Sapunov Valentin Borisovich graduated from the Leningrad State University with a degree in genetics and applied mathematics. Passed advanced training in the hereditary diseases’ diagnosis and treatment. Doctor of Biological Sciences. Worked as a professor at St. Petersburg State Agrarian University. Academician of the Petrovsky Academy of Sciences and Arts, full member of the New York Academy of Sciences. Honorary Member of the European Geosciences Union. Author of over 1,000 scientific and popular publications – articles, monographs, textbooks.
Organizer and participant of many expeditions in Russia and abroad, related to environmental issues and the search for mysterious animals.Founder of cryptobiology that is the science of rare biological objects and phenomena. Leader of Russian sociobiology. He develops general ecology, environmental protection, human evolutionary ecology issues also. He taught ecology, environmental safety, general biology, climatology, country studies, concepts of modern natural science, life safety courses. He lectures and writes scientific papers in Russian and English. He knows environmental work digitalisation and statistical data processing methods. Developed a series of methods and algorithms for assessing the territories and biocenoses ecological quality.
Currently, he is a consultant at the Institute for the Study of the Nature of Time at Moscow State University. He was awarded the V.I. Vernadsky honorary badge, the M. Lomonosov medal, and the “For contribution to scientific literature” order of the International Academy of Life Safety.
What is sociobiology in your understanding? Is it an attempt to “explain the living beings’ social behavior in terms of evolution” or just a biology and sociology branch?
Sociobiology is a science that studies the relationship laws between two components of a person – biological and social. The biological component is a part of the biosphere, the social component is a part of the mind sphere or the noosphere. One of this science founders was Francis Galton, the nephew of Charles Darwin, who at the end of the 19th century tried to apply the evolution laws to the human race. C. Lombroso, the Italian scientist of the 19th century, made an important contribution. Dobzhansky, Chizhevsky, Efroimson and many other scientists developed the sociobiology ideas in the 20th century.
It is closely connected with politics, so there are bans on the certain research development in this direction sometimes, and there are scientific data abuses sometimes. Totalitarian regimes often sinned with extremism and abuses in this regard. The Soviet regime downplayed the biological component role in a person, considering people as replaceable cogs without taking into account their genetic characteristics. It was believed that it is possible to do anything from a person. They ignored the people’s biological needs (lack of toilet paper, lack of toilets in commuter trains,etc.). There was another extreme in Nazi Germany – an exaggeration of the biological component role of people and extreme racism. Some nations, such as the Russians, were declared inferior to the Germans. There was a crime against humanity called the Holocaust. Gypsies, Jews, homosexuals, disabled people became this criminal policy victims.
A world in which everything can be predicted cannot exist, so any forecast is relative. But still, certain probabilistic forecasts are necessary and possible. The Russian scientist A. Chizhevsky theory connects earthly events with solar activity, which affects the nervous system state of the population significant part. Knowing the solar activity dynamics, it is possible to a certain extent to predict the years of extreme political events – wars, revolutions, etc. At the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries, the Russian scientist V. Rudnik showed how geophysical events affect the population nervous system state and genetic apparatus. These works make it possible to predict potential locations for extreme social events.
One of the areas of your work is the Earth’s surface transformation (urbanization).How do you propose to solve the problems of urbanized biocenoses pests?
The cities growth has led to the creation of vast ecological niches, which, according to the global ecology laws, cannot remain empty. There is an intensive process of these niches development by animals, many of which are harmful to humans and hinder economic activity. The urbanized biocenoses classic animal is the red cockroach Blattella germanica.
Thanks to the pheromonal way of exchanging information, these insects gather in in huge quantities in places that are ecologically favorable for them. Rattus rattus and Rattus norvegicus rats attack everywhere. Monomorium pharaonic pharaoh ants, Coptotermes formosanus, Cryptotermes brevistermites, etc., less traditional for cities, are expanding their niche.
Ixodes ticks, which previously lived in the forest zone only, are advancing on the cities. 22 species of five mosquitoes classes have been registered in Prague only.
Such parasites that were considered almost extinct appear in unconventional places sometimes. Lice of several types have thrived in Germany and Israel in recent years.
Urban animals acquire significant biological differences from their wild relatives.For example, a significant biochemical specificity of city flies was shown (O. Eremina, Russia). Urban animals enter into certain relationships. One species spread with the help of another sometimes So, there is a stable connection between lice and rats.
Mice enter into a close ecological relationship with ixodes’ ticks. Mosquitoes’ urban races spread the malarial Plasmodium, which causes malaria, a disease that humanity has begun to forget about. 1,000 cases of this disease are recorded per year in urbanized biocenoses in Australia only. Urban pests bring other harm in addition to carrying diseases. Cockroaches cause mass allergies. Termites, which have already entered Europe, destroy wooden buildings, etc. Many of the urban animals demonstrate high resistance and plasticity, it is difficult to combat them.
The red cockroaches’ resistance to insecticides is growing constantly. At the same time, their chances of survival are so great that even with the death of 99% of insects, the remaining 1% of resistant individuals restore completely the population in several generations.
Is there a way to resist them? Due to the implementation of the developed pesticide rotation program, it was possible to reduce significantly the Norwegian rat population in Budapest. However, scientists could not guarantee that another dangerous rodent would not invade the free niche. The report of scientists from Bangladesh – M. Ameen and others can be considered somewhat out of the conference general scenario. They offered a biological method of fighting mosquitoes – through a predatory guppy fish. By the way, this method was used successfully in Russia, in the Caucasus, before the October Revolution, so there is nothing new in it.
1. Pesticides affect not only pests, but the entire ecological system also, including human organisms.
2. The use of pesticides leads to genetic changes in pest populations and accelerates their adaptation.
3. The pests fertility decrease in the first generation can be compensated by its growth in subsequent generations.
4. A sharp reduction in the pests’ number can lead to the fact that the vacant ecological niche can be occupied by other organisms that can be harmful to humans also.
5. Pest control requires an integrated approach that includes, in addition to chemical, physical, mechanical, biological, and other methods also.
How do you feel about Porshnev’s hypothesis about different people types in modern society?
Porshnev’s hypothesis in its entirety cannot be accepted today. Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals do not have species status according to modern evolutionary ideas. But the hypothesis remains viable with certain amendments. The hominid family obviously included only one species by the time of the Homo sapiens formation as a species (presumably from 100 to 200 thousand years ago). It is logical to assume that it began to break up into a series of forms, from which two extreme forms emerged according to the divergence law. They are known in paleontology as massive (classic) and gracile Neanderthals. The massive ones increased physical strength, and lost traces of material culture, the ability to use fire. In other words, there was a return to a purely biological human form. The Gracile ones remained on the general direction of the human race evolution and were transformed into proper social people.
If we assume that the massive Neanderthals did not die out, but gave rise to a purely biological person several tens of thousands of years ago, then many of anthropogenesis facts will become clearer.The new species began to exert ecological pressure on our ancestors, forcing them to look for new adaptation ways. The main path was outlined – the behavior and material culture forms complication. Social progress has proven to be an effective way of surviving in the face of fierce competition with what I propose to call the “ecological partner.” Thus, a trait was formed that is characteristic for a social person only – the desire to progress, to complicate material culture continuously. If animals have some material culture elements (bird nests, beaver dams, etc.), then they have no tendency to complicate it. An alternative evolutionary branch could survive to this day in the form of the so-called Bigfoot. Such a hypothesis is not recognized universally, however, it can claim to be a consistent explanation of the mechanism for the human social organization emergence.
The point I want to emphasize is the following. To understand the laws of the human race development, it is not enough to apply the methods of the social or natural sciences alone. We need a synthesis of both. Separate recurrences of sexual reproduction, carried out at the early embryogenesis stage and leading to the monozygotic twins’ birth, do not affect fundamentally the genetic characteristics of human populations.
The human sexual life, at first glance, refers to a person purely biological hypostasis. However, it is precisely in sex that the fundamental differences between human and animals lie. The sex hormones activity in humans is much higher than in other mammals, and the time spent on sex in humans is much longer accordingly. Why does a person need such a rich sex life? The most likely explanation is that humans reproduce according to the k-strategy. In other words, with a relatively small number of offspring in a particular marriage, he spends maximum efforts to ensure the effective survival of the offspring. At the same time, human upbringing is much more complex than that of animals, it requires long-term contact between parents and children. Therefore, sex provides not only and not so much human reproduction, but the family stability during the offspring upbringing.
Theoretical sexbiology has not been created yet. V.A. Geodakyan (1985) made one of the most effective attempts in this direction.According to his theory, the male sex is the evolution vanguard, working out all the new biological solutions. The female sex ensures the preservation of successful biological solutions tested on males. The sexual dimorphism phylogenetic rule says that all new evolutionary transformations affect the male sex primarily. Attributes that are predominantly males will be distributed in the population. Attributes that are more characteristic of the female sex will disappear in historical development. Numerous checks and practical applications confirmed the correctness of the V.A. Geodakyan’s theory. The theory works for social traits as well. It is clear from this that diseases that affect mainly men will spread. The ones that are more common for women will disappear. For example, there are more men among AIDS patients in Europe, from which it is clear that the epidemic has not stabilized yet. There is equal quantity of sick men and women in Africa. So, the African level will no longer be exceeded. Since Africa, as you know, has not died out, but on the contrary, AIDS does not pose a serious danger to the Earth population.
Currently, most scientists recognize that human natural selection is still going on, although less intensively than in most other biological species. The first selection stage is the gametes selection that is almost unknown. Its effectiveness is based on the mutations’ concentration study data in areas that have experienced a strong mutagenic effect – Hiroshima, the Chernobyl zone. Contrary to the classical genetic concepts, which assert that mutations persist indefinitely over a number of generations, their concentration in human and mammalian cells – the descendants of irradiated organisms – did not exceed the average values for the globe. A possible explanation is selection at the gametes’ level, which does not allow germ cells containing a large number of disorders to be fertilized.
The next selection stage is embryonic. A large embryos percentage (presumably about 50) die in the period from the zygote development on set. As a result, children with polyploidy, aneuploidy for large chromosomes and other significant anomalies are simply not born.
The next selection period is child mortality. It is a necessary and biologically justified filter that does not allow a of defective organisms’ significant part entering into the population adult part. The main increase in life expectancy has been achieved by child mortality reducing over the past decades. This has led to a selection pressure decrease and a deterioration in the population health status. Of course, every human life is valuable.
However, when distributing forces and means in the field of healthcare, it is advisable to focus them on prolonging the active longevity of middle and older ages people. Selection proceeds in the population adult part in the same way.
You studied the connection between the A.L. Chizhevsky teachings and the nature of time. What would you find useful in these studies?
Time is the most important abiotic factor, the physical nature of which is still unclear. The processes occurring in nature can be time-invariant, irreversible. and cyclic. A.L. Chizhevsky developed the philosophy of studying cyclic processes. His teaching, which united ecology and astronomy, comes down to the following postulates.
1. The sun influences the biosphere,
2. Solar activity changes according to cycles set,
3. Regular solar activity changes affect biological and social processes.
Chizhevsky’s teaching contributed to the formation of such fundamental sciences as chronobiology and biorhythmology close to it, as well as the applied science of phenology. Chizhevsky’s theory turned out to be substantially true, however, it required clarifications and refinement in particular moments. Linking social processes to solar activity is possible with some level of abstraction. Repetitive processes understanding and predicting is possible based on the introduction of a new scientific concept – chronovariability. Modern astronomy has enriched the solar rhythms doctrine by discovering the influence of the dynamics of the solar system center of mass on the Sun activity. N. Kozyrev’s teaching on the time physical properties provides a new tool for understanding the interaction laws of living systems with the time flow. In these interactions, completely unresolved issues remain – the possibility of proscopy, the change in the time individual flow depending on environmental factors.
Thus, the works of Chizhevsky should be considered not as a dogma, but as a teaching and a philosophical approach to the nature analysis, correct in principle, which, together with other areas of modern science, will contribute to the fundamental progress in the 21st century science.
The biosphere, like the universe as a whole, is in time flow constantly. The nature of time has been studied by philosophy and by physics to a lesser degree.There is no unambiguous understanding of the time category to date. Nikolai Aleksandrovich Kozyrev was one of the scientists who was able to achieve some success in the study of time. He devoted his life to studying the time phenomenon and trying to systematize knowledge about it as a physical substance. Here are his theory main postulates:
1. Time is really a physical substance, similar to a field.
2. Time exists throughout the universe.
3. Information propagates at an infinite speed in the field of time.
4. It is possible to predict the future and obtain information from the past within certain limits.
5. Events determination is vague.
He did not create a generally accepted and complete theory of time. The 20th century science level did not allow such a theory to be born. Nikolai Alexandrovich outlined ways only to create a generalizing theory, which, perhaps, will be created by his followers in the 21st century. Kozyrev did not have special biological knowledge, however, having the true scientist thinking breadth, he understood the biological science importance in time phenomenon studying and understanding. He wrote in one of his works:
“…time properties should be of particular importance in biological processes… Its flow and properties bind the whole world into a single whole and can influence each other by phenomena between which there are no direct material connections, which can explain the facts of the interaction of biological objects located at a distance and isolated from each other.”
Time is an environment abiotic component for living systems. Understanding time as a philosophical category only is not enough for the current knowledge level. Not only a philosophical, but a physical approach is needed also. The living systems relationship with the time flow can be described in terms of ecology and physics of time, a branch of science founded by A.L. Chizhevsky, N.A. Kozyrev and other leading scientists of the 20th century works.
An objective forecast requires scientific methods to cover more than one period of the process repetitive component. At the same time, it is essential that the repeating processes periods, including solar activity, are subject to variability. This phenomenon is proposed to be called chronovariability. Hence there is impossibility of accurate forecasts and biological and social processes binding to the solar activity rhythms. However, probabilistic forecasts based on the Chizhevsky approach are possible.The laws of the living systems relationship with the time flow remain largely unknown. An integrated approach to these laws’ study, including the biological and physical disciplines methods, can significantly enrich our knowledge about the most fundamental aspects of the nature and society existence.
Interview: Ivan Stepanyan