A recent question got me wondering what stance we want to take on the evidence requirements for answers (or indeed questions) on Sustainability.
At the moments, as all stack exchange sites say, we expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or specific expertise but different sites have different standards to which they hold answers. On Skeptics for instance all users are required to reference all significant claims they make in their answers.
Most sites do not hold answers to this standard though and just expect the minimum standards laid out in the blog article Good Subjective, Bad Subjective, which promotes the back-it-up principle:
Back It Up! means that your answers must be based on either:
- Something that happened to you personally
- Something you can back up with a reference
They talk about how “opinion, by itself, is noise.” They’re not saying that subjective opinions are to be avoided; they’re attempting to mold and shape their inherently subjective Q&A into something constructive, informative and helpful.
Given the potential for for argument and speculation with a subject as emotive (and opinionated) as sustainability, I think it is worth asking whether we want to hold our answers to this higher standard too.
As an additional data point, over on Skeptics Meta I asked How and when did Skeptics introduce its requirement for all claims to be referenced? and the reply there by one of the Skeptics moderators said
Skeptics had this from the very beginning - i.e. private beta.
It would have been very hard to enforce such a policy afterwards because of the sheer amount of unreferenced answers standing as broken windows1
1, For those not familiar with it, see Broken windows theory.