On Democracy and Truth: A Discussion
with Yamin Zakaria <[email protected]>
By Ali Sina
Yamin Zakaria wrote:
you believe that head count does not make their beliefs right, then
why do you believe in democracy, which is based on head count?
does not make a proposition true or false. Voting is a civilized way
for conflict resolution. We could also throw a coin for that matter.
But voting is a smarter way. The majority is not always right. That is why
in democracies people continue to vote every four years.
can vote on what to eat for dinner for example, but we canít vote on the
nutritional value of the food. For that we have to consult science.
is not about finding the truth. It is about what to do without having
to resort to force and cut each other's throat.
you believe democracy is a way to resolve conflict even by sacrificing
the truth, as you say "majority is not always right"
but we accept it to avoid conflict. Which means you are making peace
and resolving conflict the higher value than following the
truth (Which philosophers like Plato in his Republic sees
the highest value).
In that case why do you not apply this principle of resolving the conflict to
the world situation? Instead you are constantly trying to
initiate conflict by foul-mouthing Islam and Muslims. For the
sake of peace you should sacrifice the truth (according to
you) and seize attacking Islam and Muslims.
in reality, it seems that you are once again violating your own
principles, thus in reality you are an immoral man by YOUR own
Truth cannot be determined
by polling and through universal consensus. Galileo was in minority and
the whole world opposed his view on heliocentricity. Of course voting in
that case would have resulted in an erroneous conclusion. Truth must be
found through logics, science and research.
Democracy is for
governance not for finding the truth. Democracy is devised to avoid
conflicts. Wise people decided that instead of rioting, making revolutions
and killing each other, it is better to vote every four years and let people
choose their government, and change it if they don't like it after four
years. We vote for the government not for the truth. My job is the pursuit
of truth. Democracy has nothing to do with it. We are talking apples and
oranges. Who said truth must be sacrificed in order to have democracy?
Democracy and finding the truth are two different subjects. Both of them
are important, but they are not related.
If a group of us want to
go to a restaurant and we canít agree which, we better vote on it.
Another way is to obey the one who is bully among us and do what he says
out of fear. Of course voting is better than following a bully. This has
nothing to do with truth or falsehood.
But we canít vote
whether broccoli has more vitamin C or carrot. For that we have to consult
the expert. If you are the expert on nutrition and we are not, all of us
better listen to you. There is nothing to vote about.
Democracy and truth are
two unrelated subjects.
You say "Truth cannot be
determined by polling and through universal consensus."
yet you claimed earlier that there was universal consensus on the
Golden rule (except for the Muslims) and for that reason
it was the ultimate truth (even though there was no material on your
website on this issue). So again it seems you always contradict your
"Who said democracy has to
sacrifice the truth? Democracy and finding the truth are two
different subjects. Both of them are important but they are not
you believe democracy is a way to resolve conflict even by sacrificing
the truth, as you say "majority is not always
right" but we accept it to avoid conflict. So
according to you truth should not govern society but principles of
democracy in order to avoid conflict! Surely truth is being sacrificed! So democracy by your elaboration
means truth has to be sacrificed in favour of resolving conflict.
The two subjects are related.
I said it already that democracy and truth are two
different subjects. They do not even overlap. So why should one sacrifice
the truth in order to achieve democracy?
I brought a simple example that anyone would
understand. If a group of us decide to vote in order to see whether we
should eat Chinese or Italian tonight, this has nothing to do with truth.
Which truth is sacrificed here? But if we vote about the nutritional
values of the food, then truth is going to be compromised, because we are
not expert and cannot make such judgment. How much vitamin C exist
in broccoli is not a matter that can be resolved through voting. This
should be determined through scientific research and we better listen to
In bigger scale, governments should be elected
democratically. This means that all the citizens vote and choose their
government every four years. This is better than having a despot decide
for everyone else, jail those who disagree with him, censor opposing views
and kill the dissidents.
What is the choice of a people thus being oppressed?
Their only choice is to rise in arms and overthrow that despot in a
revolution. Of course in the process thousands or even millions could be
So clearly dictatorship is not the smart way of government.
In democracies, revolution happens every four years.
That is done through voting and no blood is shed. Which system is better?
Democracy is about governance not truth. But
incidentally truth is far more protected in democracies than in
dictatorships. Truth can manifest through the clash of opposing ideas. In
a place where thoughts and opposing ideas are suppressed, truth can never
Take the example of heliocentricity we discussed
above. Now we all know that it is the truth. But if Galileo and everyone
who proposed such a theory were immediately killed how humanity would have
known this truth? This truth triumphed thanks to freedom of speech which
is part of democracy. If the Church had its way, Galileo's views would
never have been accepted and anyone suggesting them would have been put to
death as heretic. Galileo had to recant in order to save his life. So,
although truth and democracy are two unrelated subjects, truth can only
triumph in democracy and not in dictatorship where thoughts are
empirical and scientific investigation of the natural world is one
thing governing human society is another.
means to legislate laws to determine rights (truth) and wrongs
(false)! these become truths and axioms in society. How often we are
fed the majority this and minority, so on.
No Sir. Democracy is not
to determine right (truth) and wrong (false). Democracy is a smart way of
governance and conflict resolution. If a group of us vote on where to eat,
we are not determining right or wrong and our decision has nothing to do
with truth and falsehood. We are simply coming to an amicable consensus
about where to eat. Today we might vote to eat Chinese food,
tomorrow we may vote for Italian and the next day for Mexican. The same
happens when the citizens of one country vote to elect their
government. Every four years all the citizens vote and decide who should
be their government.
numbers [headcount] is not a criterion then we should not advocate
democracy as a means to establish laws of rights and wrongs in
That is what I just said.
Truth and falsehood cannot be determined in a poll. If in an Islamic
country you ask people to decide which religion is true, of course the
majority would say Islam. But Islam is false even if all humanity vote for
it. To decide whether Islam is true or not, we must evaluate it with
logic, science and commonsense. It is under this litmus test that Islam
fails. Majority can't decide what is the truth. That would be argumentum
ad numerum. which is a logical fallacy.
is not just scientific 'truths' but rights and wrongs in terms of laws
and values governing society, those are not determined by
Laws have nothing to do
with truth or falsehood. We make laws because they are useful and reduce
human friction/conflict. We change them when they outwear their utility.
As the society changes, so should the laws governing it. Laws have noting
to do with right or wrong or truth and falsehood. In
the law say you must drive on the left side of the road. In France the law
requires that you drive on the right side. Is one of these laws false?
Some laws however are
oppressive, outdated and they must be changed. They have been devised for
times and societies very much districts from ours and they are not fit for
our world. Most of the laws of Islam existed prior to Islam among the
pagans. Take the law of cutting the hand of the thief. In those days and
in that primitive part of the world, jails did not exist and the society
could not afford keeping the criminals in jail. Jails are expensive. You
must not only feed the criminal, you must also pay the salaries of a few
guards and have secure prisons. These societies were mostly villages and
nomads and such thing was superfluous. It was not feasible in those days
among the primitive tribes of Arabia to have prisons. So the only way they
could punish a criminal was to harm him physically. They either beheaded
him or maimed him, according to the gravity of his crime. This was a very
cruel form of punishment. Nonetheless it was the only thing those
primitive societies could think of and do. Now the world has changed and
we have much more humane ways for punishing the criminals. Also we are
wiser and know that the criminals are victims of childhood abuses. So we
create secure jails to separate these disturbed and dangerous people from
the society. The idea is not to punish them but to protect the society
from their harms and if possible correct them so once released they can be
useful to the society.
The law of chopping hands
is barbaric. It has been devised by very primitive people prior to Islam
and adopted by Muhammad because he was not a visionary and could not think
beyond his experiences. But it is backward and draconian for our time.
This law is wrong now, even though it had its utility thousands of years
In democracies, where
people make the law, we can change inhumane laws. In theocracies we
canít. This and the example of Galileoís theory about heliocentricity
show that although democracy is not about right and wrong or truth and
falsehood, it provides a milieu where right and truth can triumph over
wrong and falsehood.
Theocracies and all other
forms of autocracies, can't tolerate criticism. They rely on falsehood for
their survival and censor the truth. A good example of that is the Islamic
Republic of Iran where those who speak against it are jailed or executed
and dissidents outside Iran are assassinated. Iran is not the exception.
In all Islamic countries, thoughts are suppressed and truth is nipped in
the bud. Falsehood must rely on violence, censorship and suppression of
truth to survive. Without that it will vanish like darkness faced with
So although democracy is
not about truth and falsehood, in democracy you have the chance to right
the wrong and reach the truth while in dictatorship you don't have that