Friday, April 07, 2006

In the footsteps of Dr. Doom

The Ebola virus
"He praised diseases such as Ebola for being efficient killers, and he showed a slide of rows of skulls to drive home his point," Mims wrote in one of three petition letters to TAS. "I recall that one skull had flashing red eyes and that [Pianka] expressed his views about mass death and disease in good humor."

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. Seguin Gazette Enterprise 4/5/06**
Creationist and self-styled "citizen scientist" Forrest Mims has managed to stir up quite a bit of controversy over what appears to have been a completely reasonable and reality-based talk by Eric Pianka, an ecologist at the University of Texas. Pianka argued that
  • a population crash is coming
  • a disease (not Ebola) is likely to do it
  • if Ebola became an airborne virus, it could kill 9 out of 10 people
  • outside a human perspective, this would be a good thing for natural ecosystems around the world
  • organized religion was the underlying cause of the problem because our anthropocentric lens is what allows us (and even encourages us) to abuse the world around us, and this anthropocentrism comes from organized religion.
Hearing this, and misunderstanding (willfully in my view) the difference between prediction and prescription, Mims accused Pianka of advocating genocide. The hyperbole got ratcheted up in the strangest corners of cyberspace. Another creationist reported Pianka to Homeland Security, Pianka and the Texas Academy of Sciences started getting death threats, and then the antediluvian behemoths of Texas politics, unwilling to pass up any opportunity to pander to the ignorant, took up the wailing. To top it all off, Mims, Mims is now threatening to sue the Texas Academy of Sciences for slander.

Personally, I can't see what all the fuss is about. Anyone who wants to get a sample of Ebola can easily order it over the internet. And Ebola is hardly the only thing that could do us all in.
**UPDATE 4/8: I noticed that the link to the Seguin Gazette Enterprise has stopped working.
The Questionable Authority points out that all stories in the paper related to Pianka have been disappeared from the website. There is more good analysis of the SGE stories and the continuing attacks on Pianka here.

ome overly credulous reporters at Prison Planet have tried to link Mims to a vast Illuminati-like eugenics conspiracy. As part of the evidence for his depravity they point to the fact that Pianka has a cute plush ebola, failing to see that this is in fact much better evidence of their own lack of a sense of humor.


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