Sunday, April 02, 2006

Worshiping Death in Academe

The problem with insanity is not that it’s illogical, but that it is merely logical. (I cannot remember who first said that.)

(From The Seguin (Texas) Gazette-Enterprise.)

A University of Texas professor says the Earth would be better off with 90 percent of the human population dead.

[…] Though his statements are admittedly bold, he’s not without abundant advocates. But what may set this revered biologist apart from other doomsday soothsayers is this: Humanity’s collapse is a notion he embraces.

[…] “This is really an exciting time,” he said Friday amid warnings of apocalypse, destruction and disease. Only minutes earlier he declared, “Death. This is what awaits us all. Death.” Reflecting on the so-called Ancient Chinese Curse, “May you live in interesting times,” he wore, surprisingly, a smile.

Reminds me of Michael Schiavo’s lawyer describing the “beauty” of Terri Sciavo’s death by dehydration. There is something creepy and a little past human here.

[…] In his estimation, “We’ve grown fat, apathetic and miserable,” all the while leaving the planet parched.

Hey! I’m fat, apathetic, and quite content, thank you!

The solution?

A 90 percent reduction.

That’s 5.8 billion lives — lives he says are turning the planet into “fat, human biomass.” He points to an 85 percent swell in the population during the last 25 years and insists civilization is on the brink of its downfall — likely at the hand of widespread disease.

[Disease] will control the scourge of humanity,” Pianka said. “We’re looking forward to a huge collapse.”

I remember when as a child that my parents were so grateful that humanity was learning to control the scourge of disease. The “wonder drugs” of the 1950’s saved my young butt a few times. Interestingly, they saved Dr. Pianka’s as well.

But don’t tell local “citizen scientist” Forrest Mims to quietly swallow Pianka’s call to awareness. Mims says it’s an “abhorrent death wish” and contends he has “no choice but to take a stand.”

Mims attended the educator’s doomsday presentation at the Texas Academy of Science’s annual meeting March 2-4. There, the organization honored Pianka as its 2006 Distinguished Texas Scientist — another issue Mims vocally opposes.

“This guy is a loose cannon to believe that worldwide genocide is the only answer,” said Mims, who filed two formal petitions with the academy following the meeting.

[…] To Pianka, a human life is no more valuable than any other — a lizard, a bison, a rhino. And as humans reproduce, the demand for resources like food, water and energy becomes more than the Earth can sustain, he says.

The moral equivalency of human life to all others, from microbe to mosquito to moose, is one of the cornerstones of the culture of death. Without it, the justification for killing is severely curtailed. The funny thing is, were any other species capable of rational thought, I doubt they would accept the same equivalence for themselves. The fact that a coyote will kill and eat a rabbit implicitly stakes the coyote's claim to non-equivalence with the rabbit.

[…] He contends Ebola is merely an evolutionary step away from escaping the confines of Africa. And should an outbreak occur, Pianka assuredly says humanity will quickly come to a “grinding halt.”

The professor’s not the only one who can articulate this concept. Because Pianka includes his doomsday material in his coursework, Ebola and its potential play a notable role in some students’ studies. A syllabus for one course reads:

“Although [Ebola Zaire] Kills 9 out of 10 people, outbreaks have so far been unable to become epidemics because they are currently spread only by direct physical contact with infected blood. However, a closely-related virus that kills monkeys, Ebola Reston, is airborne, and it is only a matter of time until Ebola Zaire evolves the capacity to be airborne.”

[…] “He recommended airborne Ebola as an ideal killing virus,” Mims said. “He showed slides of the Four Horsemen of the apocalypse and human skulls. He joked about requiring universal sterilization. It reminded me of a futuristic science fiction movie with a crazed scientist planning the death of humanity.”

Mims is hardly an intellectual lightweight himself, and is chair of the Environmental Sciences section for the Texas Academy of Science.

But as confident as Mims is in his assessment, he faces one unarguable fact: Most of Pianka’s former students are bursting with praise. Their in-class evaluations celebrate his ideas with words like “the most incredible class I ever had” and “Pianka is a GOD!”

No doubt. So was Moloch. So was Huitzilopochtli, the war god of the Aztecs. Funny how all these “gods” seem to be so thirsty for human blood.

[…] Though Pianka turned down requests for a sit-down interview, he maintains he is not advocating human death.

Does he believe nature will bring about this promised devastation? Or is humanity’s own dissemination of a deadly virus the only answer? And more importantly, is this the motive behind his talks?

Responding to these very questions, Pianka said, “Good terrorists would be taking [Ebola Roaston and Ebola Zaire] so that they had microbes they could let loose on the Earth that would kill 90 percent of people.”

But of course “he is not advocating human death…”

I met Pianka a number of years ago when I worked full time at UT. He didn’t strike me as quite so lost in the worship of Gaea at the time, but I didn’t have any occasion to notice. Nature worship is the occupational hazard of biologists – I came close to it myself back in the day. And that worship of nature seems to frequently lead to the loathing of one’s fellow man. The funny thing is that most of those who lose themselves in the adoration of the Earth would, if asked, claim to be atheists; they never seem to really realize the depth of their own faith.

In the immortal words of the Prophet Dylan,

You might be a rock 'n' roll addict prancing on the stage,
You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage,
You may be a business man or some high degree thief,
They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.