Saturday, May 14, 2016

Lysenkoism is the manipulation or distortion of the scientific process as a way to reach a predetermined conclusion as dictated by an ideological bias

There are a handful of blogs I read where the commenters are as interesting as the blog host. I am amazed at the detailed knowledge that resides out there.

The originating article in this instance is Sex and State Power — What’s Behind Obama’s Transgender Push by Bookworm. Not a blog I have ever come across before but an interesting argument in the post and interesting comments.

I had originally assumed that the administration's whipping up of hysteria over transgender bathroom policies was simply a political ploy to distract attention from the election cycle and from the accumulating disasters around Syria, Iran, ISIS, Libya, ACA, the economy, the budget, crime, etc. I can understand, given the consequences of the past seven years, why they would want people to focus on anything else. Bookworm sees a different motivation, that of the administration advancing the cause of state displacement of the individual. More of an extreme position than I would lean towards but Bookworm argues well in the essay. I am still inclined towards my explanation but there is food for thought.

One commenter, though, links much of our public debate in recent years to Lysenkoism, a connection I had never made. Once the dots are connected, it becomes almost instantly credible. I knew of Lysenko from his agricultural work and rejection of Darwinism and genetics, but had never considered the wider implications of his approach. It did not really matter what the scientific principle was, Lysenko's approach was to subordinate fact and science to ideology.

From Wikipedia:
Lysenkoism (Russian: Лысе́нковщина) was a political campaign against genetics and science-based agriculture conducted by Trofim Lysenko, his followers and Soviet authorities. Lysenko was the director of the Soviet Union's Lenin All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences. Lysenkoism began in the late 1920s and formally ended in 1964. The term Lysenkoism is also used metaphorically to describe the manipulation or distortion of the scientific process as a way to reach a predetermined conclusion as dictated by an ideological bias, often related to social or political objectives.

The pseudo-scientific ideas of Lysenkoism were built on Lamarckan heritability of acquired characteristics. Lysenko's theory rejected Mendelian inheritance, the concept of the "gene" and departed from Darwinian evolutionary theory by rejecting natural selection. Proponents falsely claimed to have discovered, among many other things, that rye could transform into wheat and wheat into barley, that weeds spontaneously transmute into food grains, and that "natural cooperation" was observed in nature as opposed to "natural selection". Lysenkoism promised extraordinary advances in breeding and agriculture that never came about.

The campaign was supported by Joseph Stalin. More than 3,000 mainstream biologists were sent to prison, fired, or executed as a part of this campaign instigated by Lysenko to suppress his scientific opponents. The president of the Agriculture Academy was sent to prison and died there, while the scientific research in the field of genetics was effectively destroyed until the death of Stalin in 1953. Research and teaching in the fields of neurophysiology, cell biology, and many other biological disciplines was also negatively affected or banned.
The current campaign by a handful of state Attorney's General to bring charges against ExxonMobil and others for questioning the science behind the ideology of Anthropogenic Global Warming sounds frighteningly similar to a "campaign instigated by Lysenko to suppress his scientific opponents."

How did we get here? How did our political establishment become modern advocates of lysenkoism without anyone noticing?

The topics that come under the heading of lysenkoism are legion. Anthropogenic Global Warming is one where the scientific method shows reliably that we still do not have any good models forecasting climate and yet we treat all the ideological policy recommendations as if they had a firm scientific foundation. IQ is another area where we ideologically shy away from what the science tells us. Gender wage gaps, campus rape hysteria, education policy, affirmative action, etc. are all instances of lysenkoism where empirical evidence tells us one thing but we subordinate facts to ideology in order to do another.

No matter how stridently we declare that the science is settled, we still do not remotely understand the causes and consequences of homosexuality much less transgenderism. We simply don't understand the phenomenon in any meaningful way.

Of course the fact that we don't understand something about people doesn't have any particular baring. All citizens are equal in their natural rights and it is civil to advance empathy and openness to all until it is demonstrated that that empathy is betrayed or unwarranted. But the will to power by totalitarians requires coercive actions and coercive actions politically require some fig leaf. Transgenderism, despite our ignorance becomes a matter of national importance by converting it into a civil rights matter based on "science." But the science being offered up is that of Lysenko - an ideologically arrived at determination masquerading as empirically settled science.

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