Every semester, I begin my introductory biostatistics class with a simple “show of hands” experiment based on the Bouba-Kiki effect. Prior to the experiment I “volunteer” two students at random to count hands, and when hands are raised, each of my volunteers counts silently and independently. Invariably, the counts DO NOT MATCH. We briefly discuss the phenomenon of measurement error, and select from a set of alternatives (recounts, averaging, etc) to resolve the problem. It’s a perfect “teaching moment” that occurs spontaneously as a surprise to my students on the first day of class. I console them with the fact that wildlife biologists have recognized this problem for decades, and even have an app, Wildlife Counts, to train field workers in the fine art of counting.
Apparently none of my former students were involved in preparing for this year’s Iowa Democratic Caucus. Caucus organizers touted three independent means of counting, at least one of which locked up like Redi-Crete. Results have been delayed due to “inconsistencies,” and officials have declared “this is not a hack.”
From a political party that practically owns the phrase “the science is settled,” this is not a good look.