Friday, April 12, 2013

Let Me Tell You about Trofim Denisovich Lysenko

By Rich Kozlovich
I originally wrote and posted this on Sunday, December 20, 2009, but I felt the next post needed this expansion. 
Born on September 29, 1898 he died on November 20, 1976. He was a Ukrainian agronomist and director of biology under Joseph Stalin. Rejecting traditional thought regarding Mendelian genetics and embryology he “reinterpreted Darwin’s thoughts to “fit the framework of what he called the ‘new creation biology’.” The only views that could be “scientific” under Lysenko had to be “consistent with social theory”, i.e. Stalin’s thoughts.

He supported the hybridization theories of Ivan Michurin that gained support from Stalin, which of course made his views “truth” and altered the entire structure of Russian biological thinking. This dominated the Russian field of biology for about 30 years and along with collectivization of the Russian farms they managed to starve millions to death. As a Darwinian evolutionist (versus Neo-Darwinism) he believed that evolution could be “forced” through something he called acquired inheritance. Furthermore anyone who disagreed with him was a scientific outcast and purged from their position, their jobs and in some cases died in concentrations camps.

As Director of the Institute of Genetics within the Soviet Union’s Academy of Sciences he stridently pushed the idea that plants could be forced to acquire characteristics that they had not demonstrated before through what is known as environmentally acquired inheritance, or theory of adaptation, originally promoted by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck.

It wasn’t just plants though. Lysenkoists believed that just as exercise could turn a normal man into a muscle man, training could “force” cows to “happily and naturally deliver 50 liters of milk per day” which would change their normal inheritable limits of production; genetics, which they rejected, notwithstanding; believing that they could imprint acquired characteristics and skills from one generation that could be passed on to the next generation. (it gets even more complicated and irrational as it goes along)

However, all his thinking was tied to the ‘social theories’ of Stalin and his communist cohorts. Bukharin, who was a “founding member of the Soviet Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a keen botanist”, stated in 1935 that “pure science pursued for its own sake would disappear, for the interests of scientists would spontaneously turn to problems of the current Five Year Plan”.

Lysenko believed that “amassing of evidence was substituted for casual proof as the means demonstrating the “correctness” of the underlying hypotheses” and those who failed to conform to the tenets of the new biology could be silenced or suppressed as enemies of the truth. It also did not concern him if his followers “manipulated” somewhat their data or their experimental results, since minor falsifications could still support the ideological cause, which represented a higher level of truth than the precise reporting of facts.”

In other words, if they could amass enough evidence to support their ideas it didn’t matter if it was factual or not, and if that which we actually see and that which is actually occurring was entirely different from their “evidence”; it simply didn’t matter. Sound familiar?

They never were able to “train” cows to deliver 50 liters of milk a day, but they did create some interesting grafting techniques that created a fruit that “looked like an apple, smelled like a rose and tasted like a prune!”

One example of this thinking was his work on rye grain. Bewteen 1928 and 1940 Stalin’s collectivization of farms starved millions to death, so getting more grain in more areas was vital. The claim was that they could turn wheat into rye by just planting it in climates “favoring the growth of rye”. Huge acreage was devoted to this program which was intended to “teach” wheat to become rye.

Literally hundreds of thousands of individual grains of wheat were examined, and some turned out to be rye. The fact that the harvesting machines used that year were used the previous year to harvest rye didn’t bother them in the least. And as for those foolish enough to point out that the rye grains may have been contaminants from the previous harvest; well…..things didn’t go well for them as truth wasn’t as important as promoting the ideological thinking, or if you will, the “consensus” science. They were silenced and branded lackeys of western imperialism and western biological thinking. Sound familiar?

What happened to the rest? For almost 30 years some of the finest minds in Russian biology either “became infected with this apparent madness” or “converted” to it. “Other scientists, who were skeptical, were threatened with loss of their working and publishing opportunities if they did not conform to these views. As a result they were forced to adjust the direction of their research or to contribute some kind of work which was in accord with the Stalinist ideology.” Some got around this by publishing entirely in Latin …which the commissars were ignorant of. Some refused to bend to the madness of the new biological ideology at all, and were permanently silenced.

Remember Bukharin? In later years he said “mass annihilation of completely defenseless men, with women and children" under forced collectivization and liquidation of kulaks as a class that dehumanized the Party members with "the profound psychological change in those communists who took part in the campaign. Instead of going mad, they accepted terror as a normal administrative method and regarded obedience to all orders from above as a supreme virtue... They are no longer human beings. They have truly become the cogs in a terrible machine." He later found out how true this was when his onetime close personal friend Stalin had him killed; after a trial of course.

Why do I bring this up? The views and thinking in the green movement and those within the political realm as compared to Lysenkoism and those monsters that murdered millions of innocent people with their policies are very similar.

Lysenko came to prominence because he was “discovered by a sensational journalist by the name of Fedorovich.” Articles appeared in Pravda praising his abilities, which mostly amounted to attacking real science and making promises that never had a chance of becoming reality based on his unfounded views of reality, which amounted to junk science.

Here is one such example of his meddling. They could only use seed potatoes from Northern Russia because a degenerative virus existed in Southern Russia. This was expensive so when Lysenko made the pronouncement that it wasn’t a virus causing this at all, but was in reality a problem with hot temperatures; the Politburo jumped on it.  His solution was to plant in the summer for a fall harvest and he claimed that this would eliminate the degeneration problem. The result was disastrous, in spite of the selectively favorable reports, which made the “studies” fit the preconceived conclusion that promoted his junk science.

In point of fact, Lysenko later proclaimed that there was no such thing as viruses, setting Russian virology back for years, and yet much of his work is now considered fraudulent. Not just wrong, but fraudulent, and he was the driving power in Russian agrarian science for almost 30 years. Thirty years of fraud, thirty years of watching disaster swirl around them, thirty years of knowingly manipulating the data to promote nonsense for personal gain.

How different is it today? Many have come into prominence in modern times promoting junk science in order to promote environmental issues, the “higher truth” if you will, in much the same manner. As Viv Forbes notes, ““The public has been misled on this issue by an unholy alliance of environmental scaremongers, funds-seeking academics, sensation-seeking media, vote-seeking politicians and profit-seeking vested interests.” Truth is not the holy grail of science. It is grant money. Grant money that is only distributed to those who tout a certain “socially” acceptable line.
• Global warming will destroy the world.
• Global warming is caused by western industrialization.
• Global Warming can only be fixed if we give the rest of the world all our money and shut down our manufacturing plants.
• The world is reaching a “tipping point” from which we can’t recover, so we can’t wait.
• Cancer is on the increase as a result of modern lifestyles.
• Only solar and wind energy can save us because there is no oil any longer and even if there was its use must be opposed.
• Eating meat causes global warming.
• Pesticides cause every known disease and infirmity that can be conjured up.
• Drinking water is contaminated and causes an unending list of ailments.
• Plastic toys impact reproduction.
• Vaccinations cause autism.
• DDT causes…..oh….just stick anything in there and it will be approved.
• And the one I really like the best; Multiple Chemical Sensitivity syndrome, which displays “the symptoms of every disease or disorder known [in] psychology, psychiatry, and the general medical profession." And there is no cure!
Try applying for a grant that proves otherwise. What is sad is that so many have to suffer before everyone realizes that what has happened in the past is being repeated now. More subtly of course; after all, no one is being taken out and shot or sent to concentration camps for scientific disagreements, but those who haven’t touted the “acceptable” line have lost grants, jobs and been prevented from publishing articles in scientific journals that are critical of the “science” promoting these issues. The fact of the matter is that Lysenkoism is a pattern of thinking that is the same today as it was then; and over the long haul just as deadly to humanity.

Sources:
Ecology Sanity, by Claus and Bolander
Sick of It All, by Michael Fumento
Wikipedia

I would also like to draw everyone's attention to a recent article;

Politicizing science - Thomas Sowell: Do not expect disinterested search for truth when money's involved

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