Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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Jane's Blogosphere: blogtrack for Natalie Solent.


( 'Nother Solent is this blog's good twin. Same words, searchable archives, RSS feed. Provided by a benefactor, to whom thanks.
I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)

The Old Comrades:

November 2001 December 2001 January 2002 February 2002 March 2002 April 2002 May 2002 June 2002 July 2002 August 2002 September 2002 October 2002 November 2002 December 2002 January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 August 2007 October 2007 February 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 March 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 October 2009 January 2010 March 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 April 2011 June 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013

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Saturday, October 30, 2004
Tim Worstall comments scornfully [ADDED 1 NOV: Tim Worstall has conceded that the statistical argument used in the article was wrong - scroll up three posts for more] on that article in the Lancet that alleged 100,000 excess deaths due to the Iraq war.

There is more unfavourable comment on the study from Fred Kaplan at Slate and "The Chef" at Ragout.

This is not the only recent example of a British medical publication allowing political warriors to launch attacks from a supposedly neutral ship. Blogger and medical man Anthony Cox recently wrote about an anti-Israel article in the British Medical Journal.

It's a clever strategy, actually. The general public doesn't ever read the original article, and wouldn't understand it if they did. All the public will remember is a one-line summary provided by the media along the lines of "'Iraq war killed 100,000', Doctors say." The authors of the study themselves were more forthright:

"I emailed it in on Sept. 30 under the condition that it came out before the election," Roberts told The Associated Press. "My motive in doing that was not to skew the election.
I do not believe you.
My motive was that if this came out during the campaign, both candidates would be forced to pledge to protect civilian lives in Iraq."
Protecting civilian lives in Iraq is a noble ideal. Personally, I think the US forces are motivated to do that anyway. But the incentives for them to do so are lessened, not increased, when they know that whatever they do they will have ever-more spectacular numbers of shrouds waved their way.

Some other thoughts:

-I expect this article to be withdrawn, corrected or in some other way apologised-for a few months down the line. Safely after the election.

-Sadly, many in the British medical profession will lap this up, revelling in the Lancet's (and, vicariously, their own) election-swaying moment of fame. Few of them will study the article that hard. This is because (a) busy professionals have trouble enough keeping up with the flood of literature on their own specialism, and (b) judging from the number of studies that have been revealed as fraudulent or wrong after decades of acceptance, an awful lot of studies are not, in fact, studied.
Spoon-benders and the like hate to perform their tricks in front of stage-magicians but are happy to do so for an audience of scientists. Expert opinion expects the world to be complex but does not expect it to be biased.

- When this strategy is used too often it stops working. No one pays attention to the political opinions expressed in teachers' or sociologists' professional journals since everyone knows what they are - a joke. It will be sad if we see the doctors go the same way.