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 About that 655k dead Iraqi number...
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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 10/28/2006 :  18:52:31   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message
Nature had a small blurb last week about this study. They requested the opinions of several relevant experts, none of them found any problems with the methodology.


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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chaloobi
SFN Regular

1620 Posts

Posted - 10/30/2006 :  07:18:40   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send chaloobi a Yahoo! Message Send chaloobi a Private Message
Last week's Science had a blurb about the study too. It was more a discussion of what detractors say could be wrong with it. The one complaint I found interesting was the time in which the date were collected. In some cases the surveyors visited 40 houses in a day, which was considered impossible. But one of the studies authors countered that it was easily possible if you were highly oranized.... But Science didn't take a hard stand either way.

-Chaloobi

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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 10/30/2006 :  16:47:32   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message
The cluster method they were using seems like it would make 40 houses a day fairly feasable.

They pick one house at random, and then go to the nearest 39 houses to it.

Depends on how long it takes to ask the survey questions.


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 10/30/2006 :  17:11:50   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Dude

The cluster method they were using seems like it would make 40 houses a day fairly feasable.

They pick one house at random, and then go to the nearest 39 houses to it.

Depends on how long it takes to ask the survey questions.



Rememeber also, the unsupervised surveyors also first had to take time to make the little speech the study mentioned, about how important the survey was to Iraqis.

If the field survey took place at all (and we have no real evidence that it did), one can only speculate what that speech consisted of. Any preparatory speech would serve to distort the survey. Since this speech is not detailed, we cannot know its effect, except to state it's yet another another unknown factor, casting doubt on the validity of the final crunched data.


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 10/30/2006 :  22:45:48   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message
quote:
Rememeber also, the unsupervised surveyors also first had to take time to make the little speech the study mentioned, about how important the survey was to Iraqis.

If the field survey took place at all (and we have no real evidence that it did), one can only speculate what that speech consisted of. Any preparatory speech would serve to distort the survey. Since this speech is not detailed, we cannot know its effect, except to state it's yet another another unknown factor, casting doubt on the validity of the final crunched data.


Those "unsupervised surveyors" are physicians from an Iraqi medical school.

I think it is entirely unfair of you to cast them in a derogatory light because you feel they may be prejudice and willing to distort results. What if all the surveyors had been US citizens? Surely there are liberal groups here in the US who have as much, or more, reson to cast the Iraq war in a horrible way for western consumption.

There is, literally, no end to the number of accusations you can make against any survey team that you can send to do such a survey.

As it stands the accepted practice is trust the academics who are resting reputations on this study until there is evidence that they have deliberately produced fraudulent data.

In 2005 we all trusted that Dr Hwang was telling the truth about his stem cell work.

Today the default position is to tentatively accept the results of this death toll survey. There are no legitimate objections to the methodology, there is no evidence the survey data has been falsified. The survey was designed by researchers from Johns Hopkins and MIT. Conclusion: The survey seems to be correct.

In addition, you do not know the context or content of the intro to the survey. With that in mind, there is no logical way that you can conclude that because you don't know the content of it that it "casts doubt" on anything. Ignorance only casts doubt on the person exhibiting it.

Based on the credibility of Johns Hopkins and MIT, and the apparently sound methodology of they survey, the reasonable position here is, as I said, tentative acceptance of the results.


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 10/30/2006 :  23:21:44   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message
Dude wrote:
quote:
Today the default position is to tentatively accept the results of this death toll survey. There are no legitimate objections to the methodology, there is no evidence the survey data has been falsified. The survey was designed by researchers from Johns Hopkins and MIT. Conclusion: The survey seems to be correct.



Well said.

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

Check out my art store: http://www.marfknox.etsy.com

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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 10/31/2006 :  02:46:58   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message
Again, I want to make clear that I feel the real casualties in Iraq are too damned high, whatever they are.

My own "default position" is to question the collection phase of the survey, based upon a whole heap of unanswered questions about that phase. I don't default to accepting something as true just because it would support my beliefs. The most effective lies are usually those one wants to hear.

How many scientific surveys do we hear of where the surveyed people are first given a talk about how their answers are important to their country? What was the nature of that little speech? How do the academics from the West know that the survey was actually carried out, when they -- for security reasons -- did not go along for the ride? Because the doctors assured them?

Yes, even doctors certainly can lie, particularly when they are members of the most kidnapped group in Iraq. Hospitals themselves in Iraq are armed fortresses, due to brazen kidnapping attempts by both insurgents and criminals.

These doctors, perhaps wisely, may have been very careful not to go out into the community. Clearly they would be able to understand that large casualty statistics would make it more likely for the meddling Americans to leave their country than would small numbers. Honorable doctors or not, they were unsupervised. For "security reasons," they certainly had strong motivation to stay in their fortified hospital and produce the raw data there.

Medical staffs in hospitals are hierarchical. It would require only one chief physician to suggest faking the data. Probably none of the doctors would have a reason to disagree with the plan, anyway. I can't say I would, either.

What part of the data collection phase is reassuring to those of you who "default" to accept the data as scientific?


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 10/31/2006 :  16:01:16   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message
Half, there are way to many assumptions in your "objections".

I've addressed some of them before. Mainly that you think anyone could fake data well enough to pass the scrutiny of MIT statisticians and the Johns Hopkins team that designed the survey. Is it possible? Well, sure. But the probability of it would be very low. Add in the peer review process for the Lancet, where the study was published, and you have statisticians from two continents who have apparently been fooled.

Then you have to account for a conspiracy. The survey teams and their security escorts, plus anyone who may have seen them sitting safe and sound while they were supposed to be out conducting the survey. Could that many people conspire to fake the data and then remain silent? Again, yes, but the probability seems very low to me.

quote:
Medical staffs in hospitals are hierarchical. It would require only one chief physician to suggest faking the data. Probably none of the doctors would have a reason to disagree with the plan, anyway.


You don't know doctors. Sure, they have a chain of command style structure in hospitals, but there is wicked competition and political fighting. Doctors, like us skeptics, are not going to go along with anyone just because they hold a position of authority. It is extremely unlikely that you'd be able to find a group of doctors willing to be silent or go along with a plan that would end their careers if it was ever discovered. The much more likely result is that they would turn on the one who suggested faking the data.

quote:
My own "default position" is to question the collection phase of the survey, based upon a whole heap of unanswered questions about that phase. I don't default to accepting something as true just because it would support my beliefs.


Hopefully you are not suggesting that anyone here accepts the conclusions of this study because it would "support their beliefs".


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 10/31/2006 :  17:08:19   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message
I see all the things that you folks consider to be vanishingly unlikely, to be very likely indeed under the bizarre circumstances in Iraq. I know of no way that false raw data could be detected later on, in the number-crunching stage. I don't know if the study is accurate, and so I reject it. Others accept it. Perhaps we simply need to agree that we disagree.

Dude asked:
quote:
Hopefully you are not suggesting that anyone here accepts the conclusions of this study because it would "support their beliefs".
I found that I personally was conflicted by this effect, so it's possible that some others have been influenced by it as well. It does happen all the time, and it's a human factor to bear in mind. But no, I am not accusing anyone of bias in their belief in the study's results. I believe that a rational person can accept the study without bias and without being an idiot. I also think a rational and unbiased person can doubt the study, and reject it due to rational doubt.

Without further information to go by, I suspect we're just spinning our wheels in arguing this further.



Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 11/01/2006 :  05:45:59   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message
quote:
I know of no way that false raw data could be detected later on, in the number-crunching stage.


Once again, your lack of knowledge is not evidence of a flawed study.

Just one way:
The data was compared to the trends of other similiar studies and strong correlation is noted. I'm sure I pointed this out to you in a previous post in this thread.

Another way:
92% of the housholds surveyed, that had a death, had a death certificate. You dismiss it as fictional, without any evidence. Don'tyou think that the people who created the survey at Johns Hopkins would pick people in Iraq that they thought they could trust to administer this survey? People that they know and have some professional respect for?


Another way:
Pattern analysis of the collected data. If you are faking 1800 surveys in a very short time period, you will probably end up faking in a pattern. This kind of thing is detectable on analysis of the raw data.



No disrespect intended, but the way you are going about "questioning" this survey is very close to what ergo is doing in his threads where he claims to be "just asking questions" about 9/11.

You have formed an opinion contrary to what a trusted authority says, without evidence to back your opinion. You provide no insight into any possible flaws with the methodology of the survey other than to claim, without evidence, that the people who conducted it could have lied as part of a conspiracy to discredit US involvement in Iraq.

I hate that number, 655k dead. It makes me sick to think about it. I've read a score of articles about this study, and read the study itself several times.

Read this:
http://www.stats.org/stories/the_science_ct_dead_oct17_06.htm



Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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skeptic griggsy
Skeptic Friend

USA
77 Posts

Posted - 11/02/2006 :  17:47:52   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit skeptic griggsy's Homepage Send skeptic griggsy a Private Message
The making of that number does in a few years double of what Hussein did in two decades! Look at all the disabled soldiers also!

Fr. Griggs rests in his Socratic ignorance and humble naturalism. Logic is the bane of theists.Religion is mythinformation. Reason saves, not a dead Galilean fanatic.
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 11/02/2006 :  19:07:06   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message
Dude, as I wrote: "Without further information to go by, I suspect we're just spinning our wheels in arguing this further."

I'm not passionate about this subject, and I won't long be keeping up this debate from my end. Nor do I think myself well equipped or qualified to do so.

I've read the papers at the links posted. I still think that all the good scientific number crunching in the world could not detect a very well orchestrated faking of the data collection. But that's just an opinion, I know, and one by someone who does not much understand statistical analysis.

You accuse me of simply spiting the "authority" of the study, comparing me to a 9/11 CD conspiracy nut. I think that's an overstatement. (Take that back, you blackguard!)

Let me restate the parts of my argument that weren't the arguments that I admit were just guess-work or argument from ignorance on my part:

1. The field surveyors were all a group of Iraqi physicians from the same hospital, accustomed to working together.

2. The field surveyors said they went out and did the survey. The survey teams were not accompanied by the Johns-Hopkins study sponsors.

3. Doctors are the most kidnapped group in Iraq. Hospitals are fortified like US Cavalry forts in Indian Country because of this.

4. The final numbers that were crunched exceeded by far all previous estimates. (I would argue that this does not make the results false, but that they are certainly "extraordinary," along with all that word implies in terms of required evidence.)

Those factors alone ought to make careful scrutiny of the study's data collection phase important.

Now, to add some items that concern me, but are not established facts:

1. The death certificates. Who saw them, aside from the field survey team?

2. It's a pretty commonly known fact that a "set-up" speech of any kind can strongly effect the outcome of any survey. What was the actual speech that was supposedly given to each family to convince them of the importance to Iraq of participating in the survey?

3. If there were death certificates or names of the deceased, did anyone do a followup with even a small sampling of those names, to determine if they could be matched with public records such as birth certificates, or hospital records? Did anyone try to see if any of those people were still alive?

4. One of the things I read long ago is that scientists are often tricked by a good job of slight-of-hand. (Wasn't it Randi who commented on this?) Sometimes a person with a literal an honest mind can be more easily bamboozled than another trickster. Of course, this is just my imagining, but I do imagine that the survey sponsors could be tricked, especially by people in science with a axe to grind.

I don't claim I have proved a damned thing. I'm of at least two minds about the results of this survey. But neither will I be accepting the results as proven unless and until I've seen some reasonable questions answered. I'm quite open to seeing that information.


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 11/02/2006 :  22:14:37   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message
Half said:
quote:
You accuse me of simply spiting the "authority" of the study, comparing me to a 9/11 CD conspiracy nut. I think that's an overstatement. (Take that back, you blackguard!)



I'm not comparing you to ergo, just your approach to criticizing this study.

Your "questions" about the survey team actually carrying out the survey evaporate entirely when confronted with statistical analysis of the data. I don't have the data, but I know this type of fraud is detectable and I trust that MIT, Johns Hopkins, and The Lancet are capable of detecting it. Surely they all can't be involved in the same conspiracy?

I also object to the assertion that the Iraqi doctors were involved in a conspiracy to fake the data. There is no end to the number and kind of accusations that can be made against them, but its all just garbage unless there is some evidence to support the allegation.

quote:
4. The final numbers that were crunched exceeded by far all previous estimates. (I would argue that this does not make the results false, but that they are certainly "extraordinary," along with all that word implies in terms of required evidence.)



Extrodinary in what way? The numbers represent a different, and more accurate, data collection methodology than has been previously used in this conflict. A well proven methodology at that.

quote:
4. One of the things I read long ago is that scientists are often tricked by a good job of slight-of-hand. (Wasn't it Randi who commented on this?) Sometimes a person with a literal an honest mind can be more easily bamboozled than another trickster. Of course, this is just my imagining, but I do imagine that the survey sponsors could be tricked, especially by people in science with a axe to grind.




Anyone can be tricked by a good slight-of-hand. But that isn't relevant.

What is relevant is statistical analysis. Johns Hopkins, MIT and The Lancet all having their review processes fooled by doctors? THAT is an extrordinary claim.


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 11/03/2006 :  04:02:06   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message
Dude wrote:
quote:
Your "questions" about the survey team actually carrying out the survey evaporate entirely when confronted with statistical analysis of the data. I don't have the data, but I know this type of fraud is detectable and I trust that MIT, Johns Hopkins, and The Lancet are capable of detecting it. Surely they all can't be involved in the same conspiracy?
My "questions" have "evaporated entirely"? That seems a bit of a reaching hyperbole, especially since I still have them.

Please demonstrate how such fraud can be detected. I honestly don't know that answer.

Why should you or I "trust" any authority without good evidence to do so in a particular case in which that authority's conclusion is clearly of an "extraordinary" nature? Aren't you resorting to the "appeal to authority" fallacy? ("Universal U's surveys have always proven accurate in the past. It is assumed, therefore, that Universal U's surveys will always be accurate. Universal U's latest survey presents data that field survey teams are underpaid. Therefore, field survey teams are underpaid.")

Strawman: Not only did I not say that the MIT/Johns Hopkins/Lancet people were conspirators, I all along have specifically and consistently have stated that I did not hold such a belief. I've stated repeatedly that a "garbage in, garbage out" principle could apply to the study. Every other bit of the study could be perfectly good science, yet if the initial data were wrong, or fixed, the final numbers crunched would be false. I'd like to know how the MIT/Johns Hopkins/Lancet number crunchers could detect a fraud.

Dude further wrote:
quote:
Extrodinary in what way? The numbers represent a different, and more accurate, data collection methodology than has been previously used in this conflict. A well proven methodology at that.
For a start, the projected numbers are ten times as large the numbers generated by the anti-war group, Iraq Body Count, and six times the number generated in the first estimate by the same academic group in a preliminary count earlier. The numbers being "extraordinary" doesn't make them wrong. But they would only be "ordinary" if they were not so radically different from all other estimates.

Dude concluded:
quote:
What is relevant is statistical analysis. Johns Hopkins, MIT and The Lancet all having their review processes fooled by doctors? THAT is an extraordinary claim.
If my concerns are extraordinary, this extraordinariness is more than balanced by the extraordinary numbers that were crunched, the extraordinary conditions in Iraq, and in the extraordinary survey itself with its exclusion of the sponsors from the field.

Again, I personally would like to know how any review process could detect a well-done fraud at the data collection stage. I'm not at all sure that the sponsors missing a careful fraud would be so very extraordinary, under the bizarre conditions of Iraq. How many scientific studies have to be concerned about fraud at the data collection stage?

Finally, my questions about the use of a speech said to have been given to each interviewed household is still unanswered. Also, who saw these death certificates? Did anyone follow up on a sampling of the names of the dead, to determine whether they were dead, or were even real people? It seems as though these are basic matters that should have followed up the study.


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
Edited by - HalfMooner on 11/03/2006 06:36:32
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chaloobi
SFN Regular

1620 Posts

Posted - 11/03/2006 :  08:52:45   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send chaloobi a Yahoo! Message Send chaloobi a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by HalfMooner

<snip>

For a start, the projected numbers are ten times as large the numbers generated by the anti-war group, Iraq Body Count, and six times the number generated in the first estimate by the same academic group in a preliminary count earlier. The numbers being "extraordinary" doesn't make them wrong. But they would only be "ordinary" if they were not so radically different from all other estimates.

2 Cents: Iraq body count, iirc, gets their numbers by combing news media reports of casualties. Based on that alone, I have to think theirs is grossly underestimated. The fact is the methodology of this study -- assuming it was carried out correctly -- is by far more accurate than any other measure employed to date.

Also I just wanted to 2nd Dude's point about statistical analysis. If the raw data are faked, it would take an extreme effort, and a very clever effort, to hide it from the various statistical tools. I hate to appeal to authority, but MIT and Johns Hopkins have impeccable reputations; to the point I'd have to assume the statistical verifications are likely well buttoned up... Has anyone looked at the report or any discussion of what error checking tools they employed?

EDIT: I've got a little exposure to statistical analysis tools, but not enough to speak with any kind of authority. I do know they are very good at pattern recognition AND at detecting something that's TOO random. They typically calculate odds of a set of data being accurate, or realistic, within a set confidence interval. If I get some time I'll see if I can find any sources on the topic....

-Chaloobi

Edited by - chaloobi on 11/03/2006 08:56:50
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