In a recent National
Journal article on the Lancet 2006 study on Iraqi deaths,
Neil Munro wrote:
Even Garfield, a co-author of the first Lancet article,
is backing away from his previous defense of his fellow authors.
In December, Garfield told National Journal that he guesses
that 250,000 Iraqis had died by late 2007. That total requires
an underlying casualty rate only one-quarter of that offered
by Lancet II.
The Lancet-defending blogger, Tim Lambert responded:
I contacted Garfield and this is a misrepresentation of
his views. He told me:
I seem to have a special ability to make statements
that lend themselves to misinterpretation.
I could not believe that 100,000 had died in 2004, but
the best evidence made me believe it.
As a guess, out of the blue, I feel confident that at
least a quarter million Iraqis have died due to violence since
the 2003 invasion. But that is just a guess.
An estimate, based on field data, collected via good
methods, is far better than a guess, even if there are some
biases along with imprecision in it.
Presumably this is a muddled account by Tim Lambert. The other
alternative is that Richard Garfield gave a muddled account
to Lambert. Because it makes no sense for a serious scientist
(such as Garfield) to provide a "guess, out of
the blue" to a journalist (on such a hugely
important issue) which he doesn't in fact stand by.
Is Garfield really such a gullible, delicate soul that a journalist
can elicit from him, against his will (on a subject on which he's
considered an expert), a figure he doesn't himself appear to endorse?
(If he does endorse it, then Munro isn't misrepresenting
Read the above account by Tim Lambert closely. It makes no sense.
Garfield has been thinking about these issues since at least as
far back as 2004 when he conducted the 2004 Lancet study. He's
had a lot of time to think about the factors which may affect
estimates. He's had several occasions to give his informed, considered
view on what he thinks the death toll may or may not be. If he's
confident in the Lancet 2006 estimate (which he says he is, according
to the above account), then why doesn't his "guess"
reflect that confidence? You'd expect him to at least be confident
in the lower figure from the L2 range, 393,000.
If he thinks that's "far better" than a guess, then
what exactly does his "guess" represent? It's meaningless.
Lambert says that Munro "misrepresented" Garfield on
this. But from the above account, it seems more like Garfield