Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Modern Lysenkoism

I had intended to write a piece about how the the birthplace of what some philosophers call the Western Idea - Greece, is ironically also the place where it is now dying. Equality before the law, democracy, freedom from despotism, self-discipline, and enlightenment values of science, rationality, and inquiry all are being dismantled in the "west" - replaced by ignorance and superstition, despotism, mass surveillance, mass incarceration, an unaccountable ruling class, and a hedonistic, value-free society where everything is for sale. The West, having brought the whole planet under its vision, is now dying in an orgy of greed.

Well, deadlines at work and all that. But in the meantime, this article I found today will do a good stand-in: Dark Ages Redux: American Politics and the End of the Enlightenment. One note, the states of North Carolina deciding to ignore inconvenient evidence of sea level rise has gotten some attention. But what I haven't seen commented on is that the exact same thing happened under the Soviet Union - science was politicized, and conclusions the leaders didn't like were outlawed. From the article:
For example, North Carolina law-makers recently passed legislation against sea level rise.  A day later, the Virginia legislature required that references to global warming, climate change and sea level rise be excised from a proposed study on sea level rise.  Last year, the Texas Department of Environmental Quality, which had commissioned a study on Galveston Bay, cut all references to sea level rise – the main point of the study.

As Stephen Colbert so aptly put it: if your science gives you results you don't like, pass a law saying that the result is illegal. Problem solved.
This is called Lysenkoism. Here's Wikipedia's definition:

Lysenkoism is used colloquially 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.

Sound familiar? When an empire has to ignore objective reality, you know it's circling the drain. Here's a good summary: Trofim Lysenko: Ideology, Power, and the Destruction of Science.


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  2. I've been seeing a rash of new articles about this rejection of science in America toward a factless-based society. The analogy with the Soviet Union's politicization of science is also scary. I'll have to do a write-up on this as well.


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