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5. Soviet Science

“Planned” science sounds impressive; actually it means prohibited science, where no scientist can follow the leads of his own creative ideas. We have heard a great deal recently about the alleged glories of Soviet science, and about the necessity of the United States catching up with such wonders as sputniks. What is the real record of Soviet science? Professor Baker, analyzing this record, shows that, at the beginnings of the Soviet Union, the old pre-revolutionary scientists continued to do well, largely because science was not yet under government planning. That came with the Second Five-Year Plan, in 1932. The Plan set forth very broad subjects for investigation, but, by the nature of such a plan, many important areas were excluded from the required agenda.

Take almost any branch of non-revolutionary biological science in which outstanding discoveries were made in the outside world during the years of the plan, and you are likely to find that the whole subject was excluded from study.31

For example; the study of hormones, and genetics. The Lysenko controversy, the use of the State to eradicate the science of genetics in Soviet Russia, and the compulsory twisting of truth by the Soviet State to fit the ideological myths of its rulers, are well-known, but can hardly be overstressed. It is important to realize that it is not simply because the Soviet or Nazi leaders were particularly perverse men that they reached out to prevent or cripple science’s drive for truth; but because such actions are inherent in the very nature of statism, and central planning. Power, and its promotion, advancement of the ideology of power, become the highest social goal, before which all truth, all integrity must give way.

Government control of science, government planning of science, is bound to result in the politicization of science, the substitution of political goals and political criteria for scientific ones. Even pro-Soviet scientists have admitted that Soviet research is inferior to American, that basic, as contrasted to applied, research, is neglected; that there is too much red tape; that little fundamentally creative work has been done; and that science is unduly governed by political considerations—such as the political views of the scientist propounding any given theory. Scientists are shot for taking the view that happens to be in political disfavor. And, as Baker concludes: “If the selection of scientific personnel is left to the State, the wrong ones are likely to be given important posts, because those who are not themselves scientists will be led astray by ... false claims and pretences ... (and) scientists may exhibit a servile obedience to their political bosses.”32 No wonder that in a list, drawn up by seven scientists, of the two dozen most important scientific discoveries made between World Wars I and II, not one came from the U.S.S.R.

In a follow-up to his earlier book, Dr. Baker has recently reaffirmed these conclusions. He further describes the coerced eradication of genetic science in Russia. He also deprecates the much-touted sputniks.33 In the first place, if one starts with a given end, and the knowledge of how to get there has already been attained, one can arrive at the end in proportion to the resources one is willing to throw into the undertaking—all this then becomes a purely engineering and economic problem, rather than a scientific research problem, where ends or means are not yet known.34 If, for some military or propagandist purpose, it was desirable to make a very deep hole toward the center of the earth, the deepest holes would probably be made by whichever nation decided to devote the largest amount of money to the project. The same principle applies to the sputniks.35 And, even so, Baker points out, American satellites have far superior instrumentation, and are therefore much more important scientifically.

  • 31. Baker, Science and the Planned State, pp. 66 ff.
  • 32. Ibid., pp. 75–76.
  • 33. John R. Baker, Science and the Sputniks (London: Society for Freedom in Science, December 1958.) Also see Dr. Conway Zirkle, Death of a Science in Russia (Philadelphia, 1949).
  • 34. Baker, Science and the Sputniks, p. 1.
  • 35. Ibid.
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