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There is no good term for it, which is surprising... you'd think that some science fiction author or another would have come up with a word/term for the taxonomy above kingdom, the one that specified the planetary origins of aliens.

Though, by no means should this be taken as meaning that my suggestion applies only to science fiction. Even fantasy creature questions should require this detail.

The three choices (as I see them) for these questions would be (though no need to be this wordy):

  1. My creature should be of Earth-derived biology, and is therefor is genetically related to humans, wombats, jellyfish, and orchids.
  2. My creature should not be of Earth-derived biology, and isn't even necessarily made of protein, doesn't necessarily use DNA/RNA to encode genes, etc.
  3. Either of these options would suffice, depending on which made the most sense given my other constraints.

Given the many historical questions on worldbuilding which do not include this detail, older questions would need to be grandfathered in. The people who asked originally may not even still be around to clarify, and if they were, the clarification might conflict with accepted or highly-rated answers.

But moving forward from some date-close-to-now, questions would be required to include this information and should be referred back for editing (or in extreme cases, for closing, if the asker refuses to comply).

Perhaps the term for this is "biosphere". Please suggest other labels if you've got one.

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  • $\begingroup$ Are you suggesting a change to the suggested format for questions, or is this a commentary on good practice because you are frustrated at poorly worded questions? Unfortunately, people writing bad questions probably aren't reading the meta. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Aug 28 '20 at 3:59
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    $\begingroup$ isnt xenobiology tag help define that? $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    Aug 28 '20 at 4:51
  • $\begingroup$ (a) Never trust that people read meta. (b) Never trust that people will read the help center. (c) Never trust that people will read tag wikis. Given those three absolute realities - can what you propose be practically implemented? (BTW, you seem to be asking two different questions: should we do this? and what do we call it? What we call it is, frankly, irrelevant. But I'd favor "Xenolocalizationarycoordinativedomain." It's gotta be one word, right?) $\endgroup$ Aug 29 '20 at 23:45
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As far as taxonomy goes, you're about thirty years out of date...

The level Domain, that above kingdom, was added in 1990. According to Biology for Kids, the three domains are Eukarya, Bacteria, and Archea. I'd argue (and did in a paper in college) that viruses & prions could form a forth & fifth domain of life. And indeed, such domains have been argued for by actual biologists. Biologists simply have to get over the centuries old conceptualisation of "life" that it must be cellular!

As far as xenotaxonomy goes:

I'd suggest that the level immediately above Domain be called Planetary X where X is the name of the planetary body the life is from. All living things whose origins were on Earth / Terra are Planetary Terrestrial. (Or I suppose just Terrestrial for short.) Other trans-domains would similarly be named for their world (planet or moon or asteroid or comet) of actual origin: Planetary Martial (of Mars) e.g. Note: if it turns out that Earth life started out on Mars, then we'd be Planetary Martial-Terrestrial.

Above the Planetary level, I'd suggest Autobiota (same life), which would include all Planetary living things that share a common origin with one another from elsewhere in space. For example if panspermia (accidental or purposeful) turns out to be a thing, then the various life Planetaries & Domains in their respective worlds, would fall under a single super-group, Autobiota. This super-group could, as with Terrestrial, be specified once the origin point is discovered.

In contrast, any life (perhaps even Terrestrial life) that is not related in any way -- life that had a separate origin -- is called Idiobiota (own life). Such living things would share nothing in common, originwise, other than that it too is alive.

Both leave room for intermediate levels as needed. So there: sòme SF / F author has suggested. But I digress!


That said, I actually concur with your proposal. It seems to me that we have a lot of questions that get shot down simply because the creature in question doesn't fit into what is known to current science. The recent questions about Fairies being a good example.

I think it would be smart to encourage querents to specify whether they expect answers using real world science (actual or extrapolated) or some kind of non-real world science. It seems to me that we tend too frequently to get stuck in a dead end when it comes to questions about irrealia. Dragons are too big to fly, therefore questions about dragon flight are impossible to answer because physics, biology, blah, blah. Humanoids can't have wings because blah, blah. Too often we forget that this forum is NOT physics.stackexchange or biology.stackexchange! This is WORLDBUILDING! We're supposed to be more imaginative than we sometimes are.

This would help respondents as it would give them some kind of direction to follow for giving a good answer. If the querent wants terrestrial biology, then we answer from within the science as it applies to Earth. If the querent wants a biology other than terrestrial, then we need to set aside Earth science, get all imaginational, and answer the question from within science as it applies to that other world.

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    $\begingroup$ Every single question about dragons that I've seen get shot down was because the questioner either specified in the question that they wanted to comply with the law of physics or else tagged the question with 'reality-check' or something of that nature. If you're trying to design a dragon's wing while ignoring physics, it's probably going to be an opinion based question. $\endgroup$
    – Halfthawed
    Aug 27 '20 at 22:27
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    $\begingroup$ @Halfthawed -- Alternatively one could simply remind the nattering nabobs that this is WORLDBUILDING. Not Physics. My opinion may well be a vanishing minority, but I rather think it's obvious that when someone asks about plausibility of dragons and then tags it "reality check", they don't mean real world reality. They don't mean real world physics. They mean "does it make sense within the fictional framework". Mind you, a lot of querents don't seem to know that they need to define some basic things about how their worlds work in the first place! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Aug 27 '20 at 22:32
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    $\begingroup$ Hence the problem. It doesn't matter what the questioner had in mind, if you post with 'reality-check' and don't define your reality, the only assumption that an answerer can make is that the reality is reality as we know it. I do usually make an attempt to bend the circumstances as far as I can to enable an answer to the question, but the onus is on the OP, not the answerer. $\endgroup$
    – Halfthawed
    Aug 27 '20 at 22:37
  • $\begingroup$ Well I would assume, given the nature of the forum, that the real world is not the basis upon which the querent is asking! But i guess that's the whole reason for the OP's proposal! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Aug 27 '20 at 22:51
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    $\begingroup$ It seems to me that we have a lot of questions that get shot down simply because the creature in question doesn't fit into what is known to current science. Actually, this site regularly shoots down questions because they don't fit into what we know of science today. It's as if people believe that what we know today is all there is to know and no new data will ever change that. In 50 years of life, I've seen that proven false several times. (I'm still waiting for Dark Matter to be proven real - but today's kids believe it with the fervor of pure religion.) $\endgroup$ Aug 30 '20 at 17:58
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    $\begingroup$ Note that the reality-check tag's description states, "This tag should never be the only tag on a question, because this tag frames how a question should be answered, not the topic." In other words, a second tag must always be chosen to frame the context. IMO the real problem is that the OPs too often want "something as realistic as possible!" not realizing that the question can't be answered in that context. If dragons could exist, they would. $\endgroup$ Aug 30 '20 at 18:04
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I've been on this site long enough to see several waves of new users arrive.0 The new users (a) inevitably don't understand the site, it's rules, or its culture1 and (b) inevitably believe that what we understand of science today is all there is to understand and nothing could possibly vary from it for any reason on earth — so say we all!

It takes time for each wave of new users to "grow up" and mature into the site's culture. Some individuals do so quickly, others have to be dragged along, kicking and screaming, because what they really want is to do what they want, when they want, without consequence.2

Unfortunately, per my comment from yesterday, there's no way to reasonably expect that any individual will take the time to actually read the tag wikis, or read through the help center, or take the time to read anything in Meta.3 It doesn't help that we're participating on a fundamentally non-objective, highly imaginative and creative site where popularity rules over conscientious judgement.

What do I mean by that? Over on Stack Overflow a question about programming might receive a dozen answers. Half of them will be duplicates of previously posted answers to the same question (because you can't even trust people to read through the answers already posted to a question). Of the remaining six, it's reasonable for people to judge and vote for the answer that represents the most effective or professionally implemented programming solution. In other words — incredibly objective questions get incredibly objective answers that are easily judged without emotion (aka, "popularity").

Over here, that's rarely the case. I've seen absolutely daft answers get the most votes because they were, for example, funnier.4 In an environment where popularity has so much influence, I'm not sure it's possible to achieve what you're asking for.

For example, the tag already states:

This tag should never be the only tag on a question, because this tag frames how a question should be answered, not the topic.

In other words, the OP is expected to provide one or more additional tags (and supporting information in the question itself) that help us understand what reality we're supposed to be using as a reference. As I mentioned in a comment to @Elemtilas' answer, the problem is that the OPs are asking questions with a ridiculous premise. Inevitably, what they think they want is "the most realistic dragon possible that could possibly evolve on Earth had Mother Nature just been accommodating."

In my humble opinion5, and contrary to what @Elemtilas suggested,6 the OP should be gently7 reminded that expecting us to create a scientifically-justifiable dragon is, actually, pretty much impossible or Mother Nature would have already done it. I suspect the OP really hasn't thought through the fact that what they really want is NOT a scientifically-accurate (e.g.) dragon, but a description that meets or exceeds suspension of disbelief, which requires just enough science to make the fiction consumable. In this way I'm not in disagreement with @Elemtilas — we really should be cutting the OP some slack and answering the question.

Finally, it is my observation that the quality of this site has dropped precipitously since the Monica Ciello affair and the resulting loss of so many moderators. My hat is off to @L.Dutch, who is a much nicer and level-headed person than I am, for doing a great job as moderator, but he appears to be acting fundamentally alone on a site that needs 2-4 more (MORE!) active moderators helping to remind people to follow the rules. People basically couldn't care less what help you're trying to give if you don't have a diamond next to your name.

So, the best answer to your question might actually be that we need more police officers moderators.


0And, if I want to be honest about it, I can remember when I first started using Stack Exchange and how I fought against rules I didn't understand, the development of which I didn't learn about quickly and therefore refused to respect. Candor mode off. And this is footnote 0 because it was added last and I didn't want to take the time to renumber them all.

1If you want proof of that, see my comment thread here.

2It doesn't help that we're living in a day and age where people actually think they shouldn't be judged for what they think, say, or do. My experience is that such people are the most judgemental in all of time and space... but that's another discussion.

3On a site where a popular question will be viewed by thousands of people, at the writing of my answer, this meta question has been looked at a whopping 36 times. Maybe one of the last wave of new users is among that count. Maybe.

4That question I referred to in footnote #1? That question was closed, then reopened, despite it being IMO a lousy question. But, hey, the OP got what he/she/it wanted, so who cares, right? There are days where this site is more like Reddit than Stack Exchange.

5I'm an arrogant cus on most days, so that's a perfectly sound statement for me to make.

6Which is really rare, because @Elemtilas and I usually think a lot alike when it comes to the operation of this site and its culture — but I'm not actually disagreeing with him. We really should give the OP much more of the benefit of the doubt and stop being science-Nazis about everything. I'll say that later in the paragraph. I don't like disagreeing with @Elemtilas.

7By "gently" I mean with a soft whack to the head with a 2x4. The loss of moderators has impacted the quality of this site a lot. I'll mention that, too, in a moment.

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  • $\begingroup$ this is why i suggest to change the reality check name into plausibility check or possibility check or believable check in the past. though some argue that it different to what reality check is. but from your description it seems to be plausibility check to me though. honestly reality check is confusing and the name it self is pretty close to checking reality which i dont think fit for fictional worldbuilding topic and i dont think thats what it is. $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    Aug 31 '20 at 6:17
  • $\begingroup$ @LiJun, I see your point, but the problem is that English is the de facto language of Stack Exchange, and in English, "reality check" has a specific connotation that most readily addresses the issue. Besides, changing the name wouldn't solve the problem because so few people take the time to become educated. Consequently, it's too likely to just muddy the water further. $\endgroup$ Aug 31 '20 at 7:00
  • $\begingroup$ so does that mean reality check is about checking reality? because when i google it thats the usual description of it, like this one for example "Top definition reality check: A word or phrase used to bring a person back into the life of those around them, sometimes used to smash hopes and dreams." and this one "Definition of reality check : something that clarifies or serves as a reminder of reality often by correcting a misconception" which i think what most ppl think off rather than the one in the description, at least for ppl that dont read the tag information or newbie. $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    Sep 1 '20 at 3:28
  • $\begingroup$ I'm sorry, @LiJun, but there isn't an argument here. If you want to post a separate Meta question asking that reality-check be renamed or that a series of reality-check style tags be created, you're welcome to do so. Just set your expectations appropriately. $\endgroup$ Sep 1 '20 at 3:45
  • $\begingroup$ iam not really argue though, just want confirmations since its confusing to me, since you at least knowledgeable about this stuff or involve alot regarding the rules here. beside i did already make that topic before, here should the name reality check change to plausibility check or possibility check? if you want to add your opinion or something, though i dont expect much, since i know i pretty much been treat like i overstay my welcome here. $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    Sep 1 '20 at 8:13
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We already have tags for this

The way I see it, this idea could easily be viewed as 3 common categories of question:

  • A person needs an actual creature that has actually lived to fit a need
  • A person needs an animal that maybe actually exists but has never been proven
  • A person needs help designing a fictional organism that evolved from a real organism

In the first case you would add the [earth] tag to indicate that you are asking about the Earth as it is, for the second case you would add the [cryptids] tag, and for the third case you would add the [earth-like] or [alternate-earth] tag.

So instead of having a bunch of tags about everything that could conceivably be Earth based, we just have tags for identifying any topic as Earth based which can be used in conjunction with other tags giving you things like [fauna][earth] or [alternate-earth][evolution].

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