From Abracadabra to Zombies
reader comments: takionics
7 Dec 2010
Buy some takionic beads. Get someone you know to give you a terrible charlie horse, so you get a giant bruise. Using medical tape, place some beads on the bruise. After 24 hours remove the bandage. Then tell me it doesn't work.
reply: What's really cool about takionic beads is that I can give you a terrrible charley horse so that you get a giant bruise, and I can then put the beads in my pocket, put a bandage on my forehead or toe, and 24 hours later your bruise will be healed!
Even cooler is the fact that if you get a cold and for two weeks I eat chicken soup, or take megadoses of Vitamin C, or wear a tinfoil hat—each works equally well—guess what? Your cold goes away! Isn't that amazing?
I've saved the best for last. I once knew a guy called SwitchBlade Operator who had sex with his best friend's wife. Guess What? Switchblade's own wife got pregnant! Figure that one out.
I never said the bruise would be healed. But it's funny that wherever a stone is placed, the area is clear of bruising.
Oh ya, one more thing. I had to take a lie dectector test, I won't tell you why but I had to take one. What they didn't know is that I was wearing a belt that had about 50 takionic stones in it. Well, long story short, after 4 different machines and 3 technicians (my readings were off the chart), they finally searched me and found the belt. And guess what, the lie detector machine worked when they removed the belt. I'm not saying that takionic beads work, what I'm saying is that I've had very strange experiences with them.
reply: You've let the cat out of the bag now. First, the Power Balance holographic rubber band is discovered to help people beat the walk-the-straight-line test for suspected drunk drivers, and now we know that any guilty criminal can beat the polygraph test without having to know how to beat the polygraph test. I learn something new every day.
23 Jul 1999
Just to let you know that the "tachyon" crowd were last seen operating from the Osho Commune (used to be the Rajneesh Ashram) in Pune, India. Perhaps the Osho phenomenon needs some skeptical investigation too, though it cleverly avoids making any overt pseudoscientific claims.
23 June 99
How can you explain benefits experienced by users such as those described below in the actual words of the users? Forget the "New Age Pseudo-Science" as you describe it. What about results people obtain? The following are unpaid, unsolicited testimonials from real, live people, commenting on results they obtained using Takionic Products. Science can argue the validity of theory, but you can't argue about benefits people obtain.
[Mr. Pulver attached his testimonials page, which may be seen at http://www.macrobiotic.org/health13.html]. It includes high praise from Gary Null, the current darling of public television's New Age health gurus, and Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels.]
reply: Contrary to what you think, we can argue about the both the benefits people obtain from takionic products and the claims themselves. Testimonials are not a substitute for scientific studies, which are done to make sure that we are not deceiving ourselves about what appears to be true. It is especially necessary to do controlled studies of alleged pain relievers to avoid self-deception due to the placebo effect, post hoc reasoning or the regressive fallacy. We may not want to question too deeply the felt relief, but we must question the cause of that relief.
Also, while many of the testimonials for products like yours are honest and heartfelt, some are not. The promoters of products like yours do not check on the accuracy of testimonials, nor do they ever report the letters of those who claim the products did them no good.
Advertising claims are never acceptable in place of scientific studies done by independent researchers, i.e., those who do not have a financial stake in the outcome of the studies.
To claim that something is good because it works, when you don't know either that it does work or, if it does, why it works, is to commit the pragmatic fallacy.
Mr. Pulver replies:
26 June 1999
I have not received any letters to date from anyone who claimed the products did them no good. I do believe in the product, because I have witnessed and have heard nothing but good reports from everyone who has used them. My father graduated from MIT, and is as sceptical as they come. The only reason he tried them is because I was his son, and he was willing to humor me. However, he claims they helped him eliminate pain he was experiencing in his toes. He was quite amazed at the results he obtained. He is in his 80's now. Can you really say it is wrong for me to be promoting something that is reported by the users to be of benefit? Is the criteria of user benefit not adequate just because of the possibility of placebo effect, post hoc reasoning or the regressive fallacy?
reply: Your reply is a refrain I'm sure many snake oil salesmen have used to comfort themselves as they traveled from town to town selling their quack remedies. What about the old man who has a pain here or there and tries out your takionic beads and then dies because he didn't seek proper treatment for his cancer? Of course, he didn't write to you to tell you the product did him no good. He's not writing to anyone from six feet under. Sure, he felt good for some time after wearing your beads. He even swore the headaches were hardly noticeable anymore. The tumor kept growing, however. Too bad; it was operable, too.
On the other hand, I see your point. What difference does it make if I lie or deceive someone, as long as I make them feel better? I can see the utility of such a principle in certain circumstances, but I don't think it's a good one to live by on a daily basis.
Many advances come about from people trying them, before they can be demonstrated or explained in a manner acceptable to mainstream science. Why should this be grounds for dismissal of their value? Do we all have to conform to the scientific method before we promote anything? Such rigidity seems counterproductive and illogical to me. There are many instances -- I am sure you can think of many -- where science comes in to try to explain things that seem to defy scientific explanation. Thanks to such phenomena we have new breakthroughs in research and theory. Why can't such an attitude be extended in your way of thinking to Takionic products? It would not be hard for you to put some of the Takionic products through a trial to prove whether they are of any benefit or not, wouldn't it? After all, it is you who are challenging them. Would not such a methodology give your sceptical essays more weight than dismissing them from an "armchair" approach? That is totally unscientific. Scientific method as I understand it consists of conducting experiments to prove or disprove a suspected hypothesis. If I did them, you would probably consider them flawed. Therefore, why don't you conduct them?
In the interests of truth, I remain,
reply: Testimonials from satisfied customers are not equivalent to demonstration. Anyone who claims curative powers for a product should be able to demonstrate by scientific tests that the product not only cures but also must note any harmful side effects. To the quack, this is counterproductive and illogical: to make them demonstrate the efficacy of their products before they market them is an insult to their genius and deep love for humanity! To the critical thinker, both logic and decency demand that an allegedly curative product be scientifically tested before it is marketed.
The burden of proof is always on the developer of the product, not on the potential consumer. It is not my duty to prove your products don't work; it is your duty to prove they do.
You are wrong to dismiss my argument that your products are not to be trusted without scientific testing as "totally unscientific". The skeptical attitude is a necessity for scientific thinking. Without it, we become prey to fundamental human weaknesses such as wishful thinking and self-deception. Controlled studies are required to limit errors in causal reasoning. Also, critically thinking consumers should be skeptical of fantastic claims backed by nothing but testimonials from satisfied customers. Some promoters of fantastic products are unscrupulous, in it only for the money, and do not care that the products are untested or that the testimonials are dishonest. But even the promoters who are selling their products because they genuinely believe they are helping mankind should know that good intentions are no substitute for good science.
I would be suspicious if you did the tests yourself only if no one else could duplicate your results.
However, if you would be willing to part with about 25 sets of Takionic belts or beads, and make up a set that looks and feels just like the real thing but without the takionic treatment, I'd be glad to devise a protocol for testing your devises.
You and your supporters should read my essay: "Dowsing for Dollars: Fighting High-Tech Scams with Low-Tech Critical Thinking Skills"
In case you are not sure which claims I think you need to support, I will list them:
"Takionic products, with their aligned atomic polarities, enhance the body's natural ability to draw from the Tachyon Field for its energy needs."
takionic beads "have a unique ability to emit photon (light) energy from the far-infrared spectrum [4-16 millimicron (um) wavelength]" (even if true, so what?)
'the Takionic belt ... helps improve poor circulation...."
"Hundreds of tests conducted on students and adults revealed that this unique headband improved their mathematical test scores by as much as 20-30%. The headband delays mental fatigue and heightens focus and concentration." (Where are these studies published?)
takionic massage oil brings "Pain relief, increased flexibility and range of movement"
Some of your claims are too vague to be cognitively meaningful, though they have very positive emotive meanings, e.g., your takionc water is "revitalizing and refreshing."
Maybe you have not heard, but the FTC is cracking down on Internet sites which make dubious claims for health products. I've forwarded your claims to the FTC. If they give you their seal of approval, let me know.
Mr. Pulver replies:
30 Jun 1999
Thank you for your prompt reply. I appreciate your concern, and mission, to help alert unassuming and gullible people to scams that take their money while offering no real value, or even delaying treatment that may offer more real results. You are providing an important and valuable service.
We are aware of the concerns you express, and for that reason do not make medical claims about our products. There are ongoing studies being conducted at the university level which, unfortunately take time to complete. We will keep you informed of their outcome as they become available.
Have you read "Vibrational Medicine" by Richard Gerber, MD? Our products are more closely aligned with the traditional Oriental approach to health, which involves restoring proper energy circulation. As you may know, acupuncture is supposed to help in this regard because of the way it stimulates energy circulation. Acupuncture has been widely accepted as a legitimate modality. At first, however, it met with stiff resistance until a large number of cases that had shown improvement were well-documented. We are in a similar, preliminary phase of gathering data and documentation to support the theory.
Until such a time, however, we try to be careful not to promote Takionic products as alternatives or replacements for conventional therapy. In this regard, we wholeheartedly agree with you about the importance of making this distinction as clear as possible so that people will not be misled.
Again, your efforts in this regard are appreciated.
reply: Contrary to what Mr. Pulver claims, the data supporting acupunture is not strong except for a very limited role in temporary relief of some types of pain.