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<   No. 1128   2006-02-27   >

Comic #1128

1 {scene: A dim interior, light by torch sconces. Alchemical gear litters a table.}
1 Marcus: You know Julius, it's not reputable for an aspiring senator such as yourself to dabble in alchemy.
2 Julius: I think alchemy can teach us about political principles.
3 Julius: We still don't know if matter is infinitely divisible, or made of discrete particles. I plan to settle the matter with a vote of the citizens of Rome.
4 Marcus: A vote? What sort of scientific method do you call that?
4 Julius: Democritusy.

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Democritus was a Greek philosopher known for his idea that the universe consisted of small, indivisible units of matter - which he called atoms - and the void in which they exist. This contrasted with the commonly held belief that matter could always be divided into ever smaller pieces, each of which would contain the same basic properties as the material from which it derived.

Ultimately, Democritus became known as the originator of this theory of atomism, although he probably learnt some of it from his teacher, Leucippus.

Despite the alliterative qualities of their names, Democritus is not generally known for his contributions to the political theory of democracy.

2015-06-15 Rerun commentary: Alas it seems that in the modern day, Democritusy has become a rather powerful force. There are a few fairly obvious issues which have a clear factual basis and scientific consensus, yet which a significant number of people simply disagree with for some personal reason based on gut feeling or preferred worldview.

The sad part occurs when a lot of such people influence government policies, or public health, or the welfare of our planet, through the sheer weight of people who have views opposed to factual scientific findings.

That is Democritusy in action. Basing policy on people's opinions about topics such as climate change, or vaccination, or the cause of AIDS makes as much sense as basing our electronics engineering industry on people's opinions of whether atoms exist or not.

Maybe this is a new word we can use to describe this phenomenon of "facts" decided by public opinion, as opposed to scientific investigation.

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