March 24, 2008

Two Doctors, Both Alike In BabyPlus Quackery

In Mimi Maternity where we lay our scene...

You know what, life's too short and I'm too busy, so while I'd like to retell the entire BabyPlus saga in Shakespearean verse, I'd rather just be done with it. Hopefully you'll get the point that the BabyPlus is created by lying hucksters who, for decades, have used misleading pseudo-scientific jargon to sell trusting-but-clueless new parents an ever-shifting pile of unsupported promises--a $2 Buddha jukebox--for $150. It's a scam which brings them at least half a million dollars a year.

The larger point, of course, and the reason I think I've been so pissed off at the seemingly bottomless pit of BabyPlus quackery, is that it's so representative of how the Baby Industrial Complex manipulates parental fears, insecurities, and expectations. Since about 2000, BabyPlus has been sold in the stores of the $575-million/year maternity wear conglomerate, Mothers Work [NASDAQ MWRK], which owns basically every maternity store in the country [that's not in Chapter 11 right now]: Mimi Maternity, A Pea in a Pod, Motherhood Maternity, and Destination Maternity.

BabyPlus president Lisa Jarrett's husband stands at this intersection of small-time, crackpot inventor-driven quackery and maternity mall monopoly. His name is Dr. John Jarrett, and unlike BabyPlus inventor Dr [sic] Brent Logan, he's an actual doctor, an MD, even. He runs a fertility clinic in Indianapolis called Jarrett Fertility Group. According to Lisa's BabyPlus founding myth, he was the one who read about Logan's system in 1990, and got it for his then-pregnant wife.

john_jarrett_babyplus.jpg

He is also the online Infertility Expert for Mothers Work, both for their new Destination Maternity superstore and their pregnancy portal site, Maternity Mall. See if you can spot the out-of-specialty endorsement and undeclared conflict of interest in this infertility expert's first and last pieces of advice:

"Buy Baby Plus!"

...

"Dr Jarrett also strongly endorses the use of BabyPlus, a Prenatal Education System" [full screen capture of his bio]

Yes, a prenatal education system his family owns.

Finally, speaking of website bios, the last time I posted about Dr [sic] Brent Logan, it was to expose his credential-faking. He claimed to have a PhD from the University of Washington; a check with the university registrar showed he did not. He responded to this revelation by changing his bio on BabyPlus:

...he was awarded a developmental psychology Ph.D. from Somerset University, Ilminster, UK, specializing in human fetology; his dissertation was "Neurogenetic Effects of Sonic Imprinting."
Don't be embarrassed if you haven't heard of Somerset's Human Fetology department before; Logan's probably the only graduate. According to CredentialWatch.org, Somerset, Ilminster was a mail-order diploma mill which was subject of a 1988 crackdown by the UK government's Office of Fair Trading for fleecing foreigners [It was apparently illegal for them to claim to issue degrees in its own country.]

"Tell us what you think of Expert Advice! [destinationmaternity.com]

11 Comments

What? No comments? I was hoping we'd get the Jarretts in for a nice chat, or perhaps another appearance by Mr. Logan. oh well.

[that's Dr.(sic) Logan. I guess quack fatigue has set in. One interesting thing to remember is that every fawning profile and interview on BabyPlus after 9/07 has not been Googlechecked, much less fact-checked -ed.]

Here's another site you might look at. It also tip-toes down the border of bogusness, and quotes the good Herr Doctor Professor Logan a lot.
http://www.prenatalmusic.com/pages/prelude.php

I have a few friends who are using this product and love it! Basically what you are saying is don't use any product that is endorsed by a family member. That is complete and utter non-sense. Can I ask why you are so bitter about this? Get a life.

What are you talking about? For the record, I'm only opposed to products endorsed by family members who don't disclose their personal financial stakes in a business--oh, and those products which are total bullshit and are marketed for twenty-plus years with a mixture of bogus faux-science, lies, and misrepresentation by a team of people who fake their credentials and lie about their studies, evidence, and effectiveness.

And while I'm kind of outraged that such people can persist in ripping gullible new parents off for so many years without being challenged, investigating and exposing it is actually kind of fun. Certainly more fun than just watching CSI or whatever.

Curious to hear how you came to the STRONG conviction that babyplus is quackery. Should I just take your word, without even any faux science to support it??

are you freaking kidding me? Absolutely every piece of supposedly scientific evidence put forward by the Babyplus people turns out to be misrepresented, dishonest, unaccredited, and/or a paid advertisement. The beneficial claims Babyplus makes for its product vary widely by country and over time, depending on whatever is most important to parents at that place/moment. The inventor said he got his idea from a UFO. The company founder lied about almost every credential he has besides his undergraduate English degree. The company president's MD husband doesn't disclose his connection to the company when he endorses it.

If it will help you sleep, I will concede the possibility that alien fetal conditioning technology MAY exist and MAY prove beneficial to human development. But so far, basically everything about Babyplus is a gigantic, hilarious fiction.

I agree with J.A. One, I looked on their website and their product is endorsed by quite a few people. The product was given to these individuals as a gift and they believed in it so much that they felt like they could endorse it. Two, there IS scientific evidence that supports exactly what they are talking about. I contact them last month to ask some more questions and they even have more scientific evidence being published as we speak.

I do have to ask, did you have a similar product you were trying to create and they beat you to it so now you just have a jealousy issue? I am so curious as to why you are so negative about this product and none others?

As to your comment about people buying stuff without properly researching it, WELCOME TO AMERICA. That is what our culture does. Why do you think the seminar and infomercial industries are so popular?

haha, I love it.

I don't doubt that people endorse Babyplus; it's just none of those people are scientists or doctors who don't have a direct financial stake in the company.

As for "more scientific evidence," two points: the extraordinary benefits claimed for Babyplus in their marketing materials and by non-expert user/parents are SO all over the map, they are fundamentally unprovable. In Asia, they claim Babyplus improves children's academics. In the US, it's everything from easier breastfeeding and better sleep to talking 3 months before the neighbor's kid. I seriously doubt ANY scientific, peer-reviewed studies can exist that show Babyplus's effect in ANY post-natal development, any more than Baby Einstein did. WHICH IT DIDN'T.

And as for this vague "evidence" being "published as we speak," please tell your contacts at Babyplus to rush this information right over, so I can see the details. As someone committed to providing accurate information to new and expectant parents for over six years now, I'd love to see it. But given their extraordinary track record so far, where literally every single piece of scientific research, publication, or evidence Babyplus cites turns out to be a) an unaccredited, non-peer-reviewed, or otherwise non-scientific publication, b) a complete misrepresentation of the content or article or research, and/or c) a paid advertisement or pay-to-publish scam misrepresented as scientific research, I'm not getting my hopes up.

Somehow I doubt that Babyplus's new "evidence" will be able to match recent independent, cutting edge research on prenatal developmental impacts, such as the study claiming that babies learn German or French accents while in the womb, which made world-wide news. But which turns out to show nothing of the sort, because the researchers cherrypicked and massaged their data beyond all acceptable standards, and even then, the supposed differences they found turned out to be subjective and statistically non-existent. So, no.

The most comical of your slams is the idea that this entire investigation is based on competitive jealousy. Babyplus has been in existence for decades, since the Walkman era, when Dr [sic] Brent Logan heard a UFO abductee talking about the concept on the radio. So they beat everyone to the market. And while the MBA in me DOES think it would be nice to have an established product with a 95% margin that brings in $500,000 or more profit to me a year, my conscience unfortunately doesn't allow me to devise the giant web of scammery and emotional manipulation required to fleece well-meaning, gullible, and nervous pregnant people for $150 each. So in short, no, I don't have any product in the works in any way.

I'm plenty negative about other products when they warrant it, and positive, too. But it's true, Babyplus has found a warm spot in my heart. Partly, it's the decades of laziness by every other media outlet in the world. And the continued laziness of bloggers and journalists who don't bother to even Googlecheck the claims they're fed by Babyplus. Partly, it's the audacity of the product's claims, and the classic quackery of their claims to authority [i.e., fake degrees, fake professorships, fake scientific journals]. And then once the world's biggest baby company started reselling it with the exact same claims, the Babyplus achieved symbolic status, at least around here, standing for the entire industry devised to scare or worry or manipulate expectant parents into spending money.

But really, I pretty much ignore Babyplus now; I've gladly moved on. It's only when Babyplus sockpuppets come along making unjustified personal criticism and laughably vague arguments that I get to relive the good old days. So thanks for that, at least.

Please try focusing your efforts on more important issues like the crisis in Haiti. It is better to do good in this world than brow beat good people (and products) that don't deserve your nasty, underhanded comments. Sorry it has taken so long to respond, I have been trying to make a positive difference in the world rather than a negative one.

ah yes, the five minutes it took to respond to your last ad hominem smear on Jan. 10 is a sign of my callous disregard for the tens of thousands of Haitian earthquake victims two days in the future.

And you realize, of course, that in the time it took you to call previously unreported and never-contested facts "nasty, underhanded comments," you could have texted $30 more dollars to the relief effort yourself?

Unless you have news that Babyplus is donating all the accumulated profits from their decades-long quackery scam to Save The Children, I'll sugest you to not comment here again.

THANK YOU - as an actual credentialed scientist who researches the brain and cognition for a living and a mom of two, I am disgusted by Babyplus' blatant misrepresentation of "scientific support" when none exists and their preying on the concerns of new mothers. I wish this page had more publicity. I'm glad you also address Baby Einstein elsewhere as it's even worse, because it doesn't just fail to improve the brain, it actually impairs brain development (as does any television viewed by babies for an extensive amount of time).

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