Milloy again

by John Quiggin on February 15, 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.

{ 12 comments }

1

Classic Liberal 02.15.04 at 2:27 pm

Fling everything you can and see what sticks, eh? I’m not a fan of Milloy, but the notion that he is pro-creationism is simply false. Check out “Ask a Scholar” at the Cato Institute’s web site where he says, “That said, some sort of evolutionary process seems most likely in my opinion.” Oops! I guess you weren’t quite telling the truth, were you?

I’m not asking you to like Milloy, but is it too much to ask that you not engage in lies and overstate your case?

2

karl 02.15.04 at 3:07 pm

That isn’t an anti-creationist view. Milloy stresses the possibility of doubt about evolution, particularly in humans and higher animals. Intelligent design theory is more resolutely anti-creationist than Milloy appears to be. He may not be openly supporting creationist beliefs, but it’s quite fair to say he’s boosting it, and in ways that are a little odd for a site that claims to be opposed to junk science.

3

asg 02.15.04 at 4:58 pm

In all fairness to John Q., the interview with Milloy does look very “soft on creationism”. Being soft on creationism is forgivable for people who do not paint themselves as defenders of science, but obviously not for Milloy.

4

Anthony 02.15.04 at 5:00 pm

If you search the junkscience.com websitefor the word “evolution”, you’ll find in addition to that tendentitious Philip Johnson commentary (which is the worst sort of lawyer-promoted junk science), lots of links to editorials and articles regarding the controversies over teaching of evolution in schools, most appearing in places which are sympathetic to teaching evolution, and some of which are explicitly hostile to teaching creationism. So calling Molloy a booster for creationism is being economical with the truth.

5

John Quiggin 02.15.04 at 8:21 pm

Here’s the full Q&A linked by classic liberal (emphasis added by me).

Q: What’s the real deal on evolution? Twenty years ago on “Cosmos,” Carl Sagan said it wasn’t a “theory” but a “law.” My Christian friends tell me it’s a theory shot full of errors. And my scientist friends tell me it’s provable in the everyday world.

A; Explanations of human evolution are not likely to move beyond the stage of hypothesis or conjecture. There is no scientific way – i.e., no experiment or other means of reliable study – for explaining how humans developed. Without a valid scientific method for proving a hypothesis, no indisputable explanation can exist.

The process of evolution can be scientifically demonstrated in some lower life forms, but this is a far cry from explaining how humans developed.

That said, some sort of evolutionary process seems most likely in my opinion. But there will probably always be enough uncertainty in any explanation of human evolution to give critics plenty of room for doubt.

As regards the links noted by Antony, most of them appear to be presented without comment from Milloy, unlike the Johnson piece.

6

John Quiggin 02.15.04 at 8:38 pm

Here’s a piece by Milloy, supporting “equal time” for creationists. He includes a disclaimer that he himself is not a creationist, but the whole thrust of the piece is that creationism is a legitimate scientific viewpoint and should be treated on a par with evolution.

7

msg 02.15.04 at 9:15 pm

Can anyone sum up the motives and intentions of these guys? Has anyone ever? It isn’t just toadying for big business is it? Really now, it has to be something bigger than that. Are there crop circles near where Steven Millroy lives? Cattle with surgically removed recti?
Maybe there’s a period of his autobiography he can’t account for? A long weekend trip to Vegas that turned into a three month AWOL and no credit-card trail?

Put “creationism” in the same paper bag with “climate change”-denial and the erstwhile “war in Iraq”. Shake it up real good.
Now reach your hand in there.

8

Classic Liberal 02.16.04 at 3:53 pm

msg,

So money from Scaife (and I have no idea if Milloy is a recipient) is no longer a sufficient explanation? I thought the greediness of conservatives explained all their actions, at least that’s how leftists view it. But now it has to be somethinge even more sinister, eh? Mere money couldn’t corrupt someone as much as Milloy has been corrupted, therefore it must be aliens.

As for Mr. Quiggin, he again overstates his case, bordering on lying. The Milloy piece he refers to in the above comment is about global warming. The reference to creationism is background on a particular reporter, not “the whole thrust of the piece”.

Milloy is an opinionated hack. You don’t need to make up stuff to produce a devastating critique of him, so why do it?

9

Marc 02.16.04 at 4:53 pm

The quote from John Q is far from dishonest; the language used by Milloy is classic creationist-speak. Essentially, anything that you can’t do in a lab experiment is pure speculation and is on an equal footing with theological speculation. And, of course, it also can’t be used to limit the ability of large, wealthy corporations to do whatever they want to do.

Marc

10

Classic Liberal 02.16.04 at 11:19 pm

Marc,

the problem for people pushing the “Milloy=creationist” line is that he’s already quoted as saying that he believes evolution is the most likely explanation. Please show me any other creationist who does that.

The attempt to prove that Milloy is a creationist by showing he doesn’t criticize them enough is like showing that leftists are pro-mass murder because they don’t criticize communist dictators enough.

11

John Quiggin 02.16.04 at 11:34 pm

Classic Liberal, your comments are getting close to a violation of Godwin’s Law, but I’ll try to respond. On the article by Milloy I quoted, I will respond to your quibble and say “the whole thrust of the piece as far as it concerns creationism is that creationism is a legitimate scientific viewpoint and should be treated on a par with evolution.”

But Milloy’s parallel discussion of global warming only strengthens my case. He criticises the scientific establishment for its attitude to global warming sceptics then criticises it in exactly parallel terms for its attitude to creationism.

On your most recent comment, where did I assert that “Milloy is a creationist”? I said in my post that he is boosting creationism, and, as the thread clearly shows, he is in fact pushing the policy position of the creationists, namely “equal time”. As far as I’m concerned that’s “boosting” them.

Finally, if you read the Lambert post I linked to, there’s no need to speculate about Scaife money. Milloy’s money comes from the tobacco lobby.

12

Scott Robertson 02.20.04 at 12:45 pm

As a currently practicing “junk scientist” I think it is important to consider the source. Milloy has a myriad of degrees but none in an actual research field. He has never published any original research and has no formal training in the things he critiques. But he ceratinly gets alot of press, more than an actual scientist.

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