|Saint Petersburg Branch of the Russian Humanist Society|
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Zdravyy Smysl N? 41, 2006
This summer the charlatan and swindler G. Grabovoy. who became widely known for his shameless promises to resurrect the dead children of Beslan, was finally arrested. Grabovoy, who for a long time enjoyed a mysterious immunity, was responsible for the security of "the aircraft of Putin and other CIS presidents" with the aid of "thought control" (?!). He stated this in a radio interview (on 28 September 2005 on Ekho Moskvy). It has reached the point that a latter-day Khlestakov [Translator's note: a character from Gogol's "The Inspector General"] declared himself the second incarnation of Christ. About 100 years ago there was someone similar in Russia…
The current rapid flowering of charlatanism has its own specific sources. They are outrageous Russian capitalism, which has no honor and no conscience, only ready cash, the remnants of a Soviet mentality with its unreserved faith in the mass media, and an undermining of the prestige of science in Russia. Finally, there is the philosophical vacuum which formed as a result of the crisis of Soviet ideology, a vacuum in which all sorts of charlatans, healers, gurus, saviors, and ordinary swindlers dashed in like a motley crowd in the hope of fooling people who had lost [their] orientation and faith in themselves with a tale, a lie, or fraud. It is quite evident what a monstrous error today's "ruling class" has made against the background of the outburst of irrationalism which has ruled in Russia in having let the problems of education, science, and culture take their course as "non-market[-oriented]", "unprofitable" and "worthless" in compared to natural gas or oil pipelines.
The young Russian state is gradually leaving the system of bandit capitalism of the elite. However, a new misfortune has appeared. Latter-day reformers have now taken it upon themselves to reform science, culture, and education. Do they understand, to put it politely, that the strange and confused reforms which they are trying to put into effect are leading to a decline in the level of education and culture? As regards science, an indifferent attitude toward its fate is quite clearly being observed among many high-ranking bureaucrats at the same time as an unfeigned interest in owning scientific institutions. If the bureaucrats manage to take the property into their own hands then there is a high probability that science will be destroyed. A corrupt bureaucracy will find a more fitting use for this property which provides the bureaucrats (not the state) great dividends. Well, but science will be replaced by a substitute: today one can get any document without difficulty, without making a great effort, whether it is a secondary school diploma, or a candidate's or a Ph.D. degree. The manufacture of candidates and Ph.D's with "turnkey" dissertations has taken on an unprecedented scale. All this is a notorious criminal business but the state gives the appearance that nothing strange is happening.
Many so-called public academies rubber-stamp their "candidates", "doctors", and "professors", also not for free, of course. Here the government has limited itself to half-measures, prohibiting the recognition of the diplomas of public academies as official documents in government institutions. But the fact is that the diplomas of these "academies" are as similar as two drops of water to the government diplomas issued by the Higher Certification Commission (VAK) and that the difference can be seen only under a microscope and the government ignored such "trifles" in its decree. It is not hard to guess where all this is leading. Education is being degraded and ignoramuses with purchased degrees and titles are making their way into the country's executive agencies. Today practically every other high-ranking bureaucrat is a candidate or doctor of sciences. Which of them is a real one is impossible to tell…
Here's a quite clear illustration. On 24 April 2006 "Rossiyskaya Gazeta", a government newspaper, published an article by N. Spassky, a Deputy Secretary of the RF Security Council, "Preparing for 'the [G-]8'". The author proposed "taking stock of some initial positions" before the summit meeting. Among other things, he wrote about "an approaching breakthrough in energy (controlled thermonuclear synthesis, hydrogen and vacuum energy)". A certain suspicion arises that the senior officials of the Security Council consult only people who are not burdened with scientific knowledge or swindlers. Before now only journalists from the lowest-standard "yellow press" publications "extracted" energy from a vacuum (there are, it is true, fraudulent firms which trade in devices which produce thermal energy "extracted from a vacuum", with an efficiency rating of several hundred percent). But at the governmental level there were not yet any such declarations…It is appropriate to go through the remaining positions of the "energy triad" announced by N. Spassky. Speaking of hydrogen energy it is necessary to note that hydrogen ought first to be obtained, and energy is needed to do this. Hence hydrogen energy (unlike coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear) is able to solve the problem of urban ecology, smelting metals, creating compact long-term sources of electrical current for various purposes, etc., but it does not solve the problem of the world shortage of energy and cannot become the basic [source] for industry. Finally, thermodynamic synthesis actually ought to be viewed as the basic energy of the future, but it cannot be regarded as one of the near-term breakthrough technologies. It is strange that no word was said in the article about the development of energy on the basis of fast neutron reactors.
Returning to "vacuum energy", that is, to the production of energy from a vacuum, it is necessary to note that today pseudoscience marches freely throughout Russia in all its conceivable and inconceivable aspects. Of course, we not talking about the individual naive "discoveries" of lone dreamers. Contemporary parascientific charlatanism has become a systematic phenomenon, for the most part organized and having its own firms, centers, and even "academies". These "scientists" feel as much at home as a fish in water in our work today. They deceive old people by passing off all sorts of worthless things as panaceas. Sick people yield to unscrupulous advertising placed in various mass media and buy instruments based on effects which do not exist in nature. Businessmen and state enterprises are deceived, promised thermal instruments with an efficiency rating (here everything depends on the impudence of the authors) of 150, 200, 300, 450, and 1000 percent! The violation of the Law of the Conservation of Energy does not bother [these "scientists"].
It is uncomfortable to write about this but psychics and astrologers of various stripes found support in the administration of the first president of Russia and in the Ministry of Defense. The same G. Grabovoy (who, by the way, is an "academician" of many of our home-grown "academies", a multiple "doctor of sciences" and "professor") gave a series of lectures which were completely impossible for a normal responsible person to hear, where what would you think? In the Ministry for Emergency Situations. He was a consultant to the RF Security Council! It is hard to imagine that the penetration of swindlers to the highest echelons is explainable only by the ignorance of bureaucrats. More likely, by corruption.
To achieve their selfish ends the ideologues of pseudoscience claim that "the official science paradigm" has become obsolete and that an era of new "esoteric" knowledge has come in which "dogmatic science" will have no place. The total assault on genuine science is not just being conducted by followers of pseudoscience. Behind the enemies of science is a powerful "philosophical" rationale which has deep roots – the anarchistic concept of postmodernism, which rejects the existence of objective truth and declares scientific results the product of a conspiracy of scientists. It is strange to hear all this. In such case is the cell phone, which appeared as a consequence of recent achievements in basic science, also the result of a conspiracy of scientists? It seems to us that the stupidity of this thesis requires no further documentation.
In one way or another pseudoscientists are welcome guests in newspapers, magazines, and television. The latter is especially active in disseminating the "achievements" of these "scientists", demonstrating the scandalous ignorance of their hosts at the same time (stating, for example, that water is the only substance have a solid, liquid, and gaseous form!). By the way, about water. On 9 April 2006 the Russia Channel showed a masterfully photographed film about water which one could not call anything but a lampoon on science. It is hard to understand why a respected television channel needs to engage in duping the population. However, one might assume that after the unscrupulous brainwashing organized in this film that the population would begin to quickly buy those water elixirs in which a "matrix of health has been imprinted" and grasp at other "achievements" of quackery.
One wonders: why is pseudoscience so attractive to the mass media? Because it has no restraints. Unlike science, it can promise anything it wants (the fact that this is fraud and that this will eventually come to light is not so important).
It is natural for pseudoscience to manipulate miracles, from contacts with aliens to an unusual diamond which became superhard after being placed in a pyramid "soaking up cosmic energy". Pseudoscience can turn iron into gold. While it wasn't possible to obtain gold from "alchemists" the state has tried to finance this absurdity…Ignoring the laws of nature firmly established by science, pseudoscience proposes a superweapon, either on "torsion fields" which destroys an enemy in an instant (they don't have to obey the speed of light!) at any point of the globe, or on the basis of anti-gravity, or gravity waves which, focused on an enemy missile, will smash it to smithereens. This and many other absurdities are often supported in the military. It is thought that the support of similar projects (secret, of course) is directly related to a notorious "kickback".
Pseudoscience also solves problems of interest to individuals. It promises to treat a hopelessly ill patient whom medicine is not able to help, can "see" the past and future, and transmit thoughts to a distance. Recently a new wonder appeared, an X-ray girl. The mass media was touched: well, it's needed, she sees through everything! A countless number of rhapsodic articles were written and she was repeatedly shown on television. When professional American experts established during competently conducted verification experiments that there was no miracle here and that all this turned out to be an illusion, not one Russian newspaper, not one channel reported about the embarrassment. The mass media does not need the truth, they need only sensations. They have only one concern – raise ratings at any price… But meanwhile a "Center for Special Human Diagnostics" was opened in Moscow. A "leading world-class specialist in the field of energy information diagnostics, Natasha Demkina, the X-ray girl", works in this "Center". The advertisement distributed by the "Center" says: "The phenomenon of Natasha Demkina has been recognized in Russia and abroad. A number of tests have been conducted which attest to this phenomenon". The opening of such a "Center" became possible thanks to the exaggeration of the fraudulent sensation in the mass media.
Up to now the majority of Russian citizens have believed the printed word. So it is possible that it is worthwhile for journalists writing advertising articles to order for various swindlers and crooks to think in the long term about the one-time dividends received for exaggerating dubious sensations undermining the good name of the newspaper (magazine). There would be no harm in thinking about what monstrous damage such journalists inflict on the state and the people. Of course, conscience is not in style now but we won't last long without it.
Yevgeniy Aleksandrov, Yuriy Yefremov, Ehduard Kruglyakov
Translated by Gary Goldberg
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