Since when have mass extinctions saved this planet?

In a piece in the Washington Examiner, Glenn Reynolds looks at a very scary doomsday scenario -- mass annihilation of humanity by violent scientific nuts. Glenn notes that so far, radical environmentalists have only committed "regular" acts of terrorism, but worries about scientific nuts crossing the line:

Holdren has since distanced himself from these views, but still. Lee was a violent nut, but not a scientist. Holdren is a scientist (who held nutty views, at least at one point) but he's not a violent nut.

But here's what worries me: What if we get the two in combination?

There are plenty of nuts out there. There are also a lot of scientists.

So far, we've been pretty lucky that there aren't more scientists who are also nuts. Though the "mad scientist" is a staple of literature, they're fortunately pretty rare in real life.

But biotechnology is getting more common and -- thanks to folks ranging from Paul Ehrlich (Holdren's coauthor) to Al Gore -- so are apocalyptic environmental views that treat humans as a cancer upon the earth.

[...]

With such views spreading, and with technology making it steadily easier for individual or small groups to try creating their own viruses or diseases to, in their mind, level the score, perhaps we need to hold the environmental movement responsible for its frequent use of eliminationist rhetoric.

(I'm all for that; yanking Al Gore's Nobel Prize might be a good start.)

Unfortunately, there already are scientists who fall into the nut category, and some who fall into what I would call the dangerous nut category. While none of them has yet put into practice what he preaches, that is hardly reassuring, because their existence is a warning sign that a scientifically engineered mass human holocaust may well be in the offing.

Four years ago, I wrote about professor Eric Pianka and his bizarre -- yet in his view scientifically reasonable -- ideas about saving the planet. He has stated that "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,", and in a lecture before the Texas Academy of Science, this "world-renowned ecologist, advocated for the extermination of 90 percent of the human species in a most horrible and painful manner."

I watched in amazement as a few hundred members of the Texas Academy of Science rose to their feet and gave a standing ovation to a speech that enthusiastically advocated the elimination of 90 percent of Earth's population by airborne Ebola.
The point here is not so much whether Ebola is the best mass killing agent; as Glenn put it, technology is making it "steadily easier for individual or small groups to try creating their own viruses or diseases to, in their mind, level the score."

In Pianka's mind, any virus or disease agent would do provided it is efficient, because leveling the score is what it's all about:

One of Pianka's earliest points was a condemnation of anthropocentrism, or the idea that humankind occupies a privileged position in the Universe. He told a story about how a neighbor asked him what good the lizards are that he studies. He answered, "What good are you?"

Pianka hammered his point home by exclaiming, "We're no better than bacteria!"

Pianka then began laying out his concerns about how human overpopulation is ruining the Earth. He presented a doomsday scenario in which he claimed that the sharp increase in human population since the beginning of the industrial age is devastating the planet. He warned that quick steps must be taken to restore the planet before it's too late.

Well, if we're no better than bacteria, that would presumably mean Pianka is no better than E. Coli. (He is certainly more dangerous to humanity, because by his own admission, he is a sworn enemy of humanity.)

Ebola to him is a favorite simply because of its efficiency:

AIDS is not an efficient killer, he explained, because it is too slow. His favorite candidate for eliminating 90 percent of the world's population is airborne Ebola ( Ebola Reston ), because it is both highly lethal and it kills in days, instead of years. However, Professor Pianka did not mention that Ebola victims die a slow and torturous death as the virus initiates a cascade of biological calamities inside the victim that eventually liquefy the internal organs.

After praising the Ebola virus for its efficiency at killing, Pianka paused, leaned over the lectern, looked at us and carefully said, "We've got airborne 90 percent mortality in humans. Killing humans. Think about that."

Suppose a suicidal environmentalist nut like James Lee were willing to carry out such a program?
Must now we worry that a Pianka-worshipping former student might someday become a professional biologist or physician with access to the most deadly strains of viruses and bacteria? I believe that airborne Ebola is unlikely to threaten the world outside of Central Africa. But scientists have regenerated the 1918 Spanish flu virus that killed 50 million people. There is concern that small pox might someday return. And what other terrible plagues are waiting out there in the natural world to cross the species barrier and to which scientists will one day have access?
Considering the standing ovation and cheers that Pianka received from young future scientists, its inevitable that among them are people who would eagerly encourage and cheer on the prospect of mass genocide by means of a genetically engineered super killer.

It is beyond dispute that such people are the common enemy of humanity. There are few of them, and a lot of us. But how do we stop them before they stop us?

It has long struck me that the biggest problem with the thinking of many environmentalists is the view that humanity is not -- or should not be -- a legitimate part of the environment. This illogical, irrational hatred of humanity is probably grounded in self hatred.

I agree with Glenn that radical environmentalists who spout eliminationist rhetoric should be condemned the same way that Holocaust advocates are condemned. The less legitimate they are, the less likely they are to work their way into positions of trust in the sciences. But that's not going to stop the availability of the technology. If a student can create morphine-producing yeast (which they have -- a development I think is ultimately for the good), then what's to stop a student from using similar technology for a genocidal purpose?

And what would stop a rich billionaire from funding it; suppose someone normally considered a "philanthropist" like George Soros decided to embark on a kooky "philanthropic misanthropy" mission to save the planet from mankind?

We can only hope that the same technology which would be used to destroy us to save the planet could be quickly harnessed as counter-technology to destroy the destroyer. If not, we might also hope that the same thing would give them pause that makes many a would be suicide bomber wimp out.

You know, the simple goal of wanting to live?

I think someone ought to be keeping an eye on the radical environmentalists who don't want to live...

What I would really like to understand is why this planet is so infinitely better than the species that happens to dominate it right now that the former must be "saved" at the expense of the latter.

It strikes me as a highly judgmental, earth-centric, and naively moralistic view -- the childishly simplistic essence of which boils down to this:

Earth good, man evil!

Can anyone explain how that passes for science?

Come on, where's the scorn and ridicule?

Where are all the usual skeptics? Are they asleep?

(You'd almost think they'd been intimidated by terrorists....)

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and a warm welcome to all.

Your comments are appreciated, agree or disagree.

posted by Eric on 09.06.10 at 11:56 AM










Comments

James Tiptree, Jr. (pen name of Alice Bradley Sheldon) gave the benevolent-bug scenario a memorable fictional treatment in "The Last Flight of Dr. Ain," readable online at http://mtsu32.mtsu.edu:11072/3050/Stories/Two_by_Tiptree.pdf.

notaclue   ·  September 6, 2010 12:21 PM

Broken link. Try pasting mtsu32.mtsu.edu:11072/3050/Stories/Two_by_Tiptree.pdf

notaclue   ·  September 6, 2010 12:23 PM

Ever notice that all the people who complain about overpopulation never seem to put their money where their mouths are by offing themselves first?

Kev   ·  September 7, 2010 10:28 PM

Okay, first Tom Clancy managed to sort of predict crashing jumbo jets into buildings in "Debt of Honor," now his vision of Ebola as an agent of human extinction from "Rainbow Six" appears to be a lot less far-fetched. Where's Jack Ryan when you need him?

Jdbar93   ·  September 7, 2010 10:33 PM

Ever see the Terry Gilliam film "12 Monkeys"? The nightmare scenario.

Bubba Thudd   ·  September 7, 2010 10:45 PM

Be at peace.

Eric Holder stands ready to protect us from Left wing crazies.

He's got all the time in the world since his department, by order, is ignoring illegal immigration and voting rights act violations.

TmjUtah   ·  September 7, 2010 10:47 PM

Kev -- Jack Ryan, hell. We may need John Clark for some of these people someday.

Thomas   ·  September 7, 2010 10:52 PM

I recommend viewing the Hitchcock film "The Rope" It is the story of intellectuals talking themselves into murder solely as an academic exercise. It is chilling given this eliminationist rhetoric...and Jimmie Stewart gives another great performance.

BobB   ·  September 7, 2010 11:01 PM

I recommend viewing the Hitchcock film "The Rope" It is the story of intellectuals talking themselves into murder solely as an academic exercise. It is chilling given this eliminationist rhetoric...and Jimmie Stewart gives another great performance.

BobB   ·  September 7, 2010 11:02 PM

I think an interesting experiment would be to go to one of these meetings and get someone outside to lock the doors shut near the end, then stand up and say, "Well, we'll get our chance to see. I've been releasing Ebola Reston steadily while moving about the room. Most of you will probably die within a relatively few hours or days, but if you hurry you can make it home to infect your loved ones."

And then just watch the reaction.

jorgxmckie   ·  September 7, 2010 11:09 PM

Alice Sheldon (James Tiptree Jr.) killed her husband and then killed herself, which seems to be related to this topic.

William Hamblen   ·  September 7, 2010 11:13 PM

"And what would stop a rich billionaire from funding it;"

Or even a poor billionaire.

Walter Sobchak   ·  September 8, 2010 12:09 AM
M. Simon   ·  September 8, 2010 12:13 AM

I remember the sh!tstorm that ensued from the Pianka speech. wrote about it at the time; so did I. Robert Bidinotto probably summarized the eliminationist mindset best:Ask yourself the following question: Where is there a place for humans and their works in a world where pristine nature is deemed ideal, and the productive use of nature for human gain is deemed immoral?

In essence, environmentalists are attacking our very right to live, period. That position permits no compromise. To concede an inch of ground to it is to surrender, in principle, the entire battle for our lives, well-being, and happiness.

Ed Minchau   ·  September 8, 2010 12:53 AM

missed a link in there: should read
"Luboš Motl wrote about it at the time..."

Ed Minchau   ·  September 8, 2010 12:58 AM

These people are the Marxists of the 21st Century. Unless stopped, they'll do for us what the spawn of the progressive movements, the Socialists, Communists, Nazis and Fascists did for the 20th Century. Remember that eugenics was celebrated social policy once, just as abortion is today and the destruction of humanity in the name of saving the earth is about to be, unless we put an end to this nonsense now.

flataffect   ·  September 8, 2010 1:56 AM

Simple heuristic, obviously applicable to to these super-Eichmann maniacs: espousal of techniques that would cause biocide of the human race are instantly countered by messy, and public liquidation. Yes, I mean unapologetic killing of deep-green environmentalists, in the same way that we celebrate the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich. Hey, eco-loons, if we're a burden on the planet, it'll be an honour for your blood to be spilt first, right? And we promise, you won't take an agonising week for it to happen, either. Your brains will hit the wall behind you at the speed of sound.

David Gillies   ·  September 8, 2010 3:01 AM

Here's a couple of searches you might want to do: Prof. Adrian Gibbs is the marquee name for the H1N1-as-lab-made notion. One of the search results is detailed and link-loaded --i don't know what to make of it but here it is. One notes that had it gone epidemic, the crisis would've been in time for the debate over the health care bill.

Then there's this:

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/andy-stern-joins-sigas-board-of-directors-2010-06-21

(here's a snip)

Jun 21, 2010

SIGA Technologies, Inc., a company specializing in the development of pharmaceutical agents to combat bio-warfare pathogens, announced today that Andy Stern, labor leader and prominent advocate for reform, joined SIGA's board of directors.

Mr. Stern is the former president of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the largest and fastest-growing healthcare union in North America.

Andy Stern was responsible for growing the SEIU from 1.0 million members into a powerful 2.2 million member union. Under his leadership, the SEIU had been widely recognized as being an engaged and influential force driving healthcare reform and, ultimately, passage of the 2010 Health Care Reform Act.

"Andy is a strong leader and a great addition to our Board of Directors. His insight, experience, and leadership, particularly his understanding of how our federal government works, will complement the skill sets of our existing board members," said Dr. Eric Rose, SIGA's Chief Executive Officer.

Mr. Stern has been cited in numerous publications as being one of the most influential leaders on healthcare and a frequent White House visitor. In 2010, Stern was named a Presidential appointee to the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

Mr. Stern also serves on the board of directors of Broad Foundation, the Open Society Institute, and the Economic Policy Institute, as well as a lifetime Trustee of the Aspen Institute, and the President of the Kaiser Permanente Partnership.

Andy Stern is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and author of the book "A Country That Works" (Free Press).

About SIGA Technologies, Inc.

SIGA Technologies is applying viral and bacterial genomics and sophisticated computational modeling in the design and development of novel products for the prevention and treatment of serious infectious diseases, with an emphasis on products for biological warfare defense. SIGA believes that it is a leader in the development of pharmaceutical agents to fight potential bio-warfare pathogens. SIGA has antiviral programs targeting smallpox and other Category A pathogens, including arenaviruses (Lassa fever, Junin, Machupo, Guanarito, Sabia, and lymphocytic choriomeningitis), dengue virus, and the filoviruses (Ebola and Marburg). For more information about SIGA, please visit SIGA's web site at http://www.siga.com/.

The SIGA Technologies, Inc. logo is available at www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=4504

This news release was distributed by GlobeNewswire, www.globenewswire.com

(close quote)
***
nerves.

buddy larsen   ·  September 8, 2010 3:04 AM

Herbert's "White Plague."

Destroys humanity with a biobug engineered to kill women. No more filthy parasitic babies.

simarilian   ·  September 8, 2010 3:05 AM

Not to worry ladies and gentlemen, we got the edge.

Tom Cruise is on our side.

At least I think he is.

papertiger   ·  September 8, 2010 6:20 AM

Great albeit scary article.

except for one point. They are not self-haters, they are God haters. The bottom line is that the people who think this way are shaking their fist at God.

Dadofhomeschoolers

dadofhomeschoolers   ·  September 8, 2010 6:44 AM

Heck, I used this scenario back in 1995 as the premise for an oversize "Chicago Hope" fanfiction story back when I still did stuff like that. One era's geeky craziness is the next era's plausible development...

the permanent newbie   ·  September 8, 2010 6:53 AM

What's the point of "saving the planet" if there's nobody left to live on it? The logic escapes me.

Granny   ·  September 8, 2010 7:45 AM

"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"

At least you could surrender to Hitler.

Arty   ·  September 8, 2010 8:05 AM

In essence, environmentalists are attacking our very right to live, period. That position permits no compromise. To concede an inch of ground to it is to surrender, in principle, the entire battle for our lives, well-being, and happiness.

Right to life? What is that?

DiogenesLamp   ·  September 8, 2010 9:44 AM

Eric--

As far back as 1973, D. Keith Mano addressed this in his novel "The Bridge".

sestamibi   ·  September 8, 2010 12:07 PM

"Ebola Reston" - obviously this guy isn't too much of a scientist, since Ebola Reston is only fatal to monkeys (It was named after a one-off event in a monkey facility in Reston, VA).

Meso   ·  September 8, 2010 1:25 PM

What happens when the nuts wipe out 90% of the human race and those that are left are all eastern european communists? will they remake the world as an industrially polluted hell-hole that easter europe was? Mass murder is not as clean a solution as one might imagine.

ed   ·  September 8, 2010 1:54 PM

Ed Minchau · September 8, 2010 12:58 AM

"These people are the Marxists of the 21st Century. Unless stopped, they'll do for us what the spawn of the progressive movements, the Socialists, Communists, Nazis and Fascists did for the 20th Century."

Reminds me of LOTR, where Gandalf states, "Always, after a defeat and a respite, the Shadow takes another form and grows again."

Bart   ·  September 8, 2010 3:09 PM

First off, guys like Pianka should be euthanized, in exception to what should be a general rule against human euthanasia. I like jorgxmckie's solution, for one.

Second thing:

This scenario of Pianka's is amateurishly stupid and would never work to the extent he's suggesting. There is no way that a handful of lunatics could develop a massive dispersal system to kill 90% of humanity. No way at all. As for Ebola, it is too fast-acting to infect over a real wide dispersal area. The pandemic would burn out after massive infection of some major transportation nodes.

A "succesful" attack would still be spectacular, and could kill tens of thousands of people in a week's time. The end result would be, however, a raging fury by general humanity that would devastate the environmental movement, and not just the crazies.

Don Rodrigo   ·  September 8, 2010 6:43 PM

A "succesful" attack would still be spectacular... The end result would be, however, a raging fury by general humanity that would devastate the environmental movement, and not just the crazies.

One would only hope that would be the result. I'm not at all sure that's what would happen though. I think there would be some fury. A lot of fury. There would also be the navel gazing loons who'd ask, "why do they hate us? We have to do more to accommodate them, so they won't hate us anymore".

I think the loons might out number those who cherish self preservation. Or perhaps they are just misguided in their self preservation... that may be human nature. What appears to be the easiest and smartest path is not always the best or most successful.

sookie   ·  September 9, 2010 7:08 AM

Does the Unabomber count as a scientific nut who crossed the line?

Micha Elyi   ·  September 9, 2010 2:36 PM

Post a comment


April 2011
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

ANCIENT (AND MODERN)
WORLD-WIDE CALENDAR


Search the Site


E-mail



Classics To Go

Classical Values PDA Link



Archives



Recent Entries



Links



Site Credits