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Sometimes I see an interesting and accepted answer that includes useful ideas on nuanced topics, but that (I think) ultimately has flaws that makes it wrong. I hope to learn the proper etiquette for handling such answers. I personally do not like downvoting if I think an answer contains some useful ideas, though I am comfortable commenting when I think there are flaws.

I see a couple of options. One is to open a bounty on the original question and specifically writing in the bounty description box that the current accepted answer is incorrect and giving detailed reasons why, and requesting an answer that resolves the incorrect features of the accepted answer. I am unsure if that that might be an abuse of the bounty system, especially as I'm unsure which bounty reason to use in that case.

Another option is to open a new question, following largely the steps above. That is, the new question would ask the same question as the original question, but with some additional paragraphs pointing out why the accepted answer to the original question was incorrect and specifically requesting an answer that does not make the same errors.

Another potential option would be to write an answer to the original question, but the trouble is, I often don't know the answer to the original question. I only have reasons without much evidence why I believe the accepted answer is incorrect.

I am likely missing other important ways to address incorrect answers to other peoples' questions, so please let me know of other methods.


As an example to make my claim concrete, Andrew's answer discussing the black hole information paradox is what I would call "includes useful ideas in answering a subtle question, but is ultimately incorrect." As I commented on the answer, the answer incorrectly assumes that the Hilbert space dimension of a set of degrees of freedom is the sum of the individual Hilbert space dimensions rather than their product, making the resulting claims suspect. There doesn't appear to be a simple way to remedy the answer, and this is not an area of physics in which I would feel comfortable making my own answer to the original question.

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  • $\begingroup$ (Is something missing near "I only have reasons"? For example, an adjective.) $\endgroup$ Dec 5, 2022 at 23:07
  • $\begingroup$ @PeterMortensen Thank you for checking. I mean that I have reasons why I believe an answer is wrong, but I lack the knowledge to give a correct answer. Please feel free to edit to make that sentiment more clear. $\endgroup$
    – user196574
    Dec 6, 2022 at 1:36
  • $\begingroup$ I made an attempt. $\endgroup$ Dec 13, 2022 at 19:14
  • $\begingroup$ @PeterMortensen Thanks. However, I do feel that my reasons for why I believe an answer is wrong are well-evidenced; it's just that I don't know what the right answer would be. $\endgroup$
    – user196574
    Dec 13, 2022 at 22:00

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The SE model allows anyone to answer a question. The intended way the site operates is that voting is used as the primary mechanism to decide what the community considers the best answer of those available. That does not mean an answer needs to be perfect or even entirely correct, but simply that it is the best of those available as far as the community is concerned.

So any individual who considers a particular answer wrong (in their opinion !) has limited options.

  1. They can vote down
  2. They can write their own answer
  3. They can make a comment asking the poster to address their concerns
  4. They can propose an edit to the answer (which can be rejected)

There is no obligation on the answer's author to respond to comments or agree with objections or proposed edits.

While you may feel that an accepted and/or highly up-voted answer is wrong in some way, this is a community driven site and it's a matter of fact that if you cannot persuade the community you are right and they are wrong then the site does not give you any right to force the issue based on your opinion.

You must ultimately accept the community decision to be yourself acting in good faith on the site.

In other words you are free to disagree with the community decisions (votes) and to state your objects in different ways, but you cannot reasonably force your view on other people against their will.

"Correct" on this site basically is highest voted.

Putting a bounty is an option, but perhaps not the right one here as you cannot control what answers are provided. You won't necessarily get an answer you prefer over existing ones.

Another potential option would be to write an answer to the original question, but the trouble is, I often don't know the answer to the original question. I only have reasons why I believe the accepted answer is incorrect.

Consider that the site does not allow for the kind of exhaustive examination of the fine points of any question and answer. By the nature of the site answers have to have some limitations and in general we're not aiming for perfect answers (although it would be ideal) but for "good enough" answers. In practice I think overall the various mechanisms of commenting and editing do allow answers to be very good more often than not.

It's an imperfect system (all systems are) but it's doing the job it was intended to do. It may simply not be the job you want it to do.

Although notionally SE aims to provide an accurate knowledge base, it's not ever going to be a definitive repository of knowledge on any subject.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you, this is a useful perspective. Would you view placing a bounty as an appropriate action given this perspective? Or would it be more in the vein of forcing the issue? You note that it might not get me an answer I prefer, but I don't mind reputation loss with trying and failing with bounties. $\endgroup$
    – user196574
    Dec 6, 2022 at 1:30
  • $\begingroup$ @user196574 I would view a bounty as being a way of saying "this question interests me, I would like a really good answer to this". You cannot "force the issue" in any way on SE as it is a community driven site and almost everything requires community consent. You cannot really "force" the community. A bounty might encourage one or two people to answer but don't assume it will. Don't forget you can vote up questions as well, which is a way of saying a question is useful. $\endgroup$ Dec 6, 2022 at 11:46
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You could downvote the incorrect answer, leaving a comment explaining why, perhaps even with a caps WARNING, if you want. This way, fewer people will be mislead by the answer, and you're more likely to get the OP's attention, who hopefully might be able to amend their post.

As comments might be easily deleted, a similar but more useful option than just pointing out the mistake is (also) posting an answer where you refer to the incorrect answer and try to sketch how its corrected version might look like.

Besides that, if you really can't answer the question yourself at all, I indeed don't see any other options for action but to set a bounty. As for the reason, certainly "Draw attention" is fine and even "Improve details" wouldn't be far off.

Re-asking the question sounds like a bad idea - even with good intent, it's still a duplicate, and it'll probably be closed.

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  • $\begingroup$ We have to include the possibility, that OP is wrong too, though. The problem OP presents is often the case with people who think only their view of reality is legitimate. Especially common as a result of the Dunning-Kruger effect. … This is why SE is designed on the basis of votes. … Which of course is a problem too because the masses by definition are not as clueful as the subset of them that is the experts. But at least it gets rid of the single point of failure problem of a powerful but not benevolent dictator from the subset that is the opposite of those experts. :) $\endgroup$
    – anon
    Dec 18, 2022 at 12:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Evi1M4chine True. In this sense posting an answer is the better alternative, since it also allows for downvotes, differently from comments. $\endgroup$
    – stafusa
    Dec 18, 2022 at 13:35

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