Ideology, taken to extremes, tends to reject observed truths. Thus, American leftists, with monopoly control of major urban areas and academia, preside over spikes in homicides, open drug use, homelessness, and ridiculous historical fabulism. Many of the elite claim with straight faces that there are 81 genders while simultaneously staking a sacred belief in “science.”
Such willful insanity has been seen before, in other places. Starting in the 1930s and continuing for two decades, Stalin’s Soviet Union imposed the theories of biologist Trofim Lysenko on the nation. Under Lysenko, genetics was sneered at as “bourgeois science,” “fascist,” and even “Jewish.” To create the New Soviet Man, science had to be rebuilt on the foundation of dialectical materialism, rejecting the idea that humans had a certain nature that could only be evolved over long periods of time through Darwinian random selection.
This, of course, led to the executions and imprisonment of thousands of actual scientists. A rejection of science meant wasting limited resources trying to grow crops under poor conditions. And Lysenko’s beliefs also contributed to famine that killed up to 6 million people.
Lysenkoism has come to mean the purposeful bending of science in service of ideology.
In self-correcting societies, the trend toward Lysenkoism can be checked. Elections have consequences. Thus, in America, some elected officials who pushed harsh lockdowns in response to Covid-19, or who allow biological males to compete against females, or who promote criminal justice practices that erode public safety, have found themselves out of office.
But in dictatorial nations, such as the old Soviet Union or the People’s Republic of China, Lysenkoism can have free range — with disastrous consequences.
Anti-Science Lysenkoism in China
The danger signs in China have been there for years.
It’s well-known that paramount leader Xi Jinping, China’s first leader to hold a doctorate degree, plagiarized his doctoral thesis — and even likely had someone else write it for him. This shouldn’t come as shock for a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) boss who got class credit in Marxist theory and ideological education at Beijing’s Tsinghua University for his work for the party.
In November 2019, the CCP appointed Xuetao Cao, a top immunologist, as chairman of research integrity. Chairman Cao’s past scholarship included dubious studies into curing metastatic tumors with “emitted Qigong energy.” This effort was a part of a much larger, Chairman Xi-approved push to elevate traditional Chinese medicinal practices — an official push that has led to numerous studies claiming no negative results, which is a scientific impossibility. Largely for this reason, more papers have been retracted in China due to fraudulent peer review than in any other nation. But in their view, Chinese acupuncture must be perfect, you see, because it’s Chinese.
Ironically, retracted papers were also a problem for Cao, who, shortly after being promoted to his post, was accused of major research breaches involving faked research.
After evidence was presented that would have sunk the careers of any legitimate scientist, Cao was cleared of plagiarism and fraud in early 2021 after a summary investigation. Other accused scientists also got off with mere slaps on the wrist. But Chinese neuroscientist Yi Rao, a whistleblower and a critic of sloppy Chinese science policy, was himself accused of wrongdoing by supporters of those he credibly accused. If the whole sordid affair sounds more political than scientific, it’s because it is.
Politics, Not Science, Led Lockdowns
This politics-first approach to biomedical science likely played a role in China’s draconian Covid-19 lockdowns under Xi. These economy-wrecking and soul-crushing lockdowns in pursuit of “zero Covid” have long passed any proven effectiveness. Instead, Xi’s lockdowns have become a test of his supremacy as leader — a test the Chinese people have questioned via unrest, the likes of which haven’t been seen since 1989’s Tiananmen Square uprising.
In America, the initial response to the Covid-19 outbreak was driven, in part, by a wall of silence punctuated by lies and distortions out of the virus’ epicenter. China was all too happy to encourage America and the greater West to lockdown — simultaneously claiming the CCP’s brilliant governance model did it better and that, to the extent the West also locked down, the difference between the two systems insofar as freedom wasn’t really that great. But as the epidemic ran its course and people came to see that risk was largely concentrated in discrete, vulnerable groups — the elderly and those with comorbidities — regions led by conservatives opened, while areas ruled by the left were far slower to open.
In this regard, states and urban areas run by the left allowed ideology to set the course, as seen in China, with cloth masks becoming the talisman of the righteous.
Of course, there is the possibility that China’s extraordinary “zero Covid” measures had less to do with slowing the spread of the virus and everything to do with honing the tools of repression. The CCP has wanted to deepen its control over its vast population of subjects for years. Only recently has technology and fear of the virus allowed the party to enact measures that might have been more readily resisted before.
Since Covid-19, Chinese people who have managed to leave the country or speak to others report that social controls have become all-encompassing, with communist block captains enforcing quarantine travel restrictions by giving the signal to turn off people’s ability to purchase travel tickets or even food. It doesn’t require much of a stretch to be reminded of Revelation 13:17, “And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark.”
Chuck DeVore is chief national initiatives officer at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, vice chairman of the Golden State Policy Council, a former California legislator, and a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel. He’s the author of “The Crisis of the House Never United—A Novel of Early America.”