Ed has written that T. D. Lysenko was against Darwinism. What did Lysenko say?
On July 31, 1948, Lysenko gave an address to the V.I. Lenin Academy of Agricultural Sciences, entitled “The Situation in the Science of Biology.” The address was published in pamphlet form, copyright 1948. This was the same year that Lysenko’s “agrobiology” ideas actually became official Soviet policy. In the pamphlet, Lysenko writes,
The appearance of Darwin’s teaching, expounded in his book, The Origin of Species, marked the beginning of scientific biology. The primary idea in Darwin’s theory is the teaching on natural and artificial selection. Selection of variations favorable to the organism has produced the purposefulness which we observe in living nature: in the structure of organisms and their adaptation to their conditions of life. Darwin’s theory of selection provided a rational explanation of the purposefulness observable in living nature. His idea of selection is scientific and true. [p. 9]
Lysenko is full of praise for Darwin, “a great naturalist, the founder of scientific biology, whose activity marks an epoch in science” [p. 11-12]. Furthermore, “Progressively thinking biologists, both in our country and abroad, saw in Darwinism the only right road to the further development of scientific biology” and “only on the basis of Darwinism could the science of the life of plants and animals develop successfully” [p. 12]. He even attacks “reactionary biologists”:
Darwinism, as presented by Darwin, contradicted the idealistic philosophy, and this contradiction grew deeper with the development of the materialist teaching. Reactionary biologists have therefore done everything in their power to empty Darwinism of its materialist elements. The individual voices of progressive biologists like K. A. Timiryazev were drowned out by the chorus of the anti-Darwinists, the reactionary biologists the world over. [p. 13]
From these excerpts it is plain that Lysenko was not “anti-Darwinist.” Moreover, at least by 1948, sixteen years after the first purges of scientists, Darwinism was still being taught:
To this day Morganism-Mendelism is taught in the majority of our universities and colleges in the department of genetics and selection, and in many cases also in the courses on Darwinism, whereas the Michurinian teaching, the Michurinian trend in science, fostered by the Bolshevik Party and by Soviet reality, remains in the shade. [p. 43]
However, just because Lysenko used Darwin and Darwinism in his rhetorical appeals, it does not mean that he was following the Darwinian consensus of the day. Lysenko completely rejected “Neo-Darwinism,” the synthesis of Darwinism and Mendelism that was basically complete by 1930. Lysenko’s entire anti-science campaign was predicated on his ideological complaint against Mendelism. This is clearly spelled out by Julian Huxley in his response to Lysenko’s 1948 address, Heredity: East and West (1949), as well as in the definitive account of the Lysenko years, The Rise and Fall of T.D. Lysenko, by Zhores Medvedev.
But why was Lysenko so opposed to Mendelism? His antipathy was rooted in distorted conceptions of Darwinism, Marxism, genetics, and agricultural science, as I will show with further excerpts from his 1948 address.