Saturday, April 08, 2006

Skank Eye

Eric R. Pianka, whose webpage photo reminds me of a famous painting of John Brown, is the University of Texas ecology professor under attack for suggesting in a public lecture that there were just too many human beings on the planet. His accusers claimed he was actively rooting for a super-Ebola virus that could kill off 90% of the population—one of his critics, William Dembski, actually reported him to the Department of Homeland Security. In fact Pianka wasn’t saying very much that isn’t a commonplace. One hardly has to be a votary of the Earth Mother to recognize the anomaly of a single species absorbing so huge a proportion of the primary productivity of an entire planet or to expect exponential growth of any kind to result eventually in exponential decline. But Pianka wasn’t attacked because he voiced a prohibited idea. He was charged under suspicion of harboring an impermissible wish. A pattern that should be familiar by now: how often have critics of the Iraq War been accused of wishing the deaths of American soldiers? A similar thought crime.

I doubt if Eric Pianka wants anybody dead. As he wrote on his website, he certainly doesn’t want his grandchildren to die. And the propaganda theme of murderous-minded lefties is surely a projection, coming as it does from folks whose homicidal dreams are easy to document. The more important point here, however, is far simpler: Wishing just doesn’t make it so. Having the Urge to Kill is not quite the same thing as attempted murder except for the terminally superstitious who have trouble distinguishing fantasy and reality. Old-fashion totalitarians of both the Christian and the Stalinist dispensations used to police thought. That doesn’t suffice for the American theocratic right. They want to police dreams and feelings as well. The state, the party, and the church must be protected against the evil eye.