Just How Crazy is Lysenko?

When I first heard of Lysenko’s theory I thought it was ridiculous.  Passing on acquired traits just doesn’t make sense.  Someone who lifts weights everyday in order to become a body-builder is not going to give birth to a baby with super-large muscles.  However, the clip we watched on epigenetics today seemed to contain a few striking similarities to Lysenkoism.  Pregnant women in this study who were traumatized by 9/11 passed on anxiety to their children.  These were not women who were born anxious and passed on this inherent trait, these were women who acquired anxiety later in life and then passed it on.  The ideas behind Lysenkoism and epigenetics are not completely similar because epigenetics refers to changes in phenotype or gene expression and not the underlying DNA sequence, whereas Lysenko’s ideas imply changes in the DNA (which is why it was later used to support eugenics), but there is definitely some similarity.  I originally thought Lysenko was just some crazy scientist, but maybe he is not as bad as I thought.  Perhaps some of his ideas were based in fact: maybe he observed some epigenetic inheritance (like those pregnant trauma victims) and then just misunderstood the process?

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