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According to the relevant help page, questions are on-topic if they

  • Identify a specific engineering problem
  • Require expert engineering knowledge to solve

I do not see anything there about anything religious.

Cue my recent question about the Tower of Babel, which got severely downvoted. It is a very simple engineering problem: Given a specific material and height, could this building stand? But since it’s religiously motivated, it presently has a net of -4.

I still don’t understand what’s off-topic about it. To say it’s a duplicate of this question I would be fine with. But is it off-topic? If not, is this community just too thick to see past the motivation to the question itself?

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Note that both points you quote for being on topic specifically mention "engineering". Engineering is about applying the laws of physics and other sciences to real world problems.

Science seeks to describe how nature works by applying observation, logical deduction, and experimental verification. Personal beliefs have no place, other than perhaps to guide a scientist what to investigate next.

Religion, on the other hand, is specifically about beliefs that are held to be true solely because they are believed to be true. Note the circular reasoning here. That's invalid logic, so is invalid science. As invalid science, it has no bearing on engineering.

So the answer to your statement about "I do not see anything there about anything religious" is that it is implied in "engineering". Engineering relies on science, which relies on valid logic to reach conclusions. Religion is not founded on valid logic, so you might say it is inadmissible as evidence and irrelevant to engineering.

Problems with your particular question:

As recorded in Genesis 11:1-9 ...

By starting out with a religious reference, you lost any benefit of the doubt about this being about engineering. You now have the burden to show it's NOT about religion.

According to the sources brought in this question and this one, both at Mi Yodeya

This is just a waste of space. Worse, it seems you think this is a source (of what exactly?) somehow, like you would quote in a scientific paper. Remember, the arbitrary beliefs of others have no bearing in engineering.

its height are given as 2.6 km, 5 km, 52.5 km, or 138.24 km

This is way over the top, and totally impeaches your question. Clearly anything built by ancients of bricks wasn't 2600 meters tall. You don't have to know much science for that. Even if maybe you thought that was borderline feasible, 140 km is just grossly absurd. These figures are so out of line that this question is clearly about fantasy, not engineering.

Reading the rest of the question is pointless after this.

If you really just wanted to know about the height limits of a free standing structure people could have built 3800 years ago, you could have asked that without any references to religion at all. Why does it matter that there is a vague reference to a tower in a compilation of religious beliefs? Why even bring up that in a particular fantasy there was a tower 138.24 km (5 decimal places!) tall?

These issues were pointed out to you in comments, but you refused to fix the question. That indicates that the religious references are somehow important to your question, which means it doesn't belong here. It was downvoted for good reason, and it should be closed.

This did get me curious about height limits of such structures, so I asked the question Height limits of brick and mortar tower?. Note the lack of religious references.

Summary

If a question is truly about engineering, then it doesn't need references to anyone's unfounded beliefs. Therefore, such references should be omitted. If they are included, then it's a strong hint that the question is not about engineering, and is off topic on this site.

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  • $\begingroup$ I still don’t understand why there’s an issue with using a religious source to describe the purely physical question at hand. Let’s say I found an example of a structure in a novel, or a textbook, or any other totally secular book. Would that be any more or less of an issue? I’m just using the source to describe what I’m looking for. As I said several times, I could not care less about the original source or its context for the purpose of this question. $\endgroup$ – user9610 Dec 25 '17 at 21:26
  • $\begingroup$ (Con’t) I still firmly hold that a distinction must be drawn between the motivation of a question, and the question itself. The question can be a perfectly valid question, regardless of what it’s based on. $\endgroup$ – user9610 Dec 25 '17 at 21:27
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    $\begingroup$ @DonielF - You're latching on to a number of faulty premises there. As Olin points out, the dimensions provided are absurd. Questions that absurdly defy the laws of physics are fundamentally off-topic for this site. $\endgroup$ – user16 Dec 25 '17 at 21:54
  • $\begingroup$ @GlenH7 Perhaps they are absurd. I have no idea. That’s why I asked the question - aren’t you all supposed to be the experts? Isn’t science about actually proving such claims rather than just hand-waving and saying “it’s so absurd I’m not going to bother with it”? As it stands, none of this even answers the question as posted here; while it may address my original question (not totally convinced), it still doesn’t answer the question of if this site is so closed-minded that a faulty motivation can ruin an otherwise okay question. $\endgroup$ – user9610 Dec 25 '17 at 21:58
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    $\begingroup$ @DonielF If 2.6 km, 5 km, 52.5 km, or 138.24 km in height from an ancient brick structure doesn't sound patently absurd to you, then I'm afraid there's a fundamental mismatch in the baseline experience that this sites expects of askers. Absurd questions are routinely closed on this site. $\endgroup$ – user16 Dec 25 '17 at 22:06
  • $\begingroup$ @GlenH7 Still not answering my question... $\endgroup$ – user9610 Dec 25 '17 at 22:29
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    $\begingroup$ @Don: Seriously? You really have no idea whether a 1.6 mile high brick structure built by people 3800 years ago is remotely plausible!!? Even if you somehow think that might be possible, anyone should be able to dismiss one 86 miles (!) tall immediately. That is way past absurd into the realm of pure fantasy. We expect people who come here to have enough very basic knowledge to know something this far out isn't worth asking about. $\endgroup$ – Olin Lathrop Dec 25 '17 at 23:24

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