Published: 10 April 2006 (GMT+10)
An astonishing lecture makes sense if you understand the evolutionary framework
A stunning claim circulating the internet is that a university lecturer was publicly applauded for advocating the elimination of 90% of the world’s population by airborne Ebola virus.
An eyewitness certainly gained that impression from the talk by Dr Eric Pianka, a highly respected evolutionary ecologist, given in early March 2006 to the Texas Academy of Science at Lamar University in Beaumont.1 Pianka may have been misunderstood in that he probably did not say that Ebola use should be some sort of deliberate policy. But the reality, based on an incomplete transcript of the actual talk, is still cause for grave concern.
The talk was deemed to have content for which the general public was ‘not yet ready’. Pianka was predicting the imminent collapse of humanity from various causes, including disease. So far, this is nothing out of the ordinary for environmental extremists of his ilk. But there is a disturbing aspect that sets it apart from the many other ‘doomsday scenarios’ such as his thoroughly discredited fellow evolutionist Paul Ehrlich (note: for a moderate creationist view of environmental issues, see Fouling the Nest: Christianity and the environment and Earth Day: Is Christianity to blame for environment problems?). Pianka actually seems to have been overtly enthusiastic about the prospect that a virus like Ebola would soon mutate to wipe out the majority of humanity. AIDS, he claimed, was too slow to do the job needed to save the planet from the human scourge. The respected Christian commentator Nancy Pearcey reports that a supporter of Pianka’s attending the lecture posted the following comment:
‘Dr. Pianka’s talk at the TAS meeting was mostly of the problems humans are causing as we rapidly proliferate around the globe … the bulk of his talk was that he’s waiting for the virus that will eventually arise and kill off 90% of human population. In fact, his hope, if you can call it that, is that the ebola virus which attacks humans currently (but only through blood transmission) will mutate with the ebola virus that attacks monkeys airborne to create an airborne ebola virus that attacks humans. He’s a radical thinker, that one! I mean, he’s basically advocating for the death of all but 10% of the current population! And at the risk of sounding just as radical, I think he’s right.’ 2
Pianka’s comments received rapturous applause, ending with a standing ovation, from the audience of several hundred scientists, students and professors. A handful expressed outrage afterwards at someone getting excited at the prospect of billions dying in agony from a disease that has them hemorrhaging from every orifice. But only hours after his speech, Pianka received a plaque from the Academy for the honour of having been named its 2006 Scientist of the Year—to more thunderous applause from the 400 or so present.
Pianka, a lizard specialist, was apparently vocal in condemning the (biblical, creationist) idea that people are special (made in God’s image) as opposed to other organisms. He underlined his point by telling a story about a neighbour who asked him what good the lizards are that he studies. Pianka answered: ‘What good are you?’ and then exclaimed, ‘We’re no better than bacteria!’
Of course, all of this is highly consistent with the idea of evolution. If nature made itself, and the Bible is not true, then it makes perfect sense to say that people are no more special than bacteria. In fact, why should bacteria themselves be any more special than anything else, even a pile of dirt? What could ‘special’ possibly mean, anyway?
In a consistently evolutionary world, people are really just rearranged pond scum in a pitiless universe. The only meaning to life is that which we arbitrarily choose to assign for ourselves, to lessen our despair. There can be no absolute standard by which to claim that people are more special than cockroaches, for example, or that it is undesirable for the former to die out and the latter to proliferate. (You think otherwise? Who sez?) Of course, it is doubtful whether such evolutionists live consistently with their own philosophy—would Pianka himself refuse antibiotics to wipe out his ‘equals’ (the pathogenic germs) if they were causing an illness to him?
To reinforce that the evolutionary religion is where Pianka is ‘coming from’, note this student’s evaluation of this highly popular professor:
‘This [the course taught by Pianka] is the closest thing this university has to a true religion course and Pianka is the perfect preacher. In other science courses we are taught to look at things specifically and therefore lose the big picture. In this class we study the big picture. “Why are we here?” That question is answered in evolution. Everyone should be required to take this class to “spread the word.”’3
If the positive response from academics (to Pianka’s enthusiastic hope that viruses would soon decimate humanity) puzzles you, remember that a university audience is not only highly intelligent, but highly evolutionized, saturated in a worldview that basically says that nature made itself. So, if no-one made us, if we are just evolved animals, then there is no higher moral authority than that of our own choosing—no absolutes of right or wrong. In other words, ‘We can do what we please’. And if it pleases people today to choose to worship nature (see Romans 1:25) for its own sake (as in extreme environmentalism), then who can say that it is ‘wrong’ for them to express their evolutionary adoration for ‘nature’ by getting excited about a virus, no matter how ghoulish, getting rid of ‘excess humans’? On the other hand, though, evolution provides no logical basis for caring about the environment either—why not let weaker species die out? It would just be proof that we are the fittest.
When we Christians largely withdrew our engagement from the culture that we once strongly influenced for good, more than a century ago, by failing to make a stand on Genesis history in the belief that it was a ‘side issue’, most would not have foreseen the consequences. Few would have dreamed of the (then) coming link between Darwinism and the Holocaust, a link which even academics are starting to wake up to (e.g. Richard Weikart’s work From Darwin to Hitler (see our review)). The horrors revealed at Auschwitz caused evolutionary/eugenic4 ideas to slink into the background for a generation or so. But the logical consequences of a powerful belief system will not lie dormant for long. The rapturous reception to Pianka’s ideas is an ominous wakeup call about the battle raging today.
- <www.sas.org/tcs/weeklyIssues_2006/2006-04-07/feature1p/index.html>. Return to text.
- <www.pearceyreport.com/archives/2006/04/transcript_dr_d.php>. Return to text.
- <http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/%7Evaranus/evaluations.html>. Return to text.
- The idea that the less fit or less desirable should be exterminated or sterilized for the ‘greater good’, traditionally seen as the good of the human gene pool. This idea, fostered by Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton, the one who coined the term ‘eugenics’. This notion, which led to many thousands of forced sterilizations in the US, has been modified within extreme environmentalism to mean for the greater good of ‘mother Earth’. In his lecture, Pianka praised China’s one-baby policy and was enthusiastic about the idea of compulsory chemical sterilization of all, with the ability to selectively provide the ‘antidote’ to encourage responsible reproduction. Return to text.