New trends in teaching biology in Russia

17


Discussion by: Hank Baunt
Well, I would take the liberty of raising the question how to react to the trends we are seeing here in Russia. Teaching biology is only one of the points worth mentioning. Just recently a new textbook on biology for high school was released named General Biology for 10-11 class. The first look at the book cover gives the idea which is saturating the entire volume – a nice Russian cathederal in the center surrounded with smaller pictures of birds, plants, incects… So all those were created by the generous act of God since ‘the latest scientific results have definitely proved this fact’… And so on. I wish I could attach the photo of the book cover here.

I am shocked.
But the problem is much deeper now. Without discussing further the political situation in Russia I would anyway point out that while it is becoming more conservative and less liberal the top politicians in power are loosening the darkest wings of Orthodox church which seem to serve for their needs. And this tendency shows itself in education with alarming evidence. There are facts of different kind.
In addition I would also mention the really absurd situation we see here – in mentality many people in power there is an absolutely weird combination of communist-like ideas and christian (Orthodox) terminology – though it is well known that communism dealt harshly with the church replacing religion with an alternative ideology.

17 COMMENTS

  1. So now that communist ideology is gone, the traditional Orthodox faith that was never eradicated is out of the shadows into the light, being fertilized and cultivated to serve an authoritarian state and oligarchy in the same way it served the czars. After the establishment of a democracy which has become a virtual monarchy and the looting of the wealth of the state by which somehow ended up in the hands of new oligarchs, allusions to communism or socialism must be hypocritical misdirection.

  2. So all those were created by the generous act of God since ‘the latest scientific results have definitely proved this fact’… And so on. I wish I could attach the photo of the book cover here.

    It would be useful, if you could give specific examples, with details of claims made in the text or diagrams for use in lessons.

    Ideological biology is not new in Russia! Stalin set back biology for years.

    • In reply to #2 by Alan4discussion:

      So all those were created by the generous act of God since ‘the latest scientific results have definitely proved this fact’… And so on. I wish I could attach the photo of the book cover here.

      It would be useful, if you could give specific examples, with details of claims made in the text or diagrams for use in lessons.

      Yes, I have to say I would like to know what specifically you have noticed. The book you referenced could simply be an isolated incident, and the rest of your worries seem a bit vague. What is going on in Russia, exactly? What have politicians said? Has there been any comment on the education system? What does the Orthodox church specifically do?

      Ideological biology is not new in Russia! Stalin set back biology for years.

      That would be a reference to Stalin’s appointed advisor, the utterly insane Lysenko and his bizarre ideas on genetics, yes?

      I think this was a fact of communism as a whole. Chairman Mao tried to impose agricultural policies based more on poor allegories between seeds being planted too close together and people deriving strength from each other, and the result was the worst famine in the 20th century.

  3. I shudder at the thought of even the cover of this book. A cathedral on the cover of a science text?? The fucking arrogance of these people to base their entire system on a “maybe”. When will it be reduced to the “tier” that it should be on??? God probably does not exist. Stop elevating this uncertainty to the status of facts.

    As for the actual contents of the text, I (like Alan4) would love some specifics from the book. It will probably make me crazy, but you’ve got my interest piqued.

    I am primarily concerned for the Russian students and their progress but secondarily, I am terrified that this is the potential future for the US. I know that this is a selfish (or at least self centered) concern, but Damn I see Texas potentially going down this road and it is scary.

  4. I believe the book is available online here;

    http://www.vertyanov.ru/books/vertyanov_uchebnik_po_biologii_10_11.pdf

    What’s most disturbing, is that the editor in chief is a scientist (and a State Prize laureate) from RAS (the
    Russian Academy of Science) – the leading science foundation in Russia. It’s an organization which produced numerous Nobel Prize laureates in our (secular) past. Also, the book was endorsed by other Russian scientists.

    The book is in Russian but I felt necessary to translate the foreword (page 3) into English to let you conceive the degree of non-sense and the threat to secular education in Russia. I’ll be happy to translate other excerpts, especially the most dangerous ones, if this will help drawing attention to this. See, e.g., the page 238 with the graphic illustration of the Flood as the point after which the average length of a human’s life started to decline). It’s really sad to see this happening to the country which contributed that much of the worlds body of scientific knowledge.

    The foreword:

    Dear respected reader,

    You are looking at the first biology textbook which goes beyond the materialistic perspective. We
    go back to God that was eliminated from our lives during the course of the last century.
    The last 100 years of atheism were extremely harmful for the development of biology, a number
    of other natural sciences, and the humanity as a whole. The reigning materialism led to the
    Theory of Evolution hypotheses being promoted to undisputable dogmas which contradicted the
    facts. God was replaced by the “almighty” natural selection. To a large extent, scientists are
    accountable for this substitution because one of their principal responsibilities is to bear witness
    to truth. In this respect, responsibility of a scientist may exceed that of a physician since the
    consequences of their actions may affect millions. In the last 10 years my personal perspective
    on the nature of our world and the humanity have changed dramatically and led to a firm
    belief that we all are a result of a higher creative plan. The complexity and self­adjustability of the
    living world are so high that existence of the Divine Plan appears inevitable and this leaves no
    room for randomness.
    Another reason for my conclusion regarding the existence of the Creator is the research results
    obtained by me as well as by my colleagues. They show that not just the human but also the
    ordinary biological species could not have originated via a random process. Each species is
    necessarily unique. Its main characteristics are not due to a polymorphic adaptation to the
    environment; they are determined by the monomorphic part of the genome, and random
    changes in those genes are invariably lethal. Then it follows that the living world may not be a
    result of the natural selection.
    Thorough reading of the Scriptures is all that is necessary for a firm and genuine belief in God.
    Thus, religion and the objective scientific knowledge are not contradictory, rather the opposite:
    they are perfectly compatible and complement each other. We hope that after the lengthy retreat
    from religion the society will go back to the Christian principles which were instrumental for the
    development of European culture during two thousand years.

    I wish you every success in learning biology with this book.

    Distinguished professor at the Moscow State University, Russian State Prize laureate, member
    of the Russian Academy of Sciences,

    Dr. Y. P. Altukhov

    • In reply to #5 by klinovp:

      Its main characteristics are not due to a polymorphic adaptation to the
      environment; they are determined by the monomorphic part of the genome, and random
      changes in those genes are invariably lethal. Then it follows that the living world may not be a
      result of the natural selection.
      Thorough reading of the Scriptures is all that is necessary for a firm and genuine belief in God.
      Thus, religion and the objective scientific knowledge are not contradictory, rather the opposite:
      they are perfectly compatible and complement each other. We hope that after the lengthy retreat
      from religion the society will go back to the Christian principles which were instrumental for the
      development of European culture during two thousand years.

      I wish you every success in learning biology with this book.

      Distinguished professor at the Moscow State University, Russian State Prize laureate, member
      of the Russian Academy of Sciences,

      Dr. Y. P. Altukhov

      Does anyone know what is the scientific specialism of this biology-illiterate woo-head professor? (Political science???)

      Zeuglodon

      Ideological biology is not new in Russia! Stalin set back biology for years.

      That would be a reference to Stalin’s appointed advisor, the utterly insane Lysenko and his bizarre ideas on genetics, yes?

      **Yes! **- It looks like history is repeating itself in a new ideological twist , – with a recycled grade of political muppet appointed as science professors once again!

    • Man O Man O Man O Man…
      This is bad. i mean when the fundamental mistake of thinking evolution is random is unforgivable and demonstrably wrong. Wow. It is worse than I thought and this s scary as hell. Thanks for raising my awareness on this issue. It was truly worth while.

      It seems Russia need a person like Zack Kopplin to step to the forefront…. I sincerely hope it happens. Sooner rather than later.
      In reply to #5 by klinovp:

      I believe the book is available online here;

      http://www.vertyanov.ru/books/vertyanovuchebnikpobiologii10_11.pdf

      What’s most disturbing, is that the editor in chief is a scientist (and a State Prize laureate) from RAS (the
      Russian Academy of Science) – the leading science foundation in Russia. It’s an organization which produced numerous Nobel Prize laureates in our (secular) past. Also, the book was endorsed by other Russian scientists.

      The book is in Russian but I felt necessary to translate the foreword (page 3) into English to let you conceive the degree of non-sense and the threat to secular education in Russia. I’ll be happy to translate other excerpts, especially the most dangerous ones, if this will help drawing attention to this. See, e.g., the page 238 with the graphic illustration of the Flood as the point after which the average length of a human’s life started to decline). It’s really sad to see this happening to the country which contributed that much of the worlds body of scientific knowledge.

      The foreword:

      Dear respected reader,

      You are looking at the first biology textbook which goes beyond the materialistic perspective. We
      go back to God that was eliminated from our lives during the course of the last century.
      The last 100 years of atheism were extremely harmful for the development of biology, a number
      of other natural sciences, and the humanity as a whole. The reigning materialism led to the
      Theory of Evolution hypotheses being promoted to undisputable dogmas which contradicted the
      facts. God was replaced by the “almighty” natural selection. To a large extent, scientists are
      accountable for this substitution because one of their principal responsibilities is to bear witness
      to truth. In this respect, responsibility of a scientist may exceed that of a physician since the
      consequences of their actions may affect millions. In the last 10 years my personal perspective
      on the nature of our world and the humanity have changed dramatically and led to a firm
      belief that we all are a result of a higher creative plan. The complexity and self­adjustability of the
      living world are so high that existence of the Divine Plan appears inevitable and this leaves no
      room for randomness.
      Another reason for my conclusion regarding the existence of the Creator is the research results
      obtained by me as well as by my colleagues. They show that not just the human but also the
      ordinary biological species could not have originated via a random process. Each species is
      necessarily unique. Its main characteristics are not due to a polymorphic adaptation to the
      environment; they are determined by the monomorphic part of the genome, and random
      changes in those genes are invariably lethal. Then it follows that the living world may not be a
      result of the natural selection.
      Thorough reading of the Scriptures is all that is necessary for a firm and genuine belief in God.
      Thus, religion and the objective scientific knowledge are not contradictory, rather the opposite:
      they are perfectly compatible and complement each other. We hope that after the lengthy retreat
      from religion the society will go back to the Christian principles which were instrumental for the
      development of European culture during two thousand years.

      I wish you every success in learning biology with this book.

      Distinguished professor at the Moscow State University, Russian State Prize laureate, member
      of the Russian Academy of Sciences,

      Dr. Y. P. Altukhov

  5. Altukhov’s position is clear, he is an adherent to the theology of Intelligent Design. Does this matter? Probably not!

    Before we all get bent out of shape, consider this. The bulk of the world’s scientific establishment will continue to work on those lines of research that advance scientific and industrial knowledge. That Russia chooses to teach its children something else will not cause any lasting harm except to the Russians.

    The reason that I say this is that there is always an imperative at work that trumps the scientific imperative. That is, of course, economics. The people who run industries have no interest in religious ideological debates, neither in Russia, the US or anywhere else. No money can be made from believing in Intelligent Design so ID is an economic dead-end.

    If the Russian political cohort are stupid enough to believe themselves what they are proposing to teach their children then let them. If you had access to the CEO of a company that is developing cutting edge technology in industry or defense you would get short shrift if you tried to waste their time by discussing how ID was going to help his/her company. You would get shown the door.

    Here is the unvarnished truth. Irrespective of whether you think the world is in good shape or not, we only got here because of hard science. We will get to where we are ultimately going also by using hard science. Leave the Russian and other ID wingnuts be; encourage them even because they are not any sort of competition to fear. “They ain’t going nowhere, bro”!

  6. In reply to #6 by roger@fedyk.org:

    Altukhov’s position is clear, he is an adherent to the theology of Intelligent Design. Does this matter? Probably not!

    This is a rather cynical view of education. I don’t really care if we’re speaking about Russia, Iran, or indeed the US. This helps nobody in the long run.

  7. In reply to #7 by papa lazaru:

    This is a rather cynical view of education. I don’t really care if we’re speaking about Russia, Iran, or indeed the US. This helps nobody in the long run

    I am not clear as to why my view can be regarded as cynical. The apparatus of the Russian state has authorised a textbook which promotes “Intelligent Design”. In a pseudo-democracy such as Russia little happens without ordained approval. The onus is on the Russian state and only the Russian state to provide its children with the necessary education to succeed in a competitive, cut-throat world.

    That the authorities in Moscow have chosen to blatantly promote a flawed theory as to why there is complex life in the world is only a matter for them. While we can express dismay that Russian children will be taught rubbish, the rest of the world’s children can take comfort from the fact that should they be taught things based on scientific knowledge they will be in a privileged position. As a parent I am first and foremost in favour of my children having a distinct advantage in life even though I have relatives in Russia. The plight of poorly taught Russian children is not my concern.

    In “the long run” the best educated within our current 7 billion population will be favoured and that will, over generations, benefit us all; after all isn’t that what we learn from natural selection.

    • In reply to #8 by roger@fedyk.org:

      In “the long run” the best educated within our current 7 billion population will be favoured and that will, over generations, benefit us all; after all isn’t that what we learn from natural selection.

      Are Russian children not as entitled as any others to the best education? Would the wellbeing of Russians be a threat to our (whoever we are) own wellbeing? The process of natural selection that works for genes is crudely simplistic and misleading when applied to people and nations. It is a great shame that the Russian government is restoring something like the old state-church bond of tsarist times and allowing science instruction in the Russian educational system to be contaminated by religious superstitions. Will Russia in the future be yet another country, along with Islamic countries, that pose serious problems for its own people and for the rest of the world because of religious superstitions and deficient education?

      • In reply to #9 by Garrick Worthing:

        Are Russian children not as entitled as any others to the best education? Would the wellbeing of Russians be a threat to our (whoever we are) own wellbeing?

        Garrick, the entitlements for Russian children are set by their government and by the children’s own parents. There is no agency, not even the UN that can force a change such as what we may think is desirable. We have no moral obligation nor power to change what is being done.

        Only if the powers that run Russia came to the conclusion that this pernicious nonsense had to stop would it be stopped. In the mean time we can only encourage them to come to their senses by taking the advantage that will hurt Russia the most namely to appropriate the advantage being offered for our own children.

        I was not suggesting that natural selection applies to groups only that its most successful outcome is “survival of the fittest”. Better my/our children than somebody else’s.

        As to how we can calculate a threat to our own well being, our governments only operate in the world of realpolitik. In the calculus of global politics all things matter.

  8. You are looking at the first biology textbook which goes beyond the materialistic perspective.

    Nope! We are looking at pseudo-science crap, which has nothing to do with teaching biology!

    We go back to God that was eliminated from our lives during the course of the last century.

    Once the head is in the woo-bucket, any resemblance to scientific material reality ceases!

    The last 100 years of atheism were extremely harmful for the development of biology, a number of other natural sciences, and the humanity as a whole.

    Gazzzzoiiing!!!! Liars for Jebus drivel on!!!

    The reigning materialism led to the Theory of Evolution hypotheses being promoted to undisputable dogmas which contradicted the facts.

    This idiot does not know a scientific theory from a hypothesis, and certainly is totally clueless about “facts”. (I suppose “woo-facts” or “pseudo-facts” can clearly be seen through “faith-blinkers”!)

    God was replaced by the “almighty” natural selection.

    Yes! In science books at any rate. In the real world (unlike natural selection), gods never existed in the first place!

    To a large extent, scientists are accountable for this substitution because one of their principal responsibilities is to bear witness to truth.

    They certainly are! — It’s a shame that none of them have been employed to write or edit this book!

    Still that’s what happens when you put politi-religi-clots and charge of educational materials.
    They do seem to be flogging the “posturing authority” credentials beloved of deceptive creationists!

    Dr. Y. P. Altukhov – member of the Russian Academy of Sciences,

    Are you sure it wasn’t, “member of the Russian Academy of Seances??”

    • In reply to #13 by Alan4discussion:

      Are you sure it wasn’t, “member of the Russian Academy of Seances??”

      Well, I did some more research on this and interesting stuff comes up. In fact, Dr. Altukhov, who allegedly wrote the foreword, actually died in 2006. Furthermore, while he’s known for criticism of the modern evolutionary synthesis, he never rejected the theory of evolution. What’s most interesting, the author, Vertyanov, already tried, unsuccessfully, to accredit the ideas of the Intelligent Design to Altukhov back in 2006 (same month when Altukhov died). That happened during the legal case known as the “Schreiber case” (when a schoolgirl tried to sue the Ministry of Education for not teaching Intelligent Design along with evolution). They lost.

      So it seems the foreword could have been falsified in a particularly cynical way. I’ll write to the RAS to see if they decide to launch an investigation into this.

      • In reply to #14 by Pavel Klinov:

        In reply to #13 by Alan4discussion:

        Are you sure it wasn’t, “member of the Russian Academy of Seances??”

        What’s most interesting, the author, Vertyanov, already tried, unsuccessfully, to accredit the ideas of the Intelligent Design to Altukhov back in 2006 (same month when Altukhov died). That happened during the legal case known as the “Schreiber case” (when a schoolgirl tried to sue the Ministry of Education for not teaching Intelligent Design along with evolution). They lost.

        So it seems the foreword could have been falsified in a particularly cynical way. I’ll write to the RAS to see if they decide to launch an investigation into this.

        Thanks for that! It looks like my “Liars for Jebus suspicions”, were justified, with the professor’s credentials being usurped by cretinists looking for a badge of authority for their drivel!

  9. In my opinion the education systems around the world need to be properly funded. RD mentioned he agrees there’s been a failure in the system in not making more students scientifically literate evan without the problem of early religious indoctrination this would be the case. What I don’t think RD realises is that science is not an intuitively easy subject for a lot of students to grasp, at least not to a high level. Unfortunately a lot if not all schools have apart from a lack of funding, a lack of inspirational teachers who can make it fun, interesting etc.. Classes tend to be a ‘one size fits all’ affair with the academic battlers left behind and only the moderately to highly gifted ones really engaged. The “magic of reality” is only going to be appreciated when most adults are in a position of reasonable financial security, so therefore the economic and political systems are to blame. It’s hard to ponder the ‘magic of reality’ when there’s so much chaos such as crime, wars, greed and poverty around. Education is one thing that needs fixing but so does the rest if the system.

  10. I think, OP should to apologize for such misinformation. In Russia everyone could write their own biology textbook. But it need approval from Ministry of Education in order to be used in state schools. Ministry of Education rejected to approve it multiple times. Also there was a very harsh reaction on that book from scientists, atheists, secularists and even on some religious sites (http://www.kadashi.ru/mb/12/muravnik.html).
    Also such story is already several years old, so it isn’t really relevant now. Of course, there is possibility, that creationists will try to push their agenda in schools, but now all pretty quiet.

    Most of other posters there also shouldn’t belive in anything they read without any confirmation. Now it isn’t look very different from what religious belivers do.

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