The latest entry in the Planet of the Apes franchise, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, is out on Friday, July 11. With a tip of the hat to Wesley Smith, it sounds like it could have been alternatively named Planet of the Apes: The War on Humans. Smith, author of The War on Humans, argues that our culture has taken a sinister anti-human turn. It casts derision on the old idea that human life is sacred and sees mankind instead, increasingly, as a plague on the Earth.
The film, in fact, sounds like something out of a fond midsummer night’s dream for evolutionary biologist Eric Pianka, known for his musings about what might prove lovable about a planetary ebola pandemic.
Ebola, as Pianka is reported to have said in a speech, would cleanse the planet of nasty humans by offering a 90 percent kill rate. In the latest Apes move, it’s even better than that. The human population has been stripped away though ALZ-113 (simian) virus, with a 99.8 percent kill rate. Only 1 in 500 survives. A remaining human community in the overgrown, decayed ruins of San Francisco faces a band of super-evolved apes, led by Andy Serkis as Caesar, a grim chimpanzee endowed with speech.
Eventually, it comes down to a clash of arms, literally a war on humans. If you’re familiar with how the cycle began with the original Apes movie in 1968, you should already know how the conflict must end.
The trailer looks spectacular. No doubt I’ll see this one, like the others, with my oldest son, though Variety warns of the ideological agenda: "The ‘Apes’ franchise has always been a politically loaded one, and this latest entry states its left-wing credo in ways both allegorically implicit and bluntly direct."
What a surprise! For a certain mentality, well represented among filmmakers, scientists and other academics, and not least evolutionary biologists, the prospect of Earth purified of people and returned to a state of nature is a picture to be relished. Wesley summarized in The War on Humans, with more details about the vision of Dr. Pianka:
Most notoriously, University of Texas evolutionary biology professor Eric R. Pianka was accused of yearning for an ebola or similar viral pandemic with a 90% kill rate to cure human overpopulation. Pianka denied the charge, claiming he actually predicted that potential catastrophe, rather than hoping for it to come to pass. Since the speech was only partially recorded, we will probably never know whether he hoped for human near-extermination or merely warned that it was coming.
Yet, even in the published version of Pianka’s speech, he clearly advocates the deconstruction of modern civilization (my emphasis):
Our economic system based on continual growth must be replaced by a sustainable system where each of us leaves the planet in the same condition that it was in before we were born. This will require many fewer of us and much less extravagant lifestyles. We won’t be able to move around so freely (airplanes will become a thing of the past) and we will have to go back to walking and riding horses. In addition, humans will have to be more spread out, living without big cities. Before it is all over, we are going to have to limit our own reproduction, un-invent money, control human greed, revert back to trade and barter, and grow our own crops, among other things.
Again, shades of The Day the Earth Stood Still: Pianka’s anti-technology advocacy would cause billions of human casualties.
For Pianka, apes in league with a (fictional) virus, making war on humans and reducing the great cities of North America to sprawling half-jungles, should be absolute catnip.