Trump, Stalin and the Price of Replacing Science with Ideological B.S.

Donald Trump and many of his closest advisors have been accused of colluding with Russia to win his election as President. We shall see what Robert Mueller and the FBI discover in that regard. But, whatever truth emerges there is no doubt that Trump has ripped a page from a long-dead leader of the Soviet Union, the monster Joseph Stalin, to undercut science in the name of his ideological goals.

Friday the Washington Post reported that a senior leader at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was told not to use certain words in documents “related to the budget and supporting materials that are to be given to the CDC’s partners and to Congress”. Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta the Post said were given a list of forbidden words at a meeting with senior CDC officials. The seven prohibited words are:

  • Vulnerable
  • Entitlement
  • Diversity
  • Transgender
  • Fetus
  • Evidence-based
  • Science-based

What does Trump’s disgraceful censorship of science by banning words known to be useful, valuable, essential and important have to do with Stalin and Russia? Everything.

Stalin like Trump only wanted to hear scientific words when they confirmed his political beliefs. He did not care if by implementing false news he killed millions of his citizens. Trump with his decision to ban scientific terms in public policy that don’t suit his taste is proudly marching in Uncle Joe’s bloody footsteps.

Trofim Denisovich Lysenko was a scientist who spouted the long discredited Larmarckian theory of evolution by acquired characteristics –that environment directly shaped genetic heredity.

Unfortunately for Lysenko and for those living in Russia and the other Soviet republics —Lamarck’s theory of evolution by acquired characteristics was wrong. Darwin’s theory of natural selection accurately explains how plant crops evolve. Joseph Stalin did not give a damn. Lysenko’s nonsense fit nicely into Stalin’s Marxist beliefs about the malleability of humans. When Lysenko promised greater crop yields using Lamarckian nonsense, he listened. Then he made it a state-sanctioned truth. The USSR Academy of Science was told by Stalin and his minions in 1948 to pass a resolution outlawing any biological work that was not based on Lysenko’s ideas. Stalin banned words he disliked just like Trump.

Lysenko’s followers went on to make increasingly grandiose claims regarding crop yields and how to produce new crop species. Not until 1953, after the death of Stalin, did the Soviet government acknowledge that Soviet agriculture had failed to provide the food needed by Russia and the Soviet State. Millions died.

Words matter. Science matters. A lot. Censorship and demands for ideological purity over scientific truth in Russia, Germany, China, North Korea and elsewhere can and have killed hundreds of millions.

Trump has now done worse than collude with a totalitarian regime. He has chosen to emulate the worst of them by putting ideology in the place of science, fabulation as a required substitute for facts, ignorance as a guide to policy over the truth.

No democratic nation can long survive fake science. A diet of lies and denialism will condemn you and your children to a grim, bleak and horrific future. The world we enjoy rests on the back of science. It will collapse if Trump and his allies insist on a foundation built out of ideological bullshit.


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