Monday, April 03, 2006

Dr. Doom

So there's this hippie-crunchy prof. at U of Texas who is actively cheering for a worldwide ebola outbreak. Click on the "Dr. Doom" title above to read about him. This guy is a dangerous misanthropic clown. I offer a few insights from the MD side about an ebola pandemic not so much based on hard science as common sense.

First, here are a few choice quotes from Dr. Pianka, who, apparently, has his P.h.D. in biology (these quotes entirely from the story linked above... The Seguin Gazette: UT professor says death is imminent: By Jamie Mobley: The Gazette-Enterprise: Published April 2, 2006)...

  • "[Disease] will control the scourge of humanity," Pianka said. "We're looking forward to a huge collapse."
  • "The biggest enemy we face is anthropocentrism," he said, describing the belief system in which humans are the central element of the universe. "This is that common attitude that everything on this Earth was put here for [human] use."
  • "Although [Ebola Zaire] Kills 9 out of 10 people, outbreaks have so far been unable to become epidemics because they are currently spread only by direct physical contact with infected blood. However, a closely-related virus that kills monkeys, Ebola Reston, is airborne, and it is only a matter of time until Ebola Zaire evolves the capacity to be airborne."
  • Does he believe nature will bring about this promised devastation? Or is humanity's own dissemination of a deadly virus the only answer? And more importantly, is this the motive behind his talks?
    Responding to these very questions, Pianka said, "Good terrorists would be taking [Ebola Roaston and Ebola Zaire] so that they had microbes they could let loose on the Earth that would kill 90 percent of people."
What Pianka is basing this on is the concept of ''carrying capacity'', the well known and demonstrable fact that populations of animals are regulated by their environments. Too many animals, not enough food? Death. Epidemic disease in a large, concentrated population of animals? Death. The population numbers shift this way and that and eventually a steady-state is reached again. Now it seems to me that this carrying capacity argument regarding humans has failed many times before... Malthus for one, mainly because of the assumption that humans ARE, in fact, no different than animals.
Pianka makes the same mistake. Not to open a can of worms, but which species other than homo sapiens can alter their health and behaviors to the degree we can? Pianka assumes that what has been a 90% fatality rate with ebola in Africa would be a 90% fatality rate in the west. That is folly. I well remember an epidemiology professor in medical school dramatizing the AIDS "plague" by projecting the image of an iceberg on the screen and telling us in 1993 that the homosexual population represented the tip of the iceberg. In ten years, he said, AIDS would be a heterosexual disease and have claimed tens of millions of lives in America. No one had any faith that science would provide us with an answer, or at least a temporizing medicine, which we soon had in the form of protease inhibitors.
As far as Pianka's claim that antrhropocentrism is the biggest enemy we face I would ask a couple of questions. Given that he thinks extermination of 90% of the human race desirable isn't the biggest enemy we face Dr. Pianka? Secondly, if there are some things on the earth that are for human use and some that aren't what are they? Who will make this determination? Pianka? I have a feeling he would have us all living in caves and eating grass. I say let him lead the way and demonstrate this lifesyle for us then we can choose whether to follow.
As to the last quote I'm sure he is now on the FBI watch list and should be. This guy would have been a great executioner, or a great nazi death camp guard, or a great ''wormtongue'' in the Lord of the Rings. He deserves to be ostracized, but evidently some of his audience are as filled with self-loathing as he is. What in God's name is he doing teaching at a University? Certainly he has free speach rights and we have, in turn, the right to hold him up for ridicule. Too bad for UT but academia is now the refuge of those who have been educated far beyond their intelligence.

1 comment:

  1. You should read the book The Professors. It is scary who is teaching at our universities. I hope things have changed by the time my kids get there. It reminds me of the adage "those who can do, those who can't teach". Most of the people in admin at colleges these days are lazy ex hippie commies who fled to Canada in the 60's.