Biologists as Victims of Communism

| 38 Comments


(Trofim Denisovich Lysenko)

On my own weblog, Freespace, I've been urging readers to join me in helping the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. The Foundation needs another $23,000 in order to dedicate the monument in Washington D.C. this October. I thought I'd post a little here about one of the shocking atrocities that communism visited upon the world of biological science, in the person of Trofim Denisovich Lysenko.

Lysenko was, simply put, a quack--a modern "geneticist" who rejected the very concept of a gene, and defended a neo-Lamarckian theory that acquired characteristics could be inherited. This nonsense became official party doctrine in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, in what historian Robert Conquest calls "the most extraordinary of all the indications of the intellectual degeneracy of the Party mind which had followed on Stalin's replacement of the intellectual section of the apparatus by his own creatures." Robert Conquest, The Great Terror: Stalin's Purge of The Thirties 321-22 (1968).

Lysenko's assertions were indeed "extraordinary," as revealed by the fascinating book The Rise And Fall of T.D. Lysenko by Zhores A. Medvedev--a book which had to be smuggled out of the Soviet Union and published in the west in 1969. Lysenko claimed that feeding different birds hairy caterpillars would cause cuckoos to hatch from their eggs, and that exposing spring wheat to cold temperatures would turn it into winter wheat. "In nearly ever issue of the journal [Agrobiologiya]," wrote Medvedev,

articles appeared in which were seriously reported transformations of wheat into rye and vice versa, barley into oats, peaches into vetch, vetch into lentils, cabbage into swedes, firs into pines, hazelnuts into hornbeams, alders into birches, sunflowers into strangleweed. All of these communications were utterly without proof, methodologically illiterate, and thoroughly unreliable. The authors had one leading thought--to please Lysenko. . ..

Id. at 171 (Anchor Books ed., 1971). Put in charge of Soviet genetics, Lysenko seriously hampered Soviet agriculture, and sent his scientific enemies to their deaths, including N.I. Vavilov, considered the greatest Soviet geneticist.

I. Lysenko Revives Lamarck

(T.D. Lysenko, 1898-1976)

T.D. Lysenko claimed that acquired characteristics could be inherited, because the character of an organism was determined by its environment: "[A]ccording to Mendel-Morgan genetics," he wrote,

which unfortunately still continues to be taught by Mendelians in our higher institutions of learning, any seeds of self-pollinating plants within the limits of a single variety are alike with respect to their inheritance (genotype), regardless of the conditions of cultivation. The Mendelian-Morganists assert that the nature of the plant does not depend on agro-techniques. According to this pseudo-science, good agro-techniques cannot improve and bad cannot deteriorate the nature of the plant.... We deny that the quality of the breed (genotype) does not depend on the conditions of life. We maintain that on the seed plots of farms and selection stations it is necessary always to apply the best possible agro-technique, since that not only increases the yield of seed per unit of area, but, most important, it improves the breed of these seeds.... The means of feeding and the quality of the food play a colossal role in altering the heredity of plants and animals. Not in vain did Acad. M. F. Ivanov place at the head of one of his articles the saying of English stockbreeders: "The breed goes through the mouth."

Lysenko trumpeted that his "theories" clashed with Mendelian genetics. "[W]hen they ask what part of Mendelism to keep," he wrote, "I always answer: almost nothing." His theories, he said, made up the only biology that Communists could believe in. "Under the action of external environment which is unsuitable or little suitable for a given species," Lysenko wrote, "particles of a different species for which the conditions are more suitable arise in the body of the plant. From these particles, rudiments (buds or seeds) are formed which develop into individuals of the other species." Quoted in Medvedev, supra at 172. Accordingly, Lysenko not only claimed that environmental factors could change one type of animal into another, he also denied that individuals within the same species even compete for resources.

All mankind belongs to one biological species. Hence, bourgeois science had to invent intraspecific struggle. In nature, they say, within each species there is a cruel struggle for food.... The stronger, better-adapted indivudals are the victors. The same, then, occurs among people:: the capitalists have millions, the workers live in poverty, because the capitalists supposedly are more intelligent and more able because of their heredity.

We Soviet people know well that the oppression of the workers, the dominance of the capitalist class...are all based on the laws of a rotting, moribund, bourgeois, capitalist society.

There is no intraspecific competition in nature. There is only competition between species: the wolf eats the hare; the hard does not eat another hare, it eats grass. Wheat does not hamper wheat.....

Quoted in id. at 107.

Lysenko held "seminars" complete with brass bands performing before his lectures.

Seeing gray-haired scientists in the front rows of the audience, Lysenko explains with exultation: "Aha! You came to relearn?" I [Medvedev] remember little of the content of the lecture--only the assertion that a horse is alive only in interaction with the environment; without interaction it is no longer a horse but a cadaver of a horse; that when different birds are fed hairy caterpillers, cuckoos hatch from their eggs; that a new cell is not formed from a previously existing one, but near one; that the living body always wants to eat; etc., etc.

Id. at 131.

Other sciences were infected by Lysenkoism. Soviet physicists began declaring the theory of relativity, and the work of Bohr and Pauling to be reactionary and idealistic. Biologists repudiated the work of Pasteur, and a major prize was awarded to a Soviet biologist who claimed to have discovered spontaneous generation of single-celled creatures from soaked hay. Id. at 183. Soviet scientific journals were shut down. Soviet scientists opposing Lysenko were not allowed to speak at the 1958 International Congress of Genetics in Canada. "Since the time at which each paper was to be read appeared on the program, members of the Congress waited in silence until the time assigned for the undelivered papers expired." Id. at 138. Biologists were dismissed from their posts, sent to prison, and worse; D.A. Sabinin, a famous plant physiologist, was fired from his teaching post, was hounded out of Moscow, and finally committed suicide. Id. at 127. Another geneticist was arrested because he visited his anti-Lysenkoite professor and brought him a bouquet of flowers. Id. Lysenko insisted that his experiments on the transformation of wheat were a major discovery, and commanded that Ukranian wheat farmers implement the process. When another scientist reported no significant improvement in wheat yields, Lysenko responded with a threat: "Konstantinov must give thought to the fact that when such erroneous data were swept away from the field of scientific activity, those who failed to understand the implications of such data, and insisted on retaining them, were also swept away." Id. at 155. Soviet agriculture was not the only victim of the Lysenkoite madness; Chinese farmers were ordered to implement his theories, with diastrous results.

II. Why Did Stalin Put Lysenko in Power?


(Josef Stalin 1879-1953, right, pictured in 1938 with Soviet Prime Minister Vyacheslav Molotov 1890-1986 (left), and secret police chief Nikolai Yezhov 1895-1940 (right))

Lysenko's claims are so utterly lunatic that some writers have had difficulty understanding how even Stalin could come to take Lysenko seriously, and they have accordingly depicted Lysenkoism as simply insanity. But what Stalin saw in Lysenko was a radical confirmation of communist teachings--in particular, the principles of dialectical materialism, which held that

"the world is not to be comprehended as a complex of ready-made things, but as a complex of processes, in which the things apparently stable. . .go through an uninterrupted change of coming into and passing out of being, in which, despite all seeming accidents and of all temporary retrogressions, a progressive development asserts itself in the end. . .. "For" dialectical philosophy, "nothing is final, absolute, sacred. It reveals the transitory character of everything and in everything. Nothing can endure before it except the uninterrupted. . .endless ascendancy from higher to lower."

Friedrich Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach (1927) quoted in V.I. Lenin, Marx, Engels, Marxism: A Collection of Articles 10 (International House, J. Fineberg, ed., 1935).

Particulate inheritance seemed inconsistent with this for three reasons: first, it envisioned a stable, intractable category of things in nature, which could not be altered by conscious attempts: the gene making a pea wrinkled could not be transformed by direct action. This ran counter to the political progressivism underlying the Marxist program, which sought to reject all such unchangeable categorization. What Louis Menand says of American Progressives is equally true of their Hegelian cousins: they sought to "put an end to the idea that. . .beyond the mundane business of making our way as best we can in a world shot through with contingency, there exists some order, invisible to us, whose logic we transgress at our peril." Louis Menand, The Metaphysical Club 439 (2002). I.I. Prezent, Lysenko's partner in crime, put the point succinctly in a 1937 speech: "If hereditary changes occurred as portrayed by formalist geneticists, we should scarcely have had elephants descended from fossil forms. The whole point is that there can be metaphysical ideas about nature but there cannot be a metaphysical nature." (Quoted in Medvedev, supra at 31, emphasis added).

The notion that genetic inheritance is unavoidable, and beyond the reach of any conscious force, seemed to stand in the way of this. (And it still does, as the debate over sociobiology reveals.)

Second, and relatedly, Mendelian genetics holds that environmental factors contribute to an organism's evolution only marginally. Communist ideology, however, held that changes in the social environment would cause fundamental changes in the citizen: indeed, that there was no such thing as an individual personality outside of the environment: "it regarded ‘human beings' [not] abstractly. . .[but] as a ‘synthesis' of ‘all social relationships' (definite, concretely-historical)--and thus. . .it was a question of ‘changing' [the world], that is. . .of ‘practical revolutionary activity.'" Lenin, supra at 9.

Third, modern genetics, and biology generally, recognizes no "progress" from "lower" to "higher" forms, but simply the propagation of forms more suited to reproduction and survival. Communist ideology, however, was strongly based on principles of historical inevitability--and Lysenko and other Soviet biologists strongly embraced the idea that Darwin had proven a law of historical improvement, something which no serious biologist would claim. (This leads to much confusion, I think, because Lysenko and others denounced their opponents for not being "Darwinists," when in fact the reverse was true.)

The consistency of Lysenko's biological claims with the Communist party line is revealed in this 1940 article: "The materialist theory of the evolution of living nature," he wrote,

involves recognition of the necessity of hereditary transmission of individual characteristics acquired by the organism under the conditions of its life; it is unthinkable without recognition of the inheritance of acquired characters.... The representatives of reactionary biological science--Neo-Darwinians, Weismannists, or--which is the same--Mendelist-Morganists, uphold the so-called chromosome theory of heredity. . .. According to this theory, characters acquired by vegetable and animal organisms cannot be handed down, are not inherited. . .. They therefore hold that qualitative variations in the heredity (nature) of living bodies are entirely independent of the environment, of the conditions of life. . ..

A sharp controversy, which has divided biologists into two irreconcilable camps, has thus flared up over the old question: is it possible for features and characteristics acquired by vegetable and animal organisms in the course of their life to be inherited? In other words, whether qualitative variations of the nature of vegetable and animal organisms depend on the conditions of life which act upon the living body, upon the organism.

The Michurin teaching, which is in essence materialist and dialectical, proves by facts that such dependence does exist. . .. We, the Michurinists, must squarely admit that we have hitherto proved unable to make the most of the splendid possibilities created in our country by the Party and the Government for the complete exposure of the Morganist metaphysics, which is in its entirety an importation from foreign reactionary biology hostile to us. . ..

All the so-called laws of Mendelism-Morganism are based entirely on the idea of chance.... [T]his "science" therefore denies the existence of necessary relationships in living nature and condemns practical workers to fruitless waiting. There is no effectiveness in such a science. With such a science it is impossible to plan, to work toward a definite goal; it rules out scientific foresight.



It is a serious misunderstanding to imagine that Lysenkoism was a fluke. He was, after all, hardly the only believer in his doctrines. Rather, Lysenko came to power because Stalin and others saw his pseudo-science as consistent with the Communist rejection of what Engels called "ready-made things." Indeed, genetics was branded as racism by many Soviets, and "in the U.S.S.R. studies on human genetics were virtually completely stopped. (The first book in Russian on human genetics was not published until 1964.)" Medvedev, supra at 82. As Marxist philosopher Robert M. Young puts it, Lysenkoism was based on the "controversy about whether or not Malthusian constraints could be overcome by revolutionary struggle. . .[and] the circumstances in which human will could or could not conquer ‘objective' obstacles.... For all its odiousness, Stalinism had within it three congruent struggles which are central to the construction of socialism: the rejection of bourgeois economistic fatalism. . ., the rejection of biologistic fatalism, and the removal of the recalcitrant experts whose scientism retarded socialism."

The passage from Engels I quoted above is quoted in chapter four of the official History of the Communist Party of The Soviet Union published in 1939. The History goes on to explain that

contrary to metaphysics, dialectics. . .regard[s] the process of development as. . .a development in which the qualitative changes occur not gradually, but rapidly and abruptly, taking the form of a leap from one state to another. . .. The dialectical method therefore holds that the process of development should be understood not as movement in a circle, not as a simple repetition of what has already occurred, but as an onward and upward movement, as a transition from an old qualitative state to a new qualitative state, as a development form the simple to the complex, from the lower to the higher. . ..

Id. at 107.

The History then goes on to conclude with this chilling passage:

[T]hen it is clear that every social system and every social movement in history must be evaluated not from the standpoint of "eternal justice. . ." but from the standpoint of the conditions which give rise to that system. . .. The slave system would be senseless, stupid, and unnatural under modern conditions. But under the conditions of a disintegrating primitive communal system, the slave system is quite understandable. . .. The demand for a bourgeois-democratic republic when tsardom and bourgeois society existed, as, let us say, in Russia in 1905, was a quite understandable, proper and revolutionary demand. . .. But now, under the conditions of the U.S.S.R., the demand for a bourgeois-democratic republic would be a meaningless and counter-revolutionary demand, for a bourgeois republic would be a retrograde step compared with the Soviet republic.

Id. at 110.

III. Sending Vavilov to The Pyre


(N.I. Vavilov, 1897-1943)

Lysenko referred to this chapter of the History in a confrontation with Nikolay Vavilov in 1939. Vavilov had challenged Lysenko's claim that by changing the environment one could change spring wheat into winter wheat and vice versa. (Lysenko's claim, by the way, was backed by a single plant which he claimed had produced a single seed of winter wheat. See Medevedev, supra at 26.) Vavilov was a world-famous scientist who had organized over 100 trips around the world collecting plants to improve Russian agriculture. He was made president of the Lenin All-Union Academy of Agriculture, and received many prestigious awards, including a membership in the British Royal Society.

Confronting Lysenko, Vavilov tried to explain in an almost panicked tone of astonishment that the gene was real, and that all the environmental factors in the world could not change one creature into another overnight. This, he said, was fundamental to the science--but Lysenko and his followers denounced non-Soviet geneticists as bourgeois and corrupted by capitalism. "[My] position is also that of contemporary world science, and was without doubt developed not by fascists, but by ordinary progressive toilers," he protested at a 1939 conference. Id. at 59. "But," a member of the audience shouted, "you proceed from the immutability of genes and the nature of plants!" Id. Vavilov pleaded that genetics wasn't "conservative" as this audience member charged--that "[g]enetics is first of all a physiological science, and its basic problem is that of transforming organisms. That is what genetics is for. But in the course of investigations, it becomes clear that to alter hereditary nature is not that simple." Id. But his pleas were ignored, and two months later he was brought before Lysenko and an unnamed ally to answer for his thoughtcrime. Medvedev provides some of the transcript of that meeting, which reveals the Orwellian horrors of doing science in Stalin's and Lysenko's Soviet Union:

Vavilov:. . .You can imagine how difficult it is to guide graduate students, when all the time one is told that one does not share Lysenko's views. History will indicate which one of us is right. . .. I am an overburdened man. . .. I should have explained this in greater detail. Of course species can originate on the periphery. If Trofim Denisovich would only listen calmly instead of shuffling pages--life goes on. . ..

Lysenko: You and I have talked calmly together in private; here it is different. This is the first time I have heard you say that species do originate. Apparently I misunderstood. But here [apparently pointing to a manuscript] it does say that evolution is oversimplification.

Vavilov: Evolution is an oversimplification of specific events. This is a fact you could verify.

Lysenko: I don't question that evolution is fact. But is it true that evolution is an oversimplification, an unwinding? Is it true or not?

Vavilov: It's an indisputable fact. . .. There is a law of reduction; often many animal groups had a history of the reduction of many organs toward a vestigal state. There is also a law of increase in complexity. . ..

Lysenko: I understood from what you wrote that you came to agree with your teacher, Bateson, that evolution must be viewed as a process of simplification. Yet in Chapter 4 of the history of the party it says evolution is increase in complexity. . ..

[Unknown Inquisitor]: Marxism is the only science. Darwinism is only a part; the real theory of knowledge of the world was given by Marx, Engels, and Lenin. And when I hear discussion about Darwinism without mention of Marxism, it may seem, on the one side, that all is right, but on the other, it's a horse of a different color.

Vavilov: I studied Marx four or five times and am prepared to go on. . ..

Lysenko:. . . I was sincerely sorry for you. But, you see, your being insubordinate to me...I say now that some kind of measures must be taken. We cannot go on in this way. . .. We shall have to depend on others, take another line, a line of administrative subordination.

Quoted in Medvedev, supra at 63-64.

On August 6, 1940, Vavilov and a group of scientists were collecting plant samples in the Western Ukraine when a car full of agents of the secret police pulled up and arrested him. His companions found that he had even been forced to leave his suitcase behind. In it was a sample of wheat which turned out to be a newly discovered species. "Thus on the last day of service to his country. . .Vailov made his last botanical-geographic discovery." Id. at 69. On July 9, 1941, the Soviet Supreme Court found him guilty of belonging to a rightist conspiracy, espionage, sabotage, and other charges, and was sentenced to death. He died in Saratov prison on January 26, 1943. He had given his own epitaph; during his 1939 plea he had told his jeering audience

This is a complex matter. It is not to be solved by decree even of the Commissariat of Agriculture. We shall go to the pyre, we shall burn, but we shall not retreat from our convictions.

Id. at 59.

IV. Lessons of Lysenko


(Jacob Bronowski, 1908-1974)

What does the T.D. Lysenko teach us? Some have argued that it was the natural result of forcing science to conform to an ideology. Like creationists, the Soviet scientific establishment demanded that reality be made to conform to its philosophical predilections, and any contrary evidence was declared to be the consequence of corrupt philosophy. But the disaster of Lysenkoism teaches a deeper lesson: the vitality of freedom for the scientific enterprise. As philosopher of science Jacob Bronowski concluded, "Government is an apparatus which exercises power and which is bent on retaining it, and in the twentieth century more than ever before it spends its time in trying to perpetuate itself by justifying itself. This cast of mind and of method is flatly at odds with the integrity of science." The Lysenko disaster, Bronowski wrote,

shows how damaging the dependence on government favor is for the integrity of science.... [B]y being able to silence those who tried to argue with him, he destroyed the trust of other Russian intellectuals in their scientists.... The Russian example is a warning that scientists have to renounce the creeping patronage of governments if they want to preserve the integrity of knowledge as a means and an end which thoughtful citizens (including their own students) prize in them. In my view, there is now a duty laid on scientists to set an incorruptible standard for public morality. The public has begun to understand that the constant march from one discovery to the next is kept going not by luck and not even by cleverness, but by something in the method of science: an unrelenting independence in the search for truth that pays no attention to received opinion or expediency or political advantage....

J. Bronowski, The Disestablishment of Science, (1971) reprinted in A Sense of The Future 241-44 (P. Ariotti and R. Bronowski, eds., 1977).

Independence is essential to the pursuit of knowledge. The attempt to force science to conform with a political or social ideology--whether it be the Stalinist party line demanding the infinite malleability of creatures, or creationists demanding that biology conform to religious predispositions--is a disaster practically as well as philosophically.

Please help honor the memories of those scientists who, like Nikolay Vavilov, went to the pyre. Please contribute to the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation today.

More on Lysenko:

A bibliography

The Skeptic's Dictionary

Wikipedia entry

Who was Lysenko?

A webpage with some defenses of Lysenko

38 Comments

Wow.

There is a “Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation”???

What a breathtakingly misleading and politically loaded name for a memorial (or foundation). I guess that’s “communism” as in “racism and communism”, right?

Communism is a society without money, without a state, without property and without social classes. People come together to carry out a project or to respond to some need of the human community but without the possibility of their collective activity taking the form of an enterprise that involves wages and the exchange of its products.

Sickening, isn’t it? The horror …

Of course, I’ll be paying for the de facto Victims of Capitalism and Victims of Fundamentalist Religion Memorials every year, whether I like it or not.

And hopefully my name will someday be enscribed forever on the Victims of Hedonism Memorial, along with two of my heroes, Jerry Garcia and Peter Laughner.

Of course, with any post like this, there is a danger of such comments from people like Great White Wonder–people whose insensitivity is surpassed only by their ignorance. I do not intend to be sucked further into a discussion of communist ideology–except to say that Wonder is certainly correct that a communist society is a society without money; it substitutes coercion in its place. Your choice in this world is between those two: between mutual cooperation through voluntary exchange, or physical force. I have explored this subject further on Freespace. In the meantime, I recommend Prof. R.J. Rummel’s calculations as to the actual effects of Wonder’s ideology.

The obvious problem is that anti-Communism has been misused so often to support reactionism that the name “Victims of Communism” is bound to raise suspicions about motive and what message for today is being promoted.

Will any Trotskyists be included in the memorial, by the way?

If the US wants to erect a monument to victims of the cold war, we should first look to erecting one for the victims of anti-communism. This makes as much sense as a monument on american soil for the victims of Caligula.

Mr. Cartwright, can you tell me how many cases there were of Americans murdered for being communists?

Reed, they could call it “Victims of the Lesser Evil”

Sandefur Wrote:

Mr. Cartwright, can you tell me how many cases there were of Americans murdered for being communists?

Can you tell me how many cases there were of Americans being murderd for not being communists, wars excluded?

And to attempt to answer your question, did you ever hear of the 1980s’ case from Greenville, SC where the Klan open fire on a communist/labor picket line while local news crews were filming? Care to guess whether the Klanmembers were convicted or not?

My point is not that Americans are the victims of anti-communism, but rather that in the name of anti-communism we did some rather terrible things arround the globe, including supporting un-american values as long as they were un-communist. I think a monument to the victims of our own misguided politics is more appropriate than a monument to the foreign victims of a foreign country’s politics.

Readers will note that the above comments have suggested that the proper focus of our history should be on wrongs committed by anti-communists, rather than on the wrongs committed by communists. I believe that this is wrong, for a couple reasons. First, many of the alleged wrongs committed by anti-communists turn out to be exaggerated or deceptive in some other way. For example, many people complain of “blacklisting,” which occurred when employers chose not to employ members of the Communist Party. Although one might disagree with an employer’s choice in this matter, it is perfectly legitimate for a person to refuse to hire an employee for any reason he wishes, including his political views. If I wish to express my distaste for communism by refusing to hire communists, that is my right, just as it is my right to boycott a company that engages in business practices of which I disapprove. I don’t mean to deny that there were wrongs committed by anti-communists; certainly there were. There were many people, for instance, who were wrongly accused of being communists, and suffered as a result. And certainly the KKK murdering communists is as indefensible as most of what the KKK does.

But second, even if all the all the alleged wrongs committed by anti-communists are true, they pale in comparison to the wrongs committed by communists. By the most conservative estimation available, communist governments murdered over 100,000,000 human beings during the 20th century. Russians were murdered by the thousands for having the “wrong” beliefs. American communists, or those wrongly accused of being communists, were allowed to keep their homes, were not rounded up and executed or imprisoned. They lost their jobs, or their friends, but their treatment was luxurious compared to the treatment of dissenters in communist nations. One hardly needs to be a fan of Joseph McCarthy to recognize the magnitude of the communist horror, and to believe it worthy of commemoration. It’s rather startling to think that communist governments murdered far, far more people than the Nazis did, and yet while there are many well-deserved monuments to the memory of these victims, we find so much reluctance to acknowledge the seriousness of the Red Holocaust. (Imagine someone saying “we can’t build a monument to the victims of Nazism until we build a monument to the victims of Jews!”)

Again, you need not believe that American policies during the Cold War were entirely just, to believe that the victims of communism deserve a memorial, or that this memorial, like the Holocaust memorial, belongs in America—a nation that was a refuge and a beacon of hope for so many of communism’s victims. Please contribute today.

I don’t understand Mr. Cartwright’s comment about Americans being murdered for not being communists—perhaps there are some cases of Americans being murdered for not being communists, but I don’t know of any. With regard to Bartholomew’s comment, I don’t know whether the Foundation will make special mention of Trotsky, but certainly one of the worst things about the communist slaughters was that it persecuted people who were not even anti-communists, but were just suspected of heresy. Medvedev himself is one example, as is Vavilov. Both of them were communists—but were persecuted for not towing the party line. Without the rights to their property and the freedoms of speech or press, they were not free to dissent. These men, and Trotsky, were victims of communism, as well.

Timothy,

I was a professor for 12 years. You are fighting a losing battle. Stalin killed millions. Mao killed millions. Pol Pot killed a million or so. But the majority of academics will apologize for them. Why? Because most academics and most professors are pretty darn stupid. It’s that simple.

But thank you for helping me remember why I hate academia–for there are times when I am tempted to go back.

Your cause is noble, but your strength will be tested.

Sandefur Wrote:

Readers will note that the above comments have suggested that the proper focus of our history should be on wrongs committed by anti-communists, rather than on the wrongs committed by communists.

Not at all. Our proper focus should be on both of them. However, looking at “our history” shows that “anti-communism” had much more negative impact in it than “communism.” I am a staunch capitalist, but I cannot ignore the fact that, as long as we are talking about an American monument, victims of anti-communism is more appropriate than victims of communism. I think there is extemely something wrong with your analysis when you weigh the purges versus blacklisting. If blacklisting was the height of anti-communism, you’d have a point. However, it was not. The dictators that we proped up around the world have their own body counts. And we were complacent in that. We need to admit to that and make ammends before we go off pointing fingers at communist regimes.

Your appeal to a mounument for the victims of Nazism is misplaced, since I have not mentioned a monument to the victims of the victims of communism.

Maybe I am just more sensitive to this stuff because I am a southerner and have to put up with hypocritic finger pointing from non-southerners all the time. They rarely understand that their regions have a dark history as well. Dark histories come with being human. Addressing them begins at home.

I don’t understand Mr. Cartwright’s comment about Americans being murdered for not being communists—perhaps there are some cases of Americans being murdered for not being communists, but I don’t know of any.

It was in response to your initial request. If a monument to the victims of anti-communism needs cases there Americans murdered for being communists, then a monument to the victims of communism needs cases of American murdered for being non-communists.

I still don’t understand your point–too many double negatives even for a lawyer. The monument is to victims of communism around the world, not just Americans; I think it’s appropriate to have a monument to them in America just as it’s appropriate to have a monument to victims of Nazism in America. You are right that the United States propped up some awful dictators in other countries as part of its Cold War policies.

The monument is to victims of communism around the world, not just Americans;

I understand this.

I think it’s appropriate to have a monument to them in America just as it’s appropriate to have a monument to victims of Nazism in America.

The question is not wheather it is appropriate or not. The question is what is more appropriate for a monument in American soil. If we, as Americans, could only do one, which is the one that we have the greater responsibility towards.

Personally, I’d support an American monument to the victims of the Cold War. (Of course, many of the communist purges were not related to the Cold War, but I can’t think of a better title.)

Now if we were creating an internationally funded monument to victims of communism, isn’t there a better place to put it than the US, like say Berlin, Hungary, or some infamous gulag in Russia?

You buy a plot of land in Hungary and hire a sculptor, and I’ll give you five hundred bucks, too.

The guy who believes that calling bloggers by their first names is rude wrote:

Russians were murdered by the thousands for having the “wrong” beliefs.

Terrible tragedy, that. Yes, even in my state of insensitive ignorance I can recognize the wrongness of that. ;)

So, uh, where in the communist bible is it written that the appointed leaders in a communist society must murder all those who disagree with them? I must have missed that lecture. It doesn’t seem inherent to the definition of communism I posted above.

I’m assuming, of course, that none of the murdered Russians were murdered for any of the usual reasons that leaders of countries sometimes use to justify the killing of other people (you know, racism, lust for power, ideological fundamentalism, insanity, keeping oil prices down, etc.).

So… who wants to talk about Lysenko? :)

Fun fact: Mark Perakh, who is a sometimes contributor to this blog, actually knew Lysenko. He has some thoughts about Lysenkoism here (pdf) and it’s relation to the modern ID movement, and the penchant ID advocates’ have for accusing their critics of being Lysenkoists (or Nazis, or Commies, or McCarthyists, or Freemasons, etc.)

Tim,

I found this to be an incredibly interesting piece. I have not yet even had a chance to read it in full and in detail, which is a reading it clearly deserves. There are a few things though which bother me at a surface level.

Firstly, I object to the effort, though perhaps indirect, to associate the American Anthropological Association with Lysenkoism. My own disciplinary background is economics but my research and teaching is focused to a large degree on economic anthropology and economic history, as well as former socialist economies. I know how problematic and difficult it can be to get some people to even consider explanations proffered by sociobiologists. That said, whatever its faults, the American Anthropological Association to my knowledge has never taken a stand as a body that sociobiology or evolutionary psychology is good, bad, progressive or regressive. Many individual anthropologists and many other social scientists find fault with sociobiology and evolutionary psychology for many reasons. I’d be happy to go into some of this. The real root of objections to sociobiology lie in Boas and his students, Mead and Benedict. Of course they were not perfect theorists. But Boas especially was confronting social darwinism and racialistic biology and was instrumental through scientific method in debunking this racism in physical anthropology. Physical anthropology is still a vital area of anthropology, as is archaeology. Ev Psych raises some specific problems from the standpoint of Paleoanthropology. Are many of my social scientists guilty of biophobia? Yes, absolutely. But there are good and thoughtful people out there who are trying to make good and thoughtful critiques of Ev Psych and Sociobiology. Your linking, even if unintended, of Anthropologists to Lysenkoism is in essence a smear and betrays ignorance of anthropology. If you pick up any standard intro to cultural anthro text, or better yet, a standard intro to bioanthro text you will see that these issues are covered thoughtfully and students are encouraged to think critically. I have yet to see an intro anthro text that propagandizes on this issue.

Secondly, while your discussion of Stalin is fascinating and I think correct in its broad outlines, neither Marx nor most U.S. Marxists would take this tack. In fact, Marx was quite enamored with Darwin. Eric Wolf, author of Europe and the People Without History, unified evolutionary social theory and Marx. If you want to see what good, critical, thinking Marxist anthropologists really do, read Wolf.

I do want to clarify: I do not consider myself a Marxist nor do I subscribe to the tabula rasa model of the human brain that predominates in the social sciences. I would suggest that this needs to be contextualized against the backdrop of social darwinism and racialist versions of Darwinism which Boas led pioneering efforts against.

I also want to add, that while I support in principle the idea of a victim’s memorial for communism (as I would support a memorial for any victims of political repression), I somewhat resent the use of Panda’s Thumb for gratuituous swipes at anthropology and critics of sociobiology and ev psych.

I might also add that perhaps we should have a memorial, erected alongside the communist victim’s memorial for: the victims of the Spanish Conquest in the Americas, the indigenous Americans “ethnically cleansed” off their lands in the U.S., the victims of the Irish potato famine, the victims of King Leopold’s colonial farce in the Congo, the victims of Mayan Indians murdered with US tax payer money in Guatemala in the 1980’s, and perhaps even for those killed by the KGB chief turned “capitalist” Vladimir Putin, with whom our President said he saw a “kindred soul”.

One last point to conclude my long rant: Medvedev always viewed himself as a Marxist. His critique of Lysenko and of Stalinism was a Marxist critique.

OK-really my last point (at least for a while). Though it is now widely recognized as being dated and having faults, Gordon Childe’s Man Makes Himself was for quite a while a classic treatise on human evolution that was Darwinian in inspiration. Childe of course, was also a Marxist.

Mr. Heddle: You are absolutely correct, as Great White Wonder’s post demonstrates. I did not write this post without putting a great deal of thought into the fact that there would inevitably be those who would jump in to claim that Stalinism isn’t real communism, and so forth and so on. I am resigned to such nonsense to some degree. My post is directed at those who might be interested in helping the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, but who may not have heard of it. In the mean time, you may be interested in my review of The Black Book of Communism, in which I address just your point.

Mr. Poirot: I certainly did not mean to suggest that critics of sociobiology are Lysenkoists! There are serious and intelligent criticisms of sociobiology. I am not enough of an expert on sociobiology to make such categorical statements as that anyway. What I meant was that I think there are many leftist critics of sociobiology—particularly among the humanities—who object to the work of people like Dawkins because that work suggests that human beings are not infinitely malleable, or that what makes up social mores is not entirely cultural. If that motivation is joined with a willingness to ignore or distort evidence, you get something eerily close to Lysenkoism. Postmodernism has shown a disturbing willingness to embrace Lysenko’s doctrine that there are “different sciences,” and that bourgeois science ought to be eliminated and so forth. That’s all that I was talking about. As for the other monuments you suggest, all of those things and more are entirely worthy of commemoration. You get the land and the sculptor, and I’ll send you a check. And I did acknowledge that Medvedev was a communist. Communists have very often themselves been victims of communism.

Mr. Reuland: I would love to talk about Lysenko—that’s what I hoped we would talk about! Despite the fact that I think he was evil, I find him a fascinating character, and collect what little Lysenko stuff I can find. I’ve only met one person who met Lysenko—an escapee from the Soviet Union, daughter of a famous Russian scientist. “You knew Lysenko? What was he like?” I asked with perhaps too much enthusiasm. She looked at me like she could spit fire. “He was an evil man. A crook!“ she shouted—and refused to say anything more on the subject.

I would love to talk about Lysenko—that’s what I hoped we would talk about!

My Ukrainian Jewish friend who shared a lab bay with me in grad school told me that by the time he was going to school (late 70s and 80s) Lysenko was reviled by every scientifically literate person in the country. A huge embarassment.

In other news, I never thought I’d see this exchange on the Panda’s Thumb:

Heddle:

most academics and most professors are pretty darn stupid. It’s that simple.

Timothy:

You are absolutely correct

Love it, love it, LOVE IT.

“[insert group to be smeared here] is evil and murderous. Seriously.”

“Really? It doesn’t seem that way at first glance.”

“That’s because you’re an idiot.”

The position taken by Sandefur and Heddle seems … fundamentalist to me. That is, if I understand Tim’s position correctly, if you “accept” communism as a “worldview,” then you are doomed to destruction. Logically. Kind of like how if you accept materialism as your “worldview,” you are doomed to destruction. Logically.

Your choice in this world is between those two: between mutual cooperation through voluntary exchange, or physical force.

Mutual cooperation through voluntary exchange sounds kind of nice. What’s the prob?

The phrase Victims of Communism rattled around in my head awhile. I think the monument is a good idea, though maybe it would be best if it were located in the countries where the atrocities happened. It would also be fitting to have a Victims of AntiCommunism monument, because America didn’t abet Communist atrocities, but it did assist AntiCommunist ones, if indirectly. Language is only so precise though, and so it’s understandable that the phrase Victims of Communism will provoke discord. Obviously the -ism didn’t materialize and commit the evil acts. The basic question–which I don’t have a good answer for–is, if person x kills person y in service of ideology z, is y best described as a victim of z? You might get different answers depending on whether z is something that is disliked, such as communism (re Stalin), or liked, such as christianity (re Torquemada). About Lysenko, Mark had an excellent post on this recently. There are many interesting Russian scientists. I did a lot of research a while back on Sakharov, and he just blew my mind. What integrity, what courage!

GWW,

I don’t think communists are (necessarily) stupid. Just those who apologize for the track record of 20th century communism and attempt to equate its evil with that of the west. Useful idiots, to use Lenin’s phrase.

I’m am not sure what you mean by fundamentalism–why not define that? Surely it is not religious fundamentalism, at least that doesn’t apply to me, and I can point you to numerous places where I have written against fundamentalism.

I stand by comments regarding academics . I have a lot of experience in three worlds – academia, the military, and private industry. By far, and to my surprise at the time, the brightest group (by some measure like the average skill of the upper ranks of the profession) is found in the military. Second is private industry. And hands down, of people who make it to the top of their profession, the least capable are professors.

Tim,

I think you miss my point. As I explain below, I am not concerned here to argue about what real Marxism is. Since I am not a Marxist, I could care less.

Again, I emphasize-your analysis of Lysenko and of Stalin is very interesting and I think relevant to PT. I don’t object to you advertising your cause a little, or to your clear use of PT to propagandize for Libertarianism. As long as those who run PT are comfortable with that, it is no matter to me. And besides, most of your posts here are quite interesting and well thought out.

I do find it interesting that ID’s conception of design is intended, ultimately, to contribute to the social sciences. At its website, it clearly endorses and promotes a version of free market economics. A sort of “design sociobiology” if you will, where one’s committment to design sets one position on a range of issues, each clearly flowing from a designed biology. So ID, is ironically, quite consistent with anti communism and with free market economics. That does not make all critics of ID critics of free markets.

What bothers me, and what I really think is totally inappropriate on PT, is that you did, indirectly, intentionally or not, associate the American Anthropological Association with Lysenkoism. I think you should clarify this and recognize that a significant number of anthropologists have done quite a bit for science. My larger point is that as I understand it the point of PT is to encourage discussion about ID and CI. So again, I repeat my point that using PT to slip in a surreptitious attack on the American Anthropological Association and most social scientists is to misuse the site. Would you please acknowledge that the AA has done much to defend scientific integrity in public schools and that the AA has never, ever, in the very least, defended or associated itself with Lysenkoism, even indirectly.

I did not claim that Stalinism is not real Communism. That is a debate I do not care to enter into here. I critiqued your very silly point that opposition to Darwinism was immanent in Marx and in the writings of Marxists. Again, I repeat, I am not a Marxist. Yet it is necessary to distinguish between those who like Wolf use Marxist categories as a tool of analysis and who were not Communists, and really, in an ideological sense of the word, not Marxists, and those for whom Marxism is a closed ideology.

Some criticism of Gould is certainly fair. From what I have read of the debate Gould’s attack on E.O. Wilson was unfair. It helped to create hostility to discussing E.O. Wilson. Gould was very respected by social scientists for his work in the Mismeasure of Man (a work worthy of respect). But again, if you wish to make a claim that a mistrust of complexity, contingency and a lack of teleology were immanent in Gould’s critique of Wilson, Tooby and Cosmides and Dawkins, then your point is quite absurd. In fact, Gould’s work was all about complexity and contingency. Hardly the stuff of a working out of iron laws of history in biology. While some fundies may think Gould argued for saltationism, he made it quite clear he did not.

To a lesser degree one might argue that Hegel’s reliance on teleology creates an immanent critique of Darwin. There have been (and are) many hegelians who cling to teleology. For example, Francis Fukuyama, who is a prominent neo-liberal builds on Hegel. So, while a committment to Hegel implies a committment to meta-narrative, it is not a committment to being “anti-market”.

I don’t care to get into a debate here on Panda’s thumb about post-modernism. Some of them say some exceedingly silly things, but on the whole, they are not the real threat to science and science education in the U.S. Some of the more thoughtful post-modernists raise some thoughtful points that are at least worth discussion. And indeed, the point of post-modernity is a critique of meta-narrative a la Hegel, or Althusser, or Marx, or Fukuyama. That said, post-modernism is clearly my least favorite philosophy, or second least after Objectivism :-). But if you want to see how post-modernism can serve libertarianism, read Deirdre (ne Donald) McCloskey. If I get to pick my libertarians I’ll take McCloskey over Rand. And that is not even close to being a difficult choice. If nothing else, McCloskey is a good writer.

I also don’t care to get into a debate about Objectivism, but clearly, Objectivists will have a very hard time with many features of sociobiology and Ev Psych as well.

I suspect you are partially correct. Many do oppose the conclusions of sociobiology and Ev Psych because they believe in a model that assumes people make culture consciously-not necessarily rationally and fully thought out, but consciously through the process of interacting with other humans. This does allow for the possibility that people can unmake and remake culture. But I don’t think anyone really believes in the complete plasticity and complete malleability of humans. In actuality, many social scientists really implicitly and unconsciously embrace a view that there really is good and bad-or else they would not be so concerned about poverty, racism and other social ills.

My problem with EP and Sociobiology is that so much of it seems to be an imperialism of biology. A sort of reverse humanities imperialism. There is more to say on EP and Sociobiology, perhaps at a future date here on PT.

I think your essay would have been much stronger absent the gratuituous swipes at a number of people and the attempt to create guild by association.

oops! That’s what I get for writing before coffee. I meant “guilt” by association. Of course I know of no other way to create a guild!

Mr. Poirot, you are overreacting. I made no gratuitous swipes at any associations. It even took me a while, at first, to figure out what you were even talking about. With regard to Stalinism not being real communism, I wasn’t even talking to you.

Communists are evil and we are good. It’s official.

Tim,

First, feel free to drop the Mr. Did I overreact? Perhaps.

After reading it again it is possible in my first response to you I attributed the views in your link to the debate over sociobiology to you. I suppose my remarks relate more to that specific link than to most of what you say.

That said, when you responded to my first post you did not correct me or the record, but went on to make exactly the same types of arguments made in that link.

So when i responded to you, I responded to your response in a way that I think was fair.

Again, I emphasize-I like what you say about Lysenko. It is very well researched and very well thought out, as are the other contributions I have read.

So, perhaps we should just think of my contributions as a correction to what i perceive as the distortions of the sociobiology debate in the link you provided.

The episode of Lynsenko belongs to the genus of ideological interventions in empirical science. ID is another example of the same pattern. Without Stalin and the party apparatus, the Russian scientists would have laughed Mr. L out of town. Without the political clout and money of the newer and later creationists, there would be no debate about intelligent design.

You could make a case that Ethel Rosenburg was murdered for being a communist.

http://www.straightdope.com/columns/040806.html

Mr. Harrison–well put.

KeithB–one could make that case, but one would be wrong. The Rosenbergs were executed for transferring American atomic secrets to the Soviet Union, of which Julius at least was certainly guilty. Ethel’s guilt is questionable, but even if she was not guilty, her execution was not because she was a communist, but because she was convicted of transferring atomic secrets.

It’s official!

“The panda’s thumb … no evidence for evolution The raccoon-like red panda is supposed to show us good proof of evolution. We are told it is a meat-eater that no longer eats meat; it has razor-sharp claws and a vicious bite that it rarely attacks with; and it has supposedly evolved a small “sixth finger” or “pseudo-thumb” on its front paws from the wristbone.

But the panda’s thumb is not evidence for evolution. It gives absolutely no evidence that pandas have evolved from non-pandas.

Pandas are classed as meat-eaters (carnivores) mainly because of their jaws, teeth and feet. And although some pandas will eat meat, they prefer bamboo, fruit and plants. Yet we find there is no evidence their ancestors were anything but vegetarian pandas. In fact, zoologists still can’t agree after more than a century on what pandas could have evolved from.

Not leftover evolutionary traits The red panda’s sharp claws and vicious bite are not leftover traits from a time when its ancestors attacked and defended themselves from other animals. Pandas have no enemies other than man. Their claws simply help them climb trees easily. And their strong jaws and teeth are needed to snap and crunch their huge daily meals of bamboo.

The “sixth finger”, or pseudo-thumb, is merely an enlarged radial sesamoid, a wristbone that helps the panda grasp the bamboo stems it eats. This “thumb” is larger in the giant panda because it eats larger bamboo stems.

These traits don’t show us evolution. They show us that pandas are a unique creation of God — perfectly adapted for grasping and crunching bamboo as God the Creator intended for them”.

Well now I have to disagree with Timothy, for agreeing with Jim, who wrote:

The episode of Lynsenko belongs to the genus of ideological interventions in empirical science. ID is another example of the same pattern. Without Stalin and the party apparatus, the Russian scientists would have laughed Mr. L out of town. Without the political clout and money of the newer and later creationists, there would be no debate about intelligent design.

Stalin killed 10-20 million. Million. And you agree with an analogy between Stalin and creationists. Shameful. Making an analogy between any group you don’t like and a well known evil (It’s usually the Nazis or the Klan, because many academics actually admire Stalin and Mao) is the cheapest form of argument.

I debate ID, and I have not received any money–where’s all this money you’re talking about? Send some my way.

Send me some money too.

The episode of Lynsenko belongs to the genus of ideological interventions in empirical science. ID is another example of the same pattern.

Well put. Political and religious movements have many times tried to influence science, in matters from atoms to astronomy, and always been wrong, and failed. What amazes me though is, people who should know this still sign on to new attempts.

Folks who routinely associate evolutionists with Hitler and Stalin have no business complaining about guilt by association, but I’m not claiming that creationists are Stalinists or mass murders. Like Stalin, they are obviously determined to violate the integrity of the sciences by imposing their own pet ideas. Otherwise, they’re quite different.

The extra-scientific instiututional support of various religious groups for Creationism and ID is not exactly a secret. Since the vast majority of scientists don’t think that intelligent design is a meaningful area for research, we wouldn’t be talking about ID at all without the determined efforts of various religiously motivated people. Various sciences get into a crisis mode from time to time because the progress of research raises questions about recieved ideas. That obviously isn’t what’s happening in the ID case. Just the reverse. Everything points away from design so the believers have to redouble their contributions to further what is sheer propaganda.

By the way, over and beyond the funding of antievolutionary activity by church groups, the foundation money lavished on the general promotion of religious interpetations of science should be taken into acount—think of the John Tempelton Foundation, for example. The net effect of these PR campaigns is to create the impression that religous thinking is somehow credible or relevant. What we have here is a sort of bastardized Bayesianism where prior superstition takes the place of prior knowledge in assessing the probability of theories.

Jim wrote

Since the vast majority of scientists don’t think that intelligent design is a meaningful area for research … Everything points away from design so the believers have to redouble their contributions to further what is sheer propaganda

Let’s see what some scientists (all well known, most non believers) have to say:

Arno Penzias, who shared the Nobel Prize for the “discovery of the century”, the 2.7K cosmic background radiation:

Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and one which has an underlying (one might say “supernatural”) plan.

Chinese astrophysicist Fang Li Zhi, and coauthor Li Shu Xian:

A question that has always been considered a topic of metaphysics or theology has now become an area of active research in physics.

George Ellis, colleague Stephen Hawking and mathematician Roger Penrose:

Amazing fine-tuning occurs in the laws that make this [complexity] possible. Realization of the complexity of what is accomplished makes it very difficult not to use the word “miraculous” without taking a stand as to the ontological status of that word.

Stephen Hawking:

It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way, except as an act of a God who intended to create beings like us.

Cosmologist Bernard Carr:

One would have to conclude that either the features of the universe invoked in support of the Anthropic Principle are only coincidence or that the universe was indeed tailor made for life. I will leave it to the theologians to ascertain the identity of the tailor.

Astronomer George Greenstein:

As we survey all the evidence, the thought instantly arises that some supernatural agency—or rather Agency—must be involved. Is it possible that suddenly, without intending to, we have stumbled upon scientific proof of the existence of a Supreme Being? Was it God who stepped in and so providentially crafted the cosmos for our benefit?

Astronomer Fred Hoyle, staunch anti-theist:

A superintellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as the chemistry and biology.

Tony Rothman, theoretical physicist:

The medieval theologian who gazed at the night sky through the eyes of Aristotle and saw angels moving the spheres in harmony has become the modern cosmologist who gazes at the same sky through the eyes of Einstein and sees the hand of God not in angels but in the constants of nature… When confronted with the order and beauty of the universe and the strange coincidences of nature, it’s very tempting to take the leap of faith from science into religion. I am sure many physicists want to. I only wish they would admit it.

Cosmologist Edward Harrison:

Here is the cosmological proof of the existence of God. The fine tuning of the universe provides prima facie evidence of deistic design. Take your choice: blind chance that requires multitudes of universes or design that requires only one. Many scientists, when they admit their views, incline to the theological or design argument.

My personal favorite: Heinemann prize winner Robert Griffiths:

If we need an atheist for a debate, I go to the philosophy department. The physics department isn’t much use.

Robert Jastrow:

For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been waiting there for centuries.

Paul Davies:

[There] is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all … It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature’s numbers to make the Universe … The impression of design is overwhelming.

I certainly disagree with Mr. Heddle’s last post–I think there is no evidence of “design,” and I think the attempt to ratify such presumptions is a silly waste of time with some very serious consequences down the road. That said, however, if a scientist wishes to pursue such things, it’s certainly his right–just as it is our right to come along and demolish his work with reasoned argument. That is the sort of freedom that science requires, to flourish. The point of my post is that without that freedom–without the ability to dissent, to be different, to pursue one’s own vision, without having to obey the state–science collapses along with much else that we hold dear. Without property rights–without the right to be left alone–without the security to live for one’s own sake, rather than for the sake of serving others–there can be no such dissent. As I said, the choice is between voluntary trade to mutual advantage–or physical force. Yes, communism, as an -ism, is responsible for the Lysenko debacle, just as it is responsible for the murders of millions upon millions of people.

We are very fortunate to be in a place where Mr. Heddle can believe what he believes, without being able to impose his beliefs on us, and vice versa. That freedom is to science as oxygen is to fire. The tragedy of our time is that so many millions of people were denied, and are still denied, that freedom; that there are those who argued and still argue that we belong to the state, and that those who disagree with us ought to be forced to comply. (There are even those who have argued on this website that the children of religious people ought to be taken away from them by the state and reeducated.) Nikolay Vavilov was a victim of just such an ideology, as were tens of millions of others. That is something that deserves commemoration.

The wrongs committed by the United States during the Cold War in no way detract from this fact; they pale in any reasonable comparison with the crimes of communism. Those who would deny this, or who would suggest that they are equivalent crimes, are seriously misguided–just as are the modern apologists for communism, or those who claim that Stalinism wasn’t “real” communism, or who continue to lionize Lenin or Che Guevara as if they weren’t responsible for murder. “R. Feder,” (a lunatic who frequently sends me abusive email) makes fun of the idea that one would regard communism as evil. I think any person who is not morally blind must regard communism as evil, at the very least, in the manner practiced by the Soviet Union, China, North Korea, Cuba, and other oppressive, murderous regimes. Still, Mr. Heddle is right–the left will never apologize for communism. In the words of Alan Kors,

No cause in the history of mankind has produced more cold-blooded tyrants, more slaughtered innocents, and more orphans than communism. It surpassed, exponentially, all other systems of production in turning out the dead. No one honors those dead. No one does penance for them. No one pays for them. No one is hunted down to account for them. It is exactly what Solzhenitsyn foresaw in The Gulag: “No, no one would have to answer.”

I urge those who think that someone ought to honor those dead to join me in helping to build a monument to the victims of this awful ideology.

I am sorry that the conversation on this thread has diverged from Trofim Lysenko, which is what I had hoped we might discuss. Further comments may therefore be added to the Bathroom Wall, or emailed to me (I will respond on my own weblog).

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Timothy Sandefur published on September 1, 2004 3:56 PM.

Icons of ID: No preCambrian ancestors was the previous entry in this blog.

Hox cluster disintegration is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Categories

Archives

Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.381

Site Meter