Friday, April 07, 2006

Slander against Eric Pianka

Noun: slander
1. Words falsely spoken that damage the reputation of another.
2. An abusive attack on a person's character or good name.
Verb: slander
1. Charge falsely or with malicious intent; attack the good name and reputation of someone.

I guess I forgot the distinction between slander and libel, though as far as I'm concerned they are the same thing in different forms, verbal and written.

Eric Pianka is a victim of continuing slander. He is accused of advocating genocide for pointing out certain things offensive to those who hold anthropocentric views, the most vocal among whom are apparently fundie right-wingers. Surprise surprise.

Pianka is a distinguished scientist and long-time educator at the University of Texas. He is the recipient of the Texas Academy of Science's 2006 Distinguished Scientist award.

The record is beginning to be corrected, such as in Pianka's own words on his website, and in this report from KXAN Austin. There's a link at the bottom of the KXAN page to view the televised version.
UT Professor Clearing The Record On Speech
April 3, 2006 03:56 PM

Reports of a UT scientist's plan for mass extermination of the human race got our attention Monday.

News 36 tried to get to the bottom of a controversial theory that is spawning death threats on campus and controversy across the country.

Some are accusing a UT scientist of advocating genocide to control the world's population.

Does it sound crazy?

The professor whose ideas are under scrutiny says it's not just crazy, it's not true.

UT Ecology Professor Dr. Eric Pianka does not want everyone on Earth dead.

"I don't bear any ill will towards anybody," Pianka said.

But many bear ill will towards this soft spoken University of Texas ecologist.

"I got a really great death threat," Pianka said.

He's getting death threats such as threatening the slaughter of his family after recent speeches pushing for population control.

"If we don't control our population, microbes will. Why do we have these lethal microbes that kill us in the first place? The answer is, there's too many of us," Pianka said.

Pianka says he would never advocate genocide or extermination like some suggest he does.

"I've got two granddaughters, man. I'm putting money in a college fund for my granddaughters. I'm worried about them," Pianka said.

He said he believes criticism of his theory about an inevitable plague on mankind comes from a rival jealous about his distinguished scientist award from the Texas Academy of Science.

"He's an avowed enemy, and he's made this very clear that he's going to get me and take me down," Pianka said.

Pianka has the full backing of UT behind him as radical as his ideas are to some.

"We have a lot of different points of view on the University of Texas at Austin campus. And we certainly support our faculty in saying what they think," UT spokesman Don Hale said.

After 50 years of ecological study and writing nearly 20 books, Pianka said he thinks the world's in trouble and wants everyone to know.

"We're taking over this Earth and not leaving anything for anything else on this Earth," Pianka said.

We tried to contact the guy Pianka says is behind this smear campaign. He did not get back to us.

This is not over. Pianka said he'll be on two cable talk shows Tuesday including MSNBC to try and clear his name.
In this piece the author (just to the right of the ad with the skinny white chick modeling the right wing t-shirt that says, "HIPPIES SMELL") at least acknowledges that Pianka disavows advocacy of genocide, but then gets to the crux of the matter:

The professor says he's not championing genocide. "The biggest enemy we face is anthropocentrism," he said, describing the belief system in which humans are the central element of the universe. "This is that common attitude that everything on this Earth was put here for [human] use."

Ah ha... looks like someone forgot to go to Sunday school!

Genesis 1: 28 "'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.' Then God said, ‘Behold I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; ...'
Sunday school. There you have it. I wonder why the quote from Genesis above contrasts with Pianka's quote from Genesis here, which does not leave out the "replenish" part.

Pianka is right about humanity's destructive role on Earth, and he is correct to identify anthropocentrism as a major part of the problem.

Slanderous religionists are a big part of the problem, too.


jj mollo said...

I gotta tell ya. I'm pretty anthropocentric. It's just that I think we need to take care of the planet in order to take care of ourselves. I suspect Pianka is sincere and probably a decent guy. But he does choose a macabre way to dramatise his viewpoints, leaving him open to charges of ghoulishness.

Yes there is a lot of population pressure, but we should be thinking about humane and honest approaches to population control and improved productivity rather than wishing, or appearing to wish, for a dramatic die-off. To my way of thinking, this is what we are fighting for, to avoid the collapse. Sudden changes are not often pleasant. Let's hope for boring improvement.

JM O'Donnell said...

Well said and well said indeed.

Steve said...

Thanks JJ and JM for your comments.

I hope I didn't cause offense, JJ, in my agreement with Pianka regarding the problematic nature of anthropocentrism. You are hardly the first person I've known with this sort of worldview. I've known a number of brilliant, honorable, respectable people of such a mind, and I've liked them all.

But they were not extreme anthropocentricists, which is my assessment of Pianka's vocal critics.

Your anthropocentrism is tempered and moderate, and you understand (and promote understanding of) such as the exponential consequences of steady growth. Yours is, from my perspective, a reasonable worldview, and we can be friends, which is in stark contrast to my reaction to extremely anthropocentric fundies like the one I quoted above.

JM, thanks for the lead to the partial transcript. It was gone from the Seguin paper's site as you indicated it probably would be, but Google had it cached and now I've got it. Thanks.

Your Immunoblogging looks very interesting, by the way. I've added your feed to my list.

Cheers from Phoenix!

Ryan said...

To quote Pianka in his own words;
"I have two grandchildren and I want them to inherit a stable Earth. But I fear for them. Humans have overpopulated the Earth..."
This very first statement sounds to me like he's saying that he needs more room; so that his offspring can live comfortably due to the harmful effects of overpopulation. Strange don't you think? Why does the man not live by example? He still has time to rectify the issue he has so overwhelmingly championed.

Here is another fallacy;
"We should allow the millions of other denizens of this Earth some space to live -- they evolved here just as we did and have a right to this planet, too."
Evolved?? Other than being a somewhat sinister fairytale that has reduced man to a mere lump of flesh, there is absolutely no scientific evidence to support evolution. Evolutionists theorize and rationalize based on the “assumption” that evolution has indeed taken place. However as far as proving evolution… Zilch! Pretty weak foundation to base a theory off of, much less a science. Pianka is no different in his assumptions and theories. I would suggest listening to Dr. Kent Hovind at if you need further clarification. If you do so, do it with an open mind setting aside unproven fantasies from doom criers.

And one last concluding thought - When a man rises up to say that 9 in 10 people must die to maintain stability, although he does not mention it he really alludes to and directs impressionable minds (in this case young scientists he teaches) to carry out such a task. Bearing in mind that human beings are nothing more than an overgrowth and thereby must be removed. When such a process occurs, there will indeed be chaos and destruction not just for human kind but the entire planet as well. Such a view is dangerous and irrational. In fact it is dangerous because it is irrational. Consider this carefully. And consider yourself more than “just one of way too many humans”.

- A bearer of Truth

Steve said...

Thanks for your comment Ryan. Obviously we disagree.

Regarding Pianka and his grandchildren, I do not agree that his comment is strange. Of course he wants his grandchildren, and yours, to inherit a stable Earth. The emphasis is on "stable Earth", not on selfish exclusion of others' offspring in favor of his.

The last two sentences of your first paragraph border on offensive in that you appear to be saying Pianka should commit suicide, and maybe murder his offspring. Is that what you intended to convey?

In your second paragraph you label evolution a fallacy, fantasy and a fairy tale with absolutely no scientific backing. Well, as you might have imagined, my response is that there is no doubt that evolution is a fact. I can see examples of it in phenomena as varied as pathogens acquiring immunity under the selective pressures of antibiotics, moths changing color under selective pressures from introduced species, and changing fish sizes under the selective pressures of human predation. You can also see it in the results of human manipulation, such as in the variety of breeds of different animals and varieties of different plants that humans have modified by application of selective pressures. I think you'd probably argue that none of this involves creation of new species, but I wonder what you make of this or this?

Surely you've seen that the Discovery Institute has a piece on the latter here. I gather this is the point of view you support. That's fine, and it illustrates the reason for the line at the top of my blog (towards the top from the line you quoted), "For every expert there's an equal and opposite reexpert." We've all got our experts, and mine is always more expert than yours (figuratively speaking).

Humankind attempts to explain the fact of evolution by means of the theory of evolution, which is subject to change as new facts are learned. I have no doubt, though, that evolution itself is a scientific fact.

In your final paragraph you repeat the false claim that Pianka says 9 in 10 people must die. He does not say that 90% must die. He has denied it, and available transcripts of his Doomsday talk destroy assertions that he is advocating genocide. While the world abounds with nuts, I am far less afraid of any of Pianka's students than I am of hundreds of millions of apocalyptic religionists anxious to die for Allah, bring about Armageddon in the Middle East so that prophesy can be fulfilled, or whatever variant of such mythical beliefs may be held as Truth by various groups.

Believe me, I have considered how human numbers will be reduced, because reduced they will be. It is almost certain that our numbers will be reduced by the four horsemen for the simple reason that humankind cannot bring itself to control its numbers in a more graceful manner. This appears to be, at least in part, due to certain tendencies hard-wired into humanity as a function of, yes, evolution.

You ask that I consider myself "more than just one of way too many humans". I reconsidered it, and I stand by it. In return, I ask that you reconsider whether you are really a bearer of capitalized Truth. Could you be mistaken?



Ryan said...

"Our Cousin The Fishapod"?

"Humankind attempts to explain the fact of evolution by means of the theory of evolution, which is subject to change as new facts are learned. I have no doubt, though, that evolution itself is a scientific fact."

I would replace humankind with evolutionist in your statement. The evolutionary theory seems to be in a constant state of evolution. There is no constant, even if there is one (in this theory), it is derived from a variable supposition.

The articles you have presented have a very evolutionary bias. Once again it supposes that evolution is a reality. I fail to see how an animal/fish (or even bird for that matter) that is extinct would mean that it is a distant cousin. Here is a list of all extinct species, would this mean that a 1000 years from now our successive generations would relate these to us? Would that be true?
An opinion may be devoid of truth. But the truth is not subject to variation, neither does it sway with the accumulation of facts.If anything,facts support the truth. If you were shown a picture of the "fishapod" without the accompanying fairy tale, would you have arrived to the conclusion you have? The examples you have stated simply indicate variations of the same species, NOT the creation of a new one. A dog (big or small) will always give birth to a dog (or its kind/species). And you are right in stating this "You can also see it in the results of human manipulation, such as in the variety of breeds of different animals and varieties of different plants that humans have modified by application of selective pressures", but went off-kilter when you concluded with the (evolution biased) articles. Do you know how fossils are dated? if so, then do you know how the "Table of Geological Periods" came to being? Evolutionists (not scientists) swear by this, but has anyone considered how it came into being? Have you?

Regarding the doom crier, you state that he does not say 90% must die. 5.8 billion "less" people out of 6 billion, you are indeed right! the math would indicate a number greater than 90%. I deeply apologize if my previous comment borderlined offensiveness, I value human life even if a few excitedly seek the destruction of their own kind. Yet statements like - "HIV is too slow, it's no good": Ebola is a better tool that "will control the scourge of the humanity..." are okay? Saying something like that would either mean two things - the person is either 1.ignorant or 2.apathetic (likened to Hitler, Stalin, etc. who were evolutionists themselves).

I respect your stance of being "one of too many". It however does spell hopelessness and a sense of confusion with ever evolving "facts". Evolution is a religion that has done nothing credible in the realm of science, but exercise overactive imaginations. It does indeed have a parasitic relationship with science since it slows down the process of determining Truth from evidence. Which may also be the reason why 45% of scientists believe in intelligent design. As for "capitalized" Truth (and being a bearer thereof), I have considered it, weighed it against what you hold dear (since at one time I too was an evolutionist) and found evolution severely lacking in common sense and gravely deficient in basic moral standards. Please take no offense to what I say, since I speak against the ideology and not the individual. And to answer your final question - I do believe that the Biblical scriptures are Truth. Science and history have indeed cemented this Truth. Together with the website I recommended in my last comment, please see these as well "" and "". I am ready to go against the hard-wired tendencies of humanity to know Truth... are you?

Did you know the complete title of Darwin's book that sparked an overwhelming interst in evolution is "ON THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES BY MEANS OF NATURAL SELECTION,OR THE PRESERVATION OF FAVOURED RACES IN THE STRUGGLE FOR LIFE.", don't believe me... google it. I would like your take on "preservation of favored races". Rings a familiar bell... WW2 perhaps?

Here is one parting quote by probably the greatest scientist the world has ever known- "Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind." -Albert Einstein

-A bearer of Truth

Steve said...

Oh come on Ryan. You have to know that I wasn't quibbling over numbers when I wrote that Pianka does not say 90% must die.

Yes, the passages you quoted about ebola and HIV are okay in the context of the speech. You are being entirely too literal. The man is not ignorant, and he's not apathetic. He just doesn't see things your way. Neither do I for that matter.

Invoking Hitler and Stalin is fallacious on your part - whether or not they were evolitonists is irrelevant to the validity of Pianka's position.

Of coure the theory of evolution is changing. New things are learned and theories change to accommodate the new knowledge.

That an opinion can be devoid of truth is certainly true, but it is not true that truth is not subject to variation, or that it doesnt' respond to new facts. It's capitalized Truth that resists, with outcomes such as the 400-year-late pardon of Galileo.

The "favored races" you want my take on does not refer to human races, as implied by your reference to the second world war. That Darwin had racist tendencies (less so than most for his time) does not detract from the quality of his science any more than the fact that the theory of evolution has changed since his time.

Einstein said lots of brilliant things, but a literalist interpretation is frequently inappropriate. The God he said did not play dice with the universe is not the God of the Bible.

Steve said...

I meant to add that I'm not so literal as to think you actually interpreted my comment about Pianka's intentions as a quibble over numbers. I can take a little sarcasm in your sidestep. Once again, Pianka was not advocating genocide. Only the most selective, literal and even deliberate interpretation can lead to that false conclusion.