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I've seen a fair few number of questions recently popping up about conspiracy theories/highly dubious historical facts, that are scarcely considered by rational educated persons let alone qualified historians.

Can we safely assume these do not belong on the site in any form? I'm mainly looking for support here in closing such questions quickly and discouraging their asking.

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    Please add links to the questions. – ocodo Oct 26 '11 at 23:07
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    I think one was referring to Aliens building the pyramids. Of course, we all know that the Predators builds the pyramids to hunt Aliens. Sheeesh. – Sardathrion Oct 27 '11 at 15:45
  • @Sardathrion: Hah yes, that was one that sort of sparked it. There were at least two other dubious ones I've seen in the past week though... – Noldorin Oct 27 '11 at 21:13
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I think that the main problem is how these questions are formulated. As it is now, I would agree with closing them as off-topic. An example on what I mean:

  • "Is there any evidence that Caesar planned to invade America?" - on-topic. Answer: no, plus some explanation on why it is very unlikely that Caesar even knew about America.
  • "Can anyone prove that Caesar didn't plan to invade America?" - off-topic. Disproving a theory that isn't supported by any evidence in the first place is pointless, any answer would be useless for the "future generations". Maybe that's a job for Skeptics.SE but definitely not for a history site.
  • Yeah, this is quite true. I guess it brings about the point of whether we wish to even permit "revisionist" history on this site, but if the user asks a question concerning and acknowledging some sceptical point in history, I think we'd all be more likely to allow it to go ahead. At the moment, I don't really see any of that I'm afraid. – Noldorin Oct 27 '11 at 21:35
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People come to this site seeking knowledge about history. To turn someone away solely based on the notion that their question covers ground that has been contaminated by conspiracy theorists is (imho) a poor philosophy. So merely involving a conspiracy theory should not be, by itself, criteria for closing. They are after all part of history.

On the other hand, as we know conspiracy theories only persist through willful ignorance of fact, reason, and science, on which our historical knowledge and study is based on, just like every other discipline. So if the person asking the question is also willfully ignorant of these things, there is nothing we can do for them and should either close the question or, at best, flag it for migration to Skeptics (which I currently feel should be criteria for a predefined migration path via close vote, but it's still too early to tell that for sure).

We should expect SOME crossover between Skeptics and this; that is no different than most sites having some crossover. Some sites (consider Unix/Linux and Ubuntu and Server Fault) have a considerable amount of crossover. I expect this and Skepetics to have some crossover and we will simply have to deal with that.

The best thing we can do to move forward is to establish clear, well defined answers to 7MQ. This question says "Can we safely assume these do not belong on the site in any form? I'm mainly looking for support here in closing such questions quickly and discouraging their asking." I would counter this by asking these questions:

  • "How should we define a conspiracy question?"
  • "How should we define an off topic conspiracy question?"
  • "How should we distinguish between off topic conspiracy questions to close and those to migrate?"
  • "How does Skeptics.SE handle conspiracy questions and what can we learn from their experience?"

I think answering these questions will help us greatly in maintaining our objectivity while handing this (and other) delicate topics.

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I would encourage the debunking of such theories should be it be possible instead of closing the question.

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