Stupid is as stupid does

My name's Forrest, Forrest MimsThe blogosphere (and the regular media) just hit a big firestorm, with people typing away like madness. Over what? The claims made by a creationist about an award-winning ecologist named Dr. Pianka, aka “Dr. Doom.” Forrest Mims, whom you see to the right sporting a hat embroidered with a higher lifeform, claimed that Dr. Pianka advocated the elimination of 90% percent of the world’s human population with airborne ebola. Did Dr. Doom do it?

The simple answer is NO. The complex answer is that he warned that human society has an impending collapse ahead if we do not control our own population. He said that our high density makes us incredibly vulnerable to devastating outbreaks of disease. And he said that the rest of the species on this planet would be better off if we were gone.

Mims, who’s made himself into Dr. Pianka’s nemesis of sorts, came away from a presentation of his misunderstanding Pianka’s use of language saying that Pianka had advocated the extermination of 9 tenths of humanity, and wanted to institute a eugenics program. Mims is a fellow at the Discovery Institute, the creationism intelligent design think tank in Seattle, Washington, and by no coincidence another fellow of the DI, William Dembski, promptly reported Dr. Pianka to the Department of Homeland Security.

Even more outrageous (and revealing of Dembski’s agenda) he made an ad-hominem attack on evolutionary biology, asking, Would “Dr. Doom” be conceivable apart from evolutionary theory?

Oh, I didn’t realize that Intelligent Design was more than just design detection… you mean there’s a worldview attached? Strange that creationists are not ecologists, you’d think that if they believed that every species was specially created designed by gOD that they would devote their resources to preserving those unique creations designs? Apparently not. Let’s hope they aren’t guards at human art galleries!
So it seems that there are a bunch of blatant lies and misrepresentations being spread about Dr. Pianka. Some may be “honest” mistakes by Mims who’s ears may be filtered by a personal vendetta, but some are most certainly willful fabrications. Dr. Pianka has been interviewed on TV, and he is going to appear on a few more programs to clear his name, so I’ll know more about this later. Maybe he’s a little too apocalyptic for some, but from the transcripts of his speeches that I have looked over, it seems that people are making a big deal about a little strong language.
But the strangest thing about this is how the creationists are really jumping all over him. Could it be because they trust Mims, or wouldn’t want to oppose anything he says because he’s part of their team? Some of them, however, have backed off, and one has admitted that it was a mistake. But don’t count on Dembski to apologize. Take a look at all the posts on his site before they get deleted! Two… more!
It seems that Dr. Pianka, while clearing his name, is using the media attention to talk about the future of the planet’s ecology. It is good that he’s not getting personal in all of this, even though he has been receiving death threats. Strangely enough, his critics are saying that someone will follow this Dr. Doom’s “instructions” and commit an act of terror on the populace, however, few are attacking Forrest Mims for making stuff up and causing people to send death threats. Because, well, Intelligent Design teaches them to be moral human beings, you see. Psst… hypocrisy.

Finally, some people have been calling Mims a liar, and of all things, he has told them to cease and desist, that they are commiting an act of defamation. That’s coming from someone who is pursuing a grand act of libel and defamation. It may be that he’s in for a lawsuit himself. Is Forrest stupid or something? My momma says stupid is as stupid does. Well, Momma’s right again.

Update 04/08/2006: Forrest Mims has been sending emails threatening defamation lawsuits. PZ Myers at Pharyngula has the scoop. (And thanks for linking me!) There’s more discussion about the post back at PT, and Timothy Sandefur has also posted about Mim’s dubious claims of defamation.

If Mims goes ahead with his empty threats, allow me to go out on a limb and suggest that this may not be an altogether bad thing. Besides allowing the truth to be demonstrated in court, it would divert time and money from his anti-scientific pursuits. Let’s see if stupid does as much as stupid is.

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Karl Haro von Mogel

Karl Haro von Mogel serves as BFI’s Director of Science and Media and as Co-Executive Editor of the Biofortified Blog. He has a PhD in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics from UW-Madison with a minor in Life Sciences Communication. He is currently a Postdoctoral Scholar researching citrus genetics at UC Riverside.

3 thoughts on “Stupid is as stupid does”

  1. i’ve often found that people who accuse others of certain character deficiencies do so because of a subconscious awareness of their own deficient state in that regard. “stupid”… is that something this site’s author is particularly afraid of in himself? I wonder. worldview is a priori in nature. it is not some sort of ideological appendage to a particular point of view. intelligent and thoughtful people know what they believe and why. they understand their own worldview and those in contradiction. they are able to discuss things on the level of basic presuppositions. at that level, issues become very clear and personal invective and diatribe become, well, stupid. if a person is able to say with confidence and conviction that in their worldview there is no Person behind the personality of humankind, and someone else says with equal conviction that there is, the matter is clarified and simplified and all other differences of approach and opinion are explained. arguments on any less fundamental level are all too often mere smokescreens to cloud and confuse the real issues. why is it that people who insist that there is no God feel comfortable belittling and demeaning the humanity of anyone who says there is? isn’t it because, given their own worldviews, their presuppositional givens as to the randomness and meaninglessness of existence, they cannot be wholeheartedly and unabashedly pro-human? they feel they are at an unfair disadvantage in explaining the ultimate mystery of the universe, the very fact that we humans exist at all and that we exist with such vivid individuality and personality? if we came from nothing but a freakishly coincidental primordial sludge and a ridiculously long series of fantastically unlikely evolutionary mutations, there is nothing to explain our longings, our dislikes, our desires, our pleasure, our pain. it is random and even cruel that we exist as we do. perhaps it is the author of this site’s frustration and anger (emotions associated with individuality and personality) at the ultimate meaninglessness of his own existence (from within the confines of his own worldview) that prompts him to lash out at those who are less lost, those who have found that it is possible to have a personal relationship with the universe because of an Author who exists objectively and communicates his own personality with the people he created. it would be simply another example of how ideas have consequences.

    – I agree, I often find as well that people who accuse others of character deficiencies do so because of a subconscious awareness of their own deficient state in that regard. I wonder then, why it is that Forrest Mims declared Dr. Pianka to be his enemy, vowing to bring him down? Why also does Bill Dembski at a moment’s notice report Pianka to the Department of Homeland Security and call evolutionary biologists bigots without checking his facts? Could it be that they project their own flaws onto actual hard-working and prominent scientists? Could it explain why you project your own feelings onto me?

    The science blogging world noticed, that quite quickly and freakishly, all the creationists jumped on Pianka, without waiting for evidence or confirmation, in fact, merely because of what Forrest Mims claimed what he said. My criticism of Mims was based upon his actions, not his personal beliefs.

    You said that if evolution is true, “there is nothing to explain our longings, our dislikes, our desires, our pleasure, our pain.” I don’t know where you get this idea. You are saying that if organisms evolved in a competitive environment, that they would derive no means of telling the difference between beneficial and harmful stimuli? No taste for sugary fruits and distaste for poisonous plants? No desire to mate and reproduce, to join with others in a social group, and no aversion to personal injury? Conceptually, these things are easy to explain via evolution by natural selection acting on variation. And by the way, the particular mix of genes chromosomes that you inherited from your parents may never again exist, but that doesn’t mean that the processes of meiosis were directed and non-random. That would be a bias of retrospection, the same bias you employ when talking about each particular chance event.

    Finally, I’m not sure what you are going on about with respect to declaring that there is no person/author/designer/god behind humanity, where evolution does no take a stance on that issue. It is compatible with both positions – you shouldn’t confuse evolution with atheism. Moreover, I can’t really take your attacks personally, because you don’t seem to know me personally. -KJM

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  2. evidence of the inoculative intent of this site is the author’s deceptive use of the comment function. instead of promoting free debate (anti-inoculation) the author solicits comments which he then filters and does not make available for general viewing. this simple fact completely discredits the lofty free-thinking pretentions of his site, and clearly calls into question his own viewpoints and positions.

    – Haha! You waited NINE MINUTES to declare that I censor disagreeable comments? I just spent the day gardening, beekeeping, and building a bicycle. I came home to find both of your comments in the moderation queue. And so both of your comments got approved so people can see just how silly they were. Especially since you tried to argue that I had emotional issues. Nine minutes! I’d love to see how many comments you might have left if I had been on vacation, after all, this is Memorial Day weekend. -KJM

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  3. Truthlover wrote:

    “i’ve often found that people who accuse others of certain character deficiencies do so because of a subconscious awareness of their own deficient state in that regard.

    You have “often found…” In how many instances? How did you tap into these “peoples” subconscious?

    I used to give seemingly “stupid” people the benefit of the doubt, all the time, and much more freely than seems reasonable, in retrospect. Maybe I was partially buying into post-modern crapola-ideas like, “truth is relative,” or maybe I was playing off mommie’s admonition that “it’s not nice to call others stupid…” Probably a little of both. But it doesn’t matter, now, because I’ve seen the light. Sometimes “stupid” really is the best explanation.

    I leave it to you to walk around that and philosophize about it until the cows come home.

    Best,
    R. Dean

    P.S. – Is your shift key broken?

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