I’m getting some email requests to state my opinion on some claims by Forrest M. Mims. Mims attended a talk by Eric Pianka, in which he claims Pianka advocated the “slow and torturous death of over five billion human beings.” I wasn’t there, and I don’t know exactly what was said, but I will venture a few opinions and suggestions.
- Read Wesley Elsberry, who does know Pianka’s work and has his own take on the interpretation of the talk.
- I assure you that biologists do not have a secret plan to deliberately murder nine-tenths of the planet’s human beings in order to make room for more bacteria. The suggestion is ludicrous and is little more than an absurd conspiracy theory.
- There are, of course, cranks who do think it would be a good idea to kill billions. There is no reason to think that Pianka is one of them. Mims reports that his talk was “vigorously applauded”, “cheered”, and that dozens “mobbed” Pianka afterwards. A suggestion as heinous as the one Mims claimed was made would not be so warmly received. Are we really to believe that a large audience of biologists did not muster one question or complaint at the suggestion that billions should be killed?
- There’s another account of the talk online. It mentions nothing of a plan to intentionally infect people with airborne ebola and kill a majority of the people on Earth. Pianka does clearly state that the planet is overpopulated and that we cannot sustain our growth, and may have already exceeded what we can maintain at a desirable style of living. That’s the kind of thing an audience of ecologists would readily agree to, and is a truth they would applaud as an honest and strongly stated opinion.
- Forrest Mims is not a credible source. He is a disgruntled creationist with a serious dislike of the science establishment, who has been carping for years about it. He has an overt bias and it is in his self-interest to play up accusations of ‘evil’ among scientists. They rejected him, after all, so they must be bad…and here’s proof!
- I suspect that what we have here is a vocal scientist who tactlessly spoke an unpleasant truth—we are burning through the resources of our world at a prodigious and unsustainable rate, heedless of the future, and we can expect Nature in the form of a devastating disease to strike back—and once again, a kook from outside the reality-based community is using that as an excuse to demonize the messenger.