- Valery Kuvakin on Humanism, Power and Ourselves. “The impracticability of Humanism seems obvious, not because this ‘ism’ is powerless per se, but rather because the extent of humaneness in Russia is too small, weak and unseen…” The RHS President sees solution in Humanist education. He calls on the current government to remember its mission: “Rulers, fear not your people. Don’t take them to be a mass of vulgar individuals unworthy of education, or they will indeed be worthy of your fear.”
- Beslan: the Despair. The act of terrorism in Beslan and the Russian authorities’ response generate a feeling of hopelessness. There is only one plausible outcome: “some ‘powerful hand’… will place us under a kind of ‘order’ where the fears prevailing today will be superceded by more primitive instincts of survival”.
ANNOUNCEMENTS AND APPEALS
- The Obshcheye Deistviye (Joint Action) spearhead group calls to non-governmental and political organizations of Russia to hold an independent public forum. The appeal has been supported by many Russian politicians and political organizations. Its main concern: the tragedy of Beslan may be a pretext for law changes that endanger human rights and democratic freedoms.
- Embracing the Power of Humanity, by Anna Kudishina. Over 30 individuals from all over Russia attended the International Summer School on “Modern Humanism, Naturalism and Critical Thinking” organized in Moscow by the RHS President Valery Kuvakin and the Dean of the MSU Philosophy Department, Vladimir Mironov, with the support of Professor Paul Kurtz. The Summer School content was delivered by distinguished professors from the Inquiry Center — International Institute in Amherst (NY): David Richard Koepsell, Charles William Cooke, and John Ryder. As a pleasant surprise to the trainees, Academician and politician Alexander Yakovlev attended some sessions as an honored guest.
- Kirov Humanists have organized themselves, reports Alexander Shutov, first Chairman of the Kirov Region RHS branch and editor of its K Gumanizmu (Towards Humanism) newspaper. This is the 13th regional branch of the Russian Humanist Society, established now as an inter-regional public organization promoting Humanism.
- Vitaly Ginzburg and Valery Kuvakin were nominated as “Humanist Laureates 2004” by the International Academy of Humanism. This year they shared this honor with Salman Rushdie, James D. Watson, Peter Singer, Harvey Weinstein, George Soros. Included in its roster laureates have been Andrey Sakharov, Sir Karl Popper, Carl Sagan…
SCIENCE AND POWER
- The Closure of Science / Academics and bureaucrats disagree about the Academy of Science’s future. Vitaly Ginzburg, Nobel Prize winner, and Vladimir Kudryavtsev, a well-known Russian lawyer, share their concerns regarding the draft amendments to the federal law “On Science and the State Scientific and Technological Policy” that will eliminate accreditation procedure for academic institutions and place the RAS among rank-and-file public agencies. “These plans will essentially ruin Russia’s science…”
SCIENCE AND PSEUDOSCIENCE
- What is the purpose of the Kruglyakov Commission, and how should we name it? — wonders Yuri Yefremov. Claims about the destructive nature of the RAS Commission Against Pseudoscience and Falsification of Scientific Research “are made by people who are themselves involved with pseudoscience. Their hypersensitive reaction itself proves that the Commission is useful”. However, its current name may not be the best possible choice (as it is associated with the infamous campaigns of the Soviet regime against such “pseudosciences” as Genetics or Cybernetics). The author believes a more appropriate name would be “Commission for the Review of Scientific Work Presented as Revolutionary”.
- Scientists and Pseudoscientists: Criteria of Demarcation. One does not have to be an expert to identify charlatans or ignoramuses in science. Yevgeny Eidelman proposes a simple questionnaire which makes it easy to tell a difference between scientist and a fake one.
PSEUDOSCIENCE HUNTING FOR OUR MINDS
- Natural science, the modern way: studies for stupies. Having analyzed a large number of university textbooks on ”Concepts of Modern Natural Science”, Zdravyj Smysl staff member Natalia Vasilyeva comes to a gloomy conclusion… “If students … are fed with doubtful theories, stupid mistakes, fantasies or just meaningless scientese, then parapsychology, sorcery, astrology and other similar ‘teachings’ will continue to flourish year after year”.
HUMANIST THINKING. Our Publications
- Valery Kuvakin: Wisdom Grows Through Doubt. Preface to the Russian translation of ‘The New Skepticism. Inquiry and Reliable Knowledge’ by Paul Kurtz, a prominent US scholar, Humanist philosopher and public figure. The Russian Humanist Society has prepared one of his important theoretical works for publication. “What is most important, and also unusual for us, is the triumph of common sense and humaneness – the psychological and existential foundation which underlies the worldview of Kurtz, one of the greatest representatives of modern Humanism…”
- Paul Kurtz, The Range of Skeptical Inquiry. Introduction to ‘The New Skepticism. Inquiry and Reliable Knowledge’. “Skepticism, like all things, is good if used in moderation…”, says the author. “Skepticism, if properly understood, is not a metaphysical picture of the unknowability of ‘ultimate reality’; it does not lead to an inevitable epistemological impasse; it need not culminate in existential despair or nihilism. Rather it should be considered as an essential methodological rule guiding us to examine critically all claims to knowledge and affirmations of value.
“A paradox confronts humankind: the ancient systems of religious superstitions exist side by side with the most sophisticated forms of scientific knowledge… Why do occult belief systems persist in human culture in spite of effective critiques by skeptics that provide evidence to the contrary?..
“If one is going to be fair, why not apply skeptical methods to all areas of human knowledge?.. Is skepticism by its very nature destructive? Does it have anything positive to say about life? Does it have any normative implications? What is the relationship of skepticism to the way of life we adopt? Can it lead to a meaningful eupraxophy, that is, to a well-grounded cosmic outlook and practical wisdom in conduct?..”
MIRACLES THAT DON’T HOLD WATER
- Top Secret UFOs. “There is no tangible evidence of any mysterious contacts with aliens”, argues Sergey Yefimov. “The military, however, take genuine interest in UFOs. They do keep their secrets from us, but that perhaps is not what UFOlogists have in mind…”
HUMANISM AND EVOLUTIONISM
- Lyubov Sergienko shares her views on Evolutionism, Maltusianism, and Humanism. The human being “is becoming the decisive force in evolutionary destiny of the animal kingdom. But are we advanced enough to assume the global role of ‘creator’ or ‘great designer’”?
WHAT IS HUMANISM?
- Some Aspect of Etymology and Semantics of the Term “Humanism” revealed by Viktor Rybin. “…The concept ‘Humanism’ as well as derivative terms have become a necessary theme of academic or semi-popular articles and statements by politicians and public figures… But its use is not always relevant or correct…”
HUMANISM AND SOCIETY
- The Outcasts. Society’s Attitude Towards Mental Patients. Yevgeny Novikov points out: “There is a persistent myth that mental diseases are incurable, that people affected by them are dangerous and totally unpredictable… This attitude is a source of distress both for patients and their families.”
- Vladimir Tsaplin offers discourse on Religion, Totalitarianism and Atheism in the Age of International Terrorism. In an abstract to his future book the author shows that religious and rational viewpoints are incompatible with each other. He maintains that any religion takes origin in the need to reconcile oneself with the finality of being. Tsaplin analyzes the difference between the “faith-based” and the “knowledge-based” psychology, demonstrating equality between totalitarian and religious principles.
- Nikolai Vasilyevich Chekalov (11.10.1935–10.10.2004)