A question that falls in the category of the MedicalSciences' equivalent of "identify this movie" seems to come up almost daily. I wanted to discuss where we want to draw the line for these questions.
Between experts/students, a high-level discussion on "what is this" could have scholarly merit. But the vast majority of these on this site are from those lacking the scientific background to propose even a plausible mechanism for their observed correlation - they just are curious.
Please understand, first of all, I love that people are thinking and are curious. These questions are often fascinating. But this site is not well-designed for holding a discussion about these sorts of questions - at least not without a large active body of experts.
Examples of the numerous, frequent issues with these Qs:
- Often they are built on an incorrect assumption or faulty premise. ("Correlation does not imply causation" but often people observe 2 phenomena and assume they are related even without plausible mechanism.)
- Frequently the observation is either too specific or not specific enough to be generalize-able, and thus functionally is an individual diagnosis request.
- Many times an answer would be speculative or opinion-based at best, since the question itself is speculative in nature
- New users may have difficulty telling the difference between an "identify this" question and a "diagnose me" question, thus potentially inviting more individualized diagnosis questions.
- When looking at how to answer the question, often I'm wondering where to even start - to answer, even to refute it, would require educating on the fundamental principles that it draws on... and the prospect of having to do that can feel wearying with so few of us here.
How do we as a community want to handle these questions? Specifically, how should we give guidance on this in the scope/guidelines?
Examples (with analysis) - feel free to add more:
- Quicker increase in breathing rate due to stretching/engaging tired muscles (observational of a phenomenon that happens to the individual)
- Relation between phlegm and hair loss (observational, lacking a proposed mechanism, lacking biological plausibility)