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.1 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.2 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)3

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.

  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. []