Saint Petersburg Branch of the Russian Humanist Society
All this would be funny...

Non-science fiction

Moskovskaya Pravda 19.12.2001

The end of the phrase hardly requires mention, but this is just a case when it's useful to say it another way. For what this is about could indeed be funny but it turns out not to be: a sickness which has struck the public has gone so far that it's time to expect a catastrophe. The danger is real, but action is needed because it is foolish to lament quietly.

This is the question that Academician Eduard Kruglyakov raises in his book "Swindlers Posing as Scientists" (Nauka Publishers). The reader is already familiar with it to some degree: several articles from the author's previous book which was published at the end of 1998 with a small print run are contained in it. The question raised in its name is "What is happening to us?" did not at all sound rhetorical. Academician Kruglyakov knows the answer to it. That is why he decided to write a book, at first one, then another. Then he took it upon himself to head the recently-created Commission on Pseudoscience of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Alas, our reality is such that we have no deference to various commissions. The efforts of merry reporters have led to this. Not in effect nor in fact, but from the tired custom of pulling down "official science" for regarding "unofficial [science]" unfavorably. This is one of the hackneyed cliches which has become firmly rooted in journalism. Brothers of the pen, there is no "official" and "unofficial" science, just like [there is no] "Russian" or, let's say, "American [science]". There is science. And there is pseudoscience. They are not divided by state borders or the walkways of academic institutes. Precise criteria are known by which a scientific result is recognized. Even if the scientific community views it skeptically for a certain period of time. All the rest is evil.

The reader will find examples of such evil pretentiously dressed up in the mantle of serious science in Academician Kruglyakov's new book. And again much will seem familiar upon reading . Because practically all the stories described we have in plain sight are about the deception of the entire country by Kashpirovsky, home-grown wizards who promise to treat all real and imaginary illnesses in one hour for a small consideration, or about masters of horoscopes creating almost identical ones in bunches, as long as they are paid money.

But, one can say, these are the most innocent representatives of pseudoscience. In the final analysis the average person can recognize them himself by trusting only his own common sense. There are much more serious persons like supporters of "torsion fields", "informationology", and "psychoenergy". These people contrive to penetrate the highest institutions, for example, the Ministry of Defense or the General Staff, getting both the highest attention, budget resources, and the publication of their works at taxpayers' expense. At their bidding the State Duma takes up bills like "The Protection of the Human Psychosphere" or "Ensuring Energy Information Security for the Population" instead of our real problems, the Ministry of Emergency Situations is charged with searching for a lost aircraft with a good hundred clairvoyants, and the administration of the country's President makes decisions relying on an official astrologer with the rank of general...

True, these three were during the previous administration, the astrologer who was a general was on its staff, and judging from everything, there is no longer there. But today one can often encounter the occult work of masters in schools, for example. And to see their books suggested as textbooks with reference to the Ministry of Education. Perhaps the fragile young psyche can also not withstand the experience of a lecture of some "corresponding member of the Academy of Information Sciences" It would lose its bearings. And this is more serious than the many millions of rubles which to this day the charlatans of pseudoscience whom Academician Kruglyakov called Swindlers Posing as Scientists fleece from the long-suffering Russian budget .

By the way, I bought this book in kiosks operating in the lobby of a recent General Meeting of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Academicians examined the book but could hardly find anything new in it. Of course its place is not in the Academy but in the stacks of books and counters of stores, and in university and school libraries. It is really useful reading.

Viola Yegikova

Translated by Gary Goldberg