April 02, 2006

Malthus Was Wrong, and So is This Guy

IF THERE IS NOT already a hue and cry over the weird remarks of University of Texas-Austin ecologist Eric Pianka, there soon will be, so let's just get the criticism out of the way quickly.

As this article from The Seguin Gazette-Enterprise shows, Dr Pianka reportedly thinks the following: a) that the Earth is overpopulated; b) that nature or man will cause a massive reduction in the human population; and c) that this is a good thing. The Gazette-Enterprise reports Dr Pianka said, "[Disease] will control the scourge of humanity ... we’re looking forward to a huge collapse."

It boggles the mind that with such ideas, the Texas Academy of Science would name Dr Pianka the Distinguished Texas Scientist for 2006. It's not simply because the ideas are abhorrent, it's because they're wrong, and have been wrong since they were dreamed up two centuries ago. Simply put, we haven't seen a Malthusian catastrophe yet, and we never will.

As for the idea that disease will somehow wipe out 90 percent of mankind, that's also a bit much. After all, the Black Death in the 14th century only killed about a third of the European population, even though people then were working on bad assumptions about what caused the plague, how it spread, and how to treat it. Even if some sort of superbug were to develop, modern medical science and public health methods would undoubtedly prove up to the task of controlling it -- as was shown during the SARS outbreak in 2003.

So there.

I will leave it to my readers to ponder Dr Pianka's idea, mentioned in the Gazette-Enterprise story, that human life is no more valuable than other life on Earth, and that human life is not the central element of life on Earth. I would get upset about it, except it's late and I'm tired and my sinuses are acting up and I'm feeling the effects of Daylight Saving Time, so I'll just say that it's a bit backward, and leave it at that.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at April 2, 2006 11:30 PM | TrackBack

I seem to recall my brother suggesting something like that to solve a number of the world's problems. If nothing else, he believed there would be full employment for many decades because of all of the work that would need to be done to tear down and recycle all of the empty buildings left behind.

Draconian? Yes. Practical or desired? No.

I recall a bstory written by Philip Jose Farmer called "Seventy Years of Decpop", where a scientist created a virus that left 95% of humanity sterile. He also created a test to determine who was still fertile and who was sterile. He released the virus when he realized that the world's population had reached a tipping point (9 billion or so). The story illustrated the social effects of forced decline in population.

At least this story didn't include a killing disease or a war to achieve those ends. Still, a chilling story.

I believe ABC has yet another doomsday made-for-TV movie about the Bird Flu coming out next month. From the trailers it looks like they're trying to portray Armageddon. Maybe that's what Dr. Pianka is hoping for.....

Posted by: DCE at April 16, 2006 09:38 AM
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