La Paz, Bolivia (3510 m)

Science, Honor and Truth

Some people believe cheating is a way of life. Businessmen, for instance, make stabbing a partner's back, a lewd act leading to success.  Diplomats lie to their similar in other countries and thereby gain advantages. Salesmen promise the efficiency of their products, knowing in the back of their minds that it is not so. Lawyers offer to solve a judicial problem, and have to carry on and on with costly and never-ending “alternatives”. And so on. Not everyone in their fields of course, but certainly several.

Fish use camouflage in the ocean in order to trap the naive.  Darwin’s theories of survival of the fittest have indeed changed human behavior. Evolved man has come to believe he should cheat on his own species in order to gain advantage. And to a point it works. Surprise is usually a good weapon, particularly with underdeveloped minds.  But these attitudes tend to forget a defense mechanism: Immunity. Bacteria know what we are talking about. Surprise them with a new antibiotic and temporarily wipe them out, yet not completely. A stronger breed arises, resistant to the previous antibiotic. Completely eliminating a bacteria is impossible. They always come back. Sooner or later.....

But why mention science?  All through the years, I have read about respected and well recognized scientists with extraordinary scientific results and beautiful data that was apparently unquestionable. Eventually they were discovered to be phonies. I recently learned of the story of the discovery of the missing link of evolution, published in National Geographic Magazine, that later turned out to be a history of scientific deceit, dishonesty, cheating, lying, hiding the truth, and so on. Well, I suppose they were applying the “rules” previously mentioned.  Which brings us to the following conclusion: Science is about truth, and truth is about reality. Hide the truth, change the data, cheat, lie, be unfaithful to colleagues, tell other colleagues not to invite a colleague to a meeting, promise and never keep your word, hide interesting data produced by others, or ignore them when deep inside you know you shouldn't and you will end up standing in a false floor. Mistakes are understandable and mendable but cheating is unacceptable and unerasable. And believe me, even though truth is relative and questionable at one point fixed in time, reality always surfaces, sooner or later. You can try to bury truth deep in dirt, but it will never be deep enough. Because truth in science, is like an unsinkable buoy.  Because science is based on the rules of physics, unbendable, much less to one's advantage.

And honor? Yes, a forgotten word in this 21st century. What has man retained from the teachings of Socrates? How have we evolved? What happened to the followers of Ralph Waldo Emerson?  Honor is valueless according to most. But like immunity, something also tends to be forgotten: conscience. Yes, conscience is that little angel between the ears, deep down in the gray matter of the human brain, yet like a hammer within. And it hits, and does damage to the rest of the brain. And hence to the body. A self-destructive time bomb. Read history and you will find innumerable examples: Darwin’s captain of the Beagle, for instance, fervently attacked Darwin’s theories, because he felt left out, only to end his life committing suicide. He could not cope with Darwin’s success. He felt his efforts to carry the Beagle around the world were the most important feat of the adventure. But could it compare with the origin of the species? Victor Hugo’s “Les miserables”, has a similar story. The police officer Javet that obsessively chased the innocent man Jean Valgean ends up also committing suicide. 

When you walk into your lab, as Claude Bernard proposed, hang your theories along with your coat. That is how you will find the truth. But I would add: always be faithful to truth, and be proud to have honor. It may seem a harder road, but like pyramids although difficult to build, are the sturdiest shapes in nature. You will live longer and have plenty of satisfaction. You will rest in peace, but being alive. You will have done a service to mankind: Science, with truth and honor!


Gustavo R. Zubieta-Calleja (Jr.)
La Paz, April 10, 2002

On the 32nd anniversary of the High Altitude Pathology Institute
(Clínica IPPA * Instituto de Patologia en la Altura) in La Paz, Bolivia,
the directors have decided to create a medal called:


The logo on the face of the medal was born in the 1st World Congress on High Altitude Medicine and Physiology held on 12-16 Sept 1994 in La Paz, Bolivia. The 10th anniversary is coming up in China in 2004. The holding strip is handmade of Alpaca and carries the colors of the Bolivian flag.

to be given every two years to:

1) Chosen scientists from around the globe who are dedicated to scientific research in high altitude, promoting progress and research with truth and honor.

2) People that support altruistically to maintain the spirit of challenge in high altitude science.

 2002 awards
granted in Barcelona, Spain

Tatitana Serebrovskaya. (Ukraine)
Principal Researcher, Doctor of Biology,
Academician of the International Academy of Sciences
Bogomoletz Institute of Physiology
Kiev, Ukraine

  Jack Reeves (USA)
University of Colorado Medical Center
Colorado, USA

Michiro Nakashima (Japan)
Osakafu Saiseikai Izuo-Daini Hospital,
Academic Alpine Club of Tokio
Osaka, Japan

Andrew J. Pollard (UK)
University Lecturer in Infectious Diseases
and Honorary Consultant Paediatrician
Department of Paediatrics
University of Oxford
John Radcliffe Hospital
Oxford, UK

Pavel Beloshitsky (Ukraine)
Chief of Elbrus Medical and Biological Station
First Deputy Director of the International Center
for Astronomical, Medical and Ecological
Investigations NAS of Ukranian and Russian AS

Ramón Garate (Spain)
Medico Montañista
Federación Vasca de Montaña
San Sebastian, España

Antxón Bandres (Spain)
representando a la
Federación Vasca de Montaña
que patrocina la investigación científica de montaña
San Sebastian, España

Photo Gallery of  Barcelona 2002

2004 awards
granted in Lhasa, Tibet China

Dante Peñaloza





Dante Peñaloza (Peru)
Emeritus Professor Peruvian University Cayetano Heredia
Honorary Member, National Academy of Medicine
Honorary President, Peruvian Society of Cardiology

Chief, Cardiovascular Laboratory, High Altitude Research Institute UPCH (1962-1990)

JIm Milledge

Jim Milledge (UK)

Wu Tianyi

Wu Tiany (China)

2008 awards
granted in La Paz, Bolivia

(II Chronic Hypoxia Symposium)


Poul-Erik Paulev

Poul-Erik Paulev (Denmark)
Panum Institute of Physiology
Copenhagen University

2010 awards
granted in La Paz, Bolivia

(III Chronic Hypoxia Symposium)

Thuppil Venkatesh

Thuppil Venkatesh (India)
St. John's Medical College
Bangalore, India


John Severinghaus

John Severinghaus (USA)

2014 awards
granted in La Paz, Bolivia

(V Chronic Hypoxia Symposium)


Jan Marino Ramirez

JanMarino Ramirez (USA)
Center for Integrative Brain Research
Seattle Childrens Hospital

Madan Gopal

Madan Gopal (India)
Forest, Ecology and Environment Bengaluru
Former Aditional Chief Secretary

2016 awards
granted in La Paz, Bolivia

(VI Chronic Hypoxia Symposium)

Kusal Das

Kusal Das (India)
Department of physiology
Laboratory of Vascular Physiology and Medicine
BLDE University, Bijapur, India

You can contact us at zubieta@altitudeclinic.com


Back to IPPA home page
Original Copyright  Jun/14/2000 IPPA - La Paz, Bolivia