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Saint Petersburg Branch of the Russian Humanist Society
"Zdraviy Smysl" ("Common Sense") Magazine Elected Articles
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Issue 31

  • Valery Kuvakin – Alexander Yakovlev. Academician Alexander N. Yakovlev, our guest at Zdravy Smysl – (RHO President, Prof. Valery Kuvakin, talks to Academician Alexander Yakovlev, well-known statesman, Chairman of the International Foundation “Democracy”). “Renaissance of Humanism in Russia is possible if based upon... respectful decisions, reflecting true agreement between the authorities and the public. Humanism recovery will result primarily from rule of law, not just moral prophecy”, the Perestroika architect argues.

HUMANISM AND HUMAN RIGHTS

  • Younus Shaikh Freed. IHEU Press Release London 23rd January 2004. “The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) announced today that Dr. Younus Shaikh, who had languished in gaol in Pakistan since October 2000 under sentence of death for blasphemy, has been acquitted and freed after an appeal and retrial”.
  • Background to IHEU Press Release 23 Jan 2004. Blasphemy Doctor, Younus Shaikh released from Death Row. Roy Brown, President, IHEU. One of Dr. Shaikh’s supporters, speaking anonymously from Islamabad said: “We may draw some satisfaction and may even feel like celebrating that our efforts in pursuing this case led to the acquittal of Dr. Sheikh, but let’s not forget that as long as the Blasphemy law is on the statute book, it will continue to be misused. At this very moment there are several innocent people, victims of this black law, languishing in various jails and lock-ups of the country awaiting an uncertain future. And these victims may not be as fortunate as Dr. Sheikh was. Dr. Sheikh had a circle of committed friends inside and outside the country”.

RELIGIION AND THE SOCIETY

  • Liberty of Conscience Institute: an open address to the organizers of a conference at the Russian Academy of Public Service under the RF President, to which Russian NGOs were not invited. “Without free scientific debate based on pluralism of views... we cannot expect to make any progress in cultivating the freedom of conscience or building up an open civil society”, say LCI Council Co-chairmen S. Buryanov and S. Mozgovoi.
  • Academician Vitaly Ginzburg, RAS member and Nobel Prize winner, offers A Few Comments on Live Issues. He argues, inter alia: “I am convinced that a bright future for Russia is only possible on the ways of democracy and incessant support for enlightenment, education and science. The attempts to achieve prosperity in Russia by appealing to retrograde, albeit modified, ideas based on the slogan “Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality”, can only produce results similar to what we all experienced in the USSR”.
  • Valery Kuvakin reflects on Science and Education in Russia: from Orthodox-Christian Culture to Orthodox-Christian Natural Science? “Attempts to substitute religious indoctrination for science-based education are both absurd and hopeless. However, providing a sound worldview and teaching moral values through the educational process remains an issue... Now, is there an alternative, well-defined educational strategy that could prevent deterioration of moral values among the young... while at the same time avoiding the clericalization of school? This alternative does exist, and it lies on the surface. It is the modern Humanist worldview, de facto proclaimed by the RF Law on Education”.

CONFERENCES

  • Vladimir Zhukotski’s Philosophic Manifesto (based on his introductory speech at the Nizhnevartovsk Conference “Science and Religion: the Problems of Modern Humanism”, which took place on April 22, 2003). “Today we see a return to the classical “triangular” model: Monarch – Church – Intelligentsia. But intelligentsia remains outside global communication, it lacks internal consolidation and takes run into the corners of the social universe – to attend to various centers of power...”

RELIGION AND REASON

  • Bhagwan Sri Rajnesh (Osho): Man is Enemy to Himself. A series of maxims by the Indian philosopher (1931 1990) centered around the main idea: “No single religion will accept the simple, natural and obvious fact: that the human being is an entirety, and this world is no punishment, this world is not separated from man. Man is rooted in this world the same way as the trees are rooted. This planet Earth is his mother”.

THE DECEPTIVE MEDIA

  • Selected materials from a recent Web conference on “Russian Science and Mass Media”: two essays by Pyotr Trevogin, publicist and a regular ZS author, The Culture of Disputes and Logical Thinking on Decline – What Are the Consequences for Society and The Role of Mass Media in Brainwashing the Russian Public (together with some readers’ comments). “The Russian society is quickly degrading into savagery and superstition. Laymen keep listening to all sorts of miracle-mongers and swindlers with bated breath. Seeking guidance in horoscopes has become common practice. Even state authorities, such as the State Duma and the Ministry for Emergencies, treat astrologers and psychics with respect...”

HUMANIST PEDAGOGY

  • Humanist Guidance and Psychology, a chapter from Foundations of Humanism by J. P. van Praag, the Dutch Humanist philosopher and former President of IHEU. J. P. van Praag describes Humanist psychology as a discipline that “does provide an important contribution to humanism in practice. It stresses the experience of being fully human – the human growth potential, creativity, and the provision of meaning. It promotes self-knowledge, openness, and freedom, consciousness of one’s own limitations and potential, personal relatedness, and acceptance of one’s own self and the self of others”.
  • School and Society: Eduard Finkelstain and Emma Rautbart, founders of a Teachers’ Club (whose name can be loosely translated as “T. G. I. Monday”), examine the principles of Humanist pedagogy as related to the arrangements of an enlightened democratic society. The teachers have some practical recommendations on transition from the authoritative model, now prevailing both in school and society, to the humanist, or “human-centered” model.
  • Yevgeny Glushakov, Who Needs Our Wunderkinds? Sasha Seleznyov, a boy of 6, wrote some wonderful aphoristic formulations back in the 1980’s that captured the attention of many prominent Russian writers and pedagogues. Glushakov emphasizes problems involved in educating such gifted children. “None of these problems is being addressed in our country”, the boy’s mentor and admirer concludes in a sad note.

HUMANIST DICTIONARY

  • In his essay What Does Sociality Mean? Alexander Kruglov analyzes two types of sociality: the one growing out of animal instincts, and the other based on reason – that is, properly human. “Unless these are clearly and consistently differentiated, sociality remains an ambiguous category”, Kruglov maintains. “In our era dominated by cosmopolitanism and law, this concept is likely to confuse people, rather than provide any explanation or guidance”.

LESSONS TO BE LEARNED. TERRORISM OF TODAY

  • Vsevolod Lyashenko in Side Effects of Terrorism points out immediate and long-term political consequences of terrorist acts. “The most obvious one is the growing budget of the defense ministry and the “special services” such as Spetsnaz, (counter) intelligence, FSS, CIA and the like. No doubt, those agencies will be given extended powers, which will be as secret as the agencies themselves. One only hopes they won’t resume the hunt for “people’s enemies”, because if they do there will be no job left for terrorists: we’ll just be killing one another...”

INTELLIGENCE: HUMAN AND ARTIFICIAL

  • Mikhail Beilin, a prominent Russian chess player, international head judge and author of may popular books on chess game, speaks of Chess in Computer Age: “...Not everything is rotten in the state of Chess. Computers opened up new opportunities previously undreamt-of... Now you can play with remote partners without leaving your home, and you can also learn the game, perfect your skills, maintain your club membership, and follow the current championship in real time. The revolution in science and technology did not obliterate the ancient game”.