Dowsing for Disease

If sensational news reports hailing from Egypt are to be believed, the Egyptian army is on the brink of eliminating AIDS. The Egyptian government issued a press release last week proclaiming, “Armed Forces achieve scientific breakthrough.” The press release reads as follows:

President Adly Mansour and Field Marshal Abdel Fattah el-Sisi inaugurated the first college of medicine that is affiliated to the Armed Forces.

The new college is the first military educational entity which aims at graduating medical cadres who are highly qualified.

Mansour and Sisi, along with a number of senior officials, were presented with the first system for discovering and treating Hepatitis and AIDS patients.

The Armed Forces personnel achieved a scientific breakthrough by inventing systems for diagnosing Hepatitis and AIDS without any need to take a sample of blood from the patient. The invention was registered in the name of the Engineering corps of the Armed Forces and was authorized by the Ministry of Health.

The Commentator news website reports, “Egypt’s national TV channels ran a video that showed a physician making tests for an HIV patient using the device and telling him, ‘your tests are so great; you had HIV but now the disease vanished.’”

What exactly is this amazing new invention? It consists of two devices in one, the C-Fast and the I-Fast. CCTV Africa reported that the I-Fast gives “a complete 100 percent cure” for HIV patients and that the C-Fast treatment “works 95 percent of the time in curing patients of Hepatitis C.” The video footage from the CCTV Africa segment shows Major Dr. Ibrahim Abdel-Atti, the leader of the team who invented the device, speaking at a press conference surrounded by his military and medical colleagues and declaring,

Before symptoms appear and problems arise, we can break the virus and turn it into amino acids so that the virus becomes nutrition for the body instead of disease. This is a miracle in scientific research.

If the news of these incredible detection and cure rates seems too good to be true, that’s because it is. The promoters of these cures are involved in pseudoscience and propaganda, whether knowingly or not. Even a cursory analysis of the way in which this dual-use device is supposed to work reveals problems. The hand-operated device is equipped with a grip on one end and a thin rod of metal which pivots and waves from the handle like a wand:

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The device looks almost identical to the fake bomb detectors called ADE 651 that were sold to Iraq by British conman and charlatan James McCormick, who is now serving a ten-year prison sentence for his crimes. Effectively, the I-Fast and C-Fast devices are the same as the ADE 651 in both form and function.

The makers of the device believe in the notion that viruses emit electromagnetic signals that are unique to each virus. As the various chemical and biological processes occur inside the patient’s body, the C-Fast/I-Fast device is said to be able to detect the presence of the harmful virus in time to treat the infection. This is a testable and scientific claim that can therefore be addressed empirically: Do viruses in the human body have an electromagnetic signature? One need not be an expert in virology or biochemistry to infer that If they do, such a signature must be extremely tiny and not something that can be read outside the body with macroscopic instruments. Such a signature would surely be drowned out by all the “noise” of other simultaneous bodily processes. This level of detection would be difficult for even a radio detector, let alone a dowsing apparatus like the C-Fast/I-Fast that represents little more than a modern version of a magical divining rod like the one pictured below.

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The concept underlying the “Complete Cure” divining rods have been put into practice since the earliest days of radio-based medicine. The C-Fast and I-Fast device is thus hardly new or cutting-edge. For example, it is very similar to an early twentieth-century invention called the “Dynamizer.” This machine, invented by an American doctor named Albert Abrams, was nothing more than a small black box containing a tightly-packed jungle of wires and batteries. Abrams, who today is known as “the dean of twentieth-century charlatans,” claimed that his machine was able to detect vibrations emitted by diseases like radio waves. Abrams believed this allowed accurate diagnosis of any diseases suffered by a person who was hooked up to the contraption by one of the two wires that protruded from the box. The Complete Cure diagnosing device is essentially the Dynamizer in dowsing-rod form.

The Marriage of Politics and Pseudoscience

Nevertheless, the so-called “Complete Cure” has been uncritically met with enthusiastic support by government and military officials in Egypt. According to the International Business Times, “Complete Cure is already approved by the Egyptian authorities and the Armed Forces are now seeking approval from the U.S. and Europe to gain global recognition. It will also be available soon to all military hospitals in Egypt by June 30.” However, the Commentator article notes that Abdel-Atti “stressed that Egypt will not export the machine to other countries so that it can be protected from international monopoly and the black market.” Perhaps the real reason Abdel-Atti and his team want to delay export is fear of “evil” Western medical science getting their hands on the product and discovering that it does not work.

The glaring scientific fallacies inherent in the Egyptian Army’s claim raises the question of whether the developers of the Complete Cure device sincerely believe in its efficacy or are con men knowingly attempting to deceive people through propaganda. Both possibilities are plausible. The country of Egypt is currently in a very politically unstable state of affairs, especially in the wake of the recent resignation of its army-backed government. It can be difficult for good science to thrive in the midst of political turmoil, and so it’s not inconceivable that bad thinking can infect a time-sensitive field such as medicine. On the other hand, Egypt’s political situation can be advantageous for propagandists interested in selling a good image of the Egyptian Army to a disillusioned public.

But while promoters of the miracle virus cure may have managed to convince several government officials, they have not been so successful in convincing the Egyptian public. Fortunately, most of the general public in Egypt have joined the scientific community in expressing skepticism toward the claims of the Egyptian Army’s Complete Cure device. An article by BBC Trending points this out in the context of an ongoing Twitter discussion about the alleged virus cure:

A few of the tweets were supportive of the government, but what is striking is that the majority were satirical and questioned the science. . . . Other comments drew a link between the announcement and the upcoming presidential elections. The army’s chief, Field Marshal Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, who was mentioned in the press release, is seen as a frontrunner in the election.

This widespread response is encouraging and gives us reason to hop that clear thinking and good science will win the day and keep in check the propagandists and/or true believers who hold positions of influence and power in the Egyptian government.

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About Nathan Dickey

I am a freelance writer trying to finish my degree in Journalism. I attended Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon. My interests are many, and include investigative reporting, science, philosophy, history, classic rock music, and pop culture analysis. My motivation in writing is to contribute what I can to the promotion of science and skepticism among the public. My goal is to use my journalism training to be active in the skeptical and freethought movement, analyzing dubious but popularly-believed claims involving the supernatural, the paranormal and religion.
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