Saturday, July 24, 2010

Lysenkoism!

I now and then wonder if Lysenkoism is a kind of elephant in the room for all parties engaged in the usual creationism (specifically YEC/OEC) versus evolution (specifically an utterly metaphysical, materialist, unguided darwinism) discussion. After all, it opens a whole can of worms for every side.

Creationists would be tempted to focus on Lysenkoism, because it beautifully illustrates not just the possibility, but the recent reality of "secular" forces pushing a viewpoint in the realm of evolution and biology for metaphysical, social, and political reasons. But the risk is too great: At the end of the day, Lysenkoism was specifically about skepticism of a particular kind of Darwinian evolution. Admittedly, with utterly different motivations compared to OECs/YECs, but it's too close for comfort. And so the history is quietly ignored.

Evolutionists, however, can't focus on Lysenkoism for the nearly opposite reason. The Lysenkoists were, among other things, part of an atheistic, "secular" movement - and received the endorsement of some mainstream evolutionary biologists (including Haldane, I think) who were committed to materialism. While showing how skepticism in science can go wrong, the skeptics in question are too dangerous to mention. Especially since it would highlight the nasty problems that pop up when science is politicized - modern evolutionists and scientists in general tend to want science to be interwoven with political and social policy to greater degrees. Again, the history is quietly ignored.

How about theistic evolutionists? Conceivably they'd be perfectly positioned to really speak to Lysenkoism. But insofar as theistic evolution - I say this as a TE of sorts - is treated not as an idea in its own right, but a kind of compromise position to ingratiate certain religious to academics and pseudo-"intellectuals", bringing up Lysenko would just provoke fury from the very people who many TEs want to befriend. Catholic TEs and TEistic thomists are less interested in this, but they usually have entirely different, usually deeply philosophical rather than more openly political/social interests, so they ignore this history as well.

And so we're left with this unfortunate situation, where a major modern secular government and socio-political movement co-opted science for said movement's ends, yet few of the people who could learn from it the most actually will. Down the memory hole it goes, in large part.

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