Ecologist draws fire over views on population control

A biology professor has been targeted by bloggers and talk radio hosts after a Texas newspaper reported he said the Earth would be better off if most humans were dead.

A biology professor has been targeted by bloggers and talk radio hosts after a newspaper in Texas reported he said the Earth would be better off if most humans were dead.

The Seguin Gazette-Enterprise published a story on Sunday that alleged Eric Pianka, an ecologist and zoologist who studies reptiles at the University of Texas, said in a lecture that the world would be better off without 90 per cent of the human population.

Blogs and talk radio programs went on the attack after the story was posted on the internet and featured on the Drudge Report, a popular U.S. news website. Critics accused Pianka of saying that the Ebola virus should be used to kill most humans.

But Pianka – who has been both a Guggenheim Fellow and a Fulbright Senior Research Fellow, among other prestigious academic achievements – said his remarks were taken out of context.

He said he was warning that deadly disease could become epidemic if population growth is not controlled.

"What we really need to do is start thinking about controlling our population before it's too late," he told the Associated Press.

"It's already too late, but we're not even thinking about it. We're just mindlessly rushing ahead breeding our brains out."

Pianka attributed the furor over his lecture to a rival whom he accused of attempting to smear his reputation.

The ecologist said since the report was published, he has received abusive e-mails and death threats, including one threatening his family.

'I don't bear any ill will towards anybody'

The report said Pianka weighed the destructive power of various diseases, such as AIDS and avian flu, and found that the Ebola virus is the only one that could kill 90 per cent of the human population.

He said that would put humanity back into ecological balance with the world.

But Pianka said his lecture didn't mean he wants to see most humans die.

"I don't bear any ill will towards anybody," Pianka told the television station KXAN, based in Austin. "I've got two granddaughters, man. I'm putting money in a college fund for my granddaughters. I'm worried about them."

Pianka named Distinguished Texas Scientist in 2006

Pianka posts some of his views on his website, along with photos of himself with the lizards he studies.

He describes himself as "The Lizard Man." He says he became disabled at the age of 13 when he set off a bazooka shell that he picked up on an army base and developed gangrene in his leg. He also spent 10 years as a hermit in the desert and he lives with a herd of bison.

But he went on to become an eminent, award-winning scientist with 20 books and hundreds of scientific papers under his belt, studies at Princeton University and positions on a host of scientific boards.

Besides the prestigious fellowships, he was made a Distinguished Texas Scientist by the eminent Texas Academy after giving a speech earlier in 2006 on his population ideas.

University defends freedom of speech

Pianka's views have caused a stir in Austin.

"We have a lot of different points of view on the University of Texas at Austin campus. And we certainly support our faculty in saying what they think," said Don Hale, a spokesman for the University of Texas.

"They have the right to express their point of view," he said. "But they're expressing their personal point of view."