In a column titled “Environmentalism and the apocalypse“, Cathy Young writes:
The most contentious recent battle between creationists and evolutionary biologists is not the debate about the newly discovered ”missing link” between fish and land animals. Rather, it is a bizarre incident that involves predictions of doomsday and charges of encouraging terrorism. At bottom, this conflict is not about religion versus science but about the clash of two religions.
It started early in March when Eric Pianka, an ecologist at the University of Texas who was named Texas Distinguished Scientist of 2006, gave a speech at a meeting of the Texas Academy of Sciences, filled with dire warnings about the fate of humanity and the earth. About a month later, Forrest M. Mims III, chairman of the Environmental Science Section of the Texas Academy of Science, posted an article about the event in a Web magazine called The Citizen Scientist. He asserted that Pianka advocated the death of more than 5 billion people from a virus for the cause of saving the planet — to enthusiastic applause from the audience.
Mims’s allegation, picked up by a local Texas newspaper, The Seguin Gazette-Enterprise, caused quite a stir on the Internet and a flood of angry e-mails to the Texas Academy of Sciences and the University of Texas. Meanwhile, William Dembski, a philosophy professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a leading champion of intelligent design, proudly announced that he had alerted the Department of Homeland Security to a possible Pianka plot to infect people with a deadly virus.
Meanwhile, many scientists, academics, and liberal bloggers have rallied to the defense of Pianka, who, they say, was not advocating apocalypse but simply delivering a warning about the disastrous consequences of humanity’s profligate ways. They see him as a victim of a smear by creationists (Mims is also an intelligent design proponent) who want to portray mainstream science as evil and by right-wingers who want to portray liberal academics as loony extremists.
But while Pianka’s critics may be seriously biased and lacking in credibility, this does not quite get Pianka himself off the hook. No, there is no reason to believe that he advocated actively bringing about an epidemic that would kill billions of people. Rather, he asserts that because of overpopulation, we are on the brink of a major epidemic that will wipe out 80 to 90 percent of humanity. And he seems to regard this as a good thing.
Read the rest.
(Via Tim Blair.)