Posted by: Lister | August 12, 2007

David Kane and the Lancet

I became aware of David Kane when Michael Pugliese linked to his article on the 2004 Lancet study.

David Kane asked that his paper be made available to the ScienceBlogs community. Tim Lambert obliged.

In the comments, most of which are unconvinced by David Kane’s argument, Kane says:

Many thanks for the helpful comments. I want to focus my next couple of replies to Tim and dsquared, not because I don’t value the other participants, but because they are clearly the experts on this topic.

Acknowledging the expertise of those that disagree with him. He is unconvinced by their counter-arguments, btw.

Tim Lambert then published a few summaries of the debate on ScienceBlogs. I find Comment 12, from Robert to be very helpful:

Here’s what I hope is a simple explanation. Suppose you are counting the average occupancy of cars on a freeway. You look at many cars as they pass and count the occupants and divide by the number of cars. You happen to do this on a weekday during rush hour. You can get the average number of occupants and the variance around that average, from which you can make an estimate of the average occupancy of all cars. No problemo.

You repeat that experiment on a weekend day, and there are more families in cars so the average occupancy happens to go up. However, just by chance, a bus comes by filled with weekend tourists.

The bus is Falluja. The Roberts team made two estimates, one including the bus, and one excluding the bus, and concentrated on the one excluding the bus; then concluded that even if you exclude the bus the average occupancy on weekends went up.

David Kane argues that, according to a model that treats the bus as if it were a car you find two things: 1) the average occupancy on weekends goes up, but 2) the variance goes up so fast that you can no longer exclude the possibility that the average occupancy during weekends went down even though all of your observations went up. In fact, David Kane’s model is so weird that it does not exclude the possibility that the average occupancy of all weekend cars is negative.

Most of us are saying that a model that allows for negative average occupancy is not a good model and should not be used to estimate the difference between the average occupancy on weekdays and weekends. But here’s the kicker: David Kane isn’t just saying that the Roberts team should have included the bus. He’s charging that the Roberts team excluded the bus (i.e., Falluja) because they wanted to hide the fact that, using his weird model that they didn’t use, you couldn’t exclude the possibility that the average car occupancy on weekends dropped.

So the experts are unconvinced by David Kane. But, seeing as David Kane is an Institute Fellow, IQSS, Harvard University… You may wonder if his paper has been published elsewhere. The most prestigious place seems to be ScienceBlogs, where the experts concluded he was wrong.

The first link provided by google [for David Kane Lancet] is to Michelle Malkin. She posted on the 25th July, a day after the paper appeared at ScienceBlogs and links to there. I wonder how many of her readers bothered to read the response of those David Kane called experts and whose opinions he specifically sought out.


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