Kyiv city Court Pecherskyi region is considering the unprecedented case for Ukraine. Iurii Teslia, Dean of the Faculty of Information Technologies at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, brought legal proceedings against Irina Yehorchenko, Senior Researcher at the Institute of Mathematics of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. The reason for the proceedings was Yehorchenko’s speech in the Verkhovna Rada, during which she said that Teslia is “pseudoscientist”.
Iurii Teslia declared that this statement is discrediting his reputation. He demands for this statement to be refuted via the courts. Irina Yehorchenko is not in a position to deny her words and said that real scientist is obliged to smoke out pseudoscience – this is even stipulated by the Code of Ethics for a Scientist, approved by the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.
Innovation House cleared up what may be the possible end of this story and how it affects the Ukrainian science.
The roots of the story
The first time, when Iurii Teslia turned to the court was as early as in January 2017. You may find information about this in the Unified State Register of Judicial Decisions. Shortly before, on November 16, 2016, the Verkhovna Rada had parliamentary hearings “On condition and problems of education and science funding in Ukraine”, and Irina Yehorchenko gave speech at these hearings. Her speech had one sentence: “Unfortunately, even in the National University of Kyiv we have Dean of the Faculty – famous pseudoscientist Mr. Teslia, well, there is no knowing what he is teaching his students.”
This very pronouncing triggered the Dean, who does not consider himself to be pseudoscientist. “How do you figure it to yourself that person, who has spent a lifetime dealing with science, was at the head of development and implementation of many information systems, was the first one to introduce the concept of matrix information technologies, did the groundwork for PRP-systems, developed the theory of non-violent (information) interaction that gave boost for the creation of a great many application systems in various fields, Doctor of Technical Sciences, Professor, laureate of the State Prize of Ukraine in Science and Technology, Scientist, who trained over thirty candidates and doctors of sciences, head of projects and programs of the highest possible international level – and out of the blue “bang!” – since November 16, 2016 “you are pseudoscientist!”? Going by that logic, all these results shall be considered to be of pseudoscientific nature. All my titles, diplomas, state award, training of students, hands-on assistance to young scientists are null and void? How can I put up with this? Sorry, but I simply cannot imagine that this may happen in a civilized country, in which scientists know and comply with Code of Professional Conduct!” – this is how Iurii Teslia explained his position in response to the inquiry of Innovation House.
At this point of time, through the courts he demands from Irina Yehorchenko compensation for moral harm amounting to UAH 50,000. Dean involved the Verkhovna Rada as the defendant in this case. If Iurii Teslia wins in this case, the Verkhovna Rada will be obliged to post refutation on its website and on YouTube page as well, namely will publish the court judgement within 10 business days upon it’s entry into force.
Who are pseudoscientists
The term “pseudoscientist” is not the opposite of the “scientist”. Person may have a scientific degree, may be an acknowledged expert in one scientific field, but may but be mistaken in another field. There ace cases, known to the science, when all of the sudden Nobel prize winners start to do pseudoscience as soon as they receive recognition from the public. This phenomenon is known as “Nobel disease”.
One of the most famous “victims” of this disease – French virologist Luc Montagnier. Montagnier and his workwellow Françoise Barré-Sinoussi got 2008 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for the discovery of retrovirus HIV causing AIDS. In 2011 team of scientists headed by Montagnier published their article in journal, where they declared that DNA molecules can be teleported. Namely: they may send weak electromagnetic signals that leave DNA “footprints” in water. By extension of this theory, Montagnier assumed that HIV, like virus, may also be teleported from one person to another in a contactless way. This “discovery” was strongly criticized by the scientific community, and Montagnier became popular as a “pseudoscientist”. There are several dozen Nobel laureates known to the history, whose late works bear distinct marks of pseudoscience.
Pseudoscience is most notably distinguished by its noncompliance with scientific methodology and evidence-based standards. However, pseudoscientists use scientific terminology in their attempts to legitimate their researches. Ideas propagandized by pseudoscientists are frequently attention-grabbing. Therefore, those, who have no scientific background, gladly believe them to be true.
Teslia said that that if the court holds that he is pseudoscientist, then he will no longer work in the domestic field of science and education. “Not least because I don’t want anyone to say that pseudoscientists work in Ukraine in general and in Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv in particular,” – explained he.
Next court session will be held on January 19, 2018. There were three of them already, but Irina Yehorchenko visited only the last one, held on October 27. It turned out that plaintiff indicated the wrong address, and notifications were sent to the address, at which Yehorchenko does not reside for a long time already. “I became aware of this claim just a very short while ago, when the Institute of Mathematics received the letter, – told she. – But as soon as I posted news about this letter on my Facebook page, I started to receive intimidations and threats, kind of, I broke the law when I missed the court session.
Scientists stand for Yehorchenko
When the lawsuit against Yehorchenko became known to scientific community, great many scientists, opinion leaders made a stand for her. Scientists even raised money to hire a lawyer. At the first stage that lasted from October 9 till October 18, 2017, they raised about UAH 10,000 from 22 persons.
On the other hand, Teslia’s works, namely theory of non-violent interaction, is viewed with some skepticism in scientific community. Upon the request of Yehorchenko’s lawyer, five physicists performed extrajudicial expert examination and arrived at conclusion that it is of pseudoscientific nature. The theory supposes that, for instance, any matter is sensuous. Its behavior is determined by your own attitude to the reality. Moreover, in his book “Dialogues with Teslia. The Theory of a Non-Force World” Dean of the National University of Kyiv is challenging the General Theory of Relativity, developed by Einstein. Teslia writes that gravity is not the force of attraction between two objects. And not the curvature of the space time continuum, as it was supposed in the theory of relativity. According to Teslia, gravity is the state, when some objects inform others about their existence, and reflexes of objects that perceived this information make them change their behavior. Experts, hired by Yehorchenko, found out that this expression has not a single proof. Studies of nature have also shown the opposite is true.
“The author of the theory shows his poor awareness of the principles of physics and blatant disregard of physical experiments results conducted by thousands of scientists over hundreds of years,” – stated in the report of experts. This report was endorsed by Zolotariuk Yaroslav, Leading Researcher at M. M. Bogolyubov Institute for Theoretical Physics of the NAS of Ukraine, Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Serhii Sharapov, Head of the Laboratory for Strongly Correlated Low-Dimensional Systems at M. M. Bogolyubov Institute for Theoretical Physics of the NAS of Ukraine, Member of Commission to Combat Pseudoscience and Falsification of Scientific Research under the Presidium of the NAS of Ukraine; Oleksiy Kolezhuk, Professor at the Institute of High Technologies at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Nikolai Iorov, Head of the Laboratory of Integrated Systems Theory of Department for Mathematical Methods in Theoretical Physics at M. M. Bogolyubov Institute for Theoretical Physics of the NAS of Ukraine, Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Igor Anisimov, Dean of the Faculty of Radiophysics, Electronics and Computer Systems at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Professor, Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences.
Semen Yesylevskyy, Leading Researcher of the Department of Physics of Biological Systems at the Institute of Physics of the NAS of Ukraine, also believes that the information exchange theory has more than obvious and explicit features of pseudoscience. “Everything would be perfectly fine, but he managed to lure his offspring into the educational process, and now he officially reads it to the students. Moreover, this marvel of thought is not published in peer-reviewed journals and was never ever discussed by professional physicists. Irina Yehorchenko had the imprudence to call a spade a spade and to spoke out before everyone that Teslia’s wild guesses are nothing but pseudoscience. And as a reward for this, lawsuit was filed against her,” – wrote Yesylevskyy on his Facebook page.
Oleksiy Boldyriev, Researcher at the Bogomoletz Institute of Physiology of the NAS of Ukraine said that he saw the words of encouragement is support of Yehorchenko from workfellows, who are usually in a critical mood. According to him, scientist not so much support Yehorchenko as the general principle: scientific reputation shall be proved through the scientific discussion, rather than through the courts.
The main point is whether the court will listen to the results of scientific examination. “If Ukraine’s first legal proceedings prove the possibility to replace the scientific examination with court decision, then this will lead to dire consequences – all the scientists of sober mind understand this,” – Oleksiy Boldyriev told. This process may cover the system with cement for dozens of years to come: it may discourage active scientists from public upholding of scientific truth fundamentals. After all, it will be nothing but scary to point out some errors, academic dishonor, plagiarism of person, especially if he is an academician, director or dean. “Many workfellows had conflicts with pseudoscientists. Threats were uttered. This happened to me too. Therefore, this is not something abstract,” – he told.
Where do pseudoscientists spring from?
Boldyriev reminds us that the country is full of pseudoscience and pseudoscientists in every single field – from archeology to medicine. “Scientific community was taught more than half a century that the Communist Party knows better how the cells multiply and how the universe is organized. That time gave birth to present-day tradition to look at the number of administrative and political regalia, rather than at the scientific research quality,” – explained he.
This is evidenced by Irina Yehorchenko too: “Unfortunately, administrative position are often held not by honoured scientists, but by “cater-cousins”. This is the endemic problem.”
Pseudoscience involves a number of threats. First, pseudoscientists undermine the image of Ukrainian science as a whole. On frequent occasions, man of the street cannot distinguish a scientist from a pseudoscientist, and may obtain an overview of the level of entire science considering the pseudoscientist only. Secondly, pseudoscientific statements destroy the scientific worldview, may lead to technogenic catastrophes and even to deaths. Anton Senenko, Senior Researcher at the Institute of Physics of the NAS of Ukraine, gave detailed explanations to Innovation House in his column why pseudoscience kills.
“If scientists explain the true essence of things under the threat of legal claims, the losses of business and the state will grow. I hope, I shall not explain egregious examples like “Doctor Pi” Andriy Slyusarchuk. Therefore, protection of the right and duty of scientist to express his scientific position in public is of utmost importance and shall be recognized by the society. And shall be prescribed by court judgement as well, if court proceedings have already begun,” – Boldyriev said.