A Quick Story of Politics and Science

Trofim Lysenko (1898-1976) was a botanist and plant scientist who lived in worked in the Soviet Union. He was the director of the Institute of Genetics which was part of the Academy of Sciences within the USSR. In that position, he was able to exert political influence and he used that influence to promote a version of genetics that was based on the inheritance of acquired characteristics rather than natural selection which had been accepted by biologists in the rest of the world at the time.

Through his political influence, Lysenko was able to suppress science that was contrary to his beliefs. To make a long story short, Soviet agriculture (and the people who depended on it for their food) suffered because that technology was based on his false science and the political system that promoted Lysenko’s falsehoods and repressed dissenting (and scientifically-supported) views. I am telling this story to point out that what political leaders decide and what nature decides are not always the same, and that those political decisions that are contrary to nature are doomed to failure.