OP-ED

Trump, Stalin and the Price of Replacing Science with Ideological B.S.

Donald Trump and many of his closest advisors have been accused of colluding with Russia to win his election as President. We shall see what Robert Mueller and the FBI discover in that regard. But, whatever truth emerges there is no doubt that Trump has ripped a page from a long-dead leader of the Soviet Union, the monster Joseph Stalin, to undercut science in the name of his ideological goals.

Friday the Washington Post reported that a senior leader at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was told not to use certain words in documents “related to the budget and supporting materials that are to be given to the CDC’s partners and to Congress”. Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta the Post said were given a list of forbidden words at a meeting with senior CDC officials. The seven prohibited words are:

  • Vulnerable
  • Entitlement
  • Diversity
  • Transgender
  • Fetus
  • Evidence-based
  • Science-based

What does Trump’s disgraceful censorship of science by banning words known to be useful, valuable, essential and important have to do with Stalin and Russia? Everything.

Stalin like Trump only wanted to hear scientific words when they confirmed his political beliefs. He did not care if by implementing false news he killed millions of his citizens. Trump with his decision to ban scientific terms in public policy that don’t suit his taste is proudly marching in Uncle Joe’s bloody footsteps.

Trofim Denisovich Lysenko was a scientist who spouted the long discredited Larmarckian theory of evolution by acquired characteristics –that environment directly shaped genetic heredity.

Unfortunately for Lysenko and for those living in Russia and the other Soviet republics —Lamarck’s theory of evolution by acquired characteristics was wrong. Darwin’s theory of natural selection accurately explains how plant crops evolve. Joseph Stalin did not give a damn. Lysenko’s nonsense fit nicely into Stalin’s Marxist beliefs about the malleability of humans. When Lysenko promised greater crop yields using Lamarckian nonsense, he listened. Then he made it a state-sanctioned truth. The USSR Academy of Science was told by Stalin and his minions in 1948 to pass a resolution outlawing any biological work that was not based on Lysenko’s ideas. Stalin banned words he disliked just like Trump.

Lysenko’s followers went on to make increasingly grandiose claims regarding crop yields and how to produce new crop species. Not until 1953, after the death of Stalin, did the Soviet government acknowledge that Soviet agriculture had failed to provide the food needed by Russia and the Soviet State. Millions died.

Words matter. Science matters. A lot. Censorship and demands for ideological purity over scientific truth in Russia, Germany, China, North Korea and elsewhere can and have killed hundreds of millions.

Trump has now done worse than collude with a totalitarian regime. He has chosen to emulate the worst of them by putting ideology in the place of science, fabulation as a required substitute for facts, ignorance as a guide to policy over the truth.

No democratic nation can long survive fake science. A diet of lies and denialism will condemn you and your children to a grim, bleak and horrific future. The world we enjoy rests on the back of science. It will collapse if Trump and his allies insist on a foundation built out of ideological bullshit.

 

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PeterePatientDaveSteven FindlayJohn Irvinebellamammal Recent comment authors
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Peter
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Peter

I think the CDC should include some necessary words as well:
God, flat earth, witchcraft, creation, Trump is not a moron, blood letting, Putin, private enterprise, tax cut, more guns.

ePatientDave
Member

Hey y’all, long time no comment here. I read the thread. I understand that this may have just been guidance on what not to say so that budget items have a better chance of not getting kneejerk-axed by anti-science idiots. In my view that’s one baby step away from the “thought police” scenario in Caplan’s post. As I said on Facebook, “if using words like evidence and science will ENDANGER REPUBLICAN APPROVAL OF THE BUDGET, then I’ve had it anyway. Any party that is opposed to science should only be allowed to send its members to witch doctors when they… Read more »

Steven Findlay
Member
Steven Findlay

My take is that the administration and CDC owe the public a full airing of what ACTUALLY took place. They must be held to account, and allowed to defend their story. The Wash Post would not cavalierly publish Lena Sun’s piece…and she’s a fair journalist of the highest caliber. That said, I’m willing to believe that the truth is a shade different that her story portrayed. Of course, the EPA has been given similar directives to avoid terms Trump and his minions don’t like. Meanwhile, on a lighter note….here are 8 words that should never (and probably never will) be… Read more »

bellamammal
Member
bellamammal

Actually, there is no proof that Trump or anyone in the Trump administration had anything at all to do with this list. In fact, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Michael Halpern: “It is unclear whether the directive came from Trump administration officials or from career staff self-censoring to avoid falling into political traps. Career staff at government agencies often modify language to stop their work from being politicized.” Halpern is “an expert on political interference in science and solutions to reduce suppression, manipulation, and distortion of government science.” The Washington Post was disingenuous at best and dishonest at… Read more »

Margalit Gur-Arie
Member

Yes, but the Washington Post was successful in it’s mission. Following the article, social media lit up with outrage, other people wrote their own pieces, like the one here, amplifying the outrage, and when the truth eventually comes out, nobody will bother to pay any attention at all. This is how the media is operating now, this is how psych manipulation works, and for the life of me I don’t understand how smart and highly educated people have no problem with being toyed with this way. This is a deliberate power play. There is no higher purpose here. And even… Read more »

pjnelson
Member
pjnelson

Studies of gun violence would potentially involve mass casualties. The gun violence Congressional action came from the 2nd amendment folks. The maternal mortality reporting issue had to do with the differences in the data state by state related to the various definitions of a truly maternal related death that existed among the states, AND the fact that many states had truly high rates that they did not want published as in New York, Michigan as well as Mississippi and Georgia. The purest epidemiology statisticians held out, and still do, for totally accurate data. Meanwhile, our nation’s over-all maternal mortality ratio… Read more »

pjnelson
Member
pjnelson

Ten years ago, we should not forget that studies on the epidemiology of mass casualties by the CDC was banned by Congress. About the same time, there was also a poorly disclosed and orchestrated ban on the release of state by state, maternal mortality data from the CDC. Even now, I have been told that this data (published 10-2016 for 2005-2014) is now in the process of being “redacted.” And, the actual cause(s) of our nation’s mass casualties are vaguely attributed to “foreign influence,” and our worsening maternal mortality ratio (aka rate, wrongly) has no comprehensive explanation. . We should… Read more »

Steve2
Member
Steve2

Unless you have information otherwise, I am pretty sure that the ban on mass casualties was really just a ban on research on gun violence. (I had heard this claim before and that was all I could find.) Good data on maternal mortality rates is, I believe, mostly an issue of funding, not so much an ideologically driven choice.

Steve

William Palmer MD
Member
William Palmer MD

Epigenetics means methyl or ethyl groups are stuck on DNA or histones and affects the rate of transcription of some genes. The environment does this.

So we do have a little inheritance of acquired characteristics. It rarely is passed to the next generation, bur sometimes it is.

Genetic information is written in ink in our DNA and is written in pencil in our epigenetic markers.

pjnelson
Member
pjnelson

Somehow I remember that the cytoplasm of the initial fertilized ovum originates from a maternal cell. The origins of a person’s innate temperament and homeostasis are probably related to this influence as well as the maternal gestation that exists in its immune-tolerant state for the next 40 weeks.

Steve2
Member
Steve2

There are several steps between banning some words and Stalin. I would look at this as conservative political correctness. A particularly stupid form, but still just PC.

Steve

Margalit Gur-Arie
Member

Precisely. Plus, many of those terms mean nothing at this point.