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.
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.