This past Saturday, Al Fin wrote, “… Eric Pianka, a University of Texas ecologist who suggests repeatedly in public appearances that viruses such as Ebola should be modified so as to be able to kill off 90% of earth’s human population.”; see here:
I commented, in so many words, that if the professor or his friends came around my house, they could expect to get shot. A few things about that seem in need of a fuller reply.
I think it important to note first that the piece of legislation I referred to in my glibness doesn’t take effect until this coming September. That circumstance wouldn’t really effect my actions in an attack, I should point out, only those of the attorney I hire afterwards.
Secondly, while my reply was both honest and legitimate on the purely personal level, all the firearms in the world would, at best, be only a limiting factor in a gas or biologic attack. Which isn’t all that different a condition from any other form of attack, when you stop to think about it. Despite the commonly expressed intent of self-defense, I carry a gun to enable me to more effectively carry out a counter-attack should that necessity ever be forced upon me. I am well aware that my gun won’t stop his bullet from doing me harm. What it will do is provide me the means to shoot him in turn, and hopefully kill him first. That’s what practice is all about.
None of which, I should point out, actually deals with the legitimate societal concerns Al Fin raised in his post. Societal self-defense isn’t simply the aggregate of our individual efforts alone. Nor, despite the euphemism, should it be based solely upon our country’s military offensive capabilities, although that is essentially the reality. That’s the problem with euphemisms, people mostly ignore the underlying assumptions they’re built upon. The one about the “best defense”, for instance, is only true if you have a secure base from which to generate an offense.
This circumstance isn’t at all unusual as regards American defense preparedness, by the way. Mutually Assured Destruction may have worked out in the end, but it certainly wasn’t a defensive posture. In the event of an attack, we can hammer anybody flat. And, after any attack to date, we’ve demonstrated we can clean up and return to business as usual, too.
Which arguably works well enough for an attack from outside, but what about Professor Pianka’s “assisted suicide” scenario? I suggest Al Fin himself (and others earlier, this particular eco-loon has been a public embarrassment for some time now) provides evidence that we do have an effective means of defense; ourselves. Fin’s post is actually the most recent iteration of our civil defense system; public watchfulness, individual preparedness and societal cooperation for containment and necessary cleanup. Despite my enjoyment of fictional apocalypse stories, I much prefer actually living in the real world where babbling fools like Pianka aren’t a problem, they’re an active part of our defense, as a good tripwire should be.
There are excellent reasons for expanding human civilisation into space; fear of ourselves isn’t one of them.