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Politicization

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A very notable feature of creationism is its politicization. Creationists are much more willing to play politics than most other pseudoscientists, even those in very popular fields of pseudoscience.

Consider vitalism, the theory that the processes of living things are due to some sort of special "vital force" or "life stuff". The advocates of many alternative medical therapies often have some vitalistic theory as their theoretical justification -- that their therapies work with "chi" or "vital energies" or whatever. And vitalism has had a long and notable history, going back at least as far as Aristotle, who proposed that there are three kinds of vital force or soul: the vegetable soul, the animal soul, and the rational soul. However, vitalism has been suffering defeat after defeat after crushing defeat in recent centuries, and it has become totally discredited among serious scientists. There are still many poorly-understood physiological phenomena, but the track record of vitalistic hypotheses has led to them being ruled out as serious contenders.

Vitalists can even make arguments that closely parallel creationists' arguments, like

Yet vitalists are remarkably apolitical. Unlike creationists, they do not campaign for equal time for vitalist views in school biology classes or even "teaching the controversy" over vitalist vs. mechanist hypotheses. Some creationists appear to support various forms of vitalism, but they do not make an issue out of it, and they coexist with apparent non-vitalists like Michael Behe.

Likewise, astrologers are also apolitical; not very many astrologers have been known to demand equal time for astrology in astronomy classes.

By contrast, creationists have been very involved in politics, first wanting to outlaw the teaching of evolution, and then wanting equal time for their views in classrooms. The Intelligent Design movement is simply a repackaging of creationism; the Discovery Institute's Wedge document describes a political strategy and not a program for serious research.

A few other pseudosciences have been very politicized; notable ones are Hanns H�rbiger's Cosmic Ice Theory (Welteislehre) and Lysenkoism.

The Cosmic Ice Theory was inspired by Mr. H�rbiger's looking at the moon with a small telescope and noticing how bright it was. He then concluded that many of the celestial bodies are covered with ice and that the Milky Way is a ring of ice blocks. His followers would apply pressure to get people to accept it, going so far as to heckle astronomers' meetings. In the 1930's and 1940's, the H�rbigerites associated themselves with Nazism, making connections between cosmic ice and Nordicness, but the Nazi Party refused to endorse it, stating that one could be a good Nazi without believing that theory.

Lysenkoism was the invention of Russian plant breeders Ivan Vladimirovich Michurin and Trofim Denisovich Lysenko; they claimed that they could breed improved crop plants more efficiently by altering their heredity in Lamarckian ways. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin agreed, and supported them; supporters of mainstream genetics were made to recant, sent to gulags, or even executed. Mendelism, Weismannism, and Morganism became official dirty words. Even the great biologist Nikolai Vavilov, who had worked out where cultivated plants were first domesticated, did not escape -- he was found guilty of trumped-up charges of being a British spy, and he died in prison.

Lysenko and his followers were exceptionally shoddy experimenters. Lysenko had no idea of how to set up a controlled experiment, and he would claim that Michurin had done just fine without doing statistics. Not surprisingly, he thus could easily get good "results".

Lysenko's views were almost too vague to be dignified with the label of "theory". He denied the existence of genes and he believed in Lamarckian inheritance, claiming that every part of an organism contributes to its heredity (Charles Darwin's theory of pangenesis). However, by the 1930's, Lamarckism was thoroughly discredited, and the evidence offered by its last non-Soviet big-name supporter, Paul Kammerer, was discovered to have been faked.

Lysenko had some imitators in chemistry and physics, but mainstream scientists were more successful against them. The Soviet nuclear-bomb project was thus kept free of crackpots who claimed that quantum mechanics is un-dialectical-materialistic.

Likewise, Nazi Germany was home to similar politically-minded "scientists" who rejected relativity and quantum mechanics as "Jewish physics", but they were also unsuccessful -- Werner Heisenberg successfully resisted them. The most prominent exponents of this "German physics" were Philipp Lenard and Johannes Stark; both won Nobel prizes for experimental work but were not firm in theoretical physics or math.

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