Saint Petersburg Branch of the Russian Humanist Society
Neo-Lysenkoism in Russian Consciousness

Probably many remember or have heard about the era of Lysenko or Lepeshinskaya, obscurantism in Soviet biology, and reprisals against outstanding geneticists by the authorities. Some people also read the masterpieces of obscurantism, the stenographic report of the VASKhNIL [The V. I. Lenin All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences] session of 1948, the "Agrobiology" of T. D. Lysenko, vividly describing miracles in plant growing, the attainment of unheard of harvests, the development of varieties of branched wheat, turning oats into wild oats, spruce trees into pine trees, etc. O. B. Lepeshinskaya, the successor to Lysenko, "proved" that cells could arise from a mythical "living substance", from the protein of a chicken egg, and even from a pulverized pearl button! Experiments were set up in an untidy manner, in genetically untested material, the results were incorrectly processed statistically and often juggled; that is, the authors were simply frauds.

It was a difficult and troubling time but with the restoration of truth we began to quietly forget about it and, it seemed, a repetition of such phenomena was impossible. But in vain. For example, in a little newspaper called "Duel" the descendants of the incompetent agronomist T. D. Lysenko in cahoots with the editor praised this odious figure to the skies and flung mud on his victim, Academician N. I. Vavilov, who was tortured. But the mass media was literally awash in a wave of obscurantist propaganda: time and again psychics, quacks, astrologers, wizards, and zombies who in the final account turned out to be alcoholic uncle Vasyas from some anatomy lab dashed across the pages of newspapers and magazines and also on TV screens. These are undoubtedly related phenomena.

Not long ago two book of Garyayev appeared, "Volnovoy Genom [The Wave Genome]" and "Volnovaya Genetika [Wave Genetics]", which describe views denying modern genetics and boiling down the processes of heritability to the actions of some "biowaves" with whose aid one can turn corn into wheat and muskmelons into cucumbers. Genetics, of course, can remove a particular gene with the aid of its own methods and the corresponding trait will disappear (or change); it can force a specific gene to operate in an unusual place and then a corresponding trait will arise in this place which was not there previously, for example, in fruit flies the eyes were "raised" on the wings, on the legs, and on antennas. In Garyayev's reasoning there is no genetics, neither ordinary nor "wave", inasmuch as no specific information about genes is contained in it. There is nothing specific or proven in it about the fine structure of the genome and how this structure specifically operates in the event of the formation of a certain trait. But then there is enough pseudoscientific nonsense: "The symbol structure of the liquid crystal topologies of the chromosome continuum as a system for transforming the endogenous fields of an organism and also of the radiations external to it ought to be wider and comprise a certain linguistic pluralism, a unique multidimensional semantic space peculiar to each genotype".

Nevertheless similar ideas are being disseminated in wide-circulation newspapers like Megalopolis-Express inasmuch as serious scientific journals do not accept such manuscripts for publication. And some television programs like "Tretiy Glaz [Third Eye]" love similar ones and even more "fairy tale" subjects very much.

But you wouldn't call the book "Parapsikhologiya i Sovremennoe Yestestoznanie [Parapsychology and Contemporary Natural Science]" by A. N. Dubrov and V. N. Pushkin published in 1990 (Moscow, Sovaminko) anything else than a flight of fancy. Well then, not just! And psychokinesis is moving objects with the aid of psychic energy and biofields, a phenomenon which Gornyy reproduced as a trick without any biofields; and levitation is floating a person in the air by mental effort; and the secretion of ectoplasm, when some shapeless liquid material seeps from the mouth of the patient; and house spirits; and the transmigration of souls; and, finally, the quantum wave (holographic) "point of view" born of the concept of the field form of life. In principle one could ignore this sort of literature if the authors who are at times unburdened by even academic titles (there are plenty of various "Academies" in Russia right now) and more often not biologists who love to frame their views as expressions of the type "according to the data of contemporary science…", but that is why the uneducated reader might take such "essays" seriously.

The “sensational" results in experiments recently obtained in Novosibirsk and Khabarovsk which supposedly demonstrate an ability "to control" vital processes, including heritability, with the aid of mysterious biolelectromagnetic "radiation" are enjoying an especially great "success".

A specialist in Chinese folk medicine who emigrated from China and settled in Khabarovsk went even farther and is trying to "revolutionize" genetics. He asserts that DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is not the carrier of genetic information at all but is only a cassette in which its real carrier is contained, bioelectromagnetic signals. In particular, he has influenced muskmelons which sprouted cucumber seeds through a bioelectromagnetic field and the cucumbers which grew "had the taste of muskmelon", but a biochemical analysis showed that the "appropriate" (? – L. K.) changes had supposedly occurred, allegedly passed on from generation to generation. What analysis was conducted and who performed it and by what methods?

Subsequent experiments are even more "impressive". For example, information was "calculated" from wheat and "passed on" to corn, and as a result the corn processed by this means formed ears with wheat-like kernels instead of panicles. "But during one of the experiments he irradiated a pregnant rabbit with the bioelectromagnetic field of a goat with large horns. The result was stunning: the rabbits born had developed large crooked teeth! ([from] the magazine Svet). Possibly the teeth were crooked but the thing is that an ordinary population of animals and plants is saturated with various mutations which, although quite rare, are strained out in the offspring, but the supporters of neo-Lysenkoism themselves admit the poor reproducibility and extraordinary rarity of the phenomena they observe.

The errors of T. D. Lysenko are thus being repeated, and on a large scale. His current supporters, like their predecessor, just do not want to take the data of contemporary science to which they love to refer into consideration. They also refer to Gurvich, Chizhevsky, and Tsiolkovsky who in reality have no relation to them. "The development of the ideas of Petr Garyayev has led to the conclusion that swear words can influence the structure and function of genes". This is what can "find" in Rossiyskaya Gazeta of 3 April 1998: "The power of swear words rained down on a poor plant was like…the radiation of 40,000 roentgens (? – L. K.). The DNA chains were broken from such a shock, the chromosomes disintegrated and scattered, and the genes were mixed up". It turns out that words are "wave genes" capable of destroying the genetic apparatus of a person and thus killing him. As a consequence of such "discoveries" the appearance on the Internet of information from Vladimir Poponin, who informed mankind of the existence of "phantom" DNA ought to be considered. DNA can be removed from a solution, but "the phantom” will remain. But Saveliy Kashnitsky (Moskovsky Komsomolets of 2 October 2001) broke all the records. Having complained that the Russian Academy of Sciences slights innovative research he cited the example of the "creativity" of one of such "innovators", one Novikov: "…on 21 June 2000 an IL-76 with future draftees from Dagestan on board suffered an accident in the region of Astrakhan’. A week before the event Novikov ‘saw’ the airliner in the sky aflame. By an effort of will the expert replaced the ‘picture’ and forced himself to see the IL-76 land on a concrete runway. The truth is, it was noticed that several legs were broken in the process. Actually, the aircraft landed on its belly and broke into flame only after all 200 people had jumped from the plane. Eighteen people broke their right ankles. But all were alive". Why, it is asked, did the expert not change the picture so that there were then no broken ankles? A little later the same Kashnitsky (MK of 13 November 2001) recounts that a "method for planning the birth of children" has supposedly been developed and describes the ignorant concoctions of S. G. Geltsyan, who supposedly discovered many secrets of genetics.

In E. P. Kruglyakov's book "Swindlers Posing as Scientists" (Moscow, Nauka, 2001) it mentions the inventors of various "quantum generators" with whose aid all diseases can supposedly be cured by mysterious means. This kind of propaganda by charlatans is in full swing. An article was published in a supposedly respectable magazine, "Nauka v Rossii [Science in Russia]", [entitled] "Acquaint Yourself: Quantum Medicine". In it the author A. Ya. Grabovshchiner demonstrates wonders of biological ignorance. He states, for example, "…in recent years research performed in various countries of the world has shown that genetic information is contained not in the form of the substance of the gene but as a quantum structure". Each word here is a "pearl". The classic contention, that genetic information is contained in DNA, the substance of a gene, remains a hard-and-fast rule. This was proved in research performed in various countries of the word and, in particular, in the process of realizing the "Human Genome" program. In spite of the author's opinion neither A. G. Gurvich, nor A. A. Lyubishchev, nor V. N. Beklemishev concerned themselves with proving that DNA molecules are a source of laser radiation and, in addition, Lyubishchev never was an academician of the RAMN [Russian Academy of Medical Sciences]. It is absurd to explain phantom pains as if "genes of cells that remained alive not only remember what limb was lost but its quantum image is able to perceive information and react to stimulation". It has long been known that indeed phantom pains are explained not by the "memory" of genes but by the fact that the conducting nerve pathways from the lost limb remain and their stimulation transmits information to those very parts of the brain where the “image" of the "limb" and its various parts are "stored". On the basis of such reasoning ignorant dilettantes of various stripes create "apparatuses" producing fields and rays which act on nonexistent human "biofields" which supposedly are damaged during disease and are corrected thanks to the miracle-working effects of such "apparatuses", quantum generals. They dupe the public this way – in reality such "treatment" gives no real result (except harm!)! The sharply negative findings by qualified doctors about "instruments" of this type are cited in the above book by E. P. Kruglyakov. On 25 November a nonsensical program was broadcast on Ren-TV about the creation of the new science of cosmorhythmology by an unknown Aleksandr Buznikin which supposedly permits aircraft crashes, earthquakes, and other catastrophes and undesirable events to be foreseen and prevented.

I want to especially note that neo-Lysenkoism has a certain ulterior philosophical motive in the form of various theosophical tendencies which are growing in our country like mushrooms after a rain and are especially clearly represented in the works of Yelena Blavatsky and her admirers, who are extolled to an indecent extent in the Russian press as if [they are] the greatest prophetic thinkers. In reality they are especially well known by propagandizing astrology, which was disproven by the Church Fathers back in the 4th century with the aid of logical arguments, and at the present time by mathematicians on the basis of precise data, and also by the popularization of religious and philosophical views, the source of which was the East ("The East is a subtle thing, Petrukha") under the guise of creating some universal synthetic religion. Yelena Blavatsky herself was one of the founders of this movement. According to her teachings described in the book "The Secret Doctrine" mankind is a simple game in the hands of innumerable hierarchs and mystical forces of the cosmos, various High Spirits, thinking only about how to concentrate some mystical energy (comparable to the "biofields" of our home-grown workers of the "Institute of Quantum Genetics") in order to establish on Earth an ideal order from their point of view. Similar ideas were expressed especially distinctly in Agni Yoga, a booklet by Blavatsky follower Yelena Rerikh. She tells quite emotionally how a cosmic magnet (the so-called “biofield”) magnetizes human aspirations and causes a “pulsation of vital processes”. This pulsation “directs the fire [ogon’] of centers”, communicates the spiritual outpourings of the chosen ones of the Great Teachers, and invigorates the planet with them.

However, not only Russian neo-Lysenkoites breathe with the “air” from the East at times but also several, though a small number, Western specialists in the field of natural science. In particular, many of the works of Fritjof Capra, whose specialty is physics, are published here. He is quite aggressively inclined against the modern scientific world view and is burning with a desire to completely reshape it. His fervor also extends to genetics. Carried away with the ideas of the ancient East and, without any basis, having seen in them great enlightenment and an anticipation of current scientific theories he tries to unify science and Buddhism into some single whole on the basis of Buddhism, of course. However the eclectic thread woven by him is completely shot through with holes and there is no place in it for genetics, just as with many other scientific disciplines. In the process the lack of knowledge (or ignorance) of genetics is especially painfully evident in the Capra system. For example, in the booklet “Lessons of Wisdom” (as in the previous work “The Tao of Physics”) he displays a surprising incompetence (and this puts him on a par with our neo-Lysenkoists), as least where it talks about biology and medicine. In particular, apparently suspecting nothing about the vast literature concerning the genetics of cancer he states that supposedly the development of this disease is caused by several interrelated psychological and biological (non-genetic) processes. From his point of view genetic factors have no importance and genetics in general acts as some sort of magic. Relying on the opinion of some exalted psychologists Capra rejects traditional psychiatry and views mental illnesses from “existential” positions, interpreting them not as an illness but as a special strategy invented by people in order to survive in situations insufferable for living. He accepts the eccentric point of view of the adoring outrageous Laing, according to whom insanity is a rational reaction to a terrible social environment. It turns out that the insane are rational and those who treat them are evidently crazy. And, of course, they knew about all this back in ancient India.

In a word, there is much in the works which I have discussed here that is laughable but I’m afraid that this laughter is through tears!

Leonid Korochkin, Corresponding Member of the RAN

Translated by Gary Goldberg