Scientists and magic numbers

Tim Lambert is a computer scientist at the University of New South Wales and a standout example of why we don’t let academics with math majors run real life situations. He has invested a considerable amount of time defending the latest Lancet Democrat Party campaign advert that points to 650,000 deaths in Iraq.

Using such cutting post titles as Flypaper for the ennumerates and Stupid beyond belief he attacks all and sundry with mathmatical wizardry pointing out the methodolgy is well proven. What he doesn’t do is prove that the figures are anywhere near believable.

As there are too many lawyers fighting battles in court to save the souls of terrorist with clever legal procedures against a backdrop of slaughtered civilian victims then likewise there are now too many scientist quoting theory that has little to do with real life.

When I went to war, as different than when I read about it or studied the mathmatical formulae pertaining to same; my battalion lost 30 killed and 220 wounded giving a 7.33:1 ratio of deaths to wounded. Our sister battalion lost 50 to 281 resulting in a ratio of 5.6:1. Current stats from Iraq are running at 8:1, slightly higher, but all this low level maths suggests the Iraq hospitals have had 5.2 million wounded to deal with. The 650,000 also suggests that there has been 500 killed per day for every day of the war.

Sorry, I just don’t believe it. As Lambert argues, the methodology is proven but the extrapolation says what might be and it clearly isn’t.

It is worth reading the comments at Deltoid. It may help the casual reader to understand the politics behind the anti Bush theorists. Theories abound in a common sense vacuum.


  • An interesting comparison.

    The estimate (from the US Strategic Bombing Survey [Europe]) for German civilian casualties from bombing over the entire
    period of the Second World War is 305,000 killed – almost 2,700,000 tons of bombs were dropped, In the wake of these
    attacks there were great paths of destruction. In Germany, 3,600,000 dwelling units, approximately 20% of the total,
    were destroyed or heavily damaged. Survey estimates show some 300,000 civilians killed and 780,000 wounded. The number
    made homeless aggregates 7,500,000. The principal German cities had been largely reduced to hollow walls and piles of

    Yet we are to believe that the US has managed to kill over twice as many civilians in Iraq, in a similar timeframe as for
    the combined bomber offensive in WW2? all without leaving the massive destruction that was left in its wake? without
    creating the vast numbers of homeless? and without a policy of deliberately targeting civilians?

  • It would be easy for all those people arguing that these numbers are correct or even rational …… show us the bodies. If there were 600 odd thousand killed, surely there would be bodies all over the place.