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Saint Petersburg Branch of the Russian Humanist Society
"Zdraviy Smysl" ("Common Sense") Magazine Elected Articles
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Issue 38

EDITOR’S CORNER

  • Valery Kuvakin: Atheist Thoughts About Life and Death. “For an Atheist, this secular life is the basis. Together with this world in which it emerged and will eventually vanish. There is something uninhibited, luxurious and very dignified about the Atheistic perception of death – The whole world is mine, and I am a real part of it. On the other hand, there is something modest about it, without envy or urge for perpetual bliss… For that matter, there is no willingness to sustain all kinds of humiliation or self-delusions for the sake of ‘eternal life’.”

SCIENCE AND SOCIETY

  • The Noble prize winner Vitaly Ginzburg interviewed by Novaya Gazeta on “spy scientists”, astrologists and the Commission Against Pseudoscience: “…I think that truth is what all reasonable people are looking for.” “…Discontent should give rise to constructive proposals and moves. For me personally this means working in three areas where I am competent and capable of doing something useful: encouraging young people to take up science, fighting pseudoscience, and opposing clericalism and the church’s attempts to extend control over the nation’s cultural life.”
  • Seeking the Appropriate Role in Culture (Our own information). On October 27–30, 2005, the State University of New York at Buffalo hosted the eleventh World Congress “Toward a new Enlightenment”, co-sponsored by the International Academy of Humanism, Center for Enquiry – Transnational Institute, and the Council for Secular Humanism. “The concern expressed by the international academic community prompts it to get mobilized and engaged in intense debate about the survival of science, seeking new and effective responses to modern challenges…”

OUR RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS

  • The Silence of Lambs… The second All-Russia Civil Congress, “Russia for Democracy, Against Dictatorship” (December 12, 2005), based on materials provided by the Freedom of Conscience Institute, the Credo.ru portal, and RHS. “The administration of the second Congress… expressly avoided discussion of problems with freedom of conscience in Russia…” “The second All-Russia Civil Congress was in fact turned into a farce serving the self-promotion of politicized NGOs, some democratic parties and VIPs. It was just another proof of ill health of democratic parties and the closely related human rights movement…”

SCIENTIFIC WORLDVIEW

  • Dmitry Manin, Philosophy vs. Science? In the public discourse on science and religion, one can frequently encounter references to philosophy of science that reportedly invalidated science's claim to acquiring objective knowledge about the world. The author investigates the work of three most influential contemporary philosophers of science: Lakatos, Kuhn, and Feierabend, and analyzes how their philosophy fails to grasp the essence of scientific concepts and methods. The author claims that many of the crucial judgments made by philosophy about science are in fact based on misconception and error.

WHAT IS HUMANISM?

  • What Stands in the Way to Recognizing Humanism as the Moving Force of World Progress? by the RHS Vice-President Givi Givishvili. “I am not aware of the true reasons for such ‘shortsightedness’. The most I can say is that there are probably four of them, at the least. First, narrow professional specialization of intellectuals. Second, their political and ideological biases. Third, the drastic difference between the initial conditions of Humanism naissance of Humanism in Attic Greece and its renaissance in Western Europe. Fourth, the extremely controversial process of Humanism emergence and development in modern history.” “Now, perhaps for the first time in history, we face a situation when the evolution of Humanism is moving away from internal conflicts towards consolidation of all its theoretical and applied aspects…”
  • Homo naturalis č homo transcendens, by Yuri Chiorny. “Over the past 150 years two distinct Humanist traditions have taken shape in European Culture – we can conventionally refer to them as ethico-practical and philosophic-anthropological. …For all the difference between the two, both share the recognition that traditional transcendental religions have now lost their significance, and both strive to develop new foundations for human life and activity.”

RUSSIA’S GREAT SCIENTISTS

  • The Russian Scientist and Patriot. The Russian Humanist society deeply grieves the passing of Academician Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev, Russia’s outstanding political and public figure and WW2 veteran – Valery Kuvakin’s address to Alexander Yakovlev’s Family and Friends, and Staff Members of the International Democracy Foundation.
  • “Russia is still to appreciate its loss,” Leonid Zhukchovitsky points out in his brief essay, In Memoriam of the Rescuer.
  • The Lessons of Stolypin, by Alexander Yakovlev. “Stolypin [politician and reformer in the pre-revolutionary Russia] was probably the first in the world history to recognize the middle class as the foundation of political stability and economic prosperity; only the middle class can deal with the stranglehold of bureaucracy, forcing it to be a servant of the people, not only of its selfish interest… Unfortunately, the Soviet system permanently erased this valuable truth…”
  • Valery Bolondinsky, Nonna Kupriyanova. “But This is a Strictly Personal Matter…” (Ivan Pavlov’s View of Religion) . ZS is publishing an unmailed letter the great Russian physiologist addressed to Sovnarkom (the early Bolshevik government). “…After reading this letter it becomes obvious that for himself, Ivan Pavlov made a clear distinction between the two aspects: 1) faith in God – he was a non-believer; and 2) his attitude towards religion – positive: many people need religion.”
  • I Was Acquainted with Vavilov by Natalia Delonais, a well-known Russian geneticist: her childhood memories of Academician Nikolai Vavilov, who died in prison under Stalin’s regime. “My father, Lev Nikolaevich Delonais (geneticist) was very fond of Nikolai Ivanovich… He was a feast of a man. When he arrived life looked different. He generously shared his sunny perception of life with everyone, his enthusiasm was contagious…” “What is significant is the entire personality of N. Vavilov, who embodied the common feature shared by scientists of the time: that genuine devotion to science… It is wonderful if one’s mission is ‘dearer than life and beyond the fear of death’.”

LESSONS FOR TOMORROW

  • Kolyma and Its Residents. From the memories of Yuri Shapiro, an outstanding Russian surgeon. “Much has been written about Kolyma – just read Shalamov, Ginzburg, Solzhenitsyn or Adamova. No one can write better than that, and there is probably nothing entirely new in these notes. Still I think that I must share my own memories… When working in the Magadan region… I met thousands of people sharing the same destiny: they were all put into Stalin’s ‘meet grinder’.” “Our people paid a terrible price for the fallacious ideas imposed by the totalitarian regime…”

ASKING POINT-BLANC

  • Vladimir Derevyanko. When Are Aliens Arriving to Earth?.. “We would like very much to have visitors from another planet, but it is likely they will not want to come… We would like to establish contacts with an extraterrestrial civilization but, we must realize, this is highly improbable. Because we do not deserve it – as of now.”

OUR ANTHOLOGY

  • Stanislaw Lem. Star Diaries of Ijon Tichy. 8th voyage. (Extract)

MISCELLANEOUS

  • Anatoly Donshin. The Humanist Implication of Design. “…The affirmative essence of design is unlimited. It provides enormous opportunities for the incarnation of aesthetic ideas, expanding the horizon of beauty and human grandeur…”
  • Irina Rebrova. Proposal regarding the inclusion of human obligations provisions into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “Failure to declare human obligations leaves a gap in the natural understanding of world order, and the human being is thus deprived of the much-needed moral foundation.”

LITERARY PAGES

  • “If You Are Human…”, from “The Formula of Grass” by the Belarusian essayist Yevgeny Guchok. Distich Three-line thoughts.
  • Lyudmila Oknazova (centenary of the poet’s birth). Verses: Don Quxote; “The Air Smells of Tea and Jasmine…”; “The Unknown Soldier’s Tomb”.
  • Philosophical Tales by Natalia Shelkovaya: The Dry Wind and the Rose; The Spider and the Butterfly; The Tale of Captive Maiden. Dreams.
  • Essay of Love by Konstantin Lement. “Yes, love does fulfill one’s desires. Acting like a vacuum, it sucks in all of one’s values, views and strivings. In exchange, like a genie, it can give you power to control circumstances… The one in love temporarily falls out of the total race for happiness (in its conventional meaning)…”

APHORISTS’ CLUB

  • Leonid Krainov-Rytov: Zigzags of Sense. The Strangeness of Being / It’s Strange to Be in It. Aphorisms and one-line verses.

SKEPTIC AND HUMANIST WEBSITES

  • Gennadii Shevelev, Natalia Vasilieva. Abstracts of the Articles on the St. Petersburg RHS branch website: humanismdirect.ru