Recently I've noticed more people requesting evidence or proof for an answer. This is mostly a good thing - backing up a substantial claim is great (especially if you summarize it to prevent link rot). However, this can be taken way too far. Consider the following:

In Super Mario Bros., Mario is capable of jumping. [citation needed]

Obviously, demanding proof of this is of little help to anyone. If you've played Super Mario Bros., then you clearly know this. Such an example is common knowledge, and I think most of us would agree you don't need to prove something like that (we aren't a court of law, after all).

Next, let's consider the extreme opposite.

Luigi is a playable character in Super Mario 64. My uncle works for Nintendo and showed me how to unlock him.

This kind of claim absolutely does require proof. Not only is it making a strong claim, it's relying on an unverifiable source. Asking for proof here is absolutely necessary, otherwise this answer is little more than a schoolyard rumor.

That's all well and good, but there is a vast gray area between these two extremes. Here's a third example, from an actual question (note that I'm not singling anyone out, this is something I've seen multiple users do across multiple different comments): https://gaming.stackexchange.com/a/237675/107588

This answer has definite problems, and it was downvoted as a result. However, what I'm addressing is the request for proof. If you've played the game in question, this is something quite obvious that can be readily and easily demonstrated. There is no need to request proof for this.

Basically, how should we handle these sorts of situations? I'm concerned that if we're requiring proof for everything we'll stifle the potential questions and answers as "proving" some things is trivial and not really helpful to anyone. Furthermore, what DOES in fact constitute proof in the last situation? And who exactly are you trying to prove it to?

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    Unless people are being abrasive and rude in the comments, in which case such comments should be flagged, I don't see why there is a need to do anything. Just because someone requests proof doesn't put anyone under obligation to actually find it.
    – Sterno
    Nov 13 '15 at 17:49
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    Things are probably fine as is, but I'm concerned that this could get out of hand. In the listed example, the answer was likely downvoted for it's own lack of merits, but it's not hard to imagine someone saw the request for proof and figured it was an outlandish claim. Perhaps I am worrying about nothing, but I have a feeling this could become a problem eventually.
    – two bugs
    Nov 13 '15 at 17:51
  • SE and Arqade work on the premise that 'everyone's an expert'. Citing resources should be encouraged, demanding them should not be. Either way it depends on the answer and the question for context of what should be cited or not
    – Robotnik Mod
    Nov 13 '15 at 21:46
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    I generally request proof when the answer sounds exaggerated or if it contradicts an upvoted accepted answer. Otherwise I request for proof sparingly. Nov 14 '15 at 6:09
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    @angussidney - same. I also usually scrutinise lower-rep users' answers more carefully - I mean that's what rep is ultimately for: a gauge for determining whether we should take someone at their word.
    – Robotnik Mod
    Nov 15 '15 at 5:16
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    The danger with that is present in my listed example: the user in question is in fact completely right, but downvoted for different reasons. Furthermore, I don't think you should be asking for proof if it is a game you've never played, since you can't accurately judge whether it needs proof or not. In this case, the claim was something that anyone who played Destiny would know is accurate.
    – two bugs
    Nov 15 '15 at 14:21

Ultimately, there is no requirement for proof. That said, it is always worth sourcing any claims we make in our answers, if possible. If only for general quality.

The instance you reference looks more like a comment. The user does not even give a confident "this is the maximum level". Rather, "It must be higher as I have see this".

Likewise, the answer directly above it has not recieved any downvoting, despite the fact that it also provides no evidence. Furthermore, I have personally confirmed the 300 cap to be incorrect. How do I source this? Perhaps I could take a screenshot the next time I go up against a level 305.

I probably won't. Thats a lot of extra effort ontop of the standard downvoting that suits the same purpose.

It is completely OK to request sourcing in comments. If you feel like the claim looks questionable, sourcing would probably improve the quality of the question, in general.

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    Fair points. I just have a definite fear that we're slipping towards the old bash.org "The human hand has five fingers [citation needed]" quote. As you stated, the instance I linked to is fine - but it just strikes me as odd to ask for proof in that situation. Furthermore, I think your screenshot point is very good - but let's consider someone who says "well, screenshots can be faked". I'm hoping that by bringing this up, we can chart a good path going forward so we never reach my first situation.
    – two bugs
    Nov 14 '15 at 0:34

More proof is always better, if not always needed.

It never hurts to ask for more proof. If the request is unreasonable, it will likely be ignored.

Your gray area example seems like just that, a gray area. I would want more proof there. Some people might not. That's a clarification just like any other. If you want clarification, ask for it. Reserve your vote until you get it. If someone doesn't think it's necessary, they can upvote without it.

I do draw issue with one of your statements:

If you've played the game in question, this is something quite obvious that can be readily and easily demonstrated.

If it was obvious, it wouldn't need to be in the answer. If it can be "readily and easily demonstrated", then there's no harm asking for evidence and no reason not to demonstrate it when asked.

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    If something can be readily and easily demonstrated, it's not necessary to do so at every possible opportunity. Even in the realms of rigorous logical proofs (such as Mathematics), you're allowed to cite understood and accepted theorems without reproving them. Demonstrating something like Mario jumping doesn't help anyone, and a sufficiently obstinate observe could simply move the goalposts further. Proof is good, definitely, but we need to establish some guidelines lest we require proof for everything.
    – two bugs
    Nov 21 '15 at 19:14
  • @twobugs I was referring to after you'd been asked for evidence. I can see how that wasn't clear, despite acknowledging that it is not always necessary in the opening line. I have degrees in mathematics and theoretical computer science, I'm well aware of how proofs works. If someone reads my proof and wants more details on a logical connection or proof for a claim, then the proof probably needs more details, as it failed to convince them.
    – DCShannon
    Nov 22 '15 at 13:53
  • Thanks for the clarification. I apologize for my wording, I wasn't trying to imply you didn't have degrees or experience with two very rigorous logical fields, merely offering them as an example. You could probably teach me a thing (or twenty) about logical proofs :)
    – two bugs
    Nov 22 '15 at 18:14

Your second example is that the answer contradicts an existing one without providing proper justifications at all. Considering this, that claim is far from being quite obvious that can be readily and easily demonstrated..

I also tend to ask for further information, sources or proof for an answer that doesn't seem to provide the same information as the existing ones or that seems based solely on a opinion without saying so.


About your last example, since I am the author of that question and also one of the commenters who were asking for proof:

Lvl cap is well over 310 if you have an exotic sword it's starting damage is 310 and you can fuse other items to get it higher still

(Note: Important aspects of the game being discussed, with regards to that question and answer, have since changed. Commentary below is addressing reality at the time of the answer's original posting.)

At the time the answer and its comments were written, it appeared that the highest-quality weapons and armor in the game maxed out at an Attack/Defense level of 310. Note that even this gear required a substantial amount of post-endgame progression, and generally some coordination with other players, in order to obtain. So there were certainly many players (myself included, at the time) who would have not yet gotten such gear and likely would not even be aware of its existence.

The game developer does have a website with an "armory" section, where you can see all of the game's equipment. If I recall correctly, the highest Attack/Defense level seen at that time for any equipment was around 290 although there may have been a few cases that went up to 310.

The "fuse" referred to in the answer is properly called Infusion. It's a process by which Legendary/Exotic items can have their Attack/Defense ratings increased, through sacrifice of another Rare/Legendary/Exotic item. Many aspects of the process are thoroughly covered in another Q&A I've posted. Particularly pertinent to this discussion are the following:

Sacrificed item must be:
- Higher Attack/Defense than the target item

  1. How much of an increase in Attack/Defense does Infusing grant?
    Approximately 80% of the difference between the values of the gear that is used.

So, given the following:

  • It wasn't commonly known whether there were weapons available with Attack values higher than 310. (And, at the time, I'm pretty sure there weren't.)
  • The given answer made no assertions to the existence of gear with Attack values higher than 310.
  • While infusion can boost a weapon's Attack value, you need another weapon with a higher attack value to do it.
  • A player's "level" in this context (actually, "Light") is effectively an average of the Attack/Defense rating of all their gear.

I think it's perfectly valid to ask for some supporting evidence in this case, even if it's only anecdotal.

If the answerer had actually made claims of having seen players at Light levels above 310, or actually had seen weapons/armor with Attack/Defense ratings higher than 310, that would have been more acceptable at face value. Sure, a screenshot or link to a reputable reference would have been nice. But word of mouth in this case would probably be sufficient.

However, that was not the basis of their claim. The answerer had claimed that you could boost your own gear above 310, based on what appeared to be a very broken understanding of how the Infusion mechanic works.

The quality and amount of evidence requested to support your assertions in any case will naturally vary a bit based on their audience and context. It will also (most of the time) have an inverse relationship to the depth of detail you provide up-front. Generally, it will also increase along with the obscurity of the knowledge you are trying to convey.

One thing you can be sure of is that the supporting evidence required to back any claim will be directly proportional to that claim's absurdity . If there's some sort of fallacy in your answer, or your statements appear unsubstantiated or demonstrably false, you should most certainly expect to be questioned about it. If you happen to be right, that's great - prove it! If not, maybe you'll learn something too in the process of debating it and/or looking for support.

  • I listed that as an example, not something to be debated. The answer in question should not have stated it definitively, but the Bungie armory had listed gear up to 330 for a while (very likely at the time of his post). Furthermore, the mere presence of the "infusion" option on those pieces of equipment heavily implies that there were options for infusion on the way. Yes, the answer had problems, but it's not as clear cut as you're claiming.
    – two bugs
    Nov 21 '15 at 19:11

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