ShooTag


Faithful Acowlytes! Have you put on a few pounds over the winter?(i) Has your flat stomach been Autocorrected into a flab stomach? Would you like your former Olive Oyl profile back once more? Well then friends, let me tell you all about the miraculous LifeChange Diet, featuring amazing ‘bioresonance’ drops! Yes, these wondrous drops in conjunction with ‘a strict low calorie/low GI diet’ just about guarantee that you’ll shed those unwanted kilos in no time.

But first, before we get too excited, we might examine the above magazine clipping (thoughtfully sent in by Cissy Strutt) with the TCA Bullshit Magnifier™ to see what it throws up.

First of all, you might be forgiven for thinking that popstar-cum-clotheshorse Carmen Electra has anything at all to do with the LifeChange Diet. She doesn’t. Well, not the LifeChange Diet being promoted in the text by Sydney naturopath Danielle Berends, anyway. But maybe that’s my mistake. The credit does say Carmel Electra, so perhaps it’s Carmen’s lesser known twin sister doing the promoting. You might also be forgiven for thinking that the drops Carmel is talking about have anything to do with the drops that Danielle is hawking. They don’t. At least, if they are the same product, they don’t make a big thing of it on the LifeChange Diet website, and probably for good reason: HCG Platinum Drops are not in the good books of the US Food & Drug Administration, who have found the drops to be in violation of numerous FDA standards and that ‘…there is no evidence that they are generally recognized as safe and effective for their intended uses.’

But hey, it’s not hard to accidentally put the wrong photo and caption on your text, right? Maybe these ones were meant to go on the story ‘Bogus Weight Loss Drugs promoted by Idiot Celebrity’ and there was a bit of a mixup. It’s easy to see how that could happen.

So, what then does the LifeChange Diet website have to say about these awesome homeopathic drops. Let’s look at the Bioresonance page (because we just know that’s gonna be good):

The LifeChange Diet combines an easy to follow structured diet program with bioresonance technology, in the form of specially formulated bioresonance drops.

But what is bioresonance technology? That’s a very common question.

Bioresonance technology was introduced by German scientists in the 1970’s. Its foundation is based around the body’s energy system.

In bioresonance therapy, the transmission and receipt of electromagnetic frequencies is used to identify and support your energetic status.

All the cells in your body emit and communicate via electromagnetic frequencies. In a healthy body, this communication is free and the body functions as it was designed to do.

Well, I agree that ‘What is bioresonance technology?’ is probably a common question from those hearing of this scheme. Indeed, I asked it myself, although it was more along the lines of ‘Jesus H Christ, what the fuck is bioresonance technology?’ But, the internets being right at our fingertips & all, it’s only a moment’s work to fire up our favourite Search™ engine and plug in ‘bioresonance’ and ‘German scientists’. The very first result we get is this Wikipedia(ii) article on ‘bioresonance therapy‘ which begins with the explanation that ‘Bioresonance therapy is a pseudo-scientific medical concept…’ I guess that wasn’t much of a surprise. Bioresonance was ‘discovered’ in 1977 by Franz Morell who, after seeing a Scientology E-Meter, created his own version of it, along with a whole heap of baloney to explain its supposed working mechanism. Needless to say this centers principally around the vagueness of concepts like ‘electromagnetic frequencies’ and ‘energy flow’ so beloved of woo peddlars across the globe, a club of whom we must consider LifeChange a card-carrying member.

Simply put, the wondrous drops that the LifeChange Diet promotes as part of its weight-loss scheme are nothing more than magic water. Yet again.

I guess you all saw it, right, at the beginning of this post? The diet promoted by this racket – ‘a strict low calorie/low GI’ food intake – by itself will guarantee that you lose weight. The magic drops are total bullshit, and I say these people know it.

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Footnotes:

  1. Antipodean seasons are in effect here on TCA. []
  2. Support Wikipedia! Donate! []

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It was, Faithful Acowlytes, merely a matter of time before someone other than ShooTag figured out that there was still plenty of ore to be mined from the vast goldfields of pet owners who are not in possession of functioning critical faculties. Today I am pleased to bring you yet another way to keep fleas off your pet ‘naturally’: the Only Natural EasyDefense Flea & Tick tag. Here, please allow The Only Natural Pet Store explain it in their own words:

The Only Natural Pet EasyDefense Flea & Tick Tag is a safe, chemical-free way to keep harmful pests off of your pet. Using state of the art holistic technology, the EasyDefense Tag utilizes your pet’s own energy to create a natural barrier to pests.

Oh golly gee. Doesn’t that sound awfully familiar? But how, pray tell, could such a thing possibly work?

When opened and placed on your pet, it uses your pet’s own inherent energy to send out frequencies that repel pests. The process operates with quantum mechanic’s refined frequencies, and is somewhat similar to the basic principles of homeopathy. (It does not use traditional energy forms like electrical, chemical, thermal, magnetic, or radioactive.)

That’s right folks. It does not use ‘traditional’ forms of energy, oh no. It uses quantum mechanics, which everybody KNOWS is similar to homeopathy.(i)

But wait, there’s more!

This holistic energetic approach combines the knowledge of Eastern medicine with advanced Western technology, and is the result of more than 10 years of targeted research in collaboration with renowned doctors and scientists.

Awesome! Renowned doctors and scientists! 10 years of targeted research! I’m impressed. Please give us the details!

Although it has proven to be completely safe and effective, no large scale studies or clinical trials have been done on the EasyDefense Tag because the application of the underlying technology when used as a pest repellent for pets is relatively new.

O…k…a…y… So what actually happened was that a bunch of renowned doctors and scientists were toiling away for 10 years on something completely unrelated to the topic at hand, but you somehow just accidentally typed that into your press release. What you meant to say was ‘We have toss-all evidence that the thing works’. But it’s cheap, right – being just a bit of plastic blessed by the Quantum Fairy? What’s that you say? $80-fucking-dollars???? You’re kidding me!

Sigh. If it wasn’t for these frikkin’ morals I was born with, dear Acowlytes, I’d be a billionaire.

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Footnotes:

  1. Next those SCIENTISTS will be mutating pigs and bison to come up with some kind of Higgs Boson or something. []

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The big news here in Australia – well, you’d think it was big news with the amount of press coverage it’s getting – is that mean ol’ Apple is intentionally bilking people of their money by advertising that the new iPad 3 can connect to 4G networks. Which it can, but hey. Just not, as it turns out, Telstra’s Australian 4G network.

Apple has quite obviously made a misstep here, but in my view it’s unlikely they deliberately went about exploiting their potential customers – I think we can surmise that they’re smart enough to realise that if they tried to trick people this way they’d get busted as soon as someone tried to use an iPad 3 with a Telstra 4G account.

This has not stopped Australia’s consumer watchdog, the ACCC, from putting the boot in, however. In keeping with current media fashion they just lurve the mileage they can get out of kicking Apple. The ACCC took Apple to court claiming that Apple has made ‘misleading statements’ about the connectivity situation. Apple, for their part, have very reasonably agreed to publish a clarification of the issue, and to refund the purchase price to anyone who wants to return their iPad 3.

Blah blah blah, who really cares? It doesn’t seem to me that this warrants the status of screaming front page news on just about every news outlet in the land.

This whole thing annoys me in a major way, though. For a couple of years now I’ve been having conversations with various ACCC personnel about the risible ShooTag and its presence here in Australia. Their willingness to do anything about this product has not demonstrated anywhere near the same level of enthusiasm as this sniping at Apple, and yet ShooTag is not merely making misleading claims: the ShooTag Australia site promotes outright lies (not the least of which is the bogus Texas State University endorsement which is still on the home page).

The makers of ShooTag, as you will recall, are not content to put the health of your pet at risk by promoting baseless pseudoscientific thinking, but are now promoting their product for humans, as a defence against insect-carried diseases including malaria.

I have, of course, pointed this out to the ACCC, here in a country where we have significant problems with mosquito-borne diseases, but apparently it’s much more important to protect the disposable income of affluent gadget-buyers than it is to attend to the wellbeing of pets and humans.

It gets much better press, at least.

What's Your Opinion?

You will recall that a couple of weeks back I had a personal letter from Melissa Rogers, CEO of Shoo!TAG, in which she took me to task for ‘defaming’ her product, and asking why I believed there was no scientific support for it. I clearly outlined my position to her in a manner that I thought didn’t leave much room for interpretation. After receiving her reply this morning, though, I get the distinct impression that she didn’t actually read my letter, so much as skim through it in the way that I assume she approaches scientific literature. This is the sum of what she wrote:

Although I respect the right to your opinion, we obviously do not agree.  My question is:  What would you do, if you discovered you were wrong?

Dear Ms Rogers,

The entire problem here is that we’re not talking about an issue of opinion. You have made claims that challenge fundamental precepts of science as we currently know it, and you have said quite plainly on your web site that your product uses these novel scientific discoveries to repel insects. By doing so you are not putting forward an opinion that I am merely countering with some contrasting opinion. What you are doing is quite deliberately declaring that you have scientific substantiation of the principles by which you say Shoo!TAG operates. Scientific evidence and opinion are two very different things. Indeed, the scientific process is specifically designed to weed out the influence of opinion.

I believe that you understand very clearly that you need more than just opinions to make Shoo!TAG sound credible to your customers. You want to make it appear that you have science behind your claims, because you know, as we all do, that science works. The trouble is that, although you know lots of scientific buzzwords like ‘quantum’ and ‘electromagnetism’ and ‘fractals’, you don’t really understand much about these things, nor indeed, about the scientific process itself.

On your website, you use every opportunity to attempt to give Shoo!TAG scientific validity, even if it means distorting the truth. You use lots of scientific sounding language, you have a ‘Technology’ page (formerly called ‘Science’) where you talk about your ‘lab’ and ‘experiments’. You have implied repeatedly that you have endorsements by legitimate scientific institutions (which is demonstrably not true), and you publish scientific-looking documents with lots of tables and statistics. Your patent application has pages of technical-sounding language which is plainly contrived to give the impression that there is something scientific going on (when really it makes very little sense to anyone who does understand science).

The primary difference between opinion and science is that an opinion is, by its nature, a subjective stance. Science tries very hard to iron out all subjectivity and make an assessment of facts that can be agreed upon by anyone who cares to observe that assessment.

Let me try to explain this difference with some simple analogies:

In the 18th century, a mathematician named Daniel Bernoulli outlined a principle that showed that in a fluid flowing over an object with differing surface areas, a pressure differential is created on one side. This quite simple observation went on to have profound effects for our modern lives, perhaps the most well-known being the invention of the airplane. The Bernoulli Principle is what keeps aircraft in the air. Now it doesn’t matter what your opinion of Bernoulli’s discovery is; it will work for everyone in exactly the same way. Even if you hold an opinion that Bernoulli ‘just made it all up’, it will still work anyway. Bernoulli’s Principle is a sound scientific idea to which millions of people entrust their lives every day. And it is independent of opinion or belief.

Now let’s consider some colours: twenty shades of some dark red colour, say. We can show those colours to a hundred people and probably get a hundred different opinions on which of those shades might be called ‘purple’ or ‘crimson’ or ‘red’. And we could show them to people in China and Spain and Canada and get more opinions still. But if it came down to whether you would stake your life on the opinion of Gladys Blackshaw of Manchester, England, of whether the card she had in her hand was red, crimson or purple, you simply wouldn’t do it. Why? Because opinion is highly subjective and we don’t trust it for important decisions.

This is why humans came up with the idea of science in the first place: it is the most reliable way we know of assessing the world. What this means is that your opinion or my opinion or anyone else’s opinion is entirely irrelevant when it comes to your claims for how Shoo!TAG is supposed to work, because the only correct way of establishing the validity of your claimed results is with science.

You ask me what I would do if I discovered I was wrong?(i) Well, the only way that I’m going to ‘discover’ that I’m wrong is if you can demonstrate some good science behind your product. The onus is not on me to prove that I’m right – I’m not the one seeking to sell a product based on remarkable new scientific principles. It’s YOU who are obliged to show the world that you’re right – YOU are the one making money out of this scheme. You have a responsibility to back up your claims. As I have said repeatedly, you can easily bring real science to bear on Shoo!TAG, should you have the courage to do it. It’s not even particularly hard science, as these things go. If you genuinely believe in your product, I simply don’t understand why you wouldn’t seek this kind of widely accepted corroboration. The really impressive thing about proper science is that if you really can scientifically demonstrate the astonishing results you say you can get, I (and everyone else on the planet) will have no choice but to accept your evidence, because the science will bear you out.

It won’t come down to a matter of opinion.

Sincerely
Peter Miller

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Footnotes:

  1. Asking a question like this is a technique much beloved of those who are unable to argue with evidence on their side. By throwing an open-ended query back at the interrogator the argument is deflected away from the issue at hand, which, in this case, is: What kind kind of evidence can they provide that they are right? What I would do if I am wrong is hypothetical and irrelevant to the usefulness of the discussion unless they can demonstrate that they are actually right. They are making the unverified claims, not me. []

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Since I last wrote about shoo!TAG here on TCA, I’ve been having some rather interesting correspondence with people at Texas State University regarding a letter that was recently featured on the ShooTag site which was a synopsis of a supposed ShooTag experiment that had been carried out in June under the aegis of the University. The letter, including a precis of the seemingly persuasive results from that experiment, was signed by TSU assistant professor Ken Mix PhD. The document in question appeared to be on a Texas State University letterhead.

Well, it seems that ShooTag’s claims of Texas State University involvement in this affair were (as I speculated might be the case), not entirely to the liking of the University administration, and Dr Mix wrote to me this morning to inform me that he’d requested that ShooTag take the letter down.(i) Rather surprisingly Dr Mix inferred that I must have gone out of my way to find the letter, claiming that it was not immediately apparent through the site menus and that he had to perform a search to find it. Au contraire I told Dr Mix. I found it simply by looking under Our Technology -> Testing ShooTag and clicking on the link there, as I expect anyone who was curious about ShooTag’s proposed mechanism of action might have done.(ii) I also pointed out to Dr Mix that a quote from him appearing to be an endorsement is, as of this writing, still active on the Australian ShooTag site.

Also in my inbox this morning was an email from Melissa Rogers (ShooTag CEO), who had evidently acquired my private address from Ken Mix or TSU. No matter. As I have said before, I don’t go to particular trouble to protect my real identity and it’s pretty easy to find out who I am even if you’re merely casually inquisitive (jeepers – as it says in the FAQ: just email me and I’ll tell you!) I’m not entirely sure, though, that Ms Rogers had connected the dots when she wrote to me, so she may be surprised to read my reply to her, which I’ve reproduced in full below. In her email she wanted to know why I ‘felt the need to defame’ her product, what my concerns with it are, and why I believe that there is no scientific data or evidence that it works. Well, we’ve been through it all before, but here, set out clearly to Melissa Rogers in person, are my grievances against ShooTag. Happy reading (and stay tuned)!

Dear Ms Rogers,

I will be happy to explain to you why I take exception to your product, but I suspect you are already familiar with my arguments.

First of all, I have nowhere defamed your product. Defamation requires that I have said something about your product that is untrue, and I have not done so. Furthermore, I believe (and can amply demonstrate) that you have engaged in deceitful behaviour regarding the public promotion of your product, and that it is in the public interest to have this behaviour noted.

What I have clearly said, repeatedly, is that there is no reason to think that your ShooTag could ever work by any mechanism currently known to science. Since you are making extraordinary claims that ShooTag operates by using a scientific agency hitherto unknown, the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate clearly and unequivocally that this is the case. To date, you have not shown evidence of that anywhere. If you do have scientific evidence that establishes such an agency or agencies, you need only publish it in a manner that is acceptable and convincing to the scientific community for your claims to be validated. Anecdotal testimony (which you readily use as a substitute for scientific data on your site) is, as you will know if you’ve ever talked to a real scientist, not acceptable as  scientific corroboration of your claims, due to its unreliably subjective nature.

My concerns with ShooTag, are many: firstly, you are taking advantage of people by selling them something which, although it is not supported by any known science, you continually attempt to frame in a scientific context. In other words, you use ‘sciencey’ sounding terms to attempt to make ShooTag sound credible. For a start, you offer up ideas such as the ‘trivector’ mechanism, ‘energy’ fields and the vague concept of biological ‘frequencies’ as if they are proper scientifically supported notions, which they are not. At best these things are speculative, but mostly they are just plain nonsense. In addition to presenting pseudoscience as science, you imply that the mechanism of ShooTag is somehow supported by actual scientific concepts of which you plainly have little comprehension, such as quantum physics, fractal mathematics and Schumann Waves. All these things are meaningless in relation to your product, at least in any way that you have attempted to demonstrate so far. You also use the names of scientists like Albert Einstein and Geoffrey West, whose work you clearly don’t understand, in a manner that suggests that their theories offer support of your own speculations (which they most certainly don’t). This is misleading and irresponsible.

In addition to all this, you regularly refer to scientific ‘experiments’ which you say demonstrate not only that your product works, but that it works extraordinarily well. The experiments you reference either show nothing of the sort (such as your ‘Texas A&M Field Trials’ which were scientifically ridiculous), or don’t have substantiation of any kind (like the supposed ‘European Trials’ which you have mentioned on several occasions on the web but from which you have never provided any data whatsoever, or the supposed supporting video from ‘the Japanese Ministry of Health’ which you boasted about on your site but which never materialised there for anyone to see). You also continue to heavily infer that credible organizations are involved with your product (Texas A&M University, Texas State University, the Japanese Ministry of Health, the Finnish Olympic Team) when it is clear that no such endorsements have been made or were intended (as is quite evident from my conversations with the administration at Texas State University, and their requirement that you remove any such TSU endorsements from your site). Excuse me for saying so, but responsible companies with legitimate products do not undertake this kind of deceptive behaviour.

In short, you want everyone, particularly your prospective customers, to think that ShooTag is validated by science and approved by authoritative institutions, yet you have nothing to support your claims other than self-generated hyperbole and subjective customer testimonials. No science.

I also have concerns that stem from this lack of science and relate to the morality of your product as you present it. As a pet owner (I have three cats) I understand that humans who have pets are completely responsible for the wellbeing of their animals. I believe that people who use your scientifically unproven product to control pests on their animals are depriving them of pest control methods that have been properly scientifically tested and are known to work and to be safe. A pet owner who uses a product like ShooTag that is scientifically baseless is subjecting their pets to unnecessary discomfort and perhaps even to a potential threat of illness.

My concerns about the morality of the sale of your product were increased greatly when you began claiming that ShooTag is effective at controlling mosquitoes on humans. If I was making such a claim on a product of my own, I’d want to be one hundred percent sure that I wasn’t potentially risking someone’s life by giving them erroneous preconceptions about its effectiveness. I would do that by undertaking rigorous science in the way that is generally accepted by anyone who markets any such human-life-critical product (it’s not, for example, the kind of science that you do in an ad hoc way at a Sunday barbecue with people wandering in and out of tents).

Ms Rogers, if you really believe that your product does all the things you claim it does, it is simple to refute all my objections. You just need to arrange for the design of a proper experimental protocol and the execution of double-blind tests carried out by an independent third party. You then need to have those tests replicated elsewhere by similar independent double-blind experiments. I stress the importance of all those elements:

•The experiment should have a proper protocol (a disinterested third party should design the experiment with the aim of disproving your claims. The object of the experiment is disproof. If the claims can’t be disproved, then you are well on the way to having valid claims).
•The experiment should be supervised and carried out by an independent third party (that is, by people who have no affiliation with you, and no investment nor interest in the outcome of the experiment).
•The experiment should be double-blind with proper controls (if you don’t know how a double-blind controlled experiment works, and why experiments need to be done this way, I suggest you do some research).
•The experiment should be reproduceable (you need to show that your results are reliable no matter how many times the experiment is carried out).
•The experiment should be peer-reviewed (that is, scientists who are acknowledged experts in the field, and who are not affiliated with you, should critically examine the experimental protocols and the results)(iii)

If you carry out these tests in an acceptable scientific manner in the way I’ve suggested, and the results confirm your current claims, I will make you some iron clad guarantees:

•I will make a full and public retraction of my assertion that ShooTag cannot possibly work, with my very humble apology for ever doubting you.
•I will be first in line to invest my entire life savings in your product, should you float it (which, under the circumstances would be highly advisable).
•You will have the undying admiration and respect of the science community, the medical profession and the entire world for having discovered two, perhaps even three, completely novel and quite astounding scientific principles.
•Your name will go down in history along with Newton and Einstein for having discovered said principles.
•You will probably win the Nobel Prize for Physics, and possibly Medicine and Peace as well.

So really, by doing some genuine scientific research on ShooTag you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Indeed, if you have faith in your product, and it really does work, you could easily aspire to being the richest and most respected woman on the planet in a few short years. What good reason could you possibly have for not wanting to do the science?

Sincerely
Peter Miller

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The Complete Tetherd Cow Shoo!TAG link archive is here.

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Footnotes:

  1. Which they have – kind of. The link to it is now gone but the pdf itself is still there []
  2. It’s gone now of course, but it was up and active until a day or so ago. []
  3. It strikes me that this college-level understanding of scientific protocol should be clearly understood by both Rainer Fink and Ken Mix, and yet the Texas A&M trial, at least, makes no effort at all to adhere to scientific rigor. Read about it here and see for yourself. Who knows what Mix’s PhD was, but Fink has both a Bachelor and Masters in Science so he has NO excuse whatsoever. []

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What Shoo!TAG‘s ‘science’ sounds like to anyone who knows real science:

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With thanks to Sir Joey for the lolz

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