Tuesday, April 04, 2006

This is too scary for words


Steven Carr said...

'too scary for words'

It is so scary that creationists can't find the words to describe how scary it is, not even true words.

Of course, God did once kill all except 8 people, but nobody is advocating a return to such divine measures of population control.

Jason Pratt said...

Actually, last time I checked, the human mortality rate was pretty close to 100% in _any_ case. It isn't a question of _whether_ we're going to die, or even how: there are plenty of nasty ways to die, many of which are almost as bad as ebola, and some of which may even be arguably worse. Most deaths are scary and painful, whenever they happen--the tornado which recently slaughtered the young family of four in Bradford, TN, for instance (a mother, a father, and two young boys. They were close family friends of ours, btw, and attended our church for all the mother's life--including that Sunday morning.) The question is why.

In any case, the critical difference is this: that fellow just essentially called you a bacterium, Steven, and implied you might as well be eliminated as ruthlessly. It wouldn't even be a tragedy to him, to see you dead. (Unless maybe you're the same species of bacteria _he_ is.)

I know there are Christians who, in effect, propose that some people are simply walking cigarettes--a position I strongly denounce--but at least those people, who are far from the majority among us, are taught that _you_ _might not_ be one of those cigarette-people, and so (as a default position of charity toward you) they would believe you ought to be helped in some way and not written off (by them) as a worse-than-expendable loss.

As for myself, I'm in favor of the people who say you yourself certainly _cannot be_ only a malignant waste of resources, no matter _who_ you are (or how snidely annoying you might be. {s})

And "Dr. Doom", whatever else he believes, apparently isn't one of those people. He's against _you_ in principle, as a default position; so, I'm against him. (Assuming the report is accurate, of course. This _is_ the internet after all. {s})


Steven Carr said...

It must be accurate. It is linked to by Victor...

And Jason would also have checked the story out thoroughly, just as Chrtisians of 2,000 years ago insisted upon checking all the facts before believing.

Steven Carr said...

The Archbishop of Canterbury says that unless there is change, billions of people will die.


'"And yet, unless there is a real change in attitude, we have to contemplate these very unwelcome possibilities if we want the global economy not to collapse and millions, billions, of people not to die."

Perhaps we should call him 'Archbishop Doom'?

Jason Pratt said...

{{And Jason would also have checked the story out thoroughly, just as Chrtisians of 2,000 years ago insisted upon checking all the facts before believing.}}

I've seen this kind of proposition before, and I'm familiar with the principles of it. Whether the story is factually accurate or not, the principles can still be discussed and judgments drawn about it.

(You yourself can't _really_ believe God told the Israelites to go kill off a bunch of Semitic tribes--you've made it clear earlier you're an atheist--but that sure hasn't stopped _you_ from hopping up and down about it in forums anyway. Clearly it's the principle of the thing, not the factuality, that you consider important for discussion; otherwise you'd only say in effect "Of course God didn't do that: He doesn't exist at all! End of discussion.")

I suppose it means nothing to you, that if I had been merely credulous about the report I wouldn't have added my coda at the end. But then, reading for understanding has never been your forte anyway.

For instance: there's a pretty big difference between someone saying that billions of people will die _unless_ we make some changes (with surrounding implications being that the deaths would be a tragedy); and someone (reportedly) saying that we need to make some changes and the most efficient way to accomplish this will be to kill off several billion people (with the implication that this would be a great thing, since people are no better than bacteria anyway. Proposer tacitly excepted, of course.)

Whether or not that Professor was reported accurately, the difference in principles ought to be sufficiently evident--even to you.

Meanwhile: so, are you saying in your pointlessly oblique and needlessly hostile way that the story isn't accurate? I would actually be very glad to have that confirmed! (Though considering the average level of your accuracy in the past, I think I'll need something more than your mere say-so, even though I _would_ like to believe he didn't really say those things reported of him.)

Jason Pratt said...

Shawn Carlson, who is about as far from a "creationist" as anyone can get (by his own testimony), certainly believes that the report of what Dr. Pianka said is basically accurate--and has apparently done research on Pianka's own website to confirm it. (As had, by implication, the author of the original article to which Victor linked.)

Carlson's editorial (also part of the Citizen Scientist site) can be linked to here:


As Carlson points out, Pianka hasn't said he advocates that someone actually _try_ to wipe out 5/6 of the human race; only that he expects it to happen naturally, and that this would (by strong implication) be a good thing for these-and-those reasons. (Neither, btw, have I based my previous comments on the notion that Pianka is actually advocating for someone to do it.)

Carlson's argument for why Pianka is wrong, would be interesting to seriously discuss (if anyone is interested in a serious discussion of it.)

Found any positive evidence, meanwhile, that Dr. Pianka is being wildly travestied (by the people on his own side of the philosophical aisle no less)? I'd still prefer that to be true, for his own sake.

Steven Carr said...

'ns — you know what sapiens means, it means smart — I'd say we're not. I'd say we're dumb because we're letting our population grow just like bacteria grow on an agar plate until they've reached the limits; and that's dumb.'

And that is the extent of Pianka's saying we are bacteria.

Apparently, these wicked , wicked atheists think that because bacteria reproduce and because humans reproduce , we are no better than bacteria.

Why, both humans and dogs process oxygen. We m

http://seguingazette.com/story.lasso?ewcd=3817403731ee3d74&page=allust be no better than dogs.

Jason Pratt said...

You seem to be kind of breaking up there, Steven. Type slower. {g}

{{Apparently, these wicked, wicked atheists think that because bacteria reproduce and because humans reproduce, we are no better than bacteria.}}

You did understand that Dr. Shawn Carlson (one of the editorialists on the Citizen Scientist, criticising against Pianka) is a hardline atheist, right?

Thanks for the (somewhat garbled) quote from Dr. Pianka, though. Also for the link to a (somewhat incomplete) transcript of the speech he gave. Since it was plopped in the midst of another sentence, I'll break it out here:


Notably, this is _not_ necessarily the content of the speech he gave a month or so ago (March 3-5) at the symposium of the Texas Academy of Science at Lamar University in Beaumont, TX. It's a transcript of a (clearly similar) speech given last week (March 31st) at St. Edwards University.

One could (and I think should) charitably suppose that this speech accurately represents his intentions in the early-March presentation. The transcript indicates he's winging the wording of the speech somewhat, while a comparison with Mims' report indicates enough similarity of structure to show that Pianka was following notes, evidently even to the extent of similar wording between the two speeches at key points.

Now, strictly speaking, we _don't_ have a transcript of the early-March speech; consequently, for all we know Mims _may_ be correct in reporting the strength of some of the things Pianka said. (While Dr. Carlson is certainly an atheist, Forrest Mims appears from his curriculae vitae to be a Christian of some sort. Given his extremely long, experienced and distinguished career in the technical sciences, however, I think it would be a grave error to write his response off as being some kind of mouth-breathing fundy reactionary. Meanwhile, the strongly atheistic Carlson is the one criticising Pianka not only on evolutionary principles but practically on anti-theistic principles! His explanation for why Pianka would do this looks like a bit of classic Bulverism, too... {g})

However, if (following the response to this) Pianka toned down his delivery a bit, for the address last week, it might be closer to what he'd intended to mean in the first place.

On the other hand, I can also see that _if_ the (substantially) more recent transcript accurately reflects what was said early last month, Mims (and Carlson after him) could still be justified in calling various coups on it while still easily misunderstanding the intensity of what he meant (especially if he's a fairly intense speaker, which the transcript tends to indicate.)

In any case, despite a significant number of naiveties about what to do concerning various situations, and a rather unfocused lack of understanding of his own contexts on occasion, I didn't find anything overtly objectionable in the transcript from last week. Which, honestly, I'm relieved about.

Having said that, I still think it would be instructive to compare what Pianka and Carlson are saying; especially in regard to Carlson's ideological and ethical criticisms of Pianka.

({sigh} Would anyone care to have a _serious_ discussion about this...?)

Meanwhile, out of curiosity: I suppose your reply means you _do_ think you're better than a bacterium (or even a dog), Steven. If so, why? (Perhaps this will also lead into Carlson's specifically _atheistic, evolutionistic_ criticism of Pianka...)

Also, you do understand what it means to be against anthropocentrism (as Pianka and Carlson both claim to be), right? (One anthropocentric position would be that humans are in fact better than another species, such as a bacterium.)


Lippard said...

The Seguin report and Mims seem to be off on a few points, at least they are missing from the more recent transcript. Mike Dunford has pointed out discrepancies here:

I think it's implausible that Pianka is an advocate of intentionally killing 90% of the population (or that it makes sense to report him to the DHS, as William Dembski did), but it wouldn't surprise me to find that he's eccentric, somewhat misanthropic, and holds views that conflict with mine on human value. It would be nice if someone had a recording of the speech in question in order to resolve the accuracy of Mims' reporting, especially since other witnesses of the same speech have contradicted Mims.

Lippard said...

Here's a statement from the Texas Academy of Science which claims Pianka was "severely misconstrued and sensationalized":


Blue Devil Knight said...

The following is pretty good:

Having read transcripts from videos of both talks, I can just say while I think Pianka is kind of nutty, he has been grossly mischaracterized. I am glad there was video there so that the right wingnut overreaction could be countered to some degree.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Here is the link mentioned above.

Lippard said...

The Seguin Gazette-Enterprise's web pages have been changing recently--apparently they've decided their previous reporting about Pianka needs to be taken offline.

Lippard said...

Hats off to Mike Gene for retracting his initial support of Mims.

Victor Reppert said...

I had seen the name Forrest Mims before. He had been doing an amateur science column for Scientific American that wasn't about biology but he lost his position because it came out that he was a creationist.

But is the distortion and exaggeration on the part of Mims et al deliberate? I suspect that what Pianka said was bad enough, but was made worse as the tale grew with the telling.

Blue Devil Knight said...

In a talk about the problems with human population growth (and there are, undeniably, problems), there is often some 'gallows humor' about how much better this planet (e.g., nonhuman species) would be without us. To take this out of context, and just quote such one-liners, and make it seem like they were the main thrust of the talk, is disingenuous.

He does have some radical proposals, but of all sects in the country, those sympathetic to ID should not want him silenced.

Lippard said...

An update on the disappearing articles from the Seguin Gazette-Enterprise--most of them are now back. (Also another praiseworthy example of how to retract error.)

Shaun Lee said...

Dear Sir, I was wondering whether in light of all the recent developments you would be amending the post or at the very minimum reflecting the real sequence of events in your mainpost for readers who might otherwise not be bothered to read the comments and come away with a false impression.