Can a jade amulet protect against COVID?

November 9, 2020

Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Election, Trump

The above title is my paraphrasing of a recent paper (opens new window) published in an Elsevier-owned scientific journal, Science of The Total Environment. The paper’s actual title is:

Can Traditional Chinese Medicine provide insights into controlling the COVID-19 pandemic: Serpentinization-induced lithospheric long-wavelength magnetic anomalies in Proterozoic bedrocks in a weakened geomagnetic field mediate the aberrant transformation of biogenic molecules in COVID-19 via magnetic catalysis

If I were being trite, I’d simply counter this by invoking Betteridge's law of headlines - “any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no”. Unsurprisingly this paper is total nonsense, and it’s disappointing to see that it’s been both peer reviewed and published. More details of this paper can be read at Retraction Watch (opens new window) - and the title of that website gives you a hint as to what’s happened to the paper. It’s been withdrawn, at least temporarily, and the paper’s title now has a prefix prepended to it - TEMPORARY REMOVAL.

If you take 10 minutes to read both the Retraction Watch article and some good detective work that has been going on in the article’s comments, it becomes clear that this is not a one-off slip up for the paper’s author - it appears that he has a history of writing pseudoscientific papers, such as:

Stonehenge as a public health intervention device for preventing lithospheric magnetic field-induced emerging diseases and megadeath during periods of severely weaken geomagnetic field

A novel hypothesis for the Havana and Dominican Republic syndromes in which severe geoelectromagnetic perturbations in the Caribbean plate induces aberrant health in North Americans

In the author’s defence, he replied to Retraction Watch’s concerns, saying:

I kindly suggest you read the article and examine the evidence provided. I also suggest you read the history of science and how zealots have consistently attempted to block and ridicule novel ideas that challenge the predominant paradigm from individuals that are deem not intelligent enough. I not surprised that this article has elicited angry responses. Clearly the idea that a black scientist can provide a paradigm shifting idea offends a lot of individuals. I’ll be very candid with you; my skin color has no bearing on my intelligence.

I’m pretty sure that Ivan at Retraction Watch didn’t know that Moses was black when he asked for confirmation that Moses was the author of the paper, and to me the argument of zealots blocking and ridiculing novel ideas sounds like the Galileo Gambit (opens new window). It may well be the case that in the past some have mocked people who have had paradigm shifting ideas that eventually turn out to be correct, but that does not mean that everyone with a crazy idea is right. For every Galileo there are a thousand or more people like Deepak Chopra, Ken Ring, Andrea Rossi, Daryl Bem, Rupert Sheldrake, Christopher Monckton, and so on - the list goes on!