Pharyngula

Forrest Mims: A wanna-be bully

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
Science
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
judging
by the standing ovation given to Dr. Pianka by ˜400 fellow scientists. I
would
like to make clear that Mim’s has dishonestly mischaracterized Dr.
Pianka’s
statements. Dr. Pianka in no way advocated billions of deaths from Ebola
or
said anything that would lead a reasonable person to think he was doing
so.”

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
From: FMims@aol.com
Reply-To: FMims@aol.com
Subject: Re: TAS Petition and False Statements
To: david.marsh@usafa.af.mil, keperez@duke.edu

Dr. Marsh,

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
and
removing my name.

Best regards,

Forrest

Forrest M. Mims III
www.forrestmims.org
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
Professor Eric
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
have
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
name
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:
http://www.pearceyreport.com/archives/2006/04/transcript_dr_d.php

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.

Best regards,

Forrest

Forrest M. Mims III
www.forrestmims.org
www.sunandsky.org
Geronimo Creek Observatory
Chair, Environmental Science Section
Texas Academy of Science

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.

Comments

  1. #1 minimalist
    April 7, 2006

    Perhaps expulsion is exactly what he wants, PZ. It’s been 20 years since the Scientific American debacle, and people are starting to forget. I guess he’s decided it’s about time to put himself up on another cross.

  2. #2 Orac
    April 7, 2006

    All I can say is: What a tool.

  3. #3 NatureSelectedMe
    April 7, 2006

    I disagree with one point you made defending Dr. Pianka.
    From the transcripts you linked to:

    Now this is very nice for Americans because that rich topsoil has allowed us to grow food and we can feed ourselves and the rest of the world and we’ve grown fat and apathetic and miserable as a result of it. We’ve lost the bison — we’ve lost an awful lot and we’ll never be able to recover.

    So he’s just against feeding us and the rest of the world in favor of Bison. I guess that means he’s not anti-human, just pro-bison. Dr. Pianka should be subsistence farming in a third world country somewhere. Then he’ll know what miserable means. He won’t enjoy being fat or apathetic either.

  4. #4 Shygetz
    April 7, 2006

    So he’s just against feeding us and the rest of the world in favor of Bison. I guess that means he’s not anti-human, just pro-bison. Dr. Pianka should be subsistence farming in a third world country somewhere. Then he’ll know what miserable means. He won’t enjoy being fat or apathetic either.

    Wow, was that satire? It’s hard to tell now-a-days; reality has become difficult to top with satire.

  5. #5 clvrmnky
    April 7, 2006

    NatureSelectedMe:

    I read this particular statement more as a question about whether we’ve created the kind of world that we would want to live in. Hell, a world we _can_ live in.

    As far as “feeding the world” the facts are that even in these advanced times, agri-business has made a world where the distribution of food is very unfair to the so-called developing world. Food is often imported because these countries are forced by the World Bank to grow cash crops that cannot be used to feed their own people.

    That is, the extermination of the bison, and the cultures that it supported, and replacing it with massive agri-business structures that no longer seem to serve the original need (i.e., “feeding people”) seems to be a losing proposition.

    I hear him arguing for a middle way. What happens when the great aquifer that sits under the tall-grass prairie that makes up 80% of the middle chunk of North America dries up? Why not think of alternate ways of production and distribution that do not require the extermination of a species?

    There is a reason for the continued existence of marginal subsistence farming that constantly requires imports of food (in exchange for many, many more times the value in “trade agreements” and Special Economic Zones). These reasons are legion, but are centred around politics, the World Bank and the need for agri-business to support the notion of continued, never-ending growth.

    Something has to give, and Pianka is just painting a particularly pessimistic view of what happens when these systems break down. We can argue the fine points, but there is a lot of valid criticism into systems that look, on the surface, as benign or helpful but actually contribute to the problem they are attempting to solve.

  6. #6 Uber
    April 7, 2006

    What strikes me funny about all of this is that here we have a speech anyone can read and it produces many interpretations. One should just ask the man what he meant.

    On a side note it’s funny people can’t figure this out but will read a bible and say for certain this is what God meant. We are a strange species.

  7. #7 wamba
    April 7, 2006

    You made these false statements about my reputation using a university e-mail address and then sent them across State lines.

    Oooh, sending e-mail across state lines! It appears Mims knows as much about law as he knows about biology.

  8. #8 Molly, NYC
    April 7, 2006

    I know bugger-squat about libel law; the last (and only) time I discussed it with a lawyer, he told me that such suits tended to be pretty pointless, at least in the States, because it was just about impossible to connect cause (malicious misrepresentation) and effect (death threats or whatever) in a way that held up in court.

    However, that conversation was in 1991, when the Internet wasn’t as robust as it is now. It seems (to me, as a non-lawyer; I’ll be happy to be corrected by someone more knowledgeable) that it’s easier to connect Mims with the results of his BS nowadays.

    So I’m guessing that this is either (a) a really inept attempt at a slaap suit; or (b) (more speculatively) Mims is hoping to make this into a he-hit-me-first/no-you-did thing should it ever get to court.

  9. #9 Joseph O'Donnell
    April 7, 2006

    Looks like Mims is starting to get desperate. It doesn’t matter to him of course his utter nonsense and over-dramatical hysteria has ruined the reputation of Dr. Pianka, the reputation of the University in question and has resulted in direct harassment (in several ways) of Dr. Pianka.

    Mims wouldn’t have a leg to stand on in ‘suing’ for libel. Partly because he has both of his feet currently stuck firmly in his mouth.

  10. #10 Molly, NYC
    April 7, 2006

    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.

    Awww. He’s just doing it for the children.

  11. #11 JMcH
    April 7, 2006

    Ah, okay. Slandering and defaming Pianka = bad. Slandering and defaming Mims = good. I was unclear on that hypocrisy. Thanks.

  12. #12 PaulC
    April 7, 2006

    Some of Pianka’s statements strike me as alarmist, but it’s clear that he’s not proposing to cause disasters intentionally. I can see how the rightwing would get up in arms since he’s explicitly denying the privileged position of human life–though I bet in practice he’d pull his least-liked human neighbor from a burning building before going back for the lizards.

    If merely saying that a disaster can happen is equivalent to wanting one, what about Edward Teller, who in his later years thought that asteroid deflection (using H-bombs naturally) ought to be a high priority? I guess it’s OK because he was a staunch anti-communist, right?

    The complaint from Mims et al. is almost along the lines of complaining that Pianka put a hex on them. All he did was speculate on something very bad that could happen. Speculating about epidemics and other natural disasters does not cause them to happen.

  13. #13 Joseph O'Donnell
    April 7, 2006

    What strikes me funny about all of this is that here we have a speech anyone can read and it produces many interpretations. One should just ask the man what he meant.

    They have and he’s unequivocally stated “I don’t advocate human death”.

    But cretionists and certain ID steal-cretinist bloggers don’t care for facts like that to get in the way of their hysteria.

  14. #14 Jonathan Badger
    April 7, 2006

    While it is true that Pianka isn’t calling for genocide or anything like that, it is clear from the transcript that he isn’t thinking very scientifically. For example, he believes cutting down redwood trees is “evil, evil” (his words). Now, there may be indeed good reasons for preventing cutting down redwood trees — perhaps there have been studies showing redwoods are particularly good at preventing erosion — but when terms like “evil” get thrown into the debate, it is turning the science of ecology into some sort of religion — one that might indeed be better than most existing religions — but still a religion.

  15. #15 Molly, NYC
    April 7, 2006

    Wait, it gets better: Kathy Walt,press secretary for Gov. Rick Perry, expressed disdain over what Pianka calls his “doomsday talk.” Walt called the scientist’s viewpoints “abhorrent” and likened them to Hitler’s “hate-filled Third Reich.” (via Matzke)

    The governor’s involved? And he’s taking the side of the whack-a-doos?

    I don’t know why I’m surprised. Dubya used to have that job.

  16. #16 Azkyroth
    April 7, 2006

    Ah, okay. Slandering and defaming Pianka = bad. Slandering and defaming Mims = good. I was unclear on that hypocrisy. Thanks. -JMcH

    I wasn’t at the talk, but as I understand it, the issue is that Mims misrepresented Pianka’s position in a way that can only credibly be explained through stupidity or malice–whether he’s dishonest or incompetent is an open question, if this incident is considered in isolation, but the consensus seems to be that it’s the former, based on his reputation elsewhere. And dishonesty is precisely what he’s being accused of.

    Slandering Mims wouldn’t be good…but that’s completely beside the point. Read this, JMcH; there’s something important you seem to have missed:

    In English and American law, and systems based on them, libel and slander are two forms of defamation (or defamation of character), which is the tort or delict of publishing (meaning to a third party) a false statement that negatively affects someone’s reputation.

    Since there is good–even compelling–evidence that Mims has done precisely what he is being accused of, this isn’t slander. The necessity of a statement being untrue to be considered slander is common knowledge; your attempts to misrepresent this can only credibly be explained by malice or stupidity. Your call…

  17. #17 PaulC
    April 7, 2006

    Slandering and defaming Mims = good.

    It’s not slander if it’s accurate. It is true that lot of people here are not big fans of Mims. I normally dislike the stereotyping of engineers that often occurs on these blogs, but if you needed to point to one instance, Mims is almost an archetype: a religious engineer who thinks that qualifies him to issue pronouncements on all things scientific, particularly evolution.

    Mims won some fame years back for writing popular–and as far as I know quite good–introductions to electronics for hobbyists. In fact, his writing and interest in science were sufficient to get him an offer to write The Amateur Scientist column in Scientific American in the early 90s. He was soon terminated–at least one column was published–due to a dispute about his belief in creationism. This was known ahead of time. He agreed not to write about it and did not write about it, but apparently the reaction to hiring Mims was more than the editors anticipated.

    Personally, I’m of the view that scientific exposition can stand on its own, so it doesn’t matter who wrote something provided it is checked for accuracy. One can, however, make the argument that Sci. Am. did not want to appear to be endorsing creationism by employing a creationist, particularly a column with tradition behind it. That’s their editorial prerogative. You may like it or not, but it’s not slander.

    Now Mims has misrepresented Pianka, accusing him of terrible things, and people are calling Mims on it, pointing out that he is wrong. To say that Mims is misrepresenting and smearing Pianka’s name is, I agree, saying something bad about Mims. Mims is either incapable of following Pianka’s talk, or else he is a bad person, a liar in fact. I don’t know which. That statement bears a superficial resemblance to slander–I said something bad about Mims–but in fact it is merely a straightforward interpretation of publicly available information.

  18. #18 PaulC
    April 7, 2006

    it is clear from the transcript that [Pianka] isn’t thinking very scientifically.

    The constitution protects the right to express oneself unscientifically, and while it is not explicit on the matter of thought crimes, I think that the right to think unscientifically is among those it “shall not be construed to deny or disparage” according to the ninth amendment.

    Or in other words, did you have a point here?

  19. #19 Wesley R. Elsberry
    April 7, 2006

    Let me highlight something from the quoted emails:

    (There is a second case of another Texas female student who I will identify for the record if necessary.)

    So Mims is willing to toss yet another human’s career onto the bonfire he’s created, just for the sake of his own miserable reputation? It seems obvious to me that Mims doesn’t himself have a pittance of the respect for living humans that he claims Pianka ought to. Translation: “Buy my completely baseless story on my say-so, or I will trash this girl’s career.”

  20. #20 Azkyroth
    April 7, 2006

    it is clear from the transcript that [Pianka] isn’t thinking very scientifically.

    The constitution protects the right to express oneself unscientifically, and while it is not explicit on the matter of thought crimes, I think that the right to think unscientifically is among those it “shall not be construed to deny or disparage” according to the ninth amendment.

    Or in other words, did you have a point here?

    If I had to guess, his point was that this reflects poorly on the usefulness of Pianka’s opinion to the scientific community and the public as a representation of ecological science, and that he believes Pianka’s apparent emotionality on the subject isn’t becoming a scientist. His right to think and express this sort of thought has not been contested, and is completely irrelevant to the desirability of his doing so. This is so simple and transparent that I’m reasonably certain my daughter, currently not capable of talking coherently, could understand it.

    However, since you apparently believe that criticizing a person’s opinion is equivalent to denying his right to express it, you’re violating Mr. Badger’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

  21. #21 PaulC
    April 7, 2006

    However, since you apparently believe that criticizing a person’s opinion is equivalent to denying his right to express it

    Can you explain your logic in coming to this conclusion?

  22. #22 Jonathan Badger
    April 7, 2006

    The constitution protects the right to express oneself unscientifically…Or in other words, did you have a point here?

    My point was that prior to reading the transcript, I had assumed that Pianka had made a reasonable scientific presentation and this was another case of creationists attacking scientific results which they don’t like. From reading the transcript this seems not to be the case. Pianka wanted to affect his audience emotionally rather than intellectually, and evidentally he succeeded in the case of Mims — just not in the direction he intended.

  23. #23 Chris
    April 7, 2006

    Hi, what do you make of these student comments here though: http://www.zo.utexas.edu/courses/bio357/357evaluations.html. Just look for “ebola”. I do believe that Dr. Pianka did not say any of these outrageous things at the public lecture at the Academy of Science, but what about his classes? Maybe he used hyperbole to “freshen up” his classes, or he indeed does harbor some of those views in private. What do you think?

  24. #24 PaulC
    April 7, 2006

    If I had to guess, his point was that this reflects poorly on the usefulness of Pianka’s opinion to the scientific community and the public as a representation of ecological science

    Maybe that was the point. Who knows? But this is not a referendum on Pianka’s “usefulness.” The facts are that he received an award for work that merited it, gave an invited talk, and is now getting slandered. His statements are being misrepresented, and entirely fictious intentions are being fabricated for what he said.

    Speaking of “usefulness”, I fail to see the usefulness of criticizing Pianka’s exercise of his right to express his views when the only issue of public significance is this: a man who has done absolutely nothing wrong has been subject to “interviews” by the FBI and is the target of a high profile smear campaign. Actually, it is useful, but primarily to those who have attacked Pianka and having been proved wrong may prefer to change the subject.

  25. #25 wamba
    April 7, 2006

    Hi, what do you make of these student comments here though: http://www.zo.utexas.edu/courses/bio357/357evaluations.html. Just look for “ebola”. I do believe that Dr. Pianka did not say any of these outrageous things at the public lecture at the Academy of Science, but what about his classes? Maybe he used hyperbole to “freshen up” his classes, or he indeed does harbor some of those views in private. What do you think?

    I think you’re grasping at straws. What do Pianka’s classes have to do with this whole blow-up? Mims attended a talk by Pianka, and made claims about what Pianka said that do not agree with claims made by other attendees or with transcripts. Other people picked up Mims’ comments w/o verifying their accuracy, and Mims is now behaving very badly.

    Could you explain where Pianka’s classes fit into that picture? Because I don’t see how they do.

  26. #26 PaulC
    April 7, 2006

    My point was that prior to reading the transcript, I had assumed that Pianka had made a reasonable scientific presentation and this was another case of creationists attacking scientific results which they don’t like.

    Then I apologize for my snotty response.

    I was prepared for what I saw, since the consensus seemed to be that Pianka is an alarmist. It is a case of creationists attacking a scientist that they don’t like–or perhaps a philosophical view, namely one that denies the privileged significance of the human species. They’re entitled to disagree, but the main issue is the unethical behavior they’ve sunk to. They are harming Pianka’s reputation, and wasting the time of the FBI. They could not have done either without misrepresenting his words. What you think of Pianka is not pertinent to the issue of the transgressions against him.

  27. #27 tjswift
    April 7, 2006

    Leave it to the PZ’s of academia to defend the likes of Pianka.

    While it would not astonish me in the least to learn that Meyers had issued an equally ill considered defense for Ward Churchill, I can see where Pianka might hold an especally warm spot in his heart.

    After all, given enough time people of Meyer’s ilk will almost inevitably learn that misanthropy is the final destination of the dedicated secular humanist.

    After all, when one firmly believes, as Meyers does, that the human experience is all there is to measure against the wonder of the Cosmos one is bound to be dissapointed and depressed.

    I am however surprised that Meyers finds fault with Mim’s strongly worded, uncompromising position..I thought that’s the sort of thing he appreciated.

    Poor, pitiful little man.

  28. #28 StrainedAnalogyGuy
    April 7, 2006

    Pete makes a film called “Puppy Trouble.” it’s about a little boy who wants a puppy and gets one. It’s cute, but the boy has trouble with the responsibilities. The puppy needs constant attention, it chews up Dad’s best shoes, and it keeps pooping on Mom’s favorite rug. The film has a moral – puppies take responsibility.

    Jeff attends a screening of Puppy Trouble to write a review for the Town Babbler. His review says “Pete wildly overstates the trouble with puppies, and then goes way too far when he himself comes on screen and starts butchering the puppies. Then, when he ran from behind the screen and started throwing real butchered puppies on the audience,I got up and called the cops to report animal cruelty.

    Audience members, reading the review, said “but no butchering happened! Jeff is a liar!”

    Bystanders defend Pete, saying “It’s really unfair of Jeff to lie about Pete like that.”

    Other bystanders say “This political correctness has gone too far – who are you to try to stifle film criticism? Just because you don’t agree with Jeff’s review, you’re trying to silence him? What, did he HAVE to like the movie?”

  29. #29 Bored Huge Krill
    April 7, 2006

    I am however surprised that Meyers finds fault with Mim’s strongly worded, uncompromising position..I thought that’s the sort of thing he appreciated.

    In case you missed it, the issue isn’t that Mims criticism is “strongly worded”, it’s that he grossly misrepresents Pianka’s position. I would have hoped that anybody would regard that as , to say the least, poor behavior.

    Poor, pitiful little man.

    Who is?

  30. #30 Chris
    April 7, 2006

    Well, imagine you had a scientist known for openly advocating death by ebola of 90% of the human population in his classes. IMHO this would have the potential to change the public perception of said scientist, irrespective of what Mims wrote. Up to now, all reports exclusively relied on Mims as a source, which is not exactly the standard journalism should be aiming for.

    And surely you’re not suggesting that whatever Pianka says in his classes is completely unrelated to whatever he might say in a public speech? I don’t think that a 400+ audience of American scientists would applaud the proposition of killing 90% of the population by ebola or whatever. But I find it perfectly plausible that Dr. Pianka might advocate this in private and might have said so in his classes. I don’t know, because I haven’t been there and don’t know any of the participants personally. (And for me it’s fine either way, I’m just an interested observer here.)

    PS: re the student comments: there are several regarding “ebola”. Be sure to check them all out.

  31. #31 roger tang
    April 7, 2006

    Well, imagine you had a scientist known for openly advocating death by ebola of 90% of the human population in his classes.

    Let’s don’t. This is a gross, gross distortion of what’s being said and happening.

    And surely you’re not suggesting that whatever Pianka says in his classes is completely unrelated to whatever he might say in a public speech?

    Of course not. But I think a better interpretation is that there are students who are as just as stupid as Mims—there were only two (not several), which kinda corresponds to the number of students in MY classes who weren’t paying attention.

  32. #32 george cauldron
    April 7, 2006

    I am however surprised that Meyers finds fault with Mim’s strongly worded, uncompromising position..I thought that’s the sort of thing he appreciated.

    Hey, swift, we now all know you don’t want AIDS cured, what’s your ‘stand’ on curing Ebola? Do we have your permission for that?

    Poor, pitiful little man.

    I’m glad you’re finally acquiring some self-awareness.

  33. #33 Andrew McClure
    April 7, 2006

    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,

    There’s a story behind this, I suspect. I looked at Pianka’s wikipedia page shortly after Mims’ smear campaign was originally launched, and at that time it said Pianka disputed Mims’ claims but a blogger named Brenna corroborated them. In fact, it still seems that the only person in the world who agrees with Mims’ version of reality and was actually present at some version of the talk is this mysterious “Brenna M.” blogger. But the blog was taken down? Any details on why?

    Either way, that’s a great example of New Media math. One retracted post by a blogger is worth more than a statement signed by 35 students?

    The governor’s involved? And he’s taking the side of the whack-a-doos?

    The governor’s up for reelection this year.

    Now, you might ask, is openly slandering a respected professor and equating ecologists with nazis really a good way to make yourself look good to voters in an election year?

    And speaking as a native Texan, I would say… yes. Yes, that actually is an excellent strategy.

    Nevertheless, it would be interesting if someone could try to call Rick Perry on going along with this silly campaign. Kinky Friedman, who is running against Perry this year as an independent and whose campaign incorporates strong messages in favor of improving the quality of education in Texas and promoting alternative fuel sources, actually might be willing to do this if someone gave him the idea. This might just help Perry (cuz, y’know, who cares if his press secretary knew what he was talking about, at least Perry made a stand against those guys that Rush hates), but it’s worth a shot. I don’t guess anyone knows how to contact Kinky Friedman?

  34. #34 AD
    April 7, 2006

    Speaking from a legalistic standpoint, as I have a few law-oriented (as in, practicing attorneys and paralegals) friends who I asked about this. From general conversations, the consensus is:

    1) Mims doesn’t have a suit, and if he sues, it’ll probably be tossed before trial.

    2) Mims is quite possibly guilty of slander/libel (specifically, the issue of Pianka’s being directly misquoted in print will be the thorny part for Mims). It would be a difficult (but potentially possible) case to prove in court. One could force him to court easily, and most often people will think about settling at that point because it would be entirely possible that a settlement would be less costly than a successful defense when there is at least a reasonable chance one will be found guilty.

    3) Should Mims be found guilty of slander/libel, there is quite possibly an actionable criminal charge to be made against Mims. Specifically, Pianka recieving death threats in the case of a guilty verdict against Mims becomes a potential incitement issue should Mims be found guilty of deliberate and malicious misrepresentation.

    4) If everything said about Pianka is true, he is protected by both his free speech right and tenure from any meaningful recourse. I would suggest not attending his talks in the future to Mr. Mims.

    Lastly, with reference to the student claims – does anyone have a source for these claims which verifies absolutely that these students are his, that they represent a reasonable view of his classes (ie, are not being pressured or paid to lie… not that this ever happens, of course), and that such comments were, in fact, made as a serious statement of opinion or fact? The last thing we need is more hearsay about either side, and given the context, I think it is flagrantly stupid not to verify facts at this point.

  35. #35 tjswift
    April 7, 2006

    george, I would be truly surprised to learn that you could accurately state what day of the week it is today much less that you understood my positions on anything.

    And I say that with all sincerity.

    Furthermore, while I don’t claim to speak for anyone but myself, I have to wonder if any of your fellow mumpsumus’s really prefer that you lump yourself in with them by referring to “we all” in any fashion.

  36. #36 Chris
    April 7, 2006

    That’s easy: http://www.kinkyfriedman.com. You could also contact the Houston Chronicle, which is quite liberal, and Texas Monthly Magazine, where Kinky Friedman sometimes wrote columns (or something like that).

  37. #37 Molly, NYC
    April 7, 2006

    Andrew McClure–Here, maybe?

    * * *

    (How relieved the folks at Scientific American must be that Mims wasn’t made a staff writer. Is there any respectable scientific organization that he’s currently associated with, other than the Texas A of S?)

  38. #38 george cauldron
    April 7, 2006

    george, I would be truly surprised to learn that you could accurately state what day of the week it is today much less that you understood my positions on anything.

    (Uh oh, wingnut calls my intelligence into question! Horror! Devastating rhetoric!)

    I wasn’t stating anything, swift, just asking. You said you didn’t want AIDS cured, since it would just encourage behavior you disapprove of. I was ASKING you how you feel about Ebola, since it’s not a given, apparently, that you want every disease cured. You know, I thought it was best to ask before we ‘browbeat’ you into curing it.

    And I say that with all sincerity.

    (The rhetorical flourish. Aiiyeee!!)

    Furthermore, while I don’t claim to speak for anyone but myself, I have to wonder if any of your fellow mumpsumus’s

    Inventing more new words, swift? Sounds kinda ‘ludicris’ to me…

    really prefer that you lump yourself in with them by referring to “we all” in any fashion.

    Well, as I recall, you were the only one here who advocated solving AIDS by having everyone who has it die off, so I figured this was another likely example where your opinion didn’t line up with anyone else’s.

  39. #39 Chris
    April 7, 2006

    Granted, there is a general problem with student comments, but I think this page, which is linked from the class website (http://www.zo.utexas.edu/courses/bio357/), might be a bit more credible than the lone comment at http://www.ratemyprofessors.com, which was added on April 4, right when the row started:

    > While Ebola is killing countless people in Africa, this
    > professor is calling it good because it eliminates the
    > surplus population. At the same time his waistband size
    > shows he is personally consuming more than his share of
    > the world’s resources. If you love hypocrisy, by all means
    > take him. Otherwise choose someone who donesn’t hate his
    > own species

    The timing suggests that this can’t be taken seriously.

    What outraged me personally the most was the claim that a room full of scientists would condone such statements and reward them with standing ovations. I found that so preposterous that I was not surprised (and relieved too) to subsequently learn of Mims’ dubious credentials. What Dr. Pianka really has said or advocated in his classes, well that will be hard to ascertain and probably boil down to he said she said type of statements. And at least for the speech there seems to be a transcript.

  40. #40 skblllzzzz
    April 7, 2006

    “It’s been 20 years since the Scientific American debacle”

    I’m curious; can you point to any documentation on this?

  41. #41 Chris
    April 7, 2006

    Molly, where does it say that he is associated with the TAS? The only thing I’ve seen is SAS (www.sas.org), which is something quite different, I hope.

  42. #42 PaulC
    April 7, 2006

    “It’s been 20 years since the Scientific American debacle”

    I’m curious; can you point to any documentation on this?

    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CA/CA320_1.html

    It was actually less than 20 years ago, though.

  43. #43 Chris
    April 7, 2006

    I also forgot to mention that a science journalist for the Houston Chronicle wrote this in his blog already on April 3:
    http://blogs.chron.com/sciguy/archives/2006/04/does_a_ut_scien.html

  44. #44 tjswift
    April 7, 2006

    george, you’re an ignorant ass. That’s not calling anything into question, that’s an accurate observation.

    And while your fellow mumpsimus’s may indeed not care whether they are lumped in with you or not, I would prefer you not attribute positions to me I have never held.

    Or could it be that you are providing an illustration in action of what everyone here seems to be crediting Mims for having done?

    Or (more probably) is it you don’t have a clue as to what is being discussed here in the first place..as usual.

    Ask though you may, any response other than the accurate observations I’ve made already would be as fruitless as attempting to explain Boole’s law to Amynthas gracillus.

  45. #45 Great White Wonder
    April 7, 2006

    Something about Forrest Mims’ writing has always suggested to me that he is a closet pedophile with some disturbing “mommy dearest” issues.

    I think Forrest may be getting ready to come out of that closet. Perhaps all this is just a prequel, an effort to gain attention for himself before he writes his “tell all” book as part of his 12-step recovery program.

    Or maybe Forrest is just another creationist-peddling liar. How many have we been introduced to over the years? I lost count after 700.

  46. #46 Moses
    April 7, 2006

    Posted by: JMcH | April 7, 2006 10:53 AM

    Ah, okay. Slandering and defaming Pianka = bad. Slandering and defaming Mims = good. I was unclear on that hypocrisy. Thanks.

    Slander & libel, among other things, require a FALSE statement. Mims has said, among other things, Pianka advocates genocide. Genocide has a particular meaning including an intent. Mims has now slandered and libeled Pianka.

    OTOH, Mims has been called-out for his dishonesty. For his lies. Truthfully pointing out Mim’s dishonesty and lies is neither slander or libel. That Mims calls another slanderer/libeler as a co-defendant also doesn’t protect, or give credence to, Mims.

  47. #47 george cauldron
    April 7, 2006

    george, you’re an ignorant ass. That’s not calling anything into question, that’s an accurate observation.

    Swift, swift, swift. So evasive. You still haven’t answered my question!

    And while your fellow mumpsimus’s

    There you are with the invented words, again. Or is it just some kind of horrible misspelling?

    may indeed not care whether they are lumped in with you or not, I would prefer you not attribute positions to me I have never held.

    Now, what position would that be, swift? I was still withholding any statement as to whether you wanted Ebola cured. You made it quite clear you didn’t want AIDS cured. If you clarified how you really feel about it, I could quit mischaracterizing you, no?

    Or could it be that you are providing an illustration in action of what everyone here seems to be crediting Mims for having done?

    No, swift. But you’re not real bright, so I can see how you’d come to that conclusion.

    Let’s see. You’re getting on Pianka’s case for supposedly wanting 90% of the world’s population to die of ebola. And yet YOU apparently advocate the millions of people with AIDS in the world dying, since you disapprove of their ‘lifestyles’. Are you really the one to be talking about morality here?

    Or (more probably) is it you don’t have a clue as to what is being discussed here in the first place..as usual.

    Devastating, swift. Put me in my place, that’s for sure.

    Ask though you may, any response other than the accurate observations I’ve made already would be as fruitless as attempting to explain Boole’s law to Amynthas gracillus.

    Ouch! The final blow! I lie mortally wounded.

    Well, how about explaining what a ‘mumpsimus’ is? We might be able to follow that one!

  48. #48 improvius
    April 7, 2006

    Here’s my big question:
    If Mims was so upset by Pianka’s speech, why didn’t he man up and confront Pianka in the audience Q&A segment? I mean, he was right there. If he took offense, why didn’t he bring it up to Pianka’s face?

  49. #49 Great White Wonder
    April 7, 2006

    PaulC

    To say that Mims is misrepresenting and smearing Pianka’s name is, I agree, saying something bad about Mims. Mims is either incapable of following Pianka’s talk, or else he is a bad person, a liar in fact. I don’t know which.

    Please get your bets in before 5 p.m. April 10.

  50. #50 Great White Wonder
    April 7, 2006

    After all, given enough time people of Meyer’s ilk will almost inevitably learn that misanthropy is the final destination of the dedicated secular humanist.

    What’s the final destination of spelling-challenged troll idiots?

  51. #51 Great White Wonder
    April 7, 2006

    Slander & libel, among other things, require a FALSE statement.

    Funny, isn’t it, that Dembski and Behe and Luskin et al have never filed suit against those who routinely point out that they are lying charlatan pieces of shit?

    I wonder what could be a reasonable explanation for their reluctance to respond to the alleged “defamation of their characters”?

  52. #52 george cauldron
    April 7, 2006

    After all, when one firmly believes, as Meyers does, that the human experience is all there is to measure against the wonder of the Cosmos one is bound to be dissapointed and depressed.

    It’s ‘Myers’, genius. Only one ‘e’. And ‘disappointed’. Isn’t your high school teaching you anything?

    And weren’t YOU the one getting on my case for making claims about how other people think?

  53. #53 Great White Wonder
    April 7, 2006

    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.

    That’s nothing.

    I’m prepared to shove a habanero pepper up my butt if it will help creationism-peddling dickheads disappear forever.

    And it wasn’t PZ Myers who brought me to this tragic state. It was the asshats at the Discovery Institute.

  54. #54 Great White Wonder
    April 7, 2006

    Hey Forrest Mims, you filthy man-whore, do a Google search for “prepared to die for Jesus” and tell me what you find.

    If you’re so concerned about impressionable young people, then focus your energies where it might do some good, you unbelievably hypocritical horse’s ass.

  55. #55 george cauldron
    April 7, 2006

    I’m prepared to shove a habanero pepper up my butt if it will help creationism-peddling dickheads disappear forever.

    Sadly, it probably wouldn’t help the problem any. But thanks for the offer anyway. 🙂

  56. #56 Molly, NYC
    April 7, 2006

    Chris–I got it from PZ’s post above, the line that goes: Mims is a kook with an axe to grind, and as a creationist, he really doesn’t belong in the Texas Academy of Science.

    . . . which I took to mean he was in the TAS and not just attending the lecture. (BTW–Do we know that he actually attended? Was there a sign-in sheet or something, did anyone see him? The guy does make stuff up, after all.)

    If I misinterpreted, let me know.

  57. #57 Craig Pennington
    April 7, 2006

    Well, how about explaining what a ‘mumpsimus’ is? We might be able to follow that one!

    It’s a great word. mumpsimus: A peson who persists in error.

  58. #58 Rich
    April 7, 2006

    At first I thought the TJswift was some sort of parody. His 3 blogs have that sort of amateurish warmth and broad-brush idiocy that we like to mock fundies for. Surely he can’t be real? How can he exist in a modern society?

  59. #59 Chris
    April 7, 2006

    Molly, from this site (http://www.texasacademyofscience.org/membershipform.aspx) it looks as if anyone can join, so it’s perfectly imaginable that he is a member. I understood PZ’s words in the sense “he doesn’t belong at a meeting of the TAS”. At least in Europe, memberships in Academies of Sciences are by invitation only and based on merit, and I think we can safely conclude that this wasn’t the case here. (So the question remains if a membership of Mims at TAS does necessarily tarnish their reputation so much if they are quite open in their membership policies)

  60. #60 Martin
    April 7, 2006

    You know, if there’s any consolation we can take from all this lunacy, it’s that the story really hasn’t gotten that much media attention. It may be all over the wingnut blogosphere, but I’ve checked Google News, CNN, and most of the other mainstream news websites, and there’s nary a word to be found on the whole Mims/Pianka feud. Tiktaalik is getting much, much wider coverage. And that’s as it should be.

  61. #61 paperwight
    April 7, 2006

    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.

    This sounds to me like she’s a fundamentalist Christian who has a little too much martyr in her makeup. Let’s say, though, just for the sake of argument, that she was convinced that humanity in its current state is bad for the planet (and ultimately, bad for humanity), why is her willingness to sacrifice bad? The far right spends millions of words on making saints out of soldiers, saints out of martyrs, saints out of themselves, all based on their willingness to sacrifice for what they consider the greater good.

    Why is her willingness to sacrifice for the greater good any less noble than that of anyone else who believes strongly in their cause?

  62. #62 Chris
    April 7, 2006

    Martin,

    I regret to inform you that you are mistaken. CNN did run an article, http://www.cnn.com/2006/EDUCATION/04/04/doomsday.professor.ap/index.html, and on some European academic mailing list this was used for yet another instance of America-bashing (you see, I’m an expat academic from Europe), along the lines of “Only in America can a room full of scientists applaud the suggestion of killing 90% of the earth’s population with ebola”.

    You see, the damage is already done.

  63. #63 wamba
    April 7, 2006

    Funny, isn’t it, that Dembski and Behe and Luskin et al have never filed suit against those who routinely point out that they are lying charlatan pieces of shit?
    .
    I wonder what could be a reasonable explanation for their reluctance to respond to the alleged “defamation of their characters”?

    I suspect it is their high moral character and willingness to forgive their fellow man.

  64. #64 AC
    April 7, 2006

    After all, given enough time people of Meyer’s ilk will almost inevitably learn that misanthropy is the final destination of the dedicated secular humanist.

    After all, when one firmly believes, as Meyers does, that the human experience is all there is to measure against the wonder of the Cosmos one is bound to be dissapointed and depressed.

    Or perhaps one might instead be inspired to reach his potential, and encourage others to fulfill theirs as well? You seem to be the one who thinks little of humanity.

    Not every “dedicated secular humanist” fits your crudely drawn, Goth-like stereotype. Never let facts or imagination get in the way of a good troll though.

  65. #65 Joe Canner
    April 7, 2006

    I just read the Pearcey article mentioned in Mims’ e-mail. Talk about circular reasoning!

    She claims to have first hand information:

    “Relying on a transcript from audio recorded during Dr. Eric Pianka’s presentation at the 109th meeting of the Texas Academy of Science March 2-4, The Pearcey Report has first-hand documentation on what the controversial ecologist said regarding a number of issues, including taxes, children, forced sterilization, overpopulation, economic growth, and more.”

    and then immediately quotes newspaper sources. Finally, at the end she trots out the transcript, only to skip to the last sentence regarding Ebola, giving absolutely no context whatsoever. There are a few juicy tidbits in the post-lecture Q&A but it is hard to tell how serious Pianka was in some of his answers.

    In any event, even if he is advocating eugenics, since when is that a crime (talking about it, that is)? Talk about academic freedom…

  66. #66 chuko
    April 7, 2006

    You know, I’ve never really understood why making yourself a slave to a god to avoid eternal torture would provide meaning to one’s life. Even if it did exist.

    And why someone’s at it, why don’t you explain how acknowledging and dealing with grave environmental problems that cause pain and death is misanthropic?

  67. #67 chuko
    April 7, 2006

    On a friendlier note, to Jonathan:

    I don’t think the issue any more is whether environmental disasters are going to continue to increase in frequency and magnitude. It’s whether we do something about them, and that’s an issue that I don’t mind people having some passion about.

    Scientists are usually somewhat passionate people; after all, in a world where wealth is considered to be the goal, these people put that aside to do science. They’re trained, when presenting science, to be reasonable in a way most people never are, but I think it wouldn’t hurt to see a little more of that passion released when talking about policy or science.

  68. #68 Kathryn Perez
    April 7, 2006

    Someone asked what the requirements for membership in the Texas Academy of Science. There aren’t any requirements for membership. We try to be as inclusive as possible. 30$-15$ per year. A primary mission of TAS is providing a venue for Tx undergrads and grad students to present talks in a supportive scientific setting. Mim’s is a TAS member, in addition he is a Section Chair which he has been using as evidence of his status in the organization. Well I’ve been a Section Chair since I was a Master’s student, all it means is you moderate session (ie load up the talks, introduce the speaker, and keep the speaker on time). That’s the total of the Section Chair Authority. people tend to be section chairs because no one else particularly wants to.

  69. #69 Rich
    April 7, 2006

    Uh-oh, Forest has a webpage that’s going to make you all look foolish, but he’s taken it down.

    Let’s look at some scenarios.

    (1) The webpage exists and is up / viewable

    HaHa – in your face, Darwinists! Look all your lies are exposed and refuted by this great webpage! Forest 1, Moonbats 0. Actually make that ‘Forest 44, Moonbats 0’ because that’s a soccer score and soccer is for hippies.

    (2) The webpage exists but it’s down / un-viewable

    Cunning Forrest has set a trap; he’ll let you write all manner of bad things then, ker-pow! He’ll get all litigious and stuff. The only thing that could spoil this plan would be if some assclown let the word out that the page exists. Like in a big email to everyone or something.

    (3) This webpage never existed

    Uh-oh, Forrest got caught with his pants down. He’s scarred – better make some scary noises. I know – threaten them with angry God! Oh no, they’re all secular liberal hippy intellectual elitists, it wont work! Quick, make something else up!

  70. #70 HP
    April 7, 2006

    I would just like to agree with those who say that if Pianka had said what people said he said, then people who disagreed with what he hypothetically (but not in fact) said would in fact think that that was a bad thing to say, if in fact it had been said. Furthermore, if beliefs had the power to influence the course of viral transmission, and people died because of it, that would be horrible, if it were possible for beliefs to do this, which it isn’t. (If I’m not mistaken, there was an episode of Bewitched where Endora used her magic to give Darren a bad cold on the day he was supposed to make an important presentation to a client in front of Mr. Tate. This would be an important precedent, except that Bewitched is make-believe. Also, there may not have been any such episode.)

    Likewise, if Mims had told the truth instead of lying, it would be completely unfair — and possibly libelous — to accuse him of lying if he in fact had not, which he did.

  71. #71 Ed Darrell
    April 7, 2006

    Mims is not only a member of the Texas Academy of Sciences, but also the chair of the Environmental Science section.

    Some NJ said:

    The subtle bias of granting a tenured humanist every doubt and granting a writer who happens to be a Christian is not really very effective.
    The actions of the Pianka guy speak for themselves: turning off all recordings of his talk. He knew he had something to hide. Academic openness and free inquiry, indeed.

    There is no credible evidence that Pianka asked anyone to turn off any recording of any of his speeches — he did not protest the recording of his speech a few days later. Journalistic honesty should require one to suspend such judgments until at least such time as any fact is established — there is no evidence that I know of that there even was a camera there, outside of Mims’ claims, and those claims have proven wrong in too many other ways to be dispositive in this case.

    That a self-evident wackjob who talks about stpecifics of xenocide for the human race is even considered to be safe around kids is beyond me.

    Nor would you tolerate a drunk like Winston Churchill warning your kids of the dangers of the Third Reich. Good for you! You’re consistent. Your kids are to be pitied, however.

    I would tolerate this ‘professor’ teaching my kids the same way I would tolerate a retired Adolf Hitler giving seminars on population control.

    Ah, I see I was prescient with the Churchill reference. You didn’t notice, I suppose, Dear Commenter, that it wasn’t Hitler who warned us against Hitler? Pianka offers a view that environmental irresponsibility carries a heavy price and kills billions of humans. You chastise him. Why? Do you not want anyone to be aware of the dangers?

    Whose side are you on? Certainly you’re no friend to the 90% of humans who might be willing to be warned in order to mitigate some of the damage.

    There are those who mocked Churchill and Roosevelt for warning of the dangers of totalitarianism. They would join in the mocking of Pianka, for the same “good” reasons, I am sure. Their descendants already have.

  72. #72 Rey
    April 7, 2006

    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.

    Oh no, it’s the Judas Priest trial all over again!

    I think someone’s just fucking with him.

    I don’t need to participate in any more arguments about whether Pianka’s ideas are legitimate and or not, and we should off half of our population or whether every human is special. The salient issue for me is that we have one person actively smearing Pianka, and another who has apparently reported him to the feds for Thoughtcrime. That’s what stinks to me.

    That, and how they always raise a stink about “impressionable youth”. So goddamned make them less impressionable. None of the people who mention impressionable youth ever say anything about teaching critical thinking skills. They always just whine about the sources of “bad ideas”. Says a lot.

  73. #73 HP
    April 7, 2006

    Oh, and I almost forgot:

    It’s important to point out that if PZ had said those things about Ward Churchill that tjswift likes to imagine are just the sort of things that PZ would say, then in fact those would have been the sorts of things that PZ had said, if in fact he had.

  74. #74 Great White Wonder
    April 7, 2006

    Oh no, it’s the Judas Priest trial all over again!

    Funny you should mention that.

    I played Pianka’s speech backwards and he says, “Satan is really lord, miss him, miss him, miss him, sweet marijuana.”

  75. #75 Rey
    April 7, 2006

    Brilliant! I was pondering that at work the other day as a counter to anyone who disses on scientists for “believing” the Piltdown Man or some such hoaxy thing. “Well, you guys believed in subliminal messages recorded backwards in rock albums. Dumbass.”

  76. #76 Caledonian
    April 7, 2006

    And why is it implied that being impressionable is a weakness? Not changing one’s impressions, no matter what, is not exactly what I consider to be a form of mental health. Quite the opposite.

  77. #77 kathryn from Sunnyvale
    April 7, 2006

    I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the UD moderator’s comment on PZ’s trackback coverage of the death threats:

    “PZ is just jealous that another biologist, an overnight sensation no less, got a more militant reputation than Meyers’ own. Evidently Church Burning isn’t good enough anymore. Should we change their affectionate nick from Church Burners to Earth Scorchers in honor of Dr. “Doom” Pianka? -ds
    Trackback by Pharyngula — April 3, 2006 @ 11:25 am “

    OK, so this comment is talking about two actions- “church burning” and “earth scorching,” and two people- Dr. M and Dr. P. As Dr. P is being linked with earth scorching, then church burning is what- associated with Dr. M.? Has Dr. M just been deposed as the leader of the militant biologists because the Assn. of Mil.Bio. was previously only working on church burning? When biologists are talking about “bunsen burners” are they using some kind of Assn.Mil.Bio. code that only the people at UD know about?

    Is there another way to parse this UM moderator’s comment?

    Given that WD has admitted to phoning in a poison-pen letter (ref: WWI- sending in letters to the gov’t to accuse one’s neighbors of wrongdoing), I’d like to understand their motivations. Does WD think that this moderator’s comment about church burning reflects well on him?

  78. #78 Laura
    April 7, 2006

    Natureselected me wrote:

    So he’s just against feeding us and the rest of the world in favor of Bison. I guess that means he’s not anti-human, just pro-bison. Dr. Pianka should be subsistence farming in a third world country somewhere. Then he’ll know what miserable means. He won’t enjoy being fat or apathetic either.

    I just have to respond to this because I don’t feel that Pianka was pro-bison and anti-human I think it has more to do with how we killed the bison to starve the Indians so we could take the land. Not only that we wiped out a species of animal but we tried to wipe out an entire race of people. As far as I’m concerned I don’t think either is a good thing. So as far as saying he doesn’t know what miserable means I think we need to examine the bigger picture. Taking care of the planet and its lifeforms benefits everyone not just the bison.

  79. #79 PZ Myers
    April 7, 2006

    Hey, if Forrest Mims can accuse Pianka of plotting to murder 5 billion people, I guess DaveScot can accuse me of burning churches. It’s a reflection of the creationist approach to Truth.

  80. #80 kathryn from Sunnyvale
    April 7, 2006

    Well, yes, exactly- it seems as if DS is accusing you of burning churches, unless “burning churches” is UD code for, what, criticizing church doctrine? It seems to me there exists a mindset in which DS’s comment makes sense and is acceptable to WD himself. I do not understand that mindset: perhaps I have not spent enough time on UD, having been mostly reading their Piankas threads.

    Anyways, wouldn’t it be the association of Militant Civil Engineers who’d be going after churches? The Assn of Mil.Bio. folks would be sneaking teams of skilled fossil forgers into Cananda in order to build fake fossils with which to test the faithful.

  81. #81 Azkyroth
    April 7, 2006

    However, since you apparently believe that criticizing a person’s opinion is equivalent to denying his right to express it -Azkyroth

    Can you explain your logic in coming to this conclusion? -PaulC

    The fact that you responded to criticism of what Pianka chose to use his freedom of speech and conscience to express with an assertion that he has the right to do so. The logical interpretation is that this is intended as a rebuttal (or rebuke) of the criticism in question, and if there’s a better explanation for the idea that such a response was a relevant criticism than the attitude I described, I’m happy to hear it.

    Over the years, I’ve become quite tired of trying to explain to grown adults that “allowed” != “right” (as a blanket term that includes desirable, justified, etc). If this isn’t a case of confusion on this point, I apologize; call it a pattern-matching error.

    Leave it to the PZ’s of academia to defend the likes of Pianka. -tiswift

    I guess if spines and consciences have to be concentrated in one place, academia’s as good as any. But as you can see from the comments here, they aren’t.

    While it would not astonish me in the least to learn that Meyers had issued an equally ill considered defense for Ward Churchill, I can see where Pianka might hold an especally warm spot in his heart. -tiswift

    I’m not going to respond to this without looking up Ward Churchill first. It rings a bell, but I can’t place it. And since I know virtually nothing about that particular topic I’m not going to shoot my mouth off about it. You Creationists and Apologists in the audience should be taking notes.

    After all, given enough time people of Meyer’s ilk will almost inevitably learn that misanthropy is the final destination of the dedicated secular humanist. -tiswift

    Translation: “Misanthropy is the final destination of people following an ideology that celebrates human freedom, dignity, accomplishments, and potential in this life, and eschews the attitude that humans are worthless, inferior, depraved, and incapable of anything good without supernatural influence.”

    ….

    I’m almost tempted to report tiswift on suspicion of substance abuse. Seriously. That is the dumbest assertion I’ve heard since “There is no evidence for evolution, just a bunch of bones!” Both can be refuted simply by reading them, and are likely to be greeted with ridicule on their own merits, and extreme skepticism about the assertion that any human being actually said anything so profoundly idiotic.

    And meanwhile, I guess we’re supposed to believe that a religion that postulates that humans are inherently so evil and worthless that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” before God offers a much more compelling reason to believe in and value humankind.

    After all, when one firmly believes, as Meyers does, that the human experience is all there is to measure against the wonder of the Cosmos one is bound to be dissapointed and depressed. -tiswift

    What?! I’m bound to be disappointed and depressed?! Why didn’t someone tell me?! And to think, all this time I’ve been living a meaningful, reasonably happy existence with a loving family, a deep concern for justice and sense of compassion for all humanity and all life, and reverent awe at the aforementioned Cosmos.

    Seriously. What’s depressing about that? Perhaps you would find it so. Perhaps the scale and majesty of the Cosmos so completely overwhelms you that you feel the need to conjure up a being on your side, to balance out the scale of the Cosmos. One who is omnipotent and omniscient, and hence rules the Cosmos. In other words, perhaps your idea of God is a self-delusion you’ve created so that you can take comfort in saying to yourself:

    I am however surprised that Meyers finds fault with Mim’s strongly worded, uncompromising position..I thought that’s the sort of thing he appreciated.

    His position is not strongly worded and uncompromising. On the contrary, he’s compromised his credibility with the percentage of his audience capable of rational thought, his journalistic integrity, and his public reputation just so he can smear a big meaniehead scientist.

    Poor, pitiful little man.b -tiswift

    I concur. *pats tiswift soothingly on the head* There, there…

  82. #82 AD
    April 7, 2006

    I CANNOT BELIEVE DAVE SCOT SAID THIS:

    “Biologist Church Burning isn’t good enough anymore. Should we change to Earth Scorchers?”

    It is nice to see them admit to the fact that they burn the churches which allow biologists to attend, and are now planning to begin to destroy our communities if they even dare to allow scientists in them.

    It is this sort of genocidal, sadistic, sick behavior that makes me sure these people represent a clear and present danger to everyone in the entire world. I cannot believe Dave Scot is advocating such repugnant violence against religion.

    I think I should report Dave Scot to the government.

  83. #83 george cauldron
    April 7, 2006

    I CANNOT BELIEVE DAVE SCOT SAID THIS:

    “Biologist Church Burning isn’t good enough anymore. Should we change to Earth Scorchers?”

    That’s nothing. DaveScot, or, as we like to call him, ‘DaveTard’, just recently called the people at PT’s ‘After the Bar Closes’ thread ‘Ebola Boys’.

    I mean, can you blame him? It’s not like he has any good news to report in the whole ID business. Plus, I think Tiktaalik kind of put him in a bad mood this week. He’s trying hard not to talk about science anymore.

  84. #84 Graculus
    April 7, 2006

    He’s trying hard not to talk about science anymore.

    Did he ever?

  85. #85 Azkyroth
    April 7, 2006

    Seriously. What’s depressing about that? Perhaps you would find it so. Perhaps the scale and majesty of the Cosmos so completely overwhelms you that you feel the need to conjure up a being on your side, to balance out the scale of the Cosmos. One who is omnipotent and omniscient, and hence rules the Cosmos. In other words, perhaps your idea of God is a self-delusion you’ve created so that you can take comfort in saying to yourself:

    Mine’s bigger.

    Damn it anyway, it showed up in the preview, I’m sure…

  86. #86 Bill
    April 7, 2006

                     \|||/
                   (o o)
    ,—-ooO–(_)——-.
    |  Please                     |
    |      don’t feed the   |
    |            TROLLs !          |
    ‘————–Ooo–‘
                   |__|__|
                     || ||
                   ooO  Ooo

  87. #87 Azkyroth
    April 7, 2006

    Please don’t feed the trolls! -Bill

    Relax, I’m just fattening them up for the slaughter ^.^

  88. #88 SteveyD
    April 8, 2006

    So Dr. Pianka and Forrest Mims are standing on a street corner. A man runs across the street.

    Dr P: “Geez, if people keep running across the street like that, they’re going to get hit by a bus or something!”
    Mims: “Oh my God, you just threatened to push me in front of a bus! Guys, this guy tried to kill me just now!”
    Dr P: “Wait, what?”
    Dembski: “No, I heard it! You wanted to push him in front of a bus! I’m calling the cops!”
    (Somewhere DaveScot says “Me too! Me too!”)
    Ignorant Bystander: “That guy wanted to push you into a bus? I think we should push him in front of a bus instead!”
    Intelligent Bystander: “That’s not at all what he said. He was just pointing out the potential dangers in running accross the street.”
    Mims: “I know what I heard! It’s not like you have a recording to disprove it anyway! And I saw you nod your head in agreement when he said he wanted to push me in front of a bus! I bet it’s some manner of conspiracy!”
    Intelligent Bystander: “Dude, you’re totally making this all up. He didn’t say that, I actually did record it and can play it all back. You should just shut up now and stop acting like a fool.”
    Mims: “Are you calling me a liar?! That’s slander! How dare you slander my good name! I will sue you!”

    Sigh… It’d be pretty funny if it weren’t so damn serious and a little microcosm of what science and reason are facing in general today. I don’t know how this little story will end but I hope it goes something like…

    Mims: “Fine! You all just want me to die, don’t you! There’s a conspiracy against me that lost my lawsuit and then countersued me, which I also then lost, and my respectable (*crowd laughs*) name has been slandered and dragged through the mud! You evil biologists have won this round, but someday Jesus will come back to push every one of you in front of a bus!”

  89. #89 SteveyD
    April 8, 2006

    Also, in the story, the governor and his aide were walking by:
    Aide: “Wow, some scientist wanted to push a guy in front of a bus. You know, Hitler used to push people in front of buses. The similarity is shocking!”
    Guv: “As this is an election year, I’m generally opposed to pushing people in front of buses. Vote for me.”

  90. #90 kathryn from Sunnyvale
    April 8, 2006

    perhaps also in the story:
    Bystander M: “You’ve been known to exaggerate stories before.”
    WD’s Moderator:”You’re just jealous that this bystander has a more militant reputation. Evidently forcing people to the back of the bus isn’t good enough anymore. Should we change their affectionate nick from Back seat pushers to Front of the bus Pushers?”

  91. #91 Jonathan Badger
    April 8, 2006

    I don’t think the issue any more is whether environmental disasters are going to continue to increase in frequency and magnitude. It’s whether we do something about them, and that’s an issue that I don’t mind people having some passion about.
    Scientists are usually somewhat passionate people; after all, in a world where wealth is considered to be the goal, these people put that aside to do science. They’re trained, when presenting science, to be reasonable in a way most people never are, but I think it wouldn’t hurt to see a little more of that passion released when talking about policy or science.

    Hey, I’m a microbiologist myself and I suppose I’m “passionate” about my work, but I wouldn’t say that overuse of antibiotics is “evil, evil” (as Pianka said about cutting down trees) — I’d just give a calm, reasoned explanation, with data, that would explain why overuse of antibiotics leads to increased resistance, and why that would be a bad thing for members of the audience. Similarly, a reasoned defense of saving the environment can be made that explains why things like climate change and extinction of species would also be a bad thing for members of the audience. Pianka didn’t make such a defense, but made an embarrassing rant that was practically a parody of the hippie treehugger stereotype. While it certainly doesn’t justify Mims exaggeration of Pianka’s views, it wasn’t as if Pianka actually presented any meaningful results if the transcripts give anything to go by.

  92. #92 Ian H Spedding
    April 8, 2006

    Craig Pennington wrote:

    It’s a great word. mumpsimus: A peson who persists in error.

    What a wonderful word! We can have arguments now about the correct plural and collective nouns. For example, is the Discovery Institute a muddle of mumpsimi?

  93. #93 PaulC
    April 8, 2006

    Azkyroth:

    The logical interpretation is that this is intended as a rebuttal (or rebuke) of the criticism in question, and if there’s a better explanation for the idea that such a response was a relevant criticism than the attitude I described, I’m happy to hear it.

    I don’t see this leap as very logical. Why not take my words at face value? I asked Jonathan Badger what his point was in commenting that Pianka was not thinking scientifically. It might be logical to conclude that I failed to see why that was relevant to the issue at hand, namely Pianka being slandered and subjected to FBI interviews. If “not thinking scientifically” is grounds for friendly visits from the feds, then Homeland Security is terribly underfunded. They’d have much less work if they focused on people who do think scientifically (oops, I don’t want give anyone ideas).

    Nowhere did I suggest that Badger wanted to deny Pianka his constitutional rights, since Badger gave me nothing to suggest this. If you read my followup, I did respond to Badger’s point once he stated it explicitly.

    But what I fail to understand is why, when Pianka has been harassed for doing something well within his rights, that anyone would turn their criticism to their disagreements with Pianka rather than the legally significant matter of his harassment. I don’t think Badger or anyone here wants to suppress any form of protected expression, so why become an ally of opportunity with those who clearly do wish to deny Pianka his constitutional rights?

  94. #94 NatureSelectedMe
    April 8, 2006

    Laura Wrote: Not only that we wiped out a species of animal but we tried to wipe out an entire race of people. As far as I’m concerned I don’t think either is a good thing.

    I agree; although the bison weren’t wipe out either. There’s still a few left in Yellowstone. And “we” didn’t do anything, unless there’s some pretty old readers to this blog. Our ancestors sometimes did terrible things for sure.

  95. #95 RSG
    April 9, 2006

    There are lots of bison around now. You can buy bison meat in many stores, along with ostrich, etc. They were very near extinction, but Charlie Goodnight saved a small herd just before the turn of the last century, and they were eventually exported all over the country, including Yellowstone.

    That doesn’t change the fact that Americans of European descent did everything they could to kill them all. The bison population was reduced to around 100 total, and for purely short-term economic reasons. Anyone who can claim, with a straight face, that this was a good thing is an absolute idiot.

  96. #96 PaulC
    April 10, 2006

    Even if we restored the bison population and habitat to its original levels, we’ve clearly reduced their genetic diversity. Animals also have behavioral traits that are not passed genetically. Maybe a population of released bison will easily learn to live in the wild, but they are not equivalent to their ancestors. Basically, there is no way to turn back the clock on the destruction that has occurred.

    I also agree with the point above that even if you could restore things back to how they were, it doesn’t change the fact of our irresponsible behavior.

  97. #97 Laura
    April 11, 2006

    I am sorry I mistated when I used the word “we” I realize it was our ancestors that caused the destruction not any of us here. My point is just that it is so easy to ignore the consequences to the planet which is our livlihood. Human intervention has caused lots of problems over the years that harmed humans.Ex. Mad Cow disease we feed cows (which are naturally vegetarians) cow and they develop the disease. Again the goal was fatter cows but farmers ignored of the risks to humans it might cause. I don’t believe animals are more important than humans just that society needs to try to learn to live with nature not against it.

  98. #98 P. Edward Murray
    April 12, 2006

    I can tell some of you folks are not that old. I do remember Mimms from his Scientific American days and he did indeed write more than 1 column, he wrote a heck of a long time for Scientific American.

    I do not personally know him and I cannot write about his views on creation and none of you have expounded on them or even provided some url’s.

    So, I am left with really wondering if this is very one sided.

    It sure seems to be.

  99. #99 P. Edward Murray
    April 13, 2006

    At any rate, Dr. Myers did say that Pianka was “eccentric”.
    That one word should be enough to speak volumes but I guess it does not.

    Personally, there are times I am glad I do not have a PhD because it seems that those letters sometimes get in the way of just plain old everyday common sense.

    Have a little tolerance, will you please?

    Because, like it or not, many important scientific
    discoveries were made not just by non-religious scientists but by Catholic Monks & Priests who BTW just happen to have been Scientists too.

    Being that this is Holy Week, I will endeavor to remmeber all of you in my prayers.

    Sincerely,

    P. Edward Murray
    Member & Past President,
    Bucks-Mont. Astronomical Assoc., Inc.
    A 501(c) 3 Non-Profit Educational Assoc.

  100. #100 Peter Barber
    April 13, 2006

    P. Edward Murray wrote:

    At any rate, Dr. Myers did say that Pianka was “eccentric”. That one word should be enough to speak volumes but I guess it does not.

    I’m afraid it doesn’t – to me anyway – except “Myers thinks Pianka is eccentric”. Many scientists are eccentric; many non-scientists are also eccentric. Any individual’s eccentricity may be good, bad or irrelevant depending on the species of eccentricity. Your point is…?

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