Okay, so we have the question VTC reason of "we deal with mainstream physics..." yadda yadda yadda. And everyone is grateful for it. But what about answers? Surely everyone would agree that we don't want to see someone answer a valid question with non-mainstream physics and/or unpublished (crackpot) personal theories even if they are an attempt to answer the question. At the moment, we can and do severely downvote these answers, just like when a question like that is posted. But we have no analogous VTC reason for answers.

When answers that are clearly non-mainstream have popped up, I sometimes custom flag them for mods with a statement like "This answer should be deleted due to the 'non-mainstream/unpublished theories' reason". And usually, the mods will delete the answer fairly quickly (thanks mods :D). But when going through the VLQ review queue, the reasons listed for recommending an answer be deleted don't include anything even interpretable as "non-mainstream/unpublished theories". There is also no specific flag for this reasoning.

So if we're okay with this kind of answer being deleted, should we formalize this? Add the "We deal with mainstream physics....." reason to the VLQ queue list? Or at least a separate flag for it?

Or maybe, this might be an example of a case where we're doing what we shouldn't? Should we just be downvoting these into oblivion? Is deleting even the right action?

Personally, I'm in favour of deleting these answers. They may attempt to answer the question, but we don't allow non-mainstream questions and so we shouldn't allow non-mainstream answers. I'd be in favour of adding a flag option and a recommend deletion reason to encompass this phenomenon. Otherwise, to delete these posts we'll be stuck with just bugging the mods with them all the time. Don't get me wrong, non-mainstream answers are the primary reason I think I even have a chance at the deputy badge. But I'm willing to give that up because I think we need an easier and more formalized way of removing these answer that (I think) everyone wants removed than bugging the mods.

But what about everyone else? Yea/Nay on deleting them? Yea/Nay to new flag option? Yea/Nay to new deletion reason in VLQ queue? Other suggestions/ideas?

  • $\begingroup$ The system doesn't have a way to tweak answer deletion reasons, I'm afraid. VLQ is good enough, or a custom flag. Or both if you want to see it disappear quickly :) $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 9, 2014 at 18:06
  • $\begingroup$ Okay, but what reason do we give in the VLQ queue then? No comment? Hardly seems fair to the poster. And every other reason doesn't quite fit. $\endgroup$
    – Jim
    Commented Aug 9, 2014 at 18:14
  • $\begingroup$ Hm, right, makes sense. Probably should feature request custom VLQ messages or something (on Meta Stack Exchange, maybe?) $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 9, 2014 at 18:25
  • $\begingroup$ Woah now, you're talking about the big leagues. I don't know if I'm ready for that. I don't know if I even understand the feature I'm proposing well enough to propose it there. I mean, we understand the problem and what we'd want, but some of the context might be missing on the mother meta $\endgroup$
    – Jim
    Commented Aug 9, 2014 at 18:30
  • $\begingroup$ Hm, perhaps a separate post here detailing the reasons behind it (or edit this one)? The devs do look at feature requests on all metas. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 9, 2014 at 18:59
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps that could be an answer? Because I have no idea what, beyond what I have written, would be needed in such a feature request. But I imagine that such a request would still function adequately as an answer to this post $\endgroup$
    – Jim
    Commented Aug 9, 2014 at 19:14

1 Answer 1


It's not possible to change the flag/VTC reasons, other than the few custom reasons that appear under "off topic" (and that's only for questions). I mean, it would be technically possible, but the feature doesn't exist in the SE system. So I think we can safely conclude that adding a custom flag reason to catch non-mainstream answers won't happen.

We have an FAQ post specifying that non-mainstream answers should be deleted, so if you see one, you can just flag it. According to our guidance on flag use, a custom flag for moderator attention is the one to use for a non-mainstream answer that legitimately attempts to answer the question.

Sometimes it can happen that a person posts an answer which promotes a non-mainstream theory but is utterly and obviously unrelated to the question, and in those cases flagging as "not an answer" is fine.

Incidentally, I don't like the idea of deleting non-mainstream answers; I don't think there's a clear line between "non-mainstream" and "wrong", and the latter is definitely supposed to just be downvoted. But that's just me.

Also, the reason you can't carry over the reasoning from questions ("we have a non-mainstream close reason, why not delete non-mainstream answers?") is that, first of all, answers are not questions. They fill different roles in the site and there's no reason to expect the same sets of rules to apply to both. Beyond that, our non-mainstream close reason is mostly meant to curtail a specific kind of request: that where someone posts their pet theory that is going to overthrow relativity (or whatever) and challenges us to find something wrong with it. Requests like this are a drain on the attention of professional physicists and grad students (check your spam folder :-p), and we don't want to entertain them on this site.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ "Clearly, this is only an issue for questions, not answers". Actually, the non-mainstream answers I had in mind exactly fit you description of pet-theories. I've seen several occasions where an old question will get an answer from a new user that is a long-winded explanation about how that question can easily be answered by their new theory about how black holes are really God's french toast and that everything anyone else says is uncreative minds failing to recognize the truth. $\endgroup$
    – Jim
    Commented Aug 9, 2014 at 23:02
  • $\begingroup$ I can't offer examples because they've all been deleted $\endgroup$
    – Jim
    Commented Aug 9, 2014 at 23:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Jim I doubt the answers you're thinking of fit my description of asking us to critique the poster's pet theory. If they do, then yes, it was appropriate for them to be deleted, but for the reason that they are not answers, not for the reason that they involve non-mainstream physics. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Commented Aug 9, 2014 at 23:41

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