The numbers do add up
The attempts to rubbish the Lancet study on the massive Iraqi death toll are devious hack-work.
October 12, 2006 02:00 PM
As Richard Horton’s post says, the latest Johns Hopkins University study of mortality in Iraq, published in the Lancet is horrible news. When the previous study was published, a horrendous chorus of hacks sprung up and suddenly discovered a new-found expertise in epidemiological statistics.
Tim Lambert, the Australian science-blogger, and I ended up spending a lot of time and energy fighting on the online front of this Campaign For Real Statistics, and so it is with heavy heart that I see that President Bush – who is probably a better statistician than many of his online supporters as he has at least been to business school – has already expressed an uninformed opinion on the matter.
This is the question to always keep at the front of your mind when arguments are being slung around (and it is the general question one should always be thinking of when people talk statistics). How Would One Get This Sample, If The Facts Were Not This Way? There is really only one answer – that the study was fraudulent. It really could not have happened by chance. If a Mori poll puts the Labour party on 40% support, then we know that there is some inaccuracy in the poll, but we also know that there is basically zero chance that the true level of support is 2% or 96%, and for the Lancet survey to have delivered the results it did if the true body count is 60,000 would be about as improbable as this. Anyone who wants to dispute the important conclusion of the study has to be prepared to accuse the authors of fraud, and presumably to accept the legal consequences of doing so.
Read all of what he has to say here.