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Warning signs developed by Robert L. Park

1 — The claim for the validity of bau-biology is argued in the media, not in scientific or academic journals.

That’s because there isn’t any science to back up the claims. Bau-biologists operate largely in the realm of make-believe. Also, if you choose to argue the validity of your idea in the media, you hope to gain monetarily from the publicity. 

Scientists precisely define their terms; you can find plenty of them in a good dictionary, and you probably hear many of them daily. Bau-biologists wrote their own dictionary to avoid what’s in the real dictionary. Their dictionary borrowed ideas and jargon from 19th-century Spiritualism, occult lore, and New Age circles. They are smart enough to know that their clients passively accept how things are explained to them, and wouldn’t think of consulting a dictionary to see whether what’s being marketed has a basis in fact.

There is never any evidence, reference to peer reviewed literature, medicaltrial, etc., to show that these products work — we just have to accept they do! Science is about asking questions; critical thought should be the crucial element.  — Maria Cruz, physicist

Scientific proof for bau-biology?

Certain personality types are prone to believing in “geopathic stress,” “electro-pollution,” and the other buzzwords. Bau-biology promotes this pathological mindset (see the last question in this online version of the study test for “Introduction to Electromagnetic Fields,” from the International Institute for Bau-Biologie). 

A Swedish study of 59 people who claim a high sensitivity to “electro-pollution” and amalgam dental fillings were what researchers called “vulnerable personalities” who exhibit “various mental and somatic symptoms,” and that these people interpret their symptoms as “environmental illness.”1One study researching sufferers of “sick building syndrome” wondered whether there weren’t dysfunctional people rather than dysfunctional buildings. Or perhaps that should be “dysfunctional women,” as research shows women are more predisposed to the ailment than men.2
Psychological issues may take a prominent role in workplaces where people claim to be suffering from such ailments. For each disorder, there are building- (or exposure-) related variables and psychological variables believed to trigger or maintain the symptoms.3
Researchers into psychosomatic illnesses studied 31 experiments in which scientists tested 725 allegedly “electromagnetically hypersensitive” individuals. Twenty-four of 31 experiments found no evidence to support the existence of any hypersensitivity; 7 studies reported some supporting evidence. However, in 2 out of the 7 studies with supporting evidence, the same research groups who performed the original studies subsequently failed to replicate their findings. In 3 out of the 7 studies with evidence, the positive results turned out to be errors in the data. The final 2 studies with some supporting evidence gave results the researchers called “mutually incompatible.” 

In other words, the researchers who conducted the original studies may have fallen under the spell of self-deception. They may have been looking for these ailments, rather than letting the data speak for themselves.
The researchers concluded that “it has proved difficult to show under blind [neutral] conditions” that exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) can induce symptoms of “electromagnetic hypersensitivity.” Any alleged hypersensitivity can be proved to be unrelated to the presence of EMFs.4

The researchers believe a more fruitful field of study would be to learn why some people insist on blaming their personal ills on electromagnetic fields.

People who embrace this pseudoscience feel very antagonistic towards science, primarily because they don’t understand it. Their advertising laments the applications of technology, but these people who make you worry about technology have websites, computers, cell phones, GPS, and every modern contrivance that helps them profit from their scams. To conceal their discomfort with science they often quote from crank literature.

Crank literature tends to be mired in the 19th century, when people were fascinated with Mesmer and that newfangled electricity.Nowhere is the scientific ambivalence more pronounced than in bau-biology’s little subdiscipline, called electrobiology — a term that actually refers to electrical activity of the heart and nervous system. At Duke University you can study real-world electrobiology.

It is so much easier to concoct things than have to research, or read scientific papers. You only have to decide how best to market a fraud, and to whom.

The fraudsters perpetuate ignorance as they fleece their clients. This ignorance can be dangerous. Look at this MIT study that suggests aluminum foil, one cure-all suggested by bau-biologists, might actually concentrate radio waves and magnetic fields!

Bad science gives all scientists a bad name and undermines the work we do. I am all for new and exciting products as long as there is evidence to support them. People should be encouraged to challenge claims and if they can be backed up with findings then all the better.  — Carolyn Tregidgo, physicist

2 — Marketers of bau-biology assert that a powerful establishment is trying to suppress their information.

If bau-biology was a technological breakthrough, businesses would have capitalized on the idea long ago. (Instead, companies like EM-SEC Technologies are excelling in fields that baubiologists claim as their own.) If bau-biology had all the correct answers, those answers would already be incorporated in international standards.

The website for the International Institute for Bau-Biologie repeats the classic mantra in several places:

Research into the long-term effects of an exposure to EMRs is in the beginning stage and hampered and stopped by vested interests.

Research has been going on for years, and it has only intensified with the explosion of new technologies. However, the results don’t support the beliefs of bau-biologists — therefore research stopped or does not exist. The self-aggrandizing paranoia of bau-biologists somewhat explains their interest in the writings of Paul Brodeur, who believes (in the words of Access to Energy)

… to maximize their profits, the big bad corporations spread cancer, war and pestilence — as if they were anything but a spineless bunch of wimps trying to buy off their detractors with lavish contributions.

For bau-biologists there is no need to include concrete examples of repression or to name agents of repression (“vested interests”) because the statement from the Institute is one of belief, not evidence. Then again, perhaps in the quote they are referring to their ideas, which are not rigorous enough to be accepted into a grade-school science fair.

Governments, scientists, and international standards societies think so little of bau-biology that they refuse to acknowledge its existence.

This makes it convenient for fraudsters to fabricate the notion of an Evil Conspiracy: governmental bodies, entire economic systems of nations, a wide array of scientists, and a variety of international agencies all seeking to deny, overlook, and suppress information on dangers to the public from appliances, electronics, medical equipment, and anything else that uses or supplies electrical power. 

The possibility of tens of thousands, possibly millions of people from many nations, professions, and viewpoints all conspiring in this way is totally irrational — and nearly impossible. That is precisely its attraction.

3 — The scientific effect involved in bau-biology is always at the very limit of detection.

That’s why dowsing is so popular! Why have to buy and use expensive, sensitive equipment when you can use a couple of twigs or a coat hanger to locate the nonexistent?

Bau-biologists and their clients are seemingly unaware of SQUID magnetometers, which are so sensitive they can measure a minute fluctuation in the Earth’s magnetic field through a red blood cell. Bau-biologists apparently don’t know it is possible to use remote sensing technology and ground penetrating radar to find fabled cities like Ubar buried under sand dunes for centuries. This equipment would be affected by “electro-pollution” and the other bugbears promoted by bau-biologists. 

If “electro-pollution,” “geopathic stress” and the rest were such horrific problems, how would anyone be able to use a SQUID magnetometer? If these things existed, using a SQUID would be like listening for a pin drop while standing next to a commercial jet engine at maximum throttle.
Every SQUID system ever built would have already discovered “geopathic stress,” Hartmann lines, and the rest of the nonsense. Obviously there is ample room for fraud to flourish when the audience is ignorant.

“Kiss my aura, Dora.” — Frank Zappa

The Institute says

These manmade energies have become part of our lives and as such are superimposed to our subtle body energies.

Ignore the poor grammar: the term “subtle body energies” is actually a code phrase for “aura,” which involves alleged fields of electromagnetic energy surrounding our bodies. Auras are a component of Mesmerism and a hangover from 19th century Vitalism. Vitalism was built on the medieval concept of the four humours (no laughing matter). Offgassing from humours affected the brain and other organs, and determined your health and personality.


The offgassing of the humours could force blood to move through a woman’s uterus straight to her brain, causing “hysteria.”
Auras have a long history as a sort of “force field” around the physical bodies of monarchs (known as majesty, as in “the king’s majesty”). This concept combined with ancient beliefs regarding “charisma,” a divinely-conferred power or personal quality that enables someone to exert influence or authority over large numbers of people. The force field enabled people of royal blood to ritually touch and cure unfortunate victims of diseases like scrofula (a form of tuberculosis).

A biofield is claimed to be an invisible energy field that surrounds and permeates a living body, undetectable by science. If it is imperceptible by physical measurement, it could not be affected by any real force such as EMF from TVs, computers, etc. Any products that claim to help your biofield are dubious as there is no method to establish their effects. The biofield belongs in the realm of spirituality, not science.  — Nathan Robertson, biophysicist

Oddly enough, evangelical Christians and New Agers agree on “subtle body energies”: auras have found favor in intelligent design (creationism). Who knew these seemingly disparate belief systems were in fact conjoined twins?

Hold together, baby, hold together. — Han Solo

It is possible to detect electrical properties of single neurons in your brain. Your bladder has a detectable electromagnetic field. So does your throat, your gastrointestinal system, heart, and brain. All of these fields cancel each other out. If they didn’t, your body would not hold together. 

If each of us did have a “subtle energy” field around ourselves, we would behave like magnets. When we walked by one another, we’d be helplessly drawn into the field of one person and stuck to them, or just as helplessly (and violently) repelled by the field of another. No one could be crammed into a Tokyo subway car, or be near anyone or anything else!

Vectors are used extensively in descriptions of electric and magnetic fields. You are not likely to encounter information about vectors on a bau-biology site. You will not find accurate information about the characteristics of fields, or how absorption works. 
You won’t find mentions of dosimetry, one of the most critical components of any scientific study that assesses the effects of electromagnetic fields on living creatures. 
The fundamental, widely-accepted guidelines for understanding the effects of exposure are induced electric fields or current densities and specific absorption rate, better known as SAR. The establishment of guidelines for safe exposure limits takes these facts into consideration. 
Because bau-biologists live in their own little world, their glossaries deviate wildly from the work of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the International Committee on Electromagnetic Safety (ICES), and other experts. Because those professionals set the guidelines, bau-biologists feel a great deal of professional envy. They do what they can to impress on the credulous that the opinions of the true experts are suspect.

4 — The evidence for bau-biology is largely anecdotal.

When you look at bau-biology advertising you realize this pseudoscience is based on anecdotal evidence or faith-based reasoning (“because I said so”). Otherwise, based on evidence, how could it possibly exist?

When you prefer faith-based reasoning, you prefer to have some authority tell you what to think. In the case of bau-biology, an advertising campaign is telling you what to think.

Faith-based reasoning is very comforting because it does not require a great deal of thought. Everything has been thought out for you; you need only keep to the path.

If you base your online purchasing decisions on testimonials (Amazon reviews come to mind), that means you accept the word of complete strangers without any evidence that they are telling the truth. They said it and that’s good enough; you roll over and offer your wallet. You are a very trusting soul, who cannot possibly consider that someone would want to deceive you for their own ends by making statements that are not true.

Bau-biologists don’t conduct scientific research, and they are uninterested in the research of others if it does not reinforce their belief system.

Bau-biologists typically aren’t members of IEEE, ICES, the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), or the World Health Organization (WHO). These groups convene panels that review all the scientific literature in peer-reviewed publications (more than 2500 papers) regarding extremely low frequency (ELF) and radio frequency (RF). These panels establish standards for levels of human exposure that avoid the adverse health effects documented in scientific studies. Panels typically include a variety of experts such as epidemiologists, neurologists, biologists, toxicologists, oncologists, physicists, engineers, and statisticians.

ICNIRP is an independent organization that answers to no government. It encompasses all of the basic scientific disciplines. ICNIRP and the WHO alone are qualified to assess the health effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields. The development of exposure guidelines requires a critical, in-depth evaluation of the established scientific literature. ICNIRP and WHO use the results of their assessments to develop exposure guidelines that emphasize the health of individuals.5
Watching bau-biologists work is not impressive. Most bau-biologists wouldn’t know dosimetry if it walked up and kicked them. They don’t know a near field from a far field. Many times a baubiologist uses the wrong instrument and the wrong methods to detect something because they simply don’t know any better. They are fortunate most of their clients are just as clueless.

5 — You are assured that a belief in bau-biology is credible because bau-biology has been around for a long time.

There’s that word “belief” again. Just because people have believed something (or believed in something) for a long time doesn’t mean it’s credible. People have believed in Santa Claus for a long time — does that make Santa Claus credible? And how do you feel about putting your trust in adults who still believe in Santa Claus?

Honest people have had to endure scam artists for thousands of years. There is no end to the clever ideas our fellow humans can devise for separating us from our hard-earned money. Does that fact make scams credible?

6 — The discoverer is a “lone genius” with a revolutionary idea.

You may recognize this as a common theme in movies — because that is where the idea of the “lone genius” originated (the leading man gets the part of the genius). Rarely in real life are truly “revolutionary” ideas the product of one person. Scientific breakthroughs are typically the result of widespread collaboration. Dr Ed Friedlander says it best:

Sometimes the independent thinkers prove to be correct, and paradigms shift as a result. You also know that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. When a discovery proves to square with the observable world, scientists make reputations by confirming it, and corporations are soon making profits from it. When a decades-old claim by a “persecuted genius” finds no acceptance from mainstream science, it probably failed some basic experimental tests designed to eliminate self-deception …

7 — Bau-biology requires new laws of nature to explain its workings.

bau-biology rewrote the dictionary, so why not overthrow physical laws? Yet real science typically does not conflict with what is already known about how the world works (if it does, there is substantial evidence behind the reasoning). 

When bau-biology (or any other pseudoscience) wants to alter the laws of physics, or to propose new laws to account for an observation, beware! As Robert Park says, “it is almost certainly wrong.”

References

  1. Psychobiological personality dimensions in two environmental-illness patient groups. Jan Bergdahl, Lena Marell, Maud Bergdahl, and Hjordis Perris. Clin Oral Investig., October 8, 2005; 1-6.
  2. Why do women suffer from sick building syndrome more often than men?—subjective higher sensitivity versus objective causes. S Brasche, M Bullinger, M Morfeld, HJ Gebhardt, and W Bischof. Indoor Air, Dec 2001; 11(4): 217-22.
  3. Dysfunctional buildings or dysfunctional people: an examination of the sick building syndrome and allied disorders. CM Ryan and LA Morrow. J Consult Clin Psychol, April 1, 1992; 60(2): 220-4.
  4. Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity: A Systematic Review of Provocation Studies. G. James Rubin, Jayati Das Munshi, and Simon Wessely. Psychosom Med, Mar 2005; 67: 224 – 232.
  5. ICNIRP Initiatives. J.H. Bernhardt. Radiat Prot Dosimetry, Jun 1999; 83: 5.
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