Recently citizen scientist Forrest
Mims told me about a speech he heard at the Texas Academy
of Science during which the speaker, a world-renowned
ecologist, advocated for the extermination of 90 percent
of the human species in a most horrible and painful
manner. Apparently at the speaker's direction, the speech
was not video taped by the Academy and so Forrest's
may be the only record of what was said. Forrest's account
of what he witnessed chilled my soul. Astonishingly,
Forrest reports that many of the Academy members present
gave the speaker a standing ovation. To date, the Academy
has not moved to sanction the speaker or distance itself
from the speaker's remarks.
If the professional community has
lost its sense of moral outrage when one if their own
openly calls for the slow and painful extermination
of over 5 billion human beings, then it falls upon the
amateur community to be the conscience of science.
Forrest, who is a member of the
Texas Academy and chairs its Environmental Science Section,
told me he would be unable to describe the speech in
The Citizen Scientist because he has protested
the speech to the Academy and he serves as Editor of
The Citizen Scientist. Therefore, to preclude
a possible conflict of interest, I have directed Forrest
to describe what he observed and his reactions in this
special feature, for which I have served as editor and
which is being released a week ahead of our normal publication
schedule. Comments may be sent to Backscatter.
Shawn Carlson, Ph.D.,
Founder and Executive Director,
Society for Amateur Scientists
Special Editorial: Dealing
with Doctor Doom
Shawn Carlson, Ph.D.
Forrest M. Mims III
Copyright 2006 by Forrest M. Mims III.
is always something special about science meetings.
The 109th meeting of the Texas
Academy of Science at Lamar University in Beaumont
on 3-5 March 2006 was especially exciting for me, because
a student and his professor presented the results of
a DNA study I suggested to them last year. How fulfilling
to see the baldcypress ( Taxodium distichum )
leaves we collected last summer and my tree ring photographs
transformed into a first class scientific presentation
that's nearly ready to submit to a scientific journal
(Brian Iken and Dr. Deanna McCullough, "Bald Cypress
of the Texas Hill Country: Taxonomically Unique?" 109th
Meeting of the Texas Academy of Science Program and
Abstracts [ PDF
], Poster P59, p. 84, 2006).
But there was a gravely disturbing
side to that otherwise scientifically significant meeting,
for 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.
Something curious occurred a minute
before Pianka began speaking. 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
This curious incident came to mind
a few minutes later when Professor Pianka began his
speech by explaining that the general public is not
yet ready to hear what he was about to tell us. Because
of many years of experience as a writer and editor,
Pianka's strange introduction and the TV camera incident
raised a red flag in my mind. Suddenly I forgot that
I was a member of the Texas Academy of Science and chairman
of its Environmental Science Section. Instead, I grabbed
a notepad so I could take on the role of science reporter.
One of Pianka's earliest points was
a condemnation of anthropocentrism, or the idea that
humankind occupies a privileged position in the Universe.
He told a story about how a neighbor asked him what
good the lizards are that he studies. He answered, “What
good are you?”
Pianka hammered his point home by exclaiming,
“We're no better than bacteria!”
Pianka then began laying out his concerns
about how human overpopulation is ruining the Earth.
He presented a doomsday scenario in which he claimed
that the sharp increase in human population since the
beginning of the industrial age is devastating the planet.
He warned that quick steps must be taken to restore
the planet before it's too late.
Saving the Earth
Professor Pianka said the Earth as
we know it will not survive without drastic measures.
Then, and without presenting any data to justify this
number, he asserted that the only feasible solution
to saving the Earth is to reduce the population to 10
percent of the present number.
He then showed solutions for reducing
the world's population in the form of a slide depicting
Horsemen of the Apocalypse. War and famine would
not do, he explained. Instead, disease offered the most
efficient and fastest way to kill the billions that
must soon die if the population crisis is to be solved.
Pianka then displayed a slide showing
rows of human skulls, one of which had red lights flashing
from its eye sockets.
AIDS is not an efficient killer, he
explained, because it is too slow. His favorite candidate
for eliminating 90 percent of the world's population
is airborne Ebola ( Ebola Reston ), because
it is both highly lethal and it kills in days, instead
of years. However, Professor Pianka did not mention
that Ebola victims die a slow and torturous death as
the virus initiates a cascade of biological calamities
inside the victim that eventually liquefy the internal
After praising the Ebola virus for
its efficiency at killing, Pianka paused, leaned over
the lectern, looked at us and carefully said, “We've
got airborne 90 percent mortality in humans. Killing
humans. Think about that.”
With his slide of human skulls towering
on the screen behind him, Professor Pianka was deadly
serious. The audience that had been applauding some
of his statements now sat silent.
After a dramatic pause, Pianka returned
to politics and environmentalism. But he revisited his
call for mass death when he reflected on the oil situation.
“And the fossil fuels are running out,”
he said, “so I think we may have to cut back to two
billion, which would be about one-third as many people.”
So the oil crisis alone may require eliminating two-third's
of the world's population.
How soon must the mass dying begin
if Earth is to be saved? Apparently fairly soon, for
Pianka suggested he might be around when the killer
disease goes to work. He was born in 1939, and his lengthy
obituary appears on his web
When Pianka finished his remarks, the
audience applauded. It wasn't merely a smattering of
polite clapping that audiences diplomatically reserve
for poor or boring speakers. It was a loud, vigorous
and enthusiastic applause.
Then came the question and answer session,
in which Professor Pianka stated that other diseases
are also efficient killers.
The audience laughed when he said,
“You know, the bird flu's good, too.” They laughed again
when he proposed, with a discernable note of glee in
his voice that, “We need to sterilize everybody on the
After noting that the audience did
not represent the general population, a questioner asked,
"What kind of reception have you received as you have
presented these ideas to other audiences that are not
representative of us?"
Pianka replied, "I speak to the converted!"
Pianka responded to more questions
by condemning politicians in general and Al Gore by
name, because they do not address the population problem
and "...because they deceive the public in every way
they can to stay in power."
He spoke glowingly of the police state
in China that enforces their one-child policy. He said,
"Smarter people have fewer kids." He said those who
don't have a conscience about the Earth will inherit
the Earth, "...because those who care make fewer babies
and those that didn't care made more babies." He said
we will evolve as uncaring people, and "I think IQs
are falling for the same reason, too."
With this, the questioning was over.
Immediately almost every scientist, professor and college
student present stood to their feet and vigorously applauded
the man who had enthusiastically endorsed the elimination
of 90 percent of the human population. Some even cheered.
Dozens then mobbed the professor at the lectern to extend
greetings and ask questions. It was necessary to wait
a while before I could get close enough to take some
photographs (Fig. 1).
I was assigned to judge a paper in
a grad student competition after the speech. On the
way, three professors dismissed Pianka as a crank. While
waiting to enter the competition room, a group of a
dozen Lamar University students expressed outrage over
the Pianka speech.
Yet five hours later, the distinguished
leaders of the Texas Academy of Science presented Pianka
with a plaque in recognition of his being named 2006
Distinguished Texas Scientist. When the banquet hall
filled with more than 400 people responded with enthusiastic
applause, I walked out in protest.
with Dr. Doom
Recently I exchanged a number of e-mails
with Pianka. I pointed out to him that one might infer
his death wish was really aimed at Africans, for Ebola
is found only in Central Africa. He replied that Ebola
does not discriminate, kills everyone and could spread
to Europe and the the Americas by a single infected
In his last e-mail, Pianka wrote that
I completely fail to understand his arguments. So I
did a check and found verification of my interpretation
of his remarks on his own web site. In a student evaluation
of a 2004 course he taught, one of Professor Pianka's
students wrote, "Though I agree that convervation [sic]
biology is of utmost importance to the world, I do not
think that preaching that 90% of the human population
should die of ebola [sic] is the most effective means
of encouraging conservation awareness." (Go here
and scroll down to just before the Fall 2005 evaluation
section near the end.)
Yet the majority of his student reviews
were favorable, with one even saying, “ I
worship Dr. Pianka.”
The 45-minute lecture before the Texas
Academy of Science converted a university biology senior
into a Pianka disciple, who then published a blog that
seriously supports Pianka's mass death wish.
Let me now remove my reporter's hat
for a moment and tell you what I think. We live in dangerous
times. The national security of many countries is at
risk. Science has become tainted by highly publicized
cases of misconduct and fraud.
Must now we worry that a Pianka-worshipping
former student might someday become a professional biologist
or physician with access to the most deadly strains
of viruses and bacteria? I believe that airborne Ebola
to threaten the world outside of Central Africa.
But scientists have regenerated the 1918 Spanish flu
virus that killed 50 million people. There is concern
that small pox might someday return. And what other
terrible plagues are waiting out there in the natural
world to cross the species barrier and to which scientists
will one day have access?
Meanwhile, I still can't get out of
my mind the pleasant spring day in Texas when a few
hundred scientists of the Texas Academy of Science gave
a standing ovation for a speaker who they heard advocate
for the slow and torturous death of over five billion
Forrest M. Mims III is Chairman
of the Environmental Science Section of the Texas Academy
of Science, and the editor of The
Citizen Scientist. He and his science
are featured online at www.forrestmims.org
The views expressed herein are his own and do not represent
the official views of the Texas Academy of Science or
the Society for Amateur Scientists.
Copyright 2006 by Forrest M. Mims