Happy Birthday, Trofim Lysenko

Today is Trofim Lysenko’s birthday; he was born on this date in 1898.

Never heard of him?  Don’t worry, most in the West haven’t.

He was Stalin’s pet scientist.  Decided Mendel was wrong about inherited traits.  According to Lysenko, you could alter genetics by environmental influence.  Very handy, that, when you’re trying to convince Stalin that you can grow grain in climates and seasons in which it won’t grow.  In Ithaca, New York, in 1932, one of his fellow Soviet scientists reported, with a straight face:  “The remarkable discovery recently made by T D Lysenko of Odessa opens enormous new possibilities to plant breeders and plant geneticists of mastering individual variation. He found simple physiological methods of shortening the period of growth, of transforming winter varieties into spring ones and late varieties into early ones by inducing processes of fermentation in seeds before sowing them.”

The fellow from whom that last quotation comes, Nikolai Vavilov, paid with his life for his subsequent disagreement with Lysenko.  He was arrested in 1940, sentenced to death in 1941, and died — apparently of starvation — in GuLAG in 1943.

Lysenko came up with all manner of whack-job pseudo-scientific claptrap, and rammed it down the throat of Russian science with a bayonet.  According to the Wikipedia write-up, dissent from his theories was formally outlawed in 1948.  Solzhenitsyn ran across several — including Vavilov — who similarly paid with their hides for the sin of crossing the politically decreed “scientific” orthodoxy of Trofim Lysenko.

Lysenko’s ascendancy lasted through the late 1950s.

Why is it important that we recall Trofim Lysenko today?  When we have mainstream politicians and widely-regarded pundits openly calling for the criminalization of disagreement with the theory of anthropogenic global warming — or “climate change” or whatever it’s called this month — we must remember that we are listening to the intellectual and moral heirs of Lysenko.  This is all the more so when someone points out that, from analysis of U.S. climate data from 1880 to the present, over 90% of the U.S. data which is presented to “prove” AGW has been monkeyed with, and is not, in fact, the raw data.  It’s been estimated, modeled, or just made up.  From the linked article’s conclusion:

“The US accounts for 6.62% of the land area on Earth, but accounts for 39% of the data in the GHCN network. Overall, from 1880 to the present, approximately 99% of the temperature data in the USHCN homogenized output has been estimated (differs from the original raw data). Approximately 92% of the temperature data in the USHCN TOB output has been estimated. The GHCN adjustment models estimate approximately 92% of the US temperatures, but those estimates do not match either the USHCN TOB or homogenized estimates.”

From the e-mails and documents released as part of what’s come to be called “ClimateGate” (I wonder if Liddy et al. are tortured in their sleep by this plague of -gate nonsense terms visited on us year in and year out), Gentle Reader will perhaps recall that the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit brought someone in to try to reproduce the raw historical data on which it — and most of the rest of the climate science world — relies.  The problem, it seems, is that they’ve so thoroughly corrupted their data, and were so careless in preserving their original data, that it’s impossible to replicate their results.  That’s probably an over-simplification, but the key bit is that after two or so years of trying their own numbers guy threw up his hands in despair and quit.  Said it couldn’t be done.

Thus what we’re left with is a mountain of corrupt historical data, current data that is likewise manipulated to match models’ predictions, contradictory real-world observations (shrinking ice cover at the north latitudes, and record increases in the southern, shrinking glaciers, 17-year non-warming periods when all the models tell us that, with carbon dioxide levels relentlessly increasing, we should be absolutely cooking) . . . and scientists and politicians carping on how we just need to turn over more money and more power to them, and all will be made well.  Oh, I did forget to mention that we also got to see, as part of ClimateGate, numerous climate scientists scheming behind the curtains to stack journals’ editorial boards and peer review processes to suppress publication of scientific literature skeptical of their conclusions?

And we’re supposed to use the coercion of the criminal law system to punish anyone who dares to question the politically established orthodoxy?  Remind me again how that worked out for Soviet science.

Trofim Lysenko is dead and in his grave, but his ghost stalks the halls of climate science to this day.

[Update 05 Oct 2015]:  As if on cue, two European research foundations, one French and the other German, recently released a study on the production of isoprene in the uppermost film of the ocean surface.  I’m no chemist, nor of course a climatologist, but isoprene, it seems, has a strong effect on cloud formation, and cloud formation is intimately connected with a cooling effect on the global climate.  (Yes, that’s grossly simplified, but then if you want to read the full study, here’s the link).  The study, by the way, was funded by a grant from the European Research Council, not the Koch brothers.

Up until now, the assumption has been that isoprene is formed by plankton in sea water.  But let’s get it from the horse’s mouth:  “Previously it was assumed that isoprene is primarily caused by biological processes from plankton in the sea water. The atmospheric chemists from France and Germany, however, could now show that isoprene could also be formed without biological sources in surface film of the oceans by sunlight and so explain the large discrepancy between field measurements and models. The new identified photochemical reaction is therefore important to improve the climate models.”

How big a discrepancy?  “So far, however, local measurements indicated levels of about 0.3 megatonnes per year, global simulations of around 1.9 megatons per year. But the team of Lyon and Leipzig estimates that the newly discovered photochemical pathway alone contribute 0.2 to 3.5 megatons per year additionally and could explain the recent disagreements.”

In other words, a newly-discovered photochemical, abiotic source of an important aerosol precursor looks as though it may be contributing up to almost 200% more isoprene globally than current climate models assume.  Note the low end of the estimate, by the way.  I wouldn’t suppose that the global output of this newly-discovered source would remain stable year-on-year.  But when you need to update your climate models (which still cannot explain the 17-year “hiatus” in observed global warming) to account for up to triple the previously-assumed amount of an input that counteracts the principal effect of your model’s core variable (carbon dioxide in the atmosphere), I suggest two thoughts for the curious-minded:  1.  What else do the models inaccurately assume or simply not account for at all, and is the failure attributable to scientific malfeasance or garden variety ignorance of a phenomenally complex process?  2.  Does not the climate alarmists’ dancing around these models as if they were sacred totems have more than a slight whiff of the Israelites’ worship of the golden calf?

But remember, class:  There are public figures in the United States who want to use the physical coercive power of the criminal law system to suppress disagreement with these climate models.

Trofim Lysenko rides again.

[Update: 11 March 2016]:  Didn’t believe me, did you, Gentle Reader?

Turns out the U.S. Attorney General has taken a serious look at prosecution of oil companies for daring to disagree on the very unsettled state of whether and to what extent fossil fuels cause “climate change,” at least to the extent that the climate is in fact changing in ways and at speeds that cannot be explained by reference to the earth’s climatological history.   Video at the link.  With bonus for invocation of dear ol’ Trofim.

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