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Do we need a stricter formal policy against magical-thinking types of questions?

Someone posted the following -- in reply to the question, Can the energy generated through meditation neutralize the covid 19 corona virus?

There needs to be a stricter formal policy against magical-thinking types of questions; they tend to get voted down into oblivion, on a know-one-when-I-see-one basis, but that doesn't really explain to people why their questions were banned.

All the health-wealth-sex-love-fame-and-success questions seem to be designed to attract only crank answers; and would have only crank answers, if they weren't promptly closed. Questions about where-can-I-find-a-truly-enlightened-guru-who-can-fix-everything seem to fall into the same category (and seem to attract unfortunate answers from messianic claimants) as well as the questions about how-can-I-physically-levitate-and-read-minds.

Questions of this sort (and the answers they receive) seem to harm the credibility of a site designed for serious academic study of historical Buddhist thought. And more significantly have the potential to mislead vulnerable people. People who are inclined to earnestly ask questions like that on a site like this are obviously vulnerable. Ideally there'd be a bot that would automatically reply to mystical truth-seekers that the Buddhist Sangha doesn't and didn't exist for these purposes, citing scriptural justification from authentic suttas.

While somebody might believe that meditation "should" prevent COVID-19 infection, might feel that one karmically "deserves" to be uninfected, and might attempt to construe certain suttas to support that view... it remains that there is not one known case of meditation preventing COVID-19 infection. It would be irresponsible in the extreme to suggest that meditation can prevent COVID-19 infection.

I guess my meta-questions here are:

  • Do we ever get this kind of question (as described in the 2nd paragraph above) on the site?
  • If so then should they be closed? Or should we allow "bad" or "crank" questions, but be stricter about answers?
  • If they should be closed, do we need a formal/predefined reason?
  • If we need a predefined reason then how should that be worded?

The predefined reasons for closing a question on this site are defined in Moderation policies for Questions -- is the following text adequate (or could it be edited to be better) as a new close reason to be added to that topic?

  • "Magical thinking": health-wealth-sex-love-fame-and-success questions seem to attract only crank answers; and would have only crank answers, if they weren't promptly closed. Questions about where-can-I-find-a-truly-enlightened-guru-who-can-fix-everything seem to fall into the same category (and seem to attract unfortunate answers from messianic claimants) as well as the questions about how-can-I-physically-levitate-and-read-minds.

    Questions of this sort (and the answers they receive) seem to harm the credibility of a site designed for serious academic study of historical Buddhist thought. And more significantly have the potential to mislead vulnerable people. People who are inclined to earnestly ask questions like that on a site like this are obviously vulnerable. Ideally there'd be a bot that would automatically reply to mystical truth-seekers that the Buddhist Sangha doesn't and didn't exist for these purposes, citing scriptural justification from authentic suttas.

My arguments against that as worded:

  • We have many questions about sex (morality) and success (in lay life), which are presumably on-topic
  • We generally allow (and want to allow) low-quality or confused questions
  • This site isn't only for "serious academic study of historical Buddhist thought" but also for "practical" questions (about personal practice and personal life)
  • It isn't only about the the Buddhist Sangha but also laypeople and lay society
  • What are "the scriptural justification from authentic suttas"?

An alternative would be to create a "FAQ" topic on the main site, which provides a definitive/curated answer to "this sort of question" -- if such a thing can be defined. That would allow further instances of the same question to be closed as a duplicate.

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  • The question about Coronavirus does not seem magical to me but highly practical. I've been wondering about this myself. It seems unlikely, but not out of the realms of possibility. After all, any sufficiently advanced science will look like magic to some. So maybe the problem is deciding which questions are magical and which are not. – user14119 May 5 at 16:27
  • Yes these are almost always going to be duplicates – deadmanposting May 8 at 0:06
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Yes, I think we should have such an option to close a question because it presupposes magical thinking not related to Buddhism. Whether moderators choose to actually close is another question, but these types of questions come up enough that I’d prefer the option to flag them as such.

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Everybody who has wrong views has on that basis magical thinking.

This is a place where schools don't agree, have said the other sects to be hererical.

Who are you to determine how things actually work, what is possible and what is not, because if you can then just delete all the irrational answers as spam and lock the crazy people accounts?

Do we ever get this kind of question (as described in the 2nd paragraph above) on the site?

I think these are quite popular questions, probably 2-3 times more popular than study questions in terms of views. I think many people relate to these things more so than scholarship as most people are new, have no time, don't know where to start, don't bother with it something like that.

A mother in law question is closer to home than the meaning of some big word or question about the difference between two big abstract words in pali language.

A question like 'how to meditate when you are part of a family" would be very popular

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  • Well I didn't close that question see here. But it doesn't have any "good answers", the only upvoted answer is a meta-answer which says there ought to be a stricter policy against this type of question. Is there a way to answer this question well? – ChrisW May 8 at 5:11
  • It's a good point, i do not see good answers to that one for this site no but this goes for many other questions as well – deadmanposting May 8 at 11:22
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    I think one should allow people with those views to ask questions and discuss their beliefs like everyone else – deadmanposting May 8 at 11:26
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Do we ever get this kind of question (as described in the 2nd paragraph above) on the site?

I agree that this kind of question (with variations) seems to being asked every now and then.

If so then should they be closed? Or should we allow "bad" or "crank" questions, but be stricter about answers?

If the question is written based on genuine interest and no prior knowledge of buddhism, they should be allowed.

Most likely, a beginners question has been asked before and could be answered by referring to a FAQ, for instance.

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Is this magical thinking? it might be. Or it might just be asking if meditation brings greater physical well-being and maybe greater immunity.It seems a sensible question to me. After all, any sufficiently significant effects of meditation will look like magic to a sceptical scientist.

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