You cannot mess with science. Science does not give a damn about your feelings. Science is not even democratic. Yet, too many people believe people’s will is more important to their life than science is. By emphasizing “people,” perhaps they assume themselves following the footstep of one of the greatest presidents Abraham Lincoln. Yes, Lincoln indeed said “the government of the people, by the people, for the people” but there is no such thing as science of the people, by the people, for the people. Whenever politics pursues this horrendous oxymoron “science of the people, by the people, for the people,” it always comes with the same consequence: when manipulating “science” does not work out, the next move is to manipulate “the people.”
When Mao Zedong initiated the Great Lead Forward in 1958, the Chinese Communist Party literally messed with science. The consequences were disastrous; a series of great famines took at least 20 million lives by 1962 and the Chinese economy was literally on the verge of collapse. But the real peril was that Mao became more paranoiac than ever. Mao failed to control science in 1958, then came back to control human behaviors and minds in 1966 by setting China on the fire of the Cultural Revolution.
The center of Maoist economics is agriculture and thus one of the most crucial objectives of the Great Leap Forward was to increase the crop yields. Maoists introduced China the Communist world’s state-of-the-art agricultural method: Lysenkoism. Lysenkoism is a set of agricultural techniques invented by Soviet agronomist Trofim Lysenko. To make a long story short, Lysenkoism has nothing to do with science at all; it was based on the Communist theory of class struggle. Lysenko assumed the agricultural flora as an extension of the ancien régime, and thus the distinctiveness of species should be removed as the Bolshevik Revolution eliminated the class from human society. Such theory, needless to say, sounds nutty to anyone who knows science. But Stalin did not know science and the previously unknown agronomist eventually became the dictator’s favorite scientist. Within the Communist Bloc, Lysenkoism had been perceived as the most advanced agricultural method until Lysenko was officially disgraced in both Soviet scientific community and politics in 1965. The crop yields of the Soviet Union constantly declined while Lysenko remained in Stalin’s glory. Yet, it was forbidden to criticize Lysenkoism because such criticism was deemed as a challenge to Stalin’s leadership. The same tragic comedy happened in China; nobody could dare question Lysenkoism Mao had chosen to implement. Moreover, Lysenko was also a very politically motivated individual and played his role in Stalin’s great purge; he enthusiastically condemned the scientists who opposed his nutty theory to ensure his privilege. One of Lysenko’s most notorious deeds was the death of Nikolai Vavilov, a highly respected botanist condemned by Lysenko and purged by the NKVD, in 1943. Mao’s loyalists also purged those who prioritized science above Mao’s will. After the years of messing with science, what was left in China was a great famine.
In 2017, South Korea, here enters Moon Jae-in, the master of the Maoist art of fighting. The first policy the Moon Jae-in administration introduced is the nuclear-free energy policy. Moon later claimed that his nuclear-free policy was just a rhetoric and his real intention was to “reduce the reliance on nuclear energy.” However, on July 14, the Moon Jae-in administration announced the cessation of the construction of the new nuclear plants. As the currently active plants will cease to operate about 20 years later, South Korea will be a nuclear-free nation.
Perhaps, this vision of nuclear-free Korea sounds timely to those who remember the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. However, there are more to know about Korea’s energy situation. First, the previous energy agenda, especially established by the Park Geun-hye administration, was to reduce carbon dioxide and alleviate Korea’s infamous air pollution. The new nuclear power plants are to replace the use of fossil fuels in the prolonged thermal power generation. Second, the road map for the nuclear-free policy is impractical; given the weather condition of the Korean Peninsula, the renewable energy the Moon Jae-in administration plans to develop is too limited to replace nuclear energy. Even in the United States, renewable energy can only fulfill about 10 percent of the needs. It is delusive to claim renewable energy can replace nuclear power. Third, the real fear is there is no backup plan; the Moon Jae-in administration has not provided any backup plan after 20 years if the nuclear-free energy policy will not be able to meet the needs. Are the Koreans ready to pay more taxes on electricity as the Germans do? Instead of answering the inconvenient question, the Moon Jae-in administration is playing ostrich. Although Moon’s scientists have often brought Taiwan as a nuclear-free model, as a matter of fact, Taiwan is not only “nuclear-free” but has reactivated the nuclear reactors.
It is unclear why Moon Jae-in is eager to bulldozer the nuclear-free policy in such a hasty manner. Perhaps the nuclear-free policy can polish Moon’s public image as a progressive-minded leader, but Moon himself has never been an environmentalist. Even pro-Moon journalists raise a question about the plausibility of the nuclear-free policy. The only reason I can surmise is that some of Moon’s loyalists, especially professors in the renewable energy industry, see the nuclear-free policy as a very lucrative opportunity, as Daniel Kammen did in the US.
“People’s will” can only shut science up until science comes back to knock “the people” out – you re warned.