yes

In Each of these questions, the Hard-Science Tag quickly overrides the Reality Check Tag. Is a concept realistic? Sure, but then you need to back your answer with equations, evidence or papers, so instead of a quick reality check, your now creating a Hard-Science answer because of the much stricter conditions the tag places on answers.

So any answer that are [Hard-Science] are also [Reality-Check], but not all [Reality-Check] answers are [Hard-Science]. In fact, if you want to combine different parts of [Hard-Science] it makes more sense to go with [Science-Based] because you could apply two conflicting scientific principles and it would still be valid answer under [Science-Based] but not under [Hard-Science].

So in summary: [Hard-Science] restrictions override [Reality-Check] restrictions so answers have to confirm to the [Hard-Science] tag making the [Reality-Check] tag redundant.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure I see how the reality check tag leads to some of these conclusions. The OP is responsible for laying down the parameters of their world, and reality-check means that the idea must be analyzed according to those parameters and assumptions. If you use the hard-science tag, the parameters of the world are almost certainly our world, to within some variation, so it's irrelevant whether something can be achieved in worlds like the one in Despicable Me, which seem to violate laws of nature fairly easily - only whether it can happen in the real world. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Jun 21 '19 at 13:06
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 Hence why they should be mutually exclusive. The hard-science tag tells you if its possible within the rules of our world which the rules OP is using, there is no need to reality-check it because the parameters and assumptions should be inline with the Rules of Our real world. Otherwise, the hard-science doesn't apply because you are not using the rules applicable to our world. $\endgroup$ – Shadowzee Jun 25 '19 at 6:33

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