Study of Iraqi Dead Shocking, But Sound Science
By AScribe Newswire
WASHINGTON, Oct. 18 (AScribe
Newswire) -- The Statistical
Assessment Service ( http://www.STATS.org ) - a non-profit,
non-partisan media research organization affiliated with George
Mason University and committed to correcting scientific
misinformation in the media - finds the study estimating 650,000
excess Iraqi casualties since American forces entered the
country to be methodologically sound.
In an analyis released today, STATS Director of Research Dr.
Rebecca Goldin defended the research technique of cluster
sampling behind the study, writing that "the methods used by
this study are the only scientific methods we have for
discovering death rates in war torn countries without the
infrastructure to report all deaths through central means.
Instead of dismissing over half a million dead people as a
political ploy ... we ought to embrace science as opening our
eyes to a tragedy whose death scale has been vastly
underestimated until now."
She goes into great detail about both the strengths of the
research, as well as the arguments against it.
- Prior Support from the Scientific Community:
While the Lancet numbers are shocking, the study's methodology
is not. The scientific community is in agreement over the
statistical methods used to collect the data and the validity of
the conclusions drawn by the researchers conducting the study.
When the prequel to this study appeared two years ago by the
same authors (at that time, 100,000 excess deaths were
reported), the Chronicle of Higher Education published a long
article explaining the support within the scientific community
for the methods used.
- The Methodology of "Cluster Sampling":
Cluster sampling is a well-established in statistics, and is
routinely used to estimate casualties in natural disasters or
war zones. For the Iraq study the researchers randomly chose
people to interview about deaths in their families, interviewed
a cluster of households around them, and then extrapolated the
results to the whole population. There is nothing controversial
in the method itself, though people can certainly question
whether the sampling was done correctly.
- Attacks on Study are Ideological, not Scientific:
There has been a wealth of material on the web attacking the
Lancet study. Most of it is devoid of science, and ranges from
outrage at the numbers (it's impossible to believe it could be
so high), to accusations of bias based on the authors' views of
U.S. foreign policy. Interested parties such as the Iraqi
government responded quickly by calling the numbers "inflated"
and "far from the truth", rather than putting forward any real
reasons why these numbers are unlikely to have occurred.
President Bush, for one, says he does "not consider it a
Click here to read Dr. Goldin's
analysis in its entirety
Since its founding in 1994, the non-profit, non-partisan
Statistical Assessment Service (STATS) has become a much-valued
resource on the use and abuse of science and statistics in the
media. Its goals are to correct scientific misinformation in the
media resulting from bad science, politics, or a simple lack of
information or knowledge; and to act as a resource for
journalists and policy makers on major scientific issues and
controversies. To find out more about STATS, visit http://www.STATS.org.
CONTACT: Matthew Felling, 202-223-3193,
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