"Abstinence-Only", Lysenkoism, & Soviet Man-Ape Breeding Programs
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Dec 28, 2006 at 10:42:56 AM EST
As University Of Florida historian Vassiliki Betty Smocovitis writes, "By the 1920’s, Soviet scientists had gained international recognition for their pioneering work in many fields of biology". Then came the disaster of Lynsenkoism: "A persecution of genetics and geneticists began in the early 1930’s. It was fueled by the rhetoric of Trofim Lysenko (1898-1976), an agronomist with little education and no scientific training, but with grand ambitions for Soviet agriculture based on his mistaken belief in a Lamarckian mechanism of inheritance and organic change.... The Soviet policy against genetics and evolution had disastrous consequences for the Soviet people."

Contemporary Christian right ideologically driven initiatives such federally funded  "Abstinence Only Until Marriage" programs ( slated for $240+ million in funding for domestic US abstinence programs in 2007 ) bear considerable resemblance to Stalin era initiatives arising from the now discredited school of Lysenkoism that was endorsed by the Soviet state for decades and led to both a recently uncovered, freakish Soviet breeding effort to cross humans with apes (more on this in full story) and also to famine and starvation. Even as billions of federal dollars have been slated for the effort, evidence on the widespread failure of "Abstinence-Only Until Marriage" programs is just beginning to emerge, and a new study calls into question the utility of preaching abstinence ( let alone "abstinence-only") education. Both domestically within the US and also internationally, the results of the push for "abstinence-only" look similarly dubious. Purported scientific theories based in ideology - Soviet ideology or Biblical Fundamentalism - can only amount to pseudoscience, and methods derived from such pseudoscience will almost inevitably fail. Bush Administration appointee Eric Keroack, tapped to head the Health and Human Services Office Of Family Planning, follows in Lysenkoism's dubious footsteps.

In the mid-1920's, the culture wars were dominated - as they are today with "intelligent design" - by the debate between creationism and evolutionary thinking. In 1925, John T. Scopes had been found guilty of teaching that mankind arose from something other than divine creation. But the United States was not the only country passionate about the issue. The young Soviet Union, in its effort to stamp out religion, was determined to prove that men were descended from apes. In 1926, a Soviet scientist named Ilya Ivanov decided the most compelling way to do this would be to breed a humanzee: a human-chimpanzee hybrid. [NYT, "Kissing Cousins", Dec. 12th, 2005]
"Declaring genetics a capitalist, bourgeois, idealist, and even fascist-supported threat to the state, Lysenko led a vicious propaganda campaign that culminated in 1948 with the official condemnation of genetics by Stalin and the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Among the casualties of Lysenkoism was Nikolai Vavilov, one of the pioneers of plant breeding, who died of starvation in a prison camp, and the entire school of population geneticists, who were dispersed or destroyed. Lysenkoism quickly led to the wholesale destruction of the very areas of Soviet biology that had gained world prominence in the 1920’s." - Vassiliki Betty Smocovitis, from A Lesson from History: The Tragic Fate of Evolutionary Genetics in the Soviet Union

A 1973 Disney Studios animated cartoon called VD Attack Plan did not shy away from a factual description of how venereal diseases are transmitted or how that transmission can be prevented: condoms. In the subsequent thirty three years of US ideological drift, we're now at a point where conservative US political pundits decry "condomism" and pictures showing how to use condoms get censored from educational materials provided by organizations in Uganda working to reduce HIV and AIDS in that country despite rising rates of those diseases. Meanwhile, European nations that teach teenagers about their sexuality - about the biological facts of reproduction and on sexually transmitted diseases and how to use birth control to prevent those and also prevent pregnancy - enjoy STD and teen pregnancy rates that are a fraction of those in the US.

Enter Dr. Eric Keroack, new Bush Administration appointee to oversee the US Office of Family Planning [ for extensive Talk To Action coverage describing Keroack and his views, see 1. 2. 3 ]....

Dr. Eric Keroack has called premarital sex "germ warfare" and proposed a bizarre pseudoscientific theory of human bonding. He has also served as the medical director for the Abstinence Clearinghouse, an organization that opposes contraception and whose director, Leslie Unruh, has argued against vaccinating children against Human Papilloma Virus : "I personally object to vaccinating children against a disease that is 100 percent preventable with proper sexual behavior." Regardless of Leslie Unruh's sense of "proper sexual behavior", a new study shows that in the 1950's 95% Americans were having premarital sex and that premarital sex rates haven't changed much since, so Unruh's position would simply amount to consigning many thousands of women to death from cervical cancer.

"I'm always a little bit irritated when I hear the criticism of abstinence, because abstinence is absolutely 100 percent effective in eradicating a sexually transmitted disease" Mrs. Laura Bush said. From U.S. Officials Travel to Africa Bearing the Anti-Sexual Health Message of U.S. Foreign Policy, SIECUS
Insistence by Republican Congressional leaders that American money to fight the spread of AIDS globally be used to emphasize abstinence and fidelity is undercutting comprehensive and widely accepted aid models, the Government Accountability Office said in a report released Tuesday. The report by the G.A.O., an investigative arm of Congress, examines the effect of a mandate from Congress that at least a third of United States money to prevent the spread of AIDS worldwide be devoted to sexual abstinence and fidelity programs. It found that the provision had limited the reach of broader strategies to fight AIDS that include the use of condoms — a conclusion strongly contested by a senior Bush administration official. The report also said the requirement had meant that officials in some countries have had to reduce spending on programs to prevent the transmission of H.I.V. from women to their newborn babies, as well as other prevention strategies. ( from U.S. Focus on Abstinence Weakens AIDS Fight, Agency Finds, New York Times, April 5th 2006 )

Lysenko, Stalin, and "Man-Ape Warriors"

In the mid 1920s, Josef Stalin noticed that communist Russia was missing something. Respect for individual human lives? No! An army of half-man-half-ape super-warriors? You betcha. According to newly uncovered classified documents, Stalin employed animal breeding scientist Ilya Ivanov to inseminate West African chimpanzees with human sperm and create the "invincible human being, insensitive to pain, resistant and indifferent about the quality of food they eat." Soviets were anxious to build a new Red Army and restock a dwindling labor force, and who better to do it than the man who could artificially inseminate racehorses? Shockingly enough, Ivanov's experiment failed miserably. - Maggie Witlin

Maggie Witlin's "I can't believe it's Science" column for SEED Magazine describes a little known but recently uncovered, freakish Stalin-era program that attempted to breed half-human, half ape warriors (see full article), but the wider context for Stalin's bizzare "manimal" breeding program was Lysenkoism. While America's current proponents of "Creationism" reject Darwinian evolution wholesale and proponents of "abstinence-only" base their theories in a melange of pseudoscience and scriptural reference, Soviet Lysenkoists rejected the Mendelian theory of genetic inheritance and that led, beyond the effort to breed "manimals", to mass starvation when Lysenkoist farming methods led to widespread crop failure.

Bush Administration appointee Eric Keroack, tapped to head the Health and Human Services Office Of Family Planning, follows in Lysenkoism's dubious footsteps.

"In the nineteenth century, French anatomist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829) attempted to explain such things as why giraffe had long necks. Lamarck had reasoned that a giraffe, by stretching its neck to get leaves, actually made its neck lengthen and that this longer neck was then somehow passed on to offspring. According to Lamarck, the long-necked giraffe resulted from generation after generation of giraffe stretching their necks to reach higher into trees for food. Unfortunately for Lysenko—and even more so for Soviet science—Lamarck's theory of evolution by acquired characteristics was incorrect. Scientists now understand that individual traits are, for the most part, determined by an inherited code contained in the DNA of each cell and are not influenced in any meaningful way by use or disuse.... Despite the fact that Lamarck's theory of evolution by acquired characteristics had been widely discarded as a scientific hypothesis, a remarkable set of circumstances allowed Lysenko the opportunity to sweep aside more than 100 years of scientific investigation to advocate a "politically correct" way to enhance agricultural production.... Lysenko constructed an elaborate hypothesis that came to be known as the theory of phasic development. One of Lysenko's more damaging ideas was to "toughen" seeds by treating them with heat and high humidity in an attempt to increase their ability to germinate under harsh conditions. The desire to plant winter instead of spring forms of wheat was brought about by the need to expand Russian wheat production into areas that were climatically colder than traditional growing areas. In particular, the Nazi invasion during the Second World War made critical the planting of previously fallow and colder eastern regions. For centuries, winter wheat was the principal Russian crop. Deprived of its Ukrainian breadbasket, the Soviet Union struggled to survive following Hitler's onslaught." - From The Disastrous Effects of Lysenkoism on Soviet Agriculture



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