Exchanges on Marxism and ecology

bernie wool bernard.wool at
Thu Oct 21 17:24:50 MDT 1999

Charles:  How can we forget this ? The bourgeois media remind us of these failures
every chance they get. In the _Time_ magazine review of the great scientists and
thinkers  of the 20th Century, Lysenko , the only Marxist, is coupled with Josef
Mengele as a main villain.

Bernie:  Not many people would agree that Lysencko was a Marxist.  His return to
Lamarckianism was essentially one-sided.  He was undoubtedly a careerist, and the same
can be said for the bulk of hoaxers, trimmers and dissimulators in science - Burt and
Eysenck of IQ fame are in the same mould.  However, Lysencko was also responsible for
several Soviet geneticists 'disappearing', as well as his odd ideas driving
hundreds of thousands of peasants and forced labourers to starvation in a futile
attempt to open up frigid steppe lands to agriculture.  Basically his idea was that by
exposing cereal crops to frigid conditions, the seeds would acquire characteristic
resistance to cold and short growing seasons that could be passed onto their

It is a curious logic that resues Lysencko and others like him because they have been
given a bad press!

On the other hand we have Oparin and Haldane, both Marxists who certainly did make
huge advances, noteably their thought-experiment on the origin of life that Miller and
Urey concretised with remarkable results in the 1950's. Sadly, their experiment no
longer fits with current evidence for the composition of the early atmosphere - a
brave try.  the O-H hypothesis stemmed directly from Engels.

Charles:  We almost never hear of the many Soviet scientists who made valid

Bernie:  Don't you think that the economic and political conditions in the FSU were
not conducive to the independence that scientific discovery thrives on?  That isn't to
say that the work of scientists is not alienated under capitalism - of course it is,
and particularly by the prevailing ideas.  I do not go along with Brian who stands by
the old chestnut that all good scientists are unconsious dialectical
materialists (BTW Brian - did the quotes around 'dialectical materialism' not get
transmitted; you really must learn to read the lines not what you believe is between
them!) - they are generally unconscious of a great deal more besides and reach the
limits of their unconsciousness!  Hawking is a good example, and even Haldane ended
his days as a mystic.  A look around that part of science that seems free of
ideology - cosmology (the 'Big Bang' and such) - reveals a seething broth of dogma and
dissimulation.  Even among scientists who are avowed Marxists.

Charles: .....Dialectics should be a heuristic device for suggesting answers to
problems in
empirical science.

Bernie:  Would that it were, would that it were.  Lenin came a cropper in Materialism
and Empiriocriticism, and his Philosphical Notebooks (vol 38, Coll Works) show a
tendency to turn dialectical materialism into the dogma that it most certainly became
under Stalin, and Trotsky and the Trotskyists too.  For me the last heuristics
emanating from a Marxist was Engels Introduction to the Dialectics of Nature,
especially the final paragraph.  Sadly he subsequently sowed the seeds for all manner
of confusion - purely because he was decades ahead of his time and hadn't empirical
grist for his philosophical mill.  In that Intro, you will find that he saw the
necessity for Einstein's work while the latter was in diapers, or just a twinkle in
Einstein Senior's eye!


More information about the Marxism mailing list