Author: Aaron Tao

Why Innovation Requires Economic Freedom

Recently, I read a review of a new book, Lysenko’s Ghost: Epigenetics and Russia, by MIT science historian Loren Graham. The book surveyed Lysenko’s scientific legacy and “whether new developments in molecular biology validate his claims.” (Spoiler: They do not). Having studied evolutionary biology as an undergraduate, I was familiar with the story of Lysenkoism, a tragic episode of politicized science in the Soviet Union. For those who don’t know this history, a Soviet biologist named Trofim Lysenko explicitly rejected Mendelian genetics in favor of a pseudoscientific hypothesis propagated by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. Here’s a brief summary of Lysenko’s career as described in the MIT Technology Review: He rose to immense power in the 1940s under Joseph Stalin by promoting a number of erroneous scientific techniques he claimed could increase wheat yields on famine-wracked collective farms. Among other things, he professed that by keeping seeds of winter wheat at low temperatures for longer than usual, he could convert the strain to a variety that would mature in the spring. When other scientists objected to his work, …