The term “quackademic medicine” was coined by Dr. R. W. Donnell in 2008 to describe the increasing infiltration of quackery and pseudoscience into medical academia in the form of what was then called “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM) and has since largely been rebranded as “integrative medicine” or “integrative health.” It’s a term that I like to think I played a large role in popularizing, but, alas, I can’t take credit for coining the term “quackademic medicine,” but it perfectly describes what’s going on in institutions like UC-Irvine (which embraced homeopathy and got a $200 million gift to transform its medical school into a bastion of quackery), the Cleveland Clinic (which has embraced functional medicine and traditional Chinese medicine, while producing at least one antivaccine faculty member), Thomas Jefferson University (which now has a truly quacky department of integrative medicine), UC-SD (which numbers Deepak Chopra as faculty and does bogus research with him), and many more too numerous to list here. Then there’s the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), formerly known as the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), whose motto seems to be “let’s try some real science for a change!” and whose leadership was recently taken over by a believer in acupuncture who’s published all sorts of dubious research to “prove” a biological mechanism by which it “works.” Now quackademic medicine is taking on COVID-19.
Casting doubt on germ theory
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the US in March, the flurry of scientific studies, good, bad, mediocre, and pseudoscientific, was enough to make you snowblind. So it should come as no surprise that quackademic medicine would see a huge opportunity for “research” into using various magic to treat or prevent COVID-19. I was only surprised that I hadn’t noticed much quackademic research on COVID-19—yet. Or maybe it was just that I wasn’t paying as much attention as I could. Be that as it may, so it was that I saw this Tweet yesterday:
Whoa. I haven’t even seen the quacks claiming that amulets could prevent COVID-19! Yet, here we find investigators at the University of Pittsburgh publishing a paper like this! This was so bizarre that I almost decided to resurrect Your Friday Dose of Woo for it, but ultimately decided a more conventional dose of Insolence is warranted for this incredible bit of quackademic medicine. I mean, look at the title! It’s just incredible: 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. The paper appears in Science of the Total Environment, an Elsevier title.
This article is a masterpiece of quackademic medicine on par with previous papers I’ve discussed about the magical non-Christianity-based faith healing known as reiki and homeopathy to treat breast cancer. Its abstract is a master of what I like to refer to as woo-babble or bio-babble, which is like Star Trek technobabble, only used to try to make it sound as though there is an actual scientific thought going on and to render the ideas within plausible to an audience without a background in science. I normally don’t quote abstracts or huge swaths of text in whole, but I’ll make an exception in this case, because you have to read this to believe it:
Thoracic organs, namely, the lungs and kidneys in severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)-associated coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), exhibit silicate/glass-like (hyaline) and iron oxides-like deposits, which are like serpentinization-induced minerals. The discovery of the chiral-induced spin selectivity effect suggests that a resonant external magnetic field could alter the spin state of electrons in biogenic molecules and result in the magnetic catalysis of aberrant molecules and disease. We propose here that carbon dioxide-rich water-peridotite (a ferromagnesian silicate) interactions generate abnormal lithospheric long-wavelength magnetic anomalies (LWMAs) via serpentinization, during conditions with increased terrestrial water storage and atmospheric carbon dioxide, and a weakened geomagnetic field. Furthermore, we provide evidence supporting a hypothesis, which posits, COVID-19 is a pathologic manifestation of resonant LWMAs-induced magnetic catalysis of iron oxides-silicate-like minerals from biogenic molecules and the coronavirus from endogenous viral elements, with the virus particles capable of replication and transmission to other hosts. We propose that those LWMAs are associated with the production of iron oxides-silicate rock minerals in tectonic plates with Proterozoic cratons. Thus, severe COVID-19 outbreaks are/will predominately occur in Eurasia and the Americas and are governed by the spatiotemporal dynamics of terrestrial water storage and the semiannual oscillation of the weakening geomagnetic magnetic field. We propose that the ferromagnetic-like iron stores in humans are the unifying determinant for COVID-19-induced morbidity and mortality. Furthermore, we propose that Nephrite-Jade amulets (a calcium-ferromagnesian silicate) developed by Neolithic Chinese Medicine to prevent thoracic organ disease, may prevent COVID-19.
Wow! That’s a lot to unpack, isn’t it? I fully understand Kausik’s reaction to it and, as a result almost didn’t read the full article myself. Unfortunately for me (and, maybe, fortunately for you, although you’ll have to decide for yourself), I have a near-infinite tolerance for woo in the service of promoting science-based medicine. So I did read it. I didn’t enjoy it. (In fact, I really did have to force myself to finish it.) I did, however, consider deconstructing it to be my civic duty as a skeptic and promoter of science-based medicine.
I’m going to jump ahead a little bit into the introduction, because it amazed me that in 2020 anyone, even quackademic researchers, could write a paragraph like this, which basically invokes germ theory denial. It’s actually “soft” germ theory denial, in that it doesn’t deny that microbes cause disease but tries to imply that there are factors as important or more important than pathogenic microbes like SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19:
The dominant paradigm for describing virus-associated pandemics, including the SARS-CoV-2-associated COVID-19 pandemic, is the germ theory (a classical theory) (Casanova and Abel, 2013). The germ theory and its derivatives posit that transmissible, replication-competent, exogenous viruses (i.e., SARS-CoV-2) either directly or indirectly (via inflammation) mediate disease in virus-associated epidemics and pandemics (Casanova and Abel, 2013). The germ theory was introduced in the late 19th century and subsequently displaced most Indigenous knowledge systems (Hewlett and Amola, 2003b; Darvill, 2016; Franks, 2016).
Holy other ways of knowing, Batman! These University of Pittsburgh researchers are contrasting an actual scientific theory, the germ theory of medicine, which has 150 years of strong evidence demonstrating how pathogenic microbes can cause disease in healthy hosts to “Indigenous Knowledge Systems”!
I’ve written about the susceptibility of seemingly reasonable scientists to the lure of “ancient knowledge” in the form of indigenous knowledge systems before. The basic narrative usually goes something like this: “Western” biomedical science is a cultural construct whose dominance is due not to its success in diagnosing, treating, and, in some cases, eradicating disease but rather to past imperialism and colonization by European powers. A corollary to the above claim is that attempts by practitioners and proponents of traditional medicine to achieve scientific legitimacy are not because science is better, but because the biomedical model predominates because of the prior subjugation (and, in some cases, the continued oppression) of indigenous peoples. Add to that an appeal to popularity, namely that many millions of people still use traditional medicine as their primary form of health care, and you have an argument that can seem powerful, both to indigenous people using traditional medicines and to some “Western” scientists or physicians. There’s not so much of a direct appeal to this sort of argument in this paper, but there is an undercurrent of the idea that there must be “something” to indigenous ways of knowing, no matter how much handwaving the authors have to do to justify it. Take a gander at this lovely bit of quackademic woo-babble:
Many Neolithic-derived Indigenous Knowledge posits that severe geophysical-geologic perturbations and associated rock minerals play a significant role in human health (Dashtdar et al., 2016; Hewlett and Amola, 2003a; Hewlett and Amola, 2003b; Darvill, 2016; Franks, 2016). Indeed, Neolithic-Traditional Chinese Medicine in the Hemudu and Majiabang-Neolithic Chinese cultures (~7500 to 5300 BP) (Dematte, 2006; Wilson, 1996; He et al., 2018) in the Yangtze River basin, on the Yangtze craton (a Proterozoic craton) in Eastern Eurasia, developed the use of the calcium-ferromagnesian silicate-Nephrite (a metasomatic derivative of serpentinization-induced rock minerals (Harlow and Sorensen, 2005), commonly referred to as jade) as a disease prevention device (amulet) in the mid-Holocene during the Neolithic population collapse (Li et al., 2014; Dematte, 2006; Huang, 1992). Similar Nephrite-Jade-based Neolithic cultures were developed across Western Eurasia (Europe) during the Neolithic population collapse (Gibaja-Bao, 2018; Terradas, 2017; Odriozola et al., 2017; Gauthier and Petrequin, 2017; Odriozola, 2015; D’Amico et al., 2004; Damico et al., 1995; Kostov et al., 2012). It is posited that Jade (including Nephrite) amulets protect the wearer against unseen nefarious forces that cause disease in thoracic organs (Dematte, 2006; Wilson, 1996; Huang, 1992). Indeed, the romantic language word, piedra de ijada (from which the English word Jade is derived) translates to the stone that prevents disease in organs in the side/flank of the body (thoracic organs). Additionally, the English word Nephrite is derived from the Greek word lapis nephriticus, which translates to the stone that cures kidney disease.
The stage is thus set. The “investigators” are not really testing a hypothesis. They believe that “geomagnetic field intensity minima” associated with megafauna (including Hominidae) die-offs in North America and Eurasia can also explain COVID-19, and they’re going to construct a narrative to support that. And construct a narrative they do, involving a colony of experimental rats ravaged by a SARS-like disease, geology, population demographics analysis, air pollution, and climate, as well as mask-wearing and social distancing. To construct this narrative, they begin by citing “anomalies” in COVID-19 behavior allegedly not explained by germ theory:
Although the germ theory is the current dominant paradigm and exhibits an explanatory and predictive capacity for many features of the phenomenology of virus-associated epidemics and pandemics, many significant features are unaccounted for in this theory. Many respiratory virus-associated outbreaks (i.e., influenza outbreaks) exhibit a spatiotemporal dynamic that is couple to seasonal dynamics and associated geographic restrictions, despite increased intra-regional and global travel in the 21st century (Paul, 2012; Fisman, 2007; Altizer et al., 2006; Dowell and Ho, 2004; Hirve et al., 2016). Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic mimics a vibrating drumhead-like oscillation across the globe, in contrast to the predicted near-simultaneous severe global outbreaks posited by the germ theory (Chinazzi et al., 2020; Gilbert et al., 2020). Importantly, the phenomenology of the SARS-CoV-2-associated COVID-19 pandemic has contradicted the germ theory-derived prediction that the severity of the outbreaks (based on deaths per million people) would be relatively higher in regions with relatively weak public health systems (i.e., Africa), as compared to regions with relatively strong health systems (i.e., North America and Western Eurasia) (Gilbert et al., 2020). This discordancy cannot be reconciled globally by risk factors (i.e., elderly population) associated with COVID-19-induced mortality, ancestral differences (or the so-called genetic differences), molecular diagnostics capacity, or climate differences (Mbow et al., 2020). Indeed, Mbow M et al., 2020 showed analysis that incorporates age demographics, surveillance of acute health emergencies, and the number of tests per confirm COVID-19 cases do not account for the discordance between the germ theory-derived prediction and the actual outcome in regions with relatively strong health systems and those with weak health systems (Mbow et al., 2020). Furthermore, Japan, which lies outside Western Eurasia, has the highest percentage of the elderly population; however, Japan has not experienced a severe COVID-19 outbreak (Iwasaki and Grubaugh, 2020). Indeed, this anomaly within the germ theory occurred in Japan despite receiving a large percentage of the travelers from the Yangtze River basin (including Wuhan) at the onset of the pandemic and implementing limited social distancing interventions (Chinazzi et al., 2020; Iwasaki and Grubaugh, 2020). This anomaly within the germ theory paradigm for the COVID-19 outbreaks in Japan is currently ascribed to the so-called “unknown Japanese X factor” (Iwasaki and Grubaugh, 2020). Additionally, countries on the South American plate with relatively young populations (i.e., Peru, Ecuador) have experienced severe COVID-19 outbreaks (Accinelli and Leon-Abarca, 2020; Quevedo-Ramirez et al., 2020; Del Brutto et al., 2020). Although regions with weak health systems have a relatively lower molecular diagnostic capacity, syndromic surveillance is employed globally (Daughton et al., 2020; Aghaali et al., 2020; Salamatbakhsh et al., 2020; Smith et al., 2020; Sokhna et al., 2020); thus, deaths due to an emerging, severe acute respiratory disease is captured uniformly across time and different countries, irrespective of national wealth (Mbow et al., 2020). Tropical (warmer) climate per se does not affect the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic (Xie and Zhu, 2020; Ascencio-Vasquez et al., 2019). Although tropical countries on the African, Indian, and Eurasian plates have experienced relatively less severe COVID-19 outbreaks, tropical countries on the South American plate have experienced severe COVID-19 outbreaks (Ascencio-Vasquez et al., 2019). Populations with African ancestry have the highest COVID-19-mortality burden in North America (Price-Haywood et al., 2020; Fouad et al., 2020) and parts of Western Eurasia (Raisi-Estabragh et al., 2020), albeit, Africans have the lowest COVID-19-mortality burden (Mbow et al., 2020); thus creating the African ancestry-COVID-19 paradox.
I know, I know. Perhaps I shouldn’t have so extensively quoted this passage. However, I wanted those of you who might not have access to the journal to be able to experience it in all its pretentious glory. Basically, it boils down to: We don’t understand why the pandemic has hit some developed countries harder than some undeveloped countries with much less developed public health systems and are not sure why the Japanese did so well compared to many other countries in terms of the pandemic. I’m sure epidemiologists are scratching their heads over that paragraph, particularly given that it doesn’t appear to acknowledge that quality of public health infrastructure doesn’t necessarily mean that politically the leadership of a nation will use that infrastructure optimally to slow the pandemic’s spread within its borders. The US is a prime example. Pre-pandemic, the US was rated as one of the best prepared nations for a pandemic, but utter incompetence of this administration, coupled with the politicization of public health interventions such as masking and social distancing, have contributed to our having more deaths due to COVID-19 and more cases of disease than any other nation, including countries with much larger populations. The same dynamic appears to be at play in parts of South America (i.e., Brazil), where populist leaders deny the severity of the pandemic and impede public health interventions to slow its spread in the name of “freedom” and preventing economic collapse.
I also don’t buy the claim that germ theory predicts “near-simultaneous severe global outbreaks.” Travel is not uniform. The virus had to start somewhere. And start somewhere it did, Wuhan, China, in a seafood market, when a novel coronavirus made the jump from animal to human. Even this is called into doubt:
A major unanswered question in the germ theory of virus-associated pandemics, including the SARS-CoV-2-associated COVID-19 pandemic, is the origin of the so-called emerging viruses. The germ theory-derived hypothesis posits that emerging virus-associated pandemics result from a spill-over of viruses from wildlife into humans (the zoonosis hypothesis), with the seasonal-associated dynamics of the so-called spill-over events due to the seasonality of human activities in wildlife habitat. However, the recent discovery of the genetic fragments of many non-retroviruses, including the so-called emerging viruses, in the genomes of humans and many terrestrial animals raises concerns about the validity of that hypothesis (Feschotte and Gilbert, 2012; Theze et al., 2014; Katzourakis and Gifford, 2010). Seasonal dynamics are a manifestation of geophysical dynamics, and those geophysical forces are manifested differently at various locations; thus, suggesting that geophysical forces could mediate the virus-associated pandemics.
Unsurprisingly, none of the references cited really call the current scientific understanding of how SARS-CoV-2 made the jump to humans into question. Feschotte and Gilbert merely describes how more viruses than just endogenous retroviruses can have parts of their genome integrate into the genome of infected cells. Theze et al describes how fragments of viruses can integrate into the genomes of crustaceans, while Katzourakis and Gifford describe evidence for viral elements in animal genomes. In all cases, these papers are describing how fragments of viruses can integrate into animal genomes. None of these papers suggest what the authors imply that they suggest, namely that these endogenous virus fragments might represent a mechanism by which SARS-CoV-2 emerged. They certainly don’t cast doubt on germ theory, nor do they support traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), labor though the authors do to imply that TCM has relevance to COVID-19:
Here, using insights from Traditional Chinese Medicine and other Indigenous Knowledge, we evaluate the hypothesis, which posits, SARS-CoV-2-associated COVID-19 outbreaks are mediated by serpentinization-induced resonant long-wavelength magnetic anomalies (LWMAs) in tectonic plates with Proterozoic cratons and weakened geomagnetic field intensity. We proposed that those resonant LWMAs induce the magnetic catalysis of iron oxides-silicate-like minerals (i.e., iron oxides, hyaline) from biogenic molecules and SARS-CoV-2 from endogenous viral elements in the genome, resulting in morbidity and mortality. The resultant SARS-CoV-2 particles are capable of replication within the host and transmission across hosts; however, SARS-CoV-2 infection per se does not induce morbidity or mortality in humans (Wu et al., 2020a; Long et al., 2020). Furthermore, we argue that the macrophage inflammatory response associated with COVID-19-morbidity and mortality is a foreign body-like reaction (Merad and Martin, 2020; Park, 2020; Anderson et al., 2008) to the magnetic catalysis-induced iron oxides-silicate-like minerals. Therefore, neither the SARS-CoV-2 infection nor the inflammatory reaction per se is the principal mediator of severe disease and mortality, which we termed, COVID-19. Indeed, children infected with SARS-CoV-2 have relatively higher viral loads, but reduced morbidity (and mortality) when compared to adults (Heald-Sargent et al., 2020). Furthermore, asymptomatic and symptomatic individuals with SARS-CoV-2 infection have a similar viral load (Lee et al., 2020).
Later in the paper, the authors state their “hypothesis” more succinctly:
We hypothesize that COVID-19 pathologies in humans and animals result from the aberrant transformation of tissues (chiral biomolecules), metals, gases, and endogenous viral elements in the human genome via resonant LWMAs-induced magnetic catalysis.
Holy Béchamp, Batman! No, seriously, this is basically nothing more than Antoine Béchamp’s pleomorphic theory of disease, something I never thought I’d see even in the worst quackademic medicine has to offer. Recall that Béchamp was a contemporary of Louis Pasteur. He, too, had a hypothesis about the origin of infectious disease. Only he came to a different conclusion, namely that the bacteria found in diseased tissue was a manifestation, not the cause, of the disease. In other words, they arise from tissues during disease states. In brief, Béchamp postulated that bacteria arose from structures that he called microzymas, which to him referred to a class of enzymes. Béchamp postulated microzymas are normally present in tissues and that their effects depended upon the cellular terrain. How is this idea that somehow LWMAs plus other things cause SARS-CoV-2 to arise from our cells? Obviously, Pasteur’s germ theory of disease won out because it was supported by massive evidence, and Béchamp’s idea, which wasn’t entirely unreasonable 160 years ago given what was known, faded away, except in the realm of alternative medicine, where germ theory deniers still cite it.
If that’s not germ theory denial, I don’t know what is! To boil all this woo-babble down to its essence, the authors are explicitly arguing that it isn’t SARS-CoV-2 infection that causes morbidity and mortality in humans, but rather the LWMAs in tectonic plates and weakened geomagnetic field intensity that induce the magnetic catalysis of iron oxides and silicate-like minerals from biogenic molecules. Further, they are arguing that somehow this mystical magical field catalyzes the formation of SARS-CoV-2 in cells from endogenous viral elements in the genome, and that the combination of these two processes are what result in morbidity and mortality! This is so completely at odds with what we currently understand about SARS-CoV-2 infection that it boggles the mind. Yes, it is clear that the inflammatory reaction against the coronavirus is a major cause of the lung disease and the damage to other organs seen in COVID-19, but infection with SARS-CoV-2 is clearly the inciting event. There is no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 is somehow generated from endogenous viral elements. If that were the case, then we wouldn’t have so much evidence of person-to-person transmission.
The quackademic experiments
So how did these authors try to “test their hypothesis,” so to speak? First, they looked at a colony of rats at the University of Pittsburgh that just happened to be ravaged by a SARS-like disease around the time the pandemic hit Pittsburgh. This colony consisted of immunodeficient Sprague-Dawley rats carrying mutations in the recombination activating gene 2 (RAG2) and interleukin-2 receptor subunit gamma (IL2Rγ). SRG rats lack mature B cells, T cells, and circulating NK cells. You don’t really need to understand the significance of these specific genes, other than that their lack means that SRG rats are highly immunodeficient, which is why they are primarily used for cancer research because human tumor xenografts engraft in them at high efficiency. The authors also note that the SARS outbreak study was a retrospective study, given that “colony was neither designed to record COVID-19-like disease in the rats or investigate the effect of the geomagnetic field on the rats.” These rats had also been used for humanization studies, in which their marrows were ablated with X-rays and then the rats were transplanted with human stem cells. The authors note that the number of rats that got a COVID-like disease was the same among unirradiated, untransplanted control rats and the “humanized” transplanted rats, but right away you know that this is a highly artificial system whose relevance to human disease is questionable at best.
So what were their observations? The authors report that they recorded a COVID-19-like, severe acute respiratory syndrome disease (in 17 per ~92 rats (~18%), with 76% males and 24% females) in adult laboratory rats (all diseased animals were > 6 months old), which, they note, recapitulates the tendency of COVID-19 in humans to affect males more seriously. They also noted that the disease occurred rapidly, with rats falling ill and dying as rapidly as overnight between the evening and morning checks by lab personnel. They also noted:
Gross, histological, and immunohistochemistry analysis of the major organs in the COVID-19-like diseased rats demonstrate significant blood clotting, hardened tan grey/pale patches, and black-hemorrhagic patches in the lungs and kidneys, along with silicate/glass-like structures, and the presence of SARS-CoV-2-like antigens in the lung and kidney epithelium (Fig. 3, Fig. 4, Fig. 5, Fig. 6), which recapitulates COVID-19 pathology and the associated SARS-CoV-2 infection in humans (Fox et al., 2020; Wichmann et al., 2020; Colling and Kanthi, 2020; Connors and Levy, 2020; Su et al., 2020; Schaefer et al., 2020; Carsana et al., 2020; Best Rocha et al., 2020; Martines et al., 2020). The silicate/glass-like structures in the lungs and kidneys of the COVID-19-like diseased rats mimic the various stages associated with serpentinization-mediated rock-related mineralization (Fig. 7) (Huang et al., 2017). Tissue iron analysis in the lung of a COVID-19-like diseased rat demonstrates the presence of ferric iron (Fe 3+) and iron oxides (golden brown/rust-like) particles coupled with the silicate/glass-like structures and patches with hemorrhagic infiltrates (Fig. 7).
Now here’s the kicker. Most of the rats who fell ill were in one of two rooms in which the colony was housed. (Did it not occur to them that’s how infectious disease would spread, if adequate infection controls prevented the disease from jumping to the second room?) Of course, the authors also included a time period going back to October 2019, which was months before the pandemic hit the US, an obvious red flag to me. In any event, SRG rats succumbed to an acute respiratory disease, after which SARS spike protein-like proteins could be detected, along with iron, which localized in the same places. The authors then go on to
hypothesize speculate wildly:
In the proposed hypothesis, ferromagnetic-like/superparamagnetic iron stores (i.e., ferrihydrite) in humans (Linder, 2013) is critical for resonant LWMA-mediated magnetic catalysis in COVID-19 pathologies. Iron stores are low in children and increases with age, with the highest levels in the elderly (Xu et al., 2012; Picca et al., 2019; Ashraf et al., 2018; Fleming et al., 2002; Fleming et al., 2001). Males have significantly higher iron stores compared to females (Ma et al., 2016). Consequently, COVID-19-induced morbidity and mortality risk are directly proportional to age (Grasselli et al., 2020; Team, 2020; Zheng et al., 2020), and male sex is also a significant risk factor for COVID-19-induced morbidity and mortality (Grasselli et al., 2020). Individuals with metabolic syndrome (obesity (Kim et al., 2015; Lecube et al., 2008; Moreno-Navarrete et al., 2017), diabetes (Batchuluun et al., 2014; Simcox and McClain, 2013; Ma et al., 2018), and cardiovascular disease (Milman and Kirchhoff, 1999; Cheng et al., 1999; Lee et al., 2018)) have higher COVID-19-induced morbidity and mortality due to abnormally high iron stores compared to matched-healthy individuals.
Got that? High iron is what makes you susceptible to COVID-19; that is, high iron stores plus whatever anomaly in the geomagnetic field that the authors’ handwaving can invoke:
The total geomagnetic field intensity has been weakening over the past millennium, with the North and South American plates (and the southern tip of the African plate) experiencing the most severe weakening (Fig. 9). On the contrary, the eastern portion of the Eurasian plate-Asia and the Africa plate (excluding the southern tip of Africa) have experienced a relative strengthening of the geomagnetic field intensity (Fig. 9). Additionally, the intensity of the lithospheric component of the geomagnetic field has been increasing in regions with Precambrian cratons, with regions on the North and South American plates with Proterozoic-Precambrian cratons exhibiting the highest increase (Sebera et al., 2019a). Here, we examine the relationship between the lithospheric component of this weakening geomagnetic field and the SARS-CoV-2-associated COVID-19 pandemic. A severe, locally-restricted COVID-19 outbreak was first recorded on the Yangtze craton (in Wuhan and surrounding cities) (Peng et al., 2012) in the eastern portion of the Eurasian plate. The subsequent severe outbreaks spread westerly on the Eurasian plate along the Greater Tethyan Eurasian orogenic belt (the Alpine-Himalayan orogenic belt (Guillot et al., 2015; Giampouras et al., 2019; Zhao et al., 2020; Hirth and Guillot, 2013; Reynard, 2013; Debret et al., 2013)) and subsequently along the Appalachian-Ouachita orogenic belt on the North American plate and to the South American tectonic plate. Severe COVID-19 outbreaks predominately co-localize with the troughs of the lithospheric LWMAs (Idoko et al., 2019) in tectonic plates with Proterozoic cratons, which are basin regions with population centers (Fig. 10). Severe outbreaks spread from the Yangtze River basin (Eastern Eurasia) to basins in Central Eurasia (Iran), Western Eurasia, the eastern portion of the North American plate, and subsequently to the basins on the South American plate (Zumla and Niederman, 2020). The Greater Tethyan Eurasian orogenic belt has active serpentinization of peridotites and significant lithospheric LWMAs (Fig. 10) (Idoko et al., 2019; Guillot et al., 2015; Reynard, 2013; Baykiev et al., 2020). The Appalachian-Ouachita orogenic belt also has active serpentinization of peridotites and significant lithospheric LWMAs (Fig. 10) (Husch, 1990; Menke et al., 2018; Zakharova et al., 2016). The pandemic also spread easterly, albeit less severe outbreaks in basins on the Korean Peninsula, the Island of Japan, and the western portion of the North America plate (Fig. 10). Consistent with this bi-directional (westerly and easterly) spread of COVID-19 outbreaks from the Yangtze craton (Stefanelli et al., 2020), the predominant SARS-CoV-2 strain in the eastern portion of the North American plate during the vernal period of the pandemic is genetically similar to the predominant strain in the western portion of the Eurasian plate, while the predominant coronavirus strain in the western portion of the North American plate is genetically similar to the predominant strain in the eastern portion of the Eurasian plate; even though travel between Eurasia and North America is a fraction of the travel within North America (Brufsky, 2020). Additionally, the severity of COVID-19 outbreaks on the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates during the vernal phase of the pandemic is directly proportional to the intensity of the Proterozoic cratons-associated LWMAs (Fig. 11) (Idoko et al., 2019; Tang et al., 2013b). Tectonic plates with marginal Proterozoic cratons-associated LWMAs (the African, Arabian, Indian, and Australian plates) will experience relatively less severe COVID-19 outbreaks (Fig. 11) (Idoko et al., 2019; Tang et al., 2013b); especially in continental regions farthest away from the collision zones with the Eurasian plate (i.e., Sub-Saharan Africa). Furthermore, the governing hydromagnetic perturbations and the South Atlantic Anomaly that are driving the weakening geomagnetic field intensity are predominately restricted to Eurasia and the Americas (and the southern tip of Africa) (Finlay et al., 2016a).
This is one of the most amazing instances of confusing correlation with causation coupled without showing even convincing correlation that I’ve ever seen! From this, the authors conclude that severe COVID-19 outbreaks are/will be restricted to tectonic plates with LWMAs in Proterozoic cratons. (A craton is a large stable block of the earth’s crust forming the nucleus of a continent, consisting of Earth’s two topmost layers, the crust and the uppermost mantle.) They even do the sort of analysis that antivaxxers do when they want to relate vaccine uptake or policies of nations to autism rates, resulting in this hilarious figure:
See? There’s a linear regression! That means it has to be science! Of course, there’s no reason to assume that any relation, if one even were to exist, would be linear. Moreover, the authors don’t even try to control for confounders in any serious way, although they do go on to produce a whole lot more figures like the one above to try to show that the COVID-19 outbreak correlates with fluctuations in the magnetic fields in the various continents that they examine. Quackademia at its finest!
This all leads the authors to question whether current public health interventions are appropriate:
The current public health understanding and response to the SARS-CoV-2-associated COVID-19 pandemic is based on the germ theory (El-Sadr and Justman, 2020; Holmdahl and Buckee, 2020). Currently, it is presumed that the COVID-19 pandemic began with a zoonotic transmission of a SARS-CoV-2-like virus from animal(s) to human(s) in the Yangtze River basin (Wuhan, Hubei, China) on the Proterozoic-Yangtze craton in late 2019 and that severe COVID-19 outbreaks are due to person-to-person transmission (Ozma et al., 2020; Li et al., 2020a). Therefore, stay-at-home restrictions, social distancing (>6 ft apart), and the use of facemasks are employed to control the pandemic (Ozma et al., 2020; Li et al., 2020a). Furthermore, the global epidemic curve of SARS-CoV-2-associated COVID-19 outbreaks, with the maximum in the equinoctial period and the minimum in the solstitial period, is currently ascribed to those public health interventions. However, the germ theory and associated models have been incapable of making accurate long-term predictions about the spatiotemporal dynamics of COVID-19 outbreaks (Holmdahl and Buckee, 2020). Furthermore, those germ theory-derived models cannot explain the differential severity of the COVID-19 pandemic within countries and continental regions or across tectonic plates without using ad-hoc immunizing hypotheses that cannot be falsified (Holmdahl and Buckee, 2020).
“Cannot be falsified”? I lost another irony meter at that passage. They fried that sucker to a molten, quivering mass of gooey plastic and sparking wires!
Later, based on their “results,” the authors speculate:
Like current responses to natural disasters, the nowcasting and forecasting of COVID-19-LWMAs using those empirical data could enable better mitigation strategies. Additionally, the development of personal protective equipment/devices, such as Nephrite-Jade amulets (Harlow and Sorensen, 2005), which may readily interact with and abrogate serpentinization-induced LWMAs, may provide a means of shielding humans and preventing COVID-19.
Future experiments and analysis in support of this hypothesis will determine 1) the genomic sequence of the polynucleotide molecules producing the SARS-CoV-2-like antigens in the laboratory rats using next-generation sequencing technology, 2) the ability of Nephrite-Jade amulets to prevent lethal COVID-19-like disease and associated SARS-CoV-2-like infection in laboratory rats in our colony during the equinoctial period, 3) the presence of SARS-CoV-2 genomes and antigens in the blood and tissues of vaping-associated severe acute respiratory syndrome patients in North America and collected in 2019 prior to the recorded COVID-19 pandemic using validated diagnostic assays, 4) the lithospheric magnetic field-spherical harmonics associated with the spatiotemporal dynamics of severe COVID-19 outbreaks using magnetometry satellites data along with gravimetry satellites data (i.e. Swarm and GRACE-FO satellites) and epidemiological data (i.e., Our World in Data), and 5) the ability of an artificial magnetic field to generate of iron oxides-silicate-like minerals and SARS-CoV-2 via altering the spin state of electrons in biogenic molecules from humans (and other animals).
In other words, the authors published this dreck even though they hadn’t already sequenced the SARS-CoV-2-like antigens in the rats, but they’re confident enough in their confluence of woo that they think it’s worth testing whether Nephrite-Jade magic amulets can prevent lethal COVID-19-like disease in their SRG rats while continuing to try to torture data to confess a “correlation” between magnetic fields and death rates due to COVID-19 during the pandemic.
The authors respond to criticism
Unsurprisingly, the reaction to this “study” has not been kind, so much so that Retraction Watch took note. The response of the authors to the criticism was—shall we say?—not encouraging. Retraction Watch contacted Moses Turkle Bility, a Pitt faculty member who is listed as corresponding author of the paper, and he was not very…receptive…to constructive criticism:
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.
If you have legitimate concerns about the article and wish to discuss, I’ll address; however, I will not tolerate racism or intellectual intolerance targeted at me.
Nobody said anything about Bility being black. Certainly, I had no idea who he was, much less his race, until I saw the Retraction Watch article. I’ll let that pass, though, given how frequently racism does enter attacks on minority sciences. Racism aside, Bility is very quick to invoke the Galileo gambit in implying that he’s being “persecuted” for science that’s too novel and radical for the existing paradigm to accept. He also can’t help but claim that any criticism of his ideas must be due to the critics being too ignorant, stupid, or blinded by “dogma” to understand his brilliance, as evidenced by his response to Ivan Oransky’s request for evidence that “Nephrite-Jade amulets, a calcium-ferromagnesian silicate, may prevent COVID-19,” and whether promoting non-evidence-based interventions during a pandemic was a good idea”:
Dear Dr. Oransky, please read and understand the article in its entirety, before you make a hasty decision. If I may speculate, you neither understand quantum physics nor spin chemistry; you are making a hasting decision based on your knowledge of the classical theories that dominate the biological sciences. Also, certainly you being a white male offers you the privilege to think that you have the right to determine who can propose ideas that challenges a dominant paradigm. Other cultures are not primitive, and people of color and indigenous people are not intellectually inferior. Before you jump to conclusions about this article, I suggest you understand quantum physics, and spin chemistry, and how it differs from classical theories, and then read my article.
These are, of course, specious examples. Quantum physics and spin chemistry developed from the failure of classical physics to explain certain phenomena. They built on classical physics; they didn’t invalidate it. The rest of Bility’s rant is nothing more than an appeal to other ways of knowing. No one said that other cultures are primitive or that people of color are intellectually inferior. What is being said is that this article, Bility’s article, is very bad science. What I am saying is that his risible hypothesis is based on denial of a well established existing scientific theory, the germ theory of disease. As I’ve said before, you can certainly challenge an existing scientific theory, but you’d better have the goods if you’re going to convince anyone. Bility’s paper is far from “the goods.” It’s basically warmed over Béchamp with a whole lot of handwaving about magnetic fields added as the “external” forces that result in the formation of microbes under Béchamp’s pleomorphic theory of disease. Again, even I never thought I’d see that in quackademic medicine.
A better question is how a quackademic paper this bad got published in a respectable journal. In that, Retraction Watch was not encouraging. The editor of the journal passed the buck to the editor who handled it, who said that the manuscript “went through our standard reviewing process. It was reviewed by two expert reviewers and only after several revisions with the agreement of the reviewers it was accepted.” I don’t know what’s worse, that the manuscript wasn’t accepted or that the reviewers required multiple revisions of something so obviously pseudoscientific and unsalvageable that it should just have been rejected outright with a hearty laugh or facepalm.
Quackademic medicine is, of course, a highly pernicious force in academic medicine. Unfortunately, with this woo-filled nonsense, quackademia has entered the age of COVID-19 with a thud.