Number 102, December 11, 2000
Living in Infamy

The Placebo Elect

by Neil Alexander

Special to TLE

Honesty is rare these days—that¹s certainly not in dispute. Intellectual honesty is even harder to find. Before I continue, I should define what I mean by the above statements.

Honesty, in this case, is "outward" truthfulness. What you tell other people.

"Intellectual Honesty" is "inward" truthfulness. In other words, lying to oneself shows a lack of intellectual honesty. In my opinion, it is not possible to have outward honesty without inward honesty.

With regard to this issue, I think I can prove that Al Gore is attempting to steal the election. And I can give objective proof of this assertion. Objective proof is important, in that it is theoretically impossible to refute, and is not "politically" motivated. It just is.

Objective proof is an interesting criterium in this age of "pregnant chads", "dimpled ballots", and other subjective notions. So, I must define this term, as well: (from dictionary.com)


1. Of or having to do with a material object.
2. Having actual existence or reality.
3.a. Uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices: an objective critic.
b. Based on observable phenomena; presented factually: an objective appraisal.

[more left out for brevity]



1. The evidence or argument that compels the mind to accept an assertion as true.
2.a. The validation of a proposition by application of specified rules, as of induction or deduction, to assumptions, axioms, and sequentially derived conclusions.
b. A statement or an argument used in such a validation.
3.a. Convincing or persuasive demonstration: was asked for proof of his identity; an employment history that was proof of her dependability.
b. The state of being convinced or persuaded by consideration of evidence.
4. Determination of the quality of something by testing; trial: put one's beliefs to the proof.

[more left out for brevity]

So, taking definitions 3a & b for 'objective', and 2a for 'proof', we come up with the following complete definition:

"The validation of a proposition by application of specified rules, as of induction or deduction, to assumptions, axioms, and sequentially derived conclusions. Uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices, and based on observable phenomena; presented factually."

"Observable phenomena" implies repeatability; (i.e.) able to be reproduced by a described sequence of steps.

Anybody with any scientific training should recognize this as an integral part of the scientific method. So, I will inflict another definition on you:

scientific method

The principles and empirical processes of discovery and demonstration considered characteristic of or necessary for scientific investigation, generally involving the observation of phenomena, the formulation of a hypothesis concerning the phenomena, experimentation to demonstrate the truth or falseness of the hypothesis, and a conclusion that validates or modifies the hypothesis.

"Experimentation" in this case is the ability to repeat a series of steps to replicate an assertion made by another [person] of an observed phenomena.

One of the main users of the scientific method is the drug industry. In order to test the effectiveness of their drugs, they use something called "double blind" studies. One last definition:

double blind

A testing procedure, designed to eliminate biased results, in which the identity of those receiving a test treatment is concealed from both administrators and subjects until after the study is completed. [emphasis added]

Bingo! Here we come to the crux of the problem with "hand counting" of ballots, especially by democratic committees. By their very nature, they are biased. They cannot help it. So, several possibilities occur to me here.

First, if they're ignorant of the concept of bias, and objective proof, they will happily count every dimple, pregnant chad, scratch, water spot, and flattened tick as a vote for their man.

If they know about double blind studies, and the concept of bias, and are intellectually honest, they may recuse themselves. I haven't heard of any of these counters recusing themselves. And it's irrelevant if a few of them do so. There are still plenty of ignorant counters to take up the slack.

Others may over compensate, and be more demanding than other counters. This does no good, either, as there are still plenty of unenlightened counters to rule—democratically no doubt—that the ballot is for their man.

And here is the real problem. Since there is no objective standard (aka "objective proof") as to what constitutes a vote, even an intellectually honest person cannot correctly read "voter intent".

Back to double blind studies.

Double blind, in regards to drug testing, means that neither the patient, nor the observer knows what the patient is getting. Is it the test drug? Or a sugar pill?

There is a phenomena known as the "placebo effect". This happens when a patient receives a pill with no medicine.Tthe patient nevertheless experiences an improvement in his symptoms.

The critical part of double blind, however, is the observer. If the observer knows whether or not particular patients have the placebo, he may intentionally, or unintentionally introduce bias into his observations. The observer can have a placebo effect, too, by seeing improvements to symptoms that are not actually there.

Many studies have been done on this "observer placebo effect" as well. What was found, is that if the observer knew who received a placebo and who did not, his observations were always at variance with observers who did not know. Even if the observer is intellectually honest, it still skewed the results.

We're not talking anything nefarious here. We're talking about honest people, trying to evaluate subtle changes in symptoms. Even with honest people, the results were not reliable, and therefore not reproducible, and therefore not objective, and therefore rejected.

The scientific method has been formalized and taught in schools for well over a hundred years. Double blind study methods have been known for over a half century. These are well known and regarded concepts. [except by the religious right apparently]

So how does that relate to hand counting? Well, here we have Al Gore and the democrats replacing a valid, proven, double blind technique, with one that always introduces errors. Always. Never fails.

The counting machines are objective—they are the observer in this equation. The paper ballots are the patient. Together, they yield a result that is objective, and therefore free of bias.

Replacing the observer with a (biased) person will always result in errors. Errors that have a tendency to go in favor of the bias of the observer.

The fact that Gore only wants certain democratic counties counted, instead of all the counties proves he knows the above concepts. He knows hand counting is ipso facto not objective, and will introduce errors. Errors that will tend to improve his position to get what he wants—more votes.

Copyright © 2000, by Neil Alexander
All rights reserved.

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