|Saint Petersburg Branch of the Russian Humanist Society|
|The Problems of the Expansion of Pseudoscience|
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Pseudoscience has opposed the entire history of rational knowledge as a profane and distorted reflection of it. This opposition has at various times taken on various forms, including the most dramatic. In the process science, and together with it, social progress have always played the victim. And a worsening of this eternal conflict has again occurred at the threshold of the third millennium. After several decades of silence the problem has again become extraordinarily urgent. So urgent that an international symposium gathered for the first time in Moscow in 2001 on the topic "Science, Antiscience, and Paranormal Beliefs" . Besides the relevance, there is also an extremely pressing issue, which constantly causes conflict during a discussion in a large auditorium where the Biblical question "What is truth?" is always heard, as in A. S. Griboyedov's question, "Who are the judges?" The very term "pseudoscience [lzhenauka]" in which accusations of lying are heard, causes constant arguments. In fact, the motive of malicious distortion of the truth by the party opposed to science is present in the copious literature on this topic, which is especially clearly expressed in the reports of the symposium (see also the latest publications [2,3]). However, the primary meaning of the term presumes only a deliberate (a priori) MISREADING of the positions of the opponents of rational science, assigning a broad space in it for honest errors. Therefore, in Western literature the softer ("politically correct") terms "pseudoscience [psevdonauka]", and also "parascience", are usually used1.
Public discussions of the sides often turn into mutual accusations of the same labels. Representatives of academic (or in the general case, conventional) science cite the notorious "Lysenko era" as an example of aggressive pseudoscience with political overtones. They are accused in reply that it was the USSR Academy of Sciences (AN) that was responsible for the persecution of genetics inasmuch as Lysenko was a member of it and now the struggle of the RAN against pseudoscience is a "new Lysenko era" or a "new campaign of inquisition"2. The lack of resolution of these disputes is in no way associated with the impossibility of drawing a clear line between science and pseudoscience - the elementary necessary and sufficient criteria exist for the a priori falsity of a number of modern "discoveries" widely propagandized in the mass media. (These criteria are especially clearly formulated in the area of the exact sciences, physics in particular ). The lack of resolution is caused by the subjective inability of supporters of pseudoscience to admit their failure inasmuch as in the event of an honest error this would mean a psychological collapse associated with the failure of many years and, usually, widely-advertised boundless ambitions, and in the case of clear fraud would even entail criminal responsibility. These circumstances explain the fierceness of the resistance of pseudoscience and its aggressive at a time when the motivation to dispute the other side is weakened by the natural reluctance of professional scientists to waste time on arguing with fanatic, ill-informed, and often dishonest opponents. As a result, a vicious situation arises: all the cards end up in the hands of pseudoscience. The mass media has a weakness for dubious sensations, and perhaps even purchased and overflowing with pseudoscientific fabrications and slanderous attacks on "stagnant official science" (meaning the RAN) "hindering progress and stifling the seeds the new" at a time when this very "official" science can object only in its own publications with insignificant circulation. In addition, the disciples of some of the most currently active trends of pseudoscience widely enjoy links with defense, state security, and intelligence structures established in Soviet times. This turns into fierce lobbying in the State Duma for projects to shift government financing of science and education to vehicles of "new science", which have vowed (for 40 years!) to soon give the people an Excalibur, a magic tablecloth, seven-league boots, perpetual motion machines, etc. (they long ago "disproved" Newton's and Einstein's laws, "proved" the existence of God, and even entered into direct contact with Him; see , for example). Therefore today pseudoscience is not simply a refuge for the shameless marginal people of science. This is a real danger for science and education and, thereby, for society as a whole .
Hardly anyone who writes on the topic of pseudoscience tries to classify its forms or its kinds of representatives. However, pure forms and types are rarely encountered within the framework of any classification. For example, as has been noted, there is a strong temptation to break down the types of pseudoscientists into honestly mistaken and cynical swindlers. However, as a rule, these component elements are confused. The inventor of a perpetual motion machine can honestly believe in the feasibility of his project, but he is not able make a white lie to save his idea, presenting an artful simulation of his device as a review in the hope of receiving funds and hopefully realizing his dream (one cannot doubt that agronomist T. D. Lysenko initially believed in his "revolutionary" constructs. But later, having become a favorite of Stalin's, he was forced onto the path of falsifying facts by the whole course of events).
Leaving aside the classification and history of pseudoscience, the next discussion of the problem touches on the reason for the contemporary expansion of pseudoscience, the problems of drawing a line between science and pseudoscience, the characteristic features of contemporary pseudoscience, and also ways to combat pseudoscience as a socially dangerous phenomenon. Specific examples of contemporary pseudoscientific constructs will be cited only for illustrative purposes in view of the immensity of the topic.
REASONS FOR THE CONTEMPORARY EXPANSION OF PSEUDOSCIENCE
Analyzing the timeless roots of pseudoscience, Academician G. I. Abelev pointed to a common source of this phenomenon : "Pseudoscience has one common cause. This cause is interference by forces outside science in the natural development of science. Such interference can arise from ideology, authority, money, or the public".
Turning to the specific reasons for the current bacchanalia of pseudoscience in Russia one can point to the following obvious aggravating circumstances.
1. A systemic public crisis with destruction of the prestige of science and education. Scientist and college instructor have been turned into virtually the lowest-paid and most unpopular professions. The ruination of the economy has been accompanied by a series of catastrophes caused by technology whose consequences have not been concealed since the end of the 1980s, as was before, but on the contrary have often been excessively dramatized in the mass media and the responsibility for them has been laid on science by the press and leaders (the clearest example is the nuclear reactor accident at Chernobyl in 1986).
2. A massive loss of public bearings, bewilderment, and panic always facilitating the spread of in society of religiosity, mystical sentiments, apocalyptic expectations, a thirst for miracles, and a faith in other-worldly (space-based) rescue forces. An analogy with the situation in Russian in pre-Revolutionary times at the start of the last century comes to mind.
3. The removal of censorship which had previously not permitted the propagandizing of religion and occultism. The introduction of market relations into the operations of the mass media have led to a desperate struggle for the mass reader with an automatic preponderance of low-standard tendencies, including the very extensive dissemination of fables, pseudoscientific sensations, and fabrications3.
4. The declassification of pseudoscientific "research" which had early been conducted in a multitude of secret scientific research institutes in conditions of complete isolation from world science4. Having lost the generous financial support as a result of the collapse of the [central] planning system and making use of previously-developed ties in the power structures, the authors of these "secret discoveries" are trying to widely advertise their "achievements" in the hope of regaining budget financing. At the same time, they are trying to install themselves into the market niches accessible to them as pseudohealers and prophets, exploiting the limitless trust of the public in the printed word and making use of the lack of government control.
5. However paradoxical it may seem, a reckless faith in miracles was prepared by the careless mass popularization of the achievements of Soviet science under the slogan "we were born to make facts out of fairy tales" and "there are no barriers for us". In fact, they created a fairy tale about the simplicity of making discoveries. To this ought to be added the fashion for "science" fiction which has repeatedly been reinforced in its influence by modern video technology making the viewer a living witness to unimaginable wonders.
6. Finally, a certain blame rests with the representatives of science itself. The financing of scientific research has been sharply reduced in the entire world as a result of the end of the "Cold War". Increased competition has forced scientists to devote much more attention to promoting their work and this promotion is not always sufficiently accurate and honest. In particular, the number of sensational publications with access to the mass media claiming technically revolutionary discoveries and refuting fundamental laws has increased sharply, but more often they are falsifying refutations. One can cite as an example a series of sensational reports about the discovery of "cold fusion" which turned out to be mistaken, various paradoxical "challenges to Einstein" (faster-than-light speeds, "stopped light", quantum teleportation, and others).
WHAT IS TRUTH AND WHO ARE THE JUDGES?
But is it justifiable to subject freedom of inquiry to doubt? Can one deprive a researcher of the right to a mistake? How can one distinguish the subject of scientific research from pseudoscience? Such rhetorical questions are constantly heard in any public discussion of the topic of pseudoscience. Its disciples and defenders always cite historical examples of misunderstanding of genuine remarkable discoveries5 by their contemporaries and incorrect predictions by great scientists of the past (usually they mention Hertz, Thomson, and Rutherford). In the process it is implicitly presumed that nothing changes under the Sun and the situation of science in the third millennium is no different than that of 300 or even 100 years ago. This is a serious misconception. The first scientists were travelling through virgin territory, when practically any reasonable hypothesis had about the same chance of being confirmed as being refuted. Human nature has not changed since that time and it is still human nature to err. But the situation has changed radically in the field of science. Mankind has accumulated a great store of knowledge which limits the fantasies of researchers concerning new discoveries in decisive fashion, especially fundamental discoveries. Each new hypothesis should first of all be tied to already known undisputed laws and facts. It is just this sort of "principle of conformity" that allows pseudoscientific pretensions to be refuted without hesitation [4, 8]. For example, such absurd projects being advertised such as the production of free energy "from a physical vacuum" and the construction of a "recoilless engine" violate two fundamental laws, the Conservation of Energy and the Conservation of Impulse6. As regards "the right of a scientist to a mistake", of course no such right exists, although this doesn't change things: mistakes unavoidably accompany any scientific research. But there are all kinds of mistakes. There are mistakes connected with incomplete consideration of the knowledge of a subject - it becomes ever harder to know everything. There are routine methodological mistakes. These routinely accompany research and one has to deal with them. This is a unique standard. But the pathological mistakes of pseudoscience are associated not with a lack of knowledge of a subject but with ignoring this knowledge. The disciples of pseudoscience freely promote whimsical hypotheses which are incompatible with existing reliable knowledge. It is very characteristic of pseudoscience in all ages to announce the discovery of new types of influences, new particles, and new forces. But any new force must be connected to one already known. For example, it is impossible to introduce a new long-range force without looking at the immense observed material in the field of celestial mechanics. Insurmountable limitations on the value of a hypothetical new force arise in the process - it has to be so weak that nothing changes in the picture of the world within the limits of accuracy of observation which have been obtained. Of course, all scientific laws need to be understood in this same sense: they are immutable within the framework of the accuracy of their acquired confirmation. Science is opposed to the dictate of any a priori ideology and in no way raises a prohibition against the further clarification of laws. On the contrary, such a clarification constitutes an indispensable practice of science and serves as a source of progress. Some laws become even stricter in the course of these clarifications and limitations of application are established for others. The principle of equivalence of inertial and gravitational mass, which has been confirmed to an accuracy of 10-12, can serve as an example of the first situation and the Law of the Conservation of Parity serves as an example of high, but limited accuracy.
We will note that the requirements of the "Principle of Conformity" are not restricted to the realm of the exact sciences. The refutation by professional historians of the extravagant and obviously pseudoscientific constructs of mathematician A. T. Fomenko, an academician of the RAN , can serve as an example of the use of this same approach.
Thus, regarding the first issue of the title of the section one can say that, of course, the truth should be revealed in the course of much independently reproduced research, experiments, or observations, but this is insufficient: a new truth should be compatible with the truth which has been previously and reliably established. The role of an experiment should not be exceeded - it can be mistaken, incorrectly interpreted, or falsified. And even an independent reproduction is not an absolute guarantee: there are individual induced errors, not to mention possible collusion7. In the second half of the 20th century erroneous sensational articles occurred repeatedly in authoritative publications which produced a series of independent confirmations. The sensations of the end of the 20th century around "cold fusion" and in connection with the alleged detected activity of reagents when they are diluted beyond the limits of the presence of a single active molecule in the amount being analyzed can serve as examples8.
But in reply to the question of who are the judges, it is natural to reply that the supreme judge is the world scientific community, which relies on the constantly growing store of facts and objective laws of nature, on accumulated collective scientific knowledge. And this court is quite final. In science (at least, in the area of the exact sciences) we don't use the principle of freedom of conscience which allows anyone to believe in their own way: science lives by knowledge, not by faith. And precise knowledge leaves little room for various views; science is not democratic. Discussions are appropriate at the stage of hypothesis. Discussion ends when theory replaces hypothesis.
FEATURES OF TODAY'S PSEUDOSCIENCE
The list of examples cited below are in no way exhaustive in view of the immensity of the topic. Contemporary pseudoscience combines devotion to traditions with the greatest flexibility in following fashion. Traditionally based on preconceptions of the Middle Ages having direct roots in magic and occultism, pseudoscience immediately adopts the terminology of the leading edge of true science, ranting about the coherence of "biofields", the holographic principle of coding information by an "aura", the information field of the "quark gluon condensate", the inexhaustible energy resources of a "physical vacuum", the field nature of the posthumous life of the soul, etc. etc. This property of mimicking modern science is primarily distinctive of fraudulent pseudoscience, which essentially is one new types of criminal enterprise. The broad campaign around so-called "torsion" fields can serve as a typical example.
The story of this swindle evidently dates back to the 1960s. It was based on the idea of "telepathy", which was very fashionable at the end of the 1950s when Khrushchev's political "thaw" engendered a renaissance of interest in "mediumism" or, in the terminology of the time, "parapsychology". Then information came to our "special services" about American attempts (invariably fruitless) to establish telepathic communications with submarines. Attempts at "thought" transmission of a binary message from a basement in the Lyubyanka to a "psychic recipient" on the outskirts of Moscow were undertaken. The work was directed by A. Ye. Akimov, who made his contribution to this task - he reportedly subjected the "psychic inducer" to the additional influence of a "new physical field" called "spinor". According to a statement by Akimov this field formed a "string" channel and transmitted mental information without attenuation with distance and without absorption by the intervening environment. Akimov announced the discovery of the ideal communications, point-to-point, that is, not subject to intercept, all-penetrating, unrestricted, and, as was stated later, instantaneous [10, 11, 12]. Official departmental reports did not confirm this achievement, which did not hinder the further development of the subject of "spinor" fields, which led in 1987 to a secret government decree about all possible development of "spinor" technologies and "bioenergy"9. Hundreds of people from dozens of defense industry establishments and even some academic institutes were enlisted in this work. This work became public at the beginning of 1991 and was subjected to a review by the USSR Academy of Sciences and the Science Commission of the Supreme Soviet after which the "Center of Nontraditional Technologies" of the State Committee on Science and Technology was immediately disbanded. Having lost his post, Akimov immediately found his place in the new world of "venture" enterprises, having kept touch with and having the support of "special structures". Secrecy has been forgotten since that time and there began a period of intensive attempts to enter the marketplace with wondrous generators of "torsion" (the same as "spinor" and "microlepton" - the terminology has mutated constantly) either fields or radiation. Inasmuch as not one of the dozens of widely-advertised promises in the field of defense or civilian technology has ever been fulfilled (or could be fulfilled in view of the absence of these all-powerful fields!), then only one guaranteed sector of the market was left for Akimov's company without implying objective proof of the reality of these fields - healing. Rumors began to spread through the mass media, including the respectable Izvestiya (see, for example, the author's response about this in the Feedback section on 26.09.97), about a powerful "psychotronic" weapon developed in the bowels of the old KGB on the basis of these same fields, a weapon which could, if desired, be turned to good. An advertisement for "torsion generators" appeared on the Internet which alleviate practically any ailment for a reasonable price - $30 for any Russian and a hundred for foreigners. (We note in passing that the usefulness of these crappy "generators" is the same as for any other amulets. So that's how things stand with the harm; being objectively useless they offer people hope and keep them from going to doctors). We don't know how things are going in this business, but we do know that Akimov's company is small and that it ceaselessly tries to feed off the government budget. Interviews with Akimov appears constantly in the press with promises to solve the energy problem with the aid of "generators of energy from a vacuum" or to conquer space with the aid of "reÓctionless engines". Not long before New Year's Day 2002 it was reported on television that a similar project was being considered by the government.
This story was described in more details in articles [2,4,8]. Here we touch only on several characteristic features of the wide-scale fraud which distinguish it from similar ones in the past. First, unlike Lysenko's similar in scale fraud, this one was developed predominantly under the "Top Secret" stamp, which removed it from scientific criticism. A second difference is the circumstance that all this work had practically no material expression (except, if you will, a series of crappy "torsion field generators" manufactured at the end of the 1980s which were forced on defense scientific research institutes with instructions to research their influence on anything that comes to mind) and had a purely paper embodiment in the form of a mountain of reports. In view of the lack of need, those who figured in this work were not even concerned to give a falsified demonstration of the achievements, limiting themselves to cock-and-bull stories in high-ranking closed-door audiences10. Everyone was satisfied with statements, for example, of the type: "As is well known, a prototype of a torsion energy generator with an efficiency of 1000% with an output of 400 watts has been operating continuously for several years at the Moscow State University Energy Department". The name of the head of the department could have been given in the process. It is unnecessary to mention that when checking such a "well-known fact" it was impossible to find any trace. Links to scientific authorities were widely used. The eminent mathematician and academician N. N. Bogolyubov was indicated as an agent and co-author. In reply to an inquiry as to the extent of his participation, Bogolyubov himself gave assurances that he had never heard of the subject. (For the sake of fairness it needs to be said that genuine signatures of respected people are encountered in Akimov's reports. There is a simple explanation for this - Akimov paid respected agents well and secrecy concealed the sin of lack of principle). Finally, a third feature of this pseudoscientific saga is its pronounced commercial inclination, which was not very typical of pseudoscience of the past; earlier, glory rather than money was the incentive. Similarly, commercial interests also stand in first place in the above-mentioned modern story of academician A. Ye. Akimov - his sensational books sell in huge quantities.
A second widespread manifestation of pseudoscience, also not without government patronage, is prophecy. The majorities of newspapers publish horoscopes and advertise the services of "clairvoyants", and this has a sort of quite innocent mass entertainment with "retro" flavor. In view of the complete absurdity of astrology serious science does not bother exposing it. However, from time to time there appear reports that horoscopes are used making government decisions, including questions of war and peace. In the process Old Lady Astrology uses "cosmetics", mimicking modern science for persuasiveness. For example, in April 2002 official meetings of a commission composed of military and scientific experts summoned to evaluate Professor A. N. Sinyakov's method of predicting natural and technology-caused catastrophes were held in the N. G. Kuznetsov Naval Academy in St. Petersburg, using only the current locations of the planets of the solar system as input data! The professor of the Academy of Aviation and Space Instrument Making claims to have discovered a new phenomenon of "Local Geophysical Resonance". The substance of the phenomenon was not revealed to the commission in view of the difficulty of the professor himself understanding it, but presumably was associated by him with the mysterious instigation of a "physical vacuum" caused by the motion of the planets. The "instigation of a vacuum" supposedly leads to an instability of atomic nuclei, molecules, crystals, and provokes catastrophes (including floods, earthquakes, and typhoons). The professor attributes 90% of world catastrophes to a deadly influence of planets which he has discovered! In spite of the scandalous senselessness of this idea it was recommended by an expert commission for further development in view of the promised broad prospects for reducing accident rates in aviation, the fleet, and the economy (although far from unanimously and with a number of reservations). (Military astrologers on the commission acted as fervent supporters of Sinyakov: A. S. Buzinov, who covered himself with glory by predicting the sinking of the atomic missile submarine Kursk after the fact and his son A. A. Buzinov, an official of the Russian President's Scientific Research Institute of Applied Problems). Sinyakov's "method" was widely advertised in the mass media and will evidently be financed by defense agencies.
At the conclusion of the section we turn to an "perennial" trend in pseudoscience associated with the "mysterious" phenomena of the mind combined in the term "parapsychology". This includes the well-known mythical (that is, they don't actually exist!) phenomena under the name of "mediumism", "clairvoyance", "telepathy", "telekinesis", "teleportation", "levitation", and others (well-known and still not real is not a slip of the tongue. For example, devils, mermaids, centaurs, sirens, etc. are also well-known). Belief in these phenomena regenerates in generations inasmuch as it is as inherent to human nature as dreams and headaches. Literally everyone has heard an inner voice or the thoughts of a loved one or foreseen the future clearly at one time in their lives. There are far fewer people capable of soberly analyzing their feelings and pursuing the appropriate rational sources of aberrations of perception or, as they say, resist the temptation of the mystical. The mythical nature of the above phenomena is expressed in particular in that their reality continues to provoke disputes century after century. Attempts to objectively record them invariably turn out to be futile in view of their inherent irreproducibility, which is not surprising inasmuch as they are phantoms of the mind. They are consequences of deception, self-deception, suggestion, and autosuggestion. This is a field not of knowledge, but of belief. A renaissance of belief in parapsychology was observed in the 1960s in connection with the political "thaw". Erstwhile wizards and witches were renamed psychics and were subjected to study by instruments (as was done 150 years ago, by the way). In the USSR the consistent search for the hypothetical "biofield" of psychics which was supposedly responsible for all the wonders was undertaken in the 1970s in the laboratory of Yu. V. Gulyayev (now an academician of the RAN) at the initiative of Academician N. D. Devyatkov at the Institute of Radio Engineering and Electronics. The famous con artist Ninel' Kulagina served as a subject of the research. She had previously demonstrated the reading of texts in sealed envelopes, the influence of a glance on a compass needle, and many other wonders. She had repeatedly been caught at trickery but, as always, not everyone was convinced. Enthusiasts of parapsychology assumed that she had supernatural abilities all the same but that they had left her at times and she was forced to resort to fraud11. Finally the researchers came to the completely obvious conclusion, that no specific biofield exists. A person is a source of natural physical fields - electromagnetic (chiefly of a thermal nature), fields of sounds and smells produced by him, a very weak quasistationary magnetic field associated with the beating of the heart, with blood flow, and with the electric currents of the nervous system. One need not talk of the gravitational field of a person - it is undetectably small. And so the "witch" had no special abilities and so none were found. This did not interfere with her fame and so as a consequence she fooled the respectable simpletons of LITMO (the Leningrad Institute of Precision Mechanics and Optics). There, in particular, she demonstrated the ability to change the direction of a laser beam with a glance or by raising a hand12!
Today in Russia the latest splash of mass interest in "paranormal" phenomena is being observed. Again the "biofield", which psychics are supposedly able to see as an "aura" of various colors (something in a kind of a halo), is in style. An entire pseudoscientific trend has developed called "bioenergy" or "bioenergy informatics" in which fanciful scientific-sounding cock-and-bull stories about torsion fields, parapsychology, astrology, and elements of various religious cults flow together. A completely odious monograph  under the name of "The Physics of Faith" whose cover has a key citation, "When prayers are read over a candle the sound vibrations cause oscillations of plasma and they turn them into torsion waves which ascend to God", can give an idea of this wild fusion. However, the list of such literature is endless. We'll point out just one monographic collection of articles  which claims to be especially scientific in nature. It is interesting in that it continues the tradition of studying "wizards" with instruments. Professor K. G. Korotkov of the same LITMO studies the "mysterious" abilities of A. V. Chumak of ill fame who figures as a researcher! The book makes an extremely burdensome impression. The chief editor and author of the majority of the articles in the collection, who calls himself a physicist and deals with the gas discharge visualization of an "aura", writes seriously about a "Supreme Spirit" and the "Subtle Realm", believes in mediumism, and studies the "mysterious X factor" of a regular television charlatan and water on viewers' tables charged with his "bioenergy field". And all this is thickly mixed in with scientific-sounding phraseology. The statement, for example, that acoustic, electromagnetic, and gravitational (!) fields in a biological organism are coherent [12, page 210] is enough. However, if one began to quote the absurdities from this book then one would have to cite half of it. One must give Mr. Korotkov his due - part of the experimental data presented by him speaks for itself completely, demonstrating the main method of acquiring favorable results in parapsychological tests. This is the tendentious selection of random events or the tendentious interpretation of noisy recordings.
THE STRUGGLE AGAINST PSEUDOSCIENCE
Pseudoscience has attended science since the latter appeared and is showing no tendency toward fading away. Its themes, exposed and ridiculed countless times, invariably surface again in renewed form as is clearly evident in the example of astrology. Rooted in the peculiarities of human nature, pseudoscience is also obviously theoretically as insuperable as crime or drug addiction. Nevertheless, as in the last two cases, for the sake of self-preservation society needs to constantly fight this phenomenon in order to keep it within tolerable bounds . Of course, one cannot talk about any sort of prohibitions in the area of convictions in a democratic society. No one can stop a citizen of a free country in his desire to be deceived by prophets or pseudo-healers (although in the latter case government oversight is necessary all the same). But no one has the right to take its money to pay for knowingly senseless projects. The Russian Academy of Sciences, which has formed a Commission to Combat Pseudoscience and the Falsification of Scientific Research in its Presidium, has taken these same positions. The Commission has as its mission, first of all, to put an end to the past practice of uncontrolled financing of pseudoscience by the government and with this goal in mind to get the necessary expert review of any large-scale government projects in the area of science and technology. The RAN in no way claims an exclusive right to such expertise. It is natural for all the scientific forces in the country to be involved - higher educational institutions, scientific societies, the science sector, and foreign scientific resources when necessary. Another mission of the Commission is conveying the opinions of RAN specialists (as the organizations most integrated into world science) to the public through the mass media about interpretations of the innovations and advances of science and technology. And the RAN does not claim a monopoly in this matter. A Russian Humanist Society is already functioning in Russia which has set itself similar tasks in the filed of education and opposing pseudoscience. In particular, it held an international symposium, "Science, Antiscience, and Paranormal Beliefs" in 2001 (in cooperation with the RAN and Moscow State University).
1. See the symposium's report in teh Russian Humanist Society's journal, "Zdravyy Smysl [Common Sense]", No 1(22) of 2002.
1Translator's note: "lzhenauka" and "psevdonauka" are both translated as "pseudoscience", but the prefix "lzhe-" generally means "false".
2At the end of the 1990s A. A. Valentinov, chief of the science department of the government newspaper "Rossiyskaya Gazeta", acted as an ardent defender of all possible pseudoscientific fabrications "on an especially large scale" and published a series of articles in which in particular the USSR Academy of Sciences was accused of the persecution and death of N. I. Vavilov, of political denunciations against N. A. Kozyrev, etc. In the process attempts by the RAN to publicly object to these absurd inventions turned out to be futile. The story of this confrontation was described in .
3It is often said that such a flood of pseudoscientific sensations has also taken place in the mass media of Western democracies. This is not correct. Respectable Western publications avoid pseudoscience. Instead they regularly disseminate information from the world of science using leading professional scientific journals as sources.
4Government financing of pseudoscience is a primarily Soviet phenomenon [Translatorĺs note: I have corrected the phrase ôpurely Soviet phenomenonö to ôprimarily Soviet phenomenon, as there are examples of government funding of pseudoscience in Western countries] which began with the Lysenko affair. The only exception in the West was the episode with the secret attempt by the Pentagon in the 1960s to establish "telepathic" communications with the submarine Nautilus. The story ended with a scandal in the US Senate in 2001 in connection with the discovered "improper use" of $20 million, a negligible sum by Soviet standards!
5In the process, as a rule, they mention the condemnation of Galileo by the Inquisition, making a crude substitution of the sides of the conflict.
6It is curious that the authors of these projects lightly touch on the fact of the violation of fundamental laws but this does not embarrass them, but only increases their conceit.
7Popular discussions about the absolute supremacy of "His Majesty the Experiment" should not give rise to illusions: a single experiment is only one brick in a theory's building (even if it is a cornerstone). And when the next time a report appears, for example, of a supposed observed violation of the Special Theory of Relativity (STO) one has to be amazed with what confidence such sensations are perceived by the general public. Through the attempts by popularizers of science the average citizen thinks that the STO was entirely founded on the single Michelson experiment of 100 years ago. But indeed the STO rests on the vast practical experience of nuclear physics, so that each experiment "refuting" the STO stands in contrast to millions of experiments and observations which confirm it.
8It ought to be noted that only the second of these two examples has obvious signs of pseudoscience. The possibility of "cold" nuclear synthesis does not provoke doubt in principle and, moreover, has been experimentally proven with the example of muon catalysis. 9In an instructional letter of the USSR Ministry of the Defense Industry (MOP) in 1987 to subordinate organizations it informed them that after 30 years of secret research on a new kind of force field called "spinor" work had reached the stage of broad introduction in defense and the economy. The letter reported the organization of a special "Center of Nontraditional Technologies [TsNT]" in the USSR GKNT [State Committee for Science and Technology] and ordered the management of MOP organizations to be included in all national work programs coordinated by the TsNT.
10Article  begins with a story about one such meeting. An attempt to inspect material evidence of the achievements of Akimov's group is described there.
11We note that professional swindlers avoid the subject of parapsychology. When a TV host asked the famous David Copperfield about the "biofield", the latter innocently replied that he was simply an illusionist.
12 It was done this way: the laser beam was directed at a two-sector photodetector, that is, a receiver with two sensitive areas. Photographic signals from two outputs came to a differential amplifier. The amplified signal was proportional to the difference of illumination of the two areas of the receiver. With sufficient amplification the output signal detects negligible shifts of the beam and exhibits slow shifts connected with vibrations, with fluctuations of the refraction of the air, etc. It was left only for Kulagina to convince those present that the chaotic wanderings of the output signal corresponded to her mental efforts. She managed to create a suitable mood in the audience (readiness to see a miracle).
Ye. B. Aleksandrov, Academician of the RAN.
Translated by Gary Goldberg
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