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I do not know how to talk about it politely, please excuse my bluntness.

This question (Can gender identity exist in a world without gender roles?) is the perfect example that the WB.SE community ignores social sciences. Every single VTC'er who commented shows little to no familiarity with gender theory and academic research in the corresponding field. Every attempted answer uses notions of gender inconsistent with existing scientific terminology and methodology.

As the OP correctly pointed out in the comments this is a yes/no question that should be answered based on existing psychological and sociological theories of gender. Please note that the OP does not ask whether the world without gender roles is possible or how to engineer such a world. The OP states that in their world gender roles do not exist. And then asks whether gender identities can exist in such a world.

This question has one and only one correct answer that will be true regardless of the characters and their actions: Gender identities cannot exist in a world without gender roles (this is derived from the very definitions of gender, gender identity, and gender role). This answer also holds true for any setting and any species that have intelligence comparable to humans and social structures that enable the existence of social phenomena such as social roles and identities.

The concept of gender is non-intuitive and confusing, especially if one has no formal training in gender studies and/or related fields or has no personal experience with non-cisgender people. Moreover, the results of scientific research contradict common sense (because common sense is based on dominating cultural norms and stereotypes). One must adhere to science when evaluating questions related to gender and when answering those questions if they strive for high quality and objectivity of decisions and answers.

The question mentioned above is one of the most blatant examples of disregard for social sciences on this stack. But there are other questions that are treated in a similar way: The VTC'ers do not understand the theories behind the question (or applicable theories and frameworks), do not care about those theories, and often refuse to accept their existence if confronted. The questions are often labelled as opinion-based (aka not answerable with facts and citations) despite a huge number of academic papers that could've been used to substantiate an answer or 'Too Story Based' despite questions being theoretical in nature.

In my opinion, the current attitude toward social sciences in this community has a number of negative effects:

  • fewer questions about culture and society (WB.SE almost can be renamed into 'Fictional physics and technology');
  • creates a situation where those who understand social sciences have little interest in asking questions (because of low probability of getting satisfactory answers) and those who are not versed in social sciences cannot ask questions because they cannot write lengthy theoretical explanations that could help to avoid closure;
  • the potentially lower quality of fictional worlds created by the members of this community;
  • fewer specialists in social sciences who frequent the stack (which leads to low-quality questions and answers in the fields of humanities);
  • dissemination of falsehoods and stereotypes (a lot of answers to questions that involve humans and societies are answered based on personal opinions [speculations], common sense, stereotypes, and false assumptions instead of science and contain a lot of factual mistakes).

I believe that just the latter warrants the change of attitude toward social sciences. It is perfectly fine if the community does not want to deal with 'soft' sciences, but it is not fine to spread falsehoods. It is better to exclude all questions that are not related to technology and natural sciences than to continue as it is now.


Notes:

  1. This post is not an attempt to reopen the gender identity question. Please, do not explain why you think it should stay closed.
  2. I am not linking other questions because I do not want this discussion to devolve into a discussion of reasons for the closure of any specific question.
  3. In order to keep this post relatively short I had to omit a lot. Please, ask questions in the comments if you want me to elaborate on something in more detail.
  4. If you want a detailed explanation for the answer to the gender identity question, please, invite me to chat and I will do my best to provide it.
  5. I do not have access to statistics and I do not have time to go through all questions by hand, but it seems to me that 4-5 years ago when I just started using WB.SE there were more questions related to humanities than what we have now. This is my impression and it may be wrong. If someone has these data I would appreciate it if they could share them.
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  • 5
    $\begingroup$ I must admit to some confusion on the topic. As I've been educated to understand it, gender roles are a function derived from biological sex differences, whereas gender identity is psycho-social in origin and nature. Boundaries between definitions seem to differ between the UK education system and the US, and depend in part on who's speaking, and vary through time as awareness increases of the topic. Could we have clear and concrete resources to refer to - even just for the basic definitions, that would be a start. $\endgroup$ Jun 9 at 19:34
  • $\begingroup$ @ARogueAnt. You can start with Wikipedia for basic definitions, they aren't totally inaccurate. How gender, gender roles, and gender identity appeared is a topic of debate between different schools of psychology and sociology (and feminism, too). What is important is that everything 'gender' is social in its nature, regardless of the origin. Gender roles are social roles and can be seen as a behavioural aspect of gender. For this particular gender identity question, the most important is the relationship between gender roles and identity. And it stays the same whether you fancy... [cont.] $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Jun 10 at 1:50
  • $\begingroup$ [...] evolutionary psychology, social constructionism, or some other school of thought. Gender roles and gender identity are two aspects of gender that either both exist or do not exist. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Jun 10 at 1:55
  • $\begingroup$ @ARogueAnt. Forgot to mention that contemporary researchers do not always use gender roles and sex roles interchangeably (unlike Wikipedia). That would be a strict no with a number of my former colleagues and teachers who specialised in gender studies. The reason for this is that gender and sex roles may differ. One of my acquaintances has male sex and female gender identity, but they never transitioned and do not plan to, prefer women as sexual partners, take on male sex role in bed, and play male or female gender role depending on the environment (male at work, female with friends/at home). $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Jun 10 at 2:07
  • $\begingroup$ Well, I see that I'm going to need some time to look into this further and ponder... Organize my thoughts on the subject. It's an increasingly prominent issue that needs to be addressed with a degree of clarity and insight in order to effectively deal with it. For info, I err towards evolutionary psychology in my approach (unlike many UK psychologists who seem to omit the evolutionary part). Thanks for your detailed comments. $\endgroup$ Jun 10 at 2:18
  • $\begingroup$ I find it sad that gender theory is so quickly dismissed in this site. Many great and even seminal works of sci-fi do world building around it! The Left Hand of Darkness and The Forever War come to mind. I wish your question gets reopened, it's already got a few votes towards that. $\endgroup$ Jun 10 at 19:21
  • $\begingroup$ @TheSquare-CubeLaw Not my question, but I thank you on behalf of the original author. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Jun 10 at 19:29
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This has long been a problem on WB, and you'll see people vociferously defending the position, but frankly if you can't put "mad" in front of the discipline, it's not considered real science round here. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Jun 14 at 10:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Separatrix Actually, asking how to build a weapon of mass destruction based on the social sciences feels very James Bondish and might make a good question that fits our statistical norm. :-) $\endgroup$ Jun 16 at 1:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Separatrix I can see a mad sociologist being a brilliant villain. And quite scary. $\endgroup$ Jul 21 at 13:38
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Stripping away the red herring of "gender" as it is currently used in American culture (in particular), there are simply two issues at play here in this forum: "Story based" and "opinion based". I read through the comments to the original query and discovered that, unsurprisingly, these were at the heart of the VTC.

There is a bias in WB.SE, and that bias tends to favour queries that align more with hard SciFi. The basic assumption seems to be that a fictional world ought to work just like Earth, and that every question ought to be simply addressable by known science. This bias is not specifically against social sciences: there exist the same biases against magic, fantastic beasts, fantastic peoples, alternate & orthogonal sciences, supernatural realia, etc. Such questions are often met with outright hostility, as we could see in the cited example (being shut down for a spurious reason); but usually they're just met with dramatic skepticism of the "how will your dragon deal with gravity" sort.

The problem of bias here is twofold. One is that bias is brought in by the individual. Wherever there is a community of individuals come together for a purpose like ours (to help other people understand their fictional worlds!) these biases can not be avoided. The other kind of bias is that of the platform itself: SE makes certain assumptions about itself and writes into its constitution certain norms & certain protocols that simply don't work well with the fictional. This can not be avoided either: it simply falls to the community to continually renew awareness that this institutional bias exists and that we as members can't fall for it.

The best we can do, or the best I can do, is to review the underlying issues as matters of Stack Exchange protocol and realign them to fit the nature of the forum community they must be applied to. In so doing, perhaps those individuals who have such biases against social science or the fantastic will be persuaded not so much to jump on the bandwaggon, but to at least refrain from accosting those who would march in the parade!

Story Based. To review, there are (give or take) five elements to narrative: setting, theme, character, conflict, plot. The only part of that we deal with here in this forum is the nature of the setting --- the fictional world. The original query in question is not about a narrative. While it could be cleaned up, the question is clearly one of world and not narrative per se.

A lot of so-called "fuzzy" questions of behaviour, of psychology, of soft-science get closed for this reason. For clarity, unless the query specifically addresses theme, character, conflict or plot, it is not a question about a story. Leave it open or find a better reason to close.

Opinion based. I've been railing against this closure rationale ever since I started here a few years ago. To review, Stack Exchange the broad community is designed to be a place where a querent can ask a specific, focused question and get a coherent & fact based answer. This works great in Chemistry and Literature and English Usage and Physics.

Almost no question ever asked in WB.SE is actually fact based or even has one correct answer. Almost every question ever asked here is, actually, opinion based. It is the nature of fictional worlds and all things in them to be somewhat fluid, polyoptional and open to multiple interpretations. And it is the purpose of WB.SE to address the irrealia of the fictional, the fantastic, the mythic and the unlikely.

Summation. For our purposes, social sciences are no different than orbital mechanics or chemistry or geology. We need, I think, as a community, to learn to read a little deeper into a question. To find the question behind the question. We need to embrace these kinds of difficult questions; we need to engage our creativity and our imagination more than we need to exercise our VTC buttons.

When a question is clearly asking about character development or plot choices, when a question is clearly asking for a simple opinion from among several equal choices: please vote to close those!

When a question is clearly asking about the nature of the world itself or the nature of the people that inhabit it: leave the question open!

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  • $\begingroup$ I still think that distinction between world and story should be made based on approach rather than subject. Character, conflict, and plot can be approached from a worldbuilding perspective: Characters and their actions are always subject to world rules. An author striving for realism and/or world consistency should be able to ask questions that verify the plausibility of characters and their choices within the world. I cannot think about a good example for themes, but I am not ready to say that it is impossible to ask a question about a theme that would fit WB.SE. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Jun 10 at 19:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I concur that characters (individual people) and plot choices (people's actions) are subject to the rules of the world in question. That's why we happily accept queries about the rules of the world in question. Yet, we don't accept questions about developing characters or determining plots --- those aren't rules of the world. Those are writing questions. I'm more than happy to entertain a query about how many times a Dwarf will bounce in a low G world after he jumps off a bridge --- but don't come in here asking whether or not he should jump off the bridge in the first place! ... $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Jun 11 at 1:03
  • $\begingroup$ (cont) ... The specific point about verifying plausibility of some event is perfectly acceptable here. "I have a Dwarf character who's living on a low G world and he jumped off a bridge. Would it be plausible to write in my story that he bounced more times than he would on Earth?" is perfectly acceptable here, if a little plug the numbers into the equation oriented. So long as we don't have to consider options and alternatives to his actions. ... $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Jun 11 at 1:05
  • $\begingroup$ (cont) ... Literary themes are the underlying infrastructure of the narrative as narrative. Good vs Evil; coming of age; political strife; there and back again; adventure; romantic progression. Nope. Not here. That's what Writing.SE is for! Reason being, these are metaconsiderations that the author engages in outside of the nature of the world. I have my own fantasy world. If I consider writing a romantic progression story (girls meet boy, pursuit & courtship vs claim by capture, etc., etc.) that's not a function of the world. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Jun 11 at 1:12
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    $\begingroup$ Social rules and norms, geographical locations, upbringing, socio-economic status, available technology, and alike limit people's choices. All of these are elements of the world. IMO, it should be possible to ask a question about these limitations or verify that the choices an author has in mind are realistic. A white girl born and raised in the US today will have a very different set of choices compared to a white girl born in Ming dynasty China. Some options that are readily available to the former will be non-existent for the latter. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Jun 11 at 2:39
  • $\begingroup$ I understand what literary themes mean. And I still believe that they are important for worldbuilding. Your chosen theme or themes always connected to the philosophy upon which the world is built (every fictional world has a philosophical foundation even if the author does not realise it). I agree that this connection exists outside of the fictional world. But I bet that someone smarter than me can still come up with a valid question :) $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Jun 11 at 2:48
  • $\begingroup$ I concur on social rules, etc. Those, as we agreed before, are clearly "rules of the world". Questions about those things are fine. Questions about characters' motivations, thought processes, choices within those rules are not. That's storybuilding rather than worldbuilding. Situations like you specify are really more storybuilding, choices that the author makes independent of the world. Shall I write about a white girl in Ming China who does what's expected within that culture, or shall I write a story that deviates from the expected? That we don't deal with here. That's more what Writing.SE $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Jun 11 at 10:18
  • $\begingroup$ (cont) ... is for. I don't see much room for agreement re narrative theme. That's really above and beyond the world the story is told within. The philosophy upon which the fictional world is built is actually very much an appropriate line of consideration here! Or at least I'd argue such. That's process of worldbuilding. I'd really like to see more questions of this sort. But again, the "philosophy upon which the STORY is founded" is outside our domain. The STORY itself being one of good vs evil may be informed by the kind of world, but in and of itself is not important to the world... $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Jun 11 at 10:23
  • $\begingroup$ (cont) ... or the process of worldbuilding. That's a Writing.SE question. As always, if someone can come up with a valid question, I'd be all for it! Though I'd be willing to wager that if someone came up with such a question, it really wouldn't be focused so much on narrative theme as on the nature or rules of the world itself! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Jun 11 at 10:25
  • $\begingroup$ I'm wondering, if the girl, story-wise, takes a decision to go against the rules of the Ming Dynasty she was born in, like the dwarf made the decision to jump of the bridge, then... Wouldn't it be worldbuilding to talk about the most likely consequences of such act? Like the consequences of jumping of a bridge? $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jun 11 at 11:04
  • $\begingroup$ @Tortliena -- "Likely consequences", no. "Possible consequences", yes. Such a question would have to revolve around the laws, social customs and norms of a given society. The actual and specific consequences -- the application of those norms to the story -- are a matter of plot choices made by the author. In other words, questions about the rules of the fictional world are okay while questions about plot choices are not. I don't know how else to say this! Asking about the world is fine -- asking about the plot is not! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Jun 11 at 12:57
  • $\begingroup$ @elemtilas I was talking the "most likely" consequences as in to choose a best answer; Talking about possible consequences looks like you're admitting all of them. Ack, what an headache it is x_x... $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jun 11 at 13:01
  • $\begingroup$ Anyhow, I catch a glimpse of the difference you're meaning. $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jun 11 at 13:02
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    $\begingroup$ @Tortliena -- "Most likely consequences" I'd argue are no, because those are the choices that the girl and the other characters make in the story and their sequellae. These are the specific choices the author is making for the characters in order to advance the plot. Possible consequences are simply the list of what could happen in a given circumstance as a result of worldbuilding. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Jun 11 at 13:13
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH -- a) surely you jest? I don't think I'd be a good fit. b) It's an issue that simply can't have a proper resolution here in SE even if you've done a yeoman's job working on it! We've managed to fit the square peg in the round hole by redefining the meaning of "round", but ultimately, the issues aren't going away and neither is SE's underlying principle of fact based Q&A. Of course, neither are we (the forum, that is). So long as WB is here, the issue is going to remain an openly hot potato. I am considering some ideas for the Other Q&A Forum that may mitigate some of these issues. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Jun 16 at 1:56
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In general

There are many problems regarding social sciences (or sometimes people say "soft sciences") that we, people on WB:SE are facing :

First and foremost, they are often related to individuals, and as such tend to be quickly classified as "It's story based!". Thing is, social studies are about groups of people, not individuals. More on that further down in the example.

Then, they are often considered as "fuzzy", which lead to either "opinion-based", "need to be focused" or plain "off-topic" issues. That is, until you get statistics because there are recomforting digits there. Yep, it's more comfortable to evaluate if you have evident formulas and values to reliably relate to, unlike some weird words which are seemingly apparent to feelings. However, concrete data, accurate word usage, formula and experiment protocols exist in social sciences, but it's just not as evident or famous as the physics or maths you learn at school.

Finally and most importantly, because it's often talking about our daily lives, we like to see ourselves as the role of the "expert", which is a dangerous stance we all took once in our life.** It's not because you are doing something routinely that you know how all people do, and especially why anyone actually do that. Without having thoroughly studied a topic, you can only reasonably say you don't know, or give a self-related counter-example as to why something "can" be wrong. I stress that I don't mean "is wrong", but "can" be wrong. This point leads to many misunderstandings, in both the asker and the answerers as on how to present and tackle the problem.

Taking the related question as example

The question, while written out of good intentions, didn't manage to explain clearly the different elements consisting the issues they had. But it's totally normal, people who are facing gender dysphoria1 who are the most apt at seeing the difference, are often times unable to describe it. When talking about this topic, I often advise to clearly state every time what meaning to "gender" they refer to. So will I try to do here :

  • Assigned-at-birth gender : The easiest definition : what sex you were officially born with. It's whether you have XX or XY DNA, or most of the time which apparatus you had as a baby (not all cases of people having XY are assigned male at birth!).
  • Gender role : In and among the society, which main genders are there. While I cannot ascertain with 100% certainty, the gender role could be defined by a combination of physical traits (clothes, makeup...) and social norms, habits (how you interact with others) which help in defining one or the other gender. For transgender people, it's often what visible gender you "present as" to others, or (I dislike this term but it is often used) what you "pass as".
  • Gender identity : What you think you are. Do you think you are a female, do you think you are a male? Another gender or a blend of the two? It is a personal feeling, which is invisible for most people, but can be revealed by taking public actions which are not common for your gender (and not as a joke, too }i{). For instance, if you feel shame or lots of incomfort at the idea of wearing a dress all day at work in occident cultures, then your gender identity is a lil' more likely to be a man (It is not a certainty! It's a complex topic :) ).

As I reread the original question, there was a lack of prior-definition like above to help people understand what elements exactly makes the issue the asker was facing. In fact, the critical word gender was used as a shorthand for many definitions. That's why I asked in the bound discussion to detail what they meant, which they did to the best of their extent. This consequently led us to the 2nd issue and which A Rogue Ant sums up quite clearly :) :

Your edit seems to touch on fashion, more than anything which can be answered with an objective eye, can you clarify what it is you need to know?

Remember the "social sciences seem fuzzy" and "self-expertise" part? Well, We have fallen in these cases. We, as individuals, think that wearing a certain type of clothing is a subjective thing -with good sense-, and paradoxally, we know in most countries today, most men -the gender role- wear pants while women are more likely to wear skirts or dresses. Where lies exactly the subjective part? Not when looking at groups of people in the culture, it seems.

And that's the trap which is also my first point : You actually have the individual scale, and the society's one. The first one is subjective, the latter is objective. Even though people will do their own thing of their own free will, as a group their actions will move in average towards the same direction.

And it's something, we -the answerers- need to be careful of : Where lies the line between pure subjectivity (off-topic, opinion-based...) and objectivity? Are we talking about a whole society which moves in the same direction? If yes, then I'm more likely to declare it as on-topic. If it's only about one person, obviously no. A few peeps? You're right in the fog, so you should flip your tongue 7 times in front of your horse before pronouncing your sentence. Here, it becomes important to check if it's just a way to say things by giving an attracting personality to an otherwise random person in a group. Or... To check if it is so tightly tied to a series of events it cannot be considered as taking out a random group of people from the whole society.

Talking only about the on/off-topic problem, the question is on-topic to me since it talks about the whole society and is beneficial in improving one's world. It's a case where groups can be defined without the need to tell any story event, or in other words : what happened or will happen is not important there : It's about what people are.


1 Gender dysphoria : A discrepancy between what you feel as, and what the environment tells you you are, including your own body. It's often what transgender people feel or have felt.

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    $\begingroup$ Gender role refers to behaviour, not just physical characteristics. Women are expected to communicate in a certain way, to react in a certain way. The same goes for men: They are expected to demonstrate 'masculine' behaviour as defined by this specific culture. Gender identity can be psychological (self-identification) and social (social representation of gender). One can say that social gender identity is internalised and becomes psychological gender identity. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Jun 10 at 2:13
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    $\begingroup$ I agree that the original question is very lacking. However, the author started with the admission of their confusion and lack of understanding. This must be commended! It is extremely hard to admit one's own ignorance. They had the courage to come and ask for help. But not only they were discouraged they also got a number of incorrect answers. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Jun 10 at 2:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Otkin In my definition, gender roles encompasses "norms and habits", too :). It maybe wasn't top notch clear, so I'll edit a little. $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jun 10 at 6:46
  • $\begingroup$ Assigned-at-birth gender This is more correctly called "biological gender". Anyway, from a biological perspective, "gender" is a term whose definitions change in different contexts. An entomologist may refer to the gender of an insect, in which case it means biological gender. A sociologist, on the other hand, may use the word gender when meaning gender identity. But on its own, "gender" is ambiguous. $\endgroup$
    – forest
    Jun 11 at 1:12
  • $\begingroup$ @forest By the definition I use, not quite, actually. In purely biological terms you could still be an XY while presenting feminine primary sexual traits, and then it's getting chaotic really quickly :). Hence I much prefer speaking in more... hmm... "simple legal"(?) terms, i.e. the gender on your ID card and birth registry, the one that the doctor gives you by making a visual inspection. This one really matter for most people and plus, it's more relevant to the question. $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jun 11 at 1:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Tortliena Karyotype usually, but not always, implies the matching gender. $\endgroup$
    – forest
    Jun 11 at 1:36
  • $\begingroup$ @forest Yes exactly, it implies but not always. Therefore taking the simpler medico-legal term which is known in all the population is a better fit :). Not talking it's more transgender friendly, too : There, talking about assigned-male-at-birth/assigned-female-at-birth is more common than biological gender, the latter implying that you'll never get the biological gender your gender identity is (depressing), along with discriminations and confusion ("you're a female biologically, so why do you 'want' to be a man?"). Recall, we're talking social sciences here, not pure biology :). $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jun 11 at 1:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Tortliena I'm an (ex) biologist, so almost all of my exposure to the term is in the biological sense. That's why I always recommend people specify gender identity or biological gender, not not claim that there's one "correct" meaning of gender and one "incorrect" one. $\endgroup$
    – forest
    Jun 11 at 2:05
  • $\begingroup$ @forest And that's what I did by defining the variables, so where's the issue? $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jun 11 at 2:07
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    $\begingroup$ There's no issue. I like your answer and upvoted it! Just wanted to point out that "assigned-at-birth gender" is not as useful a term as "biological gender", which is shorter, more precise, and has less political baggage. $\endgroup$
    – forest
    Jun 11 at 2:09
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    $\begingroup$ @forest Strictly speaking, social sciences distinguish between biological sex (chromosomes) and assigned gender (whatever a birth certificate states) when talking about humans. This distinction is the most pronounced in gender studies, and especially strictly maintained in research related to intersex and transsexual/transgender individuals. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Jun 11 at 2:28
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    $\begingroup$ Please provide us with examples of substantive research in the subject - you seem keen to keep maintaining that there is research, please point us towards it. Frankly the Wikipedia article is worse than useless as it's mainly historic in nature and provides nothing concrete other than references to people's (apparent) opinions on the subject. @Otkin $\endgroup$ Jun 14 at 2:20
  • $\begingroup$ @ARogueAnt. That really hurts, knowing I contributed to wikipedia. Not that much on social sciences articles, but still... What do you want exactly? All the studies in all social sciences (I guess not :D)? Also, which wiki page are you talking about? Social sciences, gender ID...? $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jun 14 at 7:40
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    $\begingroup$ @Tortliena Snap, I've contributed there too, didn't know you had. Gender. I've suddenly realised that it must have looked like my last comment (querry) was directed at you, it was more at Otkin who's vocal on the subject. Forgot to "at" anyone. $\endgroup$ Jun 14 at 8:23
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    $\begingroup$ "You're right in the fog, so you should flip your tongue 7 times in front of your horse before pronouncing your sentence. " <- I'm unfamiliar with this colloquialism. Can someone explain what this means? $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Jun 16 at 14:22
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The answer is actually very simple.

WB.SE treats some social sciences, mostly new and unsettled, as non-existent because they don't exist. Or, better said, they don't exist yet.

Other social sciences, such as economics and, in part, sociology, which have produced widely read and respected books, can point to solid observations, can actually measure the phenomena which they study, are not at all ignored on this site.

A significant part of what is called social sciences consists of various culture-specific bodies of undeclared fiction; more in the nature of the lore associated with various fictional universes. What a specific culture considers to be "gender theory and academic research" is by and large unknown in other cultures. In particular, there is chasm between what those words mean in northern North America and what they mean elsewhere. (And another chasm between what they mean in Eastern Europe and what they mean elsewhere, and presumably another between what they mean in China they mean elsewhere and so on.)

The user base of this site is cosmopolitan. We come from all over the world. And we do not have a common body of knowledge of "gender theory".

Yes, there are dedicated people who are at work investigating those fields of inquiry. No, they haven't yet reached a point where a common body of knowledge has diffused throughout the world. This should not be seen as disparaging in any way; those fields are young, they are in process of accumulating foundational data; but they are important, and in the fullness of time they will become sciences.

Not to mention that the entire field of "gender theory" is exceedingly new. Unlike physics, or mathematics, or history, or chemistry, or economy, or even sociology etc., where one can profit from going to Archive.org, or Gutenberg.org and reading books written a hundred years ago, in "gender theory" one has to keep abreast of an ever changing, ever mutating, geographically diverse permanent revolution.

Google Books Ngram viewer for "gender theory"

Google Books Ngram viewer for "gender theory". As we can see, the phrase was basically not used before the late 1970s, and it only became mainstream in the 1990s.

The entire field of inquiry is less than half a century years old. How many truths could the researchers have established in such a short time? Are the truths they established in the 1980s still true in the 2020s? Will they be still true in the 2050s?

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    $\begingroup$ But does not the same apply to computer science, string theory, modern genetics, and similar new fields of study and research? Should WB.SE exclude those too? $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Jun 11 at 20:32
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Otkin: Computer science (= "informatics" in Europe) and string theory are subdisciplines of mathematics. Mathematics has a specific way of acquiring knowledge which involves proving that the newly acquired piece of knoweldge is true. Genetics is an experimental science; geneticists can point at reproducible experiments. No, genetics has not progressed to the stage of a nomothetic science; it is still in the idiographic phase: but at least it has an experimental base, and geneticists know a lot of specific facts, even if they cannot yet formulate a comprehensive theory. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jun 11 at 20:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Otkin: Note that I classified string theory as a subdiscipline of mathematics, not of physics. At present, the link between physics and string theory is fully vaporware. (P.S. For fun, look at the comparative Ngram for "gender theory" and "computer science" -- see how today "gender theory" has just reached the usage level that "computer science" had in 1960.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jun 11 at 20:43
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    $\begingroup$ Gender theory is a subdiscipline of sociology and psychology. Gender is also studied by neuropsychology. Are you suggesting that neither of those uses proper scientific methodology and conducts no proper experiments? $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Jun 11 at 20:46
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    $\begingroup$ @Tortliena: Linguistics is a hard science; nothing to do with social sciences. And I don't see why saying that certain areas of inquiry are not yet sciences is so controversial. They are young, they are in process of accumulating foundational data; they are important, and they will become sciences. (I work in IT. IT and Computer Science are different things. Big Data is basically sales speak for "buy lots of my equipment or services and we'll see later if they are of any use to you". AI is a large set of unrelated technologies, with a common goal but wildly different approaches.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jun 11 at 23:46
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP I think that you maybe do not realise it, but your answer pretty much states that most of what social sciences have is a huge pile of untrustworthy BS. And you reason that it is chiefly because they are too young, do not have unifying theories, and their findings are not popularised enough. I think that this kind of logic is faulty. New != false; fragmented != false; not popularised != false. There are so many new theories and discoveries in hard sciences that only a few specialists know and understand, but would you dare to claim that those are 'bodies of undeclared fiction'? $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Jun 12 at 6:03
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    $\begingroup$ @Otkin: It is not a "huge" pile. At present, it is a rather modest pile. Do you realize that this is a perfectly normal process? First, people identify a field of study and they grapple to describe the phenomena in that field. Then they try to understand them. Then they try to quantify them. In the process, they write entire libraries of untrustworthy bullshit. Eventually, there comes a moment when lucid analysis becomes possible. It took chemistry 2000 years to become a science; tonnes of untrustworthy bullshit were written during that time. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jun 12 at 8:03
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    $\begingroup$ @Tortilena: Some social sciences, mostly new and unsettled, are largely ignored on this site (and in real life). Other social sciences, such as economics, which have produced widely read and respected books etc. are not at all ignored on this site. I will edit the answer to clarify. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jun 13 at 16:25
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps presumptuous of me, but can someone point the way towards a couple of good-quality research papers (public domain) on the subject of gender-studies, It might help quite a bit. The Wikipedia article seems to include references to lots of books, all written before 2000, none of which I have access to at present. $\endgroup$ Jun 13 at 20:50
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP Having re-read the Wikipedia article, I'd say it's more akin to Kurowasawa's Rashomon than any scientific endeavor. Everyone has a point-of-view which they believe is the truth, and there is no established fact, not one, on the topic. Please, PLEASE, if any substantive research has been done on the topic - tell us where it is.... and how to find it. $\endgroup$ Jun 14 at 1:52
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    $\begingroup$ AlexP, do you have actual researchers - particularly those themselves involved in social sciences - backing you up in your perception of those sciences (or particularly gender studies) as not yet mature enough to produce reliable truths and working models? I am personally not qualified to consider interdisciplinary science validity on a deeper level than Mythbusters-esque "test => results" elementary understanding - so from my limited point of view, this discussion feels like one discipline considering themselves better than another. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Jun 14 at 19:58
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    $\begingroup$ @ARogueAnt. If you have time, please, take a look at this article. It is not about gender. It is a rather philosophical piece talking about the differences between natural and social sciences. I believe you should see it in order to understand why some of the works produced by social sciences (including gender studies) are so unlike papers related to physics, chemistry, or astronomy. [the comments are getting very long, I feel like I will have to write a proper answer to include all relevant information]. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Jun 14 at 20:21
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    $\begingroup$ @Otkin It's interesting and informative. A part of my mind wants to reject it out of hand, another part - the part that watches the clever corvids in the garden trying to mislead one-another when an easy food source is presented - I know what they're doing, but damned if I know how to frame it in a way that makes any empirical sense. I begin to see, thanks. $\endgroup$ Jun 14 at 20:38
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    $\begingroup$ Hoho, comment section is war zone between humanitarians and technokrats. Humanitarians as usual - "Mathematics has a specific way of acquiring knowledge which involves proving that the newly acquired piece of knoweldge is true." - sweeping this mountain, which is big as the planet, like nothing, like a speck of a dust. When it is the core of any science, part of scientific approach. When did psyhology become a hard science, it at the stage of alhemistry. Chemistry one would expect doing strong but it still in development and subject of it it is much simplier than humans, and more observable $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Jun 16 at 8:19
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    $\begingroup$ AlexP, do you have actual researchers - particularly those themselves involved in social sciences - backing you up in your perception of those sciences (or particularly gender studies) as not yet mature enough to produce reliable truths and working models? I am personally not qualified to consider interdisciplinary science validity on a deeper than elementary level - so from my limited point of view, this discussion feels like one discipline considering themselves better than another. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Jun 17 at 17:41
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@Elemtilas is absolutely right: this site is so hard-wired to the idea of in-real-life hard science that it eventually provoked my own complaint on meta (Real Life cannot be an overriding limitation on any question unless specifically requested). It's become so bad that perhaps we should re-open the discussion about the suitability of real-world questions on this Stack. I was a strong supporter back when the decision was made, but now that a few years have gone by, I can't but admit that in permitting them (ostensibly by requiring a worldbuilding context), we've encouraged the hard science bias that exists on this stack.

I'm going to offer some opinions about what I believe are the two predominant biases affecting questions about the social sciences and why they exist. These are my opinions. If you want to jump to my recommendations for how we can better support social-science-based questions, scroll down to the TL;DR: So, what can we do? section.

Hard Science Bias

If you'll forgive me, let me use one of your paragraphs to illuminate the nature of this bias.

The concept of gender is non-intuitive and confusing, especially if one has no formal training in gender studies and/or related fields or has no personal experience with non-cisgender people. Moreover, the results of scientific research contradict common sense (because common sense is based on dominating cultural norms and stereotypes). One must adhere to science when evaluating questions related to gender and when answering those questions if they strive for high quality and objectivity of decisions and answers. [Emphasis mine.]

Problem #1 is that gender is perceived as entirely intuitive and not at all confusing to most individuals. Attempting to convince someone that what they perceive to be so simple and obvious ("I'm a man... why aren't you?") is almost always perceived as patronizing. It's an emotional response that no amount of logic will easily dent. Add to this...

Problem #2: There is no scientific test (one that meets the fundamental requirements of the Scientific Method) that definitively identifies gender identity or preference. And yet people who are free to openly participate with any question are being asked to adhere to "science." This is the paradox that, in my opinion, most underscores the bias on this Stack in relation to questions about social sciences — or, more specifically, behavior.

I believe too many people, notably people who have not completed a college education in some scientific field, fail to realize that there are, for lack of a better way of saying it, multiple kinds of "science." There's mathematics, which people seem to believe is "as close as we can come to the handwriting of God," and chemistry or any similar science that can use the Scientific Method to follow the "if I can measure it, it's real" flow of reasoning are absolute. This, despite obvious weaknesses (like the necessity that mathematical simulation is only as good as the empirical measurements it's based on and chemistry only reflecting the materials we actually know about), these two "sciences" tend to be reasonably solid such that the average person feels comfortable trusting them even if they know nothing at all about them.

Then there's "scientific reasoning," meaning that testing is difficult because there isn't always (if ever) a causal effect that can be measured, which is the fundamental problem with associating the word "science" with "behavior."

Please don't get me wrong. I believe the dedicated study of human behavior is valuable and a science of its own — but I don't believe astrophysics understands everything about our own solar system, so when someone asks me to believe the science supporting behavior, I'm a born skeptic.0 And without that demonstrable, repeatable, "scientific" test that can definitively prove gender identify or preference, the "science" can have nothing to base itself on but behavior and people's opinions.

And the average person unpracticed in the art subconsciously knows that. The fields of the social sciences simply haven't been around long enough nor have a well enough established track record to convincingly educate enough people to raise them to the level of the so-called "hard sciences."

Hard science and soft science are colloquial terms used to compare scientific fields on the basis of perceived methodological rigor, exactitude, and objectivity.Roughly speaking, the natural sciences are considered "hard", whereas the social sciences are usually described as "soft". (Listen to the entire audio, intended for the blind, here)

Political Bias

But I believe there is another bias at work here. Call it a "political" bias. This stack tends to have a United States-centric culture. That's certainly inconvenient, but not surprising for a service designed and based in the U.S., which hosts the world's largest body of English-speaking people. As you consider that list I just linked, please note that the top five populations of English-speaking people are:

  1. The United States
  2. India
  3. Nigeria
  4. The Philippines
  5. The United Kingdom

I might be completely wrong, but I believe I can argue that the top four positions are held by some of the least social-sciences-tolerant English-speaking people on Earth. My point?

Expecting the average user of this Stack to accept the social sciences as a definitive authority concerning human behavior is asking a lot.

Do I wish it were otherwise? I do. But how to do it? Obviously, restricting user participation based on whether or not they are personally qualified and accredited to answer is quite literally antithetical to the design of Stack Exchange.

But it's also why down voting exists. To remind people that they didn't have the expertise to participate concerning a particular question. I can't speak for others — but I've had a few answers that I thought contained clever insight only to be down voted and proven in comments that neither the answer nor I were anything of the sort. As Winston Churchill is purported to have said, "Democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried."1

Every user brings the entirety of their behavior with them to this Stack. That includes their loves and hates, their political/religious/philosophical biases, their educational focus (and sometimes the lack thereof). And this, alone, underscores the difficulty of convincing the Stack to better accept the social sciences as authoritative.

TL;DR: So, what could we do?

Knowing perfectly well that the average user has spent little to no time actually reading the Help Center pages or any of the tag wikis... (And I wouldn't be surprised if 99% of the difficulties on this Stack boil down to that one weakness).

  1. I think a concerted effort to review our tag wiki names and pages concerning the social sciences is in order. It's likely that there are some tags that bridge between the soft and hard sciences. If so, those (hopefully few) tags should be redesigned to reflect hard- and soft-science personas. Those tags that are far too generic (I'm looking at you behaviour) should be seriously considered for burning and replaced with a (hopefully very small) set of more useful tags. Those tags that would be appropriate for questions concerning behavioral or social world building should have their wikis evaluated to be as precise and concise as possible with appropriate examples to help users who are not practiced in the art to better identify the expected direction for respondents.

  2. Knowing from experience how hard this next one would be: I believe it would be appropriate for someone like Otkin (someone "practiced in the art") to formulate a Meta chain that ends in a single post (like the "perfect question" chain did) that could become the authoritative reference for what our community believes "social world building" means... then have the Mods include "Society and Behavior" on the list of "Sample topics" found on the "What topics can I ask about here?" Help Center page.2 If someone is willing to take this particular project on (and if they do, they should hear from the Mods about their willingness to update the Help Center pages first), I would ask them to remember that their audience is NOT made up of people who understand the subject like they do and that the goal of this effort is NOT to bring anyone up to that level. Remember SE's "book rule."

  3. Finally, most stacks have "events" that promote some aspect concerning the use of their stack. We've had bounty challenges where we encouraged users to find questions to bounty to entice younger members to greater participation and we've also had the old fortnightly topic challenges. I believe AFTER the previous two steps have been taken that it would make sense to resurrect and/or create such events and use them to encourage users to focus on asking and answering social-science-based questions. During these events, mods and senior users would/should make a concerted effort to use the resources developed and improved in #1 and #2 to address the concerns of down voters and close voters and to help the community at large to better understand what makes a good social-science-based question and why they're valuable here.3


0I was once asked by a homosexual why I felt it was unreasonable to take his word for his sexual-preference? My response: If his word could be trusted to so great a degree, then there should be no need for adjudication in any case wherein he could testify as to the facts of the case. Was there no such need? The conversation ended very quickly. This is the basic difficulty of the so-called "soft" sciences: they're based on the observation of human actions, which can be motivated consciously and unconsciously by the subject. No matter how well set up the test and how well vetted the results, there's always a larger room for interpretive error than is found in the so-called "hard" sciences.

1What he actually said was, "Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…" (Source) My point with the statement is that SE is far too democratic for scientific consensus to be considered universally trustworthy, even on a Stack with the hard science bias this Stack has.

2Fair warning to whomever might take a shot at that... You need to develop a final text that is utterly and completely devoid of any effort to change the minds and hearts of the reader. Otherwise there's a proverbial 99% chance that the effort will entirely fail as emotions take precedence over intellect. The result must make an honest effort to educate, not convert. The ideal solution would be one that someone who lividly hates homosexuality (for example) could read and come away not only understanding how to ask their question, but willing to participate on the Stack without a bias carried from the page itself. I believe it can be done — but I'd be foolish not to wish any effort to do so the best of luck.

3Please, please, PLEASE do NOT jump straight to this recommendation! We need to make a serious effort to address issues #1 and #2 first so that we have an improved foundation to work with when we start moving forward with this.

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  • $\begingroup$ It's all fine, but... Can we reduce the number of parts in your plan? I think it's a good idea to bounce directly to part (3)! Just kidding-ading :p. More seriously I just wanted to point out that beyond English speaking countries, many other ones tend to be also social-sciences intolerant, so it doesn't help either. Still, with the energy -and more importantly patience-, it's one thing that can be turned around bit by bit. $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jun 16 at 13:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Tortliena Yeah, I get what you're saying. I believe it would be foolish to not at least try to do parts #1 and #2 - even if only to a degree - before trying part #3. This stack's definition of "worldbuilding" is narrower than other forums that don't have SE's parent perspective to deal with. That means we're more dependent on definitions than other forums. $\endgroup$ Jun 16 at 18:56
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    $\begingroup$ The "skip to part (3)" was just a joke because you pointed so heavily to not skip (1) and (2) x_x... I totally agree with you some groundwork is needed before laying out game events. $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jun 16 at 19:06
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$\begingroup$

WB.SE is a multi-disciplinary stack, but not evenly so

I just addressed a very similar issue here: https://worldbuilding.meta.stackexchange.com/a/8316/57832

The short answer is that WB.SE is a multi-disciplinary stack; so, what some people see as fact, others see as opinion. This is a problem regardless of what your background is, but I agree that we tend to have far more members who lack a background in social sciences than other areas which leads to more bad CtVs.

This does not necessarily make those CtVers in any way bigoted, it just reveals that they do not know enough about the topic to know when facts and research may exist.

The real issue with opinion-based close votes are that they are not a measure of how many people know the right answer to a question, instead they are a measure of how many people believe there is not an acceptable answer to the question; so, in many cases such as this, your CtVs are really just a tally of how many people don't know anything about the topic.

Since you don't know what you don't know, the only real solution here is to encourage people not to use "Opinion Based" close votes until AFTER several answers have already been given. In general, the only way to know if a question is actually opinion based is to let people answer it and see if any actual facts and research get brought up.

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    $\begingroup$ The whole point of close voting is to close questions as quickly as possible so as to not waste anyone's time. To delay VTC until after a bunch of answers have been given is antithetical to the ideal of a close vote process in the first place. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Jun 11 at 17:34
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings I agree, it's an horrible feeling to have to deal with a partially answered/closed question. However, this doesn't mean you have to close vote by your pure instincts if you don't know the topic :). $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jun 11 at 18:37
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    $\begingroup$ @sphennings That is very true of most close reasons (off topic, overly broad, inappropriate content, etc.). But opinion based closing is different. I can sometimes read a question and think of 5-10 answers with none being better than any other... but then someone else comes along with an 11th answer that is very clearly better than any idea that I could come up with. If I VtCed it right away, I would block the one answer that is not a waste of time just because I did not think of it 1st. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Jun 11 at 19:11
  • $\begingroup$ I have seen this happen more times than I can count, but without being able to answer the question, I can not prove that it has a non-opinion based answer; so, voting to re-open it rarely works. When I do VtC an opinion based question, it is because it specifically asks for an individualistic opinion "What is YOUR favorite color?", but most people VtC because of not having enough background to know that research exists on a topic; so, something like "What is the most calming color" might sound like it's asking for an opinion to a lay person, $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Jun 11 at 19:11
  • $\begingroup$ but a color theorist could provide research showing that pale blue is statistically the best answer. In this case I may VtC it after it gets a lot of opinion based answers so that the person can clarify what is being asked $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Jun 11 at 19:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki Whilst I get your point, from a neuro-chemical point of view, blue light increases allertness (comparatively recent studies indicate - contrary to the old ones). It doesn't detract from your point at all, just saying. I guess, my point is not all may have access to the most recent research, and some studies disagree, particularly when it comes to people as there are so many variables to control for - a well defined context is less likely to produce opinion-based answers. $\endgroup$ Jun 11 at 20:21
  • $\begingroup$ @ARogueAnt. I completely agree that well-defined questions are better and easier to answer. However, WB.SE is not meant to be a place where professionals engage in Q&A sessions on topics of their expertise. It is a place where people come for help. They ask questions precisely because they do not understand something and, IMO, it would be wrong to expect them to be able to come up with proper and full definitions. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Jun 11 at 20:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Otkin In part, that's what we use comments for, to ask for clarification from an OP if the setting or purpose isn't clear, many OPs are only too willing to fill-in the details, perhaps because they genuinely come with the purpose of creating a plausible setting. The most successful "could have been closed" questions are ones where the OP hangs around and edits in response to the comments, but when they don't then what option is there but to close or allow a swath of potentially unhelpful answers to be posted. Same issue with the post-and-run questioners, only returning days later. $\endgroup$ Jun 11 at 20:38
  • $\begingroup$ @ARogueAnt. You do not know what you do not know. It is extremely hard to provide clarifications and properly ask for clarifications if your knowledge of the topic is not deep enough. I am sure you can recall a question or two where people asked for completely unnecessary details and the original query ended up being even more muddied than before. That being said, I agree with you on many points. However, I think that we should be more lenient in our judgements, especially when we see that the questioner does not have full command of the topic. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Jun 11 at 21:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Otkin SPeaking for myself, I agree. There have been times I've not known how to help a questioner for various reasons, not the least of which is my lack of knowledge. I've seen people ask, and then some time come back later having refined their own approach because they've learned more about the subject and know better what and how to ask. It's important to not discourage people in our attempt to "keep-up standards" cont... $\endgroup$ Jun 11 at 21:21
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    $\begingroup$ Cont... - it's easy to become jaded and forget that after too many review queues of LQ posts and carrying with me the mindset from one of the more strict sites like Skeptics with its more rigid requirements, that can bleed-over onto WB if I'm not mindful. I'll remind myself "lenience" from time to time. Perhaps we all should. $\endgroup$ Jun 11 at 21:21
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    $\begingroup$ This is good answer and good strategy which I advocate as well $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Jun 16 at 8:25
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In my opinion, Worldbuilding SE suffers a little from the opinions of those who are not experts in any number of fields in which questions require an expert opinion, who do not recognise their lack of expertise. This problem is not limited to the social sciences.

Anyone can vote on any question or answer, or vote to close, regardless of their understanding of the question. It is all too easy for someone without expert knowledge of the subject of a question to feel that a question is poorly asked or incapable of a definitive answer, because to them, it is so... even if to an expert, their judgement is incorrect.

As an expert in certain fields, I have personally seen excellent questions being downvoted and voted to close simply because those so voting don't seem able to understand that to someone with my expertise, they are eminently answerable and specific.

This is a fundamental flaw in the SE Q&A format, and particularly prevalent in WB SE, where the range of subjects and areas of expertise is very broad. The only solution to this problem is for genuine experts to comment, saying why a question being downvoted and/or VTCed should not be closed, or to flag closed good questions to the moderators to be reopened, with an explanation of why the community may have got it wrong. That's why the moderators are here, as much as to clean up the messes that public sites inevitably collect.

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  • $\begingroup$ You are correct, the problem is not limited to social sciences. However, can you name fields of expertise, other than social sciences and humanities, that require not only to bring appropriate theories and relevant papers but also prove their (fields') legitimacy and validity of their research? Also, if commenting worked I would not raise this question on meta. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Jun 21 at 1:02
-1
$\begingroup$

When I wrote my initial query my thoughts on the status of social sciences on WB.SE were close to the Nosajimiki's answer, specifically this part:

This does not necessarily make those CtVers in any way bigoted, it just reveals that they do not know enough about the topic to know when facts and research may exist.

But after reading some of the posted answers my opinion changed. This is not entirely a case of ignorance. At least some part of the community (hard to say how big this faction is) has a very specific attitude:

I am not sure if anything can be done or said to change these attitudes.

Instead of engaging in a philosophical discussion about epistemology and methodology of social sciences, let me propose a rather simple solution for the VTC problem: Intellectual humility. There are only a few steps:

  1. read a question (the entire question);
  2. make sure that you did not miss anything;
  3. if you do not understand the question or you doubt your expertise in the relevant area(s) do not vote (use Skip button if using review queues).

I think that it is a better solution than the ones proposed by other participants of this discussion because it is more universal and can be applied to every single question on this stack. It also does not require anything but a tiny bit of conscious effort.

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    $\begingroup$ Speaking personally, I've always used the skip button more than the other options. (Mods, please check the database to confirm my veracity). I'm afraid I won't use Wikiwand as it breaks UK data protection laws, so I've no idea what that definition is. $\endgroup$ Jun 18 at 3:08
  • $\begingroup$ @ARogueAnt. I did not know that about Wikiwand. I will look into it. I changed the link for you. I also found a couple of articles that might interest you. Collins about high consensus, rapid-discovery disciplines. It is a very interesting read, imo. Haack on social sciences. Haack is a well-known philosopher of science. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Jun 18 at 3:15
  • $\begingroup$ To be fair, most sites either break the law or come close, stack-exchange itself is currently "just tolerable" in my view., but they're veering away from the straight and narrow. (The key being of single-click-opt-out of invasions). Thanks again for the reading material, it may be a while, but I'll get through it. $\endgroup$ Jun 18 at 3:22
  • $\begingroup$ The problem is that "smarties virtues" tend to happen when you're either at a good enough knowledge to evaluate or you're totally unaware of the subject. As you learn a few things, you quickly become overconfident in an ocean of subtilities and unknown. I think it's called the Dunning-Kruger effect or something equivalent. $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jun 18 at 12:01
  • $\begingroup$ So... the solution is to expect everyone to admit they're out of their depth and not answer? How do you propose to inform people of this decision? Only a fraction of the users participate on Meta and I'm not sure the Help Center's How to Answer page is editable by the Mods. Keep in mind SE is a service that encourages people to answer questions regardless how much or little they have to offer. $\endgroup$ Jun 18 at 13:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Tortliena I completely agree with you. However, I hold a strong belief that most users of this stack are reasonable people who are capable of a tiny bit of self-awareness. I also believe that it is much easier to promote values of intellectual humility than enforce new rules. An additional benefit is that we will not need to engage in arguments regarding social sciences and their subject matter. Scientism is very similar to religions and I do not participate in religious debates in principle (this is the base for my bias against some of the proposed solutions). $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Jun 18 at 19:15
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$\begingroup$

What kind of remedy do you propose? That WB require members to ask questions about topics that are important to you? Will there be quotas?

Members ask about the topics they want to ask about.

I'm personally frustrated by how much of modern science fiction simply transplants contemporary geopolitical facts and lifeways into some cosmetically futuristic setting, but I can't force authors to spend the time and energy necessary to develop a vision of society that is thoroughly, coherently altered by speculative technology.

I'm also frustrated by how many questions seem to be transparently derivative of modern vampire rape-fantasy trash, but there's nothing I can do about that, either.

People ask about what they choose to ask about. And answers will get downvoted that fail to engage with the meat of the question as asked.

I studied feminist film theory in college. I'm not an expert, but if someone were to ask a question that implicates the male gaze or gay labor, and if I see that question, and if I'm intrigued by the specifics, I'm happy to rattle off the things I know, hunt for relevant references online, etc. But I can't make them do that.

I'd love to see someone take a run at Asimov's Foundation. I'd love to see someone poking around topics like weaponized sociology. But I can't make them do it.

Frame challenge

Maybe the reason people don't ask the questions you want as often as you see fit is that, despite the ascension of vicious Libertarian anti-education dogma, people still get exposed to this a lot in their lives and education: from thoughtful (overworked, underpaid) teachers; from broad-minded parents who believe (rightly, I say) that their children are more likely to thrive if they can grow even moar broad-minded; from their friends; from the many eloquent social progressives in the arts and social media; from stand-up comics who, per Minsky, collect and catalog markers along the boundary between reason and unreason.

Maybe it's so ubiquitous in their lives that they don't think it's problematic or even interesting.

Let's lay the groundwork

I don't think this will have any impact, but if there's anything trusted SE community can do easily, it's to prepare the way by creating appropriate tags (with quality descriptions) for:

  • each of the social sciences;
  • the key theories, tensions, and problems each science is concerned with;
  • perhaps (if appropriate), landmark findings or experiments (e.g. Milgram)

I dunno. Go wild.

But the bottom line is that posters have free will, and evidently they aren't brought here by the topics you think they should be.

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    $\begingroup$ I think you partially misunderstood the problem Otkin is worried about, which are the numerous votes-to-close (#VTC) on social sciences questions which have been posted. Yet, I don't mean you're wrong : If we could sort that out (your solution and the original question issue), and make an easier time introducing -instead of putting off- new members interested on these topics, we'll have more questions and answers. $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jun 15 at 14:22
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    $\begingroup$ @Tortliena On a second reading, I think you're right. Tonight, I'll take another run at engaging with OP's actual concern. Thanks for alerting me. $\endgroup$
    – Tom
    Jun 15 at 19:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Tom Your hostility is completely unwarranted. I would rather see no questions related to social sciences than see how they are handled now. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Jun 15 at 20:30
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    $\begingroup$ @Otkin Wait until they reformulated their answer. I kinda understand your animosity, but if there is a quiproquo, you should weigh it knowing that people, given a "why" question, tend to answer with reasons to "why it is", rather than "why it isn't". A sort of mix of forced choice false dilemna and social pressure, I guess ;). $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jun 15 at 22:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Tortliena I am very old-fashioned. I still hope that people read more than headlines. The question in the title is actually rhetorical. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Jun 16 at 8:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Tortliena if you think that "numerous votes-to-close (#VTC) on social sciences" is exclusive to it then no, wb has a bigger issue and closes good technology questions as well. This one is good, I think, lol. It can be, btw, technological counterpart of the q in discussion. $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Jun 16 at 8:37
  • $\begingroup$ Even if the A does not adress OP's q directly, it does so indirectly. People ask questions which they can get answers here. And q's asked attract people who interested provide answers for the - this is feedback loop. And what's outside it at mercy of random. WB has bigger problem - not knowing its ourpose in life, it is not giving butter, but to help people to make better works with help of science. And Tom got it at the root of the issue. $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Jun 16 at 8:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Tortliena. Before we get to seriosly deciding OP asked stuff, WB has go back to basics and straigten things. We need to make better use of not so suitable se framework/mentality(for purposes of WB) to organize things - idk maybe RFC like approach on meta, was good to build this internet, may be sufficient for us as well. $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Jun 16 at 8:48
  • $\begingroup$ @MolbOrg This all might be true, but then answer it with your own answer that the problem touches all domains and not just social sciences -with solutions-, or post a new topic explaining the problems you're facing with WB:SE in overall :). Just remember that we cannot solve all problems outside WB:SE, only what is in it and outside (very) indirectly through its use. Trying to make more people work on social sciences when worldbuilding everywhere and everywhen is out of scope for instance. $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jun 16 at 10:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Tortliena Someones problem may be ones you interested in, same elefant just different angle. OP tries to identifythe problem, and that is rigth couse of actions. This answer and JBH, elemtilas, Nosajimiki - they all touch that elephant. As for my meta posts I have some, but also I wait until situation ripes, seems people start to notice things, a few more years maybe, lol $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Jun 16 at 12:24
  • $\begingroup$ @MolbOrg I'm willing to read that it's tiring to do something or you're not interested in that, but it's self-contradictory to show interest on a topic then throw it all away saying it can "wait a few years". You do know issues will never get revealed and solved if nobody talk about them, right? Unless you're doing some under-the-table manipulations, which is really kind of mean to the others. $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jun 16 at 14:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Tortliena I'm very open person, I say as it is, it just there ismore of what it is than fits in a comment. U reading too much, and let acentuate it - u on your own created a contradiction and set me on the road to be world evil becuse of that, lol, I wish I'm be more capable to do manipulation under or over table I do not care. U talk as if problem is new, loook at my meta posts, there is not many of them, U smart enough to resolve your own contradictions, I believe in you, lol. There is also few funny results if you search my nickname on meta, just discovered, lol. Looking forward what u w s $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Jun 16 at 15:35
  • $\begingroup$ @MolbOrg Your point of view I guess. What contradictions are you talking about? To avoid annoying the poor Tom, let's disccuss it in chat. $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jun 16 at 15:52
  • $\begingroup$ @MolbOrg I started this discussion because I have questions that I want to ask. However, I do not want to spend time and effort painstakingly conceptualizing and wording them just for them to be closed and for me to be insulted in the comments. I also do not wish for anyone else to have the same unpleasant experience. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Jun 17 at 2:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Otkin your asking expirience does not look that bad, I would say 4 times better than mine, lol. There always will be some borders and territory with higher risks. But I do agree that wb should develop certain positive habits to make it overall less unpleasant. One of which do not vote for q which you can't answer(or before there are answers to it, etc). That one closed q of yours I also though, hm hm what it does here, but Nosajimiki answer absolytley made sense of it, providing interesting answer from which author could benefit greatly with fidelity of details. $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Jun 17 at 15:56
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$\begingroup$

Because for all intents and purposes on this site, they are.

For better or for worse, most wannabe sci-fi or fantasy authors (i.e. the kind of people we generally see here) assume that the next blockbuster they (imagine they) are going to write has to have something unique and special about the sci-fi or fantasy in their world, in order to be a blockbuster. And while it's true that a unique attribute is a good hook due to the novelty factor, it's also true that novelty is fleeting and as such, a poor substitute for a well-thought-out and compelling world.

Unfortunately, most people never get past that first self-imposed hurdle, so they never get to the point where they need to seriously think about how beings in their world interact. And if they do get to that point, most are still too preoccupied with their Unique Selling Point, or too inflexible in their thinking, to do anything more than replicate the current societal norms they're most comfortable with into their story. So they're never going to post questions about society-building here.

But let's say you do have such an author, who's thought long and hard about how to create a society that's relatable, yet sufficiently different to provoke readers to reflect. Such a person is almost certainly going to do their own research on how to create this societal difference, in the course of which they're almost certainly going to come across the sex vs gender conundrum... and the minefield of, let's just say, sensibilities around it.

Given that minefield, I personally would be very hesitant to post anything about that topic. Why should we assume that our hypothetical author would be any different, i.e. why would they ever post a question here?

In short, if you do ever get far enough along in building your world to the point where you're ready to ask such a question, you already know enough to know that asking such a question is likely to be A Bad Idea. Thus, such questions are self-selecting to never be asked, here or anywhere.

And that's a crying shame.

$\endgroup$
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  • $\begingroup$ Like I told Tom, I think you partially misunderstood the problem Otkin is worried about, which are the numerous votes-to-close (#VTC) on social sciences questions which have been posted, rather than the ones which never get posted. Though, contrary to them, I don't exactly agree with you. If this "minefield" as you like to say -you reuse the term even though you say you'll use sensibilities- is bothering me, I'm more prone to tackle the problem head-on than staying mute on something which would be important in my world. Which the presented question did knowing they didn't have all the keys. $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jun 16 at 7:39

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