The Soviet agronomist Trofim Lysenko became one of the most notorious figures in twentieth century science after his genetic theories were discredited decades ago Yet some scientists, even in the West, now claim that discoveries in the field of epigenetics prove that he was right after all Seeking to get to the bottom of Lysenko s rehabilitation in certain Russian scientific circles, Loren Graham reopens the case, granting his theories an impartial hearing to determine whether new developments in molecular biology validate his claims.In the 1930s Lysenko advanced a theory of nutrients to explain plant development, basing his insights on experiments which, he claimed, showed one could manipulate environmental conditions such as temperature to convert a winter wheat variety into a spring variety He considered the inheritance of acquired characteristics which he called the internalization of environmental conditions the primary mechanism of heredity Although his methods were slipshod and his results were never duplicated, his ideas fell on fertile ground during a time of widespread famine in the Soviet Union.Recently, a hypothesis called epigenetic transgenerational inheritance has suggested that acquired characteristics may indeed occasionally be passed on to offspring Some biologists dispute the evidence for this hypothesis Loren Graham examines these arguments, both in Russia and the West, and shows how, in Russia, political currents are particularly significant in affecting the debates....
|Title||:||Lysenko's Ghost: Epigenetics and Russia|
|Publisher||:||Harvard University Press April 11, 2016|
|Number of Pages||:||224 pages|
|File Size||:||694 KB|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
Lysenko's Ghost: Epigenetics and Russia Reviews
Graham has written a wonderful book on Lysenko and the Russian School of Genetics during the Stalin era. Lysenko viewed inheritance in the sense that certain characteristics could be handed down in generations based upon environmental factors experienced by parents. That is the change in a genetic makeup was not solely due to genetic changes per se. He could turn summer wheat to winter wheat by getting it used to a change in weather. Thus he did not need a genetic alteration but an environmental alteration was sufficient. In a sense the concept did play into the hands of the Marxist reasoning.
Trofim Denisovich Lysenko is long dead, but recent developments in epigenetic inheritance have been seized upon, mainly in Russia, to raise him --and his ideas -- from the grave. Nationalist (and often anti-Semitic) forces, seemingly with official encouragement in Putin's Russia, have initiated a serious campaign to "rehabilitate" Lysenko as both a true patriot and a great scientist. The traditional "Slavophile vs. Westernizer" conflict going back to the time of Catherine the Great is alive and well, and in the contemporary Slavophile narrative Lysenko is portrayed as victimized by toadies who genuflected to Western opinion after the fall of the Soviet Union. As part of the same narrative, elements of Russian Orthodoxy have begun embracing creationism and rejecting Darwinism as merely an element of Godless Soviet materialism--echoing the position of Muslim creationists in Turkey who successfully turned evolution into a nationalistic political "wedge issue." Anyone who thinks the conflation of science and ideology is merely an historic issue should read this disturbing book.
This was a surprisingly thin book (144 pages, without the notes and references), but a good one nonetheless and, as such, a quick read. I just wish that he had gone into more detail regarding the attacks on Vavilov and on Lysenko's machinations to obtain power. But then, that has been done in Medvedev's The Rise and Fall of T. D. Lysenko. Incidentally, by sheer luck, Graham was able to meet and briefly interview Lysenko, after many failed attempts in his previous trips, which he relates in the book.