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April 2, 2006 10:29 AM   Subscribe

Mad Scientist calls for destruction of 9/10 of Earth's population. Texas Academy of Science's 2006 Distinguished Scientist Recipient (pdf) Eric R. Pianka received a standing ovation after he advocated a man-made pandemic to reduce the human population. (via linkfilter)
posted by Baby_Balrog (131 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
So as not to be labeled a hypocrite, the man has already prepared his own obituary.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 10:29 AM on April 2, 2006


Twelve Monkeys, anyone?
posted by hangashore at 10:34 AM on April 2, 2006


Yet again, I'm reminded of The Winnowing (.rtf) by Isaac Asimov.
posted by Gator at 10:39 AM on April 2, 2006


Biology has a long and nasty history of misanthropism and worse.
posted by docgonzo at 10:40 AM on April 2, 2006


I was highly incredulous, but the article was apparently written by Forrest M. Mimms, electrical engineer extrordinare.
posted by phrontist at 10:45 AM on April 2, 2006


Earth is in no danger. Earth is going to be fine.

If a time comes when Earth can no longer sustain the human race, then the human race will die off, and Earth will, over millennia, repair the damage done.

When ecologists say things like "Earth is in danger," they really mean "Earth, as a place where humanity can live and thrive, is in danger". People who dismass ecologists as tree-huggers miss the point that those who fight for the preservation of coral reefs and rainforests are really fighting for the lives of all humans.

This guy Pianka is really missing the point.
posted by barjo at 10:46 AM on April 2, 2006


Excerpts from Student Evaluations
----------------------------------

"This was the most fulfilling class I have had in UT yet. They should make it mandatory!"

"I didn't ever want the last day of class to come. This course has been more valuable to my education and to my life in general than probably any other class at UT."

"One of the most difficult courses I have taken, but also one of the most interesting. I disliked Dr. Pianka at first but he is a dang good teacher that believes in what he teaches. And that makes all the difference."

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

"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."
posted by insomnia_lj at 10:47 AM on April 2, 2006


I would be a little concerned about miscalculating with your pandemic and wiping out the whole population.
posted by smackfu at 10:47 AM on April 2, 2006


Uh, his page for potential graduate students includes what I beleive is a picture of someone being eaten by a snake...
posted by phrontist at 10:48 AM on April 2, 2006


So, now two villages in Texas are missing their idiots?
posted by owalt1 at 10:49 AM on April 2, 2006


April Fools!

Right? right?
posted by funambulist at 10:56 AM on April 2, 2006


If we let this happen, then the lizards will have won!

Anyway, surely others recognized "The Mark of Gideon".
posted by dhartung at 10:57 AM on April 2, 2006


All of which goes to show that logical people can be more dangerous than crazy ones.
posted by athenian at 10:59 AM on April 2, 2006


As long as they let George W. pick which 9/10 gets to stay. Right?
posted by JWright at 11:07 AM on April 2, 2006


funambulist: I was hoping so - I wanted it to be a joke and if it was I wouldn't have posted it...
unfortunately, I think this guy is for real.

Can't wait for the religious right to run this one up the flagpole.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 11:07 AM on April 2, 2006


Can't he advocate something less nasty than ebola?
posted by p3on at 11:08 AM on April 2, 2006


Here we go.
The planet will be here for a long, long, LONG time after we're gone, and it will heal itself, it will cleanse itself, 'cause that's what it does. It's a self-correcting system. The air and the water will recover, the earth will be renewed, and if it's true that plastic is not degradable, well, the planet will simply incorporate plastic into a new pardigm: the earth plus plastic. The earth doesn't share our prejudice towards plastic. Plastic came out of the earth. The earth probably sees plastic as just another one of its children. Could be the only reason the earth allowed us to be spawned from it in the first place. It wanted plastic for itself. Didn't know how to make it. Needed us. Could be the answer to our age-old egocentric philosophical question, "Why are we here?" Plastic...asshole.
--George Carlin
posted by nickerbocker at 11:09 AM on April 2, 2006


If he was serious, he'd off himself first. Publicly.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:10 AM on April 2, 2006


It would have been awesome if he capped himself at the end of the speech, right after casually mentioning he just released this ebola in the auditorium.
posted by phrontist at 11:11 AM on April 2, 2006


No totally impossible, but "they" would design it to control "other" pupulations, while inoculating "their people".
posted by jeffburdges at 11:12 AM on April 2, 2006



On the one hand, as a teacher I know that what students hear is not always exactly what I've said, so perhaps there's more to the argument than what we're hearing from the Amateur Scientist report and that one student evaluation.

On the other hand, reminds me of Atwood's Oryx and Crake.
posted by girandole at 11:18 AM on April 2, 2006


probably he should be the first to suicide to save the earth
posted by matthewchen at 11:22 AM on April 2, 2006


Is solicitation of murder a crime in Texas?
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 11:24 AM on April 2, 2006


(via Drudge)
posted by trinarian at 11:29 AM on April 2, 2006


Mad Cow Disease would be a good choice, except it doesn't sterilize its victims, and the incubation period is so long (the latter being what might allow it to infect so much of the population). Realistically, I think we'll have to wait for The Machines to do us in, proper-like.
posted by unmake at 11:35 AM on April 2, 2006


Uh, his page for potential graduate students includes what I beleive is a picture of someone being eaten by a snake...
posted by phrontist at 10:48 AM PST on April 2 [!]


I want these motherfucking sna... oh nevermind.
posted by ninjew at 11:38 AM on April 2, 2006


Oi vey. As if scientists in the US and around the world didn't already have an image problem in the minds of the general public. Bad enough this guy should advocate this - but the applause from the audience is appalling.
posted by Zinger at 11:50 AM on April 2, 2006


advocated for the extermination of 90 percent of the human species in a most horrible and painful manner.

That's interesting. We shouldn't just all die, but we should die in the worst way possible.

But ebola? Surely he could do better than that. He's highly educated, after all. Get creative!
posted by fungible at 11:52 AM on April 2, 2006


Pre-war crime?
posted by blue_beetle at 11:54 AM on April 2, 2006


Yeah, all these people ought to have a talk with Ian Malcolm. You know, that speech he made towards the end of Jurassic Park when he was all delirious from the gangrene? "Let's be clear. The planet is not in jeopardy. We are in jeopardy. We haven't got the power to destroy the planet -- or to save it. But we might have the power to save ourselves."
posted by Gator at 11:55 AM on April 2, 2006


Can't wait for the religious right to run this one up the flagpole.

Yeah, that's our rapture there, buddy.
posted by dreamsign at 11:59 AM on April 2, 2006


Ok, so it's not a joke...

Now I'm wondering, perhaps, could it be it was deliberate provocation? or, at least, that those who applauded took it as provocation, even if he really means it? I really find it hard to believe they could all be that nuts.
posted by funambulist at 12:03 PM on April 2, 2006


Holy crap. I work in this guy's building.

I'll let you know if I come down with anything.
posted by blendor at 12:08 PM on April 2, 2006


Heh, you should make a big, showy production of breaking out the hand sanitizer every time you see him from now on.
posted by Gator at 12:11 PM on April 2, 2006


How about we just kill everyone from Texas?
posted by j-urb at 12:22 PM on April 2, 2006


The ultimate liberal
posted by HTuttle at 12:23 PM on April 2, 2006


And my family calls me crazy for building that bunker and stockpiling it with food, weapons, and a HEPA filter.
posted by mrmojoflying at 12:30 PM on April 2, 2006


Oddly enough, if you learned electronics through Radio Shack, you known Forrest Mims work, most likely.
And also oddly enough, I also went to college and hung around with Eric Pianka's daughter.
posted by plinth at 12:38 PM on April 2, 2006


What I don't get: if you don't value human life, which is the thing most people care about most (their own at the very least), why should you value anything else people care about - in this case, the earth?
posted by fleetmouse at 12:45 PM on April 2, 2006


Is this guy aware of the Earth operating instructions already inscribed here?
posted by hortense at 12:52 PM on April 2, 2006


This is outrageous enough, but seeing childhood hero Forrest M. Mims' name as the protagonist in this tale makes me berserker-enraged!!!
Lets get em Forrest!
posted by ernie at 1:01 PM on April 2, 2006


Nice to see Whitley Strieber's Nature's End getting some press time - the Depopulationist Manifesto in action.
posted by FormlessOne at 1:50 PM on April 2, 2006


From:
Is this guy aware of the Earth operating instructions already inscribed here?

7. Avoid petty laws and useless officials.

I keep trying, but they make more laws and end up following me about.


For the people who are 'shocked' at the statement, do disagree with the idea that the planet is overpopulated? Or just think that you wouldn't make the 10% cut?
posted by rough ashlar at 1:53 PM on April 2, 2006


Now I'm wondering, perhaps, could it be it was deliberate provocation?

I really can't imagine why anyone would assume it wasn't a deliberate provocation. Provoking his students into thinking for themselves is among the things his web page claims that he does.

"In his last e-mail, Pianka wrote that I completely fail to understand his arguments."

I don't know what else Pianka said, but I suspect he's right about at least that.
posted by sfenders at 1:59 PM on April 2, 2006


This guy is so getting his phones tapped.
posted by brain_drain at 2:00 PM on April 2, 2006


rough, I don't believe that the planet is overpopulated, just that a relatively small percentage of that population leads a lifestyle that's tremendously demanding in terms of natural resources. Combine that with the 'As things get better, more people will live like us' meme, and you have a system that's headed for a train wreck.

So I suppose it's not about the population per se, just the demands of the lifestyle we seem to think everyone should have.
posted by verb at 2:03 PM on April 2, 2006


I don't think he is advocating this (as in ecoterrorism), but speaking provacatively so as to gain the attention of the yokels. If Mims' article is any indication, it worked.
posted by ackptui at 2:14 PM on April 2, 2006


Is this guy aware of the Earth operating instructions already inscribed here?

This thing is a few minutes drive from my house, and I hear about it here of all places? I love this place!

Looks like I'll be taking a field trip next weekend...
posted by ewagoner at 2:16 PM on April 2, 2006


Forrest Mims is: A highly respected 'amateur' scientist; the editor of 'Citizen Scientist', the website on which this article appears; a creationist.
Someone's been 'editing' his wikipedia page today..
posted by unmake at 2:18 PM on April 2, 2006


rough, I don't believe that the planet is overpopulated, just that a relatively small percentage of that population leads a lifestyle that's tremendously demanding in terms of natural resources.

Ok, so...how do you propose for humanity to reach an equal footing, resource consumption wise?
posted by rough ashlar at 2:18 PM on April 2, 2006


Unfortunately without a transcript or recording of Dr. Pianka’s speech the reader is left with only Forrest Mims’ anecdotal retelling. Was Pianka’s speech tongue-in-cheek or an exploratory “thought process” or was it open to some other interpretation – Mims doesn’t say.

Perhaps Pianka is a cynical misanthrope – he certainly wouldn’t be the first. Regardless Mims retelling has a tinge of alarmism that just seems out of proportion to the context. Pianka is not the first person to advocate population reduction nor will he be the last.

Also, Mims should make public his email correspondences with Pianka – the fact that he hasn’t displays an unwillingness for 100% transparency on his part.
posted by wfrgms at 2:21 PM on April 2, 2006


Does that mean me too?
posted by disgruntled at 2:25 PM on April 2, 2006


A non-wing-nut link about the Georgia Guidestones.
posted by MikeKD at 2:34 PM on April 2, 2006


Though I'm sure it is possible, electrical engineer and broad abstract thinker are not both characteristics that usually inhabit the same human. I too enjoyed Mims'articles on building electronic gadgets twenty years ago, but it sounds like he is getting old and his ideas are starting to fossilize.
posted by ackptui at 2:35 PM on April 2, 2006


This is pretty cool, though.
posted by disgruntled at 2:37 PM on April 2, 2006


For the people who are 'shocked' at the statement, do disagree with the idea that the planet is overpopulated? Or just think that you wouldn't make the 10% cut?

"overpopulation" is obviously a subjective term, because it claims population is "over" an ideal threshold. but it is up to us to determine what that number is. This person apparently believes it is what the population was in the 1600s, and that we have been overpopulated since then.

But why? What makes it overpopulated? Is it that we cannot survive at this population, and thus people are suffering and dying? Well, no, obviously not, because he's advocating (presuming the story is true) the painful death of 90% of the population - if the problem is that a (much smaller) percentage of the population is dying, he wouldn't suggest the solution is to kill more people. So what else is the problem? that we can't sustain a lifestyle we like? This would mean that he would advocate killing people in order to make life more comfortable for the remaining 10%. But this also doesn't really make sense, because I expect the top 10% are pretty happy with what they have, and the remaining 90% would prefer to have what they have than to die of the ebola virus.

Basically, he has to explain precisely what the problem is (not the concept of "overpopulation" but the concrete particulars) and why this action would solve it. As it is, it just sounds stupid (before you even get to the elitist problem)
posted by mdn at 2:44 PM on April 2, 2006


For the people who are 'shocked' at the statement, do disagree with the idea that the planet is overpopulated? Or just think that you wouldn't make the 10% cut?
posted by rough ashlar at 4:53 PM EST on April 2 [!]


Actually, I just object to killing large numbers of people who haven't done anything wrong. I'd also point out that most of the people are more likely to survive the cut; affluent educated people have access to better healthcare, and therefore have a better than average chance of surviving an epidemic. It's the poor that tend to bear the brunt of an plague.
posted by unreason at 2:49 PM on April 2, 2006


Also, Mims should make public his email correspondences with Pianka – the fact that he hasn’t displays an unwillingness for 100% transparency on his part.

Or perhaps some respect for someone else's privacy. It's one thing to report on a public speech, quite another to publish private email.
posted by jb at 2:53 PM on April 2, 2006


sorry, that should have read "most of the people here are more likely", ie mefi'ers.
posted by unreason at 2:54 PM on April 2, 2006


Ok, so...how do you propose for humanity to reach an equal footing, resource consumption wise?

Humanity is going to have to choose to do something, whether that's choosing to lay off with the rabid reproducing or choosing to redistribute resources or whatever. This presents problems, but so too does puffing deadly airborne virii onto people who haven't chosen to voluntarily off themselves for the good of the planet.
posted by Gator at 2:59 PM on April 2, 2006


Can someone explain to me how airborne ebola would just stop killing people after it kills 90% of us? Because it seems to me his preferred method of wiping out 9/10 of the population would probably just wind up killing us all.

What a great scientist. He's quoting science! I bet Josh approves. Yadda yadda....
posted by Effigy2000 at 2:59 PM on April 2, 2006


Some people survive Ebola.

I may be remembering wrong, but I thought it was through an experimental vaccine made from the blood of survivors that the last outbreak of Ebola was halted.
posted by jb at 3:01 PM on April 2, 2006


Most scientists are, at a minimum, liberals, although it is by no means obvious why this should be so. Despite the fact that all of the molecular biologists of my acquaintance are shareholders in or advisers to biotechnology firms, the chief political controversy in the scientific community seems to be whether it is wise to vote for Ralph Nader this time.

- Richard C. Lewontin
I don't discount this story outright, but let me just say that it deeply conflicts with my own experience with the people in this field and their attitudes and sociopolitical worldview. That they would stand in unison to applaud this as a serious suggestion, strains plausibility. In fact it sounds an awful lot like the kind of viewpoint that rightwing propagandists tend to imply that typical liberals and scientists/journalists/academics/Democrats "really believe". So let's establish the credibility of the source first.
posted by dgaicun at 3:04 PM on April 2, 2006


Well, if the speaker had really meant it, the audience wouldn't be applauding but running for the doors. Sorry my html skillz are non-existent, but google this and you'll understand:
James Tiptree The Last Flight of Dr. Ain
posted by Bron at 3:12 PM on April 2, 2006


A slightly more substantial summary of some of Pianka's thinking here:

"If humans do not control their own population (and we seem unwilling and unable to do so), then other forces will certainly act to control our population. The four horseman of the apocalypse (conquest, war, famine, and death) are all candidates. Most likely, lethal virulent microbes like HIV and Ebola zaire will set limits on the growth of human populations."

I imagine that the idea of hoping for a population-reducing plague of horrible death is probably that since we're doomed anyway, it would be preferable to get the crash over with before we all die by some more environmentally-destructive method. It's not hard to imagine being so pessimistic about the future that it looks better than the other likely outcomes. The human population has to start decreasing eventually, in pretty much the same way it does for any other population that expands beyond the limits of its environment. It happens all the time, you know.

I think it more likely we'll be in for mass starvation on an unprecedented scale. With plenty of disease and war as well, of course. Hopefully not in my lifetime.
posted by sfenders at 3:20 PM on April 2, 2006


The four horseman of the apocalypse (conquest, war, famine, and death)

Huh? What happened to pestilence?
posted by Gator at 3:21 PM on April 2, 2006


And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.

Apparently, the black horse is "famine, pestilence, and earthquakes". Consult your local expert on biblical prophecy.
posted by sfenders at 3:38 PM on April 2, 2006


Why not the top 90% of consumers?
To be honest, something better than a degenerative virus would be preferable, but I can understand the optimism. So what if the last 10% get destroyed too?
posted by NinjaPirate at 3:41 PM on April 2, 2006


also
"The four horseman of the apocalypse (conquest, war, famine, and death)"
yeah, where did that come from? "Conquest" as harbinger of apocalypse seems a little unfair as implies that some side wins.

And, as I recall, they don't.
posted by NinjaPirate at 3:43 PM on April 2, 2006


The prof is just being provocative. The 99% of biologists that didn't go to christian universities realize that ALL of the obstacles to the human population's long term sustainablity, war, disease, pollution, etc. all stem in large part to overpopulation. With fast cheap international travel, weapons of mass destruction, permanent man-made changes to our environment most population biologists realize that we have crossed a point of no return.

It will take a dramatic population control program to avoid people succombing to pandemic and war. This means family planning services in the schools, no more tax credits per number of children, no more propagating your religion by having 10 children. The u.s. government and the church aren't going to allow it.

Of course, we already are seeing the effects of all the problems of over population, and real people are dying in large numbers and it doesn't seem to matter to the people who make policy.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 3:47 PM on April 2, 2006


Pick your poison. Population crash is old news for biologists. If we don't self regulate, nature will. I'm more for one child per couple than lot's of people dying from cause X. Despite the human rights implications, China has it right on this one.

That is unless you believe we will never run out of resources or that Jesus is coming anyways.
posted by dibblda at 3:56 PM on April 2, 2006


“We're no better than bacteria!”

This kind of statement always gets me. Granted, humanity should have a healthy dose of humility and we shouldn't be wrecking the joint for our own selfish needs. However to say we're no better than bacteria is absurd.

"I think IQs are falling for the same reason, too."

He's never heard of the Flynn effect?

He spoke glowingly of the police state in China that enforces their one-child policy.

Without any acknowledgement of the potential demographic disaster that policy has created, with more male babies allowed to live than female babies...
posted by Zinger at 4:02 PM on April 2, 2006


i propose, albeit modestly, that we eat our own children. Far more effective.
posted by muthecow at 4:14 PM on April 2, 2006


Drrrrrrrripping with sauce!
posted by Gator at 4:16 PM on April 2, 2006


Although easy to demonstrate in laboratory conditions with monkeys, there has never been a documented case of airborne [Ebola ] transmission in human epidemics.

Looks like he needs to return to the lab...
posted by dash_slot- at 4:20 PM on April 2, 2006


A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends, and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt, will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter.
posted by chrominance at 4:43 PM on April 2, 2006


Without any acknowledgement of the potential demographic disaster that policy has created, with more male babies allowed to live than female babies...

That is not an inevitable end-result of a one-child policy.
posted by dreamsign at 5:33 PM on April 2, 2006


mdn: overpopulation is where there are enough of us to be causing mass extinction due to habitat loss. It's where we are right now. It's in our self-interest to deal with it because, despite what the techno-optimist brigade will tell you, we still depend on the rest of the ecology for our continued well-being and will most likely continue to do so.

Because the human population is currently growing roughly exponentially, there will probably be much less time than most people expect between the first indications of overpopulation that they find personally convincing and the onset of what they then recognize as irreversible damage.

Obviously, that's "irreversible" only from the human point of view. There is of course no doubt that biodiversity will, at some point in the future, equal or exceed the best it's ever been in human experience. The important question from the human-centric point of view is how many of our close relatives will be around to appreciate this is the question.

I was in my late twenties when I first started wrestling with this issue, and it made me very very depressed for several years. Wiping out large numbers of people with some kind of pandemic is no good (it smacks of destroying the village in order to save it). I couldn't advocate killing anybody else off unless I was willing to kill myself as well, and that seemed excessive (after all, I could be wrong, and it would be a shame not to be alive to find out). And yet, the population continues to grow (it's doubled since I was born), forests continue to be stripped, and species continue to disappear at an ever-accelerating rate. What to do?

I eventually settled on pre-emptive sterilization, and got a vasectomy before having any children. So now I can live with a clear conscience, provided I continue to do so in ways that consume less than most of the people around me, for long enough to see what actually happens.

It's my best hope that there will be some threshhold of perceived awfulness that eventually leads most people to do likewise, rather than inflict assorted kinds of harm on other people. But I ain't holding my breath.

It seems to me, now that economic conditions in the rich countries are such that local population growth has slowed or even reversed, that it's time to have a serious look at loosening immigration policy in order to take the pressure off places where population growth remains high. We should also be making the standard rich-world range of contraception methods available for free to anybody anywhere who wants them.

Even so, I expect we're headed over the cliff. Check with you again in fifty years if we're all still around.
posted by flabdablet at 5:44 PM on April 2, 2006


flabdablet: if you read my comment, my point was, what is the outcome of overpopulation? if it is the death of up to 90% of the population, then his solution is no solution - it brings about the identical outcome that the problem brings about. What is the case for his solution?
posted by mdn at 5:49 PM on April 2, 2006


I eventually settled on pre-emptive sterilization, and got a vasectomy before having any children. So now I can live with a clear conscience

Congratulations, now instead of having your own children, who would statistically be more likely to share your same world-improving values of conservation and environmental preservation, the world is inherited by the 16 children of the woman in Alabama, who taught all her children that the rapture is upon us, so Jesus approves of an environmentally destructive lifestyle.

Oops!
posted by dgaicun at 6:07 PM on April 2, 2006


This guy is Gore Vidal's wet dream...check out his "Messiah", and also "Kalki."

People who promote a culture of death, and, as others have noted, love to stick around to promulgate it, are repulsive beyond the telling of it.
posted by 1016 at 6:10 PM on April 2, 2006


I liked the book Galapagos, by Kurt Vonnegut. A 'Flu' spread around the population, making people mildly sick and sterilizing them in the process. Some of mankind ends up shipwrecked on the Galapagos islands and evolves into seals, having never been exposed to the flu.
posted by dibblda at 6:16 PM on April 2, 2006


mdn: I have no knowledge of Pianka beyond what's quoted in TFA, but I've heard similar reasoning before, and it goes like this:

If humanity is to have a prolonged future, it needs to exist in some sort of balance with the rest of the ecology. Humanity is currently doing its best to screw up the ecology to the point where it will become impossible for any large mammal, including a human being, to make a living.

Therefore, the choice we face is not between killing nobody and killing 90% of humanity. The choice is between killing 90% of people now, or allowing the consequences of our present overpopulation to kill 100% of people (along with substantial parts of the remainder of the biosphere) later.

Personally I am not so confident in anybody's ability to project present trends accurately into the future that I could support this position. If you read my comment, you'll notice there's a point in there about destroying the village in order to save it.


dgaicun: As a foster parent, I feel I'm making a contribution on that front as well. ISTM that worldview is one of those things that's more down to nurture than nature.

It also seems to me that my choice to become a foster parent is entirely consistent with my views on immigration.
posted by flabdablet at 6:59 PM on April 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


Just keep poking professer; I think you will find the pandemic you seek right inside there:

posted by caddis at 7:03 PM on April 2, 2006


Once again, that 9/10 of us have to go is something I've been saying for ~20 years; I'm glad at least one old guy with respectable credentials has decided to listen. Kudos! I do disagree with this idea that the sickness and death should be painful: I'd much prefer a more humane method that causes everybody affected to just instantly keel over, a la the genetically manipulated microbe in Vidal's Kalki, which I recently reread for maybe the seventh time

As for me, consider me an unofficial bodhisattva of the Church of Euthanasia. And of course I'm consistent in that I do not procreate -- and I've been thinking of having "Do Not Resuscitate" tattooed across my chest.

Again, I'm glad somebody brought up Gore Vidal's most entertaining "entertainments"; I only read his Messiah twice, the last time in the early '90s, so I don't remember it well enough to recommend it. (Of course I'm only pointing at Amazon so y'all can see the reviews: I ain't no braindead zombie who shills for corporations for free.) But 1016, have you fucking read those books of Vidal's? It's quite clear he scorns Cave and Kalki (and anybody who'd "follow" such doctrines, including me) -- even I could fly a jumbo jet between those lines.
posted by davy at 7:10 PM on April 2, 2006


caddis - the image isn't displayed. Is that a 'log-in to view' site?
posted by dash_slot- at 7:13 PM on April 2, 2006


Without any acknowledgement of the potential demographic disaster that policy has created, with more male babies allowed to live than female babies...

That is not an inevitable end-result of a one-child policy.


In cultures where males are valued more than females - and that's still prevalent in the majority of societies - it is.
posted by Zinger at 7:15 PM on April 2, 2006


dgaicun: As a foster parent, I feel I'm making a contribution on that front as well.

heh. Ok, you sure got me good with that one! Sorry for the snark.
posted by dgaicun at 7:20 PM on April 2, 2006


The most recent Concrete miniseries dealt with this exact issue in an informative and entertaining manner. Preview.
posted by JDC8 at 7:29 PM on April 2, 2006


The whole idea of population control, I thought, was to offer a more humane alternative to a devastating population crash from deadly virus, resource shortage, or other painful cause. When this guy advocates ebola as a *solutution*, something has gone horribly wrong in his brain.

There is research that shows birth rates go down as standard of living goes up, because the monther's time becomes more valuable in the workplace and incentives for having many children go down. I think that this, combined with government incentives such as cutting tax breaks after the first child (not just in the US), would go a long way towards limiting future population.

I'll second Galapagos, good book. If it comes down to it, a painless disease that sterilizes people would get my vote for population control method of choice. The problem becomes deciding who gets the vaccine.
posted by sophist at 7:29 PM on April 2, 2006


PZ Myers has a post on his blog Pharyngula dealing with Mims's piece. Executive summary: Mims is not a credible objective reporter, and his account needs to be supplemented by others.
posted by Creosote at 7:36 PM on April 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


Just keep poking professer; I think you will find the pandemic you seek right inside here.
posted by caddis at 7:49 PM on April 2, 2006


Meanwhile, somewhere in Los Angeles, Jack Bauer is planning to take this guy down.
posted by bwg at 7:54 PM on April 2, 2006


So who wants to help pay for my vasectomy? Yes I'm serious, and no I can't afford to get it done nor can I get it free around here. Just think, you can make sure my descendants won't needlessly pick on Scarabic's!
posted by davy at 7:59 PM on April 2, 2006


Having followed Creosote's link, it looks to me like Mr. Mims is one of those people who has trouble telling the difference between a prediction and a prescription.

There are lots of those.
posted by flabdablet at 8:01 PM on April 2, 2006


Algiers - Hope of rescuing Africa from poverty may vanish like "snow in sunshine" if high oil prices continue, the 53-nation African Union (AU) said on Sunday.

Oil is how 'the green revolution' came about. How will 6 billion+ on the planet keep affording oil VS burning anything to keep warm and how it won't end up like Easter Island or how the Sahara Desert came into existence.

10 years ago the 'slack grain' in world silos was 10 weeks. 3 years ago it it was 2 weeks. (at one time there was a '7 year grainery' to buffer food production)

Present world population VS higher energy prices while the world climent changes with some seed genetic engineering tossed in for good measure - just to screw with traditional farming knowledge.

Yea. So, tell me again how this all ends well?
posted by rough ashlar at 8:12 PM on April 2, 2006


Congratulations, now instead of having your own children, who would statistically be more likely to share your same world-improving values of conservation and environmental preservation, the world is inherited by the 16 children of the woman in Alabama, who taught all her children that the rapture is upon us, so Jesus approves of an environmentally destructive lifestyle.

Oops!
posted by dgaicun at 6:07 PM PST on April 2 [!]


Just because he isn't having kids will in no way effect the Alabama baby-factory. Post hoc ergo propter hoc

Yea. So, tell me again how this all ends well?
posted by rough ashlar at 8:12 PM PST on April 2 [!]


It doesn't. Re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic... snakes on a plane

I'm not going to walk the streets with a sandwich board that reads "THE END IS NEAR, REPENT" any time soon, but at the same time I realize that there is the very real possibility that this planet might decide to change things up a bit. Maybe some or all of us will adapt, maybe we won't. So I'm going to enjoy the time I have, see the parts of this planet I haven't been to yet, and live my life. C'est la vie.
posted by ninjew at 8:37 PM on April 2, 2006


Maybe if it reads "nigh" instead of "near."
posted by Gator at 8:39 PM on April 2, 2006


The choice is between killing 90% of people now, or allowing the consequences of our present overpopulation to kill 100% of people (along with substantial parts of the remainder of the biosphere) later.

How (in terms of concrete particulars) would overpopulation in itself kill 100% of the human population? overpopulation could lead to starvation which would then thin out the population again - but getting to 100% death rate just by having too many people on the planet seems like a really poorly thought out assumption, not a scientific prediction.

If you argue that certain technologies/etc/ have environmental impacts (which still I can't see being a 100% thing), then the argument is not about overpopulation but overconsumption, which is related to population but not directly tied to it.

Once again, that 9/10 of us have to go is something I've been saying for ~20 years;

then why are you still here?
The idea of killing 9 of every 10 human beings because of a vague belief that overpopulation is bad seems really messed up to me. Yes, overpopulation is a danger, and things can get out of wack when too many of a particular species thrive. But as a member of that species, if you make such a statement - that people should actually be killed - then it is completely hypocritical to continue living yourself.

I would be okay with some kind of governmental population controls. For instance, if we wanted to maintain current populations, we could give everyone one "have a baby" credit. That would allow a couple to have two children. And anyone who didn't want to reproduce could sell their credit to a family that wanted more than two kids, so the average would remain the same but some level of individual choice would be available. Of course, this could be unfairly advantageous to the rich, and still feel kinda fascistic, so I dunno if it would work. The china policy would never work in america. And eugenics is a terrible idea. I suppose it's naive to think education will make a difference, but I think it's possible people are more thoughtful now about the global impact of reproduction. The US reproduction rate is not that high, but it is higher than most first world countries. But, it is primarily minorities and immigrants in our population who are having more than 2 kids. It seems like world wide sex ed and contraception is the real answer. oh, also, if you really don't want the population to go up, stop supporting all those "save the children/ we are the world" type things - it's exactly the lower death rate which has helped the population boom (births haven't gone up so much as deaths have gone down).

anyway. Killing people=not the answer. If you want to warn people that nature is going to kill them, that is fine. But if you want to pre-emptively murder to avoid nature's wrath, that is fucked up.
posted by mdn at 8:42 PM on April 2, 2006


Just because he isn't having kids will in no way effect the Alabama baby-factory.

This isn't that hard. If I have 16 kids and teach them to vote X, and you have 16 kids and teach them to vote O, and the attrition rates are roughly similar, then the political landscape of tomorrow will look drastically different than if I have no kids, and you have 16 kids. All the X votes will then need to come from the attrition rates of your children, which will likely be small. Moreover, the entire landscape will be shifted O, diluting X even further.

Anyway, I already admitted defeat before flabdablet, who pinned me with his adoption choice.
posted by dgaicun at 9:00 PM on April 2, 2006


Also let me stress this again, since so many comments are joining in on the demonization: The claim that a room full of scientists applauded a serious call for the genocide of 5 billion people is stupid on its face. The source for this story is a well known creationist.
posted by dgaicun at 9:06 PM on April 2, 2006


How (in terms of concrete particulars) would overpopulation in itself kill 100% of the human population?

Simple. If group A wants what group B has in natural resources and money/diplomacy fails the next step is taking that resource by force. These days force is not rocks or bows and arrows but Nuclear Weapons. Or how about a biological agent?

The other way is the reaction of O2 with old compressed plant material. As CO2 continues to rise, the planet warms to such a point that humans can not survive.

I would be okay with some kind of governmental population controls.

If one feels a government is trustworthy.

And eugenics is a terrible idea.

Why? Because one should not trust the government to make good selection critera? Or that it would be used as 'they are not like my group, ergo they should be elimated'?

anyway. Killing people=not the answer.

That is fine, but many people don't seem to agree. In fact, some 50% of the George Washingtons per year think that killing IS a good plan.
posted by rough ashlar at 9:10 PM on April 2, 2006


Texans. What wacky folks they are.

I thought this group would be literate in science fiction, but from skimming the last 99 responses no one appears to have recognized this as a dramatization of James Tiptree's "The Last Flight of Doctor Ain."

I can't imagine that the Texas ecologists didn't get it.


You can find it online. Gesundheit!
posted by hank at 9:12 PM on April 2, 2006


Won't someone think about the monkeys?
posted by ryanissuper at 9:47 PM on April 2, 2006


Excerpts from Student Evaluations

Great course. His constant spraying of the room with his special homemade air freshener got annoying after a while.
Also, half the class got sick.. Man was that weird when my roommate developed those huge sores and exploded in a shower of fetid gore all over our room. I'm totally not getting my deposit.

posted by craniac at 9:57 PM on April 2, 2006


He's right you know. I propose we start with user numbers 16000 and above.
posted by Joeforking at 10:24 PM on April 2, 2006


Me: "Once again, that 9/10 of us have to go is something I've been saying for ~20 years"

mdn: "then why are you still here?"

As I said, 'consider me an unofficial bodhisattva of the Church of Euthanasia.' I supplied a link to the Wikipedia article on Bodhisattva (oops, there it goes again); perhaps I should supplement that, for your ease of comprehension, with a dictionary definition: "An enlightened being who, out of compassion, forgoes nirvana in order to save others."

Simply put, one of the reasons I've stuck around is to tell people that there are too damn many people, that at least we should reproduce with restraint (if we must at all). Further, as I've said also I practice what I preach: I have not reproduced and I actively try not to. I even solicited money to help pay for a vasectomy to make damn sure I don't spring off any offspring. If that's not enough, if you think I should cease existing, why don't you simply hunt me down and kill me? (If you offer me a quick "painless" death, such as a shotgun to the back of the head, I might just accept it.)

One of my duties as a self-appointed "bodhisattva" for the Church of Euthanasia is to urge you to euthanize yourself. That is, I willingly forgo self-extinction in order to urge others to attain that state themselves. If that strikes someone as unfair, hypocritical or selfish, for example, my answer could be 'So why would you want to live in a world full of unfair, hypocritical, selfish people like me?' (Another way to rephrase the Euthanasist slogan is "Save yourself a lot of trouble, kill yourself today!")

["Alex, what is 'ask a stupid question?'"]
posted by davy at 11:13 PM on April 2, 2006


MeTa.
posted by davy at 11:21 PM on April 2, 2006


Why does it have to be such a foul, nasty end, making all sorts of useful stuff all gross and decay-ridden? How about the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement instead?

(OK, OK, a pipe dream, I know...)
posted by trigonometry at 11:22 PM on April 2, 2006


Seconded, of course.
posted by davy at 11:25 PM on April 2, 2006


It seems like world wide sex ed and contraception is the real answer.

Won't do much good unless you have a magic way of diluting the influence of churches like the Catholics and Mormons.
posted by beth at 11:50 PM on April 2, 2006


Save the humans!
posted by JKevinKing at 11:53 PM on April 2, 2006


Given recent efforts to paint university professors as dangerous, I'd take Mims' claims with a bit of salt until we hear some independent confirmation of what Pianka actually said. Statements like 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 have a distinct tinfoil-hat quality to them.
posted by moonbiter at 12:09 AM on April 3, 2006


Aaah, thanks for the info on the source of the claims and the links to Pharyngula. Now I feel stupid for even thinking for a moment this professor was actually meaning it literally and people were indeed applauding a call for extermination. It did sound a little too farfetched.

Creationists, tsk...
posted by funambulist at 1:07 AM on April 3, 2006


Bron, and then hank:

> James Tiptree's "The Last Flight of Doctor Ain."

Oh, thanks very much for that. I remembered the story and was searching for it but my poor tired brain was convinced it was by Judith Merril.

posted by jfuller at 1:50 AM on April 3, 2006


Texans. What wacky folks they are.

This seems an important part of the discussion so far overlooked. Is the 'Texas Academy of Science' a contradiction in terms, like 'military intelligence'? Could any scientific group in a state not that long ago ruled over by George W. Bush have any credibility whatsoever?
posted by LeLiLo at 3:06 AM on April 3, 2006


From MikeKD's Georgia Guidestone link:

Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.

That one is scary, considering who would get to decide which 500,000,000 will be "chosen".

On the other hand, here is a population control measure I could really get behind:

Avoid petty laws and useless officials.

That would reduce the population of Washington, D.C. to acceptable levels overnight.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 4:53 AM on April 3, 2006


One of the first press articles covering this can be found here, at the Seguin Gazette (TX). It's got a slight amount of supplementary information, including some comments by other attendees and colleagues of Pianka.
posted by unmake at 5:57 AM on April 3, 2006


well, it looks like the "problem" is that he's a little too happy about the coming doom, not that he wants to bring this doom about himself - he thinks it is inevitable, and ultimately a good thing, that 90% of humans are going to die off in some terrible way or other.

I don't see it as a good thing in particular; it would leave mankind in another dark ages for some time, for one thing. But of course it's only my anthropocentrism that makes me think knowledge and the exchange of ideas is somehow better than scavenging through a wasteland with a knife up your sleeve.

Won't do much good unless you have a magic way of diluting the influence of churches like the Catholics and Mormons.

ideological issues are one thing, but I would bet that practical issues have a major impact on how many children a person has. Again, though, I think we have to consider precisely what overpopulation does. The two answers offered above are "war for resources" and "overuse of resources leading to global warming". I already addressed the latter, and the former is the same in essence: the problem then is overconsumption, not overpopulation per se, which means the campaign should be focused toward a)higher oil prices b)alternate energy sources, and perhaps c)simpler living. Reducing or stabilizing population by itself is not much use, if all those childless couples use huge amounts of electricity building computer simulated worlds or whatever (or just having 2 cars & lotsa gadgets). sure, they'll die eventually - but they might will to have their bodies cryogenically frozen for the next thousand years. that's a lotta fuel.

if you think I should cease existing, why don't you simply hunt me down and kill me?

I don't think you should cease existing; you, supposedly, think you should cease existing.

my answer could be 'So why would you want to live in a world full of unfair, hypocritical, selfish people like me?'

you are one person. One person's hypocrisy doesn't ruin life for me. sorry.
posted by mdn at 6:29 AM on April 3, 2006


So, if we're no better than bacteria, does that mean bacteria also have biology professors giving speeches and lectures with provocative non-literal suggestions about the bacteria overpopulation problem?

Or is my question anthropocentric by nature, since it assumes the capability for scientific thought and provocation is a mark of superiority over other animal species? Hmm...
posted by funambulist at 6:46 AM on April 3, 2006


Or is my question anthropocentric by nature..

Basically, yes. Higher complexity does not equal superiority. And having a superiority complex doesn't actually make someone superior.

I think it was Dennis Miller who said it best: 'Humans are nothing but ants with beepers'
posted by unmake at 7:04 AM on April 3, 2006


probably I should be the first to suicide to save the earth
posted by matthewchen at 11:22 AM PST on April 2


here is my fixing of quote so as to accurately replicate truth - do you find it more so that we are talking honestly?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:36 AM on April 3, 2006


I would just like to point out that Ebola Reston is the wrong variety of Ebola. That subtype has only killed monkies so far. According to the WHO "Human infection with the Ebola Reston subtype, found in the Western Pacific, has only caused asymptomatic illness, meaning that those who contract the disease do not experience clinical illness." I think he means the Zaïre, Sudan or Côte d’Ivoire varieties.
posted by Alison at 10:56 AM on April 3, 2006


It's "Report a scientist to the Feds" day!
posted by homunculus at 11:34 AM on April 3, 2006


Optimus Chyme you're mean.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:28 PM on April 3, 2006


If only you could put Dembski and Pianka in a room and force them to fight to the death.

No matter who loses, we win.
posted by darukaru at 2:31 PM on April 3, 2006


Right, because some arch-pseudoscientist is obviously the equivalent of a top, decorated biologist with a pessimistic worldview.
posted by dgaicun at 2:50 PM on April 3, 2006


Probably will happen in due course anyway.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:22 PM on April 3, 2006


Pianka is finally speaking up, and it looks like Mims has it completely wrong, as most people expected. There's a somewhat scathing post on The Panda's Thumb, but the primary document is a local news article that has an accompanying video.
posted by Llama-Lime at 8:48 AM on April 4, 2006


Thank you Llama-Lime. Good links both.

Exponential population increases are -- for all animals studied except, so far, H. sapiens -- followed by crashes to drastic low population levels.

The religious folks believe humans are specially protected from this pattern, and will be able to spread like kudzu.

Are we truly favored by the Creator and capable of covering the Earth?

Time will tell.

Personally, I suspect the Creator made the Earth for kudzu, or perhaps beetles, and we're interlopers (wry grin).
posted by hank at 10:37 AM on April 4, 2006


The standard way those crashes happen is that ever-increasing numbers of animals extract the resources they rely on from their environments at an ever increasing rate until they're all gone. Then the population crashes.

Given that we're the smartest thing on two legs, and that we're better at finding ingenious substitutes for our resource needs than any other species, many people think this logic doesn't apply to us. But the flip side is that when we extract resources, we do it really really thoroughly.

There are countless techno-optimists who will tell you that Malthus "has been shown time and again to have been wrong", and sincerely believe that Human Ingenuity TM will find workarounds for every resource shortage that will ever come our way.

But the simple fact is that Malthus was right: exponential growth cannot be sustained indefinitely. At some point, the human population of this planet will cease to grow exponentially. The only thing worth disagreeing about is whether or not it will crash before it does so.

There are three complementary ways to get to population stability from where we are now: (1) birth rate down (2) death rate up (3) ship excess humans off-planet. It's clear to me, at least, that the first of these is the no-brainer choice, given the choice.

Growth rate versus consumption rate is an interesting issue, too. It's easy to overlook the point that any rate of continued growth, any rate of consumption is ultimately unsustainable.

At our present population level, the clear message from the declining health of the rest of the ecology is that our present total consumption rate of damn near everything is too high. Even if the human population were to stabilize at its present level tomorrow, we'd still be chewing through topsoil and fresh water faster than the rest of the ecology can supply them. That's bad for the whole biosphere, not just for us.

An impoverished biosphere will also support far fewer people, longterm, than a rich and diverse one, and raises the chances of a horrendous crash.

So we need to get our total consumption rate down. Once again, there are complementary approaches: (1) reduce consumption rate per capita (2) reduce capita.

Given that the overwhelming majority of humanity currently exists at consumption rates that most people reading fora like this would find unimaginably low, it's clear to me at least that the emphasis needs to be on (2).

Why?

Raising the consumption rate of most of the people already alive to anything like the levels that you and I are accustomed to would overwhelm the rest of the ecology within decades.

Given that you and I and the people near us are the ones consuming most of what is consumed, we're clearly the ones with the greatest moral obligation to rein in our own consumption. But it's a hard hard sell; most people don't care.

However, it's equally clear to me that we're long past the point where there is any conceivable chance that our species will disappear if we fail to maintain our present growth rate (or even our present birth rate). We are in no way an endangered species. Therefore, there is at present no moral obligation at all for any person to reproduce; as things stand now, "perpetuation of the species" is a given. It's not something we should even be thinking about until global human population drops below, say, ONE billion; at that point, if the population remains in decline, we might want to start taking the idea of decline seriously.

If it can become the Usual Thing for people not to make their own new children, but instead to raise existing children in need of good parenting - and if, in the nation-state analog of this, it can become the Usual Thing for rich nations to offer a good standard of living to people from outside, instead of devising policy to encourage internal reproduction while keeping the Illegal Alien Hordes at bay - then I think there's a chance we might make it through to sustainability without having to go through a Pianka-style crash.

But I'm not, as I said earlier, holding my breath.
posted by flabdablet at 8:36 PM on April 4, 2006


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