Via Notes in Samsara we learn of the interesting case of Eric Pianka, the University of Texas biology professor who’s been the target of death threats since being awarded the Distinguished Scientist by the Texas Academy of Science. Pianka is out there, to be sure. He believes that burgeoning human populations are a threat not only to humans but to the rest of the planetary ecosystem as well:
There is a great urgency to basic ecological research simply because the worldwide press of humanity is rapidly driving other species extinct and destroying the very systems that ecologists seek to understand. No natural community remains pristine. Unfortunately, many will disappear without even being adequately described, let alone remotely understood. As existing species go extinct and even entire ecosystems disappear, we lose forever the very opportunity to study them. Knowledge of their evolutionary history and adaptations vanishes with them: we are thus losing access to biological information itself. Indeed, “destroying species is like tearing pages out of an unread book, written in a language humans hardly know how to read” (Rolston, 1985). Just as ecologists are finally beginning to learn to read this “unread” and rapidly disappearing book of life, they are encountering governmental and public hostility and having a difficult time attracting support. This is simply pitiful. And time is quickly running out.
He forecasts that population growth will ultimately hit a wall and we’ll experience a massive die-off triggered by some sort of disease epidemic. This isn’t a completely idiotic notion, of course, as natural populations do undergo die-off when they grow too large for the carrying capacity of their ecological niches.
But something truly disgraceful has taken place around Pianka, a smear campaign orchestrated by jealous creationists to distort his predictions and malign his character. The person at the center of the storm is an electronics writer and extreme creationist, Forrest M. Mims, the self-styled “citizen scientist.”
Just as “citizen journalists” are often agenda-driven extremists, the citizen scientist Mims is a crazed creationist on a jihad against “evolutionists”, that rat-pack of immoral satanists who’ve wrecked our culture by sowing disrespect for believers in the Easter Bunny and all of his works.
Mumsie hopes Pianka will sue, and I have to agree with the sentiment. The arguments that creationists put up against biology always rely on distortion and willful ignorance, and that sort of thing has be curtailed.
Pianka’s theories don’t satisfy me because humans have the capacity to moderate population growth, and there’s plenty of evidence that we’re doing so, but that’s no excuse to call him a terrorist and to spread lies about him.
Forrest Mims is a liar and a scoundrel, and he should be held accountable for the damage he’s done to Pianka’s reputation.
More at The Austringer.