So, I was looking around recently, and I saw several answers/questions which were downvoted because people thought that "Oh, that science is 'incorrect'", when the person actually proves in their question/answer that their position is correct. As an outspoken Intelligent Design proponent, I am a bit worried that somebody(s) might do this to me. If enough people were to do it, it would ruin my reputation.

What do I do when a question or answer is downvoted out of bias?

  • $\begingroup$ Just out of interest, could you point out any questions/answers where this has happened? Doesn't matter if you can't I just wanted to have a look at them. $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Dec 9 '19 at 13:57
  • $\begingroup$ My answer to worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/163093/… $\endgroup$ – The Daleks Dec 9 '19 at 22:22
  • $\begingroup$ That's only one downvote so it will have a tiny effect on your reputation, only -2 and you have got two upvotes so you earned +18 rep so I shouldn't worry about it at the moment. In terms of the reason for the downvotes $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Dec 9 '19 at 22:33
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Maybe "as an outspoken Intelligent Design proponent" you could just try to avoid answering to questions about natural evolution... After all, this is the basic principle of Intelligent Design, no? Natural evolution didn't happen, Enlil did it by His creative powers. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Dec 10 '19 at 1:32
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP : Good point. In the mean time, that question just went from 1 downvote to five downvotes. $\endgroup$ – The Daleks Dec 10 '19 at 16:19
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ "Went from 1 downvote to five downvotes": Well, it is you who pretended that mutations cannot create new information (which they very obviously can) and that natural evolution does not happen (which it does, and we actually use the principles of natural evolution in engineering). Remember that this site is part of the Stack Exchange network, populated mostly by technical people, who actually know what information is, and how genetic algorithms and genetic design methods work... $\endgroup$ – AlexP Dec 10 '19 at 16:55
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ There's also the Meta effect - asking about a question/answer on Meta draws more people's attention to it, and tends to attract more votes (either up or down). $\endgroup$ – F1Krazy Dec 11 '19 at 11:28
  • $\begingroup$ i dont know about downvote, but i have seen an upvote answer out of bias or just simple ridiculing the questioner (at least from what i see) which make the general lurker getting mislead assumption, since aparently many dont even read the context/describtion of the question, sometime even attacking other answer because of that. $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Dec 13 '19 at 5:21

A little late to the show, but one point I'd like to address re your insectomammalian answer. And that is the claim of bias itself. Science and the whole ID thing aside, I don't see how you could actually expect to "do" anything at all unless you can demonstrate that bias was at work in this instance.

You get all kinds of folks in forums that deal with the art & craft of geopoesy: different perspectives on science itself; different perspectives on ultimate origins (first principles) etc. You might get one or two up or down votes based solely on pro or contra ID bias. Most of the downvotes, as far as I can tell, were most likely cast because you didn't actually answer the question!

That's one of the seven deadly sins around here. I can guarantee that had you addressed the OP's query on its own terms, even using ID assumptions, you would have fared much better!

As you learn yourself in the comments: In the future I shall make sure to use the assumptions of the question when asking questions. This is the way to go, because the querent is not asking us for how this or that can or can not be in the real world. No, they're asking for help in understanding how it works in their own fictional / fantastic / sciencefictiony world.

In summary: I think you would find it impossible to demonstrate or even imply that anti-ID bias was used against your answer. If I had seen it timely, I might have downvoted it (for not answering the query), or at best upvoted a better answer. I might have left a comment to the effect of "in what way does this answer the original query?" Not out of bias, but simply because the OP deserves your best answer!, and it's a community responsibility to nudge our fellow respondents towards making excellent answers and improving poor answers.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the answer, it is the best one so far. This makes sense; in the future I shall not answer evolution-related questions. +1 $\endgroup$ – The Daleks Jan 8 '20 at 13:22
  • $\begingroup$ Well, I'm not saying don't answer evolution related queries! I am saying that you (particularly) need to be smarter at it than the average bear. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Jan 8 '20 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you, I will. $\endgroup$ – The Daleks Jan 8 '20 at 18:58

The OP appears to be under the regrettably common misapprehension that criticism of an opinion that they hold is criticism of themselves.

To use a neutral example:

Alice states that she believes in X.

Bob states that X is wrong, and Y is correct instead.

Charlie says that Alice is an idiot for believing that X is correct.

Bob is attacking X. Charlie is attacking Alice. Attacking beliefs is part of what we do here on SE. Attacking others for what they believe is unacceptable here.

Alice may hold X very dear to herself, and considers an attack on X by Bob to be an attack upon herself just the same as the attack upon herself by Charlie. However, this is not the case.

In the case of Alice vs Bob, Alice has a choice:

  1. Engage in a discussion of X vs Y with Bob and try to show why X is true and Y is not.

  2. Accept Bob's argument that Y is true.


  1. Disengage and agree to disagree with Bob on the merits of X vs Y rather than enter into a debate.

In the case of Alice vs Charlie, Alice need only flag Charlie's post, since Charlie was making a personal attack.

To bring the example closer to what appears to have occurred, let us assume that Alice had been answering Bob's question, and Bob's question had been written with the assumption that Y applies. Alice's answer made with the assumption that Y does not apply and that in fact X applies would not be well received, and is likely to be downvoted. However, these downvotes are not an attack upon Alice, but upon her apparent error in assuming X where Bob had asked a question presupposing Y.

So, to the OP, I say: Be sure to match the assumptions of your answers to the assumptions of the question that you are answering. If you fail to do so, expect downvotes. However, having made an assumption in your answer at odds with that of the question, you need not put up with personal attacks for your error.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Thank you for a sane answer to a discussion which has gone off on the red herring of "is Intelligent Design really correct". In the future I shall make sure to use the assumptions of the question when asking questions. +1 $\endgroup$ – The Daleks Dec 14 '19 at 5:42
  • $\begingroup$ I don't personally believe in Intelligent Design... except perhaps for genetic engineering, but many of my relatives and some of my inlaws are highly religious people. While we have had friendly debates on tbe subject of religion vs science, we can agree to disagree without acrimony. No-one has the right to tell you what you must believe, but I welcome the debate... my own beliefs are subject to change if you can present me with a convincing argument backed up with evidence. $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Dec 14 '19 at 6:11

I would suggest that you write you question including a statement at the beginning along the lines of "In a world where life was created in the ways proposed by intelligent deign" or "assuming we accept the principles of intelligent design". It may also be worth quickly outlining the key points of intelligent design just to make sure everyone is working from the same premise.

This makes it very clear that you are wanting answers that accept intelligent design and so whether intelligent design is correct or not doesn't matter in the context of the question. Beyond this there's not much you can do although if massive down voting is occurring and you believe this is why you could try raising this in meta although I'm not sure this will do much.

Another thing that could help reduce down voting is making sure you phrase the question so that it doesn't look like an argument for intelligent design/against other people's views. People on the site are much more likely to engage helpfully if you are simply asking for help with your problem than if you are perceived to be trying to push your point of view onto people.

In terms of writing answers it's trickier as you are not setting the constraints of the world, this is done in the question. Make sure before you answer that an answer based on intelligent design will fit the question's constraints. For instance, if someone asks "How could X have evolved" answers based on theories other than evolution would probably be downvoted for not addressing the question. Obviously the same applies the other way around as well.

If you are not sure about how a question will be received you could post it in the Sandbox first but I'm not sure how active the Sandbox is at the moment so there's no guarantee that anyone will see it. The other option is to get a more informal discussion on your question in the chat.

  • $\begingroup$ Well, I was more interested in what to do with answers. $\endgroup$ – The Daleks Dec 9 '19 at 22:24
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, answers are tricky because people are voting based on how well they think your answer fits the question and downvoting may not necessarily be bias. As I'm sure you know many people disagree with your view on evolution and since that question is about evolution people with different views on how evolution works and so will disagree on whether your answer is correct. This could lead to someone downvoting because they feel your answer is incorrect and so are downvoting. While it would be better if they left a comment downvoting because you think answers are incorrect is allowed. $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Dec 9 '19 at 22:37
  • $\begingroup$ A biased downvote would be if the intelligent design was only tangential to the answer and the answer would still work whether you used intelligent design or some other idea but someone still downvotes just because they don't like intelligent design. The difference with your answer is you are asserting intelligent design as a fact but it is likely that the question was written with evolution by natural selection in mind as this is the idea most commonly meant when people say evolution. $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Dec 9 '19 at 22:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Bellerophon: Evolution by natural selection? That was not a thing even in the 19th century. Natural selection is only one of the forces driving natural evolution, and even Darwin knew it -- his other book is The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex... $\endgroup$ – AlexP Dec 10 '19 at 1:23
  • $\begingroup$ @alexP I know but I was pretty close to the character limit and natural selection is the one most people think of and that answers tend to focus on. $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Dec 10 '19 at 7:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Bellerophon : That is the case for me; I gave an answer using sound science (5 articles and 4 books as reference material) on why a bug could not become a mammal, and people have majorly downvoted it based upon that I am siding with the Intelligent Design crowd. $\endgroup$ – The Daleks Dec 10 '19 at 16:21
  • $\begingroup$ @thescribe-ReinstateMonica You don't actually mention intelligent design in that answer so it is unlikely they are downvoting because you are a proponent of intelligent design. They are downvoting because they disagree that evolution cannot add information to an organism so they are disagreeing with your answer on a factual level - they think the things you are stating as facts are incorrect. This isn't bias, this is disagreement. Bias would be if they agreed with your argument but still downvoted just because they didn't like that you are a proponent of intelligent design. $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Dec 10 '19 at 20:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Bellerophon : a. I appear to have accidentally edited out the stuff about Intelligent Design. b. Okay. In the future, I won't use information that comes from non-Darwinist sources, regardless of whether or not the data is true. $\endgroup$ – The Daleks Dec 11 '19 at 1:07
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @thescribe-ReinstateMonica If you are using a reference, you need to include links to the reference and even better, the actual quotes you are using. Just stating you are using references doesn't help because no one can tell if you are lying or not and no one is able to verify the authenticity of the reference you are using. $\endgroup$ – Shadowzee Dec 12 '19 at 3:43

The system is designed to protect from this, being skewed to favor upvotes vs downvotes.

A downvote takes away 2 reputation.

An upvote gives 10 reputation.

You need 5 downvotes to cancel a single upvote. Based on my experience only extremely poor answers get 5 or more downvotes and not a single upvote.

  • $\begingroup$ I already knew that the system protects against this, its just that I was wondering what to do when, say, 10 people downvote it. $\endgroup$ – The Daleks Dec 9 '19 at 22:24
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ @thescribe, here I am talking solely on my experience, but when someone manages to write something capable of taking 10 downvotes, were I in their shoes I'd start asking some question on what I have written. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Dec 10 '19 at 6:08

I saw your answer on the question about insects and mammals. I would have downvoted it had you not deleted it before.

I have nothing against using pseudosciences to answer questions, I do that all the time. God knows I got a couple of flat Earth answers here. I always take care to make it clear that I'm not serious about them though.

But when you make a claim that some pseudoscience is actual science, you are opening a can of worms.

You said you used four or five scientific articles, calling the name of molecular biology, but did not provide any links to the articles. Your post also defies high school classroom biology.

It was, all in all, maybe a good faith attempt at answering the question - but unfortunately it was more about defending ID than providing an answer to how some specific kinds of animals could end up filling some niches.


If someone were to post a question about day/night cycles and one of the replies is written assuming that the earth is flat would you expect that to be down voted?

Wrong answers will be down voted, and your answer is wrong. That's not bias, it's fact.

You added a comment saying there are 5 articles and 4 books but that is not a citation. A citation is something like Book X, Edition Y, Page Z where Professor A says that "B C D".

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence - and you are not providing that.

Many people using this site have a scientific background, we know how to read claims and cross reference articles. We also know what the consensus scientific literature on something like this is. For example we know that genetic algorithms work - people use them all the time in various fields of computing.

I remember as a kid back in the late 80s playing around with a computer program that had simulated creatures running around on a field eating food. Their behavior allowed them to breed and mutate and compete and even that very simple simulation had surprisingly sophisticated behaviors emerge.

I'm sorry you feel attacked about this - but please remember none of this is aimed personally at you. If you bring pseudo-science to a real-science question it will get shot down in the same way someone suggesting psionics, the flying spaghetti monster, or astral projection will.

There are plenty of stack exchanges (including this one if it is phrased correctly) where you can go to ask questions about evolution and hopefully work out where you have been misled. There are certainly areas where our (meaning both individuals here and the wider scientific community) understanding can be improved, so further research there would be most welcome. If you come in assuming that millions of scientists and engineers over hundreds of years have got it wrong than you're going to need some very compelling evidence though.

For example in one of your comments you said:

What I was essentially saying is that, due to the nature of mutations, you cannot get from a simple bacteria (the genetic equivalent of a 3-page instruction manual written in grammatically incorrect Chinese) to a human (the genetic equivalent of a 3,000 page tome written in grammatically correct English)

This shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how genetics works - if the bacteria's instruction manual was grammatically incorrect they would die.

Additionally I could trivially write an algorithm using only random mutations and selection that would turn any input text you like into any output text you like. It would only take a few minutes to write, although for a long text it might take a while to run.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .