What should we do if two contributors don't agree with an answer on a question?

1 Answer

Some thoughts below:


From my experience, there are two kinds of answers:

  • answers that are totally or primarily fact
  • answers that are totally or primarily opinion

Fact answers

As a very simply example, let's say there is a question: What is 1 plus 1?. There is an answer of #1+1=3#. I, as another Contributor, look at that answer and know it's wrong. What I tend to do is edit the answer and move on.

I come across another question: #abs(x+1)=4# and there is an answer that has a solution of #x=3# and so is missing the solution of #x=-5#. In this case I tend to make a comment directed at the Contributor that they've missed a solution and why and ask that they revise, and I'll tend also to write an answer that has both solutions in it.

So here we have 2 answers that disagree - with a comment in one of them as to why the first answer isn't correct and an alternate answer showing the (hopefully) correct result.

Opinion answers

But what happens when there's a question like What was the primary cause of the Boer War?

Two Contributors have written answers, one talking about the interaction between the Dutch and the English, and the other talks about the English and the Zulu nation.

Which one is right?

This then becomes something for a student/Socratic user to figure out. They will have to weigh the answers/arguments, the citations, even the biographies of the Contributors. It's much like any other research - just because there is an answer in print (book, magazine, newspaper, online, etc), it doesn't make an answer true or valid.

I think this is where the ability to view different answers and different viewpoints becomes vital. Each answer that is written adds to the ability to learn even if they are conflicting. I think it provides an environment where someone can exercise their critical thinking and decide for themselves what is true and valid.

(As a side note, Zen koans, with their infamous structure of paradox, is supposed to make you think, to capture your curiosity, and to allow a student to develop an answer for themselves. I think two or more answers that are in conflict will operate in much the same way - it will force someone to think.)