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Milloy again

February 15th, 2004

Tim Lambert has a devastating critique of Steve Milloy, operator of the “junkscience.com” site attached to the Cato Institute, and model for many of the similar party-line science sites that have proliferated in the blogosphere. Most of these promote some combination of

  • global warming contrarianism
  • ozone layer contrariarianism
  • shilling for the tobacco industry, and
  • boosting creationism

but Milloy covers all bases. I’ve covered Milloy at length before and pointed out most of these things with links. However, in the light of this 1999 story linked by Tim, I’m disinclined to engage in the kind of contact with slime implied by a new link, so if you want to check him out you can type the URL yourself.

As with John Lott and the American Enterprise Institute, the link between Cato and Milloy raises the question of how an institution that has some pretensions to respectability and employs some decent people can justify supporting such unethical and intellectually bankrupt charlatans.

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  1. February 15th, 2004 at 21:20 | #1

    Another unethical and intellectually bankrupt charlatan is CATO’s Pat Michaels.

    Michaels presented a diagram (to Congress) from ten years earlier which showed climate model calculations, and showed that it overestimated the change in temperatures over the last 10 years. What he didn’t mention is that he had ignored the range of scenarios used in the climate models, and his diagram was missing all but the high end scenario projection.

    http://www.giss.nasa.gov/edu/gwdebate/

  2. February 15th, 2004 at 22:16 | #2

    Pat Michaels you say? He was part of TASSC’s advisory board.

  3. February 15th, 2004 at 22:23 | #3

    What a surprise. It seems like it’s a small incestuous world out there.

  4. February 16th, 2004 at 00:41 | #4

    Another interesting comment on Milloy:

    http://www.skepticfriends.org/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=2511

    The author points out that Milloy is more interested in name calling than in promoting science.

  5. Niobe
    February 16th, 2004 at 07:33 | #5

    This would be as opposed to quigensian guilt-by-association attacks and leftist, party-line science.

    Pot, kettle, black.

    N.

  6. February 16th, 2004 at 09:50 | #6

    “…. how an institution that has some pretensions to respectability and employs some decent people can justify supporting such unethical and intellectually bankrupt charlatans….”

    Reminds me of the Fairfax press vis-a-vis the hacks from the Centre for “Independent” (snork!) Studies or the Institute of privatised Public Affairs. As Sedgewick so masterfully pointed out, they don’t have the gravitas and credibility of the Ponds Institute.

  7. February 16th, 2004 at 12:24 | #7

    Hang on John, you are willing to endorse the intellectually bankrupt chartalans that write Dissent magazine.

    Either you are in favor of intellectual honesty or you are not. You can’t demand it of your opponents if your not prepared to demand it of your friends.

  8. John Quiggin
    February 16th, 2004 at 12:51 | #8

    That’s a pretty broad-brush indictment, Scott. The standard of articles in Dissent is mixed, but I haven’t seen anything there that I’d find comparable with Milloy. Since I’ve published there myself, I obviously disagree with your apparent view that the magazine in general is intellectually dishonest, but perhaps you’d like to spell out your concerns in more detail, as I have done in relation to Milloy.

  9. February 17th, 2004 at 08:00 | #9

    If you want charletans, how about former IPCC head Robert Watson standing in front of a Mann et al hockey stick chart WITH ERROR BARS REMOVED at a press conference.

  10. February 17th, 2004 at 11:18 | #10

    I doubt if anyone at a press conference would know or care about what an error bar was. This is just a red herring.

  11. February 17th, 2004 at 11:30 | #11

    Okay, well, I have the Summer issue here and I will go thru it more on the weekend for you. I didn’t intend to fisk it but I certainly found it of comic value.

  12. Aaron
    February 17th, 2004 at 13:50 | #12

    So, you consider a gross exaggeration of certainty (ignoring the error bars) a red herring, Jim? I would rather think that this was pretty important given the gravity of the claim being made at the time (that C 20th temps were unprecedented), and the importance of the errors to that claim.

    And to compound the error, the graph seamlessly combined proxy with surface data -apples and oranges.

    If I was trying to explain my own data I would go to great pains to explain this concept of uncertainty. That the journos present wouldn’t know or care says more about journos than the science.

  13. February 17th, 2004 at 14:20 | #13

    There are better ways of explaning uncertanty to the public than through error bars. Your staments sound like typical “junk science” garbage. He left out the error bars so he must be a horrible person, a part of the politically correct nanny state.

  14. February 17th, 2004 at 14:45 | #14

    Aaron, it should be pretty obvious that the error bars were left out to simplify the diagram – something which is exceedingly important when trying to get ideas across to a large non-technical audience.

    Beside, the Mann reconstruction with error bars is displayed in the IPCC’s Summary for Policymakers, where any journalist who is interested in reconstruction should look.

    If this is the best example that you can come up with, then you’ve only strengthened my prejudices.

  15. February 17th, 2004 at 17:42 | #15

    Aaron, perhaps you would care to share with us your opinion of Milloy?

  16. February 18th, 2004 at 07:53 | #16

    I love the way Jim imediately assumes that I am some kind of anti-nanny state conspiracy nut because of my criticism of the IPCC. So much for careful-reasoning skeptic.

    Ken, it should be abundantly clear that the IPCC was trying to give a false sense of certainty to the public. If there are better ways to represent uncertainty to the public, why did the IPCC not do this? How may journos are going to try to wade through the IPCC report to find the numerous caveats, errors, and uncertainties contained therein. Your prejudices are already as strong as an iron box. I dont believe I can strengthen them further.

    It seems that the Ken miles and Jim Nortons here have two standards, any error Milloy, Michael et al make is subject to the most extreme criticism and immediatly siezed upon as proof that they are pathological liars. Any errors that the IPCC and its pals make is excused away, and the person making the criticism is smeared as an anti-nanny state right wing nut.

  17. February 18th, 2004 at 10:34 | #17

    Aaron, it’s on the first page of the Summary for Policy Makers (ie. the version for people with a non-technical background).

    The ” caveats, errors, and uncertainties” that journalists must “wade through” are as follows:

    New analyses of proxy data for the Northern Hemisphere indicate that the increase in temperature in the 20th century is likely to have been the largest of any century during the past 1,000 years. It is also likely that, in the Northern Hemisphere, the 1990s was the warmest decade and 1998 the warmest year (Figure 1b). Because less data are available, less is known about annual averages prior to 1,000 years before present and for conditions prevailing in most of the Southern Hemisphere prior to 1861.

    Any one who can’t “wade through” that paragraph, isn’t going to get anywhere with error bars.

    PS. Good to see your reply to Tim’s question.

  18. Aaron
    February 18th, 2004 at 13:20 | #18

    *Sigh*. The quote you reproduced makes my point all the more clear Ken. Pay attention to the time period referred to. They are making firm -and unjustifiable claims- to the certainty of the proxy data for the LAST 1000 years.

    Then there is the apples-and oranges comparison of proxy data versus surface thermometers. A 1st year science student would fail for less.

    But you’ve already made up your mind, right Ken?

  19. February 18th, 2004 at 13:33 | #19

    Aaron, the reconstruction is calibrated against thermometer readings, so a comparison is valid. Good to see you read the paper, before dismissing it.

  20. February 18th, 2004 at 13:37 | #20

    Aaron, if you are going to accuse others of having a double standard, it helps if you don’t appear to be applying one yourself. It appears that you are a biologist. Do you think that biology textbooks should give equal time to the theory of evolution and to creationist theories?

  21. Neil
    February 18th, 2004 at 13:39 | #21

    Watson removed error bars from the graph?? wow! didn’t know that- is there a link/ref to it? Error bars are by far the easiest way to communicate the uncertainty involved with a measurement. It’s junk science 101 to remove them to make the graph ‘simpler’.

    Oh, and my opinion of Milloy – he seems to be about as biased as this Watson fellow.

  22. February 18th, 2004 at 14:50 | #22

    Pardon me, Ken, but comparing two different kinds of data like that is NOT valid. They may be calibrated, but different kinds of systematic errors contribute to each.

    Nell, I have a copy of the photo in question somewhere. Will try to dig it out.

    Tim – have corresponded with Milloy and he certainly doesn’t endorse creationist bunkum. And neither do I.

    BTW – calling me a biologist is partly accurate – I work on molecular structure. You are doing better than Quigin, who described me as a pharmacologist!

  23. February 18th, 2004 at 15:35 | #23

    Aaron, Milloy may not argue for equal time for creationists in emails with you, but that is not even slightly relevant. What is relevant is what he puts on junkscience.com. I spent some time writing a post and providing links and everything and so far all I have seen from you is repeated evasions. Have you even read my post?

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