Approach to questions asked on the SDMB

I think there are at least two mindsets/approaches to answering questions.

  1. Work out the answer from a completely unbiassed viewpoint , considering all sides and options, and then present it, even if you don’t like it (the answer).

  2. Have an opinion about the subject and try to construct an answer that makes your opinion seem correct, using as arguments only those options that support your opinion whilst ignoring those that don’t.
    To me it feels like most questions asked on/in the Straight Dope Message Board(s) are answered from approach 2. I could easily be wrong. Can anyone convince me that I am, and that most questions are answered from approach 1?
    I do not mean to step on anyone’s toes here. But my faith in the ‘fighting ignorance’ motivation here is faltering. It feels like important/controversial questions like “is communism really evil?” are being wrongly answered because of opinions.

‘options’ should be ‘facts/evidence/information’

Dopers who abide by approach #1 are actually fighting ignorance.
The ones who follow #2 are just perpetuating the causes that lead to ignorance being there in the first place.

I would say that many of the questions posted here don’t have factual answers, so there is a place for approach #2.

I’ve always felt the real strength of this place is not giving people answers to questions per se, but getting people to think critically, and find answers on their own.

Depends on which forum you’re talking about and what topic.

If someone asks a question in General Questions, there tends to be a factual answer, and people often provide it.

If you’re talking about a topic for which there is no factual answer (“What is consciousness?” or “What is truth?”), then you have people trying to argue their opinions, naturally. Many times those opinions are grounded in firm logic and rationality, and so that’s fighting ignorance. We have some forums – like Great Debates, and IMHO, and MPSIMS, and BBQ Pit – whose primary goal is not directly “fighting ignorance” but more “allowing a forum for sharing of opinions.”

So, let me see if I understand you, Lobsang, you’re saying that we should limit this board to fighting ignorance and thus we should only permit discussions that spring “from a completely unbiassed [sic] viewpoint” and we should forbid any matters of unverifiable opinion? So we should eliminate the Great Debates forum? And the IMHO, MPSIMS, and BBQ Pit are certainly not involved in fighting ignorance, they’re just forums for opinions, they should go too. That’s a completely unbiased viewpoint, based on your assumptions, and that’s an answer you might not like, but I’ll pass it on to the Moderators.

It’d certainly make our lives easier as Staff.

An answer to a question like “is communism really evil?” can ONLY be an opinion, no?

I know that I’ve had questions here answered factually, but I think I’ve gotten a more broadminded “answer” from the questions that were answered with opinion. And it certainly makes for more interesting reading!

Lets just say that I am talking about GQ, and maybe GD.
Even if a question does not have a factual answer I think both methods of answering still apply. It can be answered with the unchanging opinion of the answerer, or it can be answered by looking at all the factors and forming a new opinion.

Is it possible to really know that you are not introducing bias? - you might think you are doing 1 while actually doing 2.