Alternative truth in Science: when Stalin, Putin and Trump see eye to eye


When religion or politicians have a say on scientific issues, science is agonizing and of course when there is a combination of both the adverse events are exponentially enhanced. We all have in mind Trofim Denissovitch Lyssenko who denied any validity to Mendel’s and Morgan’s genetics considered as not materialistic and unreliable that had to be replaced by a Marxist view of genetic. He reached during Stalin’s rule the highest responsibility positions, Mendel’s theories were forbidden being replaced by a pseudo-scientific genetic concept relying on irreproducible experiments. His irresistible rise in power led to the elimination of scientists who disagreed or even challenged his theories and Russian science that was amongst the best at these times had several generations to recover partly. Lyssenkism is now a general term to denote science that corrupted by ideology and by definition neither reproducible nor universal.

Trump’s theory of “alternative truth” does raise serious concerns and not only as far as medias and politics are concerned. His election already brought lying in politics to unprecedented nadir. However, his decisions since being elected are seriously worrying as far as science is concerned. His opposition to the climate changes for instance – “a theory created by China”- leads already to a control of public funding of scientists engaged in research on climate change. Researchers trying to prove that the climate change is wrong have a unique opportunity to obtain support from this administration even if this implies twisting the facts. No doubt that this situation will be conjugated to meet other domains of Science; how can a person convinced that everything he says is truth and does not tolerate any challenge accept anything that is sound and universal if this does not fit in his views.

The flirt and convergence with the conservative religious societies will enhance the deleterious sequels of this situation in the US. We are seeing a similar trend in Putin’s Russia. Thus, Darwinism that has always suffered from the opposition of monotheistic religions most notably Catholicism, orthodox and Protestantism is now seriously challenged by creationism or intelligent design theories sticking to a strict reading of the bible on the creation of the world. In 2011, polls showed that the highest % of creationists are as expected in Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Turkey (more than 60% ) but Russia and the US are not that far behind (close to 40% and less evolutionists).  Trump’s election will undoubtedly reinforce that trend and not only in the opposition to abortion but also by promoting an alternative view of Science. The decision to limit visas to foreigner will converge to lead to a reduction of the domination of world’s science by the US. The consequences are not to be seen rapidly but in one or 2 decades. Science by definition knows no frontiers and borders and conditioning the venue to the US by not coming or even visiting certain countries defined as Muslim –or more precisely Muslim countries with which the president has no financial ties- will lead to less students coming to the US. This might be good news to Europe and other leading scientific countries with reduced brain drain. Yet, collectively, this is a major blow to international collaborations and exchanges and a big plus to obscurantism.

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