[Editor’s note: This is an escerpt from an interview with professor emeritus Loren Graham of MIT and Harvard.]
Graham: Trofim Denisovich Lysenko was an agronomist, a rather poorly educated one, who in the late 1920s and the early 1930s began attracting a lot of attention in the Soviet Union because he maintained that he could increase crop yields dramatically.
He maintained he could convert one into the other just by changing the environmental conditions, and that he could do this in one or two generations. And why? Because acquired characteristics can be inherited.
There is actually a resurgence of Lysenkoism going on in Russia right now. People can’t believe it in the West, but it’s happening. And one of the reasons it’s happening is that there is a new field in biology called epigenetics.
[Epigenetics is] a developing science. There are biologists, very prominent ones, who would say what you just said, that epigenetics is marginal. It may be true that now and then, you can have some acquired characteristics inherited, but it’s not the main road, and the main road is still molecular biology in which genetic information goes in only one direction, and all that sort of thing. There are biologists who say that — Mark Ptashny, a very prominent biologist, would say that and has said it in writing.
But there are other biologists, and we can find them at MIT and Harvard, who say that epigenetics is still insufficiently understood, and sufficiently misunderstood, that we can’t yet say what its boundaries are. We don’t know yet.
The ELP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Lysenko: Cautionary Soviet-Era Tale Of How Tragically Politics Can Pervert Science