Intelligent Designers’ nonsense, part n

By Phil Plait | April 3, 2006 10:49 pm

I had to read this page twice, because the first time I thought it was a satire.

William Dembksi is perhaps ID’s most vocal proponent. His blog (I won’t link to it, ewww) is so full of holes you could ride a Galapagos turtle through them. But he’s now gone much farther than simply mislead people with fallacious logic: according to that link above, he’s reported a scientist to Homeland Security.

That link above, written by my friend Wes Elsberry, tells this tale. Read the page, but here’s a brief synopsis.

This (real) scientist, Eric Pianka, says (I am paraphrasing) that humans have so overpopulated the Earth that we are soon due for a "crash", as most populations which get too big often do. It means a huge die-off, as much as 90% of a population dying. Mind you, he is simply saying this is a typical biological situation of overpopulation, and that’s what happens quite often. He is not, say, advocating this position. Merely stating it as a scientific possibility.

Enter Forrest M. Mims III, an antievolutionist. He claims that Pianka is openly advocating the literal decimation of the human race. Then enter William Dembski, who decided that someone who would do such a thing should be reported to the government, to Homeland Security.

This is disgusting on every way. Demsbki has long said he advocates freedom of expression, since he wants to get ID into schools, yet here he is openly trying to suppress someone whose opinion he disagrees with — scratch that, whose falsely made-up opinion he disagrees with. It would be awful enough if Pianka did advocate genocide, but the IDers made that up! It’s a lie.

And to call Homeland Security on someone who disagrees with you brings to mind such visions as the 1950s Soviet Union, or Afghanistan in the late 1990s. If you disagree, then read what PZ Myers has to say about the grief the Texas Academy of Science is getting over this.

If there was some reason William Dembski wasn’t a mile beneath your contempt before, he’s got a shovel and he’s digging away. An academic, a scientist, an educator, should never, ever have to fear that their government will investigate them for simply stating what they see as truth. That is one of the scariest forms of government I can imagine. Even Dembski has the right to say what he wants. But the price of free speech is eternal vigilance.

If you believe in ID or not, Dembski is contemptible. And if you do believe in it, do you really want that guy speaking for you?

This is precisely the kind of garbage some advocates of anti-science will pull, all the while saying it’s their freedom they want to protect, and they they are the ones being suppressed by the mainstream.

I urge any and all fellow scientists reading this to put links in your blog to Wes and PZ’s pages. Give this some air time and let Dembski humiliate himself on an even larger scale.

Comments (111)

  1. beskeptigal

    Well I say lets call the feds and report all those folks who believe we need to start Armageddon in order to get Jesus to return!

    It does get rather frightening to think where this kind of stuff has taken us in the past and then to see the same patterns again. I saw Good night and Good Luck a few nights ago as the DVD is now out. It isn’t just ID, it’s anything that doesn’t fit the beliefs of people who are following that familiar pattern. There are some among them who are paranoid and the paranoia is infective.

  2. Van Rijn

    Well, I’m not going to support Dembski, but I’ve tried to sort this out, and I don’t see this as being quite so simple as this has been laid out. The key issue for me is that I haven’t actually been able to see what Pianka said. I have to go by the way different people interpret his comments.

    Here:

    http://brenmccnnll.blogspot.com/2006/03/dr.html

    is an apparent supporter of Pianka and here:

    http://www.sas.org/tcs/weeklyIssues_2006/2006-04-07/feature1p/index.html

    is an article by Forest Mims III. They both agree that Pianka is advocating the death of most of the human population. Not actively, you understand, but that he says it would be a good thing.

    In that article, Mims does not suggest that Pianka would actively try to create super Ebola. He is concerned that a student might listen to Pianka and decide that it would be a good idea, however. Apparently, Dembski ran with that idea and that seems to be where the Homeland Security notification came from.

    That’s almost certainly wrong. But it is clear from various comments by both advocates and opponents that Pianka’s comments are very heavily laced with rhetoric as well as science. And it is clear that he is very much in the “Limits to Growth” doomsday camp. Without actually hearing what he said, it is hard to get a feel for how his rhetoric plays out.

    I see this as probably being the case of one extremist taking an interpretation of another extremist’s comments the wrong way. But while I don’t like Dembski, it isn’t clear that, beyond saying he has a right to free speech, there is much to recommend Pianka.

  3. RAD

    Well it won’t happen as long as super heros like Batman, Spiderman, Superman, ect… are on the job! I think people are more rapidly losing their minds then ever before. Its another mad scientist on the loose! In the words od Napolean Dynamite, “freakin idiots!!!”

  4. Wow. I’ve been telling people Malthusian doom scenarios since I was about ten years old, and it never seemed to matter. Now I can get reported to Fatherland Homeland Security for it? Finally, I can get myself some street cred!

  5. Hmmm. According to Elsberry, this is the kernel of Pianka’s argument:

    He speaks of the likelihood, or even inevitability, of the high-mortality strain of Ebola, which currently is only transmitted under restricted forms of contact, to mutate into a strain that has airborne transmission. Pianka believes that this event is likely and will turn into a global loss of 90% of all human life.

    Roll that baby over your tongue and sound out the phrase “mutate into a strain”. Know what that sounds like? Speciation by changes in genetic material? Halfway to evolution by natural selection? Naw, couldn’t be.

    No wonder the knuckle-dragging creationists have refused to see the argument clearly. Pianka is saying, “Such-and-so could quite likely happen naturally, and it would be very bad.” The creationists pick this up and say, “This would be very bad, but it could only happen by Intelligent Design. Quick, arrest the designer!”

  6. Van Rijn

    Blake Stacey said:

    “Hmmm. According to Elsberry, this is the kernel of Pianka’s argument”

    That’s the problem. Everyone has an interpretation of what he said. I’d like to see or hear the actual words, to note how they actually come across. I’ve seen a lot of hints of rhetoric I find very disturbing.

    Blake Stacey said:

    “No wonder the knuckle-dragging creationists have refused to see the argument clearly.”

    I’m about as far from a Creationist/IDist as you can get. And while I certainly don’t support Dembski, from what I’ve read on this by both Pianka advocates and opponents, I have serious questions about Pianka.

  7. “as much as 90% of a population dying”
    “openly advocating the literal decimation”

    ObPedant: Literal decimation would be as much as 10% of a population dying.

  8. BB

    Here’s a direct quote from Dembski’s blog, just to give you an idea of how much of an imbecile this man is:

    “How is what he is saying any different from somebody at an airport saying that he plans to plant a bomb there.”

    Umm, HELLO? Did Pianka ever once say he intended to unleash a super-virus on the planet? NO! Where the hell is Dembski pulling this crap from?

  9. Melusine

    When I read about this on BAUT at work I didn’t have time to investigate it and took it at face value. Now it seems to be ominous, indeed, but I’m reserving total outrage until some REAL HARD FACTS come in.

    Dembski and his pals already disgusted me long ago, and then Phillip Johnson clinched the disgust with his comment that “we like to think of ourselves as friends of science-true science,” when he spoke at a church gathering and university. These people have used political maneuvering and disingenuousness to promote their goals: “friends of science” is complete scata! (can’t filter that one.)

    If Dembski really reported him to Homeland Security, well, I got a great place for Dembski to go on vacation–a place where it’s warm and full of all sorts of entertaining and interesting people.Personally, I don’t have a unexpired passport to join him.

    Thanks for the update, Phil, and please keep us appraised of future developments. :-)

  10. BB

    Oh, and just on the topic of Pianka’s speech itself: I’d like to see a copy as well. It all depends on what the exact words were, but even then it could depend on the wording. Consider the following two possibilities:

    He could have said something along the lines of “While a biosphere as a whole tends to improve when a the population of a species which has overpopulated it crashes, it is clear that such an outcome would be unfavourable if it were to happen to humans.”

    Or, he might have worded it more poorly: “If the majority of the human species were exterminated, the earth’s biosphere would clearly benefit. Of course, such an outcome would have dire consequences for most of the population.”

    Both statements carry more or less the exact same meaning, but very different tones. Especially if it is taken out of context. If his statement was similar to the second one, but had qualifiers before and after explaining that he didn’t consider that to be a desirable outcome, the IDers could easily have taken it out of context. The fact is, we need to know what he said, and in what sort of context it was said.

  11. Cylinder

    I saw Good night and Good Luck a few nights ago as the DVD is now out. It isn’t just ID, it’s anything that doesn’t fit the beliefs of people who are following that familiar pattern. There are some among them who are paranoid and the paranoia is infective.

    Physician, heal thyself.

    As far as the OP is concerned, this is a he said/she said issue. If the professor advocated using a biological agent in his vision to reshape human populations he very well should be reported to someone in the government. If he asserted that overpopulation can lead to decimation through disease then he is speaking within science. It’s just that simple.

    Exposing the background of the Mr. Dembksi is rational (though a bit of a logical fallacy.) Comparing this incident to Soviet of Taliban tactics is not. Statements like that strike me as a fairly transparent instance of doing what you’re accusing the other guy of. As you rightly point out, As (rightly) pointed out in this entry, the level of hyperbole can only detract.

    It is impossible for me to weigh the statement without hearing it in context. The only assumption I can glean so far is that Mr. Dembksi may have a hidden agenda and that the professor himself probably went for a day trip near Woowooville as detected in the Dallas Morning quote:

    Allan Hook, a St. Edward’s biology professor who heard both speeches, said Pianka “wasn’t so perhaps adamant in his own personal views of what he thinks might happen” in his second lecture.

    But Hook declined to elaborate on what Pianka said in the earlier speech, which Pianka delivered while being honored as the academy’s 2006 Distinguished Texas Scientist.

    Secret science lectures strikes me (at least) very much as anti-science.

  12. PK

    “If the professor advocated using a biological agent in his vision to reshape human populations he very well should be reported to someone in the government.”

    Should he now. Free speach is not so important anymore?

  13. PK

    Ahem, I meant “speech”, of course.

  14. RAD

    Reporting doesn’t take away free speech does it? Free speech remains in tact but raising an eyebrow to a potential problem isn’t necessarily wrong either. Not that I agree with Dembksi.

  15. RAD

    By the way BA does the part n mean part nuts? I thought ID was completly nuts not part nuts?

  16. TravisM

    It’s apparently fasionable to be ignorant now-a-days…

  17. James Pyrich

    I think the “part n” means “one of many in an infinitely countable set.” Of course, the next iteration that BA comes across will have to be n+m.

    For some reason, “part nuts” makes me think of the parting of the Red Sea and induces a cringe throughout my body.

  18. RAD

    I don’t know how nuts and red sea connect for you but if you cringe you cringe. maybe its part never as in never going to give up.

  19. Clearly the universe has been created by an intelligence. Chance alone wouldn’t create teapots with dribbly spouts.

  20. Mark Martin

    A few years back I attended a controversial public KKK rally in my home town. For security purposes the police erected two corrals, one for pro-clan, one for anti-clan, to keep them from starting a riot amongst themselve during the inflammatory clan lecture.

    As I stood within the anti-clan crowd, I heard something every bit as interesting as the clan rhetoric: most of the anti-clannists were delivering their own hate-filled, suppressionist rhetoric. Ostensibly opposition to such a culture as the KKK would be in favor of a civilisation which encourages ideas, both popular & otherwise, to coexist, to agree to disagree.

    But instead the so-called lovers of free expression were themselves ready & willing to pound the edge-of-society clansmen into oblivion, right there on the spot. I found myself amid two rival hate groups that day. Indeed, for many people freedom of speech means freedom to reiterate whatever makes themselves all comfy and good feeling inside. It’s a lot like prime-time television.

  21. writerdd

    “Roll that baby over your tongue and sound out the phrase “mutate into a strain”. Know what that sounds like? Speciation by changes in genetic material? Halfway to evolution by natural selection? Naw, couldn’t be.”

    Well, many creationists believe in what they call “micro evolution” such as the mutation of bacteria or changes *within* a species. But they don’t believe in “macro evolution” which they consider as one species evolving into another.

    The crux of the matter, is that they don’t want to admit that humans are just animals. They want to be (whine) s p e c i a l.

  22. John

    “As far as the OP is concerned, this is a he said/she said issue.”

    But, of course, this does not imply that both sides should be taken as equally likely. What, seriously, is the likelihood of a college professor actively advocating the production of a strain of Ebola with the specific intent of killing 90% of the Earth’s population? What, more to the point, is the likelihood of anyone – no matter how extreme their environmental, religious or political view – of advocating such a measure?

    There’s an article in the Guardian in the UK today on this very issue – that of the intimidation of professors within the United States, by deliberately mis-representing either their views, their statements or both:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,,1746227,00.html

  23. Leon

    RAD Says:

    Reporting doesn’t take away free speech does it? Free speech remains in tact but raising an eyebrow to a potential problem isn’t necessarily wrong either.

    Reporting others for things they’ve said, with the intention and the real possibility of action being taken against them, is a method that’s been used to intimidate people and effectively take away free speech. A good example is the McCarthy Era, as others have alluded already.

  24. Bean Counter

    My question is what was the response of the Dept. of Homeland Security?

    Did the feds take Dembksi seriously or was the “report” quickly filed in the round filing cabinet under someone’s desk?

    If nothing came of his report to DHS, then all this sound and fury signifies nothing.

  25. ericnh

    I don’t understand why so many posters are reserving judgement until they hear the full context of Pianka’s statements. Do any of you REALLY think Pianka’s advocating global genocide? That’s beyond anything even Dr. Evil would consider. If he really, truly advocates that, I can see reporting him to DHS. But knowing the ID crowd operate I’m gonna condemn Dembski long before I condemn Pianka, even without knowing exactly what he said.

  26. Karnalis

    That is simply despicable on the part of Dembski, but then it’s the sort of thing I’ve come to expect from folks like him. No matter what Pianka actually said, I do agree that it would be a huge boon to the rest of the living things on Earth if 90% of human life were to disappear from the globe. Does that mean I advocate actively killing people off? No, it doesn’t. Does it mean I should be reported to Homeland Security? No, it doesn’t. It’s simply an observation that the Earth would most likely be better off without so many humans to waste resources, destroy ecosystems, endanger innumerable organisms, and produce so much pollution. Maybe it’s not a popular viewpoint, but it’s a valid one, and no one has the right to suppress it in this country.

  27. ObPedant: Literal decimation would be as much as 10% of a population dying.

    Nuts. I had it backwards; I was thinking decimation meant leaving only 10%. Oops.

  28. Dembski doesn’t sound like a scientist any more than Lysenko was…

    Sounds to me like Pianka was engaged in scientifically-based speculation and that didn’t used to be a crime. Does that mean science fiction writers and Hollywood disaster movie makers should also be “reported to Homeland Security,” for speculating publically on “end of the world scenarios?”

  29. @Karnalis:

    Nicely said. Just to put teeth in the argument, here are some figures, compiled by physicist John Baez:


    Phillip and Donald Levin estimate that right now one species is going extinct every 20 minutes, and that half of bird and mammal species will be gone in 200 to 300 years. Richard Leakey estimates a loss of between 50,000 and 100,000 species a year, and says that only during the Big Five mass extinctions was the rate comparably high. E. O. Wilson gives a similar estimate. In his book, Michael Benton reviews the sources of uncertainty and makes an estimate of his own: given that there are probably somewhere between 20 and 100 million species in total, he estimates an extinction rate of between 5,000 and 25,000 species per year. This means between 14 and 70 species wiped out per day.

    [...]

    And there’s also lots of other data pointing to a massive human-caused disruption of the biosphere. One in eight plant species are in danger of extinction within the next 30 years, according to the IUCN Red List of threatened species, along with one in eight bird species and a quarter of all mammals. The Audubon Society reports that 30% of North American songbird species are in significant decline. Worldwide populations of frogs and other amphibians have been declining drastically, and a recent detailed study shows that of 5743 known species of amphibians recorded in the last couple of centuries, 34 are now extinct, while another 122 are probably extinct: they can no longer be found. Even worse, of these 122 missing species, 113 have disappeared since 1980!

    In the oceans, 90% of all large fish have disappeared in the last half century, thanks to overfishing. We see the spread of dead zones near the mouths of rivers, where nutrients from fertilizer create blooms of plankton leading to low-oxygen water where few organisms can survive. Coral reefs are becoming unhealthy around the world, with a strong upswing in the bleaching of reefs since the 1970s. “Bleaching” is the loss of algae called zooxanthellae which live in coral and give it its color. It seems to be caused by higher water temperatures due to global warming.

    And so on, and on, and on….

    So, lots of evidence suggests that are in the midst of a mass extinction.

    Sometimes I think the best solution would be to embrace the Technological Singularity, the “Rapture of the Geeks” where we all upload ourselves into the computer network. If we were all incorporeal intelligences living in server clusters powered by solar cells, our environmental impact statements would be a heck of a lot shorter. Sure, people have said lots of silly things about “uploading” — like Ray Kurzweil trying to predict the exact year it will happen — but I can’t help feeling that the idea is just so, well, cool.

    And transferring one’s ghost into the machine would make that Mars trip quite a bit easier, too.

  30. scubajim

    Decimation is from Roman Legions. When they lost they decimated the legion. They choose every tenth man and killed them. (certainly makes you fight harder, but not something I advocate.)

    So should we report Tom Clancy to Homeland Security? Gosh, one of his books, written before 9/11, has someone purposely crashing a fully fueled 747 into the Capital building when it is full of legislators and the President of the United States.(Debt of Honor?) In another book, Rainbox Six, he has a pharmacutical company run by a fanatical environmentalist, create and attempt to unleash an airborne Ebola like virus to rid the world of over 99% of the humans on the earth. (saving a couple of hundred for research)

    These books were written pre 9/11 but (as I plant my tongue in cheek) clearly Mr. Clancy is advocating the downfall of the US government and the elimination of most of the human race. Sure his good guys win in the end and the Human race is saved, but we all know that it is a thinly veiled ending for what Mr. Clancy really wants. (taking tongue out of cheek)

    I don’t advocate death and destruction of the human race. However, it is a strong possibility that a flu or virus could do such a thing. (gosh hasn’t avian flu been in the news for the past 6 months) Look at high population centers such as in places as India or China etc. With that many humans living that close together and not in the most sanitary conditions it is very possible something like that could happen. Again, it would be a tragedy and I would not welcome it.

  31. Don’t forget, before there was Rainbow Six, there was Twelve Monkeys.

  32. This is really going too far. The words that express my utter contempt for this kind of childish behavior escape me, at the moment.

  33. Rene

    Yeah, if postulating Doomsday scenarios is a crime, then Dan Brown, Michael Crichton, Robin Cook, Roland Emmerich, and a whole lot of Japanese lo-budget sci-fi directors would have been locked up years ago.

  34. P. Edward Murray

    I wonder? Who said Forest Mims, inventor and past columnist “The Amateur Scientist” for Scientific American Magazine is anti-evolution?
    Sounds fishy to me, perhaps I will write to him and ask him to post here Phil.

  35. TheBlackCat

    Take a look at the comments at the bottom of Demski’s page:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/index.php/archives/984

    Not a single person has even the slightest bit of skepticism that the quotes may have been taken out of context. Everyone just accepts it as a fact that this is true. It is also interesting that a blog on a blog on a blog has over twice as many comments as the original blog.

  36. This looks like crackpot vs. crackpot. It’s a debate between someone ignoring the evidence in favor of Darwin’s theories and someone ignoring the evidence against Malthus’s theories.

  37. P. Edward Murray

    Looks to me if Pianka is right in League with Dembski.

    The whoe concept that there isn’t enough room on the Earth is just another myth but you can have too much of a population in any certain area or country.

    That is a problem in those countries not here in the United States.

    And too, it sounds very much like Pope John Paul II’s “Culture of Death”!

    Human beings meaning little or nothing but the rest of the Ecosystem means everything.

    Looks like Pianka is a bona-fide crank while Mims is not of course Dembski always was.

    If push came to shove and I had to make a decision of whether to save the life of an amoeba or a tree or a small animal and NOT a human being, I would save the person.

  38. RAD

    While reporting someone for what they said may have been used for such purposes in the past I don’t see that here. Theres no way pianka meant to kill off the human race. I just think that freedom of spech doesn’t mean say anything you want without consequences.

  39. Irishman

    Does anyone seriously believe that Pianski advocated creating a superbug (Ebola or whatever) and releasing it to enact population reduction?

    Does anyone seriously believe that a room full of scientists gave him a standing ovation for advancing that as a plan of action?

    If you answer No to either or both of those questions, then Mims is deluded, and Demski is unjustified.

    I find it curious that the lecture recording was stopped. Not suspicious, but curious. We are left with summaries of the participants. So far I have seen Mims somewhat detailed version, and one brief review by someone posted to another blog response that says Mims was off base.

    I have also turned up this by Eric Pianka:
    http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~varanus/Everybody.html

    These do not sound like the words of a nutjob. They do not sound like the beliefs of a man advocating annihilation of the Earth’s population. They sound like the words of a man concerned about the effects of humanity upon the world and the possibility that our population is higher than sustainable, what he sees as a surety. He may be misguided, but there’s certainly plenty of room for academic debate on that subject.

    From what I gather, Pianka uses some strong rhetoric to make his points: his points about overpopulation and our susceptibility to rampant disease; his point about how in the grand scheme of life humanity is just another life form with no special place in the universe or on Earth than any other; his point that the diversity of life is under far larger threat by humanity than faced at any other time in history save the 5 or 6 known mass extinction events; his point that our technological abilities give us a false sense of security that we can deal with whatever nature throws at us, that we will always be able to ratchet up technology to deal with diminishing resources. Whether you agree with him or not, he strongly feels this way and is trying to convince others. His manner of doing so appears to be to phrase things fairly strongly.

    For instance, he probably said something to the effect that we need to reduce our population size to 10% of the current world level. If we do not, nature will likely take care of it, and probably via disease. Disease could easily develop that would accomplish the task – an airborne version of Ebola would do the trick. He also probably said that the result would be better for the world ecology, and put humanity at a more sustainable population level. He also probably did advocate strong controls to ensure world negative population growth – i.e. lower birth rate than death rate for a significant time frame. Supporting China’s policy of 1 child per couple is a strong position, but he feels the danger is significant enough that strong measures are required.

    None of which advocates executing people to reach that population goal – by biological means or any other. Rather, reduction by active control of birth rate.

    I suspect that Pianka’s phrasing was worded in such a way to emphasize his points, and in doing so it allowed Mims an easy way to misinterpret Pianka’s remarks. Example from Mims’ column:

    >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.

    Here is another linked article by Pianka (linked by Mims):
    http://www.zo.utexas.edu/courses/bio213/why.html

    >If humans do not control their own population (and we seem unwilling and unable to do so), then other forces will certainly act to control our population. The four horseman of the apocalypse (conquest, war, famine, and death) are all candidates. Most likely, lethal virulent microbes like HIV and Ebola zaire will set limits on the growth of human populations. HIV, by allowing infected hosts to survive years while they spread the virus and infect new hosts, has already become a pandemic, but it will be years before it decimates the human population. Although Ebola 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.

    Now I see an obvious dissimilarity between the two sets of remarks. Pianka is stating that Nature will act, and disease is a likely candidate. If this is representative of his remarks at the speech, then Mims has clearly misunderstood. Mims portrays Pianka as saying that we need to act through disease. Those are definitely two different remarks.

    I suspect what Pianka said was more along the lines of, “If we fail to act, what means could control our population? The Four Horsemen are the likely candidates available. Which of the four is best suited? Disease.” Note, though, the underlying assumption is that humans fail to act. So how is that “best suited” remark to be interpreted? Best suited for Nature to accomplish the goal of human population equalization. Ergo, Nature is the one acting, not humans. Mims seems to have missed that.

    What is disturbing about this whole exchange is not Pianka’s position – he may or may not be justified in his beliefs, but he isn’t advocting genocide. It is not Mims’ misunderstanding of Pianka’s statements – Pianka is provacative enough and misunderstandings can happen. It is not even Mims’ posting his remarks based upon that misunderstanding, or failing to accept that he has misunderstood. The truth is coming out. For example, KXAN out of Austin ran this story:
    http://www.kxan.com/Global/story.asp?S=4720390

    What I find disturbing is all the subsequent reaction. The reaction of people who have nothing to go on but one article by Mims characterizing the speech, and subsequently sending Death Threats to Pianka, and to members of the Texas Academy of Science. HELLO! Rationality, folks! Not to mention that compasion that you seem to claim is so important yet you don’t seem to have any of yourself. I’m also disturbed by the actions of Demski. Notifying Homeland Security about remarks he didn’t witness and heard about second-hand, remarks with such an unbelievable situation as a whole room full of people applauding those supposed extremist remarks, shows either an inability to think clearly or a deliberate act of intimidation. Not to mention a blatant disregard for common sense that you try to find out if the strange statements are accurate. What could Demski be reacting to? How about Pianski’s statements:

    >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 bacteria!”

    That attitude is directly at odds with Demski’s beliefs about humanity having a privileged position in the world, given from on high.

    Some others (even here) have reacted negatively to those remarks, suggesting they show a disregard for human worth and even a contempt for humanity as a species. I think those interpretations have taken his remarks out of context and far stronger than implied. What I gather Pianski was trying to drive home is that on a grand scale (universal scale), humanity is no more important or a goal of the universe than any other life form. Humanity just is, like lizards just are, bacteria just are. Obviously from within a human context we have an affinity for our own kind, and from a social context there is the need to regard others as valuable and not worthless. However, ecologically, humanity is in the position of eliminating and destroying vast amounts of the resources and habitats, and that imbalance is destroying the diversity of life on the planet. From an ecological view point, we have no more right to that position than bacteria or lizards.

    As for the response to his neighbor, the context was in the form of the neighbor asking, “Why do you study lizards? What use are lizards?” As if lizards serving humans with a purpose is the only reason they would be worthy of study. So Pianka’s response of “What use are you?” was meant to drive home that point by shifting the foundation – the universe has no use for either of us, we just are.

  40. Irishman

    RAD Said:
    >While reporting someone for what they said may have been used for such purposes in the past I don’t see that here. Theres no way pianka meant to kill off the human race.

    I’m sorry, those two statements are in direct conflict. If Pianka did not mean to kill of the human race, there’s no reason for Homeland Security to investigate him. Thus, the only reason to report him is to get him investigated for his remarks that obviously aren’t dangerous. Why have him investigated if he isn’t dangerous? To convey a message that his remarks aren’t appreciated. Ergo, to keep him from making similar remarks in the future. Ergo, to intimidate him into silence. Ergo, to limit his free speech.

    Either Demski felt Pianka posed a direct threat, or he didn’t. If he did, then reporting it was a reasonable action but the basis for that belief is weak and Demski shows poor judgment. If Demski didn’t believe Pianka posed a threat, then Demski is using the power of the State to intimidate Pianka to silence. Either way, Demski deserves contempt.

    And for the record, I would have felt less contempt for Mims if he had reported Pianka to HS – he witnessed the remarks and was the one to characterize them. He was the one to decide if they were a threat. One person’s account that indicates a room full of regular people agreed to a plan of mass slaughter of humanity – not targeted slaughter (those infidels over there), but random slaughter – shows a surprising level of credulousnous. Not bothering to get more information before reacting in such a strong manner is irresponsible.

  41. Dan Gerhards

    P. Edward Murray says you can have overpopulation in an area, but not on Earth.

    Isn’t Earth an area?

    Pianka’s talk seemed to be a warning. If he wanted us all dead, would he have warned us? From *the rest of the ecosystem’s point of view* it would indeed be better for human population to crash. Pianka is warning us what will happen if we don’t change. Instead of recommending change, people are recommending that HE shuts up!

    “If you stick your fingers in your ears it’s not happening!”

  42. Daniel Woods

    There’s an article on Digg ATM, touting Pianka as a Doomsayer.
    The article is inaccurate, but most Diggers aren’t aware of hosw wrong the article is.
    If you have a digg account, get over there and Bury the article as “Inaccurate”.
    http://digg.com/science/Ecologists_Advocate_the_Extermination_of_the_Human_Race

  43. P. Edward Murray

    Dan,

    Even in New Jersey, the most populous small state, there is still no overpopulation.

    I would say that India is overpopulated but I don’t live there so I can’t say that there isn’t land available. Surely there isn’t enough wealth redistributed to give everyone housing.

    Look at China with more than a Billion people but it’s land mass is huge.

    Saying that the Earth is overpopulated is much the same as saying all the other lifeforms on this planet have more of a right to be here than we do.
    It says that human beings are not special or any different…

    I disagree.

    And I think that most people do to

  44. Kevin

    In this day and age, when the religious right control the government and all the information that goes to the government, it’s a dangerous time to be a scientist.

    ANY scientist who speaks out on a subject; advocates critical thinking, etc., will be targeted by the ID people and their ilk, and reported to the government as “dangeriuos individuals.”

    Free speech in the USA has been taken away for years. Now if you say anything against the government (and its policies), or a group backing the government (religious fanatics), or even advocate a position they don’t like, you are immediately labelled as an insurgent and terrorist, and reported to a government agency (DHS, FBI, etc).

    One only wonders if there will come a day when we will be able to speak freely once again, and have a rational discourse in a civilized manner, without someone taking umbrage.

    (I personally think this whole business is an offshoot of political correctness).:)

  45. tom sevigny

    blog blog blog bloggidy blog

  46. vbloke

    I find this an odd position for Demdski.
    Here he is criticizing Pianka for postulating a hypothetical situation, when his beloved Intelligent Designer once killed all human life on earth except for Noah and his family.

  47. Geoff

    Digg already has a disclaimer “Warning: The Content in this Article is Under Review Readers have reported that this story contains information that may not be accurate.”

  48. Nigel Depledge

    Dave Pearson said:
    “ObPedant: Literal decimation would be as much as 10% of a population dying.”

    No, Dave. Literal decimation would be exactly 10% of the population dying.

  49. Peter W

    From Eric Pianka’s web site:
    http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~varanus/Everybody.html

    Sounds like this would have been the substance of his talk that generated all this hoo hah. He talks about scary stuff that he *doesn’t* want to happen!

  50. Beskeptigal

    Cylinder Says in reply to beskeptigal
    Physician, heal thyself.

    “As far as the OP is concerned, this is a he said/she said issue. If the professor advocated using a biological agent in his vision to reshape human populations he very well should be reported to someone in the government. If he asserted that overpopulation can lead to decimation through disease then he is speaking within science. It’s just that simple. ”

    Well if you would have bothered to do the research people like Irishman did you find the latter statement was the case.

    Here are two excerpts from Irishman’s links that state Pianka’s position very clearly.

    http://www.zo.utexas.edu/courses/bio213/why.html
    25 October 2004 by Eric R. Pianka in his course syllabus

    “If humans do not control their own population (and we seem unwilling and unable to do so), then other forces will certainly act to control our population. The four horseman of the apocalypse (conquest, war, famine, and death) are all candidates. Most likely, lethal virulent microbes like HIV and Ebola zaire will set limits on the growth of human populations.”

    And in a position statement:
    http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~varanus/Everybody.html

    What nobody wants to hear, but everyone needs to know
    Eric R. Pianka

    “I have two grandchildren and I want them to inherit a stable Earth. But I fear for them.”

    I do not need healing. History provides countless examples where human mob paranoia was harmful to everyone caught up in it. And religious movements were often the catalysts as well as science often the demon. Science is today seen as a threat to some Evangelical Christians and there’s little doubt they are getting a bit carried away with their attacks on the scientific community. Dembksi and his paranoid colleagues and followers are a threat to science. Whether they are a big threat or an insignificant one has yet to develop.

  51. Henrik

    Nineteen Eighty-Four in 2006?
    This brings to my mind the sad truth that years of, in lack of better words, idiots in the White House, Congress and Supreme Court have managed to turn what is (on paper, read US Constitution and the Bill of Rights) one of the foremost democracies in the world into a nation where differing opinions are mistrusted and people tell some Gestapo or Stassi-like agency such as Homeland Security about something their neighbours are up to without knowing if they really are. The United States are sadly enough no longer so democratic as it was intended to be. That is one of the main reasons american presidents and other politicians are losing popularity overseas, the withering of the democracy they claim to be protecting.

    Henrik, Sweden

  52. Nigel Depledge

    writerdd said:
    “Well, many creationists believe in what they call “micro evolution” such as the mutation of bacteria or changes *within* a species. But they don’t believe in “macro evolution” which they consider as one species evolving into another.

    The crux of the matter, is that they don’t want to admit that humans are just animals. They want to be (whine) s p e c i a l.”

    You are right, and I think this is worth elaborating upon:
    It seems to me that the main reason many creationists accept “microevolution” is that it can easily be demonstrated in a laboratory, and has been demonstrated many times. Of course, they are never able to postulate a credible mechanism by which changes accrued in microevolution can be prevented from accumulating into larger changes that would have to be called “macroevolution”. I must confess, I’ve never actually heard scientists using the terms “microevolution” and “macroevolution” in a scientific context. To me, evolution is evolution, and any such subdivisions are purely artificial.

  53. Nigel Depledge

    P. Edward Murray said:
    “The whoe concept that there isn’t enough room on the Earth is just another myth but you can have too much of a population in any certain area or country.

    That is a problem in those countries not here in the United States.”

    Erm … I beg to differ. US citizens are the most wasteful (per capita) on the planet, Ed. If everyone lived like the average folks in the US, we would need five Earths to support this lifestyle. Overpopulation is not a problem of literal space, it is a problem of resources.

  54. monolithfoo

    There is so much crap flying about on this subject. I whish I had more time to go into more detail… gotta start that blog.

    Dembski is the higest priest of idiocy. Just one more reason that Dembski is a fool and a jerk, BA I think you SHOULD link to his blog, the more his incompentance and idiocy are shown the less people will take him seriously.

    Pianka says that it WOULD be benificial if there were not so many of us. He says it right here http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~varanus/Everybody.html. Now, he does couche his statement with a ‘I do not bear any ill will to Humanity’… but it dosn’t read like it to me from his article. In fact it DOES read like he has a smoldering hatred and contempt for humanity, but that is probably just my problem. He does make some good points, and in no way deserves to be harrased by the govt (though I don’t see any evidence of that).

    It just seems to me that people are screeming at the top of their lungs and not really considering things in more depth and detail… one conroversy after another… forget the details. Just feed one side or another of an opinion reagardless of any facts.

    I also think BA that you are adding to the controversy, I really do think that your post above is misleading. His statements are VERY MUCH more then just saying he thinks there will be a crash in population. He is also stating his opinion that it would be GOOD to have fewer of us, and it seems to me, almost regardless of how we get there.

  55. Nigel Depledge

    P. Edward Murray said:
    “Looks like Pianka is a bona-fide crank while Mims is not of course Dembski always was.”

    What, so you actually believe he was advocating wiping out 90% of the human race? Look in a mirror. Does it say “rekcus”?

    “If push came to shove and I had to make a decision of whether to save the life of an amoeba or a tree or a small animal and NOT a human being, I would save the person.”

    Well, duh. It’s easy to knock down a straw man, Ed. Now read the BA’s post slowly and try to understand the whole thing.

  56. Nigel Depledge

    RAD said:
    “I just think that freedom of spech doesn’t mean say anything you want without consequences.”

    Well, it very nearly does. Freedom of speech means being able to express any viewpoint. My own feeling is that those views should be expressed as politely as possible, but I don’t wish to stop anyone from saying something only because I disagree with what they say.

    Of course, all of these concepts must be exercised in an environment in which a certain amount of common sense is applied. Unfortunately, however, I do not know where to find such an environment.

  57. Nigel Depledge

    P. Edward Murray said:
    “Even in New Jersey, the most populous small state, there is still no overpopulation.

    I would say that India is overpopulated but I don’t live there so I can’t say that there isn’t land available. Surely there isn’t enough wealth redistributed to give everyone housing.”

    It is clear, Ed, that you don’t really understand what is meant by overpopulation. It is not a question of whether or not every individual has a certain amount of space in which to reside. A habitat or ecosystem is overpopulated if the population in question is consuming more resources than the habitat or ecosystem can supply. In natural systems, this often leads to a population crash. The same can happen for humans, but, because we transport resources from one place to another, any coming crash is likely to be global.

    If the population of New Jersey had to live on resources available only within New Jersey, would everyone have enough food to eat, and how many would survive each winter?

  58. MattusMaximus

    My oh my, what a loonie situation. Poor Dembski must just be itching for ways to get his mug and the Disco Institute into the news since that oh-so-embarassing Dover decision.

    I personally think Pianka should consider suing Dembski for slander & libel.

  59. PK

    P. Edward Murray Says: I would say that India is overpopulated but I don’t live there so I can’t say that there isn’t land available. Surely there isn’t enough wealth redistributed to give everyone housing.

    I’m afraid you completely have misunderstood the concept of overpopulation. Just to get our bearings, Merriam-Webster says:

    overpopulation: the condition of having a population so dense as to cause environmental deterioration, an impaired quality of life, or a population crash.

    I’s not just about fitting people into an area, because the world’s population fits quite comfortably in a country the size of Spain (about 100 square metres per person). The point is that there are strong indications that 6.5 billion people is not sustainable in the long run. And as always with isolated systems, they sort themselves out at some point, whether we like it or not. So for human civilization to survive another ten thousand years, we probably do need “negative growth”.

  60. Leon

    monolithfoo says:

    He does make some good points, and in no way deserves to be harrased by the govt (though I don’t see any evidence of that).

    Unfortunately, with current government policy and practice of secretly spying on American citizens and releasing no information on who’s been targeted and who hasn’t, we won’t see any evidence for a while. If they do spy on him we’ll find out in a few years when this is a long-dead issue. If they don’t, again it’ll be a dead issue.

  61. This brings me back to 10th grade biology, and the Fruit Fly Experiment, put a male and a female fruitfly in a jar, with a half an apple, put cheese cloth over the top, then count the flies each day and watch what happens. The population climbs until it can’t be sustained by the remaining food, and dies off. Nice bell curve if I remember correctly.

    I am reminded of what George Carlin once said, “We’re not killing the planet, we’re killing us, the planet will be just fine.” The earth was here 4 billion years before man, and will be here until the Sun expands, what in another 5 billion years or so? Very little we can do about it one way or the other, either we take steps to survive or we don’t and life for my children’s children could be dicey.

  62. monolithfoo

    @Leon,

    While agreeing that secret spying on US citezens is a BAD thing. It isn’t exactly harrasment either… nor do I think it is just current US policy.

    Yea, I’m collecting those nits by the bushel.

  63. Tim G

    Thanks for those links, Van Rijn.

    I don’t believe it’s that simple, either.

    I doubt that Pianka was targeted for reporting what he believed to be true. I think that Mims either misinterpreted Pianka’s comments or WAAYY overestimated the potential following they may create. I’m not sure if Pianka has much to worry about. I’m sure the Department of Homeland gets a truckload of useless tips every day.

    Anyway…

    Anyone ever hear of Brandon Carter or Richard Gott? They put forth the Doomsday Argument, which I’ve been pondering since I was a kid (without ever hearing about the formal argument). Basically they say that sixty billion people have existed in the past, so our best guess as to how many will exist in the future is also sixty billion.

    *Not the Weak Anthropic Principle (WAP) nor the Strong Anthropic Principle (SAP) and definately not the Completely Ridiculous Anthropic Principle (CRAP)

  64. Leon

    That’s ok, monolithfoo. I was picking one too. ;)

  65. Dude

    I found William Dembksi’s blog by searching google. I read his version of the BA’s article. I think that by reading his blog, it makes me more against ID people. Read this.

    “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.” – Pianka

    Dembksi shouldn’t have put that quote in his blog because doesn’t that prove Eric Pianka’s point?

  66. Ktesibios

    “Mother, Wilfred wrote a bad word!”

    That, I think, about sums Dembski’s act. And, I think, that’s why I find it so repellent.

    That’s what the whole schtick with the politico-religious freakouts about scientists who dare to say things that aren’t in line with Party Philosophy, or the wingnut attempts at blacklisting academics who dare to hold unapproved opinions, is about.

    “I’m gonna tell!

    We all remember the type; we all went to school with them. Remember the nicknames the Eddie Haskell wannabees acquired? Remember why we gave ‘em those nicknames?

    That’s exactly how the Dembskis and Horowitzes are behaving- like little “fungus” back in second grade; gutless little schemers who want to take over the playground by getting Mom, or Teacher, to do it for them.

    I say it’s spinach, and I say the Hell with it.

    (and a genuine no-prize to anyone who knows what it was that Wilfred wrote)

  67. Ktesibios

    Arrgh!

    Need. preview. function.

    (or edit button)

    Sorry about the unclosed tag.

  68. P. Edward Murray

    PK,

    But, in some countries (not counting immigration here in the United States or illegal immigration as it may) there is NEGATIVE growth.

    In fact, European nations are apparently losing their minds trying to think up solutions, now that they realize that their older citizens are living longer and are not being replaced by new younger workers.

    I wonder if there even might be a reverse immigration, now that we are losing so many jobs to other nations?

  69. Dan Gerhards

    The U.S. is overpopulated. Here’s why:

    The people of the San Francisco Bay Area (for example) use 146 million acres to make their products and food.* Since that is more area than there is IN the Bay Area, it is overpopulated. In fact, 146 million acres is far more than the whole state of California, so the Bay Area is VERY overpopulated, and they use FEWER resources per person than the rest of the U.S.!

    It doesn’t matter how much the U.S. is growing, because it is far, far over its own limits already. It’s using all its own area plus area all over the Earth (manufacturing space in China, and fuel production in the Middle East for example). Half of the rest of Earth’s population is also using more than it has. Together, we are using more resources than the earth produces, so we are using them UP.

    People who point that out are never popular.

    Some people even refuse to admit it, and try to confuse the issue with other numbers like growth rates.

    *http://releases.usnewswire.com/GetRelease.asp?id=31082

  70. DJ

    This is ridiculous. For this conversation it matters not what Pianka actually meant.

    What matters here is that Dembski did not hear Pianka’s speech.

    Dembski took on faith the ravings of this Mims character, and then on the wild-eyed hearsay reported Pianka to Homeland Security!

    Gonna repeat that: Regardless of what the lecturer actually said, or meant, Dembski, without hearing any of it, reported a lecturer to the U.S. Government as a possible terror threat.

    William Dembski is insane. Period. He’s a raving lunatic; he has completely come undone. What’s next for this boob?

  71. P. Edward Murray

    Maybe Dembski will get fired?

  72. P. Edward Murray

    Par for the course though…just look at what our Federal Govt has been doing lately!

    Right now, the Lunatics are running the government and apparently a lot of other things too.

  73. Something I was wondering, has such a crash in the human population happened before in history?

    What percentage of the population of Europe was wiped out by the Black Death in the 13th Century?

    What about the great flu epedemic in 1918?

    What about now with HN15?

    As for that person reporting someone to the authorities, we have had this kind of nonsense over here, albeit in a different format. We have a TV show called Room 101, where a guest celebrity nominates things they hate to be placed in a fictional Room 101, (See the book 1984). On one edition one Anne Robinson suggested the Welsh, and asked what are they there fore. Someone made an official complaint citing incitement to racial hatred and the North Wales Police were obliged to investigate incase “an offence” had been committed. The case was eventually dropped, IIRC especially as there was so much derision about the waste of police time.

    I suspect it would be the same with your Homeland security, they have to investigate all complaints, no matter how fatuous they really are.

    Whoever did such reporting does not speak for me, but then I have aired my resevations about ID as well, since ID falls into a cetain theological trap called “God of the Gaps”

  74. James Pyrich

    New Jersey isn’t overpopulated?

    Do you live in New Jersey?

    I suppose the crowding problem in New Jersey could get far, far worse than it is, but there are already too many damn people around… infrastructure can’t move fast enough to keep up with the population growth, and our precious highlands in northern NJ (which supply the ENTIRE New York City metro area in NJ with clean and abundant water) are being bulldozed for your half-an-acre McMansions.

    If development continues up there, the revitalization efforts of Newark and the like (which has made quite a comeback over the past decade) will dwindle as one of the most important resources to healthy living disappears. In order to keep the water flowing, we’d have to start piping it in from outside the state, and that will jack up the cost of living even higher than it already is, if the state isn’t decimated by the impact of a dirty, insufficient water supply.

    Um, so, yeah….

  75. RAD

    My town qualifies for overpopulated with a little more than 15000 residents.
    Still more than enough room for houses, which are being built at about 2000+ each year.
    Pianka clearly doesn’t understand how the “Super Villan” role works. He first needs to abduct the hero and then expain his plan to decimate the population with disease. That way the hero escapes and then tells on him just in time to foil his plan. Not to mention he didn’t even ask for any money. So much for being smart. He clearly is only a scientist, not a mad scientist. Maybe the made for TV mini series will fix this problem. It could be as loosely based on the real story as I Robot was.

  76. Leon

    Sticks says:

    What percentage of the population of Europe was wiped out by the Black Death in the 13th Century?

    Estimates are about a half to a third of the population overall. It differed place to place of course. The drop in population caused all sorts of social problems and led to a number of peasant revolts, eg 1385 in England. The Black Death was in the 14th century, though.

  77. Gary Ansorge

    As has happened before in the course of human development, crashes WILL occur. The real question is whether enough of human mentality/knowledge/technology will survive to continue our species evolution into the distant future. I am a strong/fanatic supporter of Dr. Gerard O’Nielles vision of space colonization and the utilization of the 3000 or so planet earth resources in our solar systems moons, asteroids and comets and the taming of old SOls rampant energy output.

    Whew!!! Too wordy,,,

    It took 10,000 years for the human population to rise from 20million to 6.5 billion(roughly a 333 times increase). At that rate of growth, in another 10000, it would be about a trillion but we would ABSOLUTLY require a solar system wide venue in which to grow.

    Space colonisation won’t,directly, benefit earth population pressure, but like the settling of the western hemisphere, some 2 % of earths population migrating outward over the next two centuries could well exceed current numbers while providing resources and ENERGY to those remaining here.

    We are, as far as is known, the first species on this planet with the POTENTIAL to accomplish space migration. I expect we probably won’t do much along that line until survival on earth becomes really difficult and uncomfortable. At least, that’s what has happened before. Migration to the US was not a casual undertaking prior to about the last 50 years. Before the 20th century it was full of risk but when life in the Old Country became intollerable, a few moved to a wild, dangerous place full of promise, really pissed off natives, extremes of weather and other uncertainties.

    Welcome to a new world,,,
    It WILL happen again, and there will come a (DYSON) Ring around the sun and we will dance the Night away,,,

    Shalom.

    Now, it’s time to move out,,,

    Gary 7

  78. Irishman

    Other doomsdays were effective population control measures. Those other horsemen have also been busy. The Thirty Years War was a particularly *pleasant* time in Europe (early 1400s). Both sides of the Protestant/Catholic debate partook in hiring mercenary armies (sometimes the same ones going back and forth), who proceeded to swarm over Germany and celebrate their successes by raping and pillaging the villages, towns, and cities they just “liberated”.

    P. Edward Murray Said:
    >But, in some countries (not counting immigration here in the United States or illegal immigration as it may) there is NEGATIVE growth.

    >In fact, European nations are apparently losing their minds trying to think up solutions, now that they realize that their older citizens are living longer and are not being replaced by new younger workers.

    The problems from negative population growth are social and economic based upon a system of redistributing wealth. An example would be our own Social Security system. As designed, all current workers pay into a fund annually. That money is paid out to the people collecting benefits. There is some amount of surplus collection, supposedly for future payouts, but the government raids that fund and pays for other things, so that money isn’t really there. This type of plan is doomed for the future because of the Baby Boomers and the following smaller workforce. The fewer workers contribute more of their salaries to pay out smaller sums to larger numbers of retirees. That’s what the talk about the SS system being broken is all about, and how to fix it.

    But those problems are entirely human inventions derived from philosophies of human community. Sure, France may not like it that France’s birth rate is lower than it’s death rate and more people are retiring and any new labor in France will have to come from the Welsh*. But that’s just a cultural biogtry at work. “We want to still be French.”

    The human population problem is a global problem, because in our technological world the globe is so interdependent that the resources are spread across the globe and used across the globe. Clean drinking water and food supplies are two very significant factors.

    *Example totally made up. Fill in your own example.

    Dude Said:
    >Dembksi shouldn’t have put that quote in his blog because doesn’t that prove Eric Pianka’s point?

    From Demski’s point of view, that quote proves that Pianka wants to wipe out 90% of the human population using Ebola. That’s not what that quote says, but that’s why he quotes it. That is quite independent from Pianka’s reference within that quote to Ebola evolving into a more virulent form. The evolution part isn’t on Demski’s mind, because he’s interpreting that comment to apply to human intervention to diliberately cause the process. So no, the quote doesn’t contribute to the Evolution/ID debate.

    monolithfoo Said:
    > [Pianka's] statements are VERY MUCH more then just saying he thinks there will be a crash in population. He is also stating his opinion that it would be GOOD to have fewer of us, and it seems to me, almost regardless of how we get there.

    This gets into the particular rhetoric Pianka is using to frame his position. (From what I can tell) Pianka is stating that the human population is too high to be sustainable. That means we are overusing resources, we are burning out the world, not only for ourselves but for all life. So yes, it would be a GOOD thing if there were fewer of us, and it would be a GOOD thing if that were to happen immediately rather than later, because the longer it takes, the more damage is done. Damage to the ecosystem, damage to resources we need to sustain our progeny. Pianka also apparently is making some comments about the best means for Nature to effect the change, which would be immediate means, not delayed ones. Thus he frames the discussion in terms of the 4 Horsemen, and then he talks about how existing diseases are inadequate and others must be found. Again, it’s all rhetorical framing. He is not advocating those means other than saying that for the Earth, it would be a good thing. For long term human stability, it would be beneficial to us, though it certainly wouldn’t be pleasant to experience.

    Perhaps is rhetoric is controversial. Perhaps it is jarring. I rather think he intends for it to be so, precisely because that is what it takes to get people to pay attention to the information and the arguments and not just ignore the problem as not being important for us, maybe our grandchildren. He wants to shake up our comfort zone and show how desperate the situation really is (in his opinion) so we get the collective political will do do something about it, now, and not wait for nature to balance the equation.

    Is Mims fully to blame for misunderstanding Pianka? Probably not 100% at first, because Pianka chooses strong rhetoric, but certainly mostly because followup clarifications have not convinced him of his error, even though Pianka has explained the source of confusion. But Demski is 100% responsible for being his own ackwad, he doesn’t have any valid excuse.

    I hope Homeland Security drops in the round file as inherently ludicrous on the face of it (a panel of 100 scientists applauding a plan to randomly annihilate 90% of the human race? Crackpot.) My next hope is that if they can’t drop it on the face of it, they make a couple quick phone calls to people who were there other than Mims and get reactions, or ask Pianka himself what he said. Then when they get evidence that shows Mims’ and Demski’s overreactions, they file the response appropriately (false alarm). But the sick feeling is that Homeland Security gets a bug about it and files it in the “keep an eye on this guy, there may be something to it” file. Because that’s the road to oppression.

    Demski may or may not have reported it to HS. But his declaring that to the public can only serve one purpose, to intimidate Pianski and Pianski supporters into not speaking up, watching what they say and how they say it. That’s a kind of censorship. Ktesibios makes the point well.

  79. icemith

    I am surprised at the large number of comments already, And the veracity and plain forceful attitudes shown in those replies. Can’t blame you though, as it seems a certain lesson from the past — the 50s — has been learnt. I mean McCarthyism. That was what happened when too few (almost) did not stand on their hind legs and eventially shout it down. There was a very narrow interpretation of a ‘law’, and many were ruined. ( I know it was about Communism, but who is now buddies with them? Good old Uncle Sam.)

    I see certain parallels with the IDers, though they seem to be the 21st Century McCarthys. Can’t say they will be ‘understood’ though as in the past.

    Reading the Pianka post ( Lecture ), I did not find too much wrong with it. There are some things that would lead to a lively discussion, but to take a couple of notions and mis-interprete them and build a false case out of it, and then have a ( Federal ? ) thing going where somebody is reported, I wonder how good healthy discussion can develop. Or are we doing just that anyway?

    Ivan ……….. ( Despite the name, I have no Red sympathies — some of us just have to live with it, it was a parent’s choice. )

  80. Nigel Depledge

    Gary Ansorge said:
    “… Migration to the US was not a casual undertaking prior to about the last 50 years. Before the 20th century it was full of risk …”

    Obviously, you’ve not tried to get through US customs as a foreign national in the last five years!

    “Welcome to a new world,,,
    It WILL happen again, and there will come a (DYSON) Ring around the sun and we will dance the Night away,,,”

    No, there won’t. The Dyson sphere and the Niven ring are orbitally unstable. One would need to fashion many many small objects, and place them in independent, but coordinated, orbits around the system’s primary.

  81. Leon

    Irishman said:

    [Social Security] is doomed for the future because of the Baby Boomers and the following smaller workforce.

    Actually it’s not. The rhetoric about its being broken is a talking point being used by people who want to do away with the present system. The population shifts and Social Security gets adjusted periodically; that’s how it continues to function. It just needs to get adjusted again. The costs may go higher and the benefits might get worse, but they’ll be there when we retire. Remember, all the gray-hairs vote. If the gov’t has to pull money from other programs, it’ll do what it has to to keep Soc Sec running.

    I’m with you on the Homeland Security thing. But we probably don’t have anything to worry about; we found out this morning what its officials are spending their time doing. Pianka’s over 14, so they’ll probably ignore him. ;)

  82. Irishman

    Leon, the inherent structure of the plan was not meant to be used in the manner it is being used, as a generic retirement plan for everyone. It was meant to be used to pay for the disabled, the unemployable, and widows. Can we adapt SS and make it work? Sure. But the system is flawed to achieve the current purposes to which it is applied, vs. the purposes for which it was designed. That was my point. Note that I said “That type of plan”, not Social Security in specific.

    In fact, I specifically said, “The fewer workers contribute more of their salaries to pay out smaller sums to larger numbers of retirees.” That is essentially the same remark as, “The costs may go higher and the benefits might get worse,….”

    There is legitimate debate over “they’ll be there when we retire,” and what exactly those benefits are worth by then. Currently, it’s not enough to live on. And it’s going to get worse? Yep.

    I didn’t mean to turn this into a debate over Social Security.

  83. Leon

    Ok. I think my nerves are still a little raw from the President’s privatization drive a while back, so I let myself knee-jerk a little. Didn’t mean to get us sidetracked from the important business of bashing creationist nonsense.

  84. Troy

    I actually think the scenerio is realistic. After seeing how despondant people became with the minor events of September 11, 2001 and how even something like a blip can put the economy in a tailspin. Any event that causes a disruption of the global civilization could easily spin off into the scenerio (though THAT would be required first). Our global civilization isn’t particularly robust, in my opinion, and could easily be torn down like a house of cards that it is. After this most people don’t have the wherewithal to be subsistant they’d end up dying off in droves. (Fortunately we Americans would die last since we are so fat.) Of course humanity has intelligence and this means the rules need not apply. For example no other species is able to control its reproduction as our technology has allowed, so you need to throw out what we think we know, but I can see it happen.
    Naturally, turning the guy in is a bit nutty even if he advocated it. Sometimes I think people revel in being stupid, thus you get intelligent design (they get that creepy smile on their face sort of like they think they are imbibed with the holy spirit or something)

  85. Melusine

    Phil, and please keep us appraised of future developments.

    Just noticed that should have been “apprised.” Really bugs me not be able to edit.

  86. Emanuel Goldstein

    Dembskis actions remind you of the old Societ antics?

    You mean the diatlectical materialists running Gulags, brainwashing centers, “re-education” camps, and “mental health” centers and killing millions of believers. (Solzhenitsyn, the Gulag Archipelago).

    You mean those old Soviet activities?

    Yeah, I’m glad it reminded you but a lot of us have never forgotten what happens when the “materialists” are running the show for the “common good”.

  87. Gary Ansorge

    Nigel: True, a SOLID ring would be unstable however, a billion small (20 Km long) space colonies are, like any satellite, reposionable and they don’t all have to be in a single orbit, they can and will be spread out all over the place. The term “Ring around the sun” is a poetic device designed to elicit a certain image. In reality, space colonies will likely be spread out thru the entire solar system, in equatorial orbits and orbits at right angles to the ecliptic and every angle in between.

    You’re correct. It’s been a decade and a half since I last had to tolerate security bull at an airport. Now days I either drive my own vehicle everywhere or,,,,ride the train,,,

    GAry 7

  88. Randy Reidelbach

    I know I’m late getting into this, but, if anybody’s still reading, I think there are two ways to look at this. On one hand, I’ll bet there are kooks who report people to Homeland Security all the time, just like there are kooks who report their neighbors to the local police every other month. The locals don’t pay too much attention to the callers. On the other hand, if the caller happens to be the chief’s mother in law, they might send a unit out to look around. On the surface, this looks might look like the kook reporting his heighbor, but the idiot president’s administration is so closely alligned with this issue, that it’s unlikely they’ll leave it alone.

  89. RAD

    As long as he doesn’t ask for ransom before he unleashes his diabolical plan I think homeland security will continue to solicit young girls on the internet.

  90. tom sevigny

    Emmanuel,
    That was a rant, but it is so true. I rather doubt many people in here have read The Gulag Archipelago or Cancer Ward. This is more of an Isaac Asimov crowd. I didn’t say Trekkies. Haa haa.

  91. tom sevigny

    I don’t think our president is as stupid as you all think. Ok he is..but he is diabolical. It’s the men behind the scenes operating the puppet you have to worry about. Bush or Kerry would be fulfilling the same agenda. It would just be packaged differently. Both of those fellows are members of the old Yale fraternity, Skull & Bones. What are the chances that the two presidential candidates in 2004 would both be part of an ultra secret fraternity? Were either of them the best and brightest America and the “free” world had to offer? Think about it. They have been bred for this dispensation of history. Fascism is closer than you think.

  92. RAD

    line from Forest Bush
    “I am not a stupid man but I do know what puppet is”

  93. tom sevigny

    Hey Rad you are omnipresent. Good one ole man!

  94. RAD

    Omnipotent too, i have twins!! lol

  95. tom sevigny
  96. Irishman

    tom sevigny said:
    >Bush or Kerry would be fulfilling the same agenda. It would just be packaged differently. Both of those fellows are members of the old Yale fraternity, Skull & Bones. What are the chances that the two presidential candidates in 2004 would both be part of an ultra secret fraternity?

    Fairly good, actually. Yale is a school for the social and economic elite. Skull and Bones is a social club within Yale for the Social and Economic elite. That makes them both elite^2.

    Who is best able to mount a presidental campaign? People who are social and economic elites. Elite^2 are the most likely candidates. Ergo, probability of both Presidential candidates having been in the same social fraternity given they attended the same college? Fairly high.

    No paranoid delusions need apply.

  97. Irishman

    Emanuel Goldstein, the Soviets had a political and social ideology much larger than just the dialectical materialism. They were ideologues pushing a version of Marxist philosophy of working class vs. the rich. That ideology was anti-religion for its own agenda. The government enacted became a totalitarian regime of oppression, not the collective interactions of the populace at large. It was dogmatic and authoritarian in pushing its economic and social ideology. It was unaccountable and unresponsive to the will of the people, and was every bit as much of an oppressive regime as a Feudal Monarchy or Aristocracy they replaced. The corruption of Marxist philosophy was evident in the manner that Party leaders, Idealogues, and Government leaders had privileges and benefits not available to ordinary people. It was not a system built upon liberty, equality, and rational thought.

  98. tom sevigny

    Morning Irishman,
    Since my teen years I always believed that this was the best system of government on the globe. This American republic is still in it’s infancy if you compare our age to European nations.
    The problem is that the representative government that we believe we have is becoming an illusion. It will not be long before we sacrifice our national sovereignty for a global government.I believe that the Bushes, Clinton and James E. Carter are all proponents of this.
    This Pearl Harbor (911) that we experienced was a step towards that end. In the pursuit of security we are giving up our basic liberties. Just remember that this has been the plan all along. In 1973 Henry Kissinger said that there would come a day when the UN would send troops to Los Angeles to quell a riot and the American people will be greatful. Think about it.

  99. RAD

    And here I always thought it would play out like Red Dawn. So much for my mountain hidaway

  100. Irishman

    But tom, you wouldn’t have a problem if that World government were the U.S. government, would you? If that world government is a representative democracy ensuring and protecting our liberties in a similar manner as our Bill of Rights, doesn’t that sound great, to extend our great form of government so everybody can enjoy the protections and privileges?

    As for “giving up our liberties for security”, that is coming from within our country and the administration in charge. That’s not the U.N., that’s the Pres. and his advisors.

  101. tom sevigny

    The problem is that when national sovereignty is sacrificed for a new world order or one world government for the sake of peace and security, there are no longer checks and balances. It gives rise to totalitarianism. One man possibly dictating to every indidvidual on the planet.
    When they institute/implement numbering and marking us for the sake of security you have no more liberty.

  102. Irishman

    Nonsense. Checks and balances can be built into the system, just like the U.S. Federal government.

    Okay, you’re partially right. Concentrating power tends to build upon itself. Having one Executive in charge of all that power can be risky. That’s why the system needs to be distributed authority. Concentrate only the authority required at the higher levels, distribute what can be distributed to lower level authorities – local governments.

    Sounds like you should be more afraid of what the NeoCons think is legal for the President “in times of war” than the U.N. getting their heads out of their… hats.

  103. tom sevigny

    Well,
    Let’s look at a scenario. Let’s say that We see a United States of Europe finally organize to the point where the UK, Sweden and Switzerland adopt the Euro. Ten permanent members and possible another 15 members trading with them.
    For the first time in maybe 1600 years you have a common currency from the Atlantic to the Aegean Sea.
    What you have is a revival of the Roman Empire.
    I have this funny feeling that the U.S.A. would be outside looking in. If we sacrifice our national sovereignty to becaome a part of this entity we can kiss our system of government goodbye.
    Less than 60 years ago the chancellor of Germany had ambitions to rule over Europe and would have stretched forth his hand against North America if given the chance. He hailed from a nation of maybe 65 million people.
    History tells us that absolute power corrupts absolutely. All somebody needs is the power base to be put in place and it’s a matter of time before we have another ceasar. Keep in mind that the objective of ancient Rome was to bring justice and civilization to the world. The difference we have today is that they are wearing Armani suits instead of togas.

  104. tom sevigny

    They say that these ten nations would comprise a population of roughly 335 million people as it stands now. Think about the GNP of such a conglomerate. With another 15 nations including some oil rich and technological rich exSoviet republics and who knows?
    The entire globe (including corporate America)has their eyes on Eurasia and the middle east. This is where almost all of the world’s resources are and this is the prize.

  105. RAD

    I’m ready to move to Trantor, who’s with me?

  106. tom sevigny
  107. tom sevigny
  108. tom sevigny

    The tomb was empty…

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