Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Putin Backs ‘Orthodox Science,’ Some of Whose Adepts Say ‘Prayer Kills Microbes,’ St. Petersburg Journalist Reports

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 16 – Organizations which maintain that science and Orthodox Christianity must be combined now exist in almost all major Russian cities and enjoy the support of Vladimir Putin even though some of their claims strike most scholars as completely false, Elena Rotkevich of the Gorod-2012 portal says.

            There has been a Union of Orthodox Scholars in Russia since 2003. It involves many in the academic community and hosts regular “scientific conferences.”  And it has its own journal (Vestnik Pravoslanykh Uchenykh), websites and radio programs (gorod-812.ru/chem-zanimayutsya-pravoslavnyie-uchenyie-kak-im-pomogaet-putin/).

            But they would not enjoy the attention they now receive, Rotkevich suggests, were it not for the support that Putin has provided in various ways to members of the group, leading some to assume that they have his blessing and that they can insist that others defer to them much as communist scholars did in Soviet times.

            That would appear to open the possibility for a new wave of Lysenkoism, a term that refers to the Soviet scholar Stalin supported because Trofim Lysenko claimed to get results arising from the inheritance of acquired characteristics that were congruent with Marxism-Leninism even though no independent scholar was able to reproduce what he did.   

            Some Orthodox scholars are focused on using standard scientific procedures to investigate religious objects such as icons.  But others seek to combine religion and science in more radical ways, arguing that prayer can kill the microbes that cause illnesses and other things most scientists find implausible or examples of the worst kind of obscurantism.

            The commission for combatting pseudo-science of the Russian Academy of Sciences has “frequently characterized such ‘Orthodox discoveries’ as anti-scientific” and as encouraging mysticism and superstition. The head of the commission, for example, once called the work of the Orthodox scientist on the impact of prayer on microbes utter nonsense.

            But Sergey Dyatlov, a professor at the St. Petersburg State Economic University, says that such wholesale judgments about Orthodox science are wrong.  “If an individual is Orthodox and a scholar, he is an Orthodox scholar.” There are many such people, and the way they combine the two varies widely.

            An economist by training, Dyatlov says that he has published many articles and monographs about “the Orthodox foundations of Russian economics, statehood and a monography, Christianity and Islam about Economics which argues that the Bible provides a guide to scientific research albeit “in code.” 

            According to the scholar, “Holy Scriptures contains within itself a universal methodology on which all scientific methodology is based. Because at firs there was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God. And God created the word. And what is a word? A defined information structure, the essence of which is an information function.”

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