Offline Dionysios

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Genetics & Pseudoscience
« on: October 13, 2016, 04:14:12 AM »
As of now, this is something I have pondered because certain aspects of the history of modern genetics evidence characteristics that make me question some of its fundamental aspects such as hereditary theories.

 For example, when I scratch the surfaces, modern genetics sure does seem to have a lot in common with eugenics and Nazi biological sciences - particularly with regard to theories of inheritance which smacks of vehement racism.

 I have yet to research this thoroughly, but I intend at some point to compare the theories of Gregor Mendel and Francis Galton, the founders of modern genetics and eugenics.

A major theme is inherited characteristics versus environmentally acquired characteristics. The latter seems to be the traditional science as it was held by Hippocrates, Galen, and a host of others into early modern times.  Lamarck is distinguished only for combining it with the idea of biological evolution. 
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inheritance_of_acquired_characteristics

Lamarck was followed in the twentieth century by the controversial Soviet scientist Lysenko. The massive ridicule of Lysenko in the western press and by western academia follows the same pattern of western ridicule and hatred for every aspect of the Soviet Union which gives me pause. Was Lysenko correct?

Now Lysenko was a biological evolutionist just like Lamarck as well as even his enemies. I personally disagree on that issue, but that is not the point of dispute and irrelevant albeit worth noting.

Lysenko's view of acquired rather than inherited characteristics seems fundamentally opposed to Nazi racial science. The fact that Lysenko is automatically scorned in the west makes me want to question both Lysenko and his western detractors without prejudice.

I have not yet investigated this in depth and need more knowledge about Lysenko, but I read already the assertion that the application of his theories to agriculture had disastrous results which strikes me as a quite possibly a lie because I am familiar with some of the history of agriculture in the Ukraine in the 1930's and 1940's and its genuine successes as well as propaganda from the German Nazi press as well as the Hearst newspapers talking about genocide. The claim that Lysenko caused dismal failure in agriculture strikes me initially as recycled Nazi propaganda, but I'll examine it.

Anti-Lysenko sources are abundant and easy to find. Other than Lysenko himself, the first place I think of to look for a defense of him is the second edition of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia published in the 1950's.

Anyway, food for thought. It seems to parallel other unfortunate trends in the western degeneration of understanding science.

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Offline Rushy

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Re: Genetics & Pseudoscience
« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2016, 06:57:02 PM »
If characteristics are acquired, where are those acquisitions stored?

Offline Dionysios

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Re: Genetics & Pseudoscience
« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2016, 07:36:57 PM »
If characteristics are acquired, where are those acquisitions stored?


Good question.
I confess that at present I am not knowledgeable enough about biology nor life sciences generally to answer that question satisfactorily.  I'm open to comments, but I would like to return to that question later with more evidence to supplement and perhaps even correct some of my ideas.

Offline Dionysios

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Re: Genetics & Pseudoscience
« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2016, 07:57:07 PM »
One aspect of this controversy wherein I do have some input pertains to Soviet agriculture. 

When researching Lysenko, I regularly see the claim that the application of his ideas was ruinous to agriculture, but I have not yet encountered any evidence to support this accusation.

The Ukrainian famine of the early 1930's comes to mind. If the alleged hazard to Soviet agriculture has anything to do with such events, then I would have every reason to suspect Lysenko's alleged errors largely exist in the realm of anti-communist propaganda generated by Nazis and Americans because a widespread belief in a Ukrainian genocide based on old Nazi propaganda was forged in the west during the Reagan era. This is the exact same Nazi propaganda which had been recognized and roundly rejected by the entire left during the 1930's and 1940's.

It is documented by Douglas Tottle in his book 'Fraud, Famine, and Fascism: The Ukrainian Genocide Myth From Hitler to Harvard' by Douglas Tottle. 

http://www.garethjones.org/tottlefraud.pdf

Denying genocide is not the same as denying famine. In fact, some famine did occur up to 1932. The cause? Resistance to collectivization by wealthy peasants who would rather destroy their excess than let poor people have it. This fact is evidenced by Tottle, and I have even seen this historical cause of Ukrainian famine mentioned in a description as to why Lysenko was given authority (to multiply crop production in a time of need).

As Douglas Tottle documents, very contrary to Nazi and western propaganda such as the Hearst newspapers, Ukraine had bumper crops from the spring of 1933 onwards which by itself would suggest that Lysenko's agriculture helped save the day.

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Offline Jura-Glenlivet

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Re: Genetics & Pseudoscience
« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2016, 08:50:28 PM »

Whilst genes are proven to be the method of inheritance there is some evidence that the parents experience can effect gene expression in off spring through epigenetic tags, environmental stressors add or remove  regulatory chemical tags that change the expression of genes and these can be passed through sperm or eggs, effecting one or two generations (see  https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23030694-300-first-evidence-that-sperm-epigenetics-affect-the-next-generation/).
Some mice who’s parents were taught to fear a particular smell also showed fear of the scent without  having a reason (no electric shocks whenever the smell was present) for two generations.

 While genes would be the primary method of inheritance it would give the organism a way of passing an acquired response to a new stimulus directly to their offspring, that may at a latter date become hardwired into the genes.

That genetics gave rise to eugenics and the consequent Nazi experiments does not mean that it is any way discredited, that man can take good science and do bad things is surely a given. No need to throw the baby out with the bath water.
Just to be clear, you are all terrific, but everything you say is exactly what a moron would say.

No one infers a god from the simple, from the known, from what is understood, but from the complex, the unknown, and the incomprehensible. Our ignorance is God; what we know is science. Robert Green Ingersoll

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Offline rabinoz

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Re: Genetics & Pseudoscience
« Reply #5 on: October 16, 2016, 08:10:36 AM »

Whilst genes are proven to be the method of inheritance there is some evidence that the parents experience can effect gene expression in off spring through epigenetic tags, environmental stressors add or remove  regulatory chemical tags that change the expression of genes and these can be passed through sperm or eggs, effecting one or two generations (see  https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23030694-300-first-evidence-that-sperm-epigenetics-affect-the-next-generation/).
Some mice who’s parents were taught to fear a particular smell also showed fear of the scent without  having a reason (no electric shocks whenever the smell was present) for two generations.

 While genes would be the primary method of inheritance it would give the organism a way of passing an acquired response to a new stimulus directly to their offspring, that may at a latter date become hardwired into the genes.

That genetics gave rise to eugenics and the consequent Nazi experiments does not mean that it is any way discredited, that man can take good science and do bad things is surely a given. No need to throw the baby out with the bath water.
Stop confusing the discussion by posting facts!

Geneticists are finally realising that maybe that 97% "junk DNA" might not be "junk".

In my naive mind I picture it as the genes being the mechanism that makes the proteins needed to make an organism, and what used to be called "junk DNA", a "computer program" than instructs the genes when to do their stuff.  ;) Maybe I'm just reflecting my engineer/computing background!  ;)

I sure hope there aren't any genetic biologists around!

Offline Dionysios

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Re: Genetics & Pseudoscience
« Reply #6 on: October 16, 2016, 07:38:05 PM »
Edwin Black, author of 'IBM and the Holocaust' and the very interesting 'Transfer Agreement', wrote a book entitled 'War Against the Weak' which insinuates that eugenics is perpetuated in certain aspects of modern genetics. This book is primarily a history of the eugenics and its interaction with mainstream scientists in both Germany and america up to World War II.

http://www.waragainsttheweak.com

Unfortunately, only one chapter at the end of the book goes into the postwar period which is a bit disappointing. Although I haven't yet noticed anything wrong about the book's information.

In my opinion, albeit a bit older, a more interesting book is Allen Chase's 'Legacy of Malthus:  Social Costs of the New Scientific Racism' published and reprinted several times in the 1970's.
« Last Edit: October 16, 2016, 07:49:32 PM by Dionysios »

Offline Dionysios

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Re: Genetics & Pseudoscience
« Reply #7 on: June 02, 2017, 04:48:13 PM »
I recently picked up a book related to this topic:

'Backdoor to Eugenics'
By Troy Duster

It is an indictment of modern genetics. I think this book review in the New England Journal of Medicine is particularly worthwhile:
http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199112193252520


Offline Dionysios

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Re: Genetics & Pseudoscience
« Reply #8 on: June 02, 2017, 05:04:21 PM »
Another significant book along the same lines is:

'Not In Our Genes'
By Richard Lewontin, et al

I like a review in Psychology Today that says "the authors argue persuasively that biological explanations for why we act as we do are based on faulty (in some cases fabricated) data and wild speculation... It is debunking at its best."

These two books fill the void of information and critical perspective of which
I have been seeking for postwar western genetics as a continuation of racist eugenics and pseudoscience that had characterised it up to that time.