News reports indicate that University of Texas zoology professor Eric Pianka suggested that the vast majority of human beings should die in order to establish an ecological balance on the planet.

According to the Gazette-Enterprise of Seguin, Texas,the professor made his inflamatory remarks in an address to the Texas Academy of Science — where Pianka was presented the academy’s 2006 Distinguished Texas Scientist award.

From the paper’s report:

A University of Texas professor says the Earth would be better off with 90 percent of the human population dead.

“Every one of you who gets to survive has to bury nine,” Eric Pianka cautioned students and guests at St. Edward’s University on Friday. Pianka’s words are part of what he calls his “doomsday talk” – a 45-minute presentation outlining humanity’s ecological misdeeds and Pianka’s predictions about how nature, or perhaps humans themselves, will exterminate all but a fraction of civilization.

Though his statements are admittedly bold, he’s not without abundant advocates. But what may set this revered biologist apart from other doomsday soothsayers is this: Humanity’s collapse is a notion he embraces.

Indeed, his words deal, very literally, on a life-and-death scale, yet he smiles and jokes candidly throughout the lecture. Disseminating a message many would call morbid, Pianka’s warnings are centered upon awareness rather than fear.

“This is really an exciting time,” he said Friday amid warnings of apocalypse, destruction and disease. Only minutes earlier he declared, “Death. This is what awaits us all. Death.” Reflecting on the so-called Ancient Chinese Curse, “May you live in interesting times,” he wore, surprisingly, a smile.

So what’s at the heart of Pianka’s claim? 6.5 billion humans is too many. In his estimation, “We’ve grown fat, apathetic and miserable,” all the while leaving the planet parched. The solution? A 90 percent reduction.

That’s 5.8 billion lives – lives he says are turning the planet into “fat, human biomass.” He points to an 85 percent swell in the population during the last 25 years and insists civilization is on the brink of its downfall – likely at the hand of widespread disease.

“[Disease] will control the scourge of humanity,” Pianka said. “We’re looking forward to a huge collapse.”

From the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram:

The public furor began when The Gazette-Enterprise of Seguin, Texas, reported Sunday on two speeches Pianka made last month to groups of scientists and students about vanishing animal habitats and the explosion of the human population.

The newspaper’s Jamie Mobley attended one of those speeches and also interviewed Forrest Mims, an amateur scientist and author who heard Pianka speak early last month before the Texas Academy of Science.

After the newspaper’s report appeared, it was circulated widely and posted on “The Drudge Report.” It quickly became talk radio fodder.

The Gazette-Enterprise quoted Pianka as saying disease “will control the scourge of humanity. We’re looking forward to a huge collapse.”

Pianka said he was only trying to warn his audience that disease epidemics have happened before and will happen again if the human population growth isn’t contained.

He said he believes the Earth would be better off if the human population were smaller because fewer natural resources would be consumed and humans wouldn’t continue to destroy animal habitats. But he said that doesn’t mean he wants most humans to die.

More:

But [Forrest] Mims, chairman of the academy’s environmental science section, told The Associated Press there was no mistaking Pianka’s disdain for humans and desire for their elimination.

“He wishes for it. He hopes for it. He laughs about it. He jokes about it,” Mims said. “It’s got to happen because we are the scourge of humanity.”

David Marsh, president of the Texas Academy of Science, did not return telephone and e-mail messages seeking comment. No recording or transcript of either that speech or another delivered last Friday at St. Edward’s University in Austin was available for review by the AP. The Gazette-Enterprise said it reviewed a transcript of the original speech, which was provided on the condition that it not be distributed.

Allan Hook, a St. Edward’s biology professor who heard both speeches, said Pianka “wasn’t so perhaps adamant in his own personal views of what he thinks might happen” in his second lecture.

But Hook declined to elaborate on what Pianka said in the earlier speech, which Pianka delivered while being honored as the academy’s 2006 Distinguished Texas Scientist.

University of Texas officials don’t plan to take any action against Pianka, university spokesman Don Hale said.

“Dr. Pianka has First Amendment rights to express his point of view,” Hale said. “We have plenty of faculty with a lot of different points of view and they have the right to express that point of view, but they’re expressing their personal point of view.”

Including a desire to see mass human deaths? The modern academy is a circus of competing worldviews and ideologies. If Professor Pianka did not say or intend to say what so many heard him to say, it is his responsibility to issue a full and complete clarification. Otherwise, there is ample reason to believe that he said and meant exactly what is reported. And this is an exercise of academic freedom?