Daniel Davies comments on the attempted disproof by incredulity of the Lancet numbers:
I am curious as to why anyone is bothering with this debate any more (in some of the discussion on Dr Madelyn Hsiao-Rei Hick’s comments, it has got parodic, as people discuss the minutiae of the “informed consent” requirements of the questionnaire). Does anyone think at this late date that they are going to come up with a result that proves that the whole war and occupation has been really good for the Iraqis? Have they not noticed that this debate (and the one on global warming too) is a bit like the Berlin Wall – people are only going from one side to the other in one direction?
This prompted a response by Jane Galt who comes up with the macaroni and cheese argument against the study:
But what I wanted to blog about is a somewhat related phenomenon, which is the systematic human tendency to underestimate how long things take. This was driven home to me rather poignantly when I went up against Spencer Ackerman in Blogging Chefs, and tried to estimate just how much I could do in 90 minutes. Then I tested how long it actually took to, say, cook macaroni and cheese.
Well, the best way to find out how long it takes in the field is to do such surveys. From the story in Nature:
each team split into two pairs, a workload that is doable”, says Paul Spiegel, an epidemiologist at the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Geneva, who carried out similar surveys in Kosovo and Ethiopia.
I commented at the time:
you’d hope that this finally puts the matter to rest.
Apparently not — I had not anticipated the macaroni and cheese argument.
Galt also gives us this:
The more Les Roberts talks, the less confident I get in his results; he doesn’t seem to have the faintest clue how the interviews were conducted. He keeps changing the number of interviewers, the number of houses (which has suddenly and without explanation dropped to 30 in some of the arguments) or who asked what. And somehow now all the interviews were done in 3 hours? At 20 households per team, that’s 6 houses an hour, ten minutes a house including walking, peeing, and informed consent.
The more Galt writes, the less she seems to understand. Roberts hasn’t changed anything. Roberts said that in 2004 (when they used 30 house clusters), they took about three hours, which is about 12 minutes per house. He says that the 2006 interviews took 15-20 minutes. He has not contradicted himself as Galt claims, but is discussing two surveys that took similar (but not the same amount of time per interview).
When Galt misunderstand Roberts, it is wrong to say that he “contradicted” himself. And far from reducing confidence in Roberts, it reduces confidence in Galt.
Need I point out that if Davies is right, and Burnham et. al. are right, then we should be seeing massive floods of refugees?
I guess that Galt took so long the make the macaroni and cheese that she didn’t notice the thousands of news stories about Iraqi refugees.
The UN refugee agency believes that about two million refugees have fled Iraq. On the other hand, macaroni and cheese takes longer than you think to make, so the refugee agency could be wrong.