Science in Christian Perspective
Irving W. Knobloch, Ph.D.
Genetics In Russia
From: JASA 11
(September 1959): 9-10.
Trofim D. Lysenko is an agricultural scientist who is supposed to have helped save Russia from a famine during the last war by his work on millet. Although he has had little formal training in genetics, he successfully overthrew Mendelian genetics in his country and substituted his own system. This is based upon the theory that "changes in the conditions of life bring about changes in the type of development of vegetable organisms. A changed type of development -is thus the primary cause of changes in heredity." Due to his success with millet, Lysenko was able to have his ideas sanctioned by the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Science became a matter of politics therefore and thus a two-edged sword. Dissenters were silenced in an effort to ensure conformity and secondly it will become embarrassing to the political leaders if the weight of proof should go against the theory.
Some quotations from Lysenko are given here to show the level of his comprehension:
" - - in order to get a particular result, one must want to get exactly that result; if you want to get a particular result, you will get it . . . - and further, I want the sort of people who will get what I want (require)."
"When he grasps Bolshevism, the reader will not be able to give his sympathy to metaphysics, and Mendelianism. (Mendensm) clefinitely is pure, undisguised metaphysics."
the only thing left from the so-called Morgan chromosome theory of inheritance is the chromosonies, and the whole theory of Morganism collapses."
Some of the weightier reasons why western scientists do not accept J-ysenkoism are as follows. controls were not used in the experiments, the strains of organisms were not homozygous for the traits being investigated, the use of statistics in evaluating the results was frowned upon and lastly, duplication of the alleged experiments has failed to reveal comparable results. Since these essential criteria of good experimentation were ignored, we have no other course before us but to challenge his theory.
A recent visitor to Russia informs me that Lysenko holds a very important position there and wields a great deal of influence. My own perusal of the Plant Breeders Abstracts leads me to the opinion that there is some active opposition to Lysenko in Russia. Several breeders report in the Russian literature that they have been unable to confirm Lysenko's experiments. Another hopeful sign is the fact that there is a small group near Moscow headed by Dubinin, who read western literature on Genetics and follow the work on Mendelian genetics as much as they dare.
The above is a rather sad story and it points up the desirability of free discussion and the complete divorcement of science from politics. We have no comparable situation here in this country except in the field of organic evolution where any reference to the possibility of any kind of divine creation is treated with disdain and vilification.
Winchester, A. M. 1951. Genetics. Boston, Houghton Mifflin Co.
Baker, John R. 1958. Science and the Sputniks.. Occ. Pamph. No. 18, Society for Freedom in Science.Zirkle, Conway 1949. Death of a Science in Russia. Philadelphia,. University of Pennsylvania Press.
I agree whole-heartedly with another of her statements which is- "There are also some people who refuse to embark on such contemplations (the investigation of atomic structure and power) as these for religious reasons which claim that it is not for man to know these things. I myself believe that if Understanding has been bestowed upon us (she means, the ability to think), then it cannot be sacrilege for us to make use of this gift."