Crumb Trail
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Tuesday, August 26, 2003
 

This Science Magazine Essay about the GDR theoretical biologist Georg Schneider who was "a propagandist for an allegedly progressive, antifascist Soviet biology, which it was important to defend against a supposedly reactionary bourgeois genetics with its racist tendencies", i.e. a Lysenkoist, is a useful cautionary tale in that there are other creative Darwinist groups still active. Politics and ideology can subvert scientific practice but they can't subvert science. Subverting scientific practice harms societies that do so.
The Ukrainian agronomist Trofim D. Lysenko (1898-1976) became well known in the 1930s through his research into Jarowization (the cold treatment of seed to stimulate germination), which meant grain could be sown in the spring instead of the previous fall. This made it theoretically possible to extend land use within the Soviet Union for agriculture. Building on this early success, Lysenko developed his anti-Mendelian theories over the next few decades. His idea--that acquired characters could be inherited--was totally at odds with what was known about genetics at this time. This notion was first known as "Michurin biology" [Ivan D. Michurin (1855-1935) was an early proponent of acquired inheritance, gaining his ideas from fruit-tree selection studies] and later as "creative Darwinism."

posted by back40 | 8/26/2003 08:09:00 PM

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