Nick Matzke posted Entry 2165 on April 4, 2006 02:20 AM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/2160

The wingnut echo chamber has recently gone insane over the idea that Eric Pianka, an distinguished and much-loved ecologist at UT, advocates mass genocide by ebola in order to bring down world population. The allegation was leveled by disgruntled creationist Forrest Mims, and rapidly spread to the blogosphere via places like Dembski’s blog (three posts!) and Telic Thoughts, and then went to the Drudge Report and caused a national media firestorm appearing in my local paper by Monday morning. I smelled a rat from the beginning, and now I have been proved right. KXAN News36 in Austin, TX, has just debunked the whole thing, and for good measure has posted a 20-minute unedited interview with Pianka which everyone must watch to realize the full depravity of what the wingnuts have done here. Pianka says several times that Mims is a “crazy kook” that “distorted and changed everything I said.” The death threats that have flooded Pianka and the Texas Academy of Sciences are also a nice touch.

Pianka is clearly an ecological alarmist, and his twin theses that (1) a population crash is coming and (2) a disease (not Ebola, says Pianka) will do it are both highly debatable (my own view is that population is leveling off as birthrates decline due to education, and that highly virulent diseases are more likely to burn themselves out than take out the majority of the population), but these are matters to debate scientifically. There is no way to get from that to saying, as Mims and hundreds of braindead, credulous moonbats did, that Pianka advocates genocide and that several hundred scientists at the Texas Academy of Sciences applauded him for it.

It’s too late at night for me to transcribe all of the worthy bits of the interview, but the most revealing part of the interview is at the end, when the (mostly clueless, by the way) reporter asks Pianka what he most wants the public to know about him. Pianka doesn’t talk about his own reputation or about the dastardly deeds of Forrest Mims – he talks about the importance of conservation and thinking ahead about the world we leave to our children! A real misanthrope, that Pianka.

If anyone sees any one of the various turkeys out there who freaked out over Pianka advocating genocide apologize and retract their statements, please post the link here. I suspect all we’re going to get is strained rationalizations, conspiracy theories that this is a coverup, and attempts to change the topic to the scientific questions.

PS: Oh yeah. Dembski helpfully reported Pianka to the Department of Homeland Security. Good job, Bill.

Commenters are responsible for the content of comments. The opinions expressed in articles, linked materials, and comments are not necessarily those of PandasThumb.org. See our full disclaimer.

Comment #94017

Posted by Martin Brazeau on April 4, 2006 3:50 AM (e)

What gets me in all of this is that nobody’s tossing out a soundbite to the effect of: population control does not mean killing people. People die on their own, what we need is to control the growth and reduction will ensue - without killing anybody! I presume those are the kinds of measure Pianka is talking about, but people are so stupid as to equate population control with genocide. Because this story has gone to the media (via creationists) it’s safe to say that these finer points have to be spelled out.

Comment #94035

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on April 4, 2006 4:27 AM (e)

Uh, Nick, there were blog posts pointing out the creationist insanity very early on. See my “Mr. Hyperbole” Meets “Dr. Doom” (posted 02 Apr 2006 01:18 pm) and my Now in the “Do As We Say, Not As We Do” Dept. (02 Apr 2006 10:21 pm) post pointing out that the ID crowd trampled all over “academic freedom” in their haste to accomplish an intellectual mugging of Pianka.

Comment #94036

Posted by KC on April 4, 2006 4:27 AM (e)

PS: Oh yeah. Dembski helpfully reported Pianka to the Department of Homeland Security. Good job, Bill.

And blogs like Telic Thoughts remain tellingly silent on that issue.

Comment #94044

Posted by Nick Matzke on April 4, 2006 4:44 AM (e)

I hereby acknowledge that Wes has the claim to priority in pointing out the silliness of Mims’s claims – his 1:18 pm blogpost on April 2 beat me to the punch by 83 minutes (assuming my April 2nd, 2006 at 2:41 pm comment on Telic Thoughts is marked in the same time zone).

My “I smelled a rat” comment was reacting to the firefight I seem to have started on TelicThoughts, where they were completely missing the obvious potential problems with Mims’s claims.

More importantly, it’s the middle of the night! We obviously need to go to bed!

Comment #94056

Posted by Ed Darrell on April 4, 2006 5:14 AM (e)

The ID and ID-friendly sites’ comments on this issue demonstrate the limits of ethics in blogging. In his extended interview, Dr. Pianka says he doesn’t think he can sue for libel. I disagree. The story as usually reported has all three elements of libel – publication, identification of a person to be defamed, and defamation. Moreover, most of the commenters have failed to do any checking of facts, a situation that amounts to reckless disregard for the truth in many jurisdictions.

I hope the facts catch up to this story and cool it off. But there’s plenty of grist there for a legal mill, if someone wished to pursue a legal remedy, I think.

Comment #94059

Posted by Frank J on April 4, 2006 5:18 AM (e)

Perhaps this has been said somewhere, but isn’t Pianka’s claim just another “end times” warning that far-right wingnuts make all the time? Where were Dembski and Mims when Pat Robertson was saying all his fun stuff about the natural disasters?

Comment #94066

Posted by the pro from dover on April 4, 2006 5:29 AM (e)

population control is about sex and if there’s one thing fundamentalists hate it’s sex. Therefore it’s put in the same category as abortion, gay anything, HPV immunization, sex education, birth control, etc. etc. By the way, evolution is also about sex, (as is cloning).

Comment #94098

Posted by Lurker on April 4, 2006 7:02 AM (e)

The death threats that have flooded Pianka and the Texas Academy of Sciences are also a nice touch.

First they physically assault a professor. Then they graduate to threatening a federal judge. Now all they want is merely the extermination of a state’s best minds and thinkers. Pretty soon, we won’t need Ebola.

Comment #94129

Posted by steve s on April 4, 2006 8:05 AM (e)

PS: Oh yeah. Dembski helpfully reported Pianka to the Department of Homeland Security. Good job, Bill.

And he did so on the basis of what Mims said Pianka said. Heresay in other words.

You’re a great guy, Bill Dembski.

Comment #94144

Posted by MrDarwin on April 4, 2006 8:57 AM (e)

Was mentioned prominently by Andrew Sullivan: http://time.blogs.com/daily_dish (scroll down to “Left Behind”) although he did later post (without further commentary) an email from a reader pointing out the inaccuracy.

Comment #94170

Posted by MrDarwin on April 4, 2006 9:55 AM (e)

The story has made it to the AP, where it rather uncritically includes commentary from Mims:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/art… (free registration required)

Comment #94176

Posted by clvrmnky on April 4, 2006 10:11 AM (e)

Anyone have a link to the Windows-only video on the KXAN site?

Comment #94185

Posted by JAllen on April 4, 2006 10:37 AM (e)

Nick Matzke wrote:

My “I smelled a rat” comment was reacting to the firefight I seem to have started on TelicThoughts, where they were completely missing the obvious potential problems with Mims’s claims.

That MikeGene is a prince, isn’t he?

Telic “Thoughts”

MikeGene wrote:

As for Pianka advocating mass genocide, I did not say that in my blog. But it sure does look like Pianka takes pleasure in the idea of mass genocide.
*****
So here is what I see. A leading scientist takes pleasure in the idea of 90% of the human population dying of a torturous viral infection.

It looks like he takes pleasure? “Looks”? Did Pianka maybe make the statement with “happy excitement”?

KXAN

KXAN wrote:

“I don’t bear any ill will towards anybody,” Pianka said.
*****
Pianka says he would never advocate genocide or extermination like some suggest he does.

“I’ve got two granddaughters, man. I’m putting money in a college fund for my granddaughters. I’m worried about them,” Pianka said.
*****
After 50 years of ecological study and writing nearly 20 books, Pianka said he thinks the world’s in trouble and wants everyone to know.

Mike Gene at ARN

Mike Gene wrote:

Why did G&F see fit to paint me as one who reported “with happy excitement?” If you think about it, they cannot possibly have known my emotional state at the time I wrote this essay. What’s worse, they are wrong – I did not report “with happy excitement.” Since G&F cannot possibly have known my emotional state at the time I wrote the article, where do these words, “with happy excitement,” come from? I did begin the essay stating, “It’s official” and I suspect that is what triggered their erroneous description. But that was part of the dynamics of forum debates, a provocative start designed to ruffle feathers and elicit reactions for follow-up debate.

And Pianka surely couldn’t have been trying to stir up debate about a serious problem that he wants everyone to know about.

Mike Gene wrote:

I’d say that’s a common impression one would get from reading their account. And adding the words, “with happy excitement” was a way to help plant that very impression in the minds of the readers. In other words, it sure looks like F&G set out to embarrass me, yet to do this, they had to invoke an erroneous description.

The bottom line is that the description from F&G is in error. They could have left out the three words without taking anything away from their argument. They could have attempted to qualify their claim to make it clear they were speculating. Instead, they simply assert something about me that is not true. They convinced themselves of seeing something that was not there, never having any inclination to verify their perceptions by contacting me.

The only difference between the treatment of “Mike Gene” and Pianka is that without the erroneous description of Pianka as advocating genocide - there is no argument, no reason for outrage… oh, and no reason for death threats.

I guess, in all fairness, we can give Mike Gene half-credit for posing some questions that he would like to see Pianka answer, even if he doesn’t show any inclination to contact Pianka.

MikeGene wrote:

As for Pianka, I’m not interested in any official spin; I would also like to see Pianka answer the following questions:

1. Do you think human life is more valuable than animal life?
2. Why do some of your students think you are advocating that ebola kill off most of the human race?
3. Would it be a good thing or a bad thing if ebola mutated and caused a pandemic, killing hundreds of millions of people?
4. Would it be wrong for some terrorists to unleash a deadly virus on people? If so, why?

Perhaps I’ll think of some more, but I have to hit the hay (and I don’t have much time for the blog during the week).

I would like to see Mike Gene answer some similar questions:

1. Does ID postulate that human life is more valuable than animal life? Please explain in detail.
2. Why do some IDists think that a virus that kills 9 of 10 people is designed?
3. Would it be a good thing or a bad thing if ebola mutated and caused a pandemic, killing hundreds of millions of people?
3a. If ebola mutated and caused a pandemic, killing hundreds of millions of people - would that be a Design event?
4. Would it be wrong for some Intelligent Designer to unleash a deadly virus on people? Please explain in detail.

Comment #94187

Posted by k.e. on April 4, 2006 10:59 AM (e)

JAllen

Those last questions could be easily answered if they asked “the designer”
…..the catch is …..if “the designer” answers they’re schizophrenic.

Maybe they keep asking “the designer” over and over and have figured out that there is nothing there …….so they do any damn thing they damn well like and no “desgner” is going to get them.

So much for Fundy morality.

Comment #94190

Posted by Frank J on April 4, 2006 11:14 AM (e)

JAllen wrote:

1. Does ID postulate that human life is more valuable than animal life? Please explain in detail.

I for one have never heard that from an IDer, what with their inordinate fondness for flagella.

While the IDers will simply evade your questions and trot out the usual misrepresentations of evolution, I will be glad to answer them in detail in the presence of classic creationists. When the latter (e.g. at AIG) really take the time to digest what ID says, as opposed to just seeking out the feel-good sound bites, they find that ID is not very comforting at all.

Comment #94192

Posted by kay on April 4, 2006 11:20 AM (e)

Is Forest Mims the guy who wrote those really good Radio Shack mini-manuals in the 1980s? I had no idea he was a fundie… he did get me into electronics though. :)

Comment #94194

Posted by Bruce Thompson GQ on April 4, 2006 11:24 AM (e)

My questions are straightforward, if Pianka acted as some suggest, how will ID help with this impending biological disaster? What does it offer in understanding these diseases? Does ID give us insights into how we might combat these diseases? Does ID offer better methods in understanding the origin of these diseases and their subsequent ability to switch species?

If we are on the verge of another and more deadly pandemic, then significant resources should be directed in preventing this “reset” in the human population. ID is in a position to assist with this effort. If ID is truly interested in participating in the broader scientific arena this is their opportunity.

Delta Pi Gamma (Scientia et Fermentum)

Comment #94199

Posted by Paul W. on April 4, 2006 11:40 AM (e)

Nick,

I’m curious why you think highly virulent diseases are more likely to burn themselves out than to take out the majority of the population.

I’m not a biologist, but…

My impression is that historically, that has typically happened, but largely due to infected people traveling more slowly than diseases kill them. Things have changed due to planes, trains, and automobiles.

A disease that kills you but makes you extremely contagious before you die will tend to kill its hosts “too quickly” before spreading far if the hosts are not very mobile.

But if enough of the hosts are highly mobile, the situation changes a lot. As long as enough infected people transmit the disease to uninfected people elsewhere, a virulent disease can continue to prosper just fine. The world is a whole lot “flatter” than it was 100 or 1000 years ago. Now that somebody can drive a sick family member into a city from a farm, and transmit the disease to somebody who’ll get on a plane for New York or New Delhi the next day, it’s not so clear to me that the old rules apply.

It seems to me that we have a units of selection problem here. Diseases “burn out” largely by group selection. It is in an individual bug’s best genetic interest to spread rapidly, even if it kills its host doing so, as long as there are enough fresh (and immunologically naive) hosts to infect. Within a mostly uninfected host group, virulence can thus be selected for by individual (or gene) selection, if the transmissibility advantage outweighs the death-of-host disadvantage, and the two are linked. (I.e., if what makes the disease contagious is what makes it lethal.)

What keeps this selection pressure in check is largely the isolation of groups of hosts. Presumably many virulent bugs have crossed over into (or evolved in) human populations, and mostly wiped out a family, or a village, or a town or a region… and stopped, at some granularity, due to isolation.

That isolation has largely disappeared in modern times, changing the fitness function.

Comment #94201

Posted by Bob on April 4, 2006 11:45 AM (e)

I can’t find the 20 minute interview. Only the 2:31 news story. Is there a direct link?

Comment #94210

Posted by Chip Poirot on April 4, 2006 12:01 PM (e)

A few comments about this story: Firstly, as some of you know, my own background is in economics and I have a specific interest in economic anthropology and history. This interest has led me to a significant interest in ecologically oriented anthropology. I have also taught a course on social/political ecology.

What alarms me about this criticism is how people are taking statements/ideas out of context. From a social/human perspective we do in fact value human life more highly than that of other animals (at least I do). From a biological perspective, Pianka is totally correct: evolution as far as we can tell, unless we assume some overall, inbuilt direction has no favored species. I don’t see the utility of such ideas to biology.

Also, a lot of what Pianka seems to be saying is old hat. A lot of people have said it before. For example Garrett Hardin predicted the deaths of a lot of people. Predicting an outbreak/collapse scenario is not the same as advocating an outbreak/collapse scenario. This point seems to be lost on his critics. In fact, predicting an outbreak/collapse scenario could be viewed as an effort to ward it off-a bit like Job preaching to Ninevah-if you will pardon the analogy.

Finally, it does strike me that Pianka is on one end of the spectrum and that his end of the spectrum is vulnerable to criticism. For example, the events of the 14th century in Europe and elsewhere can in part be viewed as an ecologically rooted “collapse”. Notably, overall mortality from the plagues (bubonic and pneumonic) was about 40-50%. It only approached 100% in some areas. While the events of the 14th century led to some pullingback, it’s short term impact did not lead to a complete collapse of agriculture and civilization. The ultimate result as we know was of course capitalism. So there is always a problem with straight up applications of Malthusian models to humans.

All that said, I think this is part of a concerted effort by the right to simply discredit any idea coming out the natural sciences that they don’t like. They are trying to make Pianka look like a raving lunatic, which judging from his website, he is clearly not.

Comment #94220

Posted by M. Bulger on April 4, 2006 12:20 PM (e)

All comments on this story are likely to be voided by new information in the coming days; it would appear that we are still in the upward trajectory of this particular news cycle, as the major news services are only now mobilizing themselves on it.

Still, this may prove to be Pianka’s Ward Churchill moment, whether deserved or not. Even, that is, if you take away the “advocacy” of genocide and replace it with a garden-variety, doomsday-scenario “warning,” and then give another allowance for an active sense of humor that, given the subject matter, is susceptible to being unfortunately misunderstood (as evidenced by Mims, not to mention a number of Pianka’s students and at least one other alleged witness to the recent seminar).

In Mims’ account, Pianka is a genocidal maniac. The more accurate picture that may yet emerge from this is of an ecological doomsayer and global misanthrope. The former does more damage to Pianka; the latter, in the long run, does more damage to science and to scientists in general. The faster this can be quashed, the better for everyone.

Comment #94221

Posted by William E Emba on April 4, 2006 12:21 PM (e)

kay wrote:

Is Forest Mims the guy who wrote those really good Radio Shack mini-manuals in the 1980s?

Yes. More famously for the evolution/creationism conflict, Mims also wrote three “The American Scientist” columns for Scientific American in 1990, before the magazine discovered he was a creationist and decided it was too embarrassing to be associated with him.

Comment #94228

Posted by whheydt on April 4, 2006 12:34 PM (e)

Yes, Forrest Mims is the guy who wrote the electronics circuit books for Radio Shack. As noted, he did some “American Scientist” articles for SciAm. Then he got up and made a speech touting creationism *and* made much of his connection with SciAm. At that point, SciAm told him to either not mention the conection in such contexts or they wouldn’t bring him on permanently. Mims refused and SciAm dropped him like a hot potato. Mims claimed that SciAm couldn’t do that becasue they’d promised him a job.

In the ensuing war of words, Mims supporters fed usenet messages supporting SciAm’s position to him and he used some of those messages to threaten at least one persons job.

Comment #94231

Posted by hank on April 4, 2006 12:36 PM (e)

He’s a good man. Current web page:

What nobody wants to hear, but everyone needs to know – Eric R. Pianka

http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~varanus/Everybody.html…

Comment #94245

Posted by DJ on April 4, 2006 1:02 PM (e)

I don’t know. I think the most important thing here is to go back and figure out whether Nick or Wes started suspecting something fishy first.

Comment #94250

Posted by Daryl Cobranchi on April 4, 2006 1:12 PM (e)

The KXAN page doesn’t seem to load under Firefox. IE is slow but it eventually loads.

Comment #94252

Posted by Moses on April 4, 2006 1:16 PM (e)

BTW, just for the record, note the intentionally manipulative and pejorative way the debate was framed and loaded by the wing-nut Sims and has been carried on with the framing through this tempest. By using the hot-button word “genocide,” Sims equates Dr. Pianka with immorality.

A plague that decimates a population is not genocide unless the plague was deliberately and intentionally sown by human devices with the intent to destroy a people, nation, ethnic group, etc. Ebola becoming an air born pathogen and killing 90% of the people on the earth isn’t genocide. It’s a damn nasty plague and you’d be lucky to survive it. But genocide it’s not, plain and simple.

I think the only thing anyone could say is that Dr. Pianka may be a bit Malthusian in his projections. And a case might be made that Dr. Pianka isn’t overly-sensitive to he human-centric worldview of the religious wing-nuts and stomps on “der poor widdle feewings” about how he perceives nature views humans (basically just part of the biomass).

But he’s not some genocidal maniac.

Comment #94255

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on April 4, 2006 1:17 PM (e)

Yeah, the 20-minute clip of Pianka appears to have been taken down. Perhaps we swamped their website!

Comment #94260

Posted by DJ on April 4, 2006 1:34 PM (e)

Isn’t there something about “Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness” written in that there Bible? I seem to remember something along those lines. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe such a thing isn’t listed as one of the ten most important rules carved into stone by God himself for man to follow.

Comment #94264

Posted by Paul W. on April 4, 2006 1:47 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'kwickxml'

Comment #94268

Posted by Paul W. on April 4, 2006 1:51 PM (e)

Finally, it does strike me that Pianka is on one end of the spectrum and that his end of the spectrum is vulnerable to criticism.

Yes. The question for me is whether he’s wrong to be at that end of the spectrum, and how good the criticisms are.

For example, the events of the 14th century in Europe and elsewhere can in part be viewed as an ecologically rooted “collapse”. Notably, overall mortality from the plagues (bubonic and pneumonic) was about 40-50%. It only approached 100% in some areas.

Seems to me that we are in a substantially different situation than in the 14th century, with modern transport.

In the old days, virulent diseases spent more time wandering around geographically constrained populations—and either burning right out due to isolation, or becoming less virulent, by spending more time competing within a limited host pools with less nasty variant strains of themselves.

So, for example, a plague-ridden town might have half its population wiped out by a virulent fast-spreading strain, a quarter of its population infected but mostly surviving a milder strain—which likely confers immunity to the more virulent strain—and another quarter immune due to some genetic variation. The result would be half the population, half naturally immune and half having had the mild strain, and the virulent strain dying out.

These days, by the time the virulent strain has infected half the population, in a town in Africa, it could easily have spread to New York, and become more virulent in the process—the “fast-spreading” strain has a very different survival/reproduction strategy than the milder strain, and may evolve to be more and more virulent. (As long as it’s got fresh, immunologically naive hosts, and is not competing head-on with milder variants that confer immunity to it, it’s to its advantage to maximize spreading at the expense of host survival.)

Everywhere it spreads, once it’s competing with milder mutant variants of itself, it may eventuallly die out and leave mostly the milder strain. But not before the fast-spreading virulent strain is all over the world, such that it kills most of the people in the world.

The fast-spreading strain has a heightened advantage in an age of fast regional and global transport, such that it can spread vastly farther and faster before having to compete with its own milder variants, and it can become more virulent in the process.

Or so it seems to me. (As I’ve said, I’m no biologist.)

While the events of the 14th century led to some pullingback, it’s short term impact did not lead to a complete collapse of agriculture and civilization.

Another difference between the 14th century and now is that in those days, most people lived at pretty much the subsistence agriculture level. If you killed off half the people, the other half could go on pretty much as before, growing food and eating it.

Not so today. Killing off half the people would cause an economic collapse that would kill many more people by a domino effect, with the collapse of infrastructure and social organization. Most of us couldn’t just mourn the dead, pick up our farming implements, and go on.

The ultimate result as we know was of course capitalism.

Right. That’s one of the things that makes us more vulnerable than before. Modern capitalism is very dependent on sophisticated social organization and infrastructure. If things fell apart in a big way, they’d fall very far.

It seems to me—and I’m no economist either—that if we killed off half the people in the world, things would fall apart so badly that likely most of the rest would die too. So, for example, if disease killed off 90 percent of people in some regions, and 20 percent in others, the survivors in the “lucky” region would be in trouble because they’d be dependent on the now-dead people in the “unlucky” regions.

So there is always a problem with straight up applications of Malthusian models to humans.

Yes. But it’s not clear to me that Pianka is wrong, either about how virulent global plagues can be, or what the bottom line would be in terms of global mortality, indirect effects included.

Comment #94273

Posted by k.e. on April 4, 2006 1:59 PM (e)

Aside from the who did what when, right wing Creationists seem to be hysterical over anything that shakes the “dominion” thing and “manifest destiny”.
No one wants to hear about the “progress trap” but Pianka is not a one off wacko, no the wackos are the cowards sending the threats, pathetic.

Comment #94276

Posted by play_jurist on April 4, 2006 2:07 PM (e)

I’ve noticed that fundies do not take to seriously the prohibition on “bearing false witness.” Too bad.

Comment #94289

Posted by Stoffel on April 4, 2006 2:29 PM (e)

Wait, I thought apocalypse was a good thing for creationists! They’re always going on about the first chapter–did they never read to the end of the book?

Comment #94290

Posted by wamba on April 4, 2006 2:29 PM (e)

By using the hot-button word “genocide,” Sims equates Dr. Pianka with immorality.

I think you must be mistaken about that. If genocide were immoral, surely Yahweh wouldn’t have instructed his chosen people to commit it several times.

Comment #94295

Posted by moonglum on April 4, 2006 2:49 PM (e)

Forrest Mims is an electrical engineer. Why are people acting like that makes him an authority in biology? My dad has a PHD in EE, he couldn’t help me dissect a frog back in high school. I would never allow Pianka to design a circuit for me, why should Mims views on biology matter?

Comment #94298

Posted by rightwingprof on April 4, 2006 2:53 PM (e)

If you moonbats really believe all this overpopulation Chicken Little nonsense, then why don’t you kill yourselves? Why is it that nobody with a “Save the earth, Kill yourself” bumpersticker does it?

Comment #94299

Posted by Bob O'H on April 4, 2006 2:54 PM (e)

Paul W wrote:

Nick,

I’m curious why you think highly virulent diseases are more likely to burn themselves out than to take out the majority of the population.

It’s a few years since I read up on my epidemiological theory, but I think this is what’s predicted to happen within a population: I think the infectious period is so short that there aren’t enough contacts to spread the diease to many people. The results come from the classic Kermack-McKendrick model, but my googling hasn’t yet found me the results I’m looking for (although I have found a proof that the Law of Large Numbers works for SIR epidemics. Useful, eh?).

Hopefully a proper epidemiologist will tell us more: it’s relevant to both Ebola and the Pianka business, and also to bird flu (where in both the UK and Finland, the predicted numbers that will die are only a small fraction of the total population, even though mortality is about 50% for people who get the disease).

Bob

Comment #94303

Posted by wamba on April 4, 2006 3:01 PM (e)

why should Mims views on biology matter?

Because he is spreading a distorted view to other moonbats, some of whom have made death threats.

Comment #94310

Posted by moonglum on April 4, 2006 3:10 PM (e)

wamba: More the reason to dismiss what he says out of hand, for he is talking well out of his field of expertise. Why give him any credibility?

Comment #94349

Posted by Bruce Thompson GQ on April 4, 2006 4:03 PM (e)

Here the Grand Quartermaster of Delta Pi Gamma asks about ID and Ebola.

I received an some answers to my question(s) about ID’s position on Ebola. Patrick at 11:53 posted a piece concerning the ID and the ebola virsus and he has received a comment.

The commenter suggests calculating the probability of the mutational events leading to the more virulent form, in this case the airborne form. Then comparing that with the universal probability bound of 10-120 for deciding weather the outbreak is the result of an intelligence or manmade mischief. Presumably, if manmade mischief homeland security would quickly mobilize in seeking out the terrorists. If another intelligence, well it was time to reset the human population and we don’t have to take any responsibility. The only problem I see is that the commenter is defining, a priori, what form Ebola infecting the human population.

What is important is we now have a testable ID hypothesis. Do combined estimates of mutation rates, recombination rates, etc. fall above or below Dembski’s UPB? If the probability is greater we are guaranteed any outbreak of Ebola is the result of human intervention and we should begin a preemptive search for those responsible.

Oh, if an outbreak occurs, what’s the probability of its occurrence?
(I know prior versus posterior probabilities)

Delta Pi Gamma (Scientia et Fermentum)

Comment #94358

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 4, 2006 4:13 PM (e)

Why is it that nobody with a “Save the earth, Kill yourself” bumpersticker does it?

wow, talk about missing the point.

uh, just to spell it out for you, because you apparently exist at less than a second grade reading level….

the people who own those bumperstickers are like yourself. the folks who think overpopulation is a problem are the ones the sticker is directed at.

it’s a joke, get it now?

now that you know, you can put one of those same stickers on your own bumper safely, without worrying that it implies that you should bump yourself off.

what a moron.

Comment #94365

Posted by Ed Minchau on April 4, 2006 4:20 PM (e)

Mims’ background in electronics and his identification as a creationist are irrelevant. What is very relevant is Pianka’s advocation of airborne Ebola as a good way to kill off 90% of the world’s population of human beings (and though he probably hasn’t considered it, 90% of the world’s population of his beloved lizards too).

The man called for the extermination of 6 billion human beings and you people are defending him. Shame on you.

Comment #94366

Posted by Moses on April 4, 2006 4:21 PM (e)

Comment #94298

Posted by rightwingprof on April 4, 2006 02:53 PM (e)

If you moonbats really believe all this overpopulation Chicken Little nonsense, then why don’t you kill yourselves? Why is it that nobody with a “Save the earth, Kill yourself” bumpersticker does it?

Christ! Do you even have the slightest ability to comprehend the argument being made and the uncertainties therein “professor?”

The bubonic plague evolved as early as 1500 years ago and tore through civilization many times. Not only the widely popularized black death of the 14th century, but it hit the Romans in 542 AD killing a million people and wiping out 40% of Constantinople.

In modern society, with all the quick travel providing vectors unavailable to ancient plagues, it would only take one leap of a highly deadly disease to cause a catastrophe. And the sad thing is, it’s not even a new idea.

Comment #94368

Posted by Moses on April 4, 2006 4:25 PM (e)

Comment #94365

Posted by Ed Minchau on April 4, 2006 04:20 PM (e)

Mims’ background in electronics and his identification as a creationist are irrelevant. What is very relevant is Pianka’s advocation of airborne Ebola as a good way to kill off 90% of the world’s population of human beings (and though he probably hasn’t considered it, 90% of the world’s population of his beloved lizards too).

The man called for the extermination of 6 billion human beings and you people are defending him. Shame on you.

He didn’t call for the extermination of 6 billion humans, you tool. He pointed out that as we keep on increasing our population, we ever increase the likely hood of nature imposing one of it’s little biological controls - plague.

If you weren’t so damned closed-minded and poisoned by the wing-nut morons who made up the whole “extermination” canard, you might be able to make the obvious distinction.

Comment #94379

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 4, 2006 4:37 PM (e)

(and though he probably hasn’t considered it, 90% of the world’s population of his beloved lizards too).

LOL.

and of course, there’s a good reason he hasn’t considered it, and if you knew anything about viruses, you would know why.

Comment #94386

Posted by Chip Poirot on April 4, 2006 4:46 PM (e)

I have a few more general comments, but first, I do want to address right wing prof.

If you are indeed a prof, then perhaps you could demonstrate it by doing something other than calling people “moonbats”. If you have a good argument as to how and why current trends are sustainable, let’s hear it. Personally, while I dissociate myself from Pianka’s more radical view, I do think there is reason to view currents as being unsustainable. Of course, making any statement with that good old “ceterus paribus” clause is always problematic. What’s to say current trends will or should continue.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t be looking at adopting good, sound pro-environment policies. Pianka strikes me as someone who tries to analyze human societies from a pure biological/ecological perspective. I think that perspective when applied to social ecology leads to some bad models.

So, like I said. There is an argument to be had with Pianka. But I don’t see where he advocated genocide.

From a human view, it might be the case that if we had stabilized populations at 1950’s levels the world as a whole (in human terms) might be better off. Of course, that does not mean that I advocate killing off anyone alive today-nor do I think Pianka does. I do advocate making sure that “current trends” don’t continue because current trends will likely lead to a lot of deaths-even not necessarily a mortality rate of 90%.

Most social ecological models in archaeology, history and anthropology suggest that “collapses” are not always sudden or abrupt or even immediately “catastrophic”. Rather they tend to accumlate over time and gradually lead to periodic outbreaks of famines, wars, diseases, declining yields and attendant social conflict. In time, this social conflict tends to lead to a collapse of the dominant state.

An ecological collapse in today’s modern industrial world might not look like an immediate catastrophe, but rather a gradual and prolonged period of famines, wars, social misery.

There is no reason why this has to happen and indeed, no reason at all why it should happen. Intelligent institutions, green technological progress, effective environmental regulations, family planning could all prevent such an outcome.

Now I am looking at it from the human view. But Pianka is asking the provoking and interesting question: from a pure biological/ecological perspective, would all the other species (plant and animal) on this planet be better off without us, or with us at much lower numbers. I think the clear answer is “yes”.

That said, I’m not about to off myself or advocate offing anyone else. I do advocate finding ways to mitigate ecological damage.

Comment #94394

Posted by gwangung on April 4, 2006 4:49 PM (e)

What is very relevant is Pianka’s advocation of airborne Ebola as a good way to kill off 90% of the world’s population of human beings (and though he probably hasn’t considered it, 90% of the world’s population of his beloved lizards too).

The man called for the extermination of 6 billion human beings and you people are defending him. Shame on you.

Shame on YOU for totally misreading Pinaka’s comment.

To spell it out for simpletons, advocating the reduction of the world’s population by 90% does NOT mean it has be be done ALL AT ONCE. People do die naturally, through old age, accident, etc.

And population reduction does NOT necessarily mean it has to be applied to folks who’ve already been born.

Are you normally this bad at reading moderately complex writing, or do you usually confine yourself to USA TODAY newsbytes?

Comment #94397

Posted by Chip Poirot on April 4, 2006 4:52 PM (e)

An addenda to my comment above:

As a teenager growing up in a fundamentalist church I often read books and saw movies that suggested such “doomsday” scenarios were foretold in the book of revelations. I heard a lot of sermons on that point too. And after all, as I think someone else has pointed out, isn’t that sort of the whole premise of the “Left Behind” series?

Isn’t Pianka just giving us a secular version of the day of the lord? So if you are a fundamentalist, and you believe in the book of Revelations, it seems to me you should be cheering Pianka on.

Of course I guess the difference is that Pianka might suggest we could avoid our fate whereas the fundamentalists say it is all bound to happen and we can’t stop it.

Has anyone asked Mims how he views the book of Revelations?

Comment #94413

Posted by natural cynic on April 4, 2006 5:18 PM (e)

Pianka’s scenario of a disease killing off ~90% of the population seems to be more like the introduction of smallpox, measles and other Old World infectious diseases into the New World in the 16th century. I have seen estimates of up to 95% and whole villages and towns being completely wiped out. Sources show that it took only a few years for this to happen in the southeastern North America and the same in Moesoamerica once dominated by the Aztecs.

Comment #94419

Posted by zoinky on April 4, 2006 5:26 PM (e)

It seems odd to me that nobody has pointed out that Mims’ claim of Pianka’s position doesn’t even make sense. Mims’ claim is that Pianka wants to kill off 90% of the population with a horrible disease that will make them suffer, to avoid a fate in which, THE EXACT SAME THING HAPPENS, except presumably due to starvation rather than disease. Doesn’t make a lick of sense. If we don’t ‘kill people off’ to make the world ‘sustainable’, then at least we’re facing an unknown, but likely higher than 10% survival rate. Nobody would be stupid enough to make a claim that we need to kill people with a horrible virus in order to avoid having them die of starvation.

Comment #94428

Posted by Ed Minchau on April 4, 2006 5:31 PM (e)

Shame on YOU for totally misreading Pinaka’s comment.

Check out this blog entry from March 9:
http://brenmccnnll.blogspot.com/2006/03/dr.html

“Dr. Pianka’s talk at the TAS meeting was mostly of the problems humans are causing as we rapidly proliferate around the globe. While what he had to say is way too vast to remember it all, moreover to relay it here in this blog, the bulk of his talk was that he’s waiting for the virus that will eventually arise and kill off 90% of human population. In fact, his hope, if you can call it that, is that the ebola virus which attacks humans currently (but only through blood transmission) will mutate with the ebola virus that attacks monkeys airborne to create an airborne ebola virus that attacks humans. He’s a radical thinker, that one! I mean, he’s basically advocating for the death of all but 10% of the current population!”
———————–

if you knew anything about viruses, you would know why.
I am well aware of the difficulties in migrating a virus from one species to an other. It was a little joke.

Comment #94430

Posted by Ed Minchau on April 4, 2006 5:32 PM (e)

Shame on YOU for totally misreading Pinaka’s comment.

Check out this blog entry from March 9:
http://brenmccnnll.blogspot.com/2006/03/dr.html

“Dr. Pianka’s talk at the TAS meeting was mostly of the problems humans are causing as we rapidly proliferate around the globe. While what he had to say is way too vast to remember it all, moreover to relay it here in this blog, the bulk of his talk was that he’s waiting for the virus that will eventually arise and kill off 90% of human population. In fact, his hope, if you can call it that, is that the ebola virus which attacks humans currently (but only through blood transmission) will mutate with the ebola virus that attacks monkeys airborne to create an airborne ebola virus that attacks humans. He’s a radical thinker, that one! I mean, he’s basically advocating for the death of all but 10% of the current population!”
———————–

if you knew anything about viruses, you would know why.
I am well aware of the difficulties in migrating a virus from one species to an other. It was a little joke.

Comment #94434

Posted by Ed Minchau on April 4, 2006 5:35 PM (e)

Shame on YOU for totally misreading Pinaka’s comment.

Check out this blog entry from March 9:
http://brenmccnnll.blogspot.com/2006/03/dr.html

“Dr. Pianka’s talk at the TAS meeting was mostly of the problems humans are causing as we rapidly proliferate around the globe. While what he had to say is way too vast to remember it all, moreover to relay it here in this blog, the bulk of his talk was that he’s waiting for the virus that will eventually arise and kill off 90% of human population. In fact, his hope, if you can call it that, is that the ebola virus which attacks humans currently (but only through blood transmission) will mutate with the ebola virus that attacks monkeys airborne to create an airborne ebola virus that attacks humans. He’s a radical thinker, that one! I mean, he’s basically advocating for the death of all but 10% of the current population!”
———————–

if you knew anything about viruses, you would know why.
I am well aware of the difficulties in migrating a virus from one species to an other. It was a little joke.

Comment #94436

Posted by Frank J on April 4, 2006 5:36 PM (e)

Ed Minchau wrote:

The man called for the extermination of 6 billion human beings and you people are defending him. Shame on you.

AIUI he did not “call for” the extermination of anyone. Even so I, for one, am not defending him, but just expressing amazement at the hysterical reaction, especially from those anti-science activists who pretend that their objection to evolution is strictly scientific.

Comment #94441

Posted by gwangung on April 4, 2006 5:40 PM (e)

Check out this blog entry from March 9:
http://brenmccnnll.blogspot.com/2006/03/dr.html

“Dr. Pianka’s talk at the TAS meeting was mostly of the problems humans are causing as we rapidly proliferate around the globe. While what he had to say is way too vast to remember it all, moreover to relay it here in this blog, the bulk of his talk was that he’s waiting for the virus that will eventually arise and kill off 90% of human population. In fact, his hope, if you can call it that, is that the ebola virus which attacks humans currently (but only through blood transmission) will mutate with the ebola virus that attacks monkeys airborne to create an airborne ebola virus that attacks humans. He’s a radical thinker, that one! I mean, he’s basically advocating for the death of all but 10% of the current population!”
———————————-

if you knew anything about viruses, you would know why.
I am well aware of the difficulties in migrating a virus from one species to an other. It was a little joke.

I repeat. SHAME, SHAME on you for misreading Pianka.

Did you bother to read the rest of the original blog entry? Did you bother to read Pianka’s other writings? Did you bother to do anything OTHER than quote mine? Did you understand the phrase “if you can call it that” as anything other than literal?

Shame, shame on you for such dunderheaded reading comprehension.

Comment #94444

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 4, 2006 5:46 PM (e)

I am well aware of the difficulties in migrating a virus from one species to an other. It was a little joke.

….right, like that thing you like to call a brain?

I checked out your site; i suppose that’s why you came here, so why not oblige.

wow.

I suggest you get pyschological counseling, and some medical treatment for that possible ulcer you apparently have.

Comment #94445

Posted by Steviepinhead on April 4, 2006 5:48 PM (e)

Not to mention moronic and repetitive posting.

But, given his demonstrated contempt for accuracy, Minchau is presumably of the “A lie repeated often enough becomes the truth” school of demagoguery.

Comment #94449

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 4, 2006 5:53 PM (e)

I wonder if Minchau has considered that his bouts with acid reflux are simply a real life reflection of his online posts?

Comment #94463

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on April 4, 2006 6:08 PM (e)

PS: Oh yeah. Dembski helpfully reported Pianka to the Department of Homeland Security. Good job, Bill.

Ironic isn’t it, given that Dembski and his cronies are fundied largely by Howard Ahmanson, who, for twenty years, preached and funded a Christian Reconstructionist political program that echoes the Taliban in every way, including overturning the US Constitution, placing the US under Biblical law, and executing sinners and heretics.

Comment #94466

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on April 4, 2006 6:13 PM (e)

Forrest Mims

An aside:

For those who might not remember, Mims is a long-ago creation “science” martyr. He was, as the creationists tell it, fired from a position at “Scientific American” a few years ago because of his creationist beliefs. Unfortunately for the creationists, the truth was a bit different. Mims was a freelance writer who had sold several articles concerning electronics to “Scientific American”. He was not an employee or a staff writer. When the magazine decided to find a new writer for its “Amateur Scientist” column, Mims applied for the job and was turned down–the job went to someone else. He was not “fired”, since he had never been *hired*.

Apparently, the creation “scientists” were of the opinion that anytime a creationist is turned down for a job, then religious bigotry must be involved.

Odd that now Mims turns up in the ID camp. Once again, we can see that ID and creation ‘science’ are not only the very same pronouncements and arguments, but are also, to a large extent, the very same PEOPLE making them. (shrug)

Comment #94475

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on April 4, 2006 6:22 PM (e)

If another intelligence, well it was time to reset the human population and we don’t have to take any responsibility.

So the Intelligent Designer is advocating genocide … ?

Comment #94476

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 4, 2006 6:22 PM (e)

Forrest Mims, afraid the end of the world will be unleashed by Boris and Natasha of the science world…

all i have to say is…

Run Forrest, Run!

Comment #94478

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 4, 2006 6:24 PM (e)

hmm, that does make me wonder why there aren’t more Forrest Gump puns in this thread.

consider that an invitation, of sorts…

Comment #94489

Posted by ent lord on April 4, 2006 6:43 PM (e)

Regarding the chances for a pandemic wiping out 90% of the human race, I am reminded of tales about the Spanish flu in 1917 as survivors told me the main problem with pandemics is the complete breakdown of social order.
They have resurrected the Spanish flu virus from lung tissue of some of its victims. As I remember the reports, the Spanish flu was a particularly virulent mutation which, if it appeared today, would be every bit as lethal as it was in 1917. We have no vaccine that will protect against it.
In 1917, what ultimately saved humanity was that the Spanish flu mutated within a relatively short time. However, more soldiers died during the Spanish flu from it rather than from war related causes. I do not remember the survival rate of the Spanish flu but I think it was far lower than it is for the avian flu, the current disease de jour.

Comment #94503

Posted by CJ "Gump" O'Brien on April 4, 2006 7:11 PM (e)

Um…
“Life is like a vial of mutated Ebola?”

You never know what you’re going to get, right? get, get?

Aw shucks. That’s all I’ve got to say about that.

Never really liked that movie anyway. Sorry Sir TJ.

Comment #94510

Posted by Ed Minchau on April 4, 2006 7:18 PM (e)

Not to mention moronic and repetitive posting.

My apologies for the triple post. Nothing happened for several minutes after I hit “post”, so I hit it again a couple of times.

But, given his demonstrated contempt for accuracy, Minchau is presumably of the “A lie repeated often enough becomes the truth” school of demagoguery.

Contempt for accuracy? I provided a link from another person besides Mims who was present at the speech. That person actually agreed with Pianka, and yet said the same thing that Mims said: that Pianka was “basically advocating for the death of all but 10% of the current population”.

So gwangung, I found a second source that supported Mims’ account of Pianka’s speech. Obviously I didn’t misread Pianka, unless both of those people who were present at the speech misread him. This is highly unlikely, considering that Mims and the other source I cited take opposite views of Pianka’s conclusion and yet agree on what he said.

And Steviepinhead, I have two independent sources that say that Pianka advocates genocide. Finding a second source hardly constitutes a contempt for accuracy. Pianka’s belated denial of what he said strikes me as an attempt to recover face after the s*it hit the fan.

Comment #94511

Posted by gwangung on April 4, 2006 7:26 PM (e)

So gwangung, I found a second source that supported Mims’ account of Pianka’s speech

No, you didn’t, because you obviously didn’t read the rest of the blog you cited. It did no such thing.

Try again. And try HARDER…a half assed effort won’t cut it.

Comment #94512

Posted by gwangung on April 4, 2006 7:30 PM (e)

By the way, there are other people at the talk who would dispute yours and Mim’s characterization (for example, Kathryn Perez over at Austringer).

Comment #94529

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 4, 2006 8:02 PM (e)

Finding a second source hardly constitutes a contempt for accuracy

unless, of course, your sources are all from the same pool.

did you wonder why the audience applauded the speech the good doctor gave, if he really advocated mass genocide?

did your “quick” little mind ever grasp the illogic of thinking that a professor of any university would promote mass genocide??

of course not, you immediately jumped to anything that would make “intelligencia” look evil, right?

I’ve looked at your site, seen the ridiculous drivel there, and can easily conclude that your mission is to put down the so called “liberal intelligencia”.

you’re 46 years old for christ’s sake, grow up, would ya?

Comment #94530

Posted by Faidhon on April 4, 2006 8:03 PM (e)

Mr. Minchau, I have read the entry in that “Serenity” blog too, when I was looking for data on the story. Can you tell me where it says Pianka proposes actively executing a genocide? Can you tell me why you stopped quoting at exactly that point between sentences?
Why don’t you put a link up, so that anyone can see who’s been honest and who’s not?

Comment #94533

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 4, 2006 8:09 PM (e)

it was a reasonable attempt, thanks CJ.

how ‘bout:

Forrest Mims:

“Mama always said, dying was a part of life.”

here’s some source material:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0109830/quotes

Comment #94537

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 4, 2006 8:13 PM (e)

Not to mention moronic and repetitive posting.

My apologies for the triple post. Nothing happened for several minutes after I hit “post”, so I hit it again a couple of times.

note he only defended the multiple posting, not the moronic nature of it.

at least he’s somewhat honest.

Comment #94543

Posted by Ed Minchau on April 4, 2006 8:23 PM (e)

I’ve looked at your site, seen the ridiculous drivel there, and can easily conclude that your mission is to put down the so called “liberal intelligencia”.

you’re 46 years old for christ’s sake, grow up, would ya?

I don’t know what site to which you are referring. Obviously not my site; I’m 37.

Why don’t you put a link up, so that anyone can see who’s been honest and who’s not?

I did put a link up. As Steviepinhead was kind enough to point out, I posted the same link three times.

unless, of course, your sources are all from the same pool.

The author of the Serenity blog (Brenna) agrees with Pianka. Mims disagrees. How is it that these two sources are from the same pool?

Can you tell me where it says Pianka proposes actively executing a genocide? Can you tell me why you stopped quoting at exactly that point between sentences?

The text that I already quoted from the Serenity blog makes that point fairly clear. I stopped quoting because I had already copied the relevant point. Here once again is the last sentence of that quote, followed by the next sentence (which puts the lie to the assertion that Mims and Brenna are “from the same pool”):

“I mean, he’s basically advocating for the death of all but 10% of the current population! And at the risk of sounding just as radical, I think he’s right.”

Comment #94544

Posted by gwangung on April 4, 2006 8:26 PM (e)

The text that I already quoted from the Serenity blog makes that point fairly clear. I stopped quoting because I had already copied the relevant point. Here once again is the last sentence of that quote, followed by the next sentence (which puts the lie to the assertion that Mims and Brenna are “from the same pool”):

Quote miner.

Which basically makes you a liar.

You didn’t read the rest of the blog, did you?

By the way, Dr. Kathryn Perez quite, quite disagrees with your SECOND HAND interpretation.

Comment #94548

Posted by T. Scrivener on April 4, 2006 8:32 PM (e)

I’m just a humble philosopher, but surely the advances in medical knowledge and technology will give us an edge over the victims of the bubonic plague? I sure as hell hope so.

Comment #94551

Posted by T. Scrivener on April 4, 2006 8:37 PM (e)

“So the Intelligent Designer is advocating genocide … ?”

Well you know there was one intelligent designer who adovcated that in a book called the bible not that ( cough cough) that intelligent designer has ANYTHING at all to do with THE INTELLIGENT DESIGNER.

Comment #94554

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 4, 2006 8:46 PM (e)

I don’t know what site to which you are referring. Obviously not my site; I’m 37.

I stand corrected; your initial post came on the heels of “rightwingprof” whose site i confused yours with.

logic is similar tho, and otherwise my comments to your “analysis” still apply.

if you’d use your brain for a second, how would you explain the ovation the professor’s speech recieved in light of Forrest Gump’s interpretation?

all the audience was sympathetic towards mass genocide?

is that the level of logic you use?

If so, you better get that fixed.

Comment #94555

Posted by Ed Minchau on April 4, 2006 8:49 PM (e)

your second-hand interpretation

You’re right, I wasn’t there at the TAS meeting. Mims and Brenna however, were. Were you? I doubt it. We’re all going on second-hand information here.

You didn’t read the rest of the blog, did you?

I did read the entire blog post that Brenna wrote. I didn’t read the entire blog - who has time to go through all the archives of every blog they come across?

If you want to call me a liar, that is your prerogative. However, your assertion that killing off 90% of the human population “does NOT mean it has be be done ALL AT ONCE” is completely unsupported, and is in fact contradicted by what Mims and Brenna reported. You’ve made it up out of whole cloth. Back it up, perhaps by pointing to a transcript from the speech or any other writings by Pianka which advocate this culling through gradual processes. Until you do (or anyone else does), I will operate under the assumption that Pianka said exactly what Mims and Brenna said he did, that 90% of humanity ought to die from airborne Ebola.

Comment #94557

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 4, 2006 8:50 PM (e)

I’m just a humble philosopher, but surely the advances in medical knowledge and technology will give us an edge over the victims of the bubonic plague? I sure as hell hope so.

as to treating the virus itself, doubtful, as to treating the secondarily related illnesses (bacteriological infections, etc.)

hell yes.

survival rates with access to hospital care should be much higher.

However, as emergency care is continually being reduced, both here and elsewhere, access to such care will be limited.

If you are concerned, I would recommend you write you local and state legislatures to encourage them to keep open as many emergency care facilities as possible.

Comment #94562

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 4, 2006 8:59 PM (e)

right… so Ed baby would prefer to rely on hand selected secondhand information than the words of Pianka himself:

Pianka says he would never advocate genocide or extermination like some suggest he does.

““I’ve got two granddaughters, man. I’m putting money in a college fund for my granddaughters. I’m worried about them,”

http://www.kxan.com/Global/story.asp?S=4720390

so when Pianka says he is not now, nor ever has advocated genocide, you would prefer to believe what Forrest Gump Mims says.

why is that?

why would you prefer to believe that the man advocated genocide, than the more reasonable and obvious conclusion that he was speaking of an effect of overpopulation, rather than a way to reduce said population deliberately?

another right-wing hypocrite who thinks the liberals are “haters”.

LOL

again, you need to get your logic process fixed.

Comment #94578

Posted by Ed Minchau on April 4, 2006 9:29 PM (e)

how would you explain the ovation the professor’s speech recieved in light of Forrest Gump’s interpretation?

Robert Bidinotto has one explanation: “Ask yourself the following question: Where is there a place for humans and their works in a world where pristine nature is deemed ideal, and the productive use of nature for human gain is deemed immoral?

In essence, environmentalists are attacking our very right to live, period. That position permits no compromise.”

If the fraction of environmentalists among those in attendance was high, then you have your answer.

so when Pianka says he is not now, nor ever has advocated genocide, you would prefer to believe what Forrest Gump Mims says.

why is that?

I believe that Pianka is backpedalling now that his contemptible ideas are becoming general knowledge. After all, he’s got to protect those nice juicy grants.

And I’m not just relying on Mims, I am also relying on Brenna, who happens to agree with Pianka’s ideas.

A transcript (or even better, a video) of the speech would clear much of this controversy up rather quickly.

Comment #94586

Posted by The Sanity Inspector on April 4, 2006 10:02 PM (e)

Well, I must confess that I had a hand in spreading this wild rumor, on my own blog, because it didn’t seem so wild at first glance to me. I’ve heard as bad if not worse from academics–but I was wrong in this case, and I admit it.

Comment #94597

Posted by Spike "Hi! I'm back!" on April 4, 2006 10:28 PM (e)

Chip wrote:

An ecological collapse in today’s modern industrial world might not look like an immediate catastrophe, but rather a gradual and prolonged period of famines, wars, social misery.

We seem to be up to our knees in it right now.

If “Peak Oil” intersects with airborne Ebola and our current dismantling of the medical infastructure - it looks like a “Perfect Storm” to me.

How far into the woods will you have to go to stay safe?

Comment #94600

Posted by Derek Gilbert on April 4, 2006 10:33 PM (e)

A couple of the students in Dr. Pianka’s Biology 304 course in the fall of 2004 posted these comments in their course evaluations:

I don’t root for ebola, but maybe a ban on having more than one child. I agree … too many people ruining this planet.

And:

Though I agree that convervation biology is of utmost importance to the world, I do not think that preaching that 90% of the human population should die of ebola is the most effective means of encouraging conservation awareness. I found Pianka to be knowledgable, but spent too much time focusing on his specific research and personal views.

This Ebola thing appears to be something he’s thought about for a while.

Comment #94614

Posted by gwangung on April 4, 2006 11:22 PM (e)

However, your assertion that killing off 90% of the human population “does NOT mean it has be be done ALL AT ONCE” is completely unsupported,

Nor is it contradicted.

and is in fact contradicted by what Mims and Brenna reported.

Mims, perhaps. But I do not believe this is extractable from Brenna. It IS supported by Perez (who you continue to ignore).

You’ve made it up out of whole cloth.

Hardly. You are the one spinning the cloth

Back it up, perhaps by pointing to a transcript from the speech or any other writings by Pianka which advocate this culling through gradual processes. Until you do (or anyone else does), I will operate under the assumption that Pianka said exactly what Mims and Brenna said he did, that 90% of humanity ought to die from airborne Ebola.

Sorry, that’s not how it works. YOU made the accusation. It was contradicted by others hearing the same speech. The burden falls to YOU to support your thesis by finding consistent themes in his other writings as extraordinary claims needs extraordinary support. It’s not MY job to do your work (particularly when I’ve pointed out where and who to look for)

It’s this extreme recklessness and disregard for the truth, relying on second hand evidence (and one a questionable interpretation at that) that makes you a liar.

Seems extremely likely that Pianka doesn’t need to “backtrack”; it’s more likely some unstable ideologues have to do a lot more work than rely on quote mining.

Comment #94615

Posted by JonBuck on April 4, 2006 11:27 PM (e)

Derek’s post is pretty damning, considering.

Comment #94650

Posted by Ed Minchau on April 5, 2006 12:49 AM (e)

Moonglum wrote: Forrest Mims is an electrical engineer. Why are people acting like that makes him an authority in biology?

Forrest Mims is also the chairman of the Environmental Sciences section of the Texas Academy of Science - the same TAS where Pianka made his speech.

gwangung wrote:
By the way, there are other people at the talk who would dispute yours and Mim’s characterization (for example, Kathryn Perez over at Austringer).

and

It IS supported by Perez (who you continue to ignore).

Well, you didn’t give a URL for this supposed support. So, I did a quick google and found the Austringer blog, where there is this post about Pianka and Mims. However, the author of that blog (whose name is Elsberry, not Perez; nor are any of the commenters on that post named Perez), was not at that meeting. If you are referring to another Austringer, then I suggest that you actually provide a URL.

gwangung said: It was contradicted by others hearing the same speech.

Show me.

I should point out comment #94600 above as well, two comments made in Pianka’s fall 2004 course evaluations: those two comments show that not only has Pianka advocated the deaths of 90% of humanity via Ebola before, he has done so for years.

It’s this extreme recklessness and disregard for the truth, relying on second hand evidence (and one a questionable interpretation at that) that makes you a liar.

You are treading dangerously close to libel.

On the one hand we have Mims, Brenna, and the two quotes in comment #94600. All of these say that Pianka is advocating the deaths of 90% of humanity via airborne Ebola. On the other hand we have you Gwangung, with your (as far as I can tell, fictional) Perez.

If you have firsthand knowledge of the Pianka speech, then I suggest you share it. If not, then you are sharing secondhand knowledge (which is not supported by any references at all) and yet you accuse me of lying because I am relying on secondhand knowledge (which I support with references).

Comment #94666

Posted by Ed Fitzgerald (unfutz) on April 5, 2006 1:35 AM (e)

Just a reminder that Mims is one of the signers of the Discovery Institute’s amicus brief in Kitzmiller (see here, the last paragraph before the first “Update”, and the update dated 10/24), and that he lists himself as an “Atmospheric Researcher” affiliated with the “Geronimo Creek Observatory,” which is his name for the open field in which he keeps his equipment.

Mims’ explanation, in a letter to me: “many meteorological observatories are located in open fields” – which doesn’t, of course, explain why the open field has a name which implies the existence of a scientific institution.

Comment #94713

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 5, 2006 4:41 AM (e)

If the fraction of environmentalists among those in attendance was high, then you have your answer.

bwahahahaha!

wow, what a doofus.

go right on ahead and let liars lead you by the nose, there, laddy.

again, your logic indicates one seriously sick mind.

oh, and do feel free to sue me for libel.

LoL.

after you claim to believe all the audience would rather see 80% of humanity dead, don’t you ever dare claim that LIBERALS are the ones who automatically think doom and gloom; that’s all comin from your mindset, pal.

Comment #94714

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 5, 2006 4:43 AM (e)

How far into the woods will you have to go to stay safe?

what woods?

Comment #94758

Posted by Moses on April 5, 2006 6:56 AM (e)

Comment #94578

Posted by Ed Minchau on April 4, 2006 09:29 PM (e)

I believe that Pianka is backpedalling now that his contemptible ideas are becoming general knowledge. After all, he’s got to protect those nice juicy grants.

And that’s the judgment of your closed, quote-mined mind that cannot accept the evidence that you are wrong and he said no such thing. Never mind the denials of your shabby interpretations and wing-nut-driven swift-boating, in the context of Pianka’s body of work, nothing has indicated in any writing or other lecture that he has advocated genocide.

Rather he’s pointed out that we’re way over-populated. That we’re ripe for a major population control disease vector to decimate our population. That, in fact, as far as the world’s species (through bio-diversity) are concerned, the planet would be better off with a drastically reduced human population.

None of those are new or radical ideas. They’ve been part of various mainstream science fiction stories for decades.

We have TJ Bass and the “Hive” stories (“The Godwhale” and “Half Past Human”}. Soylent Green. Star Trek dealt with it in the old series and most of the new ones. Babylon 5 had an entire race wiped out by plague. “Earth Abides” by George R. Stewart is the classic novel in the genre and we had a similar (not so good one) that was called “Deathwind” having been renamed from “The Last Canadian.” And, of course, movies such as “The Omega Man,” “The Andromeda Strain” and a bunch more.

Comment #94831

Posted by Lubos Motl on April 5, 2006 9:36 AM (e)

If anyone still has doubts that Mr. Pianka is dreaming about the extermination of 90% of humanity using ebola, see my blog

http://motls.blogspot.com/2006/04/eric-pianka-sa…

where I demonstrate it using his own web pages and evaluations of his own course.

Comment #94835

Posted by Ed Minchau on April 5, 2006 9:43 AM (e)

Moses said: cannot accept the evidence that you are wrong and he said no such thing.

Mims says Pianka advocated for the deaths of 90% of the human population via Ebola. Brenna said the said the same thing, three weeks before the Mims editorial. And in the fall of 2004, two of the comments in the student evaluation of his course suggest that this same topic, his desire for the death of 90% of humanity via Ebola, was a part of the course he taught, something his students were required to regurgitate in order to pass his course.

On the other hand we have Pianka’s denial after the shit has hit the fan. You expect any reasonable person to believe him? You call that evidence?

Sir Toejam: oh, and do feel free to sue me for libel.

You didn’t write anything libelous. Gwangung was getting close though.

However, I would like for even one of the people who is arguing with me to provide me with any evidence that Pianka’s speech was about something other than what Mims and Brenna say it was. Any evidence at all. A URL to a transcript of the speech would be wonderful. A URL to a video of the speech would be even better.

Pianka’s belated denials do not constitute evidence; instead they appear more like a 67 year old man afraid of losing tenure. A denial is by no means a “debunking”, contrary to Nick Matzke’s wishful thinking in the original post.

Comment #94840

Posted by Paul W. on April 5, 2006 9:51 AM (e)

Hopefully a proper epidemiologist will tell us more […]

Tara over at Aetiology—quite the proper epidemiologist—says that she’s been meaning to write a posting about the evolution of virulence and may do so next week. Cool.

Comment #94853

Posted by Paul W. on April 5, 2006 10:19 AM (e)

natural cynic writes:

Pianka’s scenario of a disease killing off ~90% of the population seems to be more like the introduction of smallpox, measles and other Old World infectious diseases into the New World in the 16th century. I have seen estimates of up to 95% and whole villages and towns being completely wiped out. Sources show that it took only a few years for this to happen in the southeastern North America and the same in Moesoamerica once dominated by the Aztecs.

Yes. My understanding is that over the last few decades, it’s become apparent that the population of the New World was several times higher than previously thought. Diseases introduced by the early European explorers spread ahead of the later explorers, killing off most people and pretty well destroying many native societies.

(For example, when Europeans got to Illinois and discovered the Mound People’s mounds, they didn’t realize that those seemingly long-abandoned places had been fairly populous and thriving only a few decades before.)

Europeans found a sparsely-occupied continent inhabited by weakened people, without realizing that their own African-Asian-European diseases had created that situation fairly shortly before their arrival.

In retrospect this doesn’t seem so surprising. Given the natural resources of the New World, it would be odd if populations were really as low as they had seemed to be, without a recent massive population crash. How could there be so much food and so few people?

So it seems we’ve seen it happen before—emerging diseases being more devastating to immunologically naive populations than, say, the Plague in Europe. The Black Death is not the worst possible scenario, or even the worst actual one.

I would guess that the damage due to the classic bacterial plagues in Europe was limited because of previous waves of similar plagues, over many thousands of years, leaving a population with some degree of immunity. Truly novel diseases could be worse. (Imagine something insidious like HIV that’s easily transmitted like the flu, in a world with automobiles, trains, and jetliners. Yikes.)

Comment #94871

Posted by Paul W. on April 5, 2006 11:04 AM (e)

I’m just a humble philosopher, but surely the advances in medical knowledge and technology will give us an edge over the victims of the bubonic plague? I sure as hell hope so.

Unfortunately, the state of modern medicine is not nearly as good as we would like with respect to controlling epidemics, for several reasons.

One is that we have few or no real weapons against many viruses. Flu viruses mutate and spread about as fast as we can develop, produce, and distribute vaccines for them. It’s always a race, and one day we will likely Lose Big. Other kinds of viruses can be worse—for example, after a couple of decades, we still have no vaccine, cure, or even cheap treatment for HIV.

Another scary fact is that bacteria evolve much faster than we used to think, and by more sophisticated mechanisms—e.g., swapping DNA loops called plasmids that code for resistance to this or that antibiotic. (They are much better genetic engineers than we are.) Our antibiotics are generally things that were evolved a long time ago by bugs, to kill other bugs. And for any given antibiotic, there’s some bug that evolved immunity to it a long time ago. Various bugs are evolving resistance to antibiotics about as fast as we discover new ones. (And faster, lately, as I understand it.)

We could be faced with a major plague for which all of our antibiotics cease to work, after a while. This seems especially likely to me if a plague got out of control, worldwide. There would be many populations of the bug swapping DNA with many other bugs, and effectively breeding uber-bugs. That’s especially likely to happen in many areas with limited medical care, where it’s hard to ensure that people use antibiotics correctly, or can even afford enough doses to do so; using them incorrectly helps breed resistant bugs even faster.

The bottom line is that our advances in medical science don’t do nearly as much as you’d think to protect us from the really bad scenarios, and other changes make us much more vulnerable.

A good frightening book on this subject is The Coming Plague by Laurie Garrett. I found it fascinating on several levels, from the evolution of viruses to the detective stories of tracking outbreaks, to the international politics of public health. (There’s an amazing story of using an actual Apollo space capsule to ferry Ebola victims to the CDC because nothing else was available that actually worked—if you want to know just how unprepared we are for the bad cases, think about how few spare Apollo capsules there are lying around, compared to the billions of vulnerable people.)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0140250913/103-…

Comment #94884

Posted by Tyrannosaurus on April 5, 2006 11:41 AM (e)

Some cretin wrote
If you moonbats really believe all this overpopulation Chicken Little nonsense, then why don’t you kill yourselves? Why is it that nobody with a “Save the earth, Kill yourself” bumpersticker does it?

What for? To leave the Earth alone and unprotected for morons like you to despoil?

Comment #94892

Posted by Bill Gascoyne on April 5, 2006 11:56 AM (e)

I would guess that the damage due to the classic bacterial plagues in Europe was limited because of previous waves of similar plagues, over many thousands of years, leaving a population with some degree of immunity. Truly novel diseases could be worse.

Then how come “novel diseases” weren’t carried from the new world to the old to wipe out Europe? Yeah, I know, syphilis, but it didn’t kill 90%. An interesting notion has recently come to light WRT the current bird flu scare. It seems that the difference may have been the European penchant for living in close proximity to domesticated animals, and all the viruses that migrated from them to humans, gave them much more robust immune systems. Native Americans, OTOH, did not have nearly so great a variety of domesticated animals, and thus didn’t have nearly the viral immunity of Europeans.

Comment #94894

Posted by Bruce Thompson GQ on April 5, 2006 11:57 AM (e)

Pianka is not saying anything that is not in the journals. A quick search of the Journal of Epidemiology online for the last year.
Although a certain amount hyperbole is to be expected, the epidemologists do think about these problems, model potential effects, and are warning governments.

“Although another influenza pandemic in humans is inevitable
, we cannot predict when it will occur. In the meantime, we must do everything in our power to avert this threat, which means improving our responsiveness to a pandemic alert through implementation of all possible preventive strategies.”

Here is a SARS transmission model, and this discusses Ebola but considers SARS more likely as a bioterrorist weapon.

Delta Pi Gamma (Scientia et Fermentum)

Comment #94902

Posted by William E Emba on April 5, 2006 12:34 PM (e)

Paul W. wrote:

My understanding is that over the last few decades, it’s become apparent that the population of the New World was several times higher than previously thought. Diseases introduced by the early European explorers spread ahead of the later explorers, killing off most people and pretty well destroying many native societies.

According to Voet and Voet Biochemistry, Native Americans have very low immunodiversity compared to Europeans. This is presumably a bottleneck effect associated with the Bering crossing. Which meant that diseases that Europe introduced to America would, if devastating, remain devastating, like smallpox. Conversely, diseases the Europeans picked up would, if devastating, select out fairly rapidly to low lethality forms, like syphilis.

Comment #94904

Posted by Anton Mates on April 5, 2006 12:39 PM (e)

Ed Minchau wrote:

Pianka’s belated denials do not constitute evidence; instead they appear more like a 67 year old man afraid of losing tenure.

I don’t think you quite understand what the point of tenure is. Popular and productive professors in their sixties generally are’t worried about losing it, unless they’re actually photographed devouring orphans.

Comment #94964

Posted by Paul W. on April 5, 2006 3:05 PM (e)

Bill Gascoyne writes:

Then how come “novel diseases” weren’t carried from the new world to the old to wipe out Europe? Yeah, I know, syphilis, but it didn’t kill 90%. An interesting notion has recently come to light WRT the current bird flu scare. It seems that the difference may have been the European penchant for living in close proximity to domesticated animals, and all the viruses that migrated from them to humans, gave them much more robust immune systems. Native Americans, OTOH, did not have nearly so great a variety of domesticated animals, and thus didn’t have nearly the viral immunity of Europeans.

Right. There are several factors at work here.

The Native Americans didn’t have nearly as many varieties of livestock, very few that many people lived in close proximity with, and almost none that they lived in close proximity with and traded around for thousands of years. Europeans had lots (cattle, fowl, pigs, horses, sheep, cats, dogs, etc.) Prior to the Native Americans’ ancestors making it to the Americas, most of these animals were either not domesticated at all, or were not common, or were not commonly lived closely with and traded widely, or did not go to the Americas.

Also, Europe, Africa and Asia are effectively one huge landmass, such that agriculture and plagues can rapidly spread everywhere from everywhere, over and over. The Americas missed out on much of that.

And Africa is special. Africa was our ancestral home for millions of years, and is still the home of our nearest kin species, so there are many bugs that have evolved to colonize us and/or animals similar to us in Africa. (E.g., HIV is suspected to be a mutant form of SIV, a chimp disease, though that’s a recent emergence that everybody’s vulnerable to.) Those could spread easily to Europe and Asia, but not to the Americas.

Native Americans seem mostly to come from a relatively small founder population (or set of small populations, amounting to the same thing), which managed to escape the ancient Old World community germ pool for a while, particularly during the critical period of the development and spread of agriculture.

The Native Americans started with less immunodiversity, as William noted, and then proceeded to lose many of the old immunities in the absence of the old selection pressures.

(At least some immunities require selection pressure to maintain the alleles in the population, because the genes have downsides. E.g., one copy of a gene may give you partial immunity to some infectious disease, but two copies is likely to kill you, as with Tay Sachs or Sickle Cell Anemia. So unless the immunity is doing you some good, it will gradually disappear as double-recessives combinations pop up and are selected against.)

Meanwhile old immunities were being maintained, and new ones developed and shared around, as agriculture and animal husbandry and extensive trade developed in the Old World—with occasional old diseases popping out of Africa and new ones arising all over from domestic animal crossovers.

(BTW, much of this, and more is discussed in Jared Diamond’s book Guns, Germs, and Steel, which got a Pulitzer Prize. Most of my admittedly inexpert knowledge of this stuff comes from unreliable recollections of that book and Laurie Garrett’s The Coming Plague.)

The bottom line seems to be that travel, agriculture and trade had a big effect on Eurasians and Africans, causing lots of plagues and buildups of immunities, especially over the last 10,000 years, and the Americas got mostly left out of that.

(Why agriculture and trade developed and spread more quickly in Eurasia-Africa is also discussed in Diamond’s book. There are several major factors at work there, too, but the bottom line WRT immunities is roughly that the Old World had more land, denser populations, more sources of diseases, more genetic diversity, and easy widespread transmission of both germs and immunities for longer.)

Comment #94988

Posted by David B. Benson on April 5, 2006 4:03 PM (e)

Regarding the peopling of the world, including the Americas, I am sure you will enjoy S. Oppenheimer’s “Out of Eden”, Constable & Robertson, 2003. I have some disagreements with the details of the peopling of the Americas in his account, but what has been posted previously is basically in accord with Oppenheimer’s story.

With regard to the great plagues of Europe, did much the same happen in South Asia or East Asia? I have never read anything either way…

Comment #94991

Posted by Spike on April 5, 2006 4:08 PM (e)

“Other kinds of viruses can be worse—-for example, after a couple of decades, we still have no vaccine, cure, or even cheap treatment for HIV.”

But don’t worry, because HIV doesn’t cause AIDS!

[My statement above is satire. The statement below is not.]

“That’s especially likely to happen in many areas with limited medical care, where it’s hard to ensure that people use antibiotics correctly, or can even afford enough doses to do so; using them incorrectly helps breed resistant bugs even faster.”

Some folks agrue that one way we are useing antibiotics incorrectly is by injecting every food animal with antibiotics as a matter of course. Small amounts of those antibiotics make it into our bodies, killing only the weakest infectous microbes we carry and leaving room for the mroe resistant ones to flourish. Another thing that helps breed uber-bugs is casually using antibacterial soap: The progeny of the ones you didn’t kill will be harder to kill next time.

Tara Smith has a wonderful post on the same lines:
http://scienceblogs.com/aetiology/2006/04/emergi…

Laurie Garrett writes:

While the human race battles itself … the advantage moves to the microbes’ court. They are our predators and they will be victorious …

She said microbes will be victorius! She’s anti-human!

[More satire in my statement above. Below, no satire.]

My uneducated speculation is that the Native Americans’ fabled over-reaction to “fire water” was also due to lack of previous exposure. In Europe, if someone got too boisterous due to imbibing certain kinds of “holy water,” he may have done something that merited his quick dispatch, thereby ending the line of that family who could not handle their drink.

Was there any brewing of alcohol happening in the Americas before the Europeans showed up? If not, then there would have been no chance to select against bad reactions to it.

But, in the end, all this talk about uber-bugs and major depopulation events is irrelevant if you are immune! And, since most people think bad things only happen to everyone else, then most people are not going to worry about the Cassandra-like predictions of Pianka and Garrett.

Comment #95001

Posted by Dene Bebbington on April 5, 2006 5:24 PM (e)

Dembski is now offering $1000 for a recording of Pianka’s talk. That’s after reporting him to Homeland Security on the basis of a secondhand account of the talk. Just when you thought Dembski couldn’t stoop any lower he manages to pull a stunt like this.

Comment #95007

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on April 5, 2006 5:48 PM (e)

As I pointed out earlier, someone should remind Dembski that his own sugar daddy, Howie Ahmanson, was, for 20 years, the chief cheerleader and cash cow for Christian Reconstructionist Rousas Rushdooney, who, amongst other things, advocated the execution (by stoning) of gays, heretics and infidels. I’m pretty sure that would account for at least half, and probably more, of the US population.

Moreover, Rushdooney and Ahmanson and their crew of nutters specifically and clearly called for the dissolution of the US Constitution and instead placing the US directly under “Biblical Law”. So not only are the Reconstructionists homicidal maniacs, but they are also traitors.

I don’t recall hearing a single word of complaint or disassociation from anybody at DI. Ever.

I am wondering when Dembski plans to report the traitorous mass-murderer-wanna-be’s to the Federales.

Comment #95134

Posted by Igor Alexander on April 6, 2006 11:06 AM (e)

“Rather he’s pointed out that we’re way over-populated. That we’re ripe for a major population control disease vector to decimate our population. That, in fact, as far as the world’s species (through bio-diversity) are concerned, the planet would be better off with a drastically reduced human population.”

Well, doesn’t that effectively amount to a desire to see the world’s population decimated by an infectious disease?

What’s coming across from the comments here isn’t that Forrest Mims was wrong in his basic description of Pianka’s presentation; what’s coming across is that most of the people here agree with Pianka to a greater or lesser extent.

Also, stop slinging shit at Mims because of his religious beliefs. This has strictly nothing to do with Creationism vs. Darwinism. How old are you people anyways? You’re behaving like a bunch of fucking retards.

Comment #95140

Posted by Bruce Thompson GQ on April 6, 2006 11:29 AM (e)

Igor admonishes all PT commenter’s to “stop slinging shit at Mims because of his religious beliefs.”

The argument being advanced is that Mim’s religious views have colored not only his views on Pianka’s talk, but his reporting, Mims has created a tempest in a teacup. This view is supported by Dembski’s response, his ardent support for Mim’s position, which he has taken to the extreme as evidenced by his behavior. Reporting Pianka to Homeland Security based on second hand information and not the facts suggests a caviler attitude toward the truth.

Delta Pi Gamma (Scientia et Fermentum)

Comment #95150

Posted by gwangung on April 6, 2006 12:33 PM (e)

“Rather he’s pointed out that we’re way over-populated. That we’re ripe for a major population control disease vector to decimate our population. That, in fact, as far as the world’s species (through bio-diversity) are concerned, the planet would be better off with a drastically reduced human population.”

Well, doesn’t that effectively amount to a desire to see the world’s population decimated by an infectious disease?

Um, no.

Comment #95164

Posted by Aaron S. on April 6, 2006 1:55 PM (e)

Here is a transcript of an Eric Pianka lecture. I’m not sure if this has already been posted, but I believe it clears up some of the misconceptions about Pianka’s beliefs. It’s fairly long and the “controversial” statements are only a small part of the presentation.

I think these two quotes basically say it all:

“The microbes are going to get us. We are, we are a great big immerging substrate just waiting for microbes to grow on us.”

“(T)hings are gonna get better after the collapse because we won’t be able to decimate the earth so much. And, I actually think the world will be much better when there’s only 10 or 20 percent of us left.”

It seems obvious that his “controversial” idea is that the current human population is unsustainable and will eventually be diminished, probably, by a disease.

Comment #95166

Posted by Steviepinhead on April 6, 2006 2:02 PM (e)

Igor:

You’re behaving like a bunch of fucking retards.

And that’s about the level of sensitivity to developmentally-challenged people that we’ve come to expect from, well, sensitivity-challenged people just like you.

Or, to put it in terms that you’ll–just maybe–be able to understand, with the help of a dictionary and the input of sympathetic adults who have the misfortune to share your near vicinity:

It’s people like you who go out of their way to make people who can’t help being morons feel bad about being who they are.

Comment #95214

Posted by Popper's Ghost on April 6, 2006 5:13 PM (e)

Who is Pianka advocating genocide to? Virii, apparently, since they are the agents of those deaths. It’s obvious to anyone with a functioning brain that Pianka has not urged anyone to kill anyone – a critical element of “advocating genocide”.

Dominionist sickos like Ed Minchau and Luboš Motl are like someone who smokes like a chimney and sees anyone who comments on the effect of this on the smoker and others as a fascist interfering with the smoker’s God-given right to the pursuit of happiness – they are supremely selfish people. And the next step after making the morally bankrupt libertarian argument is to actually deny the facts – the height of intellectual dishonesty – as Motl does with the plan of some of the leading environmentalists who fight against the so-called “global warming”, including those in the Time magazine, was to erase 90 percent of the GDP of the civilized world. which asserts the non-real and denies the real. That’s the power of self-serving ideology.

Comment #95239

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on April 6, 2006 6:41 PM (e)

Also, stop slinging shit at Mims because of his religious beliefs. This has strictly nothing to do with Creationism vs. Darwinism.

According to Maclean v Arkansas, Edwards v Aguillard, Kitzmiller v Dover, and DI’s own written claims, it has VERY MUCH to do with it.

Comment #95241

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on April 6, 2006 6:43 PM (e)

And, I actually think the world will be much better when there’s only 10 or 20 percent of us left.”

And oddly enough, the fundie Reconstructionists agree.

They only seem to differ on (1) who that 20% should be, and (2) how the rest will die.

(shrug)

Comment #95287

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 6, 2006 11:37 PM (e)

I wonder if Ed Minchau will now reconsider his thought processes that lead him never to doubt his creationist sources?

Will he come here to admit his error?

doubtful.

Just to have some fun, I’m gonna say it:

ED:

I told you so.

Comment #95414

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on April 7, 2006 6:01 PM (e)

Ed,

Perez’s comment is at
http://austringer.net/wp/?p=254#comment-16473

It’s been there all along.

Comment #95419

Posted by gwangung on April 7, 2006 6:45 PM (e)

Ed,

Perez’s comment is at
http://austringer.net/wp/?p=254#comment-16473

It’s been there all along.

Oh, that would have taken a little work (how hard is it to do an cmd-F for Perez on a web page, ya know?).

Creationists and their ilk seem congenitally unable to do even the simplest research.

Oh. Wait. Am I going to sued for that comment?

Comment #95453

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on April 7, 2006 10:14 PM (e)

Oh. Wait. Am I going to sued for that comment?

Indeed, perhaps the fundies now want to adopt the favorite tactic of their fellow nutballs, the scientologists.

Damn, now they’re gonna sue me too.

Comment #95600

Posted by Issac Hayes on April 8, 2006 4:25 PM (e)

Why does no footage of Pianka’s speech exist, then?

Comment #95601

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 8, 2006 4:28 PM (e)

Why does no footage of Pianka’s speech exist, then?

could be any of a dozen reasons.

should we take a guess at the one you prefer?

Comment #95783

Posted by Peter Green on April 9, 2006 9:39 PM (e)

I have for many years been greatly concerned by the spread of Islamic fundamentalism. More recently I have been equally frightened by Christian fundamentalist dogma, seemingly endemic across middle USA. Perhaps the rise of the two is causally linked. In the “Pianka furore” we seem to be seeing here another example of blind dogma being used to rebut sound scientific observation and theory.

From a reasonably in-depth analysis of issues like peak oil, human ecological footprint and intergenerational fairness, I believe that you will find little expectation of anything other than the collapse in life as we know it, probably within 50 to 100 years. There is so much information around on these and related topics. If you have children, you owe to them and their children to make sustainability something other than a platitude.

Comment #106015

Posted by Tom Perkins on June 16, 2006 8:16 AM (e)

“To spell it out for simpletons, advocating the reduction of the world’s population by 90% does NOT mean it has be be done ALL AT ONCE. People do die naturally, through old age, accident, etc.”

Human nature being as it is, I do not believe it is possible for such a reduction to occur in a time frame meaningful to the alleviation of the “plague” Pianka advocates as being otherwise inevitable, without the massacre of billions being undertaken. Within those constraints, there is no difference between the two concepts.

“Population control to reduce the population by 90%” and “genocide” are synonymous in reality.

It would behoove Mr. Pianka to say which mechanism of population control he prefers, the plague or genocide, since his “preferred” method of volutary reduction is not possible.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp