Feature Article

The Perversion of Science and Medicine (Part II):
Soviet Science and Gun Control

Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D.


The lessons of history clearly demonstrate to those of us who care to look that whenever science and medicine have come to be under the heavy hand of government, political pressures, or subordinated to the state, the results have been as perverse as they have been disastrous. Towards this end, I would like to share with you an egregious chapter on the perversion of science in the name of politics and ideology that has come down to us from the recent historic record. Although, I will now be referring to the role of science in the former Soviet Union, particularly during the period of the 1930s through the 1950s; as you will see later in this article in reference to the research being carried out by the public health establishment and published in the medical journals, this role could very well become applicable to the U.S. in the not-too-distant future.

Soviet Science, Genetics, and Agriculture

As I wrote in my book, Vandals at the Gates of Medicine, subversion of the biologic sciences by the Marxist-Leninist Soviet state began soon after the triumph of the October Revolution under Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (1870-1924) and intensified under the brutal rule of the Red Czar, Joseph V. Stalin (1879-1953). The Russian scientists who did not believe in the new collectivist Soviet science, particularly, Marxist genetics, or who opposed domination by the totalitarian regime, or opposed the teachings of the "new science" were purged, either expelled from their teaching posts and research positions, consigned to the depths of the gulags or unceremoniously killed in labor camps, exterminated as "enemies of the people" and the Soviet Motherland.

During this time (1930s through the 1950s), at the helm of Soviet science was Trofim Denisovich Lysenko (1898-1976), a Soviet agronomist who, as President of the Lenin Academy of Agricultural Science (1938-1956) and Director of the Institute of Genetics of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, became the supreme leader in Soviet science, genetics, and agriculture.(1)

Lysenko heralded a sorrowful chapter in the perversion of science, then placed at the political whims of the Soviet totalitarian state. Lysenko vehemently rejected what he called capitalist "bourgeois" science and repudiated the fundamental laws of genetics that had been proposed by the celebrated Austrian monk, Gregor Mendel (1822-1884), which had been accepted and used by the West in the theoretic as well as applied biologic sciences. Lysenko proscribed "bourgeois genetics" and during the immediate post World War II period, assisted by plant breeder I.V. Michurin, began a series of preposterous plant-crossbreeding experiments based on the theory of the inheritance of acquired characteristics, a theory first promulgated in 1801 by the French biologist and naturalist, Jean Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829). The Lamarckian theory of inheritance of acquired characteristics, although a forerunner of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, held that new acquired traits in organisms developed as an immediate need to adapt to the environment and was inherited by the offsprings. This hypothesis had already been rejected in the West by systematic, scientific observations and the sound, rigorous experimentation normally expected and conducted by Western scientists.

One of the experiments debunking the Lamarckian theory of acquired characteristics consisted simply of studying consecutive generations of rats having their tails amputated and checking their successive offsprings for any evidence of shortening. Systematic observations revealed no evidence of shortening in successive generations of rats. This simple experiment, in a free society, would have been enough to reject the Lamarckian hypothesis. But, it did not happen behind the Iron Curtain where Soviet science was subjugated to state politics and totalitarian, socialist ideology. After all, as you would remember, Soviet politics and science were committed to forging the novus homo, "the new (Socialist) man." And spearheading this effort was none other than trusted party comrade Lysenko, who committed himself earnestly to the new science and to harvesting a "new Soviet crop." Lysenko's experiments promised the Soviet Nomenklatura to make Siberia a huge granary at the disposal of the Soviet Union, a vehicle to export Lenin's world revolution. But it was not to be.

Although for this new, preordained purpose, Lysenko did create new hybrid plants through his extensive crossbreeding experiments, his grand experiment turned out a grand failure. He envisioned creating new plants --- with lush foliage, juicy stems, palatable leaves resembling lettuce or cabbage and, perhaps, having fruit-like tomatoes. Comrade Lysenko also expected these new hybrids to have tuberous underground roots, with plump, nutritious, potato-like vegetables. In short, the entire plant was to be edible --- and a monument to Soviet genetics and agriculture. What he, in fact, created were a variety of new plant hybrids, certainly new species, but instead of the perfect crop he had envisioned, the new plants had withered stems and leaves, no fruit above ground, and rudimentary and inedible roots below ground. Comrade Lysenko's new plants that were to feed the masses of the Soviet people were troublesome weeds that had no nutritional value and were not fit for human consumption.

Vast fields planted with these hybrid plants allocated by Lysenko and the central planners and cultivated by the unfortunate prisoners of the gulags were lost. The promising Soviet science controlled by the state and headed by the great Lysenko proved a disastrous debacle. Lysenko, Michurin, and his willing and collaborating colleagues were finally dethroned and consigned to the dustbin of bogus scientific socialist theories --- but not before their perversion, collaboration, and exposition of Marxist biology as deliberate quackery employed as a tool of the Soviet state, had been shown to the world.

Lysenko's legacy should not be readily forgotten, for it denotes a particularly sad chapter in the history of science. It reveals science's dark descent into the chasm of ignorance, intolerance, and totalitarian control by the most powerful and barbaric of former "cradle-to-grave" socialist Utopias. Lysenko's madness, Soviet agriculture, was a grand failure that resulted in starvation on a grand scale and unimaginable human suffering for millions of Russians. Soviet science, subjugated to Soviet socialist policy, did not support Lamarckian theory any more than the possibility of creating a new man; yet, the madness went on for decades with science perverted, lives wasted, generations lost --- all thrashed in the infamous cesspool of collectivism.

Millions of Soviet citizens died during this period under Stalin as a result of bogus science, the failure of central planning and collectivization policies, and most savagely, by the deliberate creation of state planned famines to break the spirit of the individualist kulaks, Georgians, Ukrainians, and ordinary Russians who opposed collectivization and were made scapegoats for Soviet failures.

And I need not remind you that while Lysenko perverted science in the Soviet Union, a German physician, his counterpart in the Third Reich, climbed the ladder of academia and did whatever was necessary to reach the top and serve the Wehrmacht. His name was Dr. Joseph Mengele.

Soviet Psychiatry and Rehabilitation

And throughout its 70 years of barbaric existence, up to the time of its collapse in November 1989, the evil Soviet empire also bore witness to the perversion of psychiatry --- another sad chapter which also plainly supports my contention that science and medicine must remain divorced of (and above) politics, and never allowed to become pliable tools of government oppression.

In the former Soviet Union, psychiatry, like genetics and other sciences, was used as a tool of the state. And we have numerous examples, including the case of dissident Bladimir Bukobsky, who spent 10 years in Soviet hospitals being "rehabilitated" on psychiatric wards. Despite the indoctrination and brainwashing sessions during his intensive "rehabilitation," Bukobsky, who, like Alexandr Solzhenitsyn had spent years in the gulags in the 1960s and 1970s, survived and lived to see the day in 1992 when he was able to return to Russia, from his exile in England, to testify in Russia's Constitutional Court. Bukobsky's testimony corroborated Soviet psychiatry existed at the disposal of state security and had been used as a political tool by the Soviet Union until well into the late 1980s and the rule of Mikhail Gorbachev.

In passing, and in this context of psychiatry and rehabilitation, it is worth pointing out and remem-bering that while in constitutional republics, citizens have civil liberties and constitutional protections, they also have duties to obey the laws. Yet, they are free to choose --- either to obey and conform to the laws and be left undisturbed, or to break the laws and face punishment. Transgressors are punished, usually by imprisonment as prescribed by laws, and thus, effectively isolated to protect society. (Rarely, they are executed.)

Authoritarian states, on the other hand, allow no such choice. There, prisoners are "rehabilitated" or eliminated. Social(ist) democracies today want to follow the authoritarian path to "rehabilitation," deplore building more prisons, and refuse to hold individuals accountable. Social democrats, modern liberals, social planners, and other "progressives" do not want transgressors to be punished and made responsible for their criminal conduct; they opt instead for therapeutics and "rehabilitation," absolving the individual and blaming society and, all the while, accumulating more power to themselves in the bureaucracies of the increasingly socialist penal system.

Politicized "Scientific" Research

How does this historic information relate to the gun control research I alluded to earlier, right here in the U.S. today, and to our legacy of freedom? Let us say today in our own country, government agencies, e.g., the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC) of the CDC funded by American taxpayers, are systematically producing flawed gun control research using a priori logic and junk science to arrive at predetermined conclusions. Yes, hypotheses are being tested but not rejected; selected facts are being collected; valid information is being omitted; and statistics are being concocted based on skewed biased population samples --- all of this to reach the predetermined conclusion that guns and not criminals are responsible for violent crime in our society and that firearms, even for home and family protection, have no place in modern civilian society and that said firearms for self-protection should be banned and unavailable to ordinary citizens.

The promotion of gun control using politicized science as a vehicle with the concurrent curtailment of civil liberties by a dangerous and fearful master, an ever-increasing government authority seeking a monopoly of force upon the very citizens it purports to serve, is only one of many examples of present day perversion of science and medicine by government. Anyone also vaguely familiar with the politically protected disease AIDS can furnish another overt example of politicized science and medicine. With AIDS, the government, via its agencies, particularly the CDC and other subsidiary public health departments throughout the nation, have tortured statistics until they have falsely confessed, and have promoted media hype and sensationalism as to force the viewpoint that heterosexuals in the U.S. are as much at risk as homosexuals and illicit drug users for contracting the dreaded HIV virus, and that "we are all at risk of AIDS." "Why?" you ask. Because government agencies want to be able to obtain more and more funding from a frightened and more empathetic taxpayer and perpetuate and replicate their bureaucracies faster, not to mention also the desire to change the cultural perspective of this tragic (but social) disease in American society.

All this, mind you, despite the fact research and development monies were (and are) being spent on AIDS more so than with any other disease including breast cancer which AIDS funding surpasses by a margin of nearly 3:1, although breast cancer in the last decade has killed almost three times as many people. Another example is global warming whereby the politicized research of a minority of scientists, fueled by radical environmentalists and bolstered by a sympathetic media, promotes a radical, pseudo-environmentalist, anti-technologic agenda, duplicitously leading to further government intervention, statism, and aimed at fostering a favorable climate towards world socialism and, eventually, global taxation (beginning with a carbon dioxide emission tax).

On Public Health and Gun Control

I have already alluded to public health and gun control and the motives behind it. Allow me now to elaborate from personal experience and disclose to you about the story behind this issue.

In 1991, the American Medical Association (AMA) launched a major campaign against domestic violence which goes on to this day. I, as an active member of organized medicine, joined in what I deeply considered a worthwhile cause. It was thus while researching the topic of domestic violence and street crime and attempting to find workable solutions, I came to the inescapable conclusion and appalling reality, the medical literature on firearms and violence had failed to objectively discuss both sides of this issue. And this, despite the purported safeguards of peer-review and the alleged claims to balance and objectivity by government-funded researchers in public health scientific investigations --- and the medical journal editors who published their research.

What I found, over the subsequent 5 years, particularly as editor of the Journal of the Medical Association of Georgia (between 1993 to 1995) was, frankly, when it came to the issue of guns and violence, medical journals had taken the easy way out of the mêlée, presenting only one side, and censoring the other. The side that was being censored, despite the accumulating amount of data supporting it, was that side dealing with the beneficial aspects of firearms and the benefits of self-protection by law-abiding citizens. Instead of providing a balanced and fair approach based on truth and objectivity, the medical literature echoed the emotionalism and rhetoric of the mass media, and thwarted free inquiry in scientific research. In most cases, it provided politicized, result-oriented research based on what can only be called junk science, to bolster the agenda of the gun control lobby.

"Why?" you ask. Because that is the pasture where the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC)'s milk cow was (and continues to be) grazing. That is where government money extracted from unwitting taxpayers was (and is being) allocated by the Clinton administration.

How? By propounding the erroneous notion that gun control is a public health issue and that crime is a disease, an epidemic --- rather than a major facet of criminology. So public health officials, AMA leaders, and willing political accomplices espouse the preposterous but politically-expedient concept of guns and bullets as animated, virulent pathogens, needing to be stamped out by limiting gun availability, and ultimately, eradicating guns from law-abiding citizens.

They, of course, choose to neglect the fact that guns and bullets are inanimate objects that do not follow Koch's Postulates of Pathogenicity (which, as you know, prove definitively and scientifically a microorganism is responsible for a particular disease); and they fail to recognize behind every shooting there is a person pulling the trigger --- and who should be held accountable. The portrayal of guns in the medical literature by the public health/AMA/CDC/NCIPC establishment reflects the sensationalized violence portrayed in the mainstream media and exploits our understandable concern for violence and rampant street crime, but it does not reflect accurate, unbiased, scientific, and objective information needed for optimum public policy.

Despite a surfeit of scientific and epidemiologic studies in the sociologic, legal, and criminologic literature that discuss the benefits of firearm possession by law-abiding citizens --- physicians and the general public are not being informed about this vital information by the CDC's NCIPC and its outlets, the medical journals. As former editor of a state medical journal, I felt then, and as Editor-in-Chief of the Medical Sentinel of the AAPS, I feel now, a deep sense of moral duty and professional obligation to inform you about this issue, and air the other side of the debate which is seldom promulgated and continues to be censored in the public health/AMA/CDC/NCIPC establishment. This is crucial, for I deeply believe in a free society citizens and their elected representatives have a right to know and be presented with all sides of an issue for proper deliberation and, eventually, sound public policy formulation.

Faulty and Biased Research

As it regards public funding of the NCIPC's gun control research, it's my professional opinion the taxpayers' hard-earned monies are being misused and squandered. As one example, I will cite the work of one prominent gun control researcher, Dr. Arthur Kellermann of Emory University School of Public Health. Since at least the mid-1980s, Dr. Kellermann (and associates), whose work was heavily funded by the CDC, have published a series of studies purporting to show that persons who keep guns in the home are more likely to be victims of homicide than those who don't. Despite the "peer reviewed" imprimatur of his published research, his studies, fraught with errors of facts, logic, and methodology, are published in The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) and the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) with great fanfare (i.e., advanced notices and press releases are followed by arranged interviews and press conferences, compliments of JAMA and the AMA, and thanks, of course, to the war against domestic violence) and to the delight of the like-minded, cheerleading, mainstream (liberal) journalists.

In a 1986 NEJM paper, Dr. Kellermann and associates, for example, claimed their "scientific research" proved that defending oneself or one's family with a firearm in the home is dangerous and counter productive, claiming "a gun owner is 43 times more likely to kill a family member than an intruder."(2) This erroneous assertion is what has been accurately termed Kellermann's "43 times fallacy" for gun ownership by Dr. Edgar Suter, Chairman of DIPR.

In a critical review article published in the March 1994 issue of the Journal of the Medical Association of Georgia (JMAG), Dr. Suter not only found evidence of "methodologic and conceptual errors," such as prejudicially-truncated data and non-sequitor logic used in their pro-gun control arguments, but also "overt mendacity," including the listing of "the correct methodology which was described but never used by the authors."(3) Moreover, these gun control researchers failed to consider and "deceptively understated" the protective benefits of guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens protecting themselves, their families, and their property.

Dr. Suter writes: "The true measure of the protective benefits of guns are the lives saved, the injuries prevented, the medical costs saved, and the property protected - not the burglar or rapist body count. Since only 0.1%-0.2% of defensive gun usage involves the death of the criminal, any study, such as this, that counts criminal deaths as the only measure of the protective benefits of guns will expectedly underestimate the benefits of firearms by a factor of 500 to 1,000."(3)

In 1993, in another peer-reviewed NEJM article (and the research again heavily funded by the CDC), Dr. Kellermann again attempted to show that guns in the home are a greater risk to the victims than to the assailants.(4) Despite valid criticisms of his previous works (including the 1986 study) by reputable scholars, Dr. Kellermann ignored their criticisms and again used the same flawed methodology and non-sequitor logic. He also used study populations with disproportionately high rates of serious psycho-social dysfunctions from three selected state-counties, unrepresentative of the general U.S. population. For example, 53% of the case subjects had a history of a household member being arrested, 31% had a household history of illicit drug use, 32% had a household member hit or hurt in a family fight, and 17% had a family member hurt so seriously in a domestic altercation that prompt medical attention was required. Moreover, both the case studies and control groups in this analysis had a very high incidence of financial instability.

Needless to say, all of these are factors that, as Dr. Suter pointed out, "would expectedly be associated with higher rates of violence and homicide." It goes without saying, the results of such a study on gun homicides selecting this sort of unrepresentative population sample nullifies the authors' generalizations, and voids their preordained, unscientific conclusions which can not be extrapolated to the general population.

And, most importantly, Dr. Kellermann and his associates again failed to consider the protective benefits of firearms, and this time, arrived at the "2.7 times fallacy."(4) In other words, this time they falsely claimed that a family member is 2.7 times more likely to kill other family members than an intruder. Yet, a fallacy is still a fallacy and, as such, it deserves no place in scientific investigations and peer-reviewed, medical publications, claiming scientific objectivity.

These premeditated errors invalidated the findings of the 1993 study, just as they tainted those of 1986. Nevertheless, these errors have crept into and now permeate the lay press, reverberate in the electronic media, and remain uncorrected in the medical journals, where they are repeated time and again as gospel. And, because the publication of the data (and their purported conclusions) supposedly come from "reliable" sources and objective medical researchers, it's given a lot of weight and credibility by physicians, social workers, professional organizations, law enforcement, and policymakers.

What we do know, thanks to the meticulous and sound scholarship of Professor Gary Kleck of Florida State University; criminologists Don B. Kates and David Kopel; DIPR and other conscientious scholars, is that the benefits of gun ownership by law-abiding citizens have been greatly underestimated. In his monumental work, Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America (1991) and subsequent publications, Professor Kleck found that the defensive uses of firearms by citizens amount to 2.5 million uses per year and dwarf the offensive gun uses by criminals. Between 25-75 lives are saved by a gun for every life lost to a gun. Medical costs saved by guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens are 15 times greater than costs incurred by criminal uses of firearms. Guns also prevent injuries to good people and protect billions of dollars of property every year.(3)

Incidentally, the actual U.S. health care costs of treating gunshot wounds is approximately $1.5 billion, which is less than 0.2% of the annual health care expenditures.(5) The $20-$40 billion figure so frequently cited in the medical literature is a deliberately exaggerated estimate of lifetime productivity lost, where criminal predators are given productivity estimates as if their careers were suddenly expected to blossom into that of pillars of the community with projected salaries equal to those of managed care CEOs. Yet, despite these major detractions, the AMA/CDC/NCIPC establishment clings to the erroneous figures and extrapolations of Dr. Kellermann and other NCIPC researchers, and use these erroneous figures and invalid claims in formulating health and gun control policies, to the detriment of the public and the sufferance of the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.

Because of the complex nature of violence in our society, violence and crime prevention efforts should be addressed by our education and criminal justice systems, not to mention our churches and synagogues. Violence is not a disease and therefore it's not amenable for study or treatable with the traditional public health model measures.

On March 6, 1996, I and three members of DIPR testified before the House Appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health, Education, and Human Services. I am happy to report that this past summer the House slashed $2.6 million, the amount specifically allocated to the NCIPC for "gun related" research,* and for the first time in a decade, Dr. Arthur Kellermann, the primary gun control investigator for the NCIPC, was not funded for his research by that agency.

Conclusion

In conclusion, individuals involved in this perversion of science, public health, and medicine and who masquerade as unbiased objective researchers have at best a non-existent utopia in mind that has never existed, a world without conflict, ordinary citizens unarmed and in blissful conformity with the state, violence eradicated, homicides extinguished, false security attained. At worst, they militate for Big Brother unopposed, social engineering without limits, conformity by force (if necessary), opposition crushed, and the state reigning supreme.

If their Utopian socialist vision were to become reality, we would then herald a brave new world where individual citizens would, for their own good, be placed at the mercy of the state central planners.

The goal of gun control research promulgated by the AMA/CDC/NCIPC axis is designed to promote conformity, that is, the idea that guns (even for self and family protection) are socially unacceptable; and to promote uniformity, that is, in citizen disarmament.

The lessons of history sagaciously reveal that whenever and wherever science and medicine have been subordinated to the state and individual will has been crushed by tyranny, the results have been as perverse as they have been disastrous, as the examples of Nazi Germany and the former Soviet Union so aptly testify.

Beyond the abolition of freedom and dignity, the perversion of science and medicine becomes the vehicle for the imposition of slavery and totalitarianism.

But, the fact that AAPS [which has aptly been called "The Delta Force of American Medicine"] is resurgent; the fact that today AAPS has a new journal, the Medical Sentinel, "a beacon of hope in medical journalism," committed to publishing scholarly articles in defense of liberty and the practice of private medicine; the fact that the AAPS stands for the tenets and principles set forth in the Oath of Hippocrates; and the fact that AAPS continues to fight for individually-based medical ethics and the sanctity of the patient-doctor relationship --- are all incontrovertible evidence that the fight for intellectual freedom is far from over, and that you, as an AAPS member, would not idly sit by while the powers-that-be seek to effect the perversion of science and medicine for their own political purposes.

Footnote

* Just recently, the AMA set a new policy to direct their lobbyists to "strongly advocate" for the restoration of funding for the CDC/NCIPC.(6)

References

1. Faria MA, Jr. Vandals at the Gates of Medicine: Historic Perspectives on the Battle Over Health Care Reform. Macon, Georgia, Hacienda Publishing, Inc., 1995.
2. Kellermann AL, Reay DT. Protection or peril? An analysis of firearm-related deaths in the home. N Engl J Med 1986;314:1557-1560.
3. Suter E. Guns in the medical literature - a failure of peer review. J Med Assoc Ga 1994;83(3):137-148.
4. Kellermann AL, Rivara FP, Rushforth NB, et al. Gun ownership as a risk factor for homicide in the home. N Engl J Med 1993;329(15):1084-1091.
5. Suter E, Waters WC, Murray GB, et al. Violence in America - effective solutions. J Med Assoc Ga 1995;84(6):255.
6. Kent C. AMA wants CDC gun research funds back. AMNews, January 6, 1997, p. 8.

 

Dr. Faria is a consultant neurosurgeon, Adjunct Professor of Medical History (1993-1996) at Mercer University School of Medicine, and author of Vandals at the Gates of Medicine (Macon, Georgia, Hacienda Publishing, Inc., 1995) and Medical Warrior: Fighting Corporate Socialized Medicine (Macon, Georgia, Hacienda Publishing, Inc., 1997). He serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Medical Sentinel, the official journal of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS). This Editor's Corner is based on his speech at the 53rd Annual meeting of the AAPS held in La Jolla, California, October 10-12, 1996.