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  • The Lancet and the Iraqis

    Posted by Ginny on October 30th, 2004 (All posts by )

    A couple of weeks ago, Reason took a survey of the voting preferences of various libertarian luminaries. One of the most luminous, Pinker, argued with some reasonable (if, I thought, disproportionate) examples of the irrational homeland security policy. He told us he’d vote for Kerry because Bush uses too little reason. Well, maybe. But this weekend I’m struck by examples of how little reason the “scientific” community uses in approaching Bush and, well, how “reasonable” Bush is. Indeed, I wonder if these “reasoning” Bush-haters realize how tattered the public’s respect for such professional judgments is likely to be after these last few months. And how this loss of authority is likely to play out in the future.

    As Shannon Love has noted, The Lancet, a respected science journal, wants to affect our votes. I figure we all do (and should) vote from an American perspective. Sure the Brits stood by us (and the Iraqis); they deserve a polite response. They do not deserve the respect a commentator asked for – that by the nature of the journal we should respect its conclusions. But if any other nation has earned our ears about this election it is probably Iraq. If we should vote against Bush for the reasons The Lancet raises, we should hear an amen from the Iraqis. I’m not sure that’s the word they’d choose.

    While we’ve been debating how many Iraqis have been killed, a series of posts by Instapundit give us a perspective on the world beyond that of the medicine of The Lancet and the psychoanalysis of Justin Frank, whose extraordinarily partisan analysis of Bush’s psychiatric problems was countered by Stanley Renshon’s clearly more measured biography in a C-Span panel.

    So, here, let’s take a longer range (geographically and historically) perspective, with an editorial by Lawrence Kaplan, “Bush Voters in Baghdad” on WSJ Online. And, while this doesn’t reinforce Shannon’s specific points, I suspect it points to the general thrust of her argument:

    Partly this derives from the simple fact that, as polls show, the overwhelming majority of Iraqis don’t care who wins our election. Their concerns run closer to home–especially how to stay alive. There’s an exception, however: the thousands of academics, lawyers, rights advocates and other educated elites leading the effort to create a new Iraq–nearly all of whom have hitched their fortunes to our own and nearly all of whom hope that President Bush wins.

    He discusses the various responses by Iraqis, and notes:

    Not surprisingly, surveys by the Iraqi Center for Research and Strategic Studies find that, whereas Mr. Bush garners the most support in the Kurdish north and from Iraq’s well-educated urban elites, Mr. Kerry draws his strongest support from what the Center’s Sadoun al-Dulame calls Iraq’s “hottest places”–hotbeds of resistance to the U.S. A poll taken earlier this month in Baghdad, for example, finds that while President Bush would win a higher tally in New Baghdad’s Christian precincts, Sen. Kerry carries Sadr City hands down.

    As Barone (and countless others) point out, this may make foreign policy difficult in a divided America facing a divided Iraq; Kaplan continues:

    Leaving aside that speechifying about a U.S. withdrawal culminates in what Mr. Rubaie describes as “a huge moral boost to the terrorists”: How does Sen. Kerry intend to work alongside the pro-U.S. Iraqis he denigrates at every turn? This is a practical as well as a moral question. By advancing the fiction that there’s no such thing as bringing the troops home too soon and nothing to justify an adequate level of expenditure in Iraq, he’s already signaled his willingness to forfeit America’s obligation to rebuild the country it turned inside out. And he offers this as heightened moral awareness.

     

    34 Responses to “The Lancet and the Iraqis”

    1. Stick Candor Says:

      So, a respected group of scientists tells you that the humanitarian war against the people with no connection with 9/11 resulted in a, let’s say, less than humane killing of probably 100,000 innocent iraqis. Your answer: “they try to affect my vote!”
      I’m sure with the same disdain for reality, you probably call that Moral clarity.

    2. Ginny Says:

      Stick Candor:
      While this is nicely stated, it ignores the point: the best judge of the Coalition’s actions in Iraq are the Iraqis; the best judges among the Iraqis are those who have the greatest undsrstanding of what is going on. This group is whole-heartedly in favor of Bush in this election; the groups with stronger ties to the “insurgents” are more likely to see Kerry as their man. These are not groups well-loved by Iraqis.

      You can spin this any way you want and I’m sure you can. However, the truth remains that the Iraqi choice reflects how the Iraqi’s judgement of the Coalition. And that is where the rubber hits the road.

      Your response is not a thoughtful appreciation of the Iraqi point of view – it is not, in short, humanitarian – but rather an attempt to use statistics about Iraqis for your own purposes.

    3. ginny Says:

      Iraqis themselves, given videocams and guidelines, shot Voices of Iraq armed with donated cameras. Joel Mowbray gives context and links schedules.

      Its now showing at the Inwood Theater in Dallas; Tom Sines reviewed it in the Dallas Morning News. He notes:

      Voices of Iraq takes a unique approach to finding an answer. Producers Eric Maines, Archie Drury and Martin Kunert, working with a Los Angeles production company, distributed 150 digital video cameras to Iraqis, who agreed to document their lives and opinions.

      The result is an extraordinary, up-to-the-minute tapestry that ranges all over this country of 25 million people and carries the force of revelation. There’s a clear pro-coalition slant, but the texture, atmosphere and lack of self-consciousness in Voices of Iraq lend it a powerful authenticity. So does a soundtrack of Iraqi pop, from Arabic hip-hop to jihad rock.

      .

    4. Stick Says:

      You just made my point all the more obvious. The study published by The Lancet, only the most respected journal in medicine, says 100,000 people might have been killed by US bombs and munitions, and you prefer to analyse the finding from the curious, partisan, unsupported and wholly irrelevant perspective of ‘iraqis supporting Bush’ and ‘insugents supporting Kerry’. Your disconnect with reality seems pathological.

    5. ginny Says:

      If you want to discuss the strength of Lancet’s arguments, you might want to enter the fray in the comments sections on the posts below. You seem to be begging the question, but perhaps you just don’t scan our blog very far down.

      If you have decided that polls of, blogs by, and video recordings by Iraqis are irrelevant, then I agree, my argument is meaningless. And I admit these examples are not “scientific.” But I find the voice of Bloggers & videos coming from what not so long ago was Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in exhilerating. These are people that have found their voices – and to some of us, this is energizing music.

      True, I find the opinions of those most involved important. That you don’t is interesting. This may, indeed, be pathological on my part. You can forgive me, however, for finding this a less-than-effective argument. Perhaps it is my pathology that tends not to respect your tone.

    6. Jonathan Says:

      Stick,

      You disagree with Ginny’s assertions, but offer nothing in response except assertions of your own and an appeal to the authority of The Lancet (as though it could not possibly be mistaken). Can you provide some evidence to support your views? Your arguments are weak without it.

    7. Stick Says:

      What response do *I* need to offer?. Once again people: the only serious study done to date, but the most respected journal you will find, I repeat, the *only* study done –because the humanitarian interventionists don’t bother to count dead people– shows that 100,000 people were killed. You might not like the results of the study, but it is the only one and done by, repeat with me guys, the most respected non-partisan people you can find. It sounds to me that *you* have to provide alternative data, not me. Unless you can show the Lancet study is wrong, and obviously you can’t because your boys don’t bother to count, then suck it up and deal with this reality. If you don’t like this reality, just continue to live in yor own, you guys seem to enjoy that alternative universe.

    8. Stick Says:

      Guys, the bottom line is that the Iraq adventure turned to be a disaster. Plain and simple, a disaster. Most iraqis (I realize not the few that get money form the CPA and shoot video for the CPA) are fed up with the occupation, their country is in ruins and we just guarateed the establishment of a future fanatical islamic state in the center of the middle east. Now we find out that even the humanitarian reason to wage this war has been demolished: the coalition killed more people than Saddam did in his last 15 years in power. That is quite a fate. It’s incredible, it’s obscene, it’s true.
      You guys migh want to try to squeeze out some positive of this dismal situation, but you do so at the expense of looking foolish, out-of-touch and, frankly, ridiculous. So I’m calling your game: you are foolish and ridiculous. And I’m being generous, I’m not getting into your motives, because I don’t quite know them.
      But what you do is quite dangerous. The sooner you assume things went wrong, the sooner you can try to fix it.

    9. Sulaiman Says:

      Iraqis have not yet been given the chance to choose what they want. Until the people of Iraq are given a few choices, like what we witnessed in Afghanistan, we will NOT know whether they prefer an Iranian style theocracy (which you already claim to know is what they want) or something else.

      And by the way, please do not confuse the 20% or so minority Sunnis who think they have birthright to rule with the rest of Iraqis.

    10. Jonathan Says:

      Stick,

      You need not provide any response, but you also should not expect anyone to take your argument seriously unless you support your assertions. Ginny supports her assertions using the best evidence available. Sulaiman argues that there is not yet enough evidence to draw a conclusion. These are both reasonable responses. You, OTOH, continue to make unsupported assertions and to bludgeon us with the supposed authority of The Lancet, as though this authority assures us that any article that appears in it must be true.

      I do not find your line of argument convincing, because 1) your assertions are not self-evidently true, they contradict my understanding of the situation and you do not support them, and 2) because the Lancet article to which you attribute such high validity has serious methodological flaws which Shannon Love pointed out in this post and this post.

    11. Stick Says:

      Jonathan G ewirtz:
      1. your assertions are not self-evidently true
      They don’t need to be. They simply need to be supported by reality (as in data) and a solid scientific analysis. That’s what the Lancet study did. You challenge my point under the dismissive argument of being assertions and yet, as I pointed out a million times, like its conclusions or not, the Lancet study in question is the only one we have.
      2. they contradict my understanding of the situation
      Talk about supported arguments!… Facts don’t fit your ideology… they must be wrong!
      3. the Lancet article to which you attribute such high validity has serious methodological flaws
      Not really. The definitive answer to the unsupported and partisan critique of your alternative-reality friends is here:
      Talking rubbish about epidemiology

      But in your world, since this debunking was written by respectable person with a real scientific and statistical expertise, it must be wrong!

    12. Jonathan Says:

      They don’t need to be. They simply need to be supported by reality (as in data) and a solid scientific analysis. That’s what the Lancet study did. You challenge my point under the dismissive argument of being assertions and yet, as I pointed out a million times, like its conclusions or not, the Lancet study in question is the only one we have.

      The whole point of Shannon’s posts was that the Lancet study is based on flawed data and is therefore not a “solid scientific analysis.” As far as I can tell from a quick reading, the Crooked Timber post which you cite does not adequately address this crucial issue of sampling error, but instead treats the data as representative and criticizes Shannon’s interpretation. I emailed Shannon about your comment and the Crooked Timber post, so perhaps Shannon will respond.

      Shannon made a specific critique, based on widely accepted principles of research methodology, of the Lancet article. Shannon responded, effectively I think, to critics in the comments. You say Shannon is wrong, that we are politically motivated, etc., yet aside from citing the Crooked Timber piece you provide no support for your assertions. Unless you explain why you agree with the Lancet study and disagree with Shannon (and stating that a journal is respected or someone else’s argument is definitive is a weak argument), you are not convincing, and it’s not even clear that you understand the issues.

    13. John F Says:

      Stick:
      One reason for discounting the figure is that, IIRC. total civilian casualties in Italy WW2 were 70,000. And the intensity of conflict, bombing bombardment, destruction and dislocation in Italy 1943-45 was orders of magnitude greater than Iraq.
      Then there’s the timing.
      If this study isn’t a political ploy, paint me green and call me gherkin.

      BTW, Ginny, The Lancet is a British journal, but the study authors are from Johns Hopkins, Baltimore.

    14. Stick Says:

      Man, I thought I was joking a bit, but your logic is indeed from a different universe.

      Unless you explain why you agree with the Lancet study
      How can I add, or should add any argument to a study done by people IN IRAQ, in the field, with the most serious methodology. How? By simply recalling anecdotal evidence like Shannon’s on how ‘happy iraqis are’? Be serious.

      You are the one that, for obviously political reasons, chooses to believe the study is wrong, but apparently you feel it is my job to argue on why you wish the study was wrong. Present a reasonable argument on why the study is wrong, and then we talk.

      You,lightly and insufficiently, dismiss the obviously clear debunking of the trivial critique by Shannon by simply stating that you think it was effectively answered (yet, you even confess you paid the Crooked Timber piece a “quick reading”…)

      Facts:
      1) Nobody from the CPA, US Armed Forces or any other official agency kept count on the death of civilians in Iraq as a consequence of the invasion.
      2) The Lancet team went to Iraq, worked on the field, used sound scientific analysis and came to the conclusion that in all likelyhood more than 100,000 were killed as a consequence of the invasion. Of course, it is a statistical analysis. There is a chance that the actual number was 8,000, there is a chance that it was 200,000, there is a bigger chance that it was 100,000. Which number of dead iraqis do you feel more confortable with, Jonathan?
      3) you are in no position to challenge the Lancet findings because:
      i) you don’t have any alternative study (remember, we “don’t count dead bodies”)
      ii) you don’t seem to understand statistical analysis.
      iii) you seem to accept only information stating that everything is just wonderful in Iraq.

      I’ll take the scientific credentials of the Johns Hopkings people any day if the alternative is a bunch of partisan loonies with disregard for the truth and that are, apparently, completely insensitive to the loss of iraqi life.

    15. Anonymous Says:

      John F,

      1. Your assertion that the study is wrong because “there should have been less dead bodies than in WWII Italy” is not very serious. By intensity of bombardment you probably mean number of bombs (and you are probably even wrong about that), but the real issue is the capacity of modern warfare bombs, which is many, many, maby times the capacity of WWII bombs. In any case, how do you know about the “intensity of bombardment” in Iraq when those numbers are not public?

      2. If the political timing of the Lancet study puts the whole study in question, you surely are ready to dismiss everything that has been said to challenge it the same way, as “suspiciously” partisan. Yet, you probably won’t.

    16. Jonathan Says:

      How can I add, or should add any argument to a study done by people IN IRAQ, in the field, with the most serious methodology.

      Why is that methodology valid in the face of Shannon’s points about sampling error? Go ahead, be specific for once. We can handle it.

      You are the one that, for obviously political reasons, . . .

      Obviously, an ad hominem assertion from a mind reader like you is both objectively true and relevant to the discussion at hand.

      You,lightly and insufficiently, dismiss the obviously clear debunking [link to Crooked Timber post]. . .

      How could I have dismissed such obvious truth?

      . . . the trivial critique by Shannon. . .

      It must be, since you say it is.

      The Lancet team went to Iraq, worked on the field, used sound scientific analysis and came to the conclusion. . .

      Bold-faced lettering proves that they used sound scientific analysis? But of course, since you keep saying it, it must be even more true.

      There is a chance that the actual number was 8,000, there is a chance that it was 200,000, there is a bigger chance that it was 100,000. Which number of dead iraqis do you feel more confortable with, Jonathan?

      I feel most comfortable with a reliable number, which this study fails to provide.

      you are in no position to challenge the Lancet findings because:
      i) you don’t have any alternative study

      So if I produce a study that says that it rains on Venus because of all the fish in the atmosphere, then you are in no position to challenge me if you don’t have an alternative study?

      I’ll take the scientific credentials of the Johns Hopkings people any day if the alternative is a bunch of partisan loonies with disregard for the truth and that are, apparently, completely insensitive to the loss of iraqi life.

      Of course you’ll judge arguments based on the authors’ credentials. You don’t know enough about science or logic to judge them in any other way.

      BTW, name calling will get your comments deleted around here.

    17. Stick Says:

      Oh, Jonathan, now I do understand the clarity of your points:

      1. Shannon says there was sampling errors. Most independent people say there wasn’t. I haven’t really read the report, or the arguments supporting it, but Shannon is right because she supports my view.

      2. I don’t have an argument, so I’ll argue about the use of bold typeface. I think that people that use bold typeface are probably wrong about how good everything is in Iraq.

      3. There is a respectable team of people that produced a study I don’t like, so I’ll compare it to a study saying that it rains in Venus.

      4. It is bad to judge a study by the authors credentials. It’s better to judge them on how well they advance my political credo. But, if useful, let’s mention Shannon’s credentials.

      5. I’ll just keep stating that a study produced in one of the most respected institutions in the world and published in one of the most respected journal in the world is not credible. Let the others refute this obvious truth.

      By all means Jonathan, now I think you were right all along. My bad. You won.

      BTW, there was no intention of name-calling, I tried to express my judgement on what I think are your lazy arguments.
      I didn’t mean to offend you or anyone else.

    18. Angie Schultz Says:

      Hmmm. I’m a scientist, but I’m unfamiliar with the term “confidence interval”, since we don’t use it in my field. But according to this site, a “confidence interval” of 8000 to 194000 with a 95% probability means they got a two sigma result??? Actually, it’s less than two sigma, it’s 1.96 sigma.

      Somebody please tell me I have this wrong.

      I don’t know how it’s done in medicine, but in my field, we would not claim that we had detected any effect less than three sigma, and then we’d be pretty defensive about it.

    19. Jonathan Says:

      Hey, what are a few sigma between friends? There’s no stigma to missing sigma! After all, we know what the answer should be or we wouldn’t have rushed to publish. A good political hunch should darn well be worth a few standard deviates on one of those stoopid charts with the bell thing. (What is that all about?) So there’s no point quibbling about accuracy when the Lancelot gives us the real scoop. It’s the thought that counts, even if we can’t. Unless you’re one of those mean old Republicans who hate Iraqis, that is.

    20. Stick Says:

      Angie,
      your point is reasonable, and it is one of the reasons the authors put all the possible caveats in their paper. However, as they say, they don’t only have the data the use for the final data-crunching. If they actually included the Fallujah data, your 2 sigma turn into a 4. The reason they don’t is because they want to be cautious and the numbers of dead iraqis from Fallujah were so big that they treated that data point as an outlier. In other words, they went as far as they could no to inflate the numbers.

      I am a biomedical scientist, and if the people I work with come with numbers like that, I tell them to go get more data points. Unfortunately that is quite difficult in Iraq right now due to the obvious violent environment that even keeps american officials from stepping outside the ‘green zone’.

      We might, and probably will, get a better study when things improve, some day, but as today, this is a solid and meaningful analysis.

    21. James R. Rummel Says:

      “I am a biomedical scientist,,,”

      I find it fascinating that the majority of people who hold Stick’s political convictions find it incredibly hard to come clean about their actual identity.

      I mean, here he is, claiming an expertise, and we have no idea if he’s blowing smoke up our backsides. A name would help. That way we could track down his credentials, read his published material, find out if he actually is worthy of listening to. We could even send an Email to the academic whose name Stick is using and ask if he’s actually posting insulting comments on the blog, or if some jerk just Googled up a name in a pathetic attempt to steal some credibility.

      As for me, this isn’t my field. I’m not an academic, just a self-defense instructor who’s trying to earn his BA in military history. My background in law enforcement doesn’t give me any experience when it comes to medical studies.

      But I have had a hand in putting a fair number of frauds in jail.

      James

    22. Stick Says:

      Oh James, you got me man!
      Forget Iraq, forget dead people, the question here is whether I am a scientist and whether James can have my email to complain to the proper authorities!
      What do you want me to talk about james? about measurements of intracellular calcium or calcium influx into smooth muscle cells using fura-2? About transient receptor potential proteins? What James? We can talk here, I don’t care about providing my email to people. I found to be very common that people get so turned on by a discussion of the biology of calcium sparks while discussing the killing of innocent people in Iraq that they start asking me to work in my lab. No thanks.

      Go back to playing nintendo James.

    23. Angie Schultz Says:

      I am a biomedical scientist, and if the people I work with come with numbers like that, I tell them to go get more data points. Unfortunately that is quite difficult in Iraq right now due to the obvious violent environment that even keeps american officials from stepping outside the ‘green zone’.

      If someone came to me with numbers like that, I would also tell them to get more data. And they would say, “But we’d have to wait a year and a half! At least!” (This would not be uncommon in my field.) And that would be tough, because you do not publish crappy data. Not if you want to retain the respect of your peers (and the attendant grant money). This goes double if you expect your results to be startling or important in some way. I don’t see why this group should be different.

      There’s also the issue of the Lancet rushing publication so as to have it appear before the election, which is, frankly, prostitution of their supposed objectivity.

    24. Shannon Love Says:

      Stick,

      Ya know, if we would accept arguments from authority in the first place, we would have never questioned the Lancet study. Merely, repeating that Lancet is a “well respected journal” is kinda of silly given that our core argument is that Lancet published a seriously flawed study for political purposes.

      If the Lancet study flaws were of an arcane nature that only specialist could understand you might have some grounds for claims by authority but the errors in this case require little specialized knowledge to identify.

    25. Stick Says:

      Angie,
      according to the authors, they wanted the study to be published at least two weeks earlier, so that the candidates could face the issue. Because The Lancet is a serious jornal, they gave the manuscript to review to many experts, and that took a few extra weeks.
      By the way, most people that actually know statistics agree that the study is a good one, with caveats that the authors themselves pointed out. The study was reviewed by experts, you can probably guess real experts. You don’t agree with their data, or their interpretation, fine, do what they did, show all you got and get your comments in a peer reviewed journal to see if your criticism sustain a close review. My guess is your, or Shannon’s critique will never get beyond the inbreeded confines of right-wing alternative universe. But by all means, go ahead.

    26. Stick Says:

      Shannon,
      I’m not merely repeating The Lancet is a respected journal. I am factly stating The Lancet is a respected journal. It is quite funny to read right-wingers used the french postmodernist relativization of ‘authority’. Necessity has the face of heresy I guess.
      You don’t agree with the study’s conclusions and arranged for a half-cooked critique that got your friends to scream “we are number one!”. That’s all your arguments did, work up the converted.
      Visit the Crooked Timber people to see how your arguments play to the knowledgeable crowd.

    27. Angie Schultz Says:

      This is my last time, since we have begun to repeat ourselves.

      1) I have no competence in the methodology used, therefore cannot comment on this at all.

      2) In my experience, though, a result at the level of slightly less than two sigma is no result.

      3) The authors’ insistence on publishing this result before the election calls into question their objectivity as scientsts, which is part of their scientific competence.

      4) Ditto the Lancet‘s collusion in this goal.

      5) CBS News was formerly a respected news organization, but they were prepared to pass off crudely-forged documents as genuine.

      6) In the eyes of many, this is why CBS was formerly a respected news organization. Lancet, take note.

      7) You are dismissing Shannon’s analysis based on the fact that she’s (he’s?) just some shmoe on a web site, while ignoring any actual points she’s made. They are right, or wrong, regardless of who she is.

      8) This goes for the Lancet editors, the study’s authors, and the crew at Crooked Timber too.

      9) By the way, you could at least point to the correct flippin’ web site. I assume that’s the post you want.

      10) By what measure do you regard the people at Crooked Timber as “knowledgeable”, as opposed to the nobodies over here?

      11) That post is profoundly unimpressive, containing as it does about 95 (+/- 100) percent snark and condescension and 5 percent actual analysis (most of which consists of proof by assertion).

      12) The author of the post admits that his primary concern is that the number 0 does not fall between 8000 and 194000 and therefore he wins nyah nyah nyah. Most of his “critiques” of other commenters is based on this.

      13) I’m done now.

    28. Jonathan Says:

      Stick, you want us to respect your authori-tay, yet are unwilling to explain why you are right and Shannon is wrong. When challenged you respond with classic fallacious arguments and bluster about credentials and experts. When challenged further you insult. No wonder you won’t tell us who you are. One of your IPs is from a U. of Minn. computer (Dept. of pediatrics?), so maybe you do work in a lab. In that case I wonder what it means for someone who works in a research setting to have such a flawed understanding of both elementary statistical reasoning and argumentative logic. Or are you simply so blindly partisan (as you accuse us of being, in what I think is psychological projection on your part) that you subsume truth to politics? In any event I don’t think you are convincing many people here.

    29. Shannon Love Says:

      Stick,

      I don’t care what “knowledge crowd” thinks. I read the paper myself. I examined its methodology myself. I came to my own determination which I shared with others.

      To this point nobody has addressed, much less refuted, my three main contentions: (1) Cluster sampling is a poor choice for a phenomenon known to have an asymmetrical distribution (2) Self reports are poor choice in a 3rd world and (3) the study’s finding of pre-war infant mortality rates is massively lower than any other source.

      To make my point more emphatic, I do not give a rats-ass about any individual’s presume credentials if they cannot answer my 3 objections. I do not accept argument-from-authority without explanation. I don’t care what journal published the results. Journals publish tons of crap every year. Lancet, for example, fell for the “vaccinations cause autism” nonsense just a couple of years ago. Politics can corrupt any institution. I think they made another mistake. Telling me Lancet is well respected and has a long track record tells me nothing about my concerns about this particular study.

      I have been posting on this matter fairly widely and as of this time not one single individual has address my concerns about the studies methodology. If the study was so well done defending it’s methodology should be easy. It should be simple for a scientifically knowledgeable person like yourself to explain why the infant mortality stats are so at variance with every other study of the matter.

    30. James R. Rummel Says:

      “the question here is whether I am a scientist and whether James can have my email to complain to the proper authorities!”

      Hmm, that’s odd. I thought that the whole point of your arguement was that The Lancet was just so darn respected, such a towering authority, that no one writing for this blog was qualified to question it. I also thought that you were claiming a personal expertise.

      I could be wrong. Let me go back and read all your comments.

      No, no, I wasn’t wrong. That’s exactly what you’ve been doing. And when someone comes along who wants you to prove your claims you not only refuse but also descend into insults and claim that I’m trying to damage your career.

      That doesn’t pass any academic smell test that I’ve heard of. (Unless you’re Michael Bellesiles and you’re attacking the 2nd Amendment, of course.)

      It’s your assertion that I’m just looking to get you in trouble with your department that I find most revealing. Have you written something in these comment sections that a university or college would find objectionable? Would your future prospects be damaged by shoddy thinking, ad hominem attacks and a refusal to engage in meaningful debate?

      Well, if it comes out that you’re about to be denied tenure or no one will accept you as a TA because of what you wrote here, then simply tell them that we’re a bunch of Conservatives and all sins will be forgiven. If that doesn’t work you can physically attack one of your students. That should prove your devotion to the rest of the academic crowd.

      James

    31. Chris Says:

      “..BTW, there was no intention of name-calling, I tried to express my judgement on what I think are your lazy arguments.
      I didn’t mean to offend you or anyone else…”

      Yes you did…your spineless backpedaling in an attempt to keep from being deleted is more pathetic than just sticking to your guns…

    32. dsquared Says:

      I have been posting on this matter fairly widely and as of this time not one single individual has address my concerns about the studies methodology.

      At the time when Shannon posted this, she must have been aware that I had done exactly that.

      For anyone who is interested, my answers were:

      1) The phenomenon is not “known to have an asymmetrical distribution” unless the data show that to be the case, and outside Fallujah, they do not.

      2) Again, this is an unsupported assertion about “the Third World”, and the data on death certificates when they were checked suggests that the self-reports were reliable.

      3) The study’s finding of infant mortality is nothing like as important as Shannon suggests that it is, since the main effect in the dataset is adult deaths by violence, and the other numbers which Shannon attempts to compare it to refer to very different time periods.

    33. Skip Smith Says:

      >>”The study’s finding of infant mortality is nothing like as important as Shannon suggests that it is, since the main effect in the dataset is adult deaths by violence, and the other numbers which Shannon attempts to compare it to refer to very different time periods.”

      It doesn’t actually matter what the “main effect in the dataset” is — the discrepancy between the infant mortality rates in this survey and in other data should concern any careful researcher.

    34. dsquared Says:

      Infant mortality is a rare effect and it is thus unsurprising that it was undersampled in a cluster survey. It is also quite heterogeneous and correlated to adult violent death (because one recorded cause of infant death was being unable to take children to hospital due to heavy bombing), which makes it even more understandable that infant death was undersampled.

      And yet you’re trying to tell us that the same study which undersampled infant mortality, massively oversampled adult violent death, which is also a rare event, heterogeneous and (trivially) correlated with adult violent death? Come on.