|Saint Petersburg Branch of the Russian Humanist Society|
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13.01.2004 AiF-Zdorov'ye http://www.aif.ru/online/health/490/02_01
At the end of the 1990s scientists grew tired of watching the rapid stream of discoveries by "geniuses", including in the world of medicine. The majority of them were created by scam artists whose main goal was money. In order to combat this blatant fraud, at the end of 1998 the Presidium of the Russian Academy of Sciences [RAN] created a Commission to Combat Pseudoscience and the Falsification of Scientific Research. It is headed by Ehduard Pavlovich Kruglyakov, Academician of the RAN, Doctor of Physicomathematical Sciences, Professor, and Deputy Director of the G. I. Budker Institute of Nuclear Physics. Our conversation with him is about the work of the Commission and how widespread quackery is in Russia.
- Ehduard Pavlovich, how do you find out about manifestations of pseudoscience? And how can one recognize where there is really fraud and where there is an attempt to discover something new?
- We receive information from the most varied sources, beginning with the mass media, which simply abounds with all kinds of cock-and-bull stories which aspire to the role of scientific sensations, and ending with letters from individual citizens. In recent times all the more often government agencies, from the oblast'-level to the very highest, come to us. And there are requests from abroad.
It is not difficult to recognize falsification. The problem is that pseudoscience completely destroys the entire foundation of science. But current experience says that none of the even most improbable theories can tear down the old foundations but only develop them further. And when a "scientist" appears who throws out everything down to the foundations and thinks that his theory is the ultimate truth, there is no longer anything to talk about.
There is one more very important criterion. A description of "great' discoveries appears first in the mass media, and not in scientific journals. But why? Because scientific journals simply do not permit this nonsense. And so we live, the mass media on one side and science on the other.
- If you want specific examples, let's take the now popular quantum therapy instruments. They promise to cure practically all known diseases. Does this have a scientific basis?
- Regarding quantum medicine instruments, I can say that this is a crude, shameless fraud for the sake of profit. There is no research, no scientific basis for the instruments, there is none of this. But again, turn to scientific journals and find even one serious publication devoted to quantum medicine. You won't find anything. Only the mass media make a fuss about it.
- But what of those instruments which supposedly create a protective field around a person and save them from unfavorable environmental factors?
- In my book ("Uchenye s bol'shoy dorogi [Swindlers Posing as Scientists]") there is an article which is devoted to one such instrument, the Gamma-7. Its inventors claim that the instrument creates a protective field around a person with a radius of from one to 20 meters (this value alone should already put one on their guard), with the aid of which one be protected from any harmful influences. At the same time the instrument treats a multitude of illnesses (even without requiring energy, not from a network, not even from a battery). The author of the "invention", Mr. A. Okhatrin, was previously a candidate of technical sciences. When my article came out exposing his swindle one of the television channels invited me and A. Okhatrin to take part in a program devoted to the "instrument". I agreed, but he declined. I understood how it would end up for him. By the way, in the "test" protocols of the apparatus it was reported that its radiation was so negligible that special instruments had to be developed which could record them. Two institutes in Nizhniy Novgorod had been involved in doing this. It turned out that one of them simply didn't exist, while the other actually did but it was hearing about this instrument for the first time and had done no development to analyze the Gamma-7. My words resonated in the above television program: "Mr. Okhatrin is a first-class con man, unconscionably profiting from unfortunate sick people". No invitation to court followed.
There's yet one more recent story associated with an instrument which supposedly cures cancers. Inasmuch as the treatment principle is connected with a neutrino radiation which irradiates the patient's tumor this outraged me. A neutrino is one of these elementary particles which are the most all-penetrating and difficult to catch. Enormous streams of these particles coming from space freely penetrate the Earth's crust. In the process physicists manage to catch a few a day with the use of enormous neutrino telescopes…And here there appears a savior of mankind who has created a neutrino generator which cures cancer with the aid of a little stick and string. According to the advertising the tumor is reduced by 30% after one treatment. What can one say? This is total fraud, an example of swindling. Any physicist will tell you that verification is not even needed here.
Unfortunately, a great many such quack medical instruments and medicines which have no relation to health are being produced. They are of no use, unless you consider the placebo effect that everyone knows: it will help someone if the person faithfully believes in it. But when a patient has a progressive disease (for example, cancer) an enormous danger is concealed here – time is being lost.
- Does only your Commission combat such phenomena? Can the state help somehow?
- The Commission combats pseudoscience. As regards the state….Its role in this matter is imperceptible. Today any citizen can get a patent for any nonsense (the main thing is that this nonsense has not been previously patented) but it is not important that the invention is absurd and violates the laws of nature. If your invention is associated with, let's say, healing, you will have no problem in getting a license and treating sick people.
The Russian Academy of Medical Sciences has unfortunately not taken any part in our work. But meanwhile the Ministry of Health hands out all sort of certificates and permissions right and left. Here's an example for you. Recently I was sent a note on the drug Malavit. Whether it helps or not I am not going to judge, but some bad suspicions arose when reading the note. Here are some excerpts: "….a product of the synthesis of the achievements of information (vibration) medicine…". There is no such concept as "information medicine" nor is there a "vibration medicine". We read further: "Malavit was prepared with BEhI technology". The word combination "bioenergynformation (BEhI) exchange" has no relation to science. And lastly: "The firm 'Malavit' is the exclusive developer of generators of the Al'fatron and Ehkotron (magnetic, EhMP [electromagnetic], and torsion) fields, with the aid of which BEhI technology is realized, that is, a program of the restructuring of water and several components". I don't know what the scientific-sounding words "Al'fatron" and "Ehkotron" mean, but as regards torsion fields then there is no honor among thieves. The trailblazers and propagandists of torsion fields are completely different con men whom our Commission have repeatedly caught lying. The authors of "Malavit" got caught in a quite weak idea about the situation in physics. As regards the "restructuring of water" then this combination of words is from the arsenal of pseudoscience.
Here's a couple of other examples for you of how they try to defraud us. The "bionormalizer" wonder drug "suppresses the hepatitis virus, prevents the development of cirrhosis and liver cancer, and normalizes the clinical picture of blood and the state of health". New drugs pass through a long cycle of tests in clinics, after which they receive permission from the Pharmaceutical Committee. This usually takes years. But in this case no one received any permission because this is…a dietary supplement. There's where the freedom is for crooks! Dietary supplements do not need permission; anything that paper can stand can be written about them.
A rapturous advertisement was in another weekly about the latest wonder instrument which cures more than 350 various illnesses. I will cite several excerpts. "Minitag is the brilliant result of many years' work of Russian physicians and biophysicists. Minitag acts on diseased cells, restoring their operation with the aid of a special signal of super-small power. This signal, called 'the code of life' by scientists, is emitted by the healthy cells of all living organisms on our planet". One does not need to be a physician or a biologist to understand that all this, to put it politely, does not correspond to reality. All the same, I turned to a number of well-known biologists with a request to comment on the statements cited in the advertisement. The response was unanimous: this cannot be called anything other than nonsense. The RAN Institute of Cell Biophysics was named among the scientific organizations which took part in the research and clinical tests of the instrument. In reply to my query Corresponding Member of the RAN Ye. Ye. Fesenko, director of this Institute, replied that the Institute has no connection with the instrument. False references to the participation of famous scientific institutes are a typical method of the con artists who hang around science. This phenomenon is born of license and irresponsibility.
It does not treat, but it does not harm
- What can you say about zirconium bracelets and various amulets?
- Zirconium is an ordinary metal used in nuclear reactors. In recent years a surplus of zirconium has arisen in connection with the drop in the construction of nuclear power stations. But the money spent on its production needs to be recouped somehow so the bracelets were thought up. By the way, they are attractive. At least they offer an article which can be worn. But if it brings any good then it's only the placebo effect.
At one time an amulet [called Mediv (an abbreviation from "medical marvel") which needed to be worn on the neck was widely advertised. According to statements of the developers it radiates something and exerts a curative influence on the organism. From the point of view of science if any body radiates and absorbs an equal amount of energy it is in equilibrium with the environment. Where does the additional specific radiation come from if not from the power source or even batteries? These are fairy tales playing on ignorance and the power of the printed word.
In my view, a conscious systematic duping of the population is going on. As a result dealers in similar types of instruments feel like fish in water in our society. The deluding of the masses [ogluplenie] has reached such a level that the average person can believe whatever he wants. One of the reasons for the situation that has been created is connected with the sharp reduction of popular science publications. Quack inventors deceive the average person with scientific-sounding words. If this continues, in several years the people will be completely unable to tell truth from lies. I have already raised this issue in the RAN Presidium and at a meeting with our President, V. Putin. A revival of popular science journals and books has begun today. But it is important to make them accessible to young people and students.
Psychic on a Couch
- Can swindlers be held accountable?
- We do not have the appropriate laws. I consider it absolutely necessary to develop a law about honest advertising. People who publish dubious information which can cause harm to [people's] health ought to bear criminal responsibility. But this is not [the case]. But since it is not, there is the freest range for fraud.
Our Commission, together with members of the Russian Humanist Society [RGO], is the initiator of a lawsuit whose goal is to withdraw the licenses from healers who treat with "biofield correction". We have sent an open letter to the (now former) Vice-Governor of St. Petersburg, A. V. Kagan, signed by a number of well-known scientists (including two of our Nobel Laureates). A biofield does not exist in that sense that the SMI presents it and it is impossible to correct it; therefore the licenses (which were issued with the blessing of Mr. Kagan) ought to be withdrawn. Only a court can do this. After a series of persistent demands by the RGO, the plaintiff, the trial started but it is not going well or badly and has already taken a year.
Things have gone so far that quack inventors have even made threats against us. This is understandable, for every case of exposure of an instrument is the ruination of the firm and they lose a lot of money. The terrible is that pseudoscience is often financed by the Russian budget, often through secret sources. To this day pseudoscientists have comfy little nests, even around the Ministry of Defense and MChS [Ministry of Emergency Situations].
- That is, the state, too, does not ignore it?
- There are cases which stain our highest authorities. Raisa Sumerina, a barely-educated old lady from Lipetsk who is a clairvoyant, was received in the State Duma and her nonsensical "visions" caught the attention of the parliamentarians of a great country! The State Duma Ecology Committee held hearings about the UFO security of Russia. Really timely! According to the most reliable information, completely throwing aside all restraint, space aliens have begun to abduct our men in order to take sperm from them to improve their own species. But the organization in the Duma of an exhibit where the highlight of the program was a couch psychic treating 80 illnesses, including female frigidity and male impotence, was the height of absurdity.
Fortunately, almost all this has disappeared into the past. The 3rd convocation Duma seems more civilized. But there were even some awkward moments in it.
Remember the story at the end of the 1990s when rocks "radiating" in a pyramid were piled up around the Moscow Garden Ring and they were to have protected the capital from the flu? As luck would have it, right after this act the strongest epidemics raged through Moscow for two years in a row…One and a half kilograms of such rocks were sent into space to the Mir space station. The purpose? To create a favorable aura there, and then the cosmonauts would not become sick. The goal was good, of course, [but] it only smacks of total ignorance.
An "All-Powerful" Pyramid
- But pyramids enjoy great popularity. Are they in fact really a unique phenomenon?
- Aleksandr Golod is an enthusiast of pyramid construction. He has built many pyramids at his own expense in Bashkiria, Krasnodar Kray, Belgorod, Voronezh, and Tver Oblasts, in Moscow and the Moscow region, and in former Soviet republics. Golod thinks that all the misfortunes of our country originate from a space distortion. His pyramids "rectify" it and radiate miraculous energy.
Old and young people, sick (in order to be cured) and healthy (in order to be impregnated with the energy) people visit the pyramids. Miracles supposedly occur inside the pyramids, and an ion column, with whose aid the ozone holes are closed, was observed above it. A real pilgrimage comes here now. People are shown tricks: water does not freeze below zero, but if a vessel is shaken it quickly turns to ice. This is passed off as a unique phenomenon. In science the effect from supercooling a liquid is well known. Water freezes at zero degrees Celsius but if it is very pure, without suspended matter, then it can remain liquid even at lower temperatures. However, as soon as a center of crystallization appears – for example, a particle from the wall of a vessel falls into it – the water freezes instantly.
As regards an ion column, it is impossible for any radar to detect it. However, an ion column also cannot exist. This is a plasma column, of course, where the number of ions and electrons is the same and a radar could detect it. It only remained to find out, was there such a radar? For the answer I turned to A. A. Kokoshin, Corresponding Member of the RAN, and former 1st Deputy Minister of Defense (1992-1997) and Secretary of the Security Council (1998), who reported that no information had come to him about the detection of a so-called "ion column" over A. Golod's pyramid and also over nuclear [power] stations or the reactor of the Kurchatov Institute by air defense equipment (in a number of publications in 1996-1997 it was stated that the mythical "column" had been observed over a nuclear power station and the nuclear reactor of the Kurchatov Institute). Thus the bubble of the "ion column" ingloriously burst.
There was also a story of blades which supposedly sharpen themselves in the pyramids. I have heard this more than once, including [while] abroad. One American colleague told me that this canard was associated with April Fool's Day. On this day the mass media tries to amuse the people. If I am not mistaken, many years ago on 1 April one Czech engineer published an article about the unique properties of pyramids. He also joked that blades in a pyramid sharpen themselves, a dead cat was mummified in it, etc. And this went around the world and was presented as a miracle. It is thought that a pyramid stores cosmic energy and has a favorable influence on the environment, gradually bringing the entire country into the best condition. They even promised to cleanse the Volga River basin with the aid of pyramids. They tried to get money for this scam.
In recent years desktop analogs 30-40 cm high have appeared for sale costing about 3,000 rubles (with a discount for retirees). For about 1,000 rubles 10 pebbles "processed" in a pyramid which have absorbed cosmic energy and are able to create a favorable aura in an entire apartment are offered in a box. The business is inexhaustible. It is not hard to imagine the earnings.
- But how do you feel about psychics and healers?
- Long ago Koz'ma Prutkov said: "It is impossible to fill the unbounded". For example, if a psychic healer unburdened with special medical education begins to treat a cancer with the aid of any nonsense he needs to be made aware that in the eyes of everyone he is committing a slow murder. Such a healer needs to be immediately exposed, but we cannot keep track of every "granny Masha", of course. By the way, there are herbal teas among folk healers which might do some good. The Ministry of Health should keep an eye on this.
- All the same, how can one recognize a non-professional, where is there fraud, and whether the treatment or instrument should be trusted?
- If you plan to get some kind of superinstrument don't be lazy to drop into a science library and find a mention of it in serious literature. If possible, spend some time, but guard your health and money. If you understand the principle of operation and you do not notice any violations of the laws of nature that you learned in school this is probably a useful instrument. If they take you for a fool in the form of a large number of scientific-sounding words understand that what is going on is completely impossible and be vigilant!
Usually scam artists use physics terminology in abundance but so incompetently that if you find a person who has taken a university physics course this will be sufficient to expose the fraud. In fact, would much knowledge be required in order to understand that the instrument being offered you cannot create gravity waves (physicists cannot do this) and moreover it cannot treat with them? But they're already treating!
Translated by Gary Goldberg
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