Saint Petersburg Branch of the Russian Humanist Society
Nobel Laureates are not Listened To

Although at the threshold of already the third millennium medical science and practice have risen to the highest level of development, in Russia legal norms are in force which legitimatized the activity of so-called folk healers (quacks). The law “The Principles of RF Legislation Regarding the Protection of Citizens’ Health” provides for the issue of so-called “healers’ diplomas” by the government to people who practice “methods of health improvement, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment based on the experience of many generations of people which has been maintained in folk traditions”. The truth is, the law also requires that these people be trained medical specialists (higher or secondary education).

But the Health Committee of the St. Petersburg Administration, having formulated a corresponding order in contradiction to the articles of the law, has begun to generously issue diplomas to practically anyone who wants one. As a result of them the recipients have become so-called “correctors of biofields”; what is more, none of them are medical specialists. Inasmuch as the world’s natural science has not identified any biofield in nature, then without a doubt people who state that people’s illnesses are the result of a distortion of their biofields and declare themselves capable of correcting it in order to effect a cure are deceiving sick people and diverting them from seeing doctors in a timely manner.

In February 2002 an open letter of a group of scientists headed by Nobel Laureates Zh. I. Alferov (in 2000) and V. L. Ginzburg (in 2003) was published in the newspapers “Izvestiya” and “St. Petersburg Vedomosti”.

An open joint letter of members of the Russian Academy of Sciences [RAN] and the Russian Humanist Society to Vice-Governor and Chairman of the Health Committee of St. Petersburg, A. V. Kagan

Mr. A. V. Kagan!

The text of a conversation between V. Ye. Zholobov, the chairman of the "Council to Regulate the Activity of Folk Healers" in the committee which you head, and representatives of the St. Petersburg branch of the Russian Humanist Society [RGO] was published in the journal of the RGO "Zdravyy Smysl [Common Sense]" issue 3 (20) of 2001, where it stated that in March 2001 the Council issued the diploma of folk healer to four persons with a specialty "Correction of the Human Biofield".

This circumstance is the first reason for the participation of representatives of the RAN in this letter inasmuch as this is quite a matter of principle for scientists. The fact of the matter is that the phenomenon under the name "biofield" does not in fact exist but is entirely the fruit of an invention of charlatans. Of course, any living object is the source of a multitude of natural physical fields - acoustic (sound), chemical (smell), and electromagnetic perturbations (chiefly in the form of thermal radiation, but also low-frequency magnetic and electrical signals which are widely used in medical diagnostics - thermal imaging, electro- and magnetic cardiography and encephalography).

However, no specific "biofield" for living objects exists; these are only the echoes of a medieval faith in a supernatural "vital force". For this reason a person cannot have a "correct" or "incorrect" (distorted) one depending on whether he is health or sick and it cannot be subject to the correction of a patient with the object of his recovery.

People who state the opposite on the basis that their manipulations and conjuring bring improvement to the patient are passing off the desirable for the real, to put it politely. It is not precluded that in some cases patients might feel relief, but this is explained entirely by a psychotherapeutic effect (suggestion) and in no case is the result of the influence of the healer on a mythical "biofield".

Thus, the expression "correction of the biofield" has no scientific meaning and can serve only to deceive gullible and poorly-educated people. By the same token and for the very same reason, what has been said applies to such concepts as "energy information exchange", "telekinesis", "clairvoyance", etc.

We are surprised that the "biocharlatans" have protectors in the person of government officials and medical experts, especially in St. Petersburg, which has long by right been considered Russia's greatest scientific center and has declared itself its cultural capital, which entails many obligations. And this is the second reason for RAN scientists to participate in this letter, whose initiator is the St. Petersburg branch of the RGO public educational organization.

As citizens of Russia (and what is more, some of those who signed this appeal are also St. Petersburg residents), we cannot regard such steps which discredit the name of this illustrious city with equanimity. As we have found out, the process by which the Council issues the diploma of folk healer actively continued after March 2001; dozens of these government documents have already been issued and it is not precluded that they are for these same pseudospecialties.

Mr. A. V. Kagan and members of the Council for Healing, we call upon you to annul your decisions about the issue of the diplomas of healer to "biofield correctors" and other such "clairvoyants". This would avoid the need for the St. Petersburg branch of the RGO to bring a lawsuit whose goal would be the annulment of the decisions to issue diplomas which facilitate the undermining of the health of citizens.

From the RAN:

G. I. ABELEV, academician, Vice-President of the RGO (Moscow);

Ye. B. ALEKSANDROV, academician (St. Petersburg);

Zh. I. ALFEROV, academician, Chairman of the Presidium of the St. Petersburg Science Center of the RAN;

V. L. GINZBURG, academician, member of the RGO (Moscow);

L. I. KOROCHKIN, corresponding member (Moscow);

Eh. P. KRUGLYAKOV, academician, Chairman of the RAN Commission to Combat Pseudoscience and the Fabrication of Research (Novosibirsk);

R. A. SURIS, corresponding member (St. Petersburg);

from the RGO:

G. V. GIVISHVILI, doctor of physicomathematical sciences, Vice President of the RGO (Moscow);

V. A. KUVAKIN, doctor of philosophy, President of the RGO (Moscow);

P. A. TREVOGIN, candidate of technical sciences, publicist (St. Petersburg);

M. M. CHULAKI, writer, Chairman of the St. Petersburg Writers' Union;

G. G. SHEVELEV, candidate of technical sciences; Chairman of the St. Petersburg Branch of the RGO.

The Committee did not heed the appeal of authoritative scientists, and in the spring of 2002 a suit was filed. The “correctors” themselves were not chosen as the respondent (with government diplomas, they are now immune), but rather the Committee who legalized them. A demand to annul the order contradicting the law and recall the diplomas which were issued was submitted in the complaint.

The RGO based its right to sue by referring to the Civil Procedural Code where (in Article 42) it clearly states that a public organization has the right to turn to the court “to sue in defense of rights which have been violated…and the interests of an undetermined class of people protected by law”. Therefore it is not required to wait until some specific citizen who has been deceived by a healer turns to the RGO for help. But the court dismissed the suit, referring to this very reason (the RGO was found to be an “improper plaintiff”). It did not summon or hear authoritative representatives of science, nor did it demand or enter documents capable of supporting the plaintiff’s case.

Later it turned out that the “biocorrectors” were not operating in the city individually but had joined together into a so-called “Professional Medical Association of Folk Medicine” (PMANM). At best, this group of lovers of a quack profession does not have the right to the words “PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL” in its name, of course. In their charter it is written:

“5.1. Citizens who deal with or are active in the field of traditional and folk medicine and healing and have reached the age of 18 can be members of the Association…those interested in collectively accomplishing the work of the Association and achieving its goals….the following are the main principles of professional ethics”.

As we see, only ethics remains here from professional medicine, whose main principle is, as everyone knows, “do no harm”, but which is not in fact observed by the quacks since they divert sick people from seeing real doctors in a timely manner and they often aggravate the illness.

And nevertheless, the RF Ministry of Justice’s Directorate for St. Petersburg approved the charter of the PMANM in 2000, thereby endowing undeserving people themselves the right to evaluate the capability of their members to “correct” the health of people, and removing obstacles to the receipt of government documents, the diploma of healers. It is not hard to guess what disastrous consequences this will lead to.

In February it is a year since the RGO first turned to this Directorate with a request to reconsider the mistaken decision. There have been repeated reminders and, finally, an appeal directly to the Minister of Justice. Alas, the PMANM not only continues to exist but also, in opening its own branches in other cities, it has become interregional and now is preparing to register as a national organization. Who will stop this outrage?

Gennady Shevelev

Translated by G. Goldberg

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