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Misrepresenting “science” November 8, 2008

Posted by dissident93 in Iraq mortality, Medialens, Project Censored.

“Over One Million Iraqi Deaths Caused by US Occupation” (Project Censored)

“I don’t believe there is any consensus that the number is that high” (David A. Marker, chair of the American Statistical Association’s Scientific and Public Affairs Advisory Committee, and author of the ‘Methodological Review’ [of the Lancet 2006 study])*

Anyone who consults the available research will recognise that there’s no scientific consensus supporting the “one million deaths” claim, but several influential websites (Project Censored, Just Foreign Policy, Medialens, etc) present it as if there is a supporting consensus.

Medialens, for example, write that “1.2 Million Iraqis Have Been Murdered” (subheading in their 18/9/07 alert) – although in a later article, they deny promoting the figure as if it were factual:

But who has asserted the 1 million figure as “a fact”? Certainly we at Media Lens haven’t. We have simply reported the most credible scientific advice on the most credible numbers. And as you know, science is not about offering certainty… [Medialens, email to John Rentoul, 4 April 2008]

Of course, this is disingenuous. Medialens have not “simply reported the most credible scientific advice”. They’ve reported one peer-reviewed study (and one unrefereed poll)** and ignored (or overlooked) at least five peer-reviewed studies (plus several critical reviews by leading researchers).*** And all the research they’ve ignored (or overlooked) coincidentally does not support their statement that “1.2 Million Iraqis Have Been Murdered”.

Curiously, Medialens also write: “It seems clear that the Lancet figure of 655,000 deaths, although now a year out of date, was accurate”. Clear to whom? Few “credible” scientific researchers share Medialens’s “certainty” over the accuracy of this figure. Most in fact are honest enough to admit they are unclear over the real number of deaths.

* Email from David Marker to me (6/11/08). I’d asked him if he was aware of any scientific consensus supporting the “over one million deaths” claim.
** Medialens cite the Lancet 2006 study (peer-reviewed) and the ORB poll (which isn’t peer-reviewed science).
*** For example see Leading researchers disagree with Project Censored.