[Conspect] – How Well Is Pseudo-Science Institutionalised in Ruᛋᛋia

This is my conspect. It is not a transcription (unless I make a quote). It is a summary of some material as I understood it. If you find any part of it interesting — get the source material and corroborate to be 100% sure.

YT: How Well Is Pseudo-Science Institutionalised in Ruᛋᛋia? (an interview with Alexander Panchin[UA])

Q2. How Pseudo-Science and Conspiracy Theories Fit into the Ruᛋᛋian Politics?

The conspiracy theories distributed at a state level may be genuinely held by some Russian officials, although the examples of the opposite are also known: e.g. the soviet boosting of the theory of the laboratory origin of AIDS.

The modern talk about ‘ethnic’ and ‘genetic’ weapons pushed by Mikhail Kovalchuk seems to be more ideologically conditioned than genuine, since the front-man of these ideas is regarded as an expert by the Russian elites.

Q3. Are There People in the Ruᛋᛋian Elites that Believe some Conspiracy Theories?

Speaker's experience: the ban of the GMO was a political decision, many people in the legislative bodies who specified the details of the ban were not even hiding it from the Parliament members and the persons involved.

Conspiracy theories may be a means of career advancement and virtue-signalling among the politically active bureaucracy members.

Q4. How Pseudo-Science Affects the Public Opinion in Ruᛋᛋia?

Conspiracy theories are sometimes instrumental to the propaganda, but the main recipients of these ideas are already thinking in a similar direction, so the conspiracy theories only allow them to affirm their already existent beliefs.

Q5. Did the War Boost the Tendency to Believe in Conspiracy Theories?

The tendency to easier acceptance of the conspiracy theories (and seeing patterns where they are missing) has been found correlating with living in the conditions of substantial existential instability and increased existential risks. It seems to be a coping mechanism that aims at making the world more understandable. Cf. interest to occultism and conspiracy theories in 1990s.

This ‘animism in the second intent’ is much easier a venue of thinking than the scientific analysis of the world.

Also, the existential instability creates a market for the occultists and conspiracy theorists.

Q6. Is the Ruᛋᛋian Ruling Class Afraid of Scientits?

Many of the scientists have oppositional views by the virtue of higher level of cognitive discipline and higher familiarity with the foreign languages.

Look at Andrei Zayakin and the Dissernet project, which has been very detrimental to the fake reputation of the Russian ruling class members. Dissernet have found a lot of plagiarism in the dissertation theses of many high-ranking officials, and the oppositional views of the project founder allowed the government to attack the Dissernet via their administrative resource and informal connections.

The system has created the conditions that allow it to bully anyone – be it a scientist or not – and these conditions are used by those who benefit from the particular act of repression against a particular person.
— Alexander Panchin

So it is not about the government being afraid of the scientific community, it is about the personal grudges held against particular scientists that participate in the civic life.

Q7. Were There Many Scientists Who Have Returned after They Fled Ruᛋᛋia at the Beginning of the War?

Frankly speaking, I knew very few examples of someone's returning, since… what's the point? I think that many want to go back.
— Alexander Panchin

The problem for Russia: everyone with demanded skills have left, and the longer those who have left stay abroad, the less is the probability of their return.

Among my colleagues, a lot of people went abroad to do science, since in these conditions it is very hard to do science, for this is an international enterprise. Scientific ethos implies that people from various countries unite so to solve an intellectual problem. Science does not recognise nationality or international borders.
— Alexander Panchin

Q8. How the Isolation of Ruᛋᛋia Will Affect the Development of the Ruᛋᛋian science?

On the institutional level, science implies existence of scientific schools: a local traditions, usually within the mainstream, united by some theoretical affinity of its members and a system of apprenticeship. If all the top gods leave a country, it loses not only these specialists, but also their apprentices, and the apprentices of their apprentices and so on, which leads to a long-term negative trend.

So, the escape of the scientists is running counter the voiced goals of the Russian scientific community.

For example, the scientists attracted by the Mega-grants were not numerous even before the war, and their numbers have dwindled.

Q9. Will the Pseudo-Scientific Ideas Be Disseminated More Frequently on the State Level?

Recent precedent in the field – Alexander Kudryavtsev, one of the major Russian geneticists, made quite absurd proclamations about the human genetics and longevity being affected by the ‘original sin’.

The ongoing issue with the Russian Academy of Sciences – the presence of homeopaths and other ‘alternative medicine’ supporters, which leads to huge consequences to the country's healthcare system.

This intellectual degradation is likely to continue, since the existing counter-measures against the pseudo-scientific infiltration into the state and state-funded scientific institutions are not enough.

Q10. What Should Happen so that the Scientists Begin Return to Ruᛋᛋia en masse?

I think that the war is not the only reason. It very much depends whether there will be some real indication of the government being ready to reform itself.
— Alexander Panchin

The rules of the social game must be set firmly so science can thrive, for the scientific research is a long-term endeavour.


A Curious Finding

While researching then materials for re-envigourating my censorship research, I found an interesting web site and - by extension - an interesting organisation.

Cognitive Security & Education Forum seems to have been active since 2019. At the moment I am going through their publications and papers to extract the useful information, and I already see a lot of insights relevant to the sociology of knowledge, memetics, and media research.

I encourage everyone who is interested on such topics to have a quick look on the web sites and the materials on it.


[Conspect] – Sociology and War: A Science Divided

This is my conspect. It is not a transcription (unless I make a quote). It is a summary of some material as I understood it. If you find any part of it interesting — get the source material and corroborate to be 100% sure.

YT: Sociology and War: A Science Divided [RU]

The period since the beginning of the Russian invasion into Ukraine has been marked by quick severing of the ties with ‘the west’ and thus by disintegration of the processes of modernisation of the social sicences in Russia.

It is no longer possible to continue importing the adequate science into Russia, building scientific schools, preparing articles for the top-notch sicentific magazines if one's country in waging a war and [forcibly] intercepts any cooperation with the very global scientific world, into which the scientists have been integrating: successfully and deeply.
Boris Grozovski

Russian academia follows Russian media in terms of being subject to state censorship and repressions. So, the theme of the talk is the strategies the Russian social scientists (might) use within and outside of Russia.

Question 1: Those Who Stayed. What Do They do? What Do They Have to Do?

Boris Grozovski :

flowchart LR id00{{"Main Strategies"}} id00 --> id01("Mimicry") id00 --> id02("An Ivory Tower")

Victor Wachstein :

  1. The situation with the universities is difficult but not catastrophic. Universities are not only importing science, so they are not destroyed completely.
  2. There has been no institutional collapse in social sciences, at least a collapse similar to one in totalitarian regimes of the XX centuries.
  3. Social scientists in Russia have gone non-public, but continue their work.

Boris Grozovski :

Though the social sciences have not collapsed, the institutional pressure on the scientists is increasing. Is it just inertia?

Victor Wachstein :

The pressure is not absolute: the censorship does not affect foreign language publications. Elimination of institutional autonomy does not imply elimination of the institutional sovereignty. Cf. the totalitarian regimes and the ‘underground science’ and the testimonies of Viktor Klemperer (LTI [Amazon]).

Boris Grozovski :

How actual is the experience of the scientific community of the late-USSR?

Victor Wachstein :

It is possible, but it is hard to tell to which degree it can and will be reproduced. This is not a mass strategy. In addition to that, Ivory Towers may be suddenly attacked.

Boris Grozovski :

What then is the gradient of the sociological research in Russia?

Victor Wachstein :

The question is incorrect, since it implies a historical analogy with the late USSR. Individual point of view: People tend to stick to their themes. Foreign language publications are the safety valve: they are not censored.

Question from a Chat: What are the Main Structural Biases of sociological studies under Dictatorships?

Victor Wachstein :

The current publicly available Russian quantitative research fundamentally untrustworthy. Pollstering and quantitative sociology are thwarted by the military censorship.

  • Questions Formulations
  • Usage of Adjusting Coefficients
  • The tendency of population to provide more expected answers under the military censorship first found by Hadley Cantril.

All these methodological factors allow for manipulation on a very large scale. So, even if the researchers are honest, the probability of their getting the real picture are fairly low. Add the political incentivisation: polls have become a tool of political technology and polemics. The ‘silent majority’ discourse looks constructed.

Question 2: Strategies of Those Who've Left

Boris Grozovski :

flowchart LR id00{{"Main Strategies"}} id00 --> id01("Integration into the New Country's Academia") id00 --> id02["Reproduction of Russian Projects and Institutions"]

Victor Wachstein :

The difference is rather individual vs. collective adaptation strategies. Thus, these strategies are not mutually exclusive in practice. Institutional strategies are, however, absent: no analogies to the Frankfurt School moving to America.

In the long term, the expat academic institutions fall on a spectrum between the Frankfurt School and the Russian Scientific Institute (Berlin):

  • The former was very well institutionally organised and fruitful for the social science. But the return to Germany was not very impressive. Their general approach was: ‘We preserve Germany in Exile’.

  • The latter was a politically charged and organised institution. Their general approach was: ‘We build the proper version of Russia’. It ended poorly through cooptation by Nazi authorities.

It is hard to tell which approach will prevail and to which degree of success.

Also on the impact of the Frankfurt School on the American Life - reference to and short summary of Exile and Emigration by Wolf Lepenies.

Question 3: The Situation of the Russian-International Split

Boris Grozovski :

In current situation, those who work in the Social Sciences in Russia are nudged to servicing the government. Do they have common themes for speaking with those who left or specialised on international publishing?

Victor Wachstein :

Political and Academical perception of the changes caused by war is very divergent. The public sphere went into the state of ‘bellum omnium contra omnes’, while the academic world showed some institutional cohesion through evacuation and helping with relocation.