04 August 2007

If This Man and His Friends Try to Kill 90% of Earth's Humans, Where Can We Go to Escape Them?

The man pictured above is Eric Pianka, a University of Texas ecologist who suggests repeatedly in public appearances that viruses such as Ebola should be modified so as to be able to kill off 90% of earth's human population. He claims to advocate these extreme measures in an effort to save the planet. Among radical left environmentalists, Professor Pianka is not alone, and may even be considered a hero.
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. The speech was given by Dr. Eric R. Pianka (Fig. 1), the University of Texas evolutionary ecologist and lizard expert who the Academy named the 2006 Distinguished Texas Scientist.

...One of Pianka's earliest points was a condemnation of anthropocentrism, or the idea that humankind occupies a privileged position in the Universe. He told a story about how a neighbor asked him what good the lizards are that he studies. He answered, “What good are you?”

Pianka hammered his point home by exclaiming, “We're no better than bacteria!”

Pianka then began laying out his concerns about how human overpopulation is ruining the Earth. He presented a doomsday scenario in which he claimed that the sharp increase in human population since the beginning of the industrial age is devastating the planet. He warned that quick steps must be taken to restore the planet before it's too late.

...Professor Pianka said the Earth as we know it will not survive without drastic measures. Then, and without presenting any data to justify this number, he asserted that the only feasible solution to saving the Earth is to reduce the population to 10 percent of the present number.

So where could we go to escape madmen who try to carry through on Pianka's "bold" plan to save the earth? Robert Shapiro of the Lifeboat Foundation advisory committee recommends pursuing a course that leads to human settlements on the moon.
When we face a brand new situation, such probabilities are impossible to calculate. Countermeasures against each individual threat can of course be taken, but we would also be prudent to back up our civilization and our species. We need to place a self-sufficient fragment of society out of harm’s way, which for practical purposes means off the Earth. A buffer of empty space would protect that sanctuary from virtually all of the catastrophes named above.

Physicist Stephen Hawking, and a number of others, have called for humanity to spread out to distant planets of our Solar System. But there is no need to go so far to protect ourselves. After a few decades—centuries at worst—dust and ash will settle, radioactive materials will decay, and viruses will perish. Earth will once again become the best home for humanity in the Solar System. Return would be easiest if a safe sanctuary were nearby. In the more probable instance that only a limited disaster took place, that nearby sanctuary could also play a valuable role in restoring lost data and cultural materials, and coordinating the recovery. And of course, construction of the rescue base will be much easier if it is only days, rather than months or years, away.

We do not have to build the base from scratch, in an environment of emptiness, as we are attempting to do with the space station. A suitable platform has been orbiting our planet ever since its formation. On most clear nights, we need only look up to see it. If I employ the same arithmetic that I use when I insure my home, the cost of the lunar base can easily be justified.

To build a sustainable lunar base, we will need to find water there, and be able to build and extract whatever else we need from lunar materials together with abundant sunlight. We can easily bring the genetic material for the living plants, bacteria, and animals we will need. Eventually, using molecular engineering and nanotechnology, we will be able to design and engineer whatever we need as long as we have water and planetary or asteroidal mass.

Knowing that many members of the radical left support what Pianka is advocating is not reassuring. Particularly when one of the major political parties in the US currently is being strongly influenced by the radical left.

The fever pitch to which anxiety over "catastrophic anthropogenic global warming" is being sold to students and members of the public no doubt pushes some people over the brink. The same thing applies to "peak oil" doomsday theories that circulate among many university students and other pseudo-intellectuals. What is essentially an economic problem of managing scarce resources becomes another apocalypse.

This tendency to create doomsdays where no doomsday are justifiable, twists the minds of those who are caught up in the perverse excitement associated with such fictional apocalypses. It is not surprising that many true believers take doomsday theories a step further--to propose bringing about doomsday themselves.

As if they cannot stand the suspense of waiting for doomsday to happen--they simply must concoct it for themselves.

Hat tip Michael Anissimov.

Update 5 Jan 08: Several people in comments and emails have made the claim that Eric Pianka was misquoted by Forrest Mims in Mims' account of the 109th meeting of Texas Academy of Science in Austin. Such a claim is unlikely, given the fact that Mims' written account is the only "transcript" of that particular talk by Pianka. Since all recording devices were required to be turned off for the talk in question, we must depend upon written accounts.

Support for Mims' account can be found here. Apparently others besides Mims' can remember that Pianka referred fondly to the idea of a virulent strain of Ebola (or other microorganism) reducing the population of earth by 90%.

The sad thing is that some of the apologists and deniers for Pianka probably agree with his point of view, but simply do not wish it to become more broadly known. Unfortunately for them, the people who need to know about the Pianka perversion have already been informed.

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Blogger Will Brown said...

This being Texas, what with the "Castle doctrine" and all, I know what happens if he or his followers come around my house.

This also being America, he's free to blather on pretty much as he likes, of course, but that's all.

Sunday, 05 August, 2007  
Blogger brian wang said...

If they tried to implement their plan, they will get locked up or killed. Still it is good to keep track of the crazies

Monday, 06 August, 2007  
Blogger Erika Lenz said...

Ever heard of Jonathan Swift's "Modest Proposal," a satirical essay from 1729, where he suggests that the Irish eat their own children? Sometimes it takes outrageous statements to get people's attention!!! If you actually read what Pianka is saying, he's not nearly the nutcase you make him out to be. He's making a point, albeit off the beaten path, that's at least worth listening to. What's so dangerous about ideas? Surely your own opinions are well-thought out enough that they can withstand the existence of another line of thought. Perhaps there could even be a thoughtful conversation, instead of the simplistic melodrama so common in both mainstream and independent media. Educate yourselves, and read the actual transcript:


Monday, 06 August, 2007  
Blogger al fin said...


Pianka said, “Good terrorists would be taking [Ebola Reston and Ebola Zaire] so that they had microbes they could let loose on the Earth that would kill 90 percent of people.”

Here is one of Pianka's supporters: "He's a radical thinker, that one! 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." Source

The extreme environmental left has been talking like this for decades. Pianka is only one clone among many with this message.

Twelve Monkeys illustrated how a Pianka disciple might go about exterminating most humans, and making the surface of Earth unlivable for primates (and many other mammals).

Pianka may not be sociopathic, but he is certainly badly twisted and deluded.

Monday, 06 August, 2007  
Blogger Audacious Epigone said...

Why not riposte to his inanity by asking him to lead a mass-suicide? If he is so misanthropic, why does he continue to allow himself to live? Is that not hypocrisy? If I saw this guy speak, I'd simply call him on it.

Wednesday, 08 August, 2007  
Blogger IConrad said...

Malthusian overpopulation myths are over a century old, now. This is just yet another manifestation of the same.

These people genuinely believe what they're saying -- but they believe it in an intellectual manner. Nevermind that they're flat-out wrong. It is not, in their minds, a "Modest Proposal."

Friday, 10 August, 2007  
Blogger al fin said...

The problem with these clone-minds is that they control most universities, publishing houses, and news media centers. In other words, the inbreeding is virtually complete.

Luckily, the internet came along just at the time that these conformo-nazis had almost sewn up the intellectual sphere. The net is precisely the instrument of insurrection that was needed to prevent the encapsulation and suffocation of the western mind.

Pianka and his nihilist cohorts are breeding their own nemesis.

Saturday, 11 August, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

Transcripts for the professor's talks are available on the net. Any reasonably science-minded person can see that the original report misrepresents Professor Pianka's talk.

More details at Wikipedia.

No one is trying to kill 90% of the worlds population. Nothing to see here.

Tuesday, 21 August, 2007  
Blogger al fin said...

Your comment is mildly misleading, ars.

Transcripts of another of Pianka's talks are available, but not the TAS talk. (If you recall, the videographer was told to turn off the camera and recording devices for that speech.)

If you can believe the Wikipedia links, even Pianka's supporters are claiming that he speaks favorably about pruning Earth's population down to 10% of current levels, as if such a thing would be done by "good terrorists."

Of course he isn't actively involved in developing a killer virus. He only seems to be favorably disposed to those who are.

Sweeping, unsupported statements about what anyone with a scientific mind will think or believe are part of the problem with overly dogmatic consensus science. Scientific heretics are badly needed.

This kind of "die-off.org" thinking is pervasive among extremists on the political left and right wings. It should be called out and exposed wherever it crops up.

Tuesday, 21 August, 2007  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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