"Scepsis" №2: Summary

We are glad to welcome you in our second issue, which marks the development not only of the ideas and topics of the previous one but also of the approach to the problems and events we cover.

First of all, the vagueness of the concept "skepticism" itself in the minds of our contemporaries and the difference in its understanding by various groups and trends of both professionals and laymen requires some explanation and specifying. That is provided by Prof. Muraviov's "Skepticism and skeptical attitude" where the line is drawn between skepticism as a kind of doubt or the refusal to beg the question, skepticism as research and search for truth, skepticism as mentioned in everyday conversation. The article proves to be the key to the objectives and goals of skeptical movement in general.

Secondly, this issue sees the next part of the fundamental series by Professor Yuri Semionov, in which the author dwells on the origin of religion (namely on prehistoric beliefs and superstitions which were taken over by magic rites reflected in their turn in modern religious rituals). The other article by the same author entitled "Scepticism and Ideological Fashion in Science" is focused on the problem of "creating scientific idols", when well-known people of the scientific world become living classics due to some promotion activities similar to those PR campaigns which are launched to make popular the name of this or that politician or pop-star. It becomes quite clear for the reader of Prof. Semionov's article that the names of Russian and Western philosophers like O. Spengler, P.A. Sorokin, A.J. Toinby, L. Wittgenstein, K. Popper, N.A. Berdyaev, L. von Mises, L.N. Gumilev which substituted the names of Marx and Lenin in the minds and speeches of post-Soviet scientists are simply idolized. Though the author mostly refers his accusations to Russian scientific society, the article can be relevant for the foreign reader as well, for the ongoing processes are similar anywhere in the world where public figures are involved.

Since the article about Pushkin by Prof. Muraviov received a response from a philologist M. Edelstein, we have got an opportunity to watch closely the flaring up polemics in the "Battlefield" section. It is now the whole scope of current scientific methodology and the difference between scientific and non-scientific approach in modern research work that are analysed by Prof. Muraviov in his answer to M. Edelstein's criticism.

Great part of the quarterly is taken by various sorts of book reviews: the "Commenting on" section which was designed especially for the purpose reviewing introduces to the reader the analysis of a popular scientific book series "Eureka!" which for decades has been enjoying the acknowledgement of those interested in sciences. However nowadays the state of affairs in that field sometimes leaves much to be desired and to prove that the "Scepsis" grades the books recently published in the series according to their real scientific value.

The articles grouped under the title "Regraissance" (the analytical part of the "Lie Detector" section which grew into an independent column and started a life of its own) though also have to do with books (mostly school textbooks) actually touch upon the matters which inevitably come to the fore when in a state declared secular the education (especially school education) is mingled with religion in its clerical form. The efforts of the Russian Orthodox Church to impose its outlook and dogmas on the adolescent minds are becoming more and more palpable. Therefore we are not going to shift the focus of our attention from the process in our further issues either and from now on education is going to remain the topical problem of this section until the name "Regraissance" is no longer appropriate for it.

Needless to say the Russian Orthodox Church does not restrict its activities to the sphere of education only. It also turns to other areas of social life like healthcare and the preservation of historical monuments. What this unwanted care leads to you can read about in the first two articles of the "Lie Detector" section.

The third article here virtually embodies the title of the section in which it is placed: the feature by a sociologist A. Tarasov uncovers the attempts of the government and mass-media to conceal the student protest movement emerging in Russia and sporadically revealing itself in the outbursts of unrest in various towns and cities all over the country (the capital of Moscow itself not being an exception). The article is likely to become a revelation for the Russian reader aware of social disturbance in Western countries, but hardly expecting Russian students to raise a similar wave of protest.

In the interview with a prominent social psychologist professor Dr. Igor S. Kon both the problems of education and the current state of affairs in the country are discussed and the conclusion to be made is that the deterioration of the educational system appears the result of a deliberate process which the "Scepsis"'s interlocutor compares with genocide.

Alongside with this interview the issue contains another one - an Oxford University professor and outstanding evolutionist Richard Dawkins, the author of a dozen popular scientific books in genetics is interviewed by Frank Miele, a correspondent of the "Skeptic" magazine, our American counterparts. And a striking essay by R. Dawkins "Sadly, an Honest Creationist" (taken from the "Free Inquiry" magazine and published on the permission kindly granted by the author himself) can serve a weighty argument in the never-ending debates between creationists and evolutionists tell the reader a lot about the limits and extends of "virtuosity in belief", when a person rather tends to stick to what he or she is accustomed to believe notwithstanding all the evidence against.

The sarcastic "Yuck!" section of the quarterly is taken this time the life story of an Ataman Kozolup in which a careful and shrewd reader will undoubtedly recognize a parody on the hagiography composed right after the canonization of the last Russian tsar Nicolas II.

Now, for those who would like to have a closer look at the articles published in the second issue of the "Scepsis" quarterly, the web-site is now available.