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Saint Petersburg Branch of the Russian Humanist Society
"Zdraviy Smysl" ("Common Sense") Magazine Elected Articles
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Issue 45

EDITOR’S CORNER

  • Valery Kuvakin. Orthodox Christian Raiders. “I am strongly convinced that the church’s appetite is growing. In the long run, they want all our schools, all our defense forces, all our souls, and all of Russia. This ‘Orthodox-style takeover’ practice is doomed to failure, because the Russian Orthodox Church seems to be inept to change, unwilling to draw lessons from history and to take life as it is in reality”.

OPEN ADDRESS

  • ROC Policy: National Consolidation or Disintegration? Address to President Vladimir Putin signed by ten members of the Russian Academy of Science. “We observe with mounting concern the continuous clericalization of the Russian society, as the church is penetrating aggressively into all spheres of social life. Constitution of the Russian Federation proclaims secular nature of our state and the principle of separation of church from the public education system…”

DOCUMENTS AND COMMENTS

  • Valery Kuvakin, “Address of the Ten”: The Facts and the Fuss Over Academicians’ Case. In the period between the publication of the Open Address and President Putin’s statement confirming his preference for secular state, Russian media were flooded with unprecedented numbers of responses, polemics, TV and radio debates, etc. But in fact none of the opponents offered any essential arguments relevant to the issues raised in the Address… “However, the address really carries a deep and important message, posing the fateful to-be-or-not-to-be question for Russia…”

WHAT IS HUMANISM?

  • Paul Kurtz, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo, founder and Chairman of the Center for Inquiry-Transnational, former co-president of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU): Moral is Natural. It is clear that rapid global changes today point to the need for a new Planetary Humanism, one that transcends the national, ethnic, racial and religious barriers of the past. We need to recognize that every person on the planet is equal in dignity and value, no matter what his or her geographic location or political ideology. Humanism is able to find common ethical ground upon which we can stand, shared ideals and values, based on science, reason, and humanist ethics.

SCIENCE AND SOCIETY

  • In Defense of Science. Foreword to Newsletter No 2 by the RAS Commission Against Pseudoscience and Falsification of Scientific Research (Executive Editor, Academician Eduard Kruglyakov). The issue is focused on the recent events associated with the adoption of the new RAS bylaws, and successful repudiation of another bureaucrats’ attack on science; the first “monkey trial” ever in Russia; Ten Academicians’ open address to the President concerning the clericalization of state; and news from the world of anti-science.

RELIGION IN MODERN WORLD

  • Yevgeny Krotkov, Belief and Unbelief: How to Avoid a Conflict? “The standoff between ‘ardent supporters’ of faith and those who are religiously indifferent or skeptical has not resulted in a defeat of political forces which used to force disbelief through ideological terror and physical violence; instead, the outcome is the intricate mimicry of Communist nomenklatura creeping into the government hierarchy, and the anti-freethought campaign of this old, recamouflaged alliance…”

EXISTENCIES OF HUMANISM

  • Death and Immortality as Manifestations of the Human. Excerpts from Vladimir Barulin’s book Socio-Philosophical Anthropology. “…Because the human being and his social world are interrelated in a fundamental way, the problem of human death also reveals itself in a number of perspectives. These are what I want to talk about…”
  • Valery Finogentov, Is It Humane to Promise Life Eternal? “The life of a human being does not, generally, become meaningless with his death. Death only stops the living individual from realizing new meanings. Incidentally, the death of any given person may be the realization of a certain, perhaps very important, meaning… The present is not invalidated by the future – it is a value in itself…”

FAITH AND REASON

  • The Physics of Sole. Dmitry Manin argues that, “just by observing the body, it is possible to reveal whether its movements are determined by physical reasons only, or there is something else pushing its ‘buttons’ which is located outside the material world… And if so, the hopes for peaceful coexistence between science and religion are futile. Religion will not tolerate its claims being subject to confirmation by science as a supreme authority…”

SECULAR WORLDVIEW: IN SEARCH OF MEANING

  • Back to Reason. Thoughts About Science, Religion, and Modern Culture, by Pavel Klevtsov (continued from previous issue). “The only genuine lie is fear. Worldview founded on fear is a lie in any event.” “The only argument of religion is fear. And fear cannot be an argument. Here is the question: if fear is completely abandoned, will there still be a God?”

HUMANISM AND EVOLUTIONISM

  • Richard Dawkins, What Use is Religion? Free Inquiry magazine, V. 24, No 5, Aug-Sept. 2004. (Russian translation by Leonid Yaroslavsky.) “Darwinian selection sets up childhood brains with a tendency to believe their elders. It sets up brains with a tendency to imitate, hence indirectly to spread rumors, spread urban legends, and believe religions. But given that genetic selection has set up brains of this kind, they then provide the equivalent of a new kind of nongenetic heredity, which might form the basis for a new kind of epidemiology, and perhaps even a new kind of nongenetic Darwinian selection. I believe that religion is one of a group of phenomena explained by this kind of nongenetic epidemiology, with the possible admixture of nongenetic Darwinian selection. If I am right, religion has no survival value for individual human beings, nor for the benefit of their genes. The benefit, if there is any, is to religion itself”.

ESSAIS

  • Yevgeny Glushakov. Hangover for the Feasting of Others. “They are called ‘bomzh’ [w/o residence]; they are dirty and clad in rags. How many of them are swarming near alcohol stores and stalls? How many in a city? Nationwide? What are they – refuse of humanity, slag of civilization, or its excrements?.. Or are they human beings, just like the rest of us, only belonging to the most disadvantaged and suffering part of the society?”

BOOK REVIEW

  • Lev Fontalin. Scientist and Time. Remarks on Sketches of Academic Life by Garry Abelev [member of the Russian Academy of Science, RHS Vice-President]. “G. Abelev wrote a good and much-needed book. He wrote it with the precision of a meticulous scientist, with that careful attention to ethical problems which has always been in demand. This book is a document of history which preserved for the posterity the painful experience of our generation, its mistakes and fallacies, disillusions, crushing defeats and modest victories. It is a document perpetuating the memory of those who are no longer with us. He deserves our deepest appreciation for that”.
  • Makes No Sense to Argue, but Still… Garry Abelev responding to L. Fontalin’s review.

IN MY UNDERSTANDING…

  • About Secular Humanists. Alexei Zaikov attempts to clarify the terms “secular”, “Humanist”, and “secular Humanist”. “Humanist is a humane person, someone who gives priority to the benefit of fellow human beings; one who thinks about, and contributes to, improving the conditions of their (hence his own!) harmonious development; one who respects human dignity and that which can be recognized as the highest value – their (and his own!) life…”

PROJECTS

  • The Design Law. Anatoly Donshin (Moscow Region Branch of the Russian Designers Union), introducing draft Federal Law “On Design Activities in the Russian Federation”.

SUMMER EVENTS

  • Vera Trofimova & Daria Medvedeva. July: In the Center for Inquiry Transnational. From 3rd to 31st of July, 2007, the CFI (Amherst, N.Y.), was hosting the Humanist Summer School. Once again Paul Kurtz, outstanding philosopher and CFI Chair, brought together a group of trainees – mostly free-thinkers, skeptics, agnostics, and just restless individuals seeking personal moral progress. “Each of us could give a serious thought to their own life, rethink our priorities and identify new goals. We are genuinely grateful for this wonderful experience, and we hope we will never forget the lessons we learned from living and studying in the U. S. …”
  • Maria Ryabova. Summer School Retreat: Moscow – Suzdal - Moscow. The 4th International Humanist Summer School which took place in the city of Suzdal from July 30 through August 11, 2007, was dedicated to “Humanism, Freedom of Conscience, and Scientific Worldview”. The Summer School was a cooperative effort of the RHS Center for Inquiry, the Moscow State University’s Philosophy Department, and the Center for Inquiry-Transnational (Amherst, New York).
  • RHS Report and Election Conference. The Russian Humanist Society, an inter-regional NGO for the advancement of Humanism, held its conference on August 9, 2007 within the framework of the Suzdal Summer school. The conference was attended by members of nine regional RHS branches. “Out goal is to help people appreciate their spontaneous Humanism, primarily by way of enlightenment and creation of relevant educational programs…”
  • Human Nature and Humanism. Lyudmila Andreyeva’s report of the international academic conference “Human Nature and Humanism: the Anthropological Dimension of Technogenic Civilization” hosted by the Vladimir State Pedagogical University on September 28–29, 2007. Papers submitted to the conference reflect a broadening scope of problems tackled and our deeper comprehension of Humanism, as new aspects and approaches to Humanist studies are identified, and the Humanist worldview as such commands more public interest.

LITERARY PAGES

  • Chess, Prizes, Money, by Mikhail Beilin, Merited Master of Sports and world champion Mikhail Botvinnik’s second. “Is money good for chess, or is it bad? As talented chess players earn money, they can afford time for self-improvement, and make more progress while at the same time popularizing the game. But there is another side to the coin. Money speeds up the competition process… The ‘times is money’ principle prevails, while the creative potential is weakened…”

REJOINDERS AND LETTERS

  • Nuclear-Spiritual Shield in the Name of Rev. Seraphim of Sarov? Another WMD blessing by Patriarch Alexy II. “And what is God, who is one God for all, supposed to do if the enemy has his nuclear shield blessed in the same way? Are we left to rely on that other state being truly secular?...” – comment by Alexander Loktev.
  • “The Warmth of Understanding…” by Anatoly Gerasimov. “A free, civilized student whose mind is not befogged by religion should not be sharing desk with one who has been brainwashed by it…”