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Saturday, April 01, 2006

And THESE are the people who want us to listen to them about human origins?

Further updated!! Shawn Carlson, a MacArthur Fellow who is the Founder and Executive Director of the Society for Amateur Scientists, and the Creator of LABRats, has weighed in on Dr. Death Plush*, aka Dr. Doom, noting that he seems obsessed with death. He has composed his own obituary, despite the minor glitch that he isn't dead.

How could such an eminent ecologist, as Eric R. Pianka clearly is, be so solidly on the side of absurdity and death? His on online "obituary" is an independent indication of his fascination with death.

This document which is actually a brief autobiography, provides some important clues.

Professor Pianka describes himself as both a "hermit" and a "desert rat" who has spent years living in total isolation in various deserts while devoted to his studies of lizard ecology.

Maybe the lizards will understand. I don't. And I bet aggrieved rent-a-mobs out there who already hate the United States for all sorts of reasons, some real and some imagined, won't understand either. Actually, most people do not want to be dead, even if it would be a change of venue and scenery.

* He apparently has a plush toy of the ebola virus that he hopes will kill 90 percent of humans, a hope Carlson dismisses as naive. See below for more on the death plush.

Updated ! Forrest Mims, a friend and fellow science journalist, has put up a story at the Citizen Scientist that how Dr. Eric Pianka laid out for the Texas Academy of Science a plan that calls for 90 percent of people to die a slow and painful death from the ebola virus (at a meeting at Lamar University in Beaumont, March 3-5).

(We're "no better than bacteria" in his view, and there are too many of us, and he "displayed a slide showing rows of human skulls, one of which had red lights flashing from its eye sockets." Oh cool, you are just so cool, prof ...) Mims recalls,

... I watched in amazement as a few hundred members of the Texas Academy of Science rose to their feet and gave a standing ovation to a speech that enthusiastically advocated the elimination of 90 percent of Earth's population by airborne ebola.

He says the crowd loved it, and get this - this guy is 2006's Distinguished Texas Scientist.

Can it be true? First, this is not an April Fool’s hoax. I had wanted to post this story last night in order to prevent any such suggestion, but March 31 is my birthday and social stuff ruled. Second, Mims is a reliable informant in my experience.

Apparently, the Academy tried to cover up what was happening:

An official of the Academy approached a video camera operator at the front of the auditorium and engaged him in animated conversation. The camera operator did not look pleased as he pointed the lens of the big camera to the ceiling and slowly walked away.

Forrest, however, took notes.

Update April 2, 2006: The local paper has picked it up, and the Pearcey Report has posted several relevant links.

Update Note April 24 2006: I was told that the reason the Seguin Gazette-Enterprise recently 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 Apparently, it's back up now, but you have to search. Here is what I could find from the last month. (Print it out if you need it.):

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

From that story we learn that the students love the Dr. Death stuff:

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
(This was on line at April 23, 2006.)"

Yunf? Well, sure, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, yeah, but ... Pianka?

One blogged,

I mean, he’s basically advocating for the death for all but 10 percent of the current population. And at the risk of sounding just as radical, I think he’s right.

Regarding her gush, reporter Mobley notes,
Today, she maintains the Earth is in dire straits. And though she's decided Ebola isn't the answer, she’s still considering other deadly viruses that might take its place in the equation.

Was anyone else out there at that meeting? Post a Comment.

[Note from Denyse: Original Web links to student gushes have apparently begun to disappear, but the estimable Jamie Mobley stands by her story.]

Surely the Texas Academy of Science will back away from this bilge instead of just trying to cover it up. It shouldn't just fall down a memory hole. Most people who would get ebola and die a horrible death (from liquefying organs, apparently) are Africans.

Meanwhile, I love the irony that Dr. Death Plush could start solving the problem right away by jumping off the dock, but notice that people like him never do. You and I may be "bacteria," but him - his precious little self? Don't bacilli.

(You see, the intelligent designer programs fail-safe engineering into population bomb cranks, such that their looney opinions never contact any circuits in their brains that control important stuff. That's why they are always making plans to get rid of others, who might object, but not to get rid of themselves, a project that would be much easier to carry out.)

Update April 2, 2006: Thankfully, according to Mims, the Texas Academy of Sciences is mostly supported by the dues of its members, so Texas taxpayers don’t have to pay for people to hear this stuff. Presumably, Dr. Death Plush (Eric Pianka) is protected by academic freedom on his own turf at UTEX; too bad fellow Texas academic Francis Beckwith doesn’t seem to be covered by the same policy at Baylor.

I’ve been told this story has hit the wire services now, so more trees may fall, (update), it's been slow because many media feared it was a hoax. Yeah, I wish.

Updated: On the facts, Dr. Death Plush couldn't be more wrong; our current major problem is a steep demographic collapse, based on one of the fundamental facts about human beings. When times are good, we don’t tend to have kids. I will shortly blog on a very interesting book that makes that point, against neo-Darwinism as applied to humans.

More re the death plush: Mims told me that Pianka has an "Ebola plush toy" and that there was a picture of it in the print edition of the Sequin Gazette. I thought I'd heard everything, but apparently you can "buy them.

Bill Dembski, blogging over at Uncommon Descent (see the blogroll top right) makes the point that the Dr. Doom point of view would be incomprehensible apart from Darwinism.

Further update:

Here are some student evaluations of Pianka from Biology 304 in 1998. Clearly, he was teaching this stuff back then. Many evaluations are dangerously laudatory (I mean, he's obviously a good teacher and communicator but, apart from the madness of his position, no one should like their prof THAT much):

I can think of no way Pianka could improve this course. He is an endless fountain in response to an unquenchable search for knowledge. His life experiences complement our studies in ecology, and bring to life, and give real examples of, his teachings and the words of our readings. Truly memorable course! Leaves a lasting impression!

Dr. Pianka shows a passion for his work that rubs off on those he's teaching. I really enjoyed his class and it's had influence in my decision to pursue a career in ecology.

I don't root for ebola, but maybe a ban on having more than one child. I agree . . . too many people ruining this planet.

A minority view seemed to be:

Though I agree that convervation biology is of utmost importance to the world, I do not think that preaching that 90% of the human population should die of ebola is the most effective means of encouraging conservation awareness. I found Pianka to be knowledgable, but spent too much time focusing on his specific research and personal views.

[Note from Denyse: I am told this stuff may get pulled from the Web, so print it out if you are interested.]

If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

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.

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