The Conservatives own all three branches of government and control most of the media, but lately have hit a bit of a rough spot, due to a lot of prominent leaders potential or proven criminality. The fact that the American people are figuring out how badly they screwed up the Iraqi occupation doesn't help either.
But hey! They still know how to organize a lynching! One of the most important things about a lynching is that it doesn't really matter whether the lynchee is guilty or not. Unlike those messy legal proceedings, there isn't really any need to assemble evidence, assess the credibility of the witnesses, etc. I wasn't really planning to blog on this story, at least until the facts became a little more evident, but what with both Luboš and Rae Ann already at the party, how could I say home.
I first became aware of the Pianka affair when Drudge started flogging it a few days ago. I wasn't too interested - it looked pretty much like your standard Alien abduction with anal probes type of story to me - but eventually I read the Forest Mims III article that started it. I vaguely remembered the name Mims, and it turns out that he is a noted instrument designer and a hugely successful author of books on popular electronics. Also, it seems, he is a prominent and perhaps somewhat disgruntled creationist.
The story Mims tells is strange, but was it too strange to be true?
I watched in amazement as a few hundred members of the Texas Academy of Science rose to their feet and gave a standing ovation to a speech that enthusiastically advocated the elimination of 90 percent of Earth's population by airborne Ebola. The speech was given by Dr. Eric R. Pianka (Fig. 1), the University of Texas evolutionary ecologist and lizard expert who the Academy named the 2006 Distinguished Texas Scientist.
Advocating the extermination of most of the human race with Ebola would certainly be both despicable and strange, but there are some pretty strange scientists. I had never heard of Pianka, so quite plausibly he might be one. On the other hand, a standing ovation for such would be very weird indeed, even from a bunch of Texans. He gives his account, and then concludes with the note that he exchanged some emails with Pianka, and that.
In his last e-mail, Pianka wrote that I completely fail to understand his arguments.
Mims doesn't think so, but I'm less sure. For one think, Pianka has flatly denied that he said what Mims asserted he said. Pianka claims that what he in fact said was that if overpopulation continued, population would collapse as a result of natural calamity and The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and that he thought a catastrophic epidemic was likely.
Luboš has assembled the evidence tending to confirm Mims account at the link I gave above, and it consists of (1) Mim's account, (2) the account of a blogger named Brenna which appears to confirm Mims in part, (3) two student comments on Mim's classes. One student comment mentions Ebola, but doesn't say whether Pianka advocates or predicts it. The second seems to imply that Pianka thinks Ebola is an appropriate way for population collapse to occur.
[I have removed an apparently mistaken claim that the two student comments were the last in the file]
The creationists have taken this story and run with it. It is all over their websites. Was this a pre-planned hit? Is it coincidence that the Discovery Institute recently hired the guys behind the Swift Boat Liars?
So what is the real story? I don't know, but, as I said at the start, in a lynching that hardly counts. Pianka has gotten death threats. His family has gotten death threats. Random members of the Texas Academy of Sciences have gotten death threats.
On the bright side, Luboš has discovered his inner creationist.
I forgot to say that creationism, much like environmentalism, subtracts men from nature. The difference is that creationism puts the humans qualitatively above the nature while environmentalism puts the humans below it.
If I had to choose between these two things, I would choose "above".
Of course he is, as usual, quite wrong about what enviromentalism is about, but more about that in another post.
Meanwhile, there were reportedly several hundred people at the talk, so one might hope that some of them would be asked about what really was said. Incidentally, one report has it that Mims was not one of them, except for about five minutes of the half-hour or so talk. (Mims denies this, see comments)