This question : Is an elephant stronger than a terminator? instantly attracted 5 votes to close for being 'primarily opinion-based'.

Several of the commenters made reference to the classic 'Gorilla Vs Shark' debate, where a question fails to:

involve facts, references, or specific expertise

and where the question will

likely solicit opinion, debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion.


I'm at a loss why a question that can be answered reasonably and objectively using canon sources (e.g. yes, a terminator is stronger than an elephant because it can lift more / No, a terminator isn't stronger than an elephant because it can lift less) would attract such negative attention.

So, as the question title says; Does "Elephant Vs Terminator" = "Gorilla Vs Shark"?

It is Gorilla vs Shark because it's too broadly scoped, which is one of the items touched on in the original blog post.

If we examine the original question again:

Would a T-800 or T-1000 be able to carry or pull more weight than an adult elephant?

Some of the things that are wrong with this question include:

  • An elephant has greater surface area than a Terminator. Greater surface area can support more weight. But all of the weight can be focused in a single point which renders that irrelevant. Which case is being asked about here? We don't know.

  • An elephant pulls with its trunk, a Terminator may pull with its hands, its teeth or other parts of its anatomy. Either may pull a weight via ropes wrapped around its body.

  • A Terminator has greater manual dexterity which would enable it to manipulate objects into better positions for carrying or pulling that an Elephant may not be able to.

  • An elephant has all four feet on the ground which may give it better leverage than a Terminator in certain circumstances.

This clearly falls under "What, specifically, is wrong with asking Gorilla vs. Shark?" reason 2:

Without any kind of scope, every answer can make any assumptions they like — and there will assuredly be hundreds, all different.

And the hypothetical "Google+ vs Facebook" scenario:

But it still utterly fails to set any scope or terms, and is thus virtually impossible to reasonably answer.

Reading similar questions, and the debates attached to them, that have previously appeared on this site, I get the feeling that a common interpretation of "Gorilla vs Shark" is something along the lines of:

Who is more evil: Judge Death or the Witch-king of Angmar?

That is definite "Gorilla vs Shark" but what the blog post should make clear is that the definition is both broader and more subtle than that. In particular the four hypothetical scenarios that close the blog post are a more useful guideline, and those scenarios should be making it clear to us all that "Gorilla vs Shark" is not a problem of subjectivity vs objectivity; it's a problem of scope.

To reword these scenarios in terms of this question:

  • Scenario #1: Is a Terminator stronger than an elephant?
  • Scenario #2: What is it about Terminators that make them stronger than elephants?
  • Scenario #3: What is the single aspect of elephants most responsible for their superior strength to Terminators?
  • Scenario #4: Are Terminators better at pulling trucks with their hands than elephants are with their trunks?

The question as it stands has the following features:

  • It falls under scenario #1 (I'd hope that's obvious), and:
  • It can't be edited to improve without changing the asker's intent.

Whether or not it's Primarily Opinion-Based is completely irrelevant here (on reflection I'd close as "unclear" or "too broad"). As Richard's answer shows, it's actually not POB given the right circumstances, but that's the problem: Richards answer is one of those answers that "can make any assumptions they like", one of the "hundreds, all different".

  • 5
    I disagree. Semantically, the measures of strength that the OP is asking for (lifting / pulling) have very clear definitions in physics. If you use those measures, you can answer the question without a shred of opinion and the question is neither unclear (it seems pretty clear what's being asked), nor too broad (the OP isn't asking for a range of answers, just an objective assessment with numbers to back it up). – Valorum Jul 24 '14 at 23:31
  • If I had choice of strength contest, it'd be the benchpress. Elephants can't benchpress, but Arnold can, so the answer is pretty obvious. – Paul Draper Aug 8 '14 at 4:00

No, the question is wholly objective and should never have been closed. It's perfectly possible to determine what the maximum strength of an adult elephant is and then compare that to "in-canon" images of the Terminator performing acts of super-strength in the films, comics etc.

As evidenced by my own answer on the subject, there's more than enough information available (on both elephants and terminators) to craft a good answer.

I suspect that had the OP asked "Can a Terminator lift a tonne?" we wouldn't have needed to discuss this at all.

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    @Those who prefer this answer (as I do) just hit the "Reopen-Button" – Einer Jul 24 '14 at 18:22
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    Whether the question is subjective or objective relates to the POB close reason however, not the "is it Gorilla vs Shark?" question. The two are not necessarily the same thing. – user8719 Jul 24 '14 at 22:37
  • @JimmyShelter - But how is it "opinion-based" when We have in-canon examples of the Terminator's strength that we can compare to a real-world elephant. – Valorum Jul 24 '14 at 22:39
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    @Richard - Just to clarify, I'm saying that the matter of whether it's opinion-based or not is completely irrelevant. POB is IMO the wrong close reason, and it strikes me as being somewhat disingenuous of you to focus so much on that. – user8719 Jul 24 '14 at 22:43
  • @JimmyShelter - So what is the right close reason in your opinion (bearing in mind that you originally voted to close based on exactly that reason). – Valorum Jul 24 '14 at 22:50
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    Agreed w/ @Richard - the original question is light on details but it is framed with enough specifics that it can be determined objectively if, as Richard did, someone can find enough in canon evidence to support a mathematical comparison. Now if the question was "Would the Terminator be able to defeat a genetically mutated elephant?", I would agree with the close vote. And also, elephant. Genetically mutated elephants always win. – joshbirk Jul 24 '14 at 22:52

Yes, it's gorilla vs. shark.

There are 4 points in the blog post:

1. Nobody needs to know the answer to this question.

Estimating the carrying capacity of a terminator might be interesting or relevant. Comparing the carrying capacity of a terminator to a random animal or machine seems pointless to me. Can a terminator squeeze harder than a python? Can a terminator jump farther than a kangaroo? Can a terminator pull a fully-loaded freight train?

2. It’s not nearly specific enough.

As Slytheriness points out, which elephants are we comparing to? There might not be hundreds of variations as there would be in the "who would win a fight...," but what about a bull elephant in must? What about African swallows^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Helephants vs. European (or wherever else there are elephants)?

3. It is difficult to learn from these questions.

In this case, I think the same argument as for point #1 applies and it basically amounts to: Who cares how the strength or carrying capacity of a terminator compares to the average strength of some animal? If there is any value in the comparison, shouldn't it be to the maximum strength? Is anyone really planning on using terminators as pack animals so they might need to estimate how many terminators they need to use for their jungle expedition?

4. It drives away experts.

I'm not sure this one applies as much to a entertainment SE site.

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    To be fair, nobody really needs to know the answer to any of the questions posed on this site. What makes this question less "need to know" than Would the One Ring even work for anyone but Sauron? – phantom42 Jul 24 '14 at 18:36
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    To me the main point is - "what's the purpose of the comparison?" If the person asking can't give a reason why they think the comparison is interesting, then to me it's a gorilla vs. shark question. – Ward Jul 24 '14 at 18:40
  • What's wrong with comparing it to the strongest elephant ever observed? – Valorum Jul 24 '14 at 19:05
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    As I said, it's the comparison that makes it pointless to me. Why compare it to an elephant at all? – Ward Jul 24 '14 at 19:12
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    Whether or not you, I or anyone else thinks a question is interesting has zero bearing on whether or not the question is on-topic. See also: Are we really here to solve problems? and Is “I am curious about X” sufficient justification for asking questions on SFF.SE? – phantom42 Jul 24 '14 at 19:14
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    I didn't say interesting, I said "what's the point?" Otherwise, do we really want to allow "Can a terminator jump farther than an average kangaroo?" "Can a terminator hit a tennis ball faster than a Jedi Knight?" – Ward Jul 24 '14 at 19:19
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    If you don't find it useful or interesting, or having a point, downvote it. But it doesn't hit any of the reasons for being off-topic. – phantom42 Jul 24 '14 at 19:23
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    @Ward Remember that quality is what votes are intended to define. "Can a terminator jump farther than an average kangaroo?" is perfectly on-topic... but it is still a horrible question, and should be down-voted. The two are not mutually exclusive, as you seem to be implying. – Beofett Jul 24 '14 at 19:54
  • @phantom42 "nobody really needs to know the answer to any of the questions posed on this site" -- except, of course, the story-id questions. I think those are mostly from people asking those questions want to reread a book, or buy it as a gift, etc. – user14111 Jul 24 '14 at 21:52
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    4. It drives away experts. I'm not sure this one applies as much to a entertainment SE site. - These silly "what if" questions are why I participate less than I used to. – Izkata Jul 25 '14 at 1:08
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    It also invites infinite, equally pointless variations. Is Iron Man stronger than an elephant? Is Nessus the Puppeteer stronger than a llama? Is a Wookie stronger than a gorilla? Is Aquaman faster than a orca? I know most of you don't believe me, but it will happen. – dmckee Jul 26 '14 at 2:17
  • The same argument was used when we discussed adult content last year (or was it the year before?). No matter what, regardless of whether we allow them or not, there will always be someone asking poor or "pointless" questions. Even after the community overwhelmingly decided that adult content was OK, we never saw a huge rush of questions like we had all been warned about. The closest thing I recall was the brief wave of Bechdel Test questions, and general reaction from the community helped stem that after a few. – phantom42 Jul 26 '14 at 13:30

Yes, it is Shark versus Gorilla.

Not all adult elephants possess exactly the same strength capabilities. Did the question ask for the strength of an "average" elephant, or did it just say an adult elephant or just an elephant? Regardless, it is my understanding that any question that asks "Is Character X (somehow better than) Character Y (at some certain thing)?" is going to fall into Shark versus Gorilla territory.

  • Is it reasonable to look at the maximum strength demonstrated by an elephant and use that as the benchmark? – Valorum Jul 24 '14 at 17:47
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    I disagree, the difference is that this is asking for information on how strong a fictional character is, where as can X beat Y is to broad with too many factors. – AncientSwordRage Jul 24 '14 at 18:29
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    @Richard -- To be honest, I don't really care. Downvote away, my pretties! I can take the dissent :) – Slytherincess Jul 24 '14 at 18:38
  • @Pureferret -- That's a good point, one I hadn't considered. I definitely see where you're coming from and probably would tend to agree with you. :) – Slytherincess Jul 24 '14 at 18:39

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