I recently had an NAA flag declined and was given the following reason:

declined - It answers the question using an argument by analogy

Are analogies really acceptable as answers, particularly ones with no supporting evidence? At best they provide a vague explanation, at worst they might not even be understood as analogies can differ by region or country.

Should we really be accepting these poor attempts at an answer as actual answers?

  • 1
    What was the question/answer you flagged?
    – Valorum
    Sep 13, 2017 at 20:45
  • 1
    @Valorum scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/12560/…
    – Edlothiad
    Sep 13, 2017 at 20:46
  • 2
    @Edlothiad - OK, cheers. I've downvoted it. It's a dreadful answer.
    – Valorum
    Sep 13, 2017 at 20:47
  • It appears to have been deleted now.
    – user57650
    Sep 13, 2017 at 20:56
  • 6
    @Valorum A dreadful answer =/= not an answer.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Sep 14, 2017 at 9:43
  • 3
    @Randal'thor - In my opinion, anything that fails to answer the question asked in any sensible or meaningful way deserves deletion.
    – Valorum
    Sep 14, 2017 at 9:53

3 Answers 3


Of course.

An argument by analogy is a perfectly good example of a reasonable argument which can be used to support a point. If someone asks why X happens in a work of sci-fi or fantasy, it may well make perfect sense to explain it by pointing to known reasons why X' happens in the real world and extrapolating from that analogous situation.

Here are some of the answers I found on a quick 1-minute search which are based primarily or entirely on arguments by analogy:

Somehow I doubt you'll be flagging many of these as NaA ;-)

  • 1
    You challenge me? The second contains canon information, and you messed up the link to the 5th one
    – Edlothiad
    Sep 14, 2017 at 16:00
  • 4
    @Edlothiad Re #2, note "primarily or entirely". It contains canon information, yes, but I think the most compelling argument, and what drew the most upvotes, was the analogy with that old truck. I fixed the link to #5; thanks. Not sure what "You challenge me?" is supposed to mean, but it sounds a bit unnecessarily confrontational.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Sep 14, 2017 at 20:21
  • Plus this fantastic Luca Brasi analogy. Sep 16, 2017 at 20:31
  • 1
    @PaulD.Waite Nice analogy, but I wouldn't say that answer is primarily based on an argument by analogy.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Sep 19, 2017 at 11:28

A poor attempt at an answer is still an answer

The bar for what constitutes "an answer" is extremely low. From what you say, the user was attempting to answer the question, which is more than enough for a "Not an answer" flag to be declined.

If you believe it is a bad answer, it is certainly a good idea to down vote it.

  • And the sad thing is, the bar is even lower than you think it is.  Here and here are two “answers” that even you thought were not answers, and yet they survived a trip to the Low Quality Posts queue. Sep 23, 2017 at 3:05

The specific answer referred to has been deleted, but to address the general question:

By analogy, if you were dealing with an advanced AI of some sort and it got locked up due to unclarity of factors involved in a calculation/decision, you might resolve the lockup with a new piece of input that was only indirectly related to the exact question.

So if, for instance, the AI were locked up on an equation (decision) concerning trees, and could not determine whether they should require active watering or should be left grow on their own (or whatever), it might be able to supply an educated guess or at least "make up its mind" and proceed merrily on its way if fed the datum that an idea, when planted in a society in the form of a book, can grow and transform quite without guidance.

Or it might find the analogy somewhat irrelevant and mind-bendingly unclear, and stay stuck in its dilemma. That could depend on the analogy used.

Now read this answer again. ;)

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