Saint Petersburg Branch of the Russian Humanist Society
Pseudoscientists Have Be Exposed to Shame

From the author:

There is a series of programs on the NTV channel called Gordon (after the host's surname). Its theme is popular science but the people whom Gordon selects as conversationalists do not so much popularize science as they usually oppose generally-accepted scientific theories and opinions (this host is apparently trying to attract viewers' attention and increase the ratings of the series). For example, once the discussion was about T. D. Lysenko and it was said that he was not so much an ungifted scientist who managed to simply take advantage of the political situation but [rather] was actually a talented person of natural gifts, many of whose ideas are vital and productive to this day.

But on 28.02.02 Gordon's guests were Muscovites Vladimir Voyeykov and Petersburger Konstantin Korotkov. The conversation was about the human biofield and, although both conversationalists refused in a friendly manner to have anything to do with the "notorious 'biofield"', the idea of which phony healers unconscionably exploit, in their opinion something exists all the same and is being manifested. As an example Voyeykov said that experiments had long been conducted in the Burlakov Laboratory of the Moscow State University [MGU] Biology Department which have become routine even for students: there they experiment with aquarium fish which are influenced by some non-contact method, and as a result mutant fish are born.

And not long ago a digest edited by K. G. Korotkov landed in my hands, as it turned out, the same person.

      Data Sheet. The digest of articles is "From the Kirlian Effect to Bioelectrography" published by Ol'ga [Publishers], St. Petersburg, in 1998. The subtitle on the cover is "The world's first scientific instrument developed to study the human aura".

      K. G. Korotkov is a Doctor of Physicomathematical Sciences and Vice President of the International Union of Medical and Applied Bioelectrography. The majority of articles of the digest (17 of 27) were written by him personally or as a co-author. The scandalously famous Alan V. Chumak, presented in the book as a researcher, is among the co-authors.

      From K. G. Korotkov's article "The GRV [Gazorazryadnaya Vizualizatsiya, Gas Discharge Visualization] Method, a New Scientific Instrument to Study the Human Aura" (the text cited has been abridged).

      "The luminescence of various objects, including biological ones, in high-tension electromagnetic fields has been known for more than two centuries…The method was rediscovered at the end of the 1930s by the Kirlians…The results of tracking the influence on a patient of a doctor who is a bioenergy therapist are of special interest. Methods were developed on this basis to objectively test extrasensory activity…The triumphs of modern technology are used in the new generation of instruments. This permits…changes in a person's aura to be observed on a computer screen. The bundled software can build an in-depth picture of an aura inside the body and in the future will be able to conduct an automated diagnosis of the patient's condition. All this electronic computing power is not put up for show for the user in order to startle his imagination and frighten him with the variety of possibilities but is intentionally concealed inside some convenient buttons, displaying only the final result. Any person who has computer work experience will gain a knowledge of diagnostics in half a day and can begin independent work. Where can this be applied? Primarily in medicine…For the future we see this method as a practical instrument on the desk of any therapist, doctor of folk medicine, neuropathologist, and psychiatrist".

      From K. G. Korotkov's article "The Aura and the Kirlian Effect".

      "A person is placed on a black background. The light of a bright lamp is directed at him frontally and a picture is made with a big overexposure. A white field is engraved on the photograph which corresponds to the contour of the body with a foggy phosphorescent aura on it. H. Oldfield uses a video camera and computer processing of the images acquired. He makes a diagnosis of the condition and the presence of diseases according to the distribution of light around the person's body.

      The field which Polyakov recorded in his experiments…pertains to the physical fields surrounding a person. He was attuned to the patient, looking at his photograph or even just knowing his name, and a pencil in his hand begins to vibrate around a little figure of the person sketched on a sheet of paper. After some time a shaded field appears around the little figure reminiscent of the picture of the distribution of electrical fields. What unknown field X did Polyakov perceive? We do not have an answer at this time but it is not essential for our discussion. It is important that the field around the person, his aura, includes this component X as a significant component.

      The physical plane is one of the levels of reality, but far from the only and final one. This idea is trivial for mystics and spirits; from the most ancient times it has been instituted in sacred rites. Our task is to express this idea in modern language, to bring it into the scope of a scientific paradigm, and naturally to validate it experimentally…At the level of…a physical apparatus one can speak of recording only the physical components of auras… When studying a physical aura one can also get an idea of the more subtle planes.

      The diagram presented describes the interrelationships of the various levels of existence of the human organism and their association with the Kirlian effect. The characteristics recorded in the process determine the condition mainly of the energy information body, and not only the physical [body]. The structure of the luminescence of a person's fingers reflects the broad spectrum of his energy, psychological, and emotional features. A possibility of a deeper penetration into the secrets of the human organism has been found with the appearance of a new generation of computerized Kirlian instruments".

      From the article of K. G. Korotkov and A. V. Chumak, "The Influence of Consciousness on the Material World, Concepts and an Experiment".

      "One of the important tasks is to turn public opinion, to move it from a condition of lack of spirituality and material vacuity toward self-realization and spirituality…A notable shift has been associated with the activity of A. V. Chumak, but many questions remain. A series of experiments using the GRV method have been conducted to answer them.

      The results show the precisely expressed abilities of A. V. Chumak to exert an influence on the energy information structure of the surrounding space and other people and to change… the condition of material objects and processes at will. These are not psychological effects associated with the emotional features of a particular subject but specific field effects of a physical nature as yet unknown to us".

From the author:

It seemed to me the wave of enthusiasm for pseudomedicine using the "biofield correction" method observed here among us in St. Petersburg (and possibly not only here) came right from this digest, and I decided to familiarize my colleagues in the struggle against pseudoscience with it. Several of them obligingly commented, sending their assessments of this, and not only this, "work".

      L. I. Korochkin, Physician, Biologist, Corresponding Member of the RAN (Institute of the Biology of Genes, Moscow).

      First about Gordon. He actually had an extremely unpleasant program in which Lysenko figured. But various scientists were invited to this program, including true [scientists]. I and M. Aleksandrova participated in one program and explained the real situation of the problem of cloning mammals. This is very important inasmuch as the mass media muddle and confuse everything with respect to this.

      On the other hand, such odious figures as Voyeykov land on the program. He is the head of the Department of Bioorganic Chemistry at MGU. Who this Korotkov is, I don't know, but in my opinion he became a doctor of sciences through a misunderstanding. Both talked rubbish. As regards Burlakov's "experiments", no one takes them seriously. But you might as well be talking to the wall! He also works at MGU. Some there support him in connection with the hope of obtaining confirmation of the existence of the "mitogenetic rays" of Gurvich. However no such confirmation has been achieved, including in Burlakov's experiments.

      There are no grounds to speak of specific biological fields and I wrote about this in my 06.03.02 article in Literaturnaya Gazeta.

      R. S. Suris, physicist, corresponding member of the RAN (the Ioffe Physicotechnical Institute, St. Petersburg).

      Korotkov's digest is perfect gibberish! In spite of all that, it is pretty thick. Each passage is either a senseless combination of terms used in science, or nonsense, or a combination of terms made up by the author himself and used by no one except him and his supporters. In what scientific or, at the very least, normal document can one familiarize oneself with what kind of a specialist this is, a doctor and bioenergy therapist? In what university do they teach this? Korotkov writes:

      "Any person who has computer work experience will gain a knowledge of diagnostics in half a day and can begin independent work".

      You couldn't think up anything better: he bought a computer and, having spent half a day figuring it out, raked in some money from unfortunate patients. And why do people study for years to learn medical wisdom? Because that person is as simple as a felt boot. So a computer and a half day's training are enough to learn everything about this felt boot and then to begin to treat him. But what they think up about the human body is a crowning achievement of creativity! True, those who think this way have forgotten what this "felt boot" is, which thought up the computer itself. You won't deceive such people with the aid of the computer they thought up. Well, let them go to regular doctors. And those who are simpler, let them go through the computer. And let them carry spare cash for working out new methods of getting this very spare cash from them. Further:

      "In his experiments Polyakov was attuned to the patient, looking at his photograph or even only knowing his name, and a pencil in his hand begins to vibrate around a little figure of the person sketched on a sheet of paper. After some time a shaded field reminiscent of the picture of the distribution of electrical fields appears around the little figure. What unknown field X did Polyakov perceive? We do not have an answer at this time but it is not essential for our discussion. It is important that the field around the person, his aura, includes this component X as a significant component".

      Well, this is already direct plagiarism! In L. Tolstoy's famous work "The Fruits of Enlightenment" the aristocratic ladies are enthusiasts of spiritualism. And a medium named Grossman figures in it. The ecstatic ladies, piously believing in the connection with the spirits through Grossman (they did not know then that this was being done with the aid of "an unknown field X") and it was also "not essential for their discussion", followed on Grossman's heels and at those moments when, as we now (thanks to Mr. Korotkov) know, the "field X" came into play and it seemed to them that contact had been established with the spirits, they exclaimed in unison, "Grossman is vibrating!". Gentlemen, all this has already taken place! There's nothing new under the Sun…In those times Grossman was using his apparently remarkable abilities of suggestion for his comfortable existence at the expense of the money of the husbands of these ecstatic ladies. But now, as they say, the plot begins to thicken. Today's Grossmans aspire to the money not only of credulous individuals but often want to take government [money] for their, if one may say, projects.

      But to discuss "science" using similar, as I have already said, thick writing is an absurd business. Can one convince the operator of a shell game in an open and honest dialogue that he is swindling?

      Ye. B. Aleksandrov, physicist and academician of the RAN (the Ioffe Physicotechnical Institute, St. Petersburg)

      It seemed physical torture for me to delve into this nonsense (Korotkov's digest). And it is pitiful to spend the time and effort which will not increase with the years. All the same I offer my short appraisal of this "work" (one could have written more and more colorfully, but turns one's stomach).

      The so-called Kirlian effect actually exists although I have not seen anything about it in any rational literature. So I have an idea about it at the level of the descriptions of paranoiacs and personal opinions. This phenomenon is quite commonplace but, as with any gas discharge, spectacular and therefore it is easy to use it to fool uneducated people. It reflects the warmth and sweatiness of the hands and therefore is able to react to words directed at the "subject", who is exploited by fraud. The book makes an extremely painful impression. This is a profanation of science. Korotkov, who calls himself a physicist and works with the gas discharge visualization of an "aura", writes seriously about a Supreme Spirit, believes in spiritualism, and studies the "mysterious" abilities of a charlatan who charges water on a viewer's table via television with his "biological energy field". And all this is thickly embroidered in scientific-sounding terminology. What about the statement, for example, that there are "coherent" acoustic, electromagnetic, and gravitational fields in a biological organism? However, if you start to cite the stupidities from this book then you'd have to rewrite half of it. This is a genuinely surprising mixture of plausible, sufficiently reasonable, and sometimes also true maxims and observations with the wildest old, new, and most recent prejudices and superstitions. For example, acupuncture, which has a realistic basis, is discussed along with "phantom diagnostics"! It might be possible to ignore all this if it were not presented as the leading edge of science and did not serve as "scientific" cover for a flood of occult "healing".

      I asked the rector of the higher educational institution where Korotkov works about him. Strange as it may seem, the rector thinks that everything is in order with this professor, that he is engaged only in his own electrography, but as medical people explain this, it is their business (although Korotkov himself is basically interpreting it). The rector knows that there is another professor, Dul'nev, who has long been studying "witches", and also is quietly related to this. This Dul'nev had collaborated with the late swindler N. Kulagina who long and successfully pulled the wool over not just his eyes reading letters through closed envelopes, spinning a compass, "telekinesis", etc. I had occasion to meet this Kulagina, a very shrewd person. But she refused to demonstrate any of her "miracles" in my presence.

      But not long ago they dirtied me with yet one more swindle. The Physicotechnical Institute where I work sent me to the N. G. Kuznetsov Naval Academy to look into the latest wasteful idiocy, the method of Professor A. N. Sinyakov.

      Data Sheet. Aleksandr Nazar'yevich Sinyakov, Prorector of the Academy of Aerospace Engineering. He claims to have discovered a method of so-called "local geophysical resonance (LGR)" on the basis of which he suggests interpretations of a mass of events, from Yesenin's suicide to the sinking of the submarine Kursk and the appearance of UFOs.

      The problem is that Navy men, depressed by their high accident rate in the fleet, bit on a paragraph in the newspaper Argumenty i Fakty [Arguments and Facts] and turned to a number of scientific organizations with a request to take part in an expert examination of the proposed method, inviting the author himself to the conference. At the conference of experts I found out that there was a scientific research institute under President Putin whose exact name I do not remember, something connected with strategic forecasts. Two people from there spoke, both with the full approval of Sinyakov. One of them turned out to be Andrey Buzinov, the son of the "renowned" military astrologer, Captain 1st Rank A. S. Buzinov ("Cassandra in Shoulderboards"). The father was also present and complained that the intrigues of politicians had led to the disbandment of his service in the General Staff ("But, you see, I drew up a horoscope that Putin would follow Yeltsin"). The expert review of Sinyakov's proposals found exactly what he wanted. A collective conclusion was written, although with a number of comments, but with a desire to continue work to verify the "effectiveness" of the LGR method. I wrote a special opinion in which I suggested completely ignoring this nonsense and not conducting any tests in view of their complete senselessness. Only several people (out of 60!) supported me. Evidently this stupidity will continue, for the military can knock out budget allocations from it. Besides, Professor Sinyakov is a clever person and will not lose sight of his interests.

From the author:

Of course, I have been neither been calling on upon Robert Arnol'dovich nor anyone else to "discuss" pseudoscience. It does not need to be discussed, but rather ridiculed. Satire, along with popular science education, is the main weapon in the struggle with it. In doing this it is quite valuable when members of the RAN and staff members of its eminent scientific institutes engage in this. If the opinions of leading scientific authorities are conveyed to the general public then this should provoke a broad public response. Under conditions where the press, radio, and television almost never give the floor to real scientists, ridicule of charlatans who cover themselves in scientific degrees ought to be one of the most important topics of publications in the information outlets available to the RGO [Russian Humanist Organization] (including its sites on the Internet). It is necessary to bring matters to the point that as many people as possible ridicule swindlers together with scientists; only then, possibly, will they restrain their ardor. They fear public ridicule and stigmatization very much. They are free when real scientists are silent. So they need to be dragged out into the light by the ears for general inspection and shame.

I very much hope that the writers who work in the popular science genre will help in this. Recently I was at a meeting of their section in the Writers Union of St. Petersburg. Writer Mikhail Akhmanov delighted everyone with his witty report about crooks of all sorts and ranks who have fed off science. He has already collected a lot of material for a book on this topic. I also have done this and will make my own contribution to his writer's portfolio and call upon everyone who is willing to do this.

Some days ago, turning on the radio, I heard a conversation with a flower grower about domestic plants. Engaged in something else, I listened quietly but suddenly I pricked up my ears, for the flower lady began to give assurances that flowers have an inherent ability to think, suffer, and become attached to their owners, to take offense, and even to tell which person waters them, a good or angry one, etc. And she sees the cause in the interaction of all those "biofields" of plants and humans. Some scientists supposedly explained it to her this way and she believes in science assiduously. That's how science can be deftly turned inside out. After this, try to argue with people who have heard such "scientific" programs. They will start to ridicule [you] and call [you] an ignoramus and old-fashioned.

I had an idea in this regard to institute a sort of "Board of Shame of Pseudoscientists" on the Internet. Let it help people who have difficulty independently distinguishing real scientists from swindlers. For this is difficult to do at times because of the mimicry by the latter. Those who propagate pseudoscience not through honest mistakes but from selfish motives should be reported on this Board with restraint and without bad language, but firmly and mercilessly. [These people] try with demagogic methods and outright deception to gain recognition if not in the company of real scientists, who reject them, then if only from the general, insufficiently educated public and chiefly from government representatives, while exploiting cheap notoriety in order to get budget allocations from the public purse immediately afterwards. One would like to know the opinion of visitors to our website about the advisability and ethics of this idea. Candidates for a place of "honor" ought to be easy to find even in the texts of this and other materials of our website.

Gennady Shevelev

Translated by Gary Goldberg