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How the Cold War Defined Scientific Freedom (newrepublic.com)
25 points by longdefeat 25 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 8 comments



Between this and the pterosaurs it has been a great day for quality articles.

There is a tension when talking about 'freedom' that reminds me of the anecdote (unsupported by evidence afaik) that converts to a religion tend to be more extreme than people born in to it, because those born in to it know that there are a whole heap of stipulations that are best ignored or treated metaphorically. Eg, when the holy book says deliver death and destruction to the heretics what it means bad heretics and not your friendly atheist neighbor living the next door down.

The word freedom has similar problems. Obviously there is a form of radical freedom where everyone gets to steal stuff and live in a Darwinian free-for-all. Nobody important means that when they say things like 'commitment to ... freedom'.

This observation has implications. When a political idea is expressed as an absolute, that is for rhetorical not practical purposes. The ideological structure that gives society form is in constant need of testing and debate, because finding what a word means in practice is not looking it up in a dictionary. The long struggle of women to assert freedom over their own bodies and lifestyle is an interesting study on how that style of thing plays out - before the advent of modern medicine (eg, the pill, improved surgical techniques, understanding of the mechanics of conception and childbirth, lots of stuff to do with transexuals, etc, etc) some of those freedoms were actually impossible and inconceivable as a practical issue.

In light of that any claim that 'American science had uniquely transcended politics through ... freedom' is clearly propaganda and hokum. The meaning of all the words in that sentence are, in context, political questions.

We can be thankful when our politicians stick to evidence based policies, even if we don't like them. I'm hopeful everyone is in favour of that in principle.


>There is a tension when talking about 'freedom' that reminds me of the anecdote (unsupported by evidence afaik)

If we're talking about anecdotal evidence, this has been seen time and again.

It's also easy to see why logically: keeping a religion you've inherited from your parents/community is the default, low energy, mode. You just do the motions. Getting into one from outside requires extra energy and conviction.


That's an interesting way to look at it, as a kind of selection bias. Only the most fanatical people become converts.


> Whereas Western scientists, following Darwin, believed that genes shaped organisms and were changed by the mechanism of natural selection, Lysenko rejected genetic science and argued that environmental conditions determined biological characteristics. (Lysenko thought, for example, that exposing seeds to cold could make the plants that grew from them more resistant to winter weather.)

This is the premise behind epigenetics, is it not?


Well, epigenetics has often been compared to Neo-Lamarckism in the popular media, but there is an important difference -- in epigenetics the whole point is that the changes are temporary -- they may persist for a long time -- even across a generation or two -- but eventually things revert to the genetic state. In the various versions of Lamarckism, the changes were thought to be permanent. This matters because it explains why epigenetics can't be an alternative to genetics for evolution.


Not really. Lysenko's ideas sort of imply that you can "will" biological changes. A giraffe can "will" a longer neck in its offspring by stretching its neck to reach the top of the branch. Nothing could be farther from the truth about how biology works (as far as science understand biology). Evolution, genetics, and epigenetics are really more a process of luck and trial-and-error at the molecular level.


Yeah, and luck cant be tinkered with- aka the dice loaded, for example by having lots of dice throws by succes in habitat.


And chess competition (Spasky vs Fischer 1972)




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