In my question about Mormonism and Christianity, I specifically requested to receive questions that take into account both sides.

I think this could be an effective way to avoid flamewars and vote contests.

However, at least Flimzy strongly disagrees in a comment:

-1. While I think it's fair to accept answers from both sides, I don't think it's at all reasonable to expect a single answer to provide arguments for both sides, any more than it's reasonable to ask someone to explain both why 2+2=4 and why it does not. The FAQ says to ask "answerable questions." If you expect each answer to provide contradictory answers, that suggests that you believe your question is NOT answerable.

So, is it reasonable to expect answers to present multiple points of view?

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I feel this is downvoted for no good reason. I think this is a question the community needs to decide on, whether or not the decision is the one I favor. –  dancek Aug 24 '11 at 7:39
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Downvotes on meta just indicate disagreement. Don't take them too hard they don't change your rep score at all. –  wax eagle Aug 24 '11 at 12:40
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+1. This question needed to be asked and answered. –  Flimzy Aug 25 '11 at 5:38
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@wax eagle: Disagreement with what? Down-voting a question seems to suggest disagreeing with the question... which doesn't really make a lot of sense. "Is it reasonable?" could be just as well worded "Is it unreasonable?" and have exactly the same meaning. Which one would you down-vote? I think it makes much more sense to down-vote the answer that says "Yes, it is reasonable!" –  Flimzy Aug 30 '11 at 10:27
    
@Flimzy the way I see it, by downvoting a question you can express that you think the question should not have been asked. E.g. I would downvote questions that have already been thoroughly answered in the FAQ. –  dancek Aug 30 '11 at 10:32
    
@dancek: Fair point. –  Flimzy Aug 30 '11 at 10:36

6 Answers 6

The purpose of this site is not to decide which Christian faction is "right" or to vote anybody off the island. Adding "give me both sides of the argument" to your question does not change what it is — bad subjective, flamebait, and completely un-answerable. It's like when people say "with all due respect…" before saying something horribly disrespectful.

TLDR; This site isn't here to decide who is less Christian than any other, and tacking on some magic words of "equal time" doesn't make a bad question into a good one.

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I'm way less concerned about that question specifically than other good on topic questions that could ask for both sides of the argument. For instance some of my questions have another side to the argument, I didn't solicit them but if I did I think it would still be a valid question. However, it may require both a calvinist and an armenian to come along just to answer it well. It would be best if they would collaborate instead of each post an answer... –  wax eagle Aug 24 '11 at 1:00
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@waxeagle I agree that on a good question, collaboration can be a good way to incorporate multiple viewpoints into one awesome answer. My concern here is that the question of whether it's okay to request multiple viewpoints is a red herring: intentionally or not, it's dismissing the underlying problems with the question cited without ever mentioning them. –  HedgeMage Aug 24 '11 at 1:05
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@wax eagle: Your underlying premise (weighing both sides) is the very definition of "argumentative." The question tries to take stock of both sides of a debate. Even if civilly conducted, we specifically forgo those type of questions as Bad Subjective. This is not a site for debate or argument. With competing ideologies, the only way this site will remain viable is if participants ask (and answer) questions in the context of those ideologies. If we start jumping on centuries-old cross-cultural feuds, this site will fail. –  Robert Cartaino Aug 24 '11 at 1:59

I would say No.

You can't expect many people to be able to give an unbiased view of both sides.

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Honestly asking for both sides of the argument makes for a tricky fit for this format. It means that if there is a "right" answer it likely requires more than one person to chime in, or someone who is at the very least familiar with both sides of the argument.

You can set your own answer to Community Wiki. This is a great idea if you are only able to provide one side of the of argument. If you are willing to do this then you can provide a good answer. Its also an indication that you are more accepting of community collaboration and involvement than is typical of a normal answer. It also reflects a desire to give a good answer over the desire to gain reputation (you won't get any rep for upvotes on this answer)

These questions are a good fit IF we can get good collaboration on a single answer. However, if there is no commitment to collaboration and we do the typical SE thing of each adding our own answer then they really won't do well in this system IMO.

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Hmm, I think I'm reading "Make some Community Wiki answers" here... –  John Aug 24 '11 at 0:04
    
actually this is one of the places that it might be a good choice. However, honestly it doesn't work as well as envisioned, hence the part of my answer about it not being a wonderful fit for the format –  wax eagle Aug 24 '11 at 0:07
    
Yes, it seems to me that CW would be just a stop-gap measure at best. I'm already arguing with someone over what is and what isn't Mormon doctrine on the question the OP linked. I'm for disallowing those questions in favor of "What does Christianity say about [religion]". –  John Aug 24 '11 at 0:16
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That's not what CW is for, period. Please read the linked blog post for more info on what CW has become, and what it's not. –  HedgeMage Aug 24 '11 at 0:31
    
@Hedgemage, could you clarify where you are directing that comment? If we used CW to present one side of the argument allowing someone else to come in and present the other side wouldn't that be exactly what CW would be intended for? According to that blogpost. –  wax eagle Aug 24 '11 at 0:34
    
@Hedge It works great for the answer side, since it's not for marking the question, I would think. It's exactly the kind of "multiple user contributions" that community wiki is meant to encourage. –  Grace Note Aug 24 '11 at 0:50
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@John - "What does Christianity say about [religion]?" is still not a good idea, especially where the [religion] is one which is believed by some (or many) to be a part of Christianity. –  Iszi Aug 24 '11 at 0:51
    
@GraceNote My apologies -- I misread the original comment and thought it was about using CW on the question. CW doesn't make a bad question good. –  HedgeMage Aug 24 '11 at 0:58
    
@Hedge Heh, no worries. I misread that at first, too. –  Grace Note Aug 24 '11 at 1:55

A good answer should absolutely give all sides of a question, if there is more than one side.

Having said that, most people do not know much about traditions other than their own. So they will only be able to give the viewpoint they know. That is not reason to refrain from giving the answer, provided they identify the viewpoint. Some people will know enough to give several viewpoints. Answers giving multiple viewpoints should be voted up, compared with answers giving only one.

The secret weapon here is the synthesis answer. This is something strongly recommended in the StackExchange FAQs, but all-too-rarely practiced, where you take bits from different single-viewpoint answers and use them to create a comprehensive answer. That kind of goes against our natural tendency to post only stuff we know, but it's actually good practice inthe interests of getting the best possible answer.

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No, it is not at all reasonable in general terms nor is it an appropriate fit for this format.

A better way to present the question would be as two separate questions, each of them asking for clarification of a certain point of view. There can be no (legitimate, warranted) "flame wars" or "vote contests" in these cases, because those who should be answering, commenting, and voting on the posts to such questions should only be those who are familiar with the standpoint in question and therefore most likely all hold the same (or similar) opinion.

Asking for both sides of an argument in one question is pure flame-war-bait for starters, and even more so in the topic of religion.

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I disagree. Our arguments/discussions here should be closer to academic discourse rather than what tends to happen when folks discuss religion. We should be able to present both sides of an argument without descending into sniping –  wax eagle Aug 24 '11 at 0:55

I'll make an answer with my own point of view, if only just for the record. The crucial question here is, which of the following options we want:

  1. any Christian is able to answer a question related to their own denomination off hand
  2. some questions can only be answered by experts, or require research

Now, I'm all for the second one. We should be a site where experts don't get bored. Maybe this is a question of opinion.

If we're to go for option 1, a lot of answers will be one-liners, and the worst ones will be along these lines:

  • Yes, my church teaches so
  • Just see John 1:1
  • Me too

If we're to go for option 2, there will be questions that can't be answered by anyone straight off. A good answer for such a question might require referencing multiple sources and finding pros and cons of different arguments. Where I come from, Christians do this kind of thing; it's kind of the opposite of intellectual dishonesty. At skeptics.SE, some good answers follow these lines (not all).


What's the point, then? What does it matter?

  1. The internet is full of option 1 sites. Each denomination has a bunch of their own, and this goes on to almost all internet discussions where Christianity is even slightly mentioned.
  2. Option 2 is practically nonexistent. I don't know of a Christian community site where answers would often show expertise. (if you know of one, please tell me)

My guess is that with option 2, we are way more probable to survive beyond beta.


One good category of questions requiring expertise to answer would be questions of debate. I, for one, am very interested in hearing both sides in arguments like these. Answering will be difficult, I grant that, but that should be no reason. So what if we get the first answer only after a day or two? I'd be willing to go through the trouble of answering for some questions I find interesting. I'm sure there will be others.

I once heard a very good sermon-turn-lecture about the pedobaptism versus credobaptism debate that didn't take sides. This was in an interdenominational setting and left the Pentecostal and Lutheran believers present happy, so I think objective discussions are possible.

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