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Biology



All would be well if more people studied STEM subjects and not these silly made-up degrees, such as African Studies—so goes a certain conservative refrain. STEM itself is a neologism and not to be trusted; any acronym so new, so associated with the administrative state, cannot be genuine: STEM cannot really push mathematics and technology forward, although it certainly pushes women forward—women and STEM are synonymous, and perhaps that tells us what it is all about really.


However, to set a man to study the hard sciences does not foolproof against left-wing ideas. I knew a man employed at CERN as a research physicist; he was an unabashed Communist with much praise for the USSR and Tito’s Yugoslavia—Serbia was his homeland. Admittedly, his father had been a senior official in Serbia’s central bank when Yugoslavia still existed; he was “red aristocracy” in a way. For such people, Slobodan Milošević allowed his wife a side project; some men let their wives run a cookware business on the side or sell hand-stitched plush toys on Etsy, Milošević let his wife run Yugoslav Left (JUL)—a junior party to his Socialist Party of Serbia reserved for people who were more Communists than national socialists, as well as being loyal apparatchiks without a home. Yet for my man it was more than just family-bureaucratic loyalty—he also really believed in Communism. He was certainly smarter than me, and for a certain bearded type he worked for “heckin’ CERNerino with quarks and the Higgs boson—so smart, better listen to him and educate yourself.”


However, really, the left has no problem with hard science whatsoever; the Soviets never had a problem with physics or mathematics—the hardest of the hard sciences. What did they have a problem with? The softest science, biology. It was biology that was forbidden in the USSR, just as it is biological observations about race and sex that are forbidden in the West today. It was Lysenko who systematically distorted and destroyed Soviet biology—and he was lauded for it. There were physicists who were dissidents, but their dissidence had no connection to their work as physicists—the Soviets were only too happy to get the bomb, yet to conduct real biology in the USSR was a thought crime.


The Soviet philosophical establishment initially sought to suppress cybernetics, since it contradicts dialectical materialism. As Kołakowski observed, the ideologues were overruled by the generals who realised that without cybernetics they would have no missiles. Indeed, they would lack almost all modern military equipment—cybernetics was itself originally developed to help radar-guided guns find their targets. When the Soviet generals prevailed over the philosophers it demonstrated that the USSR, in the early 1960s, was no longer a Marxist state: practical national defence trumped Marxist orthodoxy—Marxism remained as a fig leaf to semi-legitimise the state, no one in power actually believed it (at least not fully).


Yet why did those residual ideologues question cybernetics? They questioned it because as the science of systems and control it is also the science of biological life itself—it emulates nature and in its emulation utilises mathematics that revivifies ancient mystical symbols; science and spirituality reconciled through nature—rebarbative to dialectical materialists.


Biology is much *harder* than it once was—genetics has made it harder, more formalised. Yet it is still far from the hardest—not a rock-hard objective science that safeguards people from squishy leftist contamination via arts degrees. Indeed, when you look at the ethologist Konrad Lorenz, a man who dressed up as a goose and so became a “goose-mother”, you see shamanism alive and well in experimental biology. The shaman would dress as an animal, imitate its call, and become one with it. Lorenz did just the same in order to understand animal behaviour. It is all rather mystical: biological cybernetics, with its mathematics that matches old esoteric symbolism; genetics, with the double helix that forms a Hermetic caduceus; and ethology, with the mimetic scientist-as-shaman—it is almost as though nature, mysticism, and technology combine in biology; and the left cannot be happy about such a combination.


The abstractions involved in physics and mathematics, by contrast, leave a person vulnerable to woolly ideas about life that are detached from reality—Einstein was a socialist, Wittgenstein had a notion that he could live in the USSR. Biology is really the most common-sensical science: its basic concepts have been known for centuries. A peasant leans over a fence: “That thar bull,” he pauses to chew on his straw, “he be one to take aftah ‘is granfathar. Mean temper. In the blood, you see.”


Breed and race are not synonymous, but they are pretty close. Rural folk live close to animals; they see the lambs born every spring—and they know each lamb has a distinct personality and nature from birth; just like the people from the next village over are “a different sort”. When you have seen generation upon generation of lambs then the inherent differences between individuals, families, and breeds are obvious to you—and biology formalises these peasant observations about heredity. About heredity: about aristocracy and the mystery of blood, I can practically hear the jackboots...


Today, we are very very disconnected from that rural world. I recently acquired a dog, but he arrived about a month after birth—almost as if I had purchased an iPhone on Amazon. I had no hint that his character might be discernible minutes after parturition—what was normal for rural folk for centuries can now only be experienced at childbirth, an event that often causes people to careen to the right; and yet fewer Europeans have children than ever. So the hard sciences are no redoubt against the left, only biology truly disturbs the left; and, indeed, it is the arts that really suffer the most from the left: the USSR made perfectly good nuclear bombs and jets, yet it produced no real art or philosophy—those require aristocracy, whereas science does not.





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