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Ecologist draws fire over views on population control
05 Apr 2006
A biology professor has been targeted by bloggers and talk radio hosts after
a newspaper in Texas reported he said the Earth would be better off if most
humans were dead.
The Seguin Gazette-Enterprise published a story on Sunday that alleged Eric
Pianka, an ecologist and zoologist who studies reptiles at the University of
Texas, said in a lecture that the world would be better off without 90 per
cent of the human population.
Blogs and talk radio programs went on the attack after the story was posted
on the internet and featured on the Drudge Report, a popular U.S. news
website. Critics accused Pianka of saying that the Ebola virus should be
used to kill most humans.
But Pianka – who has been both a Guggenheim Fellow and a Fulbright Senior
Research Fellow, among other prestigious academic achievements – said his
remarks were taken out of context.
He said he was warning that deadly disease could become epidemic if
population growth is not controlled.
"What we really need to do is start thinking about controlling our
population before it's too late," he told the Press.
"It's already too late, but we're not even thinking about it. We're just
mindlessly rushing ahead breeding our brains out."
Pianka attributed the furor over his lecture to a rival whom he accused of
attempting to smear his reputation.
The ecologist said since the report was published, he has received abusive
e-mails and death threats, including one threatening his family.
'I don't bear any ill will towards anybody'
The report said Pianka weighed the destructive power of various diseases,
such as AIDS and avian flu, and found that the Ebola virus is the only one
that could kill 90 per cent of the human population.
He said that would put humanity back into ecological balance with the world.
But Pianka said his lecture didn't mean he wants to see most humans die.
"I don't bear any ill will towards anybody," Pianka told the television
station KXAN, based in Austin. "I've got two granddaughters, man. I'm
putting money in a college fund for my granddaughters. I'm worried about
Pianka named Distinguished Texas Scientist in 2006
Pianka posts some of his views on his website, along with photos of himself
with the lizards he studies.
He describes himself as "The Lizard Man." He says he became disabled at the
age of 13 when he set off a bazooka shell that he picked up on an army base
and developed gangrene in his leg. He also spent 10 years as a hermit in the
desert and he lives with a herd of bison.
But he went on to become an eminent, award-winning scientist with 20 books
and hundreds of scientific papers under his belt, studies at Princeton
University and positions on a host of scientific boards.
Besides the prestigious fellowships, he was made a Distinguished Texas Scientist by the eminent Texas Academy after giving a speech earlier in 2006
on his population ideas.
University defends freedom of speech
Pianka's views have caused a stir in Austin.
"We have a lot of different points of view on the University of Texas at
Austin campus. And we certainly support our faculty in saying what they
think," said Don Hale, a spokesman for the University of Texas.
"They have the right to express their point of view," he said. "But they're
expressing their personal point of view."