updated 4/4/2006 12:54:46 PM ET 2006-04-04T16:54:46

Talk radio and blogs are taking aim at a University of Texas biology professor because of a published report suggesting he advocates death for most of the human population as a means of saving the planet.

However, Eric Pianka says his remarks about his beliefs were taken out of context, that he was just raising a warning that deadly disease epidemics are a threat if population growth isn’t contained.

“What we really need to do is start thinking about controlling our population before it’s too late,” he said Monday. “It’s already too late, but we’re not even thinking about it. We’re just mindlessly rushing ahead breeding our brains out.”

Pianka, who has gotten vitriolic e-mails and even a death threat, said he believes Earth would be better off if there were fewer people using up natural resources and destroying habitats.

The 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 exploding human population.

That report was circulated widely and posted on “The Drudge Report,” then 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.”

It said he weighed the killing power of various diseases such as bird flu and HIV but decided neither would yield the needed results.

“HIV is too slow. It’s no good,” he said.

Pianka said that doesn’t mean he wants most humans to die.

However, Forrest Mims, an amateur scientist, author and chairman of the Texas Academy of Science’s environmental science section, told The Associated Press there was no mistaking Pianka’s disdain for humans and desire for their elimination in the speech he heard.

“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.”

Pianka was expressing his own opinion, University of Texas 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.”

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