I wrote a question asking a very specific question: "So my question is, did any of the Star Trek novels ever introduce Jewish characters or Jewish pioneering communities on other planets?" It called for a specific answer, but was closed as "not a good fit." Also, it caused 4 down-votes out of 10. How could I have made it better? Or was it closed because the members ignored the question and started a debate?

It can/should be noted that two of the close votes were for it being a duplicate, not "not a good fit". –  phantom42 Feb 20 '13 at 16:08
+1 to @phantom42. Were it to be re-opened, and I was allowed to cast another close-vote, I'd vote as duplicate now. –  Iszi Feb 20 '13 at 18:17
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2 Answers

I'll try to cover what we discussed in chat (starting here).

In general, there is an inherent problem with "Did x ever happen in universe y?" type questions. They often cast very broad nets (especially in the case of the Star Trek universe, and particularly when you explicitly make books in-scope), and tend to not generate great answers.

Beofett put it well, here:

Either the answers will be a list of different instances of "it happened once here", or "yes/no", neither of which are really what are considered "good" answers

If you look around, you'll see many other similar questions which have been closed on the same ground. Keen has also stated the problem rather well, in another Meta thread about list questions:

In practice these questions accumulate a steady flow of "me, too" answers where people add a few examples in a new answer.

This is a problem because the StackExchange methodology seeks for questions to generally have one answer which is both accurate and complete.

Now, your question does appear to be asking about a fairly rare case in the Star Trek universe. So, this brings it closer into the realm of what might be considered an "acceptable" list question. The largest scope-related problem that remains is the fact that you're asking about the entire universe - particularly including the novels. This is primarily mitigated by the apparently rare occurrence of what you are seeking, but may still be considered an issue by some.

Still, there is another problem with the question's general quality. You are asking for examples of the occurrence of one specific member (Judaism) from a rather large group of things (world religions) which, without further explanation, are really all equally likely or unlikely to have (though they generally appear to not have) occurred in the given universe.

In fact, if we were to compare the world's major religions objectively, Judaism is probably quite low on the list in terms of which one we would most likely expect to encounter.

  • Christianity would probably top the list. It is the second-oldest major Abrahimic religion (only behind Judaism), and estimated to be held by over 30% of the world's population. It has had a very significant impact on many cultures and societies - even those where Christians are by far a minority, or the faith is forbidden.

  • If we were to break Christianity between Roman Catholic and Other groups, the Islam faith would then be the largest by population - followed immediately by Roman Catholics, then Other Christians. Islam has also made a significant impact in the parts of the world where it is practiced by a majority and, just as with Christianity, Judaism, and some others, it has even been (and continues to be) the subject of some wars.

  • Hinduism is currently the largest non-Abrahimic religion by population, and is considered the most ancient of today's major religions - some even estimate it dates to prehistoric times. Its age alone should make it very interesting for a Sci-Fi franchise, especially one which occasionally deals with the very origins of humanity. Hinduism is estimated to be practiced by about 14% of the world's population.

  • After Hinduism, atheists and other non-religious individuals make up the next-largest population in the world (around 11% total), then Buddhism (about 7%), and the numbers for individual religions drop rather dramatically from there.

  • Judaism is estimated to be practiced only by about 0.21% of the world's population. That's 0.6% the size of Christianity overall - barely 1.25% the size of Roman Catholicism alone. While Judaism does have as rich a history and culture, if not more so, as many of the religions already named here, its minority-by-far population does not lend one to logically assume that it should be featured (let alone before any other religion) in any particular fictional work that is not centered around the faith.

(The populations of the world's religions were taken from this Wikipedia article. Other facts were taken from Wikipedia articles relevant to the subject religions.)

By allowing this question, without any elaboration as to why we should expect this one item to be found where even more prominent members of the larger group appear to be generally absent, we're effectively inviting a slew of copycat questions like:

  • Are there Christians in Star Trek?
  • Any Buddhists?
  • Where is Islam in Star Trek?

Worse, this could spill over into other universes. For example:

  • Are there Jews in Babylon 5?
  • Is Hinduism represented in Firefly?
  • Are there any Buddhist cultures in Andromeda?

(Note: I don't have much background in any of the latter three universes, so forgive me if those questions would be too obvious to even a casual fan.)

All of these should more appropriately be answered by first asking (though it may be counter-intuitive to the way SE generally works) the broader question, "Are there any real-world religions in Star Trek?". Of course, it is now worth noting that the more general question has already been asked, appears to have been well-accepted, and is also answered.

Do Earth religions persist in Star Trek?

One of the answers even specifically addresses Judaism in novels.

While the question may not be a good fit for the site in general, it is still interesting. Such questions are welcome to be asked in our chat room, where they may spark discussions not generally appropriate in scope or length for the main site.

Thank you for your comments. Let me say why Judaism can be singled out. Historian Arnold Toynbee called the Jewish people a "fossil" because they did not meet his definitions of "nation," "race," or "religion." But this fossil, although a miniscule percentage of the world's population have, nevertheless, was a major world player in religion, philosophy, exploration, trade, science and culture for 3000 years, and it saw the collapse of numerous empires, many of whom tried to destroy it. I don't understand how the Star Trek universe could assume that the Jewish people would die out. –  Bruce James Feb 20 '13 at 19:10
@BruceJames Christianity stems from Judaism, and is "only" about a thousand years younger. Many other religions are of similar antiquity and much greater spread than Judaism. If I had to pick, I'd say Judaism is not at all the most (albeit not the least, by far) likely religion I would expect to see featured in a fictional universe set several centuries into the future. But then again, and especially when it comes to religion, we all have our biases. From a practical standpoint, I still cannot see how Judaism stands that far apart from other major world religions here. –  Iszi Feb 20 '13 at 19:22
Babylon 5 could be answered with "Yes, all the Earth religions still exist" thanks to an early Season 1 episode (and, Ivanova is Jewish) - it was specifically addressed. Star Trek, not so much. This type of question is really just, also unfortunate in that the affirmative is easy, but the negative is not... –  Izkata Feb 21 '13 at 0:37
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Generally, questions that ask "did x ever happen in any work of y?" are poor fits for our platform.

Either the answers will be a list of different instances of "it happened once here", or a single answer that simply says "yes" or "no", neither of which are really what are considered "good" answers.

Our Mos Eisley chat room, though, is a great place to ask questions like that, as there's usually some people there, and I'm sure you could get some good examples pretty quickly.

Looking at your question a bit closer, I think it is kind of close to the line between "reasonably scoped" and "too broad". The problem is that there are just so many novels. This is why it was closed, and probably why it received some downvotes.

That highly scored answer, you'll notice, only addresses your question by saying "yes, there are Jews in the novels" (and linking a source). What makes the answer good is that it addressed something interesting that wasn't exactly what you were asking (Gene Roddenberry's deliberate exclusion of religion from the canon work).

I'm not certain how the question could have been phrased better without changing your intent. Please notice also that several people agree that your question covers the same general topic as this question, so even if it were deemed a good fit for the platform, it might still be closed as a duplicate.

A list of "what are all the instances, if any, of Jews portrayed in Star Trek?" might possibly be better, but again, since you are specifically looking at the novels, that list might simply be too long. The Memory Alpha link provided in the top-voted answer to your closed question lists about a dozen Jewish individuals from the novels, but the list is implied to be non-comprehensive, and a proper answer would contain a comprehensive list.

Unfortunately, the focus you have (portrayals of Judaism in futuristic/space societies) simply seems like a poor fit for the Q&A format. A much better place to ask it is our chat room, as it does seem like a discussion is the most likely outcome.

I'm sure there are plenty of questions relating to Judaism in Science-Fiction (there are actually many references and instances across a multitude of works) that would be a good fit here. They just have to be fairly specific and focused.

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