Free market Lysenkoism

Trofim Lysenko (1898 – 1976) worked under Joseph Stalin as the director of Soviet biology. He was a remarkably egregious pseudoscientist whose claim to fame was a technique he termed ‘vernalization’, which promised to quadruple crop yields for the struggling collectivised Soviet agriculture sector.

Lysenko took his cues from the ideas of Ivan Vladimirovich Michurin (1855-1935), an honourable member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. In a characteristically extensive academic propaganda campaign, the Soviet regime sold Michurin as the father of so-called Soviet biology, which was considered superior to the ‘capitalist’ (and accurate) theory of Mendelian genetics.

The Soviets believed that adopting Lysenko’s agricultural practices, they would be able to fight off famine and demonstrate the greatness of the Soviet social model to the world. Questioning Lysenko’s theories was seen as an act of sedition; sceptics were smeared as bourgeois fascists. This is not to say that the people behind the Soviet propaganda machine didn’t believe in Lysenkoism – most of them probably did. Today, most of Lysenko’s research is rightly considered fraudulent; junk science manufactured to support unstable and paranoid politics.

Lysenko and his Soviet comrades frequently publicly decried proponents of evidence-based biology as ‘fly-lovers’, ‘people haters’, and ‘wreckers’. Mendelian genetics was seen as an impediment to communist productivity and national progress; a pitiful manifestation of Malthusian capitalist nay-saying.

Now, the term ‘Lysenkoism‘ is used to refer to the distortion of science to support a particular political ideology.

Yesterday’s leak of thoroughly incriminating internal documents from the Heartland Institute (check out the source) got me thinking – I mean about more than the fact that nine documents contained a hell of a lot to worry about compared to the tepid contents of the thousands of emails and hundreds of documents that made up the entire ‘climategate’ package. (But that is worth pointing out.) We also already knew that climate denialism was little more than a racket.

It actually reminded me of a point that had always seemed so obvious to me, but that I rarely see discussed. It stems from the fact that anthropogenic global warming deniers will often call mainstream climate science ‘Lysenkoism’ in the media. The obvious question to ask is: who are the ones skewing science for politics? Certainly Al Gore is no central-planning socialist.

What do almost all of the AGW deniers and lukewarmists have in common? Let us list some names, and we’ll see if we can isolate a common variable:

Penn Jilette; Matt Stone; Trey Parker; Alex Jones; Alan Jones; Christopher Monckton; Andrew Bolt; S.E. Cupp; Anthony Watts; Glenn Beck; Ron Paul; Matt Ridley; Bjørn Lomborg; the staff of (the unfortunately named) media outlet Reason TV; the signatories of this letter

The answer? An infatuation with the so-called free market. Really, check Google; or better yet, read some of their books.

Even die-hard fans of the free market know that if scientists are right about anthropogenic global warming, effective solutions will necessarily begin with top-down market intervention. Moreover, the fact of global warming also contradicts the ideal that free trade, unfettered by oversights, can only be a good thing for humanity. People who are committed to ideas – especially utopian political ideas – tend to get a bit clingy.

Former doubter Michael Shermer explicated this sentiment when he came out as accepting climate science. To wit:

Nevertheless, data trump politics, and a convergence of evidence from numerous sources has led me to make a cognitive switch on the subject of anthropogenic global warming.

Though, later on he did add some free market caveats.

Let’s watch Chris Monckton push for an Australian Fox News:

His talk of discrediting climate science is firmly within the context of promoting the free market. Interesting, no?

And this can be found on the Heartland Institute’s About page:

Mission: Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems.

We can easily note a clear trend of one of humanity’s greatest achievements in science (ie, figuring out what could kill most of us before it happens) being subverted, corrupted and bastardized for political purposes. So, apparently, for many, data does not trump politics. To disseminate global warming denialism, whether knowingly or unknowingly, is the praxis of free market Lysenkoism.

Practically every single prolific climate change sceptic utilizes propaganda originating from someone who has some connection the Heartland Institute. The kind of media manipulation for dissemination of discredited theories, paying off scientists and, the cherry atop this outrageously pernicious pie, promotion of the indoctrination of school children in the discipline of junk science, all expressly advocated in the Heartland Institute’s documents, leave me wondering why anyone in their right mind could continue to take the global warming denial/dilution project seriously.

I do mean to write up my developed take on the free market in the near future, but I’m a little busy for the moment. In the meantime, I’d like to urge the free market cadre who are responsible for most of my hate mail, and the more well-spoken and intelligent free market advocates who have raised the issue of my blog in real life, to do something to quell the disturbing trend of Lysenkoism flourishing among their colleagues. It’s making you all look ridiculous.

You can read more about the Heartland leaks themselves herehere and here (especially for Australians). Nothing on any of the Australian Murdoch newspaper websites, though.

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “Free market Lysenkoism

  1. Soon won’t we reach one of these “tipping points” and then arguing about it will be meaningless, if it is actually happening, I just find Al Gore to be very hypocritical, flying around in his private jets, his huge mansion, him being the “spokesperson” turns me off from the entire message. I’d love for the US to invest in Green Energy, but not because Al Gore says so.

    Reply
    • Al Gore is a bit of a hypocrite, and that’s unfortunate. But I think the substance of his argument is the argument itself (which isn’t his, he just popularizes research), not necessarily his actions. I think the best communicator on environmentalism is Mark Lynas, because he lives green and adjusts his views based on the best scientific evidence available. He’s also a normal guy without any really radical ideas (unless you count ‘invest in nuclear energy and stop alienating people by making this about politics’ as radical), and I think that goes a long way.

      Reply
  2. Very interesting as I’d thought of climate change denial as the new Lysenkoism but never heard anyone remark on the parallels before, despite the obvious distortion (or outright rejection) of science and reality for ideological convenience.

    One parallel you do not mention but I believe is important is the populism that is common to the two ideologies. In decrying actual scientists as “fly-lovers and people haters” Lysenko appealed to supposed folk knowledge which Soviet ideology held to be superior to supposedly useless, bourgeois academic science. Today, climate change denial appeals to a fake folk knowledge again which is superior to climate scientists in their ivory towers – for example of the type one will find on any newspaper comments section after a cold snap.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s