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Saint Petersburg Branch of the Russian Humanist Society
"Zdraviy Smysl" ("Common Sense") Magazine Elected Articles
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Issue 43

EDITOR’S CORNER

  • Valery Kuvakin: The new issue of ZS opens with a facsimile publication of our letter of gratitude to Academician Vitaly Ginzburg.
    Letter of Gratitude: “The 'Humanity' Center for Enquiry Board of Funders informs you of its decision of April 16, 2007, to give your name to the Center for Enquiry”.

RAS GENERAL MEETING – 2007

  • Olga Orlova (Radio Freedom). Yury Osipov, President of the Russian Academy of Science (RAS): “This voting demonstrated the Academy's unity” . General Assembly of the Russian Academy of Science adopted its new Charter. RAS took an adamant position: Academy members rejected the model charter proposed by the Ministry of Education and Science.
  • Academician Valery Kostuyk, Chief Academic Secretary of RAS. On the Activities of the RAS Presidium and Implementation of the 2006 RAS General Assembly Resolutions. “The country's economy cannot develop in isolation from science, especially when the goal is to build a knowledge-based economy…”

AGAINST PSEUDOSCIENCE

  • Academician Yevgeny Alexandrov's interview to SPb Radio: What is the RAS Commission Doing. “First, we [the Commission Against Pseuoscience] help protect the budget from being plundered by criminal groups under the disguise of pseudoscience… Second, we keep an eye on things that find their way into the education system through textbooks… we also watch out for clericalization of schools, another bad thing…”

CONTEMPORARY EDUCATION

  • Russia in a Global World: National Education System and the Bologna Process, by Vladimir Mironov, Vice-Rector and Dean of the Philosophy Department, Moscow State University. “Unlike ourselves, Western countries defend their positions consistently in the Bologna Process. They accept some reforms while rejecting others. But Russia seems to be moving along in a strange way – we are joining the convention on the terms imposed by others…”

SCIENCE AND SOCIETY

  • Yulia Shkurko, Pavel Amnuel, Futurology Poll: Initial Findings. The respondents were asked to attach specific time estimates to some of the well-known research and technology tasks. “We received a wealth of data which, when processed, will hopefully suggest many ideas about the future…”

WHAT IS HUMANISM?

  • Valery Kuvakin, Scientific Worldview and Humanism. “In Russia, discussions about the unity of scientific worldview and Humanism should never stop, because we are now living through another round of intellectual and moral breakdown, a painful transition from one social condition to another – largely unknown and thus appalling, forcing one to abandon certain stereotypes in thinking and action in thinking and action… Here scientific worldview and Humanism will be reliable and friendly assistants to humans”.

RELIGION AND EDUCATION

  • Savva Sulaka. The Government's Relationship with Religious Groups, Through the Mirror of Christmas Readings. This year the Readings proceeded under the title “Faith and Education: Society, School, Family in 21th Century”, and once again demonstrated the nature of government policy as favoring certain religious confessions. The outcome of such policy is the emergence of clericalized institutions of power and administration.
  • Attachments: Resolutions of the 11th World Russian Peoples’ Council, “On Development of National System of Religious Education and Science” and “On the Teaching of Foundations of Orthodox Culture at School” .

HUMANISM TODAY

  • A Vision for Europe. Website materials of the project which initiated the Brussels Declaration in the European Parliament. “As the 50th anniversary of the creation of the European Union approaches, the principles and values on which modern Europe was founded are once again under threat…”
  • Brussels Declaration. “We, the people of Europe, hereby affirm our common values. They are based not on a single culture or tradition but are founded in all of the cultures that make up modern Europe…” “We hold that the state must remain neutral in matters of religion and belief, favouring none and discriminating against none…”
  • Brussels Declaration launched (European Parliament, 27 February 2007). Introducing the Brussels Declaration to a distinguished audience of MEPs and European secularists, Roy Brown, coordinator of the campaign, said: “The Vision for Europe campaign is a response by Europe’s secularists to increasing polarisation in Europe. Faced with the growing assertiveness of radical Islam, many religious leaders are attempting to reassert Europe’s supposed “Judeo-Christian” identity. We must not confuse our history with our identity…”
  • Zinaida Zhukotskaya, Oleg Parfenov. Marxist Readings: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow. “…The idea of re-reading the legacy of Karl Marx and national Marxist tradition as a valuable source of growth of modern social Humanism was given to us by Vladimir Zhukotsky, a wonderful person, scholar and Humanist. This idea survived even after his death, and is still generating a lot of response…”

HUMANISM AMONG DOCTRINES

  • Svetlana Kovalyova. Human Nature: Approaches and Alternatives. “…Phenomena of human existence such as freedom, understanding, conscience, destiny, and love characterize the integrity of human being by defining the substance of mind as unity of the flow of thinking and the flow of feeling… This integrigy implies the individual as a certain spiritual 'vertical'...”

ETHNICITY ISSUE

  • The Non-Russians in Russia: What Ethnicity Are They? by Nikolai Kaverin. Contrary to the popular belief, the overwhelming majority of non-Russians residing in the Russian Federation do not belong to the ethnic groups which are “traditional” targets of dislike. The author is certain that making demographic reports more widely available to the public would make xenophobic propaganda much more difficult.
  • Chief Editor's Note. In Memory of Democrat, an Honest and Courageous Person. Avdy Kuliev, an outstanding statesman and public activist of Turkmenistan, former Ministry of Forein Affairs (1991–1992), died in the age of 70. Kuliev was at the head of democratic opposition to the Bashism.
  • Avdy Kuliev, My View of the Turkmenistan Situation. Excerpts from 'Two Years in Exile, Thirteen Years in Opposition'. “In my view, the only effective way to shift the situation in Turkmenistan towards open civil society is by exerting political, economic and humanitarian pressure on Niyazov's regime from USA, democratically advanced countries and international human rights organizations…”

HUMANISM AND EVOLUTIONISM

  • Problems of Evolution, by Natalia Delone. “There are many new facts attesting that the core idea of evolution is correct. But most importantly, this theory serves as foundation for many biological sciences, and their fruitfulness is the main proof of its correctness. Using the name of God to cover the barrenness of one's mind amounts to blasphemy…”

PEDAGOGY OF HUMANISM

  • Sergei Peruansky. Book About Each of Us (“Mentors, Landmarks, Actions” by A. Tasminsky). “…What does one write about if one has a biography which is like millions of others? While describing his own life, he depicts us, who lived in the same epoque…”
  • Upbringing and Sociogenesis, by Yuri Pivovarov, head of the Sozidanie (Creativeness) pedagogical laboratory. The society should promote active upbringing, the author argues, and not limit its goals by education alone. “Otherwise we'll have to pay the most painful price for social antagonism…”

BOOK REVIEW

  • Leonid Yaroslavsky, Why Do They Believe in God? R. Dawkins' new book (R. Dawkins, The God Delusion, Bantam Press, London 2006). “Like his other books, this one became a best seller as soon as it appeared… If these books (including the recent one) were translated into Russian, they would certainly give the reader a jolt of fresh air in the stuffy, stupefying asmosphere which prevails on the Russian literature market…”
  • In Front of the Mirror, by Maya Mitnik. Review of educational and journalistic programs on Russian TV, and an open letter to the authors of the “School for Scandal” talk show. “I am petrified and I keep thinking: what kind of obscurantism is looming onto our country, when a person like Dunya Smirnova uses the word Atheist to stigmatize, and a celebrity like Konstantin Borovoi seems too shy to admit, 'I don't believe in God'…”

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

  • Vladimir Bogoyavlensky, “What is Secular Humanist”; “Words of Regret”. “We should write and philosophize more as to what exactly it means to be a secular Humanist, and what kind of worldview it is, instead of incessantly criticizing religion and the church, and antagonizing most of the people. It is important to defend our position - defend, but not attack!”

OUR VERNISSAGE

  • Vladimir Somov, The Phoenix Syndrome. Artist’s Comment on the Painting.