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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Pianka/Dr. Doom wrap-up

A transcript of the "90% of humans to die of ebola" speech that sparked the controversy has never materialized. The Texas Academy of Sciences is responsible for the fact that no full transcript was made, so I am in no mood for defenses of their spin on their awardee's views. While I normally put the onus on an accuser, if the accused or his supporters have tampered with the opportunity to acquire evidence in a public venue- as they apparently did in this case - the onus must revert to the accused.

(Note: Apologies for the recent service interruption, which may have seen several copies of this post published.)

Meanwhile, here are some interesting or useful updates:

April 17, 2006 A pox on you all story by Cathy Young in the Boston Globe who attempts the delicate feat of undermining Forrest Mims via Bill Dembski*, while dissenting from the looney "people are a disaster" view of the fringe environmentalists that both Mims and Dembski were trying to call attention to.

April 13, 2006 A useful summary of the evidence by James Redford, concluding that Mims did not misrepresent what Pianka said.

April 12, 2006 Biologist Kenneth Summy issued a statement supporting Mims's version of Pianka's March 3 talk.

I've never supposed that climatologist Mims misrepresented what was said. But then I had a soc sci beat back in the Seventies that included many "popollution" (people = pollution) doomsayers and their so far unfulfilled prescriptions for doom. In those days, zillions were to die of a big late twentieth-centuryfamine, and anyone who had predicted the current worldwide epidemic of obesity would have been tarred and feathered as a crackpot. I seem to remember the new ice age as well, which came and went, along with the craze for shoulder pads in women's jackets. (Anyone want a bag of shoulder pads?)

Even back then, a reasonably well-educated journalist should have known that most modern famines result from politics or war. It is not hard to see why: For love or money, modern technology can ship food to starving people - unless other people prevent it. That is one obvious outcome of the human domination of the planet that people like Pianka so deeply resent. In sum, ethics matter. If you go to bed full while others are hungry, if you go to bed secure while others live in fear, if you go to bed educated while others subsist in ignorance - and that fact does not bother you to the point where you try to do something about it - you had better hope that there is no God and no judgment. You have a major personal stake in atheism that you should at least have the decency to acknowledge. P.S.: Mark Steyn is always good for some timely fun on Doomsaying in general.

(*Some have faulted ID math maven Bill Dembski for contacting Homeland Security about Pianka's talk. About that, I say only this: I have maintained, controversially in some quarters, Pianka's academic freedom to advocate his views. However, views are one thing; actions another. If the US government had taken cranky death cults more seriously a few years ago, a whack of New Yorkers, now deceased, would still be alive. It IS worth knowing whether people who enthuse about the wondrous killing powers of ebola (or sarin gas or yellowcake) happen to have a modest but growing stockpile in their lab. Only a divinely inspired prophet (assuming you believe in such) could know for sure without investigating. And why pay taxes for a homeland security service if you don't really need or want homeland security? What did you think it meant, if not assessing how much action lies behind the talk?)

While we are here:

I was told that the reason the Seguin Gazette-Enterprise pulled the stories about Dr. Pianka's idea that 90 percent of the world could, should, or would die from ebola virus was that the server was
overwhelmed. Apparently, it's back up now, but you have to search. Here is what I could find from the last month, as of April 24, 2006:

April 2, 2006 Doomsday: UT prof says death is imminent

April 4, 2006 Whirlwind of controversy surrounds UT prof

April 5, 2006: Academy of science responds to critics

However, the transcript of Pianka's St. Edward's does not seem to be online at the Gazette any longer. I found it in Google's cache. (Note: This is NOT the one Mims and Mobley reported on, but a later (possibly cleaned up?) talk.)
Useful tip: Print all this stuff out if you think you'll need it. Stuff goes off line all the time for a variety of reasons, and good luck getting a refund from me. I still don't know why Blogger wouldn't let me post these last couple of days, so if you are reading this now, I was finally able to make the post system work again. The fact is, Blogger is free and bloggers like me are volunteers. We do what we can when we can. If you prefer TV's big-hair anchors, hey, go with it. That's free too, if you can stand the interruption of ads and the forced viewing of expensive hair.

(Note: I will likely not blog on any subject until after June 1, due to the demands of my co-authored book in progress. After that, I plan to blog regularly on the ID beat. Much is happening, and I acknowledge that I have not been able to cover it as I would have wished. My new neuroscience beat has considerably clarified my views on the subject and I can't wait to get back.)
To find out more about my current book on the intelligent design controversy, go to By Design or by Chance?

Are you looking for one of the following stories?

A summary of recent polls of US public opinion on the ID controversy

An ID Timeline: The ID folk seem always to win when they lose.

O’Leary’s comments on Francis Beckwith, a Dembski associate, being denied tenure at Baylor.

Why origin of life is such a difficult problem.

The Pope using the term "intelligent design" to describe the Catholic view of origins, go here.

Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams attacked by Darwinist, hits back. Will he now cartoon on the subject?

"Academic Freedom Watch : Here's the real, ugly story behind the claim that 'intelligent design isn't science'?".

Roseville, California, lawyer Larry Caldwell is suing over the use of tax money by Darwin lobby groups to promote religious views that accept Darwinian evolution (as opposed to ones that don’t). I’m pegging this one as the next big story. See also the ruling on tax funds. Note the line that the “free speech” people take.
How to freak out your bio prof? What happened when a student bypassed the usual route of getting frogs drunk and dropping them down the chancellor’s robes, and tried questioning Darwinism instead.

Christoph, Cardinal Schonbon is not backing down from his contention that Darwinism is incompatible with Catholic faith, and Pope Benedict XVI probably thinks that’s just fine. Major US media have been trying to reach rewrite for months, with no success.

Museum tour guides to be trained to "respond" to those who question Darwinism. Read this item for an example of what at least one museum hopes to have them say.

World class chemist dissed at Catholic university because he sympathizes with intelligent design.
Blog policy note:Comments are permitted on this blog, but they are moderated. Fully anonymous posts and URLs posted without comment are rarely accepted. To Mr. Anonymous: I'm not psychic, so if you won't tell me who you are, I can't guess and don't care. To Mr. Nude World (URL): If you can't be bothered telling site visitors why they should go on to your fave site next, why should I post your comment? They're all busy people, like you. To Mr. Rudeby International and Mr. Pottymouth: I also have a tendency to delete comments that are merely offensive. Go be offensive to someone who can smack you a good one upside the head. That may provide you with a needed incentive to stop and think about what you are trying to accomplish. To Mr. Righteous but Wrong: I don't publish comments that contain known or probable factual errors. There's already enough widely repeated misinformation out there, and if you don't have the time to do your homework, I don't either. To those who write to announce that at death I will either 1) disintegrate into nothingness or 2) go to Hell by a fast post, please pester someone else. I am a Catholic in communion with the Church and haven't the time for either village atheism or aimless Jesus-hollering.

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