Saint Petersburg Branch of the Russian Humanist Society
Why Pseudoscience Is Flowering In Russia

Mir Novostey 024, 08.06.2004

Is it possible to scatter clouds over Indonesia from Moscow? To clean the capital's reservoirs with the aid of torsion fields? To treat hundreds of illnesses using the energy of a vacuum? Antiscientific trends are sweeping Russia. This would be completely innocent if all this antiscientific Bacchanalia was not influencing people's view of the world and replacing genuine scientific knowledge of the surrounding world. Academician YEVGENIY ALEKSANDROV discusses the role of pseudoscience.

- As a scientist, I was moved to get involved in an unequal battle with pseudoscientists by bewilderment of how we are dealing with scam artists of such a high level. In 1987 the Ministry of the Defense Industry sent me for review a top secret report about the work of some group from Tula. I read it and my eyes popped out in surprise - this was simply impossible!

The leader of the work declared that they had developed a universal theory of discovery on the basis of dialectical materialism. You enter any input data in the algorithm and you get the discovery of the century. One not need go far for examples. The author maintains that they discovered new fields and forces which permit the unraveling of the mystery of flying saucers and the development of a "hyperengine" which does not need a support, that is, not obeying Newton's Third Law. It was proposed that a new nuclear weapon platform which was invisible and endlessly fast be created on this basis. Peaceful use of the detected fields was also assumed. In particular, a 20-milliwatt generator had already been created which had radically changed the weather in the entire European part of the USSR and ensured unprecedented harvests. In a word, complete nonsense, which we also wrote in the review. However the story did not end there.

A year later they proposed that our institute participate in a secret program to introduce "spinor technologies".

My amazement knew no bounds. For this to be comprehensible...Imagine, that a person comes to you and offers a philosopher's stone, the elixir of life, a magic tablecloth, and a number of trifles - a cloak of invisibility, a perpetual ink pen, and bedbug insecticide, all for 100 rubles. Soon afterwards I was invited to a closed conference on spinor technologies where I first saw Akimov, the author of the "inventions", and was finally convinced that I was dealing with a huge swindle. I then wrote to every level, the Minister, the Chairman of the State Committee for Science and Technology, and the President of the USSR Academy of Sciences, calling upon them to conduct an expert scientific review of this entire affair. There was no reply. Then I decided to talk about the program at the Academy's general meeting. What this led to is wellknown. A commission of the Academy of Sciences created at my initiative and a Ministry of the Defense Industry commission independent of it came to the unfavorable conclusion that NO TORSION FIELDS EXIST IN NATURE! A huge scandal broke out. The program to study torsion fields was shut down. The "Center of Nontraditional Technologies" of the State Committee for Science and Technology where the torsionists were based, was closed. But the inventors of torsion fields are still prospering, periodically cheering Russians with either unique treatment generators or instruments to change the weather... At the beginning of the 21st century Moscow's underground Yauza River was cleaned through the efforts of the torsionists. After irradiation with torsion generators the level of pollution was reduced by 30%. True, hydrologists did not hurry to congratulate [their] colleagues. In their opinion, the swindlers from science had artfully used the seasonal variations in pollution. In addition, the scam artists are trying to bring their "high-tech" business to the international level. For example, what about the story of the clean sky of Indonesia? Not so long ago torsionists whom I knew well, using their connections in the Russian Foreign Ministry, approached the government of Indonesia with a proposal to eliminate the smog from the forest fires of the Philippines. The uniqueness of the project was that the inventors of the miracle instrument didn't even plan to visit the site of the ecological catastrophe - the directed torsion field was to have been emitted directly from Moscow. And soon after it was used the smog actually lifted, as if by a hand. True, the several million dollar cost of the miracle was preceded by protracted negotiations which concluded in surprising fashion just when the direction of the tradewinds changed and the sky over Indonesia cleared by itself. I have constantly asked the question, why can not Russian bureaucrats understand a shady enterprise in time?

Everything seemed simpl. The torsionists had the ideal bait for Party functionaries - a wonder weapon which no one had ever had. The reason right now is very banal, money. The only thing is, in return the indisputable achievement of the torsionists was the creation of a "kickback system" by which a bureaucrat got a certain percentage of the budgeted sum by waving a document. Soviet science bureaucrats were ready to finance any of the craziest projects if only it brought them profit. The torsionists themselves shared quite generously with their supporters. The directors of dozens of scientific research institutes which worked with spinor technologies understood very well that they were dealing with a blunder. But since it's easy money, why turn up your nose? By the way, if earlier the "kickbacks" amounted to containers with alcohol and cash brought in in ministerial portfolios now we're talking about billions of dollars sent offshore. How can one explain otherwise the financing of such crazy projects as getting energy from a stone or building a flying saucer? But it's no misfortune that there is no money in the state budget to adopt this invention - we'll get a credit from the International Monetary Fund. But the main thing is, in 10 years neither the one who devised this nor the one who signed the papers will be in their chairs any longer. So why waste time, we'll allocate two million bucks for this business, go halves, and rush off to the Bahamas. I think that the trend of thought of the Russian bureaucrat is quite clear. Many people ask me, why does the public happily "feed" such pseudoscientific nonsense?

The following can be said about this: at the beginning of the 1990s the ideal conditions had developed in our country for the advancement of pseudoscience. Catastrophes caused by technology (most vividly, the 1986 Chernobyl accident) accompanied by the crash of the economy discredited science in the eyes of the public. The prestige of science was undermined and people stopped listening to the opinions of scientists. On the other hand, religious and mystical sentiments were intensified in conditions in which there was a massive loss of the public's bearings, confusion, and panic caused by a collapse of the state. People believed in otherworldly or cosmic forces which would come and save the unlucky Russians. Nothing similar was observed during the first Russian Revolution; however, at the end of the 20th century the massive psychosis was aggravated by apocalyptic expectations and also...a specific mentality which existed in Russia. The Commission to Combat Pseudoscience and the Falsification of Scientific Research has repeatedly addressed the Prime Minister and the President of the Russian Federation, pointing out the intolerability of such a situation. However, nothing has happened yet - money for science continues to be distributed under the table, senseless projects are being financed, and pseudoscientists are published and broadcast in the national media. There is the impression that Russian authorities are simply interested in massive duping of the population.

Published on 18 June 2004

12 - 18 2004.

Translated by Gary Goldberg