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  • tina delgreco
    31 March 2006 Recently citizen scientist Forrest Mims told me about a speech he heard at the Texas Academy of Science during which the speaker, a
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 2, 2006
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      31 March 2006
      Recently citizen scientist Forrest Mims told me about a speech he
      heard at the Texas Academy of Science during which the speaker, a
      world-renowned ecologist, advocated for the extermination of 90
      percent of the human species in a most horrible and painful manner.
      Apparently at the speaker's direction, the speech was not video
      taped by the Academy and so Forrest's may be the only record of what
      was said. Forrest's account of what he witnessed chilled my soul.
      Astonishingly, Forrest reports that many of the Academy members
      present gave the speaker a standing ovation. To date, the Academy
      has not moved to sanction the speaker or distance itself from the
      speaker's remarks.

      If the professional community has lost its sense of moral outrage
      when one if their own openly calls for the slow and painful
      extermination of over 5 billion human beings, then it falls upon the
      amateur community to be the conscience of science.

      Forrest, who is a member of the Texas Academy and chairs its
      Environmental Science Section, told me he would be unable to
      describe the speech in The Citizen Scientist because he has
      protested the speech to the Academy and he serves as Editor of The
      Citizen Scientist. Therefore, to preclude a possible conflict of
      interest, I have directed Forrest to describe what he observed and
      his reactions in this special feature, for which I have served as
      editor and which is being released a week ahead of our normal
      publication schedule. Comments may be sent to Backscatter.

      Shawn Carlson, Ph.D.,
      MacArthur Fellow,
      Founder and Executive Director,
      Society for Amateur Scientists

      Special Editorial: Dealing with Doctor Doom


      Meeting Doctor Doom

      Forrest M. Mims III
      Copyright 2006 by Forrest M. Mims III.

      There is always something special about science meetings. The
      109th meeting of the Texas Academy of Science at Lamar University in
      Beaumont on 3-5 March 2006 was especially exciting for me, because a
      student and his professor presented the results of a DNA study I
      suggested to them last year. How fulfilling to see the baldcypress (
      Taxodium distichum ) leaves we collected last summer and my tree
      ring photographs transformed into a first class scientific
      presentation that's nearly ready to submit to a scientific journal
      (Brian Iken and Dr. Deanna McCullough, "Bald Cypress of the Texas
      Hill Country: Taxonomically Unique?" 109th Meeting of the Texas
      Academy of Science Program and Abstracts [ PDF ], Poster P59, p. 84,

      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. 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.

      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.

      This curious incident came to mind a few minutes later when
      Professor Pianka began his speech by explaining that the general
      public is not yet ready to hear what he was about to tell us.
      Because of many years of experience as a writer and editor, Pianka's
      strange introduction and the TV camera incident raised a red flag in
      my mind. Suddenly I forgot that I was a member of the Texas Academy
      of Science and chairman of its Environmental Science Section.
      Instead, I grabbed a notepad so I could take on the role of science

      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

      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.

      Saving the Earth with Ebola

      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.

      He then showed solutions for reducing the world's population in the
      form of a slide depicting the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. War
      and famine would not do, he explained. Instead, disease offered the
      most efficient and fastest way to kill the billions that must soon
      die if the population crisis is to be solved.

      Pianka then displayed a slide showing rows of human skulls, one of
      which had red lights flashing from its eye sockets.

      AIDS is not an efficient killer, he explained, because it is too
      slow. His favorite candidate for eliminating 90 percent of the
      world's population is airborne Ebola ( Ebola Reston ), because it is
      both highly lethal and it kills in days, instead of years. However,
      Professor Pianka did not mention that Ebola victims die a slow and
      torturous death as the virus initiates a cascade of biological
      calamities inside the victim that eventually liquefy the internal

      After praising the Ebola virus for its efficiency at killing, Pianka
      paused, leaned over the lectern, looked at us and carefully
      said, "We've got airborne 90 percent mortality in humans. Killing
      humans. Think about that."

      With his slide of human skulls towering on the screen behind him,
      Professor Pianka was deadly serious. The audience that had been
      applauding some of his statements now sat silent.

      After a dramatic pause, Pianka returned to politics and
      environmentalism. But he revisited his call for mass death when he
      reflected on the oil situation.

      "And the fossil fuels are running out," he said, "so I think we may
      have to cut back to two billion, which would be about one-third as
      many people." So the oil crisis alone may require eliminating two-
      third's of the world's population.

      How soon must the mass dying begin if Earth is to be saved?
      Apparently fairly soon, for Pianka suggested he might be around when
      the killer disease goes to work. He was born in 1939, and his
      lengthy obituary appears on his web site.

      When Pianka finished his remarks, the audience applauded. It wasn't
      merely a smattering of polite clapping that audiences diplomatically
      reserve for poor or boring speakers. It was a loud, vigorous and
      enthusiastic applause.

      Questions for Dr. Doom

      Then came the question and answer session, in which Professor Pianka
      stated that other diseases are also efficient killers.

      The audience laughed when he said, "You know, the bird flu's good,
      too." They laughed again when he proposed, with a discernable note
      of glee in his voice that, "We need to sterilize everybody on the

      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 responded to more questions by condemning politicians in
      general and Al Gore by name, because they do not address the
      population problem and "...because they deceive the public in every
      way they can to stay in power."

      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."

      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. It was necessary to wait a while before
      I could get close enough to take some photographs (Fig. 1).

      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

      Yet five hours later, the distinguished leaders of the Texas Academy
      of Science presented Pianka with a plaque in recognition of his
      being named 2006 Distinguished Texas Scientist. When the banquet
      hall filled with more than 400 people responded with enthusiastic
      applause, I walked out in protest.

      Corresponding with Dr. Doom

      Recently I exchanged a number of e-mails with Pianka. I pointed out
      to him that one might infer his death wish was really aimed at
      Africans, for Ebola is found only in Central Africa. He replied that
      Ebola does not discriminate, kills everyone and could spread to
      Europe and the the Americas by a single infected airplane passenger.

      In his last e-mail, Pianka wrote that I completely fail to
      understand his arguments. So I did a check and found verification of
      my interpretation of his remarks on his own web site. In a student
      evaluation of a 2004 course he taught, one of Professor Pianka's
      students wrote, "Though I agree that convervation [sic] biology is
      of utmost importance to the world, I do not think that preaching
      that 90% of the human population should die of ebola [sic] is the
      most effective means of encouraging conservation awareness." (Go
      here and scroll down to just before the Fall 2005 evaluation section
      near the end.)

      Yet the majority of his student reviews were favorable, with one
      even saying, " I worship Dr. Pianka."

      The 45-minute lecture before the Texas Academy of Science converted
      a university biology senior into a Pianka disciple, who then
      published a blog that seriously supports Pianka's mass death wish.

      Dangerous Times

      Let me now remove my reporter's hat for a moment and tell you what I
      think. We live in dangerous times. The national security of many
      countries is at risk. Science has become tainted by highly
      publicized cases of misconduct and fraud.

      Must now we worry that a Pianka-worshipping former student might
      someday become a professional biologist or physician with access to
      the most deadly strains of viruses and bacteria? I believe that
      airborne Ebola is unlikely to threaten the world outside of Central
      Africa. But scientists have regenerated the 1918 Spanish flu virus
      that killed 50 million people. There is concern that small pox might
      someday return. And what other terrible plagues are waiting out
      there in the natural world to cross the species barrier and to which
      scientists will one day have access?

      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

      Forrest M. Mims III is Chairman of the Environmental Science Section
      of the Texas Academy of Science, and the editor of The Citizen
      Scientist. He and his science are featured online at
      www.forrestmims.org and www.sunandsky.org. The views expressed
      herein are his own and do not represent the official views of the
      Texas Academy of Science or the Society for Amateur Scientists.

      Copyright 2006 by Forrest M. Mims III.

      Comments may be sent to Backscatter

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