- In Memoriam of a Great Person. Academician Vitaly Lazarevich Ginzburg, Russia’s outstanding scientist and public figure, Nobel Prize laureate, passed away on the 8th of November, 2009, after a prolonged illness, at the age of 93. The nation has lost a personality who made a ponderous and unique contribution to its science, security and dignity. He was sensitive to natural science development logics and scientific inquiry strategies; he insisted on drawing a borderline between science and pseudoscience. Being himself a scientific materialist and Atheist, he was one of the first to raise his voice for freedom of conscience while Russia plunged into clericalism. This was an important and sobering fact of our social life. Vitaly Ginzburg was a member of the Russian Humanist Society. He was also among the initiators and Fund Trustees of the “Humaneness” Center for Freethought and Humanism Studies. He put his signature under the “2000 Humanist Manifesto, a Call For a New Planetary Humanism”.
- Basic Research and the Future of Russia. An open letter to the President and Prime Minister, signed by emigrant Russian scientists. “We see it as our duty to draw your attention to the catastrophic condition of the nation’s fundamental science. The situation continues to deteriorate, and the scale and intensity of this process are underestimated. In terms of science funding, Russia is in a drastic contrast to industrialized countries. Scientific brain drain happening on a large scale has been Russia’s major problem”…
- Academician Garri Abelev, RHS Vice-President. A Step Important but Hardly Sufficient. “The key reason for the degradation of science in Russia and for the en masse emigration of Russian scientists is the bureaucratic approach to funds allocation and control. It’s not even about excessive corruption. …The crucial point is complete misunderstanding of the nature of scientific research …”
- Dmitry Bayuk. Self-evacuation of Russian Science... “First, the ‘large-scale academic brain drain’ is not a problem; rather, it is a complex phenomenon resulting from multiple causes. Second, one can hardly imagine a more effective rescue strategy for Russian science than its self-evacuation, which became possible after the demise of Leonid Brezhnev” …
- Ivan Sterligov. Russian R&D: a Evolution Over Three Years. “The steady growth of funding [of Russia’s science] is not yet translated into productivity improvement, as measured in the number of patents and publications in academic journals. These numbers remain unchanged year after year, while technology/technological services export proceeds continue to increase.”
- Yury Yefremov, Zakhar Oskotsky. The Progress of Science – or a National Disaster. “Both Government authorities and big business give lip service to the importance of scientific progress and innovation, No attempt is being taken, however, to depart from the commodity-based economy model. Given our demographic situation, this is a recipe for disaster. We strongly believe that scientific and technology progress is the only way for Russia to resolve its domestic problems and be protected from the threats of the 21st century”.
RELIGION, SOCIETY, AND THE STATE
- Sergei Mozgovoi. Ideology Inculcated Under the Guise of Religious Culture. (Interviewed by Web-based publications ‘Portal-Credo.ru’ and ‘The Epoch Times’). The Head of State has announced that schools will teach the basics of “traditional” religions: Orthodox Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism. Besides, chaplains will be introduced into the armed forces. This decision is viewed by many as unconstitutional, as it proposes to artificially segregate the various ethnic communities of Russia based on the prevailing religion. This amounts to infringement upon the fundamental rights and the freedom of conscience, and goes against the principles of secular state, which might pose a threat to Russia’s integrity as a country.
THE RELEVANCE OF HUMANISM
- Valery Kuvakin. Time for Self-determination: Statements on Humanism. “…For all the rhetoric about our unique spirituality and collegiality, we still behave as a nation not really united, with a low propensity for self-determination. This is especially obvious today when it looks like we are eager to take all of the worst features of socialism and merge them with the worst that capitalism can offer. As these negative trends develop, Humanism can be a good choice, a life-enabling counterbalance to evil.
THE PEDAGOGY OF HUMANISM
- Nikolai Nikandrov, President, Russian Education Academy. For Zdravy Smysl. The Russian Education Academy has developed Secular Ethics curricula for students of school grades 1 - 11. For 7 to 10 years all the textbooks were pilot-tested in general education schools and are now proposed for validation teaching on a large-scale throughout the Russian Federation.
- Erast Kozlov. Secular Ethics at Moscow Schools as a workable alternative to the “Basics of Religious Culture” classes. “…A city-level pilot site was opened as part of the ‘Secondary School Moral Education’ project that encompassed some 50 general education schools in Moscow. Starting from September 1, 2004, those schools have been systematically teaching the basics of Secular Ethics in grades 1 through 11…”
- Moral Education: the Voice of Moscow Schools’ Directors. “The ‘Secondary School Moral Education’ program includes a number of features that protect a child’s right to free moral development and enrichment. First of all, it exposes students to moral values shared by all humanity, and does not include any controversial religious or nationalistic content…” (Yu. Rossikhin)
- Vyacheslav Meider. Teching Humanities Is the Foundation of Spiritual Safety. “…An individual advanced in Humanities is capable of comprehending his or her personal responsibility for all that is happening in the immediate community or nationwide. As you analyze the demise of empires, it becomes clear that they all failed because they were not built upon the foundation of Humanities (and even if they were, they used a wrong interpretation of Humanism)”.
LAW AND CULTURE
- Marina Kuleshova. The European Landscape as a Cultural Legacy. “…Legislative regulation cannot cover the whole variety of legal relationships within the society – in particular, those related to landscape use and development. Legislation is quite a rough tool relying on the technology of formal logic. It is often used to implement projects promoted by special interests…”
- Boris Rodoman. Sightseeing Tours Getting Clericalized in Russia. “It’s too bad when secular tourism is turned by the operator into some kind of purely religious, confession-dominated pilgrimage. And this is exactly what is happening with domestic sightseeing tourism in Russia”.
RUSSIA'S LEGACY OF HUMANISM
- Maria Khasiyeva. Kosta Khetagurov – Poet, Enlightener, Humanism. Celebrating Khetagurov’s 150th anniversary. “His worldview is …Humanism, with its ideas of benevolence, freedom and equality of all people. The pivotal idea of his work – the idea of freedom – was interpreted in a positive sense. He opposed the Anarchist and Nietzschean interpretation of freedom as the freedom of negation, immorality, revolt and destruction…”
LESSONS FOR TOMORROW
- Yury Shapiro. Re-reading Shalamov: Extracts from Memoirs by the prominent Russian surgeon. “I downloaded The Left Bank by Varlaam Shalamov from a Web-based e-library. When rereading it, I was overwhelmed by memories from more than half a century ago: Kolyma, and a huge hospital building that the regional public health authorities ‘inherited’ from the Interior Forces regiment previously based there…”
- Alexander Kruglov. Statutory Ethics and Situation Ethics. In author’s view, Statutory Ethics refers to the moral law, while Situation (Humanist) Ethics refers to a moral problem. He provides a step-by-step explanation of the difference between these two ethical attitudes. In addition, he analyzes the ethical philosophy of Joseph F. Fletcher, who invented the term ‘Situation Ethics’.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
- Thoughts about Religion and its Invasion, by Valentin Sokolov, retiree. “I am a non-militant Atheist. I just wish there were more anti-religion statements in public media. Not every publisher will print or post them. Why is the scientific community so tolerant to those outrageous attempts to push people intoto obscurantism?..’
- Spiritual Does Not Mean Religious, by Ivan Balalayev, Honored Cultural Worker of the Russian Federation. “I am concerned about the policies of the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate). Why did they usurp the authority for the ‘spiritual’ development of the individual, and monopolize the word itself?! According to the Constitution, Russia is a secular state…”
- Vladimir Bogoyavlensky. Highly Topical. “My Humanist friends, it’s our challenge now! We must spare no effort and raise our voice, again and again, in defense of secular culture and Humanism. We must be convincing enough to tip the scale towards common sense, which we see as a source of true spirituality of a civilized and humane person.”
- Vsevolod Lyashenko. My Acquaintance with Guru’s Work. A jestful and witty rendering of The Universal Theory of Everything by the widely-read author Mikhail Veller.
- When Will the Glass Be Filled Up? Elektron Dobruskin reflects on the importance of intellectual communication as a way for intelligentsia to self-organize in the face of contemporary challenges. He also reports on the initial experience with a Web-based ‘electronic’ seminar. “Internet users can now maintain intellectual communication wherever they reside…”
HUMANIST SUMMER SCHOOLS
- Yekaterina Buiko, Anna Ivanova. The Secular and the Religious – Two Images of One Culture. The International Humanist Summer School at Buffalo. International Summer School classes organized by the Center for Inquiry Transnational (Amherst, N.Y.) and the State University of New York (SUNY) took place at Buffalo, N.Y., from July 15 through August 2, 2009. A group of MSU Philosophy Department students were attending the classes.
- Fund for the Future - Continued. September 19, 2009, the “Humaneness” Center for Freethought and Humanism Studies (research and education institution) and the Russian Humanist Society celebrated the opening of the Home of Humanism, Scientific Education and Freedom of Conscience near Kolomna, Moscow region.