Posted by Nick Matzke on April 6, 2006 08:22 PM
Well, what a difference a day makes. After several days of the wingnuts advertising, promising, and slavering over the prospect of the transcripts of Pianka’s lectures being put online, they have finally got around to doing it. Discovery Institute fellow/young-earth creationist/Of Pandas and People coauthor Nancy Pearcey has put up a (mysteriously partial) transcript of Pianka’s first lecture, the one that Forrest Mims saw at the Texas Academy of Science in early March. And the Seguin Gazette-Express, which has been credulously spouting Mims’s unsupported allegations from the very beginning, and which spread them to the world via the Drudge Report, has finally put up the promised transcript of Pianka’s second lecture, at St. Edward’s University (Austin, TX) last week, which is evidently has the same topic, title, and content. Pianka has given this lecture, entitled “Kill all humans with ebola!!” “The Vanishing Book of Life,” seven times now, clearly in a clever attempt to hide his views from the public.
Well, we can now see why the wingnuts were dragging their feet: they haven’t got squat on Pianka. Read the first lecture. Read the second lecture. Even I was shocked: from the hysteria stemming from Mims’s and the Seguin Gazette-Express‘s reports, I was at least expecting a frothing-at-the-mouth, eco-wacko speech from Pianka. But it’s actually milder stuff than I was expecting. Sure, there are several statements and assertions that Pianka makes that I dislike or dispute, and he definitely gets emotionally worked up about what humans are doing to biodiversity – but there is nothing, nothing, indicating that Pianka advocates killing 90% of the world population, and nothing indicating that Pianka hates humanity.
Here is the shocking conclusion of Pianka’s lecture, where he exhorts his audience to go bioengineer airborn ebola and kill off as much of humanity as possible:
And I wanted to tell you about John Stuart Mill and point out that there have been bright people who have seen this coming for a long, long, long time.
Mill wrote that [the Art of Living, I gather] back in 1858, and it’s basically a statement about a stationary world and how a stationary world can be a good world. In a stationary world you don’t have to worry about bubbles bursting, about losing your, uh, your stock, about, about, you know, running out of oil. In a stationary world we were sustainable and the world stays the same from day to day.
So he says in a stationary world as opposed to one that’s grow, grow, grow where everybody has to elbow the other guy and compete to get to the front and be concerned about who’s going to win and who’s going to lose everyday in the stock market. And in a stationary world we can focus in on things that really matter. And he used a phrase that I really love – the art of living. We can work on the art of living. Think about that.
Compare that to what IDists and other gullible wackos were saying about Pianka before the transcript came out (I have helpfully bolded the bits referencing Nazis, the holocaust, eugenics, terrorism, death-wishes, misanthropy, etc.):
Forrest Mims, quoted in the Seguin Gazette-Herald:
But don’t tell local “citizen scientist” Forrest Mims to quietly swallow Pianka’s call to awareness. Mims says it’s an “abhorrent death wish” and contends he has “no choice but to take a stand.”
“This guy is a loose cannon to believe that worldwide genocide is the only answer,” said Mims, who filed two formal petitions with the academy following the meeting.
Mims worries fertile young minds with a thirst for knowledge may develop into enthusiastic supporters of a deadly disease, advocating the fall of humanity.
“He recommended airborne Ebola as an ideal killing virus,” Mims said. “He showed slides of the Four Horsemen of the apocalypse and human skulls. He joked about requiring universal sterilization. It reminded me of a futuristic science fiction movie with a crazed scientist planning the death of humanity.”
Forrest Mims, Meeting Doctor Doom:
But there was a gravely disturbing side to that otherwise scientifically significant meeting, for I watched in amazement as a few hundred members of the Texas Academy of Science rose to their feet and gave a standing ovation to a speech that enthusiastically advocated the elimination of 90 percent of Earth’s population by airborne Ebola.
Meanwhile, I still can’t get out of my mind the pleasant spring day in Texas when a few hundred scientists of the Texas Academy of Science gave a standing ovation for a speaker who they heard advocate for the slow and torturous death of over five billion human beings.
I blogged yesterday about UTAustin professor Eric Pianka (aka “Dr. Doom”) and his advocacy of killing 90% of the world’s human population with airborne Ebola. Could Pianka be charged with terrorism/conspiracy to commit a terrorist act? What happens if a student actually takes his suggestion to heart and kills a bunch of people? Why shouldn’t we think that Dr. Doom himself would commit the act of human destruction he is advocating? How is what he is saying any different from somebody at an airport saying that he plans to plant a bomb there. Note: This is not a matter of saying he actually has planted a bomb but saying that he plans to plant one – that surely would be enough in the current climate to get him arrested. So what about Pianka? At what point do his remarks advocating human destruction constitute a terrorist threat that get him arrested? And if not arrested, how about committed?
As soon as this is posted, I’m going to have a chat with the Department of Homeland Security. [Called them – They are aware of it; it will be interesting to see if they do anything about it.] For your information, I’ve posted an article below by a reporter who was there at Pianka’s remarks (AP refused to pick up the story, so the page is presently overloaded).
Tonight, THE CITIZEN SCIENTIST has posted online “Meeting Dr. Doom,” Forrest Mims’s first-person account of an astonishing speech by Prof. Eric R. Pianka of the University of Texas.
Pianka was recently named the 2006 Distinguished Texas Scientist at the annual meeting of the Texas Academy of Science. Mims is an active member of the Academy and chairs its Environmental Science Section.
In his Distinguished Scientist speech, Pianka advocated eliminating 90 percent of the world’s population by airborne Ebola to save the world. He said we are no better than bacteria and made other intemperate statements.
We know that scientists and scholars are more than willing to sign-off on public statements that allow them to dissociate themselves from a colleague who adopts a controversial position.
I’m reminded of these decrees because of something William Dembski just blogged out (see here, here, and here). According to Forrest Mims, Dr. Eric R. Pianka, who is an evolutionary ecologist from the University of Texas, gave a rather distrubing speech to his fellow scientists and students at the 109th meeting of the Texas Academy of Science.
Pianka apparently adopts a metaphysical view of reality that is hostile to human existence, arguing, “We’re no better than bacteria!” According to Mims, Pianka advocates sterilization and complains about smarter people having fewer kids. These are eugenicist arguments (you can them see documented here. ). But what is most disturbing is that Pianka actually expresses glee at the thought of my children (and your children) dying from a torturous infectious disease (while preaching about “uncaring” people). What’s more, it looks like Pianka actually got a standing ovation from the scientific community after advocating his anti-human views.
Well, I’d say it’s Decree time. The scientific community has shown an eagerness and willingness to publicly dissociate themselves from such dangerous radicals as Guillermo Gonzalez and Michael Behe. If the faculty at University of Texas do not write up and sign off on a decree that dissociates themselves from Pianka and his views, doesn’t the justification for the anti-ID decrees kick in? That is, shouldn’t we assume that most faculty at the University of Texas support Pianka’s anti-human views?
Salvador Cordova, a leader in the pro-ID IDEA clubs:
[Note: Although I have my doubts, in the spirit of Pianka’s own misunderstood humor I have taken this one out, since Sal says he operating in the context of a hypothetical thread. I’m not sure anyone on either side there saw it that way, but see the Telic Thoughts post (which was moved to the Memory Hole along with many related comments in response) and Sal’s comment here and decide for yourself]
Our biosphere wasn’t the product of a creative intelligence but rather of atoms knocking about in the void, they insist. Having defined a Creative Intelligence out of the equation of human origins, they then seek out political, economic, and ecological models that minimize or ignore the role of human creativity–ideologies that view life as a zero-sum game and humans as mere animals or, worse, as an aggressive pestilence on the Earth.
(Hmm, “Creative Intelligence” is an unusual reference to the intelligent designer, I wonder who that might be.)
The very same day TAS declared its stance, Kathy Walt, press secretary for Gov. Rick Perry, expressed disdain over what Pianka calls his “doomsday talk.” Walt called the scientist’s viewpoints “abhorrent” and likened them to Hitler’s “hate-filled Third Reich.”
“Professor Pianka’s gleeful embracing of the destruction of 90 percent of the earth’s population as a necessary and worthy event is abhorrent, as is his notion that human life holds no more value than that of a lizard, bison or rhinoceros,” Walt said.
Glenn McGee, editor of the American Journal on Bioethics:
As director of the Alden March Bioethics Institute, McGee’s forte is analyzing matters of practice in the health science industry. McGee’s reaction to the professor’s conduct described Pianka as an educator “who is spewing venom.”
He went on to compare the situation to doctors in Nazi Germany.
“The difference is that they wanted to find pure blood, where Pianka just doesn’t care that the poor and vulnerable would die first and worst under his scheme,”
“Pianka has crossed over into that rare category of scientist who serves as lightning rod,” McGee said. “His claim is stupid, irresponsible, and casts doubt in the minds of the public on what it is that scientists like him do in the first place: It makes people wonder whether or not every scientist with a big beard, who worries about the biological balance of the earth, is actually planning a holocaust of the kind Pianka appears to want“.”
Jamie Mobley, the wannabe reporter at the Seguin Gazette-Herald:
Though his statements are admittedly bold, he’s not without abundant advocates. But what may set this revered biologist apart from other doomsday soothsayers is this: Humanity’s collapse is a notion he embraces.
“Pianka’s message does not fall within the realm of his professional competence as a biologist, because it is a normative claim, not a descriptive one. Pianka is encouraged to use his ecological expertise to predict the likely consequences of certain technological and reproductive strategies, but to evaluate some as good, bad, or worthy of prevention by genocide is the realm of philosophy or political science, not science. His message falls no more within his professional competence than it would for a physicist to teach religion in class or a musician to encourage racism.”
Again, let me know if anyone apologizes and retracts their remarks. I know of but one.
According to this recent post by Wes Elsberry, Mims is shocked, yes shocked, to find out that this character assassination might come back to bite him. He is now threatening other people at the Texas Academy of Sciences that dare contradict his version of events and who are organizing a petition to discipline Mims. I have no idea what procedures the Texas Academy of Science might have for this kind of thing – probably at most they can issue a statement, or boot Mims from his position as a section chair – but given that Mims has not only assassinated Pianka’s character, but insulted the intelligence and character of the entire Texas Academy of Science, this seems pretty fair to me.
If Mims had any desire to actually do the right thing, he would apologize publicly to Pianka and to everyone he misled, and then resign from the Texas Academy of Science. I won’t hold my breath.
PS: Jason has similar comments at Evolutionblog.