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A warped plan to save Earth

Dimitri Vassilaros / Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW | April 7 2006

Eric R. Pianka is Moses, lizard man, self-loathing human debasement, a tenured embarrassment for the University of Texas -- and to the Texas Academy of Science, recipient of its 2006 Distinguished Texas Scientist award even though the biology professor wants 90 percent of the human race exterminated. Quickly.

Mr. Pianka is the antithesis of anthropocentric. That probably explains why the scientist that Texans consider distinguished says "we are no better than bacteria." And why he believes Earth can be saved if all but 10 percent of the human race could be killed off without lingering -- ideally by the highly lethal airborne Ebola virus because he says HIV would be too slow.

(Picture Al Gore as a tree-hugging alpha male on steroids who just for an instant actually believed what he wrote in "Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit.")

Forrest M. Mims III, chairman of the academy's Environmental Science Section and editor of The Citizen Scientist, was in the audience during Pianka's presentation of his final solution of the human question -- presumably the excess humans instead of the surely vital ones such as those who attended the academy's annual meeting in March and heard him speak.

"He wishes for it. He hopes for it. He laughs about it. He jokes about it," Mr. Mims said in published reports about Pianka's euthanasia plan for Earth. "It's got to happen because we are the scourge of humanity."

And conservatives are called neo-Nazis?

If humans just weren't so gosh darn anthropocentric they would realize they are not at the top of the food chain or a superior life form and that there are way too many of them, to sum up the essence of Pianka's manifesto.

Calls and e-mail to Pianka requesting comment were not returned. And no bacterium agreed to be interviewed.

Mims mischaracterized Pianka's speech, said David S. Marsh, president of the Texas Academy of Science, when we spoke by telephone. However, Mr. Marsh declined to offer even one example of his allegation, not even in his prepared statement sent to this column.

Visit Pianka's Web site to read the elaborate obituary he wrote about himself, his "Ten Commandments" for students as he poses as Moses, about his love for a reptilian life form as he poses with a lizard and what he says about the Biology 301M course -- Ecology, Evolution and Society -- he teaches.

"(M)any people unconsciously place humanity at the exact center of the universe. In this view, the utility of anything is measured by how it can be used by humans. For many, everything has its dollar value. Such anthropocentrism is understandable but narrow and misguided.

"It is a worthwhile exercise to imagine that something else, such as an ant, a lizard, an oak tree or an HIV virus, is really the focus of the cosmos. From such a perspective, the almighty dollar quickly loses its primacy. What good are lizards? Indeed, what good are you?!"

Huh?

One wonders if the learned Texas professor ever contemplated leading by example regarding his dismissive attitude about the almighty dollar or excess humans, and if so, what stopped him?

When Mr. Pianka received a standing ovation from members of the academy, it also raised a rhetorical question about them -- "Indeed, what good are you?"

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