I cannot believe that

  1. Someone would ask a loaded question about general, racist, behavioral cultural stereotypes on StackExchange (cf. eugenics).

  2. That some users would attempt to answer/discuss/comment questions like this (i.e., engage the OP).

  3. That some users would attempt to defend questions about the purported scientific basis for measurable differences between human races as valid for discussion in these forums.

Am I missing something here? In my opinion questions of this nature (showing or based on racial biases) should be deleted immediately and the users blocked if it continues.


The system has a flag for offensive content which people can use. Check out the notes on how it's meant to be used and then decide if, in your expert opinion, the post merits the offensive flag.

If enough of the community agree with you, then it will be removed. Generally the line between offensive and merely controversial is defined actively by the community as a normal effect of voting. There's no master formal policy network wide that would apply to this question - it's not intended to offend and asks a genuine question.

That said, I'd be very, very careful in deleting content because it's controversial or makes people uncomfortable. Particularly on a rigorously scientific site such as Biology. If we limit the questions that can be asked to only "safe" areas, then we hobble ourselves. Before we start to consider a blanket ban on certain types of questions we need to very carefully and thoughtfully design a way to 1) discern the difference between an 'ok' question and one that crosses the line and 2) know, with certainty, that the question type we seek to ban has absolutely no possible merit within the field of discussion.

Given only one example of the issue, I'd say we shouldn't form such a policy yet. Wait until we see problems with this type of content very frequently, then it will not only be easier to understand and define, but easy to convince the community that it might be useful.

Until then, open a discussion on the site-specific meta about the question itself, and let the community help decide what to do in this particular case.


There is at least one site where questions based on racist ideas are generally accepted, and that is Skeptics. We also get anti-semitic, misogynistic or xenophobic claims in questions there, they're all on-topic. Disallowing those would just mean that you can't ask Skeptics to debunk those claims. We don't endorse them, even if we quote offensive claims in questions on our site.

There is one previous case where this issue was discussed. I removed the question myself back then with the following reasoning:

I'm going to close the question, editing it into shape is not an option as the author disagrees with the fundamental premise that the question needs to be framed differently. I also can't really let the community close it in this case as the bounty prevents any close votes anyway. But my impression here is that a majority considers the question problematic. The question also received a lot of flags.

Now, I actually see two different issues with the question. The first issues has been discussed here, race is widely considered as not a useful criterium in genetics and the way it is used in this question is considered offensive by some.

The issue here is not political correctness, but correct biology and professionalism. In this case the terminology can reflect negatively on our site as a whole.

Another issue I have with the question is that it contains no motivation for asking the question at all. Just asking "Is there a difference in X between Y groups" without any indication why you suspect there is one is not a good question in my opinion. I don't see how this question can further any understanding of biology or how it could be useful.

This decision is not necessarily final, as we don't have any well-developed policies on this matter. But I also don't want to leave this question open and bounties, immune from closure by the community.

If I applied my old reasoning today, I would very likely close the question that triggered your post. I did actually see that question earlier today and considered closing it, but decided to see what the community does with it. We don't have a firmly established policy yet, and there are certainly a few fuzzy borders with questions about races on a site about biology.

  • Thank you. I was unaware of the Skeptics SE; next time I would suggest moving it to that forum. – mdperry May 8 '15 at 12:32
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    And you'd probably be wrong.....Skeptics is not the place for that. It's a biology question, so it's in the right place. – patricksweeney May 8 '15 at 15:23

Generally you are right. Posts that are only there to offend people should be deleted and the user should be banned.

I guess you raise this question because of this post: https://biology.stackexchange.com/q/34080

In my opinion, the question is quite objective, asking for some scientific support on an observation. The user makes very clear his intend isn't to be rude or make it a hate-post, OP even gives his ideas that might reasonably lead to an explanation.

I see no harm in this post.

  • 1
    yes, of course, how foolish of me. We should encourage more "scientific" investigations into the genetic basis for intelligence, criminal activity, etc. because then we will be able to identify the genetic carriers and segregate them (and their inferior genes) into special living areas. Why didn't I see the benefit of that? Oh wait, that was tried repeatedly in the 20th century in places like Europe, and South Africa, and this practice is now condemned and their perpetrators vilified. – mdperry May 8 '15 at 12:29
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    @mdperry: I didn't say I like the question, or agree on the idea, but from a pure scientific point-of-view, this question can be answered. (whether the result is helpful or not) – Patrick Hofman May 8 '15 at 12:39
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    @mdperry you seem to be a little bit overreacting. The most legitimate scientific studies have been abused for military etc. purposes. Just as Adam says in his answer, flag it. If your flag is agreed upon, then yay! If not, you should realize that not everyone has your bias about this question. If you think something's not done right then you can post something on meta. And that should be rather bio.SE meta, than meta.SE, since the specialists on the field can better decide on the matter. Case closed. – Marshmallow May 8 '15 at 12:52
  • @MARamezani Thank you for your suggestions and perspective. – mdperry May 8 '15 at 12:58

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