Updating: James the Amazing Randi has replied to my letter and said the Olalde is ellegible for the one million dollar prize, besides he kindly corrected my letter and translated it to proper English.
It's been a long time since I wrote something about my first intellectual passion, Skepticism. I became a skeptic 7 years ago and became an activist on the field six moths later. I founded the only skeptic association of Venezuela and happily, we are still on the road and we even have a weekly radio show of 15 minutes every thursday.
I haven't written about the subject in a while, I have been too excited about the future, and worried abouy MY future. But now it's time to change that.
What would you think about this:
I am not making this up. It is actually a peer reviewed paper indexed in Pubmed, one of the most trusted databases in science. And this crap is in. How can this be?. Well, I have a theory: That happens when peer review is not made by peers, but by quacks. Yes. On the board of the Evidence-based Compl. and Alt. Medicine (eCAM) (no wonder why all the letters are capital but the e) there is at least a person who is neither biologist, doctor or has any training related to Health Sciences, a tycoon of the alternative health who has shown no respect for the healt of his victims and abuse of them, emitting tv spots of "cured" patients who turn to be dead by the time the spot is aired.
I will post here a letter I just sent to several leading skeptics and quack busters:
My name is Guido David Núñez-Mujica. I am the founder of the only sceptical association in Venezuela (www.geocities.com/escepticosven
ezuela). We have been involved for the last six years in promoting scepticism and rational thinking among Venezuelan society. To date, we have dealt with several traditional kinds of quackery. One particular case of quackery in medicine is remarkable not only for its economic success in Venezuela, but also for its virulent, shameless, slanderous promotion, its international projection and success, and -- more dangerously -- its infiltration of the peer-reviewed literature.
I am talking about "Adpatógenos Internacionales," a company founded by José Olalde, a self-proclaimed "Engineer in Artificial Satellites" and a Scientologist. The basic claim of Olalde is that he has devised a new theory of living systems, based on a triangular scheme, a so-called "triangle of life" in which each side represents Biologic Intelligence, Biological Organization and Energy. Check for yourself: www.systemicmedicine.com/. They also claim to be able to diagnose "140,000 diseases" with yet another version of an aura-reader, their "energimeter." Unfortunately, all the rebuttals we have produced are still in Spanish and our English is not good enough to attempt a proper translation, nor are our resources enough to get a professional translator.
What is more worrying here, is not the usual quackery. We have seen quacks before and we will see quacks in the future. What is actually dangerous is that this crook has in fact gotten into the board of the journal "Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine," despite the fact that he hasn't any training as a doctor or biologist, or in any field related to Health Sciences. If you check closely the first paper published by Olalde, you will find that something smells pretty foul there. At the bottom of the paper you will see: Received January 13, 2005; accepted January 14, 2005.
I have not published any paper yet, but I do work in research and I am aware of the painfully long process of submitting a paper to a journal, of the time the referees need to evaluate it and often suggest new experiments and further research, besides wording and graph issues, and yet here you have a completely new theory of life that quotes L. Ron Hubbard and you have not even a tiny correction to the Author? That is suspicious, but when you see Olalde's name on the editorial board of the journal, the mystery is solved: www.oxfordjournals.org/ecam
I think that is VERY dangerous, since these people claim to cure everything from cancer to arthritis and diabetes, and they often boast about their "paper in Oxford" and point to the people who criticise them, saying we have no papers at all and we are "jealous" and at the service of evil pharmaceutical companies. You know, the usual quack stuff. Even more outrageous, their "papers" are indexed at Medline! I think it is necessary to denounce this travesty of science and make Oxford Journals come to terms with the Ecam, closing the journal or retracting all these papers and expelling the fraudulent people from their board. This is different from most of quacks, since it now is part of the accepted and peer-reviewed knowledge. And this journal has not stopped at publishing this quackery, they have also published other "papers," like the influence of the pyramids on stress in rats. These papers not only give very extraordinary results, but also quote as a fact the existence of a kind of "energy" responsible for the observations. And this rubbish is published as peer-reviewed and indexed in Medline. There is another paper (http://tinyurl.com/2tcnox) published in another magazine that seems more fact-based, however, I see some things that do not fit, but since I am not an expert at interpreting microarrays, I cannot say anything, but, fortunately they have produced a video ( http://tinyurl.com/2lfuwm) where they boast a lot about heir product Circulat, claiming totally unrelated things, even if their results are correct and fraud free. In the video you can see Olalde's business partner, Anatoly Antoshechkin, is the Director of R+D of a company named Genext (www.genextresearch.com/), whose mission is to patent and eventually put on the market tested herbal "adaptogenic" compounds. But wait, those plants were already being used here, before the paper was released! We in Venezuela are the guinea pigs of Genext, Nulab and International Adaptogens, who are not only selling Circulat but scores of other products -- never tested -- that they claim can cure almost everything.
I am sorry if I am being too vehement, or my language is rude, but I am furious, as a scientist, to see this kind of stupid quackery as relevant and true as real papers – and precisely at this time. Now, when stem cells are said to do marvels, when implants are made that allow paralysed people to move things with their help, when things really astounding are happening in science and technology, precisely now, when a lot of people are confused about what science is, and what isn't, about what science is able to do and what it isn't able to do, because the limit of possible things seems to expand, precisely at this time a dishonest (yes, dishonest, not simply naive) journal has allowed crooks and liars on its pages not only giving them space for their ridiculous claims, but also giving them scientific respectability in the eyes of unaware people who trust in the high standards of peer-reviewed publications and in the self correction of science.
This is not only utterly dangerous and a cruel joke for the general public, as Olalde's company makes a lot of money here in Venezuela, and is beginning to spread to other countries. There are several cases of deaths due to his products or to the lack of proper medical treatment. In one of these cases a woman on a TV spot claimed to be cured from cancer, while in fact, she died 9 months before the date the spot was released. This is also an affront to all of us who try to understand how things work, and for those of us who work hard to turn abstract knowledge into useful products and a better quality of life.
I think that this situation must be acknowledged and we have to do something about it. There must be a strong reaction from scientists to stop this, analogous to cases of fraud in papers. I am writing this to you because I am sure you will be interested in this case and maybe Olalde's claims may win him the $1,000,000 prize if he can prove them, for instance diagnosing diseases with his "energimeter," or maybe you would be interested in "Dr." K. G. Korotkov, who claims that there exists "Evidence of the mind-body activity after death."
In 1993, Dr. Korotkov and his associates obtained strong experimental evidence of human life energy for up to 6 days after physical death. Characteristic patterns emerged according to the manner of death, i.e. peaceful death, sudden unexpected death, suicide. Details are described in the book by K. Korotkov in Russian and English (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Korotkov is the creator of the energimeter and one of Olalde's close allies.
I have already written to Dr. Stephen Barrett on this issue, I hope that you can help us to debunk this dangerous quack and expose him and his partners.
Thank you very much for your time.
Guido David Núñez-Mujica
Undergraduate student of Biology and Computational Physics, scepticMérida, Venezuela
If any of you, dear readers, can help to spread this meme and begin to complain to withdraw this silly "papers" from Mdeline, I will be eternally thankful to you.
Suggestions are needed.
PS: These weeks are hectic indeed. Yesterday I submited my first abstract to a traditional science conference and we are working on a paper in bioinformatics. Nothing edge-cutting, but it is fun as hell. And I just finished the preliminar model of my thesis in Fortran, but as my Ubuntu's X crashed, I have still to check if it runs properly.
Ps: Again, forgive my awful English. I hope it improves next month! ;)