Definition

FQA (frequently questioned answers)

Contributor(s): Julianne Chatelain

FQA (frequently questioned answers) are conventions or mandates scrutinized by individuals or groups who doubt their validity. (The singular and plural of this term have the same abbreviation: FQA.)

Typically, an FQA starts out as an axiom, rule, or principle that is never questioned. A good example is Euclid's Parallel Postulate in geometry, stated as follows: Given a line and a point not on that line, there exists one and only one line through the point that is parallel to the original line. This makes intuitive sense, but what happens when it is denied? Suppose that, given a line and a point not on that line, there exists no line through the point that is parallel to the original line? Suppose there exist two, or three, or infinitely many such lines through the point? "Questioning this answer" has given rise to non-Euclidean geometries that are recognized today.

When supposedly inviolable principles or imperatives are questioned, it sometimes becomes possible to solve problems previously thought insoluble. Questioning dogma may, however, lead nowhere, and occasionally it can end in catastrophe, either natural or human-made. Some insightful engineers and scientists make a game out of "questioning the answers." Organizations in which principles are never questioned may become stagnant or, perhaps worse, boring.

This was last updated in September 2005

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