Apparently, Dr. Eric Pianka of the University of Texas advocated a plan to save the world’s environment by killing 90% of the population at the 2006 Texas Academy of Science Meeting. The Ebola virus was his method of choice. You can read about it on the Free Republic from first-hand witness, Forrest Mimms III, who has been screaming about this all over talk-radio and the internet.
I hesitate to get too worked up over this story because the evidence that the actual remarks made is thin, seeing how it is based on Mr. Mimms’ evidence alone. However, one can imagine it. It makes me think of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 thriller, The Rope. I hope that Dr. Pianka doesn’t have any students crazy enough to actualize his theories!

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

16 Comments

  1. Read Wes Elsberry’s take before you get too excited by Mims’ account. Both come off sounding loopy in this whole debacle.

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  2. Andrew McKnight Selby April 3, 2006 at 8:24 pm

    Yeah, I think Jim is right on this one.

    After hearing Mimms on the Dennis Prager show, I think he’s trying to make his 15 minutes of fame be 16 minutes. I think I won’t delete the post, though, because I’d like to see a clear refutation to Mimms claims from Pianka. Hopefully one will be forthcoming. I tried to email him, but the email on his website didn’t work.

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  3. The movie is called “Rope” – semantics, but come on, it’s a classic…

    I love you, Selby. That’s why I correct you.

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  4. I’ve seen conspiracy tapes that say the federal government is planning on killing up to 90% of the world’s population. Certainly an obscene exaggeration. I’m not surprised that someone would think that 90% of the world population is better off dead, but I never thought that someone would have the balls to say it at a public meeting.

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  5. But why would they have prevented videotaping?

    It does not seem to be just Mims’ personal interpretation of Pianka’s remarks considering a couple of comments from Pianka’s students:

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

    –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.

    “Root for”, “preaching”, and “should” do not seem like neutral class presentations that a global pandemic only might but hopefully won’t happen. Since there were hundreds of other scientists at this event I await the overwhelming contradiction of Mims’ report and widespread defences of Pianka that ought to emerge if the Chairman of the Environmental Science Section of the Texas Academy of Science mischaracterized this event.

    At this point the only compelling defense of Pianka is other eyewitness reports, not asking whether Mims is credible or not. If anybody finds other firsthand accounts of Pianka’s speech perhaps they can post links here.

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  6. I think, maybe, this guy was misunderstood, as a physicist at USC explains here

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  7. After a bit of research, I agree he was misunderstood, but much of what is offensive still remains. He is not prescribing releasing a virus like Ebola and killing 5 billion people, he is predicting that our “stupidity” as an arrogant, anthropocentric race will precipitate the burst of a deadly virus, and that the world will be better when that happens. See comments below for excerpts from the transcript.

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  8. Excerpts:

    “We killed off an awful lot of indigenous new-world people with smallpox and measles… We’re going to see this again.”

    “The microbes are smaller, and they reproduce really fast — have generation times measured in minutes or less. They evolve really quickly, and we can’t keep up with them. We are doomed. The microbes are going to get us. We are, we are a great big immerging substrate just waiting for microbes to grow on us. And even though we are still homo sapiens — you know what sapiens means, it means smart — I’d say we’re not. I’d say we’re dumb because we’re letting our population grow just like bacteria grow on an agar plate until they’ve reached the limits; and that’s dumb.”

    “Now one of his statements was that we cannot act as conquerors, that we weren’t given some God-given right to do anything we want like chop down the redwood trees and we have to have respect for fellow members of the earth. And this has to transcend antrhopocentrism. They have a right to this planet, too.”

    “But you notice the estimated population red line with a collapse and without a collapse and things 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.”

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  9. If humans are no better than bacteria, how do we explain the fact that humans are the only species taking up the cause of preservation of this fine planet? Is not this action good? Of course, or else distinguished professors such as Pianka would not be perfoming it, and encouraging others to perform it. Is therefore the person who does it morally commendable? Yes. Then human beings, perhaps some, such as the ecologists Dr. Pianka represents, more than others, are commendable for their efforts to preserve all species. This commendation seems to afford the epithet “better” to the recipient. Those who preserve bacteria are better than bacteria. Unless I am missing something…?

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  10. More seriously, there seems to be a lot of editorial hanky-panky going on. Pianka is hardly being given a fair hearing.

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  11. “Man”

    By George Herbert

    MY God, I heard this day,
    That none doth build a stately habitation
    But he that means to dwell therein.
    What house more stately hath there been,
    Or can be, then is Man ? to whose creation
    All things are in decay.

    For Man is ev’ry thing,
    And more : He is a tree, yet bears no fruit ;
    A beast, yet is, or should be more :
    Reason and speech we onely bring.
    Parrats may thank us, if they are not mute,
    They go upon the score.

    Man is all symmetrie,
    Full of proportions, one limbe to another,
    And all to all the world besides :
    Each part may call the farthest, brother :
    And head with foot hath private amitie,
    And both with moons and tides.

    Nothing hath got so farre,
    But Man hath caught and kept it, as his prey.
    His eyes dismount the highest starre :
    He is in little all the sphere.
    Herbs gladly cure our flesh, because that they
    Finde their acquaintance there.

    For us the windes do blow ;
    The earth doth rest, heav’n move, and fountains flow.
    Nothing we see, but means our good,
    As our delight, or as our treasure :
    The whole is either our cupboard of food,
    Or cabinet of pleasure.

    The starres have us to bed ;
    Night draws the curtain, which the sunne withdraws :
    Musick and light attend our head.
    All things unto our flesh are kinde
    In their descent and being ; to our minde
    In their ascent and cause.

    Each thing is full of dutie :
    Waters united are our navigation ;
    Distinguished, our habitation ;
    Below, our drink ; above, our meat ;
    Both are our cleanlinesse. Hath one such beautie ?
    Then how are all things neat !

    More servants wait on Man,
    Then he’l take notice of : in ev’ry path
    He treads down that which doth befriend him,
    When sicknesse makes him pale and wan.
    Oh mightie love ! Man is one world, and hath
    Another to attend him.

    Since then, my God, thou hast
    So brave a Palace built ; O dwell in it,
    That it may dwell with thee at last !
    Till then, afford us so much wit ;
    That, as the world serves us, we may serve thee,
    And both thy servants be.

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  12. Here’s the thing: Europe and the blue US states already subscribe to population control–at least in practice. We ain’t makin’ babies, so in 50 years the West will just be a geographical term. This means that the intelligentsia advocating population control won’t be around to persuade Third Worlders to do the same.

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  13. Andrew McKnight Selby April 10, 2006 at 10:10 pm

    K.B. I love the poem. I’d like to see a Pianka-type try to write something like that about bacteria – or even reptiles. I think that is your point.

    After reading some of the links posted here, it appears to me that Mimms and other have taken Pianka’s comments out-of-context. However, it’s clear to me that Pianka thinks humans are ontologically equal with animals and maybe even every living thing. One wonders if it isn’t a logical conclusion to wipe out much of the human race then. One also wonders if scientists (in our current strict sense of the term) should ever pretend to be ethicists…

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