Friday, April 07, 2006

Dr. Pianka speech transcript available

Update IV: All the transcripts and newspaper reports from the Seguin Gazette-Enterprise have gone! Unfortunately I did not save the whole transcript (I took large chunks of it however) but the information below is still correct. I believe that someone will have saved it somewhere on the great interweb so I'm certain the determined could find a copy. The retraction of this story gives considerable weight to the concept that Mims has got things horrifically wrong.

Update V 10/4/06: The Telic Thoughts bloggers have decided to retract their articles on the subject. Kudos to them.

With the whole hoop-la over the Dr. Pianka speech it turns out that a full transcript of a speech he gave at St. Edwards has been released and
is available here. I'm going to quote two parts of this speech that disregard and annihilate the account of the disgruntled creationist Forrest Mims, who evidentally lives in a very different reality than we do.

This is an AIDS infected piece of a human. Each of those little round things is an HIV virulent that can infect a new human. Basically, they use their T-cells to they make copies of themselves.

HIV is a pandemic spread worldwide. It's increasing in frequency in a lot of places and it's a big concern to everybody. But, it's not gonna be the one that gets us cause HIV is too slow, it lets us live several years so it can pass itself on to new hosts.

Uh, it's no good, it's too slow.

Now when you get to these viruses — Ebola Zaire has potential. It kills nine out of ten humans. It's never gotten out of Africa cause its so virulent it kills everybody before they can move. I mean it kills you within a day or two.

Uh, you can only catch Ebola Zaire by contact with a human that's infected. It causes you to bleed. It breaks capillaries and you bleed out your orifices and if you go out and touch somebody who's sick with it you get it and you die, too — or nine times out of ten.

Ebola-Reston did get out of Africa and to the U.S. in the form of green monkeys that were imported for medical research and it's named after Reston, West Virginia where they have quarantine facility for these monkeys. And, uh, they had this epidemic and all the monkeys died but they didn't have contact with each other. But they were sharing a common, uh, ventilation system. So, this is in this room, air was circulating being pumped back, and so on. Uh, monkeys in a room that breathe the same air caught it.

Now it is only a matter of time until Ebola got here evolves and mutates a little and it will be airborne, and then I think we might finally get a take. And when it sweeps across the world — we're gonna have a lot of dead people. Every one of you that is lucky enough to survive gets to bury nine. Think about that. I doubt Ebola is gonna be the one that gets us. I think it will be, uh, something else.

But did you ever wonder why things like SARS and now what the Avian Flu are continually cropping up? They're cropping up because we were dumb enough to make a perfect epidemiological substrate for an epidemic. We bred our brains out, and now we're being pegged. The microbes are gonna take over. They're gonna control us as they have in the past. Think about that.

Here's a breath of fresh air: Aldo Leopold. This is the start of the tiny little up. You've got to the lowest of the low where the microbes are gonna get you. Now, were gonna try to come up a little bit. Aldo Leopold was a conservation biologist before anybody else was. He was in wildlife management at the University of Wisconsin back in the ‘50s. And Leopold died young, but his children have put together a collection of his essays and made this book, "A Sand County Almanac." I encourage all of you to read it. It brings tears to my eyes at some of the things in it. I mean I literally break down and weep.

But one of the things Leopold said was each generation doesn't know what it lost — the last generation remembers.

No advocacy for the annihilation of the human race and the full transcript even demolishes my previous essay on the topic. Going by what I originally understood, which was admittingly very limited, it turns out that I responded to things that Dr. Pianka doesn't actually think himself either. I do intend to readdress the "Killer virus" scenario in a future post, but Dr. Pianka answers a lot of the 'criticisms' I bought up in my post anyway in the full speech. I find it hard to disagree with what he says, although I still think the death toll is absurdly high and there are numerous problems with the 'viral doomsday' scenario I'll cover in a new post. In any event, I don't see him advocating the genocide of the entire human race at all there. However, let's contrast what Dr. Pianka has actually said with what Forrest Mims, disgruntled creationist, had to say:
"This guy is a loose cannon to believe that worldwide genocide is the only answer," said Mims, who filed two formal petitions with the academy following the meeting.
“He recommended airborne Ebola as an ideal killing virus,” Mims said. “He showed slides of the Four Horsemen of the apocalypse and human skulls. He joked about requiring universal sterilization. It reminded me of a futuristic science fiction movie with a crazed scientist planning the death of humanity.
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.
And finally, let's contrast what Mims claims above with the final part of the St. Edwards speech:
So he says in a stationary world as opposed to one that's grow, grow, grow where everybody has to elbow the other guy and compete to get to the front and be concerned about who's going to win and who's going to lose everyday in the stock market. And in a stationary world we can focus in on things that really matter. And he used a phrase that I really love — the art of living. We can work on the art of living. Think about that.
The art of living? From Dr. Doom? Dr. Death? Dr. Wipe out all humanity with a virus? But this man hates humanity, hates life and thinks that genocide is the only option to humanities over-population. With the clear honesty and integrity of Mims, how could this possibly be true! Clearly the transcript at the Gazette-Enterprise is a fake!

/Sarcasm off for now, I believe that anyone who reads the transcript kindly provided by the Gazette-Enterprise, reads the accounts from Mims and puts 2+2 together can clearly see Mims has really got it horrifically wrong. It's also clear that someone, namely Forrest Mims owes an apology to Dr. Pianka and I feel should even resign from his position. He's made Dr. Pianka out to be a terrorist, he's humiliated the University of Texas and
he's made a mockery of himself. Even with the fact this is a different speech, the content is so similar to what we understand of the Texas Academy speech that I've no real reason to think they are significantly dissimilar.

Update: Now I think of it, also make sure you check out the Pandas thumb account and the numerous quotes from media and others who took Mims seriously. There are going to be a lot of people feeling silly tommorow.

Update II: An interesting analysis of the Edwards transcript compared with quotes from the newspaper that started it all, the Sequin Gazette Daily, has been posted at the Questionable Authority. It's a very interesting post and raises some real doubts about some of the media frenzy over Dr. Pianka.

Update III: I also noticed this post on Ocellated, where Jay has actually been speaking with several students who attended the talk and gives a good impression of what Dr. Pianka is like. I recommend reading his entire post, but if you want what I think is the part that really cuts through many of the core issues it's this part:

While I may be disappointed and certainly find things to disagree with Pianka about, his accusers sink to new depths. Wanting to follow my own advice and not show angst myself, I simply cannot articulate my frustration that people are so convinced of their position, that lying then becomes a justified means to defeat their “enemy.” Indeed, viewed in this light, we can understand that hate has become their prime motivation.

And they do all this in the name of Jesus. What a crazy world we live in.

Immensely well said.