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The “Big Lie” is a degenerate research program

Scientists are concerned with the progress of research programs. A research program that doesn’t make progress in understanding the phenomena it studies wastes valuable professional time and resources. It also is a sink of resources that could be better spent improving the human condition. However, most research programs that don’t progress are unlikely to actively harm society. Instead, they will wither away, swirling down a drain of decreasing significance and impact.

Not so the “Big Lie“.

Imre Lakatos talked about research programs being structured around a theoretical core surrounded by auxiliary hypotheses that can be tested more formally. The theoretical core of this research program is that there was substantial fraud in the 2020 election cycle that worked to the benefit of Democrats and the detriment of Republicans. Auxiliary hypotheses swirl around this core regarding how this fraud may be detected and counteracted. If these auxiliary hypotheses survive tests of the theory, then the theoretical core holds.

However, if those hypotheses are falsified through tests (as in a boss fight), then the research program has two challenges. The negative heuristic describes how the auxiliary hypotheses must be regenerated if they are falsified to preserve the theoretical core, as the theoretical core itself cannot be attacked. The positive heuristic states the research program must come up with theoretically consistent methods of generating new hypotheses to be tested should some of the auxiliary belt fail so that the theoretical core can be modified.

I will detail the auxiliary hypotheses of the Big Lie as I understand them and then give the results of their tests.

Court Challenges Will Reveal Improprieties in Election Law Changes during the Pandemic

The Trump campaign, allied Republican entities, and sympathetic attorneys (including 17 state attorneys general) filed over 60 lawsuits challenging the propriety of various electoral counts and changes to voting laws that states made in light of the pandemic. By one count, 62 out of 64 of these cases were dismissed or found in favor of the defendants, indicating that the vast majority of these cases testing this auxiliary hypothesis found it false. The two successful cases related to denying the counting of ballots with missing IDs after election day in Pennsylvania and the Republican candidate for New York’s 22nd Congressional district being declared the eventual winner by 109 votes.

Thus, these two cases seem more like rogue comets passing by the theoretical core than auxiliary hypotheses in tight orbit around it. Furthermore, some of the cases that were brought are so frivolous as to draw sanctions against the attorneys who filed them or cause an attorney to be fired. Though Mike Lindell has been filing suits against voting machine manufacturers, they are countersuing for defamation and seeking sanctions for the filing attorneys.

Audits of Electoral Counts Will Reveal Discrepant Vote Totals

The notion that recounts and audits of vote counts would show massive fraud is prominent across the Big Lie, presumably reflecting vote-dumping shenanigans, vote switching, or other corruption of electronic databases. Secretaries of State in Georgia and Texas have found no meaningful discrepancies between published and audited vote totals. Wisconsin (by Republican leaders), Michigan (by Senate Republicans) and Arizona (by a pro-Trump firm with no previous experience) audits likewise found no fraud, even with agencies having a strong Republican allegiance bias. It is unclear whether Pennsylvania’s Republican-led Senate will release the results of its audit, though its Secretary of State has already audited the vote totals without any meaningful discrepancies with published vote totals. There is no evidence in favor of this auxiliary hypothesis and several tests falsifying it.

Voter Fraud Prosecutions Will Show Rampant Illegal Voting by Democratic Voters

The notion that large swathes of Democratic voters cast illegal ballots is another tenet of the Big Lie. However, in the six most contested states, there is little evidence for this proposition. Indeed, Republicans in Florida (at least 4 cases), Pennsylvania (at least 3 cases), and Nevada (at least 1 case) are accused or convicted of voting crimes. Again, the evidence is against the Big Lie’s auxiliary hypotheses – this time, in the opposite direction.

Objectors to Electoral Count Insisted on Having Their Own Votes Audited

On January 6, six Republican Senators and 121 Republican Representatives objected to the electoral count in Arizona. Thus, it would be reasonable that at least the objecting Republican representatives from Arizona would likewise cast doubt on their own electoral victories and entertain doubt about their victories. Alas, no such protests have issued from Representatives Biggs, Gosar, or Lesko.


All four sets of auxiliary hypotheses have been falsified in multiple ways, sometimes in the direction opposite predictions. Any attempts to regenerate those auxiliary hypotheses through the positive heuristic have also failed.

The Big Lie has been laid bare. It fails to generate hypotheses with connection to data in the world at large. Its support does not derive from empirically supported facts.

The Big Lie is a degenerate research program.