Forrest M. Mims III attended the most recent meeting of the Texas Academy of the Sciences. He was in the audience for a lecture by one Dr. Eric R. Pianka, an ecologist of some repute. Pianka's speech is the event occasioning this posting. In his story "Meeting Doctor Doom" (FR Mirror) Mims writes:
Something curious occurred a minute before Pianka began speaking. An official of the Academy approached a video camera operator at the front of the auditorium and engaged him in animated conversation. The camera operator did not look pleased as he pointed the lens of the big camera to the ceiling and slowly walked away. [...] Pianka began his speech by explaining that the general public is not yet ready to hear what he was about to tell us.
According to Mr. Mims, Pianka is a devotee of an ideology which, to use the phrase of David B. Hart, also deserves the moniker "almost comically vile."
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.
Chillingly, Professor Pianka went on to endorse mass death as a way of culling 90% of the human population. He voiced kind words for the Ebola Virus--a vicious hemmhoragic fever--and Avian Flu. Mims' description continues, with a scene from the Q & A period:
After noting that the audience did not represent the general population, a questioner asked, "What kind of reception have you received as you have presented these ideas to other audiences that are not representative of us?"
Pianka replied, "I speak to the converted!"
Pianka also noted the Return of Patriarchy thesis, which posits that conservatives make more babies than liberals. He describes it this way:
He spoke glowingly of the police state in China that enforces their one-child policy. He said, "Smarter people have fewer kids." He said those who don't have a conscience about the Earth will inherit the Earth, "...because those who care make fewer babies and those that didn't care made more babies." He said we will evolve as uncaring people, and "I think IQs are falling for the same reason, too."
The reaction of the audience, supposedly reasonable men and women of a scientific temperament, is even more disturbing:
With this, the questioning was over. Immediately almost every scientist, professor and college student present stood to their feet and vigorously applauded the man who had enthusiastically endorsed the elimination of 90 percent of the human population. Some even cheered. Dozens then mobbed the professor at the lectern to extend greetings and ask questions.
Fortunately such adulation was not unanimouis. Mims continues:
I was assigned to judge a paper in a grad student competition after the speech. On the way, three professors dismissed Pianka as a crank. While waiting to enter the competition room, a group of a dozen Lamar University students expressed outrage over the Pianka speech.
I hope Mims has misrepresented these presumedly prestigious scientists. But Dr. Pianka has a student who blogged the same lecture confirming Mims' account of the event:
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! And at the risk of sounding just as radical, I think he's right. [Bold mine. -kjj]
At this same meeting of the Texas Academy of the Sciences conference, Dr. Pianka was named 2006 Distinguished Texas Scientist. If a significant number of TAS members share Pianka's views, I shudder for both the future of science and of humanity. Mims himself worries a zealous disciple of this man learned in the sciences of communicable diseases could trigger a scenario of mass murder so far reserved only for Science Fiction tales.
I suspect Pianka's ideas parallel the National Security Study Memorandum 200, composed in 1974 under the supervision of none other than Henry Kissinger. If so, this man is representative of our very own ruling class. Further reading may yield more commentary in the future.
For the present, I'll just wrap this up. Denunciations of anthropocentrism inevitably descend into misanthropy. Give me that old time humanism, please.