Lysenko: A cautionary tale for the West
"Follow the Science" seems to have replaced "Go with God" as humanity's go-to prayer. At least, the left would have us think so. But science is a much more complicated construction than leftists want you to realize, and there was a not very distant time and place where "Follow the Science" led to the needless death of millions.
Trofim Lysenko was a Soviet scientist who rose to prominence (and eternal infamy) in the 1930s. Lysenko was, you might say, an unelected bureaucrat in the Soviet system — if you can say that when the system itself is an unelected dictatorship. He was an agronomist and biologist. I almost said geneticist, but he surprisingly didn't believe in genes. That is remarkable, because he lived over fifty years after the epic (and accurate) studies and theories of the Augustinian Catholic monk, Gregor Mendel.
Lysenko, like most scientists, would have labored in relative faceless, harmless obscurity (see Dr. Bunsen Honeydew) and eventually had his science thoroughly repudiated, except that the State catapulted him to prominence and authority. (I know what you're now thinking here — that I'm writing about the charismatic Dr. Anthony Fauci — but actually not so. Hang in there.) Stalin himself loved this guy and his foundationless theories, and essentially put him in charge of Soviet agriculture — a placement that would leave millions of Ukrainians and Russians dead from starvation.
Lysenko believed that one could force inherited change onto organisms by manipulating their environment (kind of like what the left believes with your kids' education, I suppose). More specifically, Lysenko believed that you could make summer wheat behave like winter wheat by forcing it to grow in out-of-season conditions.
This is quite a risky thing to do in the heart of the greatest grain-producing region on the planet. In short, the "experiment" (conducted on that grand, all-in scale the Soviets excelled at) failed utterly, and millions starved to death. Lysenko simply would not leave the door open to that "other science" — that inheritance comes through genes and, as we later learned, DNA.
Image: Lysenko speaking at the Kremlin, 1935. (And yes, that’s Stalin looking at h him approvingly.) Public domain.
The lesson here is not that one can't believe science, nor that Lysenko was a misled fool. No, the lesson is that one should get antsy when the State exalts its flavor of science and imposes it on all. Science is very much an evolving organism in its own natural selection. It will eventually toss out its useless appendages once they are truly found to be useless, as it did with Lysenko's errant Lamarckianism. The trick is to avoid killing millions of human beings in the process.
Lysenko stands as a stark warning to us today — not about the lovable Dr. Fauci, but actually about the cult of Man-Made Global Warming. Just as Lysenko and Stalin kneecapped Soviet agriculture in the 1930s, the cult wishes to kneecap the West's industrial capacity today based on what is essentially a theory. And a theory that conveniently ignores the fact that CO2 dissolves in our oceans and gives us harmless limestone as a result — something it's been doing for millennia.
The great Mark Twain said history doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme. Nowhere is this more true than with the industrial West of today and the agrarian Soviet Union of the 1930s. Whenever anyone tries to enforce "science" with religious ferocity, beware. Be it mask mandates, vaccine mandates, or electric vehicle mandates, healthy skepticism should be our friend. Healthy skepticism has served humanity well since dinosaurs roamed outside our caves. (For any leftists reading this, that's a joke.)
We would do well not to cast it aside now. If our ruling elites like being elite, they will follow our lead.