Tuesday, January 15, 2008


David Kane offers a seemingly sensible suggestion to Lancet Iraq advocate John Tirman:
Your comments are interesting and important. But, despite [Tim Lambert's] best efforts, a blog is not an ideal medium for scientific dispute. So, why not a debate?

I would be happy to arrange a debate at Harvard between you and me on the accuracy of the Lancet surveys. Or, if you would like to have someone else to speak for the Lancet side, that would be fine. (Any of the authors would be great choices, but I realize that they are very busy.) Or, if you prefer, we could hold the debate at MIT. The room that Burnham used for his talk last year was excellent and the video production and distribution facilities first rate.

The very heart of the academic enterprise is open discussion and debate, especially between folks who disagree.

Any interest? My schedule is wide open.
Tim Lambert's loyal commenters are less than enthusiastic:
Hilarious, a debate is even less suited for scientific dispute.
An alternative is suggested:
In fact a blog is a much better forum for an exchange of ideas such as this where responders can think and research before they respond.

Which, of course, is why lying scum greatly prefer the debate format to any other.
Lambert and his commenters are rightly famous for such insightful commentary. Lambert is rather sensitive to name-calling, however, deleting some of my comments and banning me supposedly because I called Deltoid commenters toadies.

Go here for background on Kane and Lambert's ongoing jousting.

Update: No debates for Tirman:
David, no debate, sorry, one reason being that I am not competent in statistics. ... My interest is not in scoring points on arcane matters of number crunching, but in seeing the causes of violence clearly and hoping perhaps that such knowledge will help prevent more violence, in Iraq or elsewhere. Without such knowledge, the U.S. military could be led into more foolish exertions of power. The scale of the carnage is important, and the ways in which people are being killed, and where, is also crucial to understanding the nature of the insurgents' violence in particular. Only large-scale death really explains an insurgency--really, many insurgencies-- that is decentralized, without apparent ideology, linked to no known groups (the AQ portion is small), and remarkably persistent. The most logical explanation for this is that many people have been roughed up and they are fighting back, believing that they are defending their tribes, towns, etc. This is not a brief for the insurgents, mind you, but a very plausible explanation. And the higher the violence, the more it makes sense. (See opinion polls of Iraqis and this view--and high mortality--is even more convincing.)
It beats me how Tirman gets all that from the Lancet Iraq surveys. And here's a more logical explanation for the violence. Iraq is made up of many competing factions held in check by Saddam prior to being deposed. These factions are competing for power at every level and settling old scores in the process. It's simple yet complex.


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