The Marxist-Darwinist connection

Scott offers a new challenge:

I’ll tell you what: you show me evidence that the Soviets enthusiastically incorporated natural selection within their version of Marxism, rather than mere evolution, and then you might have something. Or, alternatively, if you can show me state-approved scientists in 1930-1950 Russia who were lauded for their championing of natural selection, that might be something.

First, from a Marxist point of view, evolution by natural selection is the biological dialectic. Or if you prefer, the dialectic is socio-political evolution by natural selection. Nonsense? I should say so, as is the Labor Theory of Value, macroeconomics and macroevolution, in my opinion. The point is what they believed, not whether we think they were correct to believe it. As for the second part, here’s an initial start, I’m sure Just a Girl could add a few more names as she cited Michurin yesterday.

Theodosius Dobzhansky, University of Leningrad

Architect of the modern Darwin-Mendel synthesis to which Scott himself subscribes. Had the good sense to emigrate to the USA in 1927. Probably wasn’t a Marxist at all, as he was Eastern Orthodox. But since he learned his evolutionary biology in the Soviet Union, it would appear that their Darwinist science couldn’t have been all that different than in the West.

Yuri Filipchenko, University of Leningrad

“Russian entomologist and coiner of the terms microevolution and macroevolution. Mentor of Theodosius Dobzhansky. Though he himself was an orthogenetic he was one of the first scientists to incorporate the laws of Mendel into evolutionary theory and thus had great influence on The Modern Synthesis.”

Ivan Vladimirovich Michurin – Lenin All-Union Academy of Agriculture

Michurin was one of the founding fathers of scientific agricultural selection. He worked on hybridization of plants of similar and different origins, cultivating methods in connection with the natural course of ontogenesis, directing the process of predominance, evaluation and selection of seedlings, acceleration of process of selection with the help of physical and chemical factors. Michurin’s method of crossing of geographically distant plants would be widely used by other selectionists…. Throughout all his life Michurin worked to create new sorts of fruit plants. He introduced over 300 new species. He was awarded the Order of Lenin and Order of the Red Banner of Labor for his achievements.”

Sergei Sergeevich Chetverikov – Department of Genetics at Gorky University

“One of the founders of population genetics and synthetic theory of evolution.”

As for a famous Marxist Darwinist outside the Soviet Union, there is of course Richard Dawkins’s hero, J.B.S. Haldane.

“Haldane was very idealistic, and in his youth was a devoted Communist and author of many articles in The Daily Worker and was the chairman of the editorial board of the London edition for several years. In 1937, Haldane had become a Marxist, and an open supporter of the Communist Party, but not yet a member of the Party. He would join the Party in 1942…. He left the Communist party in 1950, shortly after having toyed with standing for Parliament as a Communist Party candidate.”

Nikolai Vavilov
“Member of the USSR Central Executive Committee, President of All-Union Geographical Society and a recipient of the Lenin Prize. In 1940 he was jailed as a defender of the “bourgeois pseudoscience” (genetics) in a struggle with Lysenkoism, and died of malnutrition in a prison in 1943. The majority of his genetic samples were seized by a German collecting command set up in 1943, and the samples were transferred to the SS Institute for Plant Genetics, which had been established at the Lannach Castle near Graz, Austria…. The leader of the German command was Heinz Brücher, an SS officer who was also a plant genetics expert.”