Friday, December 11, 2009

The Babyplus Prenatal Education System Is Hilarious, Lucrative Quackery



If you strap the $150 Babyplus Prenatal Education System onto your pregnant womb for several hours/day, and play each of the 16 scientifically calculated rhythms, your kid will sleep all night, breastfeed like a champ, never get sick, talk and read and crawl at birth, and get into Harvard on early admission.

That pitch has been made since the Babyplus was introduced in the Walkman Era, and it is backed up by twenty-plus years of international studies in medical journals and the expert opinions of respected scientists, academics and doctors; and Nicole Ritchie. It has been reported on many, many, many times by major news organizations, and those articles have been used to bolster the claims.

Of course, it's all a gigantic pack of lies, misrepresentations, and pseudo-scientific quackery. I started fact-checking the Babyplus on my dadblog a couple of years ago, and literally, almost every single claim to credibility turns out to be a hilarious fraud.

* The guy who invented it got all his ideas from visiting a UFO.
* The guy who productized it is an English major who claimed to have a PhD in Psychology from the University of Washington, only it was from a defunct Scottish diploma mill.
* He claimed to be a prenatal researcher at a Spanish university that's actually one of those Learning Annex places that certifies spin-class instructors.
* Literally every citation of a study, paper, or scientific/medical journal was either self-published, non-peer-reviewed non-science organizations, or paid advertisements. Every one.
* The fertility doctor whose wife runs the company now endorses the Babyplus all the time without revealing that his family owns the business.
* Last year one of the biggest baby gear conglomerates in the world, Dorel, began reselling the Babyplus--groundless claims and all--under its Safety 1st brand.

And on and on. Doctors promising a first-time mother a perfect child for only $150 and 1 hr/day? It's the perfect product, making exactly the right [untestable, unverifiable] promises to the perfect market at exactly the perfect moment, and in the most perfect way. Also, it probably has 95% margins.

I say all this now because I know it won't go away. Because I just found out [pdf] that spinach does not, in fact, have 10x the iron of other green vegetables. A German chemist in 1870 put his decimal in the wrong place, which led to a spinach boom, which led to Popeye, which led to the spinach salad I just ate. Once it's in print, there's no dislodging it.

So if you'll excuse me, I must get back to devising an extremely profitable product and/or service that sells itself to the well-intentioned ignorant in perpetuity. I don't know what it is, except that when you add money to it, it will turn your deepest anxiety into hope. BRB