I've raised a question that was put on hold, here:
I wanted to post for discussion the reason the question was put on hold. I would preface that I don't want to offend anyone, raise defences, bring questions where not welcome, or rattle an apple cart. I'm not accusing anyone of doing anything wrong, or anything being out of line.
That said, I am having trouble understanding the nature of the rejection of the question, and would appreciate understanding the rationale, and I feel like that might be important for the community of users and potential users. Any insight shall be sincerely appreciated, but this discussion is not intended for my benefit, but for that of the community here.
The question I asked struck me as a curiosity. The physics were interesting to me so I napkin-speculated as to the answer but I did not feel myself competent to make any reliable conclusion.
I feel – and it initially appeared — that this would be a question appropriate for this site, and I was (and remain) open to whatever conclusion comes from the application of the physics to the data.
In other words, all I wanted was an answer to a relatively straightforward physics question that was beyond my capabilities – to learn something. Thanks to the answers posted (but since deleted), I did. Then the question was put on hold, and comments became what I perceived as speculative yet judgmental and hostile. This appears to be because the data and curiosity comes from the geopolitical event we call 9/11.
To explain the tangentiality of the relationship: The question I asked was and remains purely hypothetical, a timeless inquiry into the nature of the relations in the physical world; it has never mentioned or implied a relation to any events at all. That said, I made what was evidently the mistake of commenting on an answer that the reason I was asking was related to a thread on Skeptics.SE. Shortly thereafter I was accused of using the Physics site as a vehicle for linking to a WTC "controlled explosion" theory, whereupon I deleted my comment.
For completeness, from the Skeptics.SE sister–site here (where I, for what it's worth, enjoy a little reputation), shall summarize its content:
That theory in the linked answer on Skeptics.SE is not a conspiracy theory, in any defensible sense, as by definition a conspiracy theory attempts to find blame. The answer linked only indicates that there is evidence yet–unexplained by NIST, and posits an alternative (which alternative could very well be discredited, particularly by physics or engineering expertise). It is also not a conspiracy theory in the sense that it is readily falsifiable – potentially, it occurred to me, by way of an answer to the question I posted here. It also a genetic fallacy to conclude that by being from a so-called conspiracy one must dismiss the question as not being a curiosity of physics. Nevertheless, in spite of the logical fallacy and being semantically incorrect, the assertion that the question posted here was a conspiracy theory was evidently fatal to the inquiry.
I imagine that a question about another geopolitical event, like the Challenger disaster, would be perfectly acceptable, or similarly the same question in a different era or different country. Which makes me wonder, where does the condemnation and taboo come from? Certainly there are legitimate concerns if the question was unanswerable, vague or speculative, or the questioner argumentative or unwilling to accept answers that dismissed the theory. However, my question was easily and evidently answerable, and I am (and always remain) completely open to a credible conclusion.
The concern was raised on the comments that the question I posted here would become a conduit for a conspiracy theory, but the Skeptics.SE question is already quite popular, and in any case the link was in a comment to an answer – hardly a prominent exposure. It was certainly and apparently not the intention.
Which leaves me wondering what the governance and purpose of the site is. The tour says it's meant for asking about explanations of observed phenomenon. But that seems to not be adequate. There are contemporaneous and forensic observations of melted iron and steel found at the WTC site, and the question was presented as a hypothetical for possible explanations of that observed phenomenon.
The tour gives criteria for dismissal, such as being a homework question, outside mainstream physics, based on opinion, lengthy answers, or need for lengthy discussion, but none seem to apply. While being a homework question may be improper, the site itself states that it generally should not be a problem. So there's no apparent (or given) basis for dismissal, other than its relation to a geopolitical event, even though such dismissal is inconsistent with the values and rules espoused. Why bother having the rules?
It always struck me that this site could have questions that are beacons of sensibility, expertise, and (dare I say) sanity in contrast with an Internet chock full of unsubstantiated speculation. I would like to think that this site could discuss and bring illumination about events of importance, and so ideally "conspiratorial-type" questions would be not just permitted but encouraged precisely to debunk conspiratorial wish-wash. The answers I received were interesting and useful, precisely because. I wish this could be a place where I could ask more; there are criteria for dismissing bad questions but relation to a geopolitical event is not one — it is arbitrary, capricious, and fragile.
Should not the criteria for dismissing questions be independent of the origin of the curiosity causing the question and the source for the data? Is that not the essence of scientific inquiry, the critical distinction that allows intellectual curiosity to overcome rumination?
The above is all to say, dismissing the question I asked for the reasons given feels wrong – I clearly am missing something. I feel like closing the question necessitates employing things in opposition to ideals I believe are fundamentally good, such as:
- Engaging and involving those curious about physics;
- illuminating relevant details about important events that affect lives;
- honouring the rules of the site presented to the public; and
- linking to and building relationships with other StackExchange sites.
I feel the site is missing an opportunity for topics where illumination on the Internet is most wanting. I've always believed those with greater capabilities have a duty to those who do not to share their illumination, and this site could serve as a place for spreading knowledge about physics related to events that affect our lives. Otherwise, what is the point?
I am not trying to start an argument, upset the apple cart, or step into the unwelcome. I am not blaming or accusing anyone of anything, nor asking that the question be reviewed or re-opened, nor that any theories be reviewed or speculated upon, nor that any changes be made to the site, its governance, or its policies.
I don't need a response or to be part of a discussion, but I feel a discussion should be had because the criteria for closing questions seems to divert from reason and common sense, to include a taboo of things tangentially related to an important geopolitical event, even where such dismissal is contrary to the guidelines the site offers to the public.
Something about that doesn't sit right with me, and if this site and its community are important to you then this shouldn't sit right with you either.