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This forum is about wrong numbers in science, politics and the media. It respects good science and good English.

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Re: Meaningful stats, or just trojan numbers?

I am increasingly concerned by the use of the term "mortality" rather than the more accurate term "morbidity".
In the Draft report on pollution to the UK government they produced a politically and emotionally neutral document that was designed to inform policy makers and they correctly used the term morbidity.

Morbidity reflects the often difficult assessment of change in life expectancy due to certain factors and in the case of pollution, long term exposure to particulates.
They do not make a direct link between pollution levels and life expectancy.
They do correlate changes in pollution levels with changes in life expectancy. Quite a different thing.

Today we more often encounter reports that that are not politically or emotionally neutral; which are not designed to inform but to influence and which deliberately use emotive language (and the now obligatory computer models and homogenised data) and they seem to allow or encourage the lay reader to make false correlations between, for example, pollution levels and mortality.

Death is so much more emphatic than changing life expectancy. Such reports are often written intentionally to attract media attention as part of their objective to influence rather than inform. AN ignorant mob surrounding the castle at night with pitchforks and flaming torches is infinitely to be preferred by these "scientists" than reasoned debate.

Hence, of course, the search for the most dramatic and alarming term for climate change, and the assumption nurtured through the media that it is both man made and harmful.

Mortality implies death due to a single cause and with a clear causal relationship.
Bullet fired.
Bullet hits person.
Person dies instantly.

To read some of the reports you would believe that a single whiff of SOX from a passing ship and dozens of otherwise healthy people fall down dead as if victims of chemical warfare.
But headlines that scream "60,000 deaths a year due to ship pollution" make for much more exciting reading and greater conversion rates than reporting that some of the richest people in the richest countries with the best food and health care and the longest lived people on the planet may lose a week or two of their life expectancy if they live in a busy seaport all their lives.

Much of the propaganda also exploits public ignorance and poor history. Most young people think the country today is subjected to ever increasing levels of pollution. They should have lived in the days of coal fires an inner city industry.

If we are to make sensible decisions or permit sensible decisions to be made on our behalf, we must insist on traditional reporting styles where the scientists stick strictly to their remit to deliver accurate politically neutral and emotive language free reporting.

Re: Meaningful stats, or just trojan numbers?

There was a study reported in the Lancet in 2009 which gives a somewhat more credible estimate of deaths attributable to imposing a free market.

"The researchers examined death rates among men of working age in the post-communist countries of eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union between 1989 and 2002.

They conclude that as many as one million working-age men died due to the economic shock of mass privatisation policies.

Following the break up of the old Soviet regime in the early 1990s at least a quarter of large state-owned enterprises were transferred to the private sector in just two years.

This programme of mass privatisation was associated with a 12.8% increase in deaths."

There were some East European countries where the privatisation was phased in more slowly and they actually saw a fall in the death rate. Another factor relevant to the Soviet Union was that the state-owned industries often supplied the healthcare for their employees, and when employees lost their jobs the healthcare disappeared.

So if you were trying to apply this data to the UK, the differences are that the privatisation wasn't carried out at the Soviet pace, I don't remember the newly privatised industries suffering that much from unemployment apart from maybe the coal mining industry, and the UK healthcare system wasn't being provided by the former nationalised industries.

Another bunch of researchers attempted to replicate the 2009 study and they thought the data was too dubious to claim an increase in the death rate, again reported in the Lancet.