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Basic Information

Strictly speaking the term Lysenkoism refers specifically to various incorrect theories about crop genetics propounded by the Soviet pseudo-scientist Trofim Lysenko, but in common usage, it refers to any situation in which adherence to a given scientific position becomes part of political policy, especially those where official endorsement runs ahead of the science.

Historically Lysenko developed some frankly baseless theories to do with the genetics of cereal crops and including a flavour of Lamarckism and some spurious claims about the capability of various plant species to transform into one another and co-operate rather than compete. This, coupled with a thick political gloss, attracted Stalin's attention during a period of famine which was already being exacerbated by government meddling, and, once Lysenko had demonstrated improved productivity (largely due to an unrelated technique which improved grain germination), won him official support. This support often took the form of and jailing those who disagreed with him, including an estimated three thousand biologists of various stripes, some of whom were executed. Lysenkoism remained official policy for decades, and was enforced in other eastern block nations to varying degrees, to the long term detriment of all concerned. Chinese application of Lysenkoism, with an additional gloss of Chinese Communist doctrine, appears to have been a major factor in the famines that accompanied Mao's "great leap forward".

Subsequently charges of Lysenkoism tend to be levelled at any attempt to legislate a given scientific model, or where tacit consent and/or connivance is given by the state to extra-legal persecution of scientific dissent.


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Game and Story Use

  • Deeply entrenched lysenkoism could be an explanation for technological stagnation - imagine, for example, if anyone who dissented from the platonic theory of elements or phlogiston theory had been jailed, exiled or executed.
    • The persecution of those propounding the heliocentric model of the solar system makes a good theoretical example … in practice, it changed little.
  • Lysenkoism in other sciences can be used to explain a variety of other problems - the doctrinaire use of Marxist economic theory in the communist world was effectively a similar issue, although it is more of a feature than a bug in a communist regime. Similar counterfactual decrees can drive other dystopiae, especially failed eutopiae based on some blatant misapprehension of human nature.
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