The Lessons of Lysenko

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Following the death of Fidel Castro, it’s perhaps a good time to think about the malign impacts of totalitarian government, and the damage that political agendas can do to science.

I was recently discussing Lysenko with a friend (as you do), and naturally we turned to Wikipedia to clarify a point.  And I came across a quote that hit me between the eyes (figuratively speaking);

“The term Lysenkoism can also be 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”.

Dear Reader, you’re way ahead of me.  Yes of course, I was struck immediately by the read-across to climate science.  The parallels are remarkable.

You’ll be familiar with the story of Lysenko.  He was a Russian biologist and agronomist who rejected Darwinian evolution and the rôle of genes, and preferred instead the Lamarckian concept of “inheritance of acquired characteristics”.   Of course that concept is difficult to accept – especially when you reflect that a man who has lost a leg is perfectly capable of fathering a child with two legs.  With the benefit of hindsight, it is difficult to believe that Lamarckism was once regarded as a credible alternative to Darwinian theory – but so it was.

And Lysenko, in the late 1920s, took that view, and built a whole theory of plant breeding on it.  More than that, he had the ear of Stalin, and Lysenkoism became official Soviet doctrine.  The theory was imposed rigidly.  More than 3000 mainstream biologists were fired, imprisoned or executed for challenging it.

Lysenkoism held sway in the USSR until the sixties, with dire consequences for Soviet agriculture.  Again with hindsight it is difficult to credit the fact that it survived so long, when plainly it did not work.  But worse than that, not only did it fail in the field (literally), it also totally blocked proper academic study and research in Russia in the area of plant breeding and Mendelian genetics for decades.

So how close are the parallels with climate theory?  Of course Lysenkoism was restricted to the USSR.  And it was imposed by a totalitarian régime that could, and did, shoot dissenters.  Climate alarmism, on the other hand is broadly speaking global (even if some countries merely pay lip-service to the orthodoxy).  It is imposed not by a violent autocracy, but by an intolerant and often vindictive establishment – scientific, media and political.  It threatens not imprisonment and murder, but the destruction of careers.  Scientists who dare to challenge the prevailing view are denied tenure, and publication, and perhaps worst of all, grant funding.  As a result, those who do dare to challenge the orthodoxy tend to be older scientists secure in their careers (and their pension funds).

In fact the parallels with the Soviet Union go further.  On the outer fringes of the Warmism movement we see demands for “Nuremberg-style trials” of “climate deniers” and the imprisonment of directors of fossil fuel companies.

Nor is it just scientists and company directors in the firing line.  The BBC, for example (always achingly, painfully “on message”) seeks to exclude climate sceptics, and it famously dropped David Bellamy, who was once nearly as popular a presenter on nature and wildlife issues as Attenborough, merely because he dared to express doubts about Global Warming.

We saw with the ClimateGate scandal how leading IPCC scientists engaged in “the manipulation or distortion of the scientific process as a way to reach a predetermined conclusion as dictated by an ideological bias”, just as Lysenkoism does.

We see that their prescriptions are utterly failing.  Björn Lomborg famously demonstrated (for example) that all the hundreds of millions of dollars invested in solar panels by Germany would have the effect (on the IPCC’s own estimates) of delaying the trajectory of global warming by only a few hours — by 2100. An utter waste of money and misallocation of resources.

Now, of course Warmism has become a multi-billion dollar industry, with money flooding in from governments, think tanks, academia and the capital markets.  The vested interests are huge.  It is both comical and pathetic to hear green apologists still complaining about “fossil fuel funding for climate denial” when any spending of that kind is utterly dwarfed by funding for the Green Blob.

And just as Lysenkoism prevented Russian agronomy from doing the right things, so Warmism, by focussing on mitigation, blinds us to the possible need for adaptation (in the unlikely event that warming becomes a significant problem).

Wealthy economies and societies are far more resilient to adverse conditions.  But prosperity depends critically on the availability of secure and affordable energy – which mitigation and greenery militate against.  Warmism prescribes vast up-front investment to guard against highly speculative and uncertain long-term outcomes.  By the time you realise you’re wrong, you’ve blown billions.  Adaptation on the other hand is proportionate, and involves spending money on targeted projects only as and when (and if) circumstances justify it.

The main difference between Lysenkoism and Warmism, as I see it, is that the damage done by Warmism is on a far larger scale and will be far more difficult to reverse.

 

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25 Responses to The Lessons of Lysenko

  1. Re-reading this piece, I am reminded of the elephant joke. A man is spraying a large aerosol in Oxford street. Asked why, he replies “To keep the elephants away”. “But there aren’t any elephants around here” says the questioner. “No — works pretty well, doesn’t it?” replies the man. In twenty years time when temperatures are declining, the Warmists will claim that their anti-climate-change policies were hugely successful, when in fact they had very little effect at all.

  2. Dung says:

    That was the best post you have made Roger and you have a talent for simplification and explanation ^.^

  3. Ex-expat Colin says:

    Bellamy 2013:
    ‘I’m the world’s luckiest man — I’ve stood on top of the world and I married a wonderful woman and I’d still die for my country. And the BBC still makes damn good programmes, doesn’t it?’

    Its the ? thingy…Lol

    Barely watch the BBC because its not good TV or radio. The World Service/R4 is largely babble junk and regional BBC is repetitive pop music. Computing systems (digital) are very good at one thing…repetition and frequent! Its their output that is currently a big pollutant!

    Johnny Ball went a similar way…made a climate comment on stage and …gone!

  4. mike5262015 says:

    ROGER. Have you ever been a teacher ? You have what it takes, because even a blunt instrument like me can follow your point first time round, without any trouble at all. Thanks.

  5. Pingback: The Lessons Of Lysenko | NOT A LOT OF PEOPLE KNOW THAT

  6. Climatism says:

    Reblogged this on Climatism and commented:
    “Global warming” aka “climate change” is the virtue-signalling religion of our time.

    With the decline of religion, some people need a moral signal to show that they’re good.

    “Global warming” is particularly good because they don’t actually have to do anything. They don’t have to cure leppers, or feed the hungry. All they have to do is yell that the planet is warming up.

    Until they find another way of signalling virtue, we’re stuck with this one!

    —-

    Excellent read from Roger Helmer, UKIP MEP for East Midlands…

    “The main difference between Lysenkoism and Warmism, as I see it, is that the damage done by Warmism is on a far larger scale and will be far more difficult to reverse.”

  7. tom0mason says:

    Hello Roger,
    I’ve just read your piece reproduced on Paul Homewood’s site https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com . How refreshing to read something from an MEP that is worth reading.
    On David Bellamy dismissal, Professor Robert Winston was given the same treatment.

    Keep up the good work.

  8. Laurence Nice says:

    Brilliant!! Could not have put it better!! All completely understandable. A couple of years ago, I was at Croydon Library and I read something about, if you are flying somewhhere, we will tell you what your carbon footprint will be. Well, I typed from crap to bs, 20 people, from 1 August to 31, and they said that I need to pay £955 extra for the journey?!!

  9. M.Saxton says:

    This is an excellent document. My question to Mr Helmer is how will he get this information to a public who are largely unaware of these matters yet see their energy bills going up every year? The OBR renewables levy forecast makes depressing reading. There is just a possibility that the next US President will make substantial changes to America’s Climate Change Policy so that other nations will begin to rethink their folly?

  10. Oliver K. Manuel says:

    Trump’s election has apparently triggered humanity’s joyful awakening to reality:

    http://joannenova.com.au/2016/11/climate-psalm-101-the-co2-god-causes-quakes-tsunamis-and-volcanoes/

  11. HotScot says:

    If this is the official line of UKIP, you have a new convert.

  12. KennieD says:

    The biggest problem for me regarding the “Global Warming / Climate change” programme, is that I did not think of it first. Therefore I have not made money from it and become very rich. I am destined to remain just not quite poor enough to be trouble to the elites.

    • Ex-expat Colin says:

      Same here KennieD…need to weep,burn flags and blubber all over Tw*tter/FB or similar. Nah…the stupids do that. Just waiting for Trump to flick the switch and undermine the whole game.

  13. Anne says:

    The United Kingdom Takes A Battering.

    Our belovéd Country is now taking a battering,
    Violent wind, the like ne’er seen before,
    Every-where in the UK takes a pounding,
    Mid England as well as our seaside shores.
    It is an un-natural combination,
    Unusual in every way, shape or form
    Has HAARP been set into motion?
    Are we supposed to accept it as the ‘norm’?’

    High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program
    Known as HAARP now, quite frequently,
    Although Governments never mention
    What may well be known to you and me.
    Torrential rain and winds hit the United Kingdom,
    Our Country lashed by that wind and rain,
    All taking a battering when all is said a done.
    Is our Kingdom under fire once again?

    These most unusual weather patterns
    No wonder ordinary folks must question,
    What is the point of HAARP in Alaska
    If it is not used every now and then?
    Why indeed is the UK in the line of fire
    And Ireland too must surely question
    As they too, pick up the pieces
    And start all over and over again.

    What is the point of H.A.A.R.P
    If it not tried and tested at all?
    The manipulation of the earths Ionosphere,
    Is it really a weapon of war?
    It was developed by the US Military,
    As told to the Parliament of the EU.
    Should radiation be projected into the Ionosphere,
    Would it be a warning to me and you?

    So many wonders in the world
    Yet mankind looks for power to command
    To Govern all Countries forever
    Even our own once free land.
    Yet are there powers far greater,
    The ones we cannot see?
    Or will mankind destroy forever,
    And “what is to be”, will be?

    • KennieD says:

      “It is an un-natural combination,
      Unusual in every way, shape or form”

      Un-natural?….No, our climate is governed by the Sun and its activity.
      Unusual ?…Perhaps, in the relatively short term.

      Mankind will certainly pay if we continue to think we can influence God’s nature.

  14. Dung says:

    I think there was one connection with today’s situation that you missed Roger ^.^
    In the Lysenko story it was a politician who was duped into accepting a theory that he was incapable of understanding and who forced the idiot theory onto an unsuspecting populace. Cameron anyone? ( or Huhne or Milliband)

  15. Ex-expat Colin says:

    G.B. National Grid Status…Red Lining or very close to in daytime!

    http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/

    Temp is now going down in UK with sun lowering and clear sky. 14:40

    Wind spin could dribble anytime soon and Solar will shortly go off till tomorrow. STOR may kick in locally and factories/office may close. One Interconnector from France damaged due to a ships anchor dropped on it..allegedly?

    Who actually cares that the margin is inadequate?

    • Martin Reed says:

      The ruling classes have decided in their infinite (arts educated of course) wisdom that a reliable energy supply is outmoded in this, the post-industrial age. And who’s to say their wrong? Hard science and maths graduates, or engineers even? You must be joking. At the current rate of shrinkage industry will anyway eventually be a thing of the past in the UK. We are pioneers in this too, the first (and leading) industrialised economy, and soon now, first to draw the shutters down finally on nasty, dirty manufacturing! Olé, as Fidel would have put it. And after all we do contribute at least 1.5% of that pesky evil plant food to the atmosphere currently, so even if we can knock a thousandth of a per cent off that it’ll be worth a few thousands more deaths from hypothermia this winter when the power cuts start, in order to save the planet, the greater good you know. Theresa knows best.

      • Martin Reed says:

        When I said 1.5% of CO2 I was only referring to the CO2 we, the humans produce. So UK CO2 amounts to about a twentieth of one per cent of all net annual natural CO2 flows. Thermageddon threatening, definitely if you’re a Tory.

  16. David Dry says:

    Roger,

    KES has done you proud. Excellent and forensic analysis.

    David Dry

  17. Pingback: The story of Lysenko |

  18. KennieD says:

    Roger,
    I was very pleased to hear that you will continue your role as UKIP Energy Spokesman under the new Leadership.
    Many congratulations.

  19. David in Texas says:

    Roger,

    An excellence summary of what was and what is.

    It’s easy to understand the motives of people hunger for power, funding or to sell their solar panels, but there are others with no apparent self interest that buy the lie. For the latter, the psychological concept of ‘departmentalization’ (the ability to hold two contradictory views at the same time) might help to explain it.

    In a lecture on Climate Change over Geologic, an attendee worried about recent climate change stated: “My professor at the University of Texas told us [circa 1959] that the earth is only capable of supporting 3 billion people, and we now have over 7 billion.” He was capable of vehemently expressing two contradictory concepts in the same sentence.

    When I pointed out that his professor was obviously wrong (to the laughter of the class), he replied, “Not if you consider poverty.” I didn’t have the data at the time, but the World Bank estimates the GDP per capita has grown 10 times (purchasing power parity 15 times) since 1959. His last statement was just plain ignorance. We have also made great progress since 1959 in reducing hunger and increasing life expectancy by using fossil fuels.

    We have some hope of correcting ignorance, but compartmentalization is a bleak battle.

  20. David in Texas says:

    Roger,

    An excellence summary of what was and what is.

    It’s easy to understand the motives of people hunger for power, funding or to sell their solar panels, but there are others with no apparent self interest that buy the lie. For the latter, the psychological concept of ‘departmentalization’ (the ability to hold two contradictory views at the same time) might help to explain it.

    In a lecture on ‘Climate Change Over Geologic’, an attendee worried about recent climate change stated: “My professor at the University of Texas told us [circa 1959] that the earth is only capable of supporting 3 billion people, and we now have over 7 billion.” He was capable of vehemently expressing two contradictory concepts in the same sentence.

    When I pointed out that his professor was obviously wrong (to the laughter of the class), he replied, “Not if you consider poverty.” I didn’t have the data at the time, but the World Bank estimates the GDP per capita has grown 10 times (purchasing power parity 15 times) since 1959. We have also made great progress since 1959 in reducing hunger and increasing life expectancy by using fossil fuels. His last statement was just plain ignorance.

    We have some hope of correcting ignorance, but compartmentalization is a bleak battle.

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