Tuesday, April 04, 2006

There are too many of us.

Eric R. Pianka is a zoologist at the University of Texas at Austin. He is apparently well-known for believing that there are too many people on our planet, and argues for this in the essay, What nobody wants to hear, but everyone needs to know. Recently, he spoke at the Texas Academy of Science, and as reported by Forrest Mims (Digg), an Academy member, Pianka advocated the elimination of about 90% of our population via airbourne Ebola. Wow.

Wesley R. Elsberry points out in his blog that Intelligence Design advocates complain that they are censored by the scientific community because their work is unpopular or "scientifically immoral". It's ironic, then, that they themselves would censor Pianka's unpopular immoral ideas.


Nate said...

I won't disagree-- the intelligent design people say that they are censored. And I think they whine too much about it, considering that if they really did new science then nobody in science would censor them at all.

I suggest you go back to the drawing board on this irony thing, though.
Let me give you an example to explain....

There is an upcoming art fair, organized by Y, for showing computer generated pictures. X says his freedom to express himself is violated by Y because Y will not display X's vases at a fair dedicated to pictures. Y expresses himself in the fair by making lifelike depictions of children being raped (we'll assume that this is legal where the fair is happening).

Must X agree that this is okay? No. X can have objections Q1 against Y's expression (the pictures) itself. For example Q1 could include that Y's pictures are ugly or obscene. Unless those same arguments Q1 are what Y uses for X not being able to display the vases, X is not being ironic at all to apply Q1 to Y's pictures.

I bring this up because what you seem to be doing is looking at Y's argument against X, labeling it Q2 even though it's unrelated to Q1 in anything but its name, and then saying X is being ironic for both using Q1 and objecting to Q2 because both Q1 and Q2 have Q in their names.

I think that's the longest expression I've ever heard of the phrase "don't compare apples and oranges."

Jeff S. said...

But X is totally convinced that his vases qualify as pictures because of the pretty drawings (C) on them, yet he's still excluded from the fair! Rejecting Q2, he/she thinks that it's not the vases but C that are getting excluded because Y doesn't like them (Q3), even though Y allows all kinds of other pictures. Having failed to tackle Q2 directly, X raises censorship arguments (A3) in response to Y's anti-vase arguments Q2.

In the meantime, X still raises Q1 in objection to Y's art. But X doesn't allow Y to raise A3 to respond to his own objections Q1 against Y. That's the irony. It's not that Q1 and Q2 are related, but that A3 applies equally well (or poorly) to Q1 and Q2. X likes A3 in one case but not in the other.

federico said...

Although I believe many of the things Pianka says are quasi-true (for instance, how our economy can only work if it is growing) I need to disagree with him to some level. Running out of resources is not necessarily only a matter of sheer numbers of people. How about the distribution of resources?

Forty percent of the world supply of many resources (oil, energy, etc) is used by the United States, which has only 5% of the world population. Alas, if this guy Pianka shot himself then eight people elsewhere could be sustained by our biosphere.

Nate said...

Jeff- You've got yourself in a hole. A3 is Q, a hasty genealization that makes 1 and 2 not matter.

Let's go back to the specifics, though, because it seems that some people I've talked to today, not you, don't want to bother with this hypothetical situation stuff.

What does "scientifically immoral" mean, when did the ID people claim that's a reason their ideas aren't aceepted, and why does that preclude them from having Judeo-Christian moral arguements against Pianka? You are saying there's irony because both are moral matters but you're not acknowledging that it's different morals.

Why does the ID propenent's claim that they are unfairly having their academic freedoms violated over a matter that has no element of criminal activity preclude them from acting differently in a case where someone else's academic idea does potentially involve/ point toward/ encourage/ whatever criminal activity? You are saying there's irony because both are matters of "academic freedom" but you're missing that there are different reasons "academic freedom" gets violated.

You might find irony by making line drawing fallacies after hasty genaeralizations but that doesn't mean that you're not making logical errors. All kinds of absurd things happen when logical fallacies are committed. If you're not convinced then I hope you find irony in things like...

Trees and grass are both plants but they grow differntly.

You and Dick Durbin are both male humans but you're differnet people.

Macs and PCs from the early 1990s are both computers but software for one does not just install and run on another.

These are all statements about objects instead of ideas, but it's still a matter of finding irony only after in ignoring specifics that make a difference.

Anonymous said...

in response to Federico, imagine that Pianka represents the "modernized nations" and the 8 people you mention represent the third world. it would make no difference if Pianka shot himself. Pianka himself as an American may indeed use most of the world's resources, but his contribution to the population problem is minimal since he only has 2 grandchildren. Now consider the people in the third world, who have on average 5 or more children per family. If we left Pianka alive and shot the 8 people you mentioned before they could breed, I would consider it crisis averted.

Federico said...

Some comments in response to the anonymous coward:

1) Most people in civilized coutries don't spend nearly as much resources as an upper-middle class person.

2) From point #1, it follows that the 1-to-8 ratio underestimates how much resources are wasted in ipods for upper-middle class "civilized world" Piankas.

3) Historically, Pianka's government will wage war against third world countries to ensure access to these resources.

4) From point #4, it follows that it doesn't really matter how many children are bred in the thirld world, for they will be cut access to their own resources.

5) In any event, many of these third world people will die before the age of five because resources were spent in the production of Pianka's Viagra rather than producing cheap vaccines for poor children.

6) Also, their life expectancy could be only half as long as Pianka's, same reason as above.

7) Through economic domination, those third world people are necessary to produce Pianka's flat screen TV and Nike sneakers. So maybe in some sense you are right that shooting them will solve the problem.

8) I have to say, however, that from an intelectual point of view, the idea of shooting Piankas is far more satisfying than shooting poor children.