# Is scientific rigour required in our answers?

Question: When a question/answer has a valid argument, but uses false statements to make the point (a famous example might be the "air above the wings has to travel a longer distance, thus is faster" -> is indeed faster, but the argument used to explain why is wrong), should we, as a community, demand that question/answer be edited (eventually forcing an edit) or we accept that the false argument stays and eventually we simply leave a comment about it?

There could also be a more extreme version, eventually to be used for extreme cases (like the famous one cited above, maybe), were the question/answer is deleted until edited (and this would require a specific motivation in the delete motivation).

Note 1: Please consider that this would have also applied to some of my answers in the past (e.g. this delete one), I am not free from error.

Example: This question is inspired by (but most definitely not limited to) this answer and this former discussion about standards. I will try to break it down as much as possible in the attempt of avoiding uncomprehension.

It contains the following claims:

1. Look at birds: They use two different wingtip designs. I guess we will both agree that those designs are mature after millions of years of evolution.

2. Nature never developed winglets, despite their advantages?

where the first assumes that the nature's wing design cannot be improved and the second is a rethorical question that begs the reader to answer "obviously it did not develop because disadvantageous".

These are wrong because:

The current structure [of the wings] may be the best that has evolved by natural selection so far but that does not mean the wing cannot be improved further.

and

The logical assertion "winglets have not happened in a long time, therefore they are not advantageous" is incorrect. It is possible for an advantageous trait not to evolve even when advantageous. [...] This does not say anything specific about winglets, just about the general argument.

In engineering terms: evolution may find a local minima, is not guaranteed to find the global minima.

There are plenty of good scientifically accurate reasons to demonstrate that winglets may not be the best solution in all cases, do we have to resort to false statements and to logical fallacies?

Note 2: I hope that is clear from the above that my concern is related to the biology side of the argument. Before the discussion happened I indeed though that winglets could be a pretty good solution, I now see how, as always in engineering, it heavily depends on the conditions applied on the boudary of the problem.

• What response or action do you feel is necessary here that isn't already possible via voting and commenting? – Pondlife Sep 16 '14 at 14:50
• @Pondlife editing away the parts that do not respect the standards. – Federico Sep 16 '14 at 15:13
• You can already do that if you have edit privileges, although someone else may revert the edit. Obviously you disagree with the answer you quoted, but I'm a bit confused about why you feel that it's worth singling out specifically: it has only one upvote and there's an accepted answer for the question with 8 upvotes, so the system seems to be working as designed to promote the most useful answer. – Pondlife Sep 16 '14 at 15:39
• @Pondlife because 1.- I feel that an edit of this proportion on someone else's post is quite aggressive (and that's my problem, I know) 2.- I do not know if the post has +1 score because of me "singling it out" or not, I do not have a "what would have happened if I said nothing" case for comparison 3.- it is simply the first time I encounter this, depending on what the consensus will be I will simply refer to it next time a comparable situation arises. – Federico Sep 16 '14 at 15:43
• Major edits are fine in theory because the OP can just revert them if he disagrees. But personally I would hesitate to do it because it's very likely to change the meaning of the answer and if I feel strongly that the answer is wrong then I'll just post my own answer and let the community decide. I don't want to casually dismiss your concerns, but I'm still struggling to see any real issue here other than that you disagree with someone else's answer. AFAIK there are no accepted standards on this site that would make the answer fundamentally unacceptable to the community. – Pondlife Sep 16 '14 at 15:55
• @Pondlife please read the note: I agree with the answer, I do not agree with the argument. AFAIK there are no accepted standards on this site that would make the answer fundamentally unacceptable to the community and that's why we ask meta question. – Federico Sep 16 '14 at 15:59

Our aim should be

Science when talking about science - accuracy otherwise.

We are not a scientific journal, we shouldn't be backing everything up with peer-reviewed papers: sometimes the answer is "good enough" at a much less specific, proven stage.

In your example, I don't see any incorrect claims: Winglets are mature... they are not perfect, nor are they even close to being an apex design, but they have been developed sufficiently long to be effective, understood and used in a useful way.

As the example itself states

"Why is there not one, mature design?"

We should aim to answer the question accurately, without making false claims, and with enough detail to answer the question.

• Winglets are mature... they are not perfect read the example again, you'll see that "mature" is used as a synonym of "perfect", i.e. it is implied that they cannot be improved. – Federico Feb 4 '15 at 15:30