Eric Pianka is eccentric, opinionated, and outspoken; many people might disagree with specific bits and pieces of his position. But I don’t think that he is a eugenicist, a hate-filled fan of the Third Reich, an advocate of planned genocide, anti-human, or a crazed scientist planning the death of humanity. Nick Matzke has compiled a list of the slander that’s been aimed at Pianka. It ain’t pretty.
Transcripts of his talks are beginning to emerge; he has given this same talk, “The Vanishing Book of Life”, seven times now, and the only time it has received this level of vituperation is when a creationist in the audience distorted its message. It’s an entirely manufactured controversy, to no one’s surprise: that’s what creationists do.
It’s clear that Mims and the media have taken the words of a decent (if extremely pessimistic) ecologist and mangled them. Kathryn Perez has been circulating a petition among attendees of the infamous talk to get an idea of how many people find the distortion unbelievable. About 35 people have agreed with this statement:
“I was also at Dr. Pianka’s talk at the Texas Academy of
meeting and came away with a very different impression of his talk than
statements by Forrest Mim’s. I think my impression was in the majority
by the standing ovation given to Dr. Pianka by ˜400 fellow scientists. I
like to make clear that Mim’s has dishonestly mischaracterized Dr.
statements. Dr. Pianka in no way advocated billions of deaths from Ebola
said anything that would lead a reasonable person to think he was doing
If anyone has any reason to be distressed at a smear campaign on his reputation, it’s Eric Pianka. If anyone can be held at fault for spreading hysterical, false claims about a scientist, it’s Forrest Mims. But guess who is threatening to sue for defamation of character? Forrest Mims. Here are some blustering, threatening emails he’s been sending out.
Date: Thu, 6 Apr 2006 16:54:44 EDT
Subject: Re: TAS Petition and False Statements
To: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
The TAS is about to further damage its reputation. I suggest you promptly
end this effort to libel my journalistic reputation. This must be done
promptly, for TAS has become an active participant by providing the e-mail list
removing my name.
Forrest M. Mims III
Geronimo Creek Observatory
In a message dated 4/6/2006 3:45:31 PM Central Standard Time, FMims@aol.com writes:
Dear Dr. Perez,
Your e-mail to the membership of the TAS includes actionable and
sanctionable false statements regarding the content of my article about
Pianka and about the integrity of my reporting.
You made these false statements about my reputation using a university
e-mail address and then sent them across State lines. Your false statements
damaged my reputation before all the recipients of your e-mail.
Please correct your letter at once, retract all the false statements, and
notify me and the TAS you have done.
Be advised that you are hereby requested to faithfully safeguard and not
destroy all e-mails you receive in response to your call for signers.
You and all potential signers of your petition should very carefully
research the facts before signing their names to any statement that libels my
and/or is totally contradicted by a web page Professor Pianka has removed from
his web site (but which has been saved).
For example, see this report and transcript that has just been published by
The Pearcey Report:
Your petition totally fails to disclose how impressionable young students
have been so taken in by Pianka’s hope for the death of 90 percent of humanity
that they have adopted his cause. One tragic case is Brenna M., a senior
biology major at Texas Lutheran University (see The Pearcey Report) who told me
in an astonishing face-to-face interview last Friday that, after hearing the
Pianka speech, she is prepared to die if that will help save the Earth. (There
is a second case of another Texas female student who I will identify for the
record if necessary.)
Should this matter reach a higher authority, I will fully disclose the
content of the incredible interview with Brenna M. to further establish the
falseness of your statement about my journalistic honesty.
Brenna M. has written a blog that corroborates what I heard and, therefore,
denies your false claim about my honesty.
It appears the blog has been taken down this morning, but it has been saved
by many colleagues and will be sent this evening so you may read for yourself
how a troubled young woman can so quickly become an advocate of global death.
I am giving talks at a conference and will be unavailable for several hours
today and tomorrow.
You can be sure this matter will receive the highest attention when I again
have e-mail access.
Be advised that I have sent your false statements about me for review and
was advised within the hour to send you this notice immediately.
I think an appropriate response by a scientific society to a member 1) dishonestly defaming a speaker, 2) threatening to sue the society and 3) trying to intimidate other members of that society ought to be prompt expulsion. Mims is a kook with an axe to grind, and as a creationist, he really doesn’t belong in the Texas Academy of Science. He can always console himself with his professional affiliation with the Discovery Institute—that’s his kind of place.