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Letter to World Scientific Community from Russian TZM Chapter

Обновлено: 07.12.2014

На русском

Dear colleagues,

While worldwide science continues to evolve rapidly amid stunning scientific achievements of our time, Russia is in danger of returning to the rule of the religious world, not only among the general public, but to a large extent among the scientific community. At the beginning of the 21st century, the country began clericalization of education.

Under the current legislation of the Russian Federation, the state education system is separated from all religious organizations. However, especially in recent times, we have seen the most striking evidence of the actual intervention of the religious institutions in the state educational system, with the tacit connivance of the authorities. The scientific community in Russia makes these facts known to the public, government and religious organizations, and declares them as inadmissible and destructive for the state education system. In 2007, the socalled "Letter of ten academics" was published, with two Nobel Prize winners adding their signature to the effort [1].

More recently, clericalization actively began to spread to universities. The most disturbing fact for the scientific community was the inclusion of Theology in the list of disciplines with the support (or tolerance) of the former Education Minister Fursenko and Deputy Michael Strikhanov, and then later, with the active assistance of Strikhanov, the Rector of National Research Nuclear University (NRNU). Such actions made possible the opening of a Department of Theology at a school that is primarily focused on developing engineering physicists.

Intrusion of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) in NRNU began three years ago. Then the symbol of the university a monument to the student has been replaced with an Orthodox cross. Thus, it was disrespectful to the many students and faculty at NRNU. They were outraged by this "churching" of the educational institution, but resistance was suppressed by threatening expulsion from the university and dismissal from the graduate school [2].

The initiators of the opening of the department are known for repeatedly making statements that contradict science. For example, they insist that the modern subject of physics is directly related to God and that it should be merged with Christian religion. Alexander Bolozdynya, the principal of the Center of Nuclear medicine at Moscow Engineering Physics Institute stated: "The ideas of the beginning of the Universe, the finiteness of time and possibility of complete lack of it have all been mentioned in Holy Scriptures three and a half thousand years ago, and now all modern science is based upon these ideas" [3]. Archpriest Alexander Borisov stated: "The Theology Department in one of the largest universities that teaches physicists... will only hasten the finding of balance between science and religion" [4].

Furthermore, forcing thousands of years of old ideology onto the soontobe physicists is not the biggest woe, as far as Russian Orthodox Church is concerned. It is quite possible that the university's buildings themselves will be passed over to the church for ownership, as happened with Russian State University for the Humanities and some other universities in Russia. Several members of Russian Academy of Sciences have made an open statement to the government (as of today, 91 members of the highest scientific organisations in Russian Federation have signed this statement). According to the academicians, "the infiltration of state education by the church can hardly be classified other than actions outside the law."

Nevertheless, Kirill, Patriarch of Russian Orthodox Church, isn't hiding his intentions to continue forcing into application more departments of Theology that will assist in spreading domination of the church onto other Russian universities. "We need to develop and apply a perspective plan of organisational and financial application of Theological education as a unified system”, he said. “It has to be a cooperative effort of representatives of the governmental machine including members of the educational bodies, research and education community, benefactors and the Church itself" [5]. And since July 1, 2013 the blasphemy law even allows for prison sentences of up to three years for those who offend Russian citizens' religious feelings.

Dear colleagues! We sincerely hope that your solidarity and support will allow us to at least slow down the absorption of Russian science and our state education system by the Russian Orthodox Church.

In particular, we expect official statements concerning the given letter from all interested individuals and organisations. In light of the current situation, we cannot disagree with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe who proclaimed, "We are witnessing the propagation of a mindset which challenges wellestablished knowledge about nature, evolution, our origin and our place in the universe" [6].

References:

  1. Russian Orthodox Church policy: consolidation or collapse of the country? / / Novaya Gazeta, 23 Jul 2007; Letter 1,700 scientists: Open Letter of scientists to President of the Russian Federation / / Science and Life, 25 Apr 2008, http://old.novayagazeta.ru/data/2007/kentavr03/00.html
    In english: Open letter to the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir V. Putin from the Members of the Russian Academy of Sciences Academicians' letter, http://scepsis.net/eng/articles/id_8.php
  2. Kurchatov also prayed / / Lenta.ru, 23 Oct 2012; Sacrednuclear alliance / / Russian Reporter, 18 Oct 2012, http://lenta.ru/articles/2012/10/23/mifi/
  3. Expert: science and religion are not opposites / Utro Rossii // TV channel Rossiya1, 25 Oct 2012, http://www.vesti.ru/doc.html?id=941986
  4. Between science and religion // Rosbalt, 09 Nov 2012, http://www.rosbalt.ru/style/2012/11/09/1056728.html
  5. Address of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill at the meeting "theology in the universities: the interaction of church, state and society" // Official site of the Russian Orthodox Church, 28 Nov 2012, http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/2621006.html
  6. The dangers of creationism for Education / Resolution number 1580 (2007) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe / / Novaya Gazeta, 31 Jul 2008, http://old.novayagazeta.ru/data/2008/kentavr13/03.html?print=201217101305

Additional materials:

1. In MEPhI opened theology chair http://ru-facts.com/news/view/6680.html

2. Metropolitan Hilarion’s (head of the Theology Department in the NRNU MEPhI) propositions, which allow to make clear conclusions about his view of secular society and humanism: “The secular, worldly, anti-churchly and anti-clerical orientation of modern humanism is obvious. It is precisely because the humanist ideology is acquiring increasingly clearer characteristics of militant secularism that the conflict between it and religion becomes ever more similar to a battle for survival - a battle not unto life, but unto death”, http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles5/HilarionLiberalism.php

“Under the influence of liberal ideas and secular moral standards, we must fear that we may lose the spiritual and moral standards that have sustained the Christian church over many centuries. When one or another Christian community revises the theological or moral basis of Christianity in order to make itself more ‘contemporary’ or more ‘politically correct’, this is a direct route to the loss of its spirituality”.

"...while traditional Christians, I believe, will consolidate their forces in order to protect the faith and moral teaching which the Lord gave, the Apostles preached and the Fathers preserved". http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles8/Hilarion-Liberal-Christianity-Will-Not-Survive-For-A-Long- Time.php

3. Members of the Russian Academy of Science addressing the Theology Department at the National Research Nuclear University (Moscow, Russia)

The opening of the Theology Department at NRNU on the 15th October, 2012 (www.mephi.ru/content/news/1387/17482/?sphrase_id=203504) has been perceived by scientists and professors as a symbolic event showing the general tendency of ever growing clericalism of Russian society. Therefore, this fact is all the more disturbing. Russia is a secular state, and it is remarkable that most of the world's religions and all the main Christian confessions are represented in this country. The establishment of a theology department at a state institute of higher education under the direction of a priest of the Orthodox Church contradicts both the Constitution of the Russian Federation and common sense. In other countries, such departments are formed either in private universities, or to honour the tradition in those, which were established in Medieval times for the training of ministers of religion. The opening of such a department at one of the contemporary polytechnic colleges (established in 1942) is in conflict with such international practice and is absurd. Nuclear security cannot be guaranteed with the help of theology; nor is faith required to develop nuclear technology. What is needed is a strict scientific approach, the development of which is the most important task of higher education.

Issues of education in the humanities are successfully addressed by the present Philosophy and Sociology Departments. Introduction of theology at an institute of higher education provokes indignation amongst the majority of scientists and teachers in Russia. А historic example may be given that when the system of Communist party bodies and Komsomol was set up at state institutions based on the Constitution of the Soviet Union (Article 6). There is no need to mention the outcomes of such a decision. Therefore, clerical intrusion into state educational system can only be classified as a violation of law.

4. Reuter news item about incident in Darwin Museum in Moscow. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/18/us-russia-evolution-protest-idUSBRE92H0WU20130318

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