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I find myself very concerned that certain questions on this site have attracted wrong answers that have been marked as accepted. This and this and this in particular are answers that have been accepted but in fact are wrong to the point to verging on crackpottery. Here is another answer that was accepted, but is actually wrong.

While it is fine to have answers that aren't quite right as part of the overall discussion, it rather looks like there is a trend toward hastily accepting answers and a relative lack of sophistication in being able to differentiate good answers from bad ones on the part of people asking questions. This is not a good trend toward establishing a healthy community of users and should be addressed. What should policy be on dealing with accepted answers that are wrong? How about answers that are sort of right which get accepted, but then a better answer comes along?

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  • $\begingroup$ AcidFlask is of course talking about me. I am much amused that I just put in my own question in about how to deal with him without realizing he has put in a meta-question about about how to deal with me a few minutes earlier. Please note that AcidFlask has a superb background that could make him a top-notch contributor to this group, whereas I was just volunteering (I thought) to try to help it get off the ground. So, AcidFlask, please don't feel I'm trying to push anything on anybody. I'm far more tempted simply to depart this group entirely! $\endgroup$ – Terry Bollinger May 12 '12 at 9:52
  • $\begingroup$ Just a note: some of those questions have downvotes. I don't know if it was you, but please do not downvote a question just because the accepted answer is wrong. $\endgroup$ – ManishEarth May 13 '12 at 11:58
  • $\begingroup$ AcidFlask: I agree this can be frustrating. I personally have been told to review parts of my answers, because they were wrong or misleading. I have to admit that sometimes, I forgot to do so. Sending a comment to the concerned acts as a good reminder! $\endgroup$ – CHM Aug 27 '12 at 3:32
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Whether bad answers are accepted is nothing we can really change, what's important is that the overall voting weeds out the bad answers. Accepting an answer is something the original asker does alone, and there is no way to change it for the community.

If you see a wrong answer that is accepted or upvoted, pointing out the flaws in the answer in a comment and providing a correct answer yourself is the best way to deal with this (you've already done that in the example).

What I personally find very helpful in such a situation is if you find some reputable reference for showing that your answer is correct and the other one wrong. That allows me to do a basic verification of the answers using the reference and vote on them, even if I don't have the necessary knowledge to judge the answers entirely on my own.

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    $\begingroup$ Fair enough. I can make a reasonable effort to find external resources to support my statements; however, it is going to be difficult to do, like in the fourth link where there are clearly fundamental conceptual issues which are not conveniently found in a textbook or the like. At some point it feels like it would degenerate into a "my word vs. yours" sort of argument. $\endgroup$ – Jiahao Chen May 12 '12 at 8:09
  • $\begingroup$ It's not always possible of course, but it is very useful in some cases where it's relatively easy to find a source that contradicts the other answer. I $\endgroup$ – Mad Scientist May 12 '12 at 8:11
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Whenever you see a question with a (in your opinion) wrong accepted answer, comment on the wrong answer and notify the OP. . Two of those questions are mine, and I haven't been notified on either.

Note that if you expect a long, drawn-out discussion, create a new chat room and let the OP and in-your-opinion-wrong-answerer know in comments. This once happened to one of my posts on Physics.SE, and it played out well-- though one of the answerers never agreed with our result (he kept citing that his PhD friends at Berkeley had worked it out, but that doesn't make an answer correct).

Also, Physics.SE has had a similar drama, long ago, at a much larger scale. It seems to have lost some expert users due to that-- the main issue was that in certain fields/levels of questions, it is impossible for mods to determine which answers are right; and some people felt that "anyone can post a sophisticated-sounding wrong answer to a hard question and not get corrected". Anyway, this "drama" at chem.SE, if it is one, is at a much smaller degree, but its nice that you(both) came to meta to have it straightened out before it got out of hand. It's good that we're addressing this issue now, instead of later.


Back to the topic.

it rather looks like there is a trend toward hastily accepting answers

I for one, wait atleast a day before accepting an answer to let others have a chance. In fact, I accepted Terry's answer after having accepted another on the benzene question. If you've read it carefully (a pretty tedious task for most of Terry's answers, but informative), then you'll realize that he explained it via the same thing that Richard did, but added a note that it's even more different in momentum space. The rest explained a more general problem, on metals. You could call it irrelevant, but not nonsense (of course, I'm no expert, so I may be wrong here)

Also, there isn't much of an issue with hastily accepted answers. You can change the acceptance tick whenever you want, so if you feel you have a better answer, feel free to give it (which you have done, which is good). As I said, if you feel that a particular answer is wrong, let the OP know via a comment .

I hadn't gotten any indication that the accepted answer was wrong, and I liked/understood the accepted answer--so after reading yours I didn't change the acceptance tick.


Unfortunately, science is one of those fields where determining the correctness of an answer isn't as easy as it is on the other SE sites. Not everything is easily experimentally verified, and there can be more than one plausible (not necessarily correct) explanations for something. The Physics.SE post I linked to earlier is a good example of this.

So really, discussing this stuff (preferably on chat) is the only way to straighten it out. Try to keep these discussions civil(not saying you haven't, this is just a note for People From The Future); remember that the other guy is in the same position as you--both of you have a seemingly logical reason to think that s/he is correct.

Anyway, I'll scrutinize those questions of mine in a moment.

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