Truths and Lies in Alternative Medicine

Last weekend, there was an “Alternativmesse” (Alternative Convention) here in Tromsø, and so I decided to attend this for the first time. But when, like me, you’re not so interested in something to believe, but in the hard truth, it becomes an interesting experience. On the one hand, it functions as an open marketplace for stuff that might be real but not mainstream for some reason. On the other, because of that openness, and the relative lack of public oversight, it’s also an attractive marketplace for fraudsters and con artists. How do you tell the truths from the lies?

Let’s start with the healers. Here in Norway, there is a law governing alternative medicine. And there are actually three healer certifications that are recognized by the state (issued by DNH. NHA, or NSFH). For such certificates, you must pass an exam and skill test that, among other things, is designed to rule out fraud. So, if your healer has such a certificate, you can be reasonably sure he or she is not a fraud. (Of course, that doesn’t guarantee that the healer has the experience or skill to heal any given person, such as you, but at least it shows he/she is for real.)

I haven’t looked into every claim made at this convention — I have neither the time nor the desire to do so — but I think that most claims made at the convention are, at the very least, made in good faith.

But there was one glaring exception, incidentally also the most high-profile attraction: the Keshe Foundation stuff. Their claims isn’t based so much on spiritual stuff, but on physics and technology, and that’s something I know a lot about. The schematics I was told to look at looked fishy, and the guy who tried to explain to me the details of this “plasma” and “nanocoating” stuff quite obviously didn’t know the first thing about actual physics. (Actually, the explanation would hardly even make sense in a fictional world.) There were also others around who also asked me to look into this stuff. I don’t like to spend my time on what’s likely bullshit, but given the requests, I guess maybe it’s worthwhile to take a quick look.

But perhaps a quick look is all it takes. There’s a Facebook group called Keshevictims, with people who have fallen for Keshe’s fraud. There’s a blog called Keshe Facts, which says, among other things, that Keshe is wanted for fraud in his home country, that his “gans” is nothing more than traditional rust protection, and that he generally doesn’t pay his debts. When his friends get tired of him not keeping his promise and speaks out, he turns around and brands them his enemies, part of that grand conspiracy that’s supposedly trying to keep his tech down. While Keshe claims to have a university degree in nuclear physics, there are no records or other evidence of this, so he seems to also have been lying about that. (No surprise to me, given how spectacularly wrong the physics they’ve tried to tell me about seemed to be.) Perhaps craziest of all, he seems to be trying hard to make himself out to be some kind of Messiah.

And what did they say was in those healing rings? Seawater, air, copper, and zinc, plus that “gans” (rust protection)? Sounds suspiciously like the ingredients for a classic electrical battery, I think. Some people say they could feel energy off them. Yes, I’m sure an electrical battery, possibly wired to produce an electromagnetic field, could make you feel there’s energy there, at least until the battery runs out. But guess what, that doesn’t mean what they do isn’t fraud.

But for me, the interesting thing isn’t whether Keshe is a fraud. He will be forgotten in time, and I’m interested in more timeless facts. So, what’s more interesting is how he pulled it off, what characterizes the people that fall for it, and the lessons to learn from it. Keshe and his associates are clearly very cunning manipulators, but that can’t be the whole story. I suppose that the lesson here could be that the bigger the lie, the easier it is for people to believe.

And, of course, when you traverse a world where nothing is quite as it seems, always be ready to not only question everything around you, but also yourself and your own beliefs. That last part is what most people forget to do, no matter how rational, intelligent, or open-minded they consider themselves. But there’s no way around it if you really, truly, want to find the truth.