In Which Climate “Skeptics” Drop the Lysenko Bomb. No, I’m Not Kidding….

Mon, 2012-01-30 08:04Chris Mooney
Chris Mooney's picture

In Which Climate “Skeptics” Drop the Lysenko Bomb. No, I’m Not Kidding….

There has been a much justified uproar over last week’s Wall Street Journal op-ed, in which a group of scientific “skeptics” reiterate the old line that we don’t have to worry about global warming, and that those who do so are engaging in climate “alarmism.” Ample refutations have been penned; in some ways best of all, my friend Jamie Vernon showed that even hotbeds of leftwing extremism like Chevron, ExxonMobil, and the Pentagon are now concerned about and taking action on global warming.

The Wall Street Journal is, indeed, completely out in the cold on this matter.

There are many ways to refute the op-ed, but I want to focus on one not enough emphasized—the tone and some of the actual words and analogies used by its writers.

You see, when scientists provide advice to policymakers—as this op-ed purports to do—they tend to use pretty hedged, cautious, and even probabilistic language. Precisely because they don’t want to be accused of being “advocates,” they avoid using charged words like “alarmism”—as the WSJ piece does–or making political statements like this one:

Alarmism over climate is of great benefit to many, providing government funding for academic research and a reason for government bureaucracies to grow. Alarmism also offers an excuse for governments to raise taxes, taxpayer-funded subsidies for businesses that understand how to work the political system, and a lure for big donations to charitable foundations promising to save the planet.

And that’s just the beginning.

The scientists writing in the Wall Street Journal go on to liken the “warming establishment” (another loaded phrase) to…well, read it:

This is not the way science is supposed to work, but we have seen it before—for example, in the frightening period when Trofim Lysenko hijacked biology in the Soviet Union. Soviet biologists who revealed that they believed in genes, which Lysenko maintained were a bourgeois fiction, were fired from their jobs. Many were sent to the gulag and some were condemned to death.

Here is a list of ways in which this “Reductio ad Lysenko” argument fails—fails horribly, and then some:

1.      As I wrote in The Republican War on Science, Lysenko “promoted himself through party newspapers rather than rigorous experiments.” By contrast, the global community of climate scientists publishes repeatedly in the world’s leading scientific journals.

2.      Lysenko convinced Joseph Stalin to ban genetics, and was of course able to do so because this was a totalitarian regime. The idea that anything like this is occurring in the United States, or in the global scientific community, is risible. The Lysenko analogy fails because of freedom of speech and democracy.

3.      Yes, people were imprisoned or killed due to Soviet Lysenkoism. Which is another reason why the analogy is so inflammatory and inappropriate.

4.      The scientific process, working normally, wholly discredited Lysenko. The same scientific process is the one that has affirmed, repeatedly, the idea that human beings are warming the planet.

Encountering the Lysenko analogy in this context, then, certainly tells us something. It just doesn’t have anything to do with whether we should trust the scientific community on global warming.

Rather, the Lysenko charge is self refuting—really, a lot like the charge that President Obama is a socialist. It betrays such a combination rhetorical overreach, and the failure to draw basic distinctions, that it not only flops but ends up as a serious foot-shooting exercise.

Previous Comments

Hmmm, say Chris; Did not the “warming establishment” cast the first stone in this fight when they likened ‘denialism’ (their made-up word) of CAGW to denial of the Holocaust?? That, imo, is several levels worse and about as low as anyone will ever go in this battle!


“Denialism” is the methodology, tactics, and political motivation that characterizes ALL denial movements, including Creationsim, moon-landing denial, round-earth denial, vaccine denial, cancer from smoking denial, AIDS denial, homeopathy, 9/11 “Truthers”, climate science denial, and Holocaust denial. It is meant to intentionally deceive.

You should catch up on the subject, a good resource being:

“What is Denialism”

Dude, I know what i meant by the term ‘denialism’. But please look it up in the dictionary, oops, it’s not there is it?

And thanks for ignoring the actual point of my original comment.

Sorry, you’re so clueless, Lara. Your straw man argument didn’t work.

As usual, ad hom is the last resort of the inarticulate. Try adding something to the discussion next time, people might actually listen.

“Dude, I know what i meant by the term ‘denialism’. But please look it up in the dictionary, oops, it’s not there is it?”

Reminds me of……..

Capt. Ross: Corporal Barnes, I hold here the Marine Outline for Recruit Training. You’re familiar with this book?
Cpl. Barnes: Yes, sir.
Capt. Ross: Have you read it?
Cpl. Barnes: Yes, sir.
Capt. Ross: Good. Would you turn to the chapter that deals with code reds, please?
Cpl. Barnes: Sir?
Capt. Ross: Just flip to the page of the book that discusses code reds.
Cpl. Barnes: Well, well, you see, sir code red is a term that we use, I mean, just down at Gitmo, I don’t know if it’s actually…
Capt. Ross: Ah, we’re in luck then. Standard Operating Procedures, Rifle Security Company, Guantanamo Bay Cuba. Now I assume we’ll find the term code red and its definition in that book. Am I correct?
Cpl. Barnes: No sir.
Capt. Ross: No? Corporal Barnes, I’m a Marine. Is there no book. No manual or pamphlet, no set of orders or regulations that lets me know that, as a Marine, one of my duties is to perform code reds?
Cpl. Barnes: No sir. No book, sir.
Capt. Ross: No further questions.
[as Ross walks back to his table Kaffee takes the book out of his hand]
Kaffee: Corporal, would you turn to the page in this book that says where the mess hall is, please.
Cpl. Barnes: Well, Lt. Kaffee, that’s not in the book, sir.
Kaffee: You mean to say in all your time at Gitmo you’ve never had a meal?
Cpl. Barnes: No, sir. Three squares a day, sir.
Kaffee: I don’t understand. How did you know where the mess hall was if it’s not in this book?
Cpl. Barnes: Well, I guess I just followed the crowd at chow time, sir.
Kaffee: No more questions.


What is the differrence between a Holocaust denier and a climate  change denier ? There isn’t one. Both deny the recorded facts they both insist trhe evidence is faked,forged and the product of fraud. They both disparage those to accept the historic record. They both adhere  to bogus paranoid conspiracy theories toexplain how the victims are really the perpatrators .  The only difference that I can see is that Holocaust deniers aren’t serving any finacial interest ,while climate change deniers do. True,both are pathological, but bertween the two,at least the Holocaust denier can’t change history, as the climate change deniers attempst to prevent change for the future 

My jaw hit the deck hen I first read that Lysenko nonsense in that WSJ farce of an article.

Are they trying to further discredit the signatories appended?

Lindzen drops another peg and now looks as desperate as Michaels.

Whatever credibility these two ever had is rapidly evaporating.

I think the ability to locate illiterate scientists would be a far more exciting op-ed piece.  I can see the head lines now.

Why can’t these 16 scientists read or write?  Is education so bad in the United States that someone with the minimum of a BSC cannot understand how to read or write a scientific paper?

There are crap poli-sci journals, willing to publish this. Surely they could write something more than endorsing a unsubstantiated opinion piece.  At least if they published, other scientists can look it over and comment on the quality of their scientific understanding.

Seriously… these 16 have to be scrapped from bottom of the barrel.

This has worked very well for Craig Loehle using Energy and Environment.

His papers are getting read… (you can tell because there are corrections)

The WSJ article cites an economic study by Nordhaus as saying the best way for the economy to grow is   not to have greenhouse gas controls for 50 years. I don’t believe the study, if quoted correctly, can include such factors as 1) the certain increase in the cost of fossil fuels 2) the ever increasing costs to pay for or to prevent storm damage.

I notice he’s not in your data base. I haven’t time to track down any info, I’d appreciate more info.


Media Transparency contacted Nordhaus, and he had this to say about the WSJ's interpretation of his study:

“This is a complete mischaracterization of my work. I have repeatedly called for restraints on CO2 and other GHG emissions. The most beneficial policies are ones with a modest near-term and sharply rising carbon price. The weasel word is “nearly,” which allows them to make an inaccurate and misleading statement.”

GingerLadySlipper, today David Roberts at Grist tweeted a couple of old articles he wrote: the first mentions Nordhaus:

the second he says is related:

for clarifying and for the references. 


“The piece completely misrepresented my work. My work has long taken the view that policies to slow global warming would have net economic benefits, in the trillion of dollars of present value. This is true going back to work in the early 1990s (MIT Press, Yale Press, Science, PNAS, among others). I have advocated a carbon tax for many years as the best way to attack the issue. I can only assume they either completely ignorant of the economics on the issue or are willfully misstating my findings.”

in a reply to Andy Revkin.

posted in  comment   by grypo at Skeptical Science


Love the way these buzzards suddenly pity the poor who will be hurt by ghg controls. But not by environmental damage of course. They are all heart. So nice they are concerned. The threat of global warming controls on fossil fuel brings out the best in them.


I very much doubt that the 16 deniers actually wrote that abominable piece of tripe.

The reason I have reached that conclusion is that some of the names are not correctly spelt. For example, Antonino Zichichi is miss-spelt as Antonio Zichichi. If one checks out some of the other lists of deniers such as Inhofe’s you will find the same spelling mistake. Did someone write this rubbish and just select 16 names from other denier lists? Surely if AZ has actually read the piece he would have made sure that his name was correct?

In other Murdoch oil propaganda pages, the Daily mail is giving the ol no warming for 15 years another going.–Cycle-25-need-worry-NASA-scientists-right-Thames-freezing-again.html

A familiar theme that David Rose likes to trop out every few months to an every increasing gullbile audience. Tim Lambert has covered it well in the past.


Thanks for the second link Phil M.

In France, we also have lot of “scientists” who still think there’s no climate change, like for example Claude Allègre who was a democratic but now that is for the president sarkozy :/

more info here (in french sorry…) ->

What I noticed off the top is that they misrepresented Ivar Giaever’s opposition to defining anything as “uncontrovertible”, not as claimed a rejection of  climate science . The second thing I saw was the re-animation of  Kevin Trenberth’s quote from the ”climategate scandal” , one of the most explained quotes in the history of modern science ,and scientists exonerated of all charges by nine separate independent investigations .Thanks to desmog I now know about Lysenko ( who was also referenced by Ross McKitrick,and co before the Senate committee on Environment ,Economy and Natural Resources (December 15,2011)and thanks to desmog and Michael Fisher, I now see  that Nordhaus has been misrepresented as well

Did these hacks really put there name to this dead horse ?. if WSJ didn’t fact check the piece,maybe they never verified the signatures

Wow… I nailed these bums without checking up on them.  They really are the bottom of the barrel.

I suppose they got money for being pulled out of retirement and proped up in front of a reporter.

“Sign here?”


“Can I have my cheque now?”


The signatories of this newest letter are also worth noting for their lack of noteworthiness.  Although the climate denialist blogs have labeled them “luminaries” and “prominent scientists”, the list is actually quite underwhelming.  In fact, it only includes four scientists who have actually published climate research in peer-reviewed journals, and only two who have published climate research in the past three decades.  Nearly half of the list (at least 7 of 16) have received fossil fuel industry funding, and the list also includes an economist, a physician, a chemist, an aerospace engineer, and an astronaut/politician.  These are apparently the best and brightest the climate denialists can come up with these days?

the pig pen.


This is a guest post by Climate Nexus that originally appeared at Huffington Post

Richard Lindzen, an MIT professor and longtime climate contrarian, turned to the Wall Street Journal to rehash a series of oft-disproved claims that...

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