Reaction to my Milloy post

There has been quite a bit of reaction to my post on Milloy.

Michael Peckham writes “Milloy’s criticism may be right some of the time, but only when it fits his preconceived anti-regulatory agenda. ”

John Quiggin, at Crooked Timber and at his own blog observes that the link between Cato and Milloy reflects badly on Cato. Also the comments in the Crooked Timber have some attempts to defend Milloy against the charge that he is boosting creationism. Yes, Milloy offers the Theory of Evolution some faint praise, but he also thinks Creationism should get equal time with evolution and while he savagely criticizes real science, he won’t criticize creationist bunk.

Steve Michel writes

I read Milloy’s book a few years ago, and while some of it’s good, in general it’s just a conservative rant. It’s more interested in protecting big corporations from lawsuits (which are, admittedly, sometimes on the edges of science) than it is in, say, the kind of religiously-correct junk science promoted by conservatives around the country.

Jeff writes “Tim Lambert does a good job illustrating the moral bankruptcy of a typical anti-liberal – Steve Milloy of junkscience.com”

Radagast examines Milloy’s article on mad cows and finds it wanting.

Demosthenes comments on Milloy and TASSC (the tobacco companies’ astroturf operation).

I always have believed and always will believe that it’s not the arguer but the argument that is important. Even if Milloy works for Phillip Morris, he may have a point. Still, this sort of willful misrepresentation bothers me a lot.

I agree that the argument is more important than the arguer, that’s why I didn’t mention Milloy’s funding source till after I had demolished his claims. The funding explains why he made so many false claims, it does not prove that those claims are false.

Meanwhile, John Brignell has attempted a defence (scroll to bottom of page) of Milloy. He ignores the substance of the criticism and focuses on the language so that he can dismiss the criticism as name calling. He complains that pointing out that Milloy is funded by tobacco companies is “playing the man and not the ball”. His objection would have a tiny bit more force if he hadn’t immediately turned around and gone for the man himself by implying that John Quiggin is unqualified to criticize Milloy:

A is able to call B a charlatan. B holds a B.A. in Natural Sciences from the Johns Hopkins University, a Master of Health Sciences in Biostatistics from the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health, a Juris Doctorate from the University of Baltimore and a Master of Laws from the Georgetown University Law Center. The qualifications of A must be pretty impressive. Wonder what they are.

Unfortunately, when Brignell goes for his man, he misses and falls flat on his face. Compare Milloy’s CV with Quiggin’s CV. As far as I can tell, Milloy has never conducted any research and has drafted only one paper, which was a poster at a conference and he wasn’t even the first author, while Quiggin has well over one hundred refereed journal papers. I wrote to Brignell suggesting that he provide links to both CVs so his readers could judge the matter for themselves, but Brignell did not so (though he did list Quiggin’s degrees).

In an update, Brignell finally gets around to commenting on the substance of the criticism. He claims, without offering any evidence, that on the scientific issues Milloy is largely correct. He does disagree with Milloy about the gun lobbying, so it would seem that he thinks that this claim is correct:

The same seasonal (and localised) depletion was actually discovered in the 1950s and recognised as an interesting natural phenomenon (interest then was centred on the massive increase in ozone levels over the south pole in late spring, early summer as the massive high concentrations from the adjacent temperate regions penetrate the weakening polar vortex). In the misanthropic ’80s it was given significant publicity and a character change – this time it was big, bad and (you guessed it) man-made while the parallel build up of ozone outside the polar vortex no longer rated a mention. Stratospheric ozone levels are volatile and seasonal, whether there has been any unusual change in ozone levels over the period is moot. There is only one certainty and that is that perceptions changed purely because the great ozone ‘hole’ got a new publicist.

And just to be sure, here is what Brignell wrote about it earlier:

Watch out for a new bunch of mysterious figures lurking about Britain’s beauty spots at the dead on night. They are not smugglers or clandestine lovers, but fridge dumpers. It is the latest coup by the almighty Greens of the EU. Believe it or not, because of new EU regulations, DEFRA, fresh from its foot and mouth triumph, is asking the British to refrain from buying fridges. It is now illegal to dispose of both the coolant and the insulant in fridges, but in Britain there is no legal way of doing it. All because of a hole in the ozone layer that was probably always there and an unproven theory as to how it was caused.

i-fd8bf9a512d81f842779dcbf8804189f-depletion1.gif Brignell read my post which contains this graph, that shows ozone levels in October at Halley Station in Antarctica. (from this page). It is perfectly clear that there was no hole in the 1950s. It is perfectly clear that the hole was not always there. There is not one scrap of evidence to support Brignell’s claim. Yet even when confronted with the evidence that proves his claim is false he continues to maintain that it is true. Disgraceful.


Comments

  1. #1 Jim Norton
    February 20, 2004

    Sounds like Milloy has fallen for the ‘Dobson myth”. From the ozone FAQ:

    Subject: 6.) But I heard that Dobson saw an ozone hole in 1956-58…

    This is a myth, arising from a misinterpretation of an out-of-
    context quotation from a review article by Dobson.

    In his historical account [Dobson 1968b], Dobson mentioned that
    when springtime ozone levels over Halley Bay were first measured,
    he was surprised to find that they were about 150 DU below
    corresponding levels (displaced by six months) in the Arctic.
    Springtime arctic ozone levels are very high, ~450 DU; in the
    Antarctic spring, however, Dobson’s coworkers found ~320 DU, close
    to winter levels. This was the first observation of the _normal_,
    pre-1980 behavior of the Antarctic ozone layer: because of the
    tight polar vortex (see below) ozone levels remain low until late
    spring. In the Antarctic ozone hole, on the other hand, ozone
    levels _decrease_ from these already low values. What Dobson
    describes is essentially the _baseline_ from which the ozone hole
    is measured. [Dobson 1968b] [WMO 1989]

  2. #2 Aaron
    February 21, 2004

    If you want to talk about publication records, surely it behooves you to point out that Quiggin publishes on economic matters. Even if milloy does not publish in the peer reviewed literature, this does not mean that his aruments are incorrect.

    Since you did in the end feel it necessary to draw attention to Milloys funding sources, perhaps you should declare your own interests.

  3. #3 Tim Lambert
    February 21, 2004

    I didn’t bring up the issue of qualifications. Brignell did and you endorsed it. Anyone can follow the link to see what he publishes on economics including several journal articles on environmental issues.

    This blog is a hobby. I don’t accept any money for writing it.

    I find it very disappointing that you have yet yet yet again avoided discussion on the main part of my post. Why are you so evasive, Aaron?

  4. #4 Aaron
    February 21, 2004

    Ill spell it out AGAIN for you. This material has been thrashed out already. I see no need to do so further. If you want to play games, im sure there are folks over at usenet who will oblige you.

    Brignell gave the qualifications for both Quiggin and Milloy, and made a point about what Milloy is qualified to talk about. You are the one who brought up Quiggins publication record without stating what he publishes about.

    Regarding interests, are you a member of Greenpeace, FOE, etc?

  5. #5 Hipocrite
    February 21, 2004

    There’s like a seedy underground closet industry of these types, isn’t there?

  6. #6 Tim Lambert
    February 21, 2004

    Aaron, I am not a member of Greenpeace or FOE (whatever that is). Notice how I answered your question instead of evading it? When you keep evading questions people start to wonder what you are trying to hide. I’ll make it really easy for you with a simple yes/no question. Do you agree with Milloy and Brignell’s claims that the ozone hole dates back to the 50s?

  7. #7 Louis Hissink
    February 22, 2004

    Tim,

    The data start in the 1950′s, the definition of an ozone hole being less that 50% is arbitrary, and from the curved fitted to the data, which you show there seems to be an 80 year cycle. Given that volcanoes input more HF and similar material into to stratosphere in quantities that dwarf man made inputs, it is more likely that the “ozone hole” variation is due to natural causes.

    Even I know what FOE is – Friends of the Earth. :-)

  8. #8 Tim Lambert
    February 22, 2004

    Louis, it is not true that volcanoes are a major source of chlorine in the stratosphere. Please read the ozone depletion FAQ, linked by Jim Norton above. You can’t sensibly claim the existence of an 80 year cycle unless you have more than 80 years of data.

  9. #9 Ken Miles
    February 22, 2004

    Volcanic halogens tend to be water soluble, which leads to them being rapidly removed from the troposphere, before they reach the stratosphere. Huge eruptions can inject material directly into the stratosphere, but these are few are far between. The effect of El Chichon and Mt Pinatubo on global ozone levels was minimal.

    I’m not sure why Louis mentioned HF, as it isn’t a significant cause of ozone depletion (if it causes ozone depletion at all).

  10. #10 Aaron
    February 23, 2004

    Tim,

    Im not evading you. I am ignoring you. I have a 6 month old daughter to look after, grants to finish, a house to buy, and a terminally ill relative to worry about. I really do have better things to do.

  11. #11 Tim Lambert
    February 23, 2004

    Well, that’s the first time someone has made multiple comments on my blog and asked me questions and then claimed that they were “ignoring” me. Your claim to be too busy to answer a simple yes/no question is also rather odd, since you made two blog entries and over a dozen comments on multiple blogs on Milloy while evading the meat of the issue.

    I see that that you have said that you have never been a member of SEPP. That’s also rather strange since SEPP said: ‘Alternative energy’ is really an alternative to generating energy. So says research scientist Dr. Aaron Oakley, writing in The New Australian, a free-market publication “down under.” A research biochemist, he is also a SEPP associate scientist and columnist.

    Is there some other Australian research biochemist called Aaron Oakley?

  12. #12 Aaron
    February 23, 2004

    There is a difference between making an ad hoc comment (like this one) and making a detailed commentry about a scientific matter, which is what I wopuld do. The latter takes more time. This should really be obvious.

    The SEPP has published some of my stuff, for which I received no renumeration. If you want to use this as a basis for a guilt-by-association attack, then good luck to you.

  13. #13 Tim Lambert
    February 23, 2004

    Aaron, SEPP described you as a “SEPP associate scientist”. In what way is this not a member of SEPP?

    I asked a simple Yes/No question: “Do you agree with Milloy and Brignell’s claims that the ozone hole dates back to the 50s?” Why is this question so difficult for you to answer?

  14. #14 Ken Miles
    February 23, 2004

    Tim, it isn’t uncommon for global warming skeptics to be loosely affiliated with political organisations, while not being a formal member.

    This loose association sometimes leads to confusion, such as when Ian Castles stated that he wasn’t a member of any climate change group while at the same time, the Lavoisier group was claiming him as a member.

  15. #15 Ben
    January 1, 2006

    Above, you say “…Milloy [...] thinks Creationism should get equal time with evolution and while he savagely criticizes real science, he won’t criticize creationist bunk.”

    “Equal time” is a hyperlink to “Rudy in Disguise” at http://www.junkscience.com/news/baum.html

    Nowhere on that page does Milloy suggest that evolution should get equal time with creationism. He was asking for objective reporting in an article that was about Rudy’s article speaking against objectivity.

    I think you’ve lost any claim to objectivity in attempting to debunk Milloy’s science through his political sympathies. In doing so, you only beg the question of your own objectivity, and political affiliation. More to the point, if you had any confidence in the potential of science, Milloy’s political affiliation would be of no consequence to you.