In praise of Lysenko

My new icon is in honor of Trofim Denisovitch Lysenko.

Who was he? Here’s a man who saw around the foolish plodding of the so-called scientific method. Starting as an unknown country agronomist, he carved himself a place in this world with good peasant sense, pluck, spunk, and old fashioned elbow grease.

Of course the “geneticists” didn’t buy his theories, but Trofim Denisovitch went over their heads to the real guardians of sanity: the Soviet government. And Josef Stalin listened, because Stalin was smarter than those stuck-up biologists too. They complained like crazy, but try as they might they couldn’t stop this feisty underdog with a plan to save his country. And if they tried, they were shot or jailed. That may sound harsh, but standing in the way of the happiness of the people is a serious matter, and bad science has to be rooted out deep or it’ll come back. And you know, those science guys, they were elitists who weren’t in touch. Arrogant nerds. A lot of them were Jews and they had all kinds of chips on their shoulders, you know.

Of course none of his science worked just right. It was all pretty crazy. You can’t “vernalize” plants by cooling them down to make them produce more. You can’t change the next generation of plants by modifying this generation, either; it’s called the Lamarckian mistake and everyone knows this. But you couldn’t slow down a man like this with theories; he was about cold hard facts. And if those were hard to come by, he could scare up a few; he was good at scaring. If the man asked you how the vernalization was going on your collective farm, some answers were healthier than others, and even starving peasants don’t care to be shot.

Soviet biology and agriculture didn’t recover from Lysenko. His theories were used well into the 1960s, and even later in China. Some of Lysenko’s agricultural innovations played a part in Mao’s unfortunate farming changes in the Great Leap Forward, contributing to famines that may have killed tens of millions of people; the statistics are hazy but not so good. But we know that’s not the point. He’d given all those people something: hope. And that’s what it’s all about, really.

Why is Lysenko our hero today? He had vision. And he understood something about science that we’re only just rediscovering today. Scientists shouldn’t keep nattering away about global warming, or Peak Oil, or the ozone layer, or all of these other crappy negative theories. That doesn’t make our nation proud and strong, and it sure doesn’t help us fight terror. We need science that builds us up instead of breaking us down. And if people don’t like evolution, stop ramming it down their throats. Who’s paying your salaries, anyway?

Learn something from Trofim Denisovitch. A guy from nowhere with a can-do attitude is worth more than a hundred overeducated weenies with permanent jobs! Maybe you guys can give us some science we can use for a change, something to make people feel the pride again. Something positive.

And if you don’t like the way things are going, watch your mouth. Naysayers need to be isolated and dealt with around here, or we’re just playing into the hands of the terrorists.

Freedom science is on the march.

9 thoughts on “In praise of Lysenko

  1. Raft of the Medusa is you
    Once again, the combination of your fluent brilliance and the terror it reveals has left me speechless. I’ve never seen the relationship between sloppy thinking and evil articulated so concisely. Freedom science! It’s funny because it isn’t funny at all.
    Also, Jesus, homeboy looks insane. Like some kind of demented Fred Rogers. Even if I didn’t know that he promoted junk science that led to the wretched deaths of millions, even if I just saw him getting a bagel at the deli, I would give that dude a wide berth.

  2. Wonderful entry.
    Tangent. I had a Russian Jewish girlfriend for a while,
    She believed that she and her ancestors were 100% pure Semitic, despite her jet-black straight hair, white skin, and piercing blue eyes. She just thought that her family had been in Russia long enough to “change”.
    I never thought of it at the time, but maybe this was some hand-me-down Lysenkoism.

  3. Tom Disch here
    As others have applauded, an impressive performance. I came to your site first yesterday, and was scared away by the picture of Lysenko, since it was detached from the Lysenko post. I thought it was you! Foolish, of course. Where could one find a barber these days who could do that haircut?

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