Monday, 17 October 2016


Democracy is the way we settle important questions. It's not a good system, but as WSC said, all the others are worse.

But that isn't always true. Some questions shouldn't be decided by a democratic vote.

This was made obvious to me by a debate on usenet (35 years ago, that was like a big internet forum) in the newsgroup alt.comp.virus (which was the forum about computer viruses). We had various debates there; the one I have in mind was about the technical characteristics of a particular virus.

I was posting having disassembled and analysed the virus, so I knew what it did, although there was, of course, the possibility that I'd made a mistake. But some 30 or 40 people joined in on this debate, and then one guy summarised the arguments by counting how many people said "X" and how many said "Not X". And he concluded that since there was a majority saying "X", that X must be true.

I'm sure you can see the fallacy there. You cannot decide the truth of Pythagoras's Theorem by taking a vote.

I wonder how many people support "Science must fall"?

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