Libmonster ID: COM-649
Author(s) of the publication: B. YUDIN →
Share this article with friends
by Corresponding Member of the RAS Academy of Sciences, Boris YUDIN, Acting Director, RAS Institute of Man
In January 2001 the RAS Institute of Man will be marking its tenth birthday. And there are hundreds and even thousands of centers and research organizations in various countries which are engaged in the studies of man and various aspects of human activities. This area of research is represented on a broad scale and in many facets in Russian science. Suffice it to say that studies in this field are conducted by many centers of the Russian Academy, including the institutes of general genetics; molecular biology; of the human brain, higher nervous activity and neurophysiology; psychology; ethnology and anthropology as well as many schools of higher learning. But still and all, our Institute takes a unique place of its own in this list. It was founded for comprehensive and interdisciplinary studies and the supertask before its staff has been to rally the efforts of representatives of natural and social sciences and humanities in order to work out and implement a program of studies providing an organic blend of the natural-biological and socio-cultural aspects of human activities and existence.
The idea of setting up a research center of this kind has had a long prehistory in Russian science. The first attempt of this kind was made in the late 1920s-early 1930s and the problem was put on the agenda by people like the celebrated neurologist and psychiatrist Professor Vladimir Bekhterev and the famous writer Maxim Gorky The latter, incidentally, voiced the idea of pooling together science, arts and social work in pursuit of a general task of the studies and development of man. At that time, however, the idea of assuming such a comprehensive approach to the problem was not translated into practice. The only, although very tangible practical result was the establishment in 1933 (on the initiative of Maxim Gorky) of the All-Union Institute of Experimental Medicine. The problem was again put on the agenda in the mid-1960s, but again there followed no concrete results. Finally, it caught the public eye in the 1980s, and in 1980 a Scientific Council was set up at the Presidium of
what was then the USSR Academy of Sciences. It covered "Philosophical and Social Problems of Science and Technology" and included a Section on "Comprehensive Studies of Man". In July 1981, Academician Nikolai Dubinin, a geneticist, sent a letter to Mikhail Suslov, Member of the Politburo of the Soviet Communist Party Central Committee, suggesting the establishment of an inter-departmental center called "Institute of Problems of Man" which would be engaged in the studies of socio- biological problems in this field. But the idea failed to "curry favour" with the powers that be.
It was only in the beginning of 1989 that an All-Union Interdepartmental Center for studies of man was set up at the USSR Academy of Sciences Presidium on the initiative of Academician Ivan Frolov. Our Institute was set up within its structure three years later. Academician Frolov was appointed its director-a post which he held to the end of his life (November 1999). In accordance with his general concept the Institute was established as a compact center of interdisciplinary studies, organizing and conducting comprehensive studies of a wide range of associated problems.
The areas of studies conducted at our Institute are determined by what we call general academic tasks and also research problems on the agenda of the RAS Department of Philosophy, Sociology, Psychology and Law. From 1996 to 1998, for example, we took part in a study program of the Department under the general title of "Social, Political and Spiritual Renovation of Society: Analysis and Forecasts". Since 1999 the Institute has been conducting studies under the Federal Program "Russia and the World on the Verge of the 21st Century". Within it our experts have been conducting a program of research under the general title "Comprehensive Studies of Man: Natural-Biological, Sociocultural and Ethnic- Humanitarian Problems".
Within the range of these studies we give priority to the theoretical elaboration and practical applications of the concept of human potential. We have formulated what we call an integrated system of criteria which make it possible to formulate the possibilities of self-implementation of every individual. This depends on the natural-biological factors (above all the state of a person's health); economic conditions; the level of education and prospects for raising it; social conditions which make it possible for an individual to translate his potentialities into life to a lesser or greater extent; the state and development of science and technology, such as the advent of new technologies which broaden our opportunities, but often also putting barriers in the way of self-implementation (self- realization). This paves the way to building systems of quantitative parameters required for an assessment of the on-going socio- economic and scientific and technical processes, individual technologies (including social ones), of certain solutions in their, so to say, human dimension, that is what kind of an impact - negative or positive - are they producing and will be producing upon the life of concrete individuals.
Practical tests of these concepts are being conducted in conjunction with various regional and local organizations. And the Institute not only provides an assessment of the level of the human potential of some particular region, but specifies proposals for its development and effective applications.
Institute scientists are formulating methods of assessment of what we call the cultural component of the human potential-something which is especially important for Russia which is in possession of a very rich cultural legacy which is far from being taken full advantage of. Our scholars also assess prospects of formulating an index characterizing the dependence between the potential for development and the self-realization of an individual and to what extent Ms rights are guaranteed and whether or not he can achieve their implementation.
Another priority area of research is development of the concept of intellectual potential. Related to a country, it determines the possibilities of its innovative progress, naturally enough with the presence of a fitting economic base (incidentally, this is an acute and topical problem for Russia because the level of its intellectual potential can ensure the formation and functioning of a most powerful national system of innovations, which has so far not been taken full advantage of).
Our experts have identified the major risk factors to which people's physical and mental health are exposed and also the conditions influencing people's adaptation to the social infrastructure, their readiness for family life and bringing up children and, finally, factors influencing the psychological competence of an individual. The results of these studies provide a conceptual and methodological base for what we call humanitarian expert assessment, its objectives and tasks. One of the first examples thereof has been an analysis of school curricula in the field of humanities. This has been carried out by an interdisciplinary working group, and deliberately selected as experts were not professionals, but persons voicing social needs for the future with respect to the content of humanitarian education which will be needed for secondary school graduates in 10, 15 and even 20 years.
Another example-comprehensive analysis of the broadly used in this country methods of psychodiagnostics and testing. Expert assessment of these methods conducted at the Institute have revealed a number of serious problems associated with their uncontrolled applications. Our experts have suggested legislative norms and measures for the prevention of some undesirable (often hazardous) consequences of such practices.
An undisputed, although still insufficiently assessed, feature of the 20th-century culture and science has been the cultural revolution. It has led to the formation of both-new practices and a new field of knowledge with an asso-
ciated methodology which is different from the natural-scientific and scientific-technical ones. And the humanitarian disciplines (like semiotics, humanitarian psychology or culturology) have become separated from the social sciences to which we habitually attribute sociology and politology.
Present-day humanitarian studies and development, as different from traditional forms, are clearly oriented to, and practically intertwined with our state, cooperative or communitarian scientific- practical programs. And more often than not what we are dealing with now is the formulation of a whole set of humanitarian strategies and technologies. Practically oriented studies of this kind at our Institute are based on what we call humanitarian- anthropological methodology which is also being developed here. This, in its turn, is being formed at the junction of philosophical anthropology and humanitarian psychology on the one hand and of philosophy and sociology of culture, humanitarian culturology and psychology of culture on the other.
Our Institute has been the first research center in this country which has addressed the problems of bioethics*. We focused our attention on the ethical and legal aspects of the uses of vaccines, transplantology, life-supporting therapies, new reproductive technologies, human genetics (including genetic testing, screening, diagnostics and therapy), protection of the participants in biomedical experiments, cloning of man, research and therapeutic applications of embrional stem cells. All of these things have provided one of the theoretical foundations for the development in Russia of what we call ethical expert assessment aimed at the protection of the health, right and dignity of individuals involved in such experiments.
Since the appearance of the cloned ship Dolly in England in 1998 studies were launched into the associated ethical and legal problems and our Institute has offered its own recommendations. They can be summed up as follows: first, it is ethically unacceptable (at least today) to produce human organisms by cloning with the transplantation of somatic cell cores; secondly, there should not be a total ban on cloning research. This approach provided the basis for the draft of our federal law "On Temporary Prohibition of the Cloning of Man" endorsed by the Government in July 2001 and recommended for the adoption by the State Duma.
Our Institute devotes considerable attention to studies within the framework of the "Human Genom" scientific and technical program. Work has been started on the project of developing personal genetic passports (i.e. genetic identification of individuals). This involves not only scientific and technical, but also ethical and legal issues! It is they which are primarily in the focus of attention of our researchers.
One promising areas of research of our institute is the development of what we call the concept of historisophical personology - a discipline dealing with the empirical studies of historical types of personality, its role in history This work calls for combining interdisciplinary analysis with the principles of philosophical anthropology whose object is man with the whole range of his multifarious qualities and peculiarities. These studies are being conducted by our Institute's branch in St. Petersburg. Its researchers have "designed" what they call historical personograms of personalities who had a marked impact on the ideological-intellectual history of Russia, including such major figures of the 17th-19th centuries as Empress Catherine II, the first curator of the Moscow University, Ivan Shuvalov, the German philosopher and mathematician Baron von Leibnitz, German philosopher and Honorary Member of the St. Petersburg Academy, Christian Wolf, and the British botanist and foreign Corresponding Member of the St. Petersburg Academy, George Bentham. We have been studying their legacy not only in the biographical and political aspects, but also from the point of view of the authorship of cultural texts, development of social institutions and also as the bearers and champions of some specific axiological and philosophical principles.
Our Institute has been this country's first center of virtualistic studies. We have developed, for example, theoretical models for many fields of knowledge: computer technology, sociology, medicine, politology, etc. These make it possible to examine at a virtual level various scenarios of development of this or that situation in order to be able to anticipate some adverse scenarios and optimize actions of the object of interest.
In the sphere of practical applications of virtualistics we have developed concrete and effective methods of psychotherapy of pathologies like alcohol dependence, abnormal (deviant) behavior, ulcers, operator errors and post-traumatic syndrome. Our plans for the near future cover virtual anthropology as a special branch in the comprehensive studies of man, problems of what we call organizational-economic activities, methods of psychotherapy of bronchial asthma.
Summing it up, our Institute has completed the first, and the most complicated and responsible stage of its life-the stage of getting on its feet, so to speak. Today it has a clearly formulated range of research subjects in both conceptual and methodological terms, a research identity of its own which makes it possible to pose and solve some of the most formidable problems involved in the comprehensive studies of man. The topical nature of these theoretical and practical studies will continue to grow in the years to come. And our staff is certainly well equipped for dealing with any and all challenges of the time.
* See: R. Petrov, "Bioethics", Science in Russia, No. 3, 2001. - Ed .
Permanent link to this publication:
LRussia LWorld Y G