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Regardless of the veracity of the Christian bible in general, could the technology behind the microchips (RFID tags) implanted into pets--used to re-unite lost pets with their owners--be used to track people's movements or restrict commerce to those who have them implanted, as foretold in Revelation 13:16–17?

16And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:

17And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

I was hit with this after casually mentioning my intention to "chip" my cat to someone who not only has a strong opinion on the matter, but is rather religious. Some of their points:

  1. The chip cannot be removed without killing the pet
  2. The chip can be used to track the location of its wearer
  3. A chip planted in a pet can be used to track the location of its owner
  4. The chip can cause cancer in the pet
  5. Governments are using pet chips as a proving ground for a technology that will be later forced on humans
  6. All legal transactions will be made conditional upon having a chip implanted in the human body
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    remove the chunk of skin where it is located and it'll come with (debunked 1), the range on RFIDs is limited (only a few inches really) so tracking location is limited (debunked 2 and 3), I'll need to see refs for 4, 5 and 6 before I can debunk them – ratchet freak Dec 30 '11 at 23:04
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    Short answer (therefore a comment): no, no, no, no, no and no. – Zano Dec 30 '11 at 23:06
  • Crazy ideas, but worth asking so definitive refutations can be recorded. – matt_black Dec 31 '11 at 13:23
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    What do the questions in the body have to do with the question in the title? – Sklivvz Dec 31 '11 at 22:42
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    C. Lawrence, your first sentence sort of attempts to distance itself from the title of your question. Keep in mind, sometimes bat-guano insane nuttery is just that and no amount of feigned distancing can take the total crazy out of the question... Just address the claims as best as you can without rolling your eyes too much. – Larian LeQuella Jan 1 '12 at 7:01
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There are several claims of quite different grades here.

1) Microchips can be removed without death.

Here is a case study.

Here is some legislation describing who is permitted to do so and what administrative action is required.

Note: Based on stories I found on the net, it is difficult to find an vet who is willing to perform unnecessary surgery on an animal.

2) The chip can't be used to track the location of its wearer over long distances.

RFId tags have limited ranges. (e.g. around 40' or 12m, depending on the conditions.)

This isn't like the movies where it can be picked up by satellite. You need to have a sensor very near the device to read it.

That still means it is plausible to have a sensor near, say, a cat-flap to detect whether a cat is in a particular area. Example

3) You can't meaningfully track the owner from the pet's chip.

Unless the animal is a guidedog, the owner is generally not with the animal at all times. [Reference: Common knowledge about pets being left home while owners go out, and cats going out while owners stay home.] Even if you could track the pet, this would be of limited value in tracking the person.

4) If microchips cause cancer in cats and dogs, it is a very rare occurrence.

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association responded to these claims, which were based on suspicions in lab-rats bred to be susceptible for cancer.

There is no evidence to suggest that companion animals implanted with a microchip are at a higher risk for developing a tumor. The mice used in the studies where an association between a microchip and development of a tumor occurred were genetically predisposed to cancer and do not represent the genetic diversity we see in our dogs and cats. In the United Kingdom where over half of the dog population has a microchip, the British Small Animal Veterinary Association has established a formal system for the reporting of adverse events related to microchips, including tumors. In ten years of collecting data, only 2 tumors were reported to their adverse event registry. When you weigh this extremely rare event against the thousands of pets that are reunited worldwide each year from a microchip, it seems obvious that the benefits from microchipping far outweigh any small risk from a tumor.

5 and 6) Asserting that future governments are conspiring against us is unfalsifiable and off-topic.

The idea that future governments (of which nations?), who presumably aren't in power yet, are conspiring against us in this way is ludicrous. It is also unfalsifiable - no evidence can be produced that would satisfy the conspiracy theorists that make these sorts of claims - so it is out-of-scope of what can be dealt with with scientific evidence.

Aside: If you ignore the blackmarket that would presumably spring up immediately, and the difficulty in policing online transactions, I see no technical reason why many transactions couldn't have an identification requirement, which might include the presentation of an implanted microchip.

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    "Note: Based on stories I found on the net, it is difficult to find an vet who is willing to perform unnecessary surgery on an animal." - I wish the same were true for humans! – Andrew Grimm Jan 1 '12 at 0:00
  • I'd suspect that if this were ever to happen, it wouldn't be the governments conspiring against us, but the credit card companies (and their insurers)... – Benjol Jan 3 '12 at 10:20
  • @Benjol, I think playing the "Which organisation is going to be the Anti-Christ?" game is stepping over the line from skepticism into cynicism. – Oddthinking Jan 3 '12 at 11:39
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    @Oddthinking, oops, maybe I should be proposing that on Area 51 :) – Benjol Jan 3 '12 at 12:09
  • Besides, even if a hypothetical evil government wanted to track its subjects by their pets, cats would be a damn stupid idea. I don't own one myself at the moment but judging by stories of my friends who do, the only time a cat is in the vicinity of its pet human is when they require pettings, attention or food and the rest of the time anything they see is their territory... – Shadur Mar 4 '13 at 15:01
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Limiting this to only answering the question of whether RFID tags could fulfill Revelation 13: 16-17 and not the six points the answer would be yes. From the KJV here: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Revelation+13&version=KJV

Revelation 13:16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:

17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

In this case the RFID tags would be considered the Mark of the Beast. To buy something your chip would be scanned. Much like in this Barcelona nightclub where implanted RFIDs allow customers to pay their tab and give them access to VIP areas. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/3697940.stm

Of course the first thing that would have to happen would be a government trying to get its citizenry to go for the idea.

  • a) In the Barcelona club, it is the arm, not the hand, nor the forehead. b) It is optional in this club c) Nothing is said about the stuff ('or sell') of the club, using such an implantation too. d) 'Rich and poor' doesn't match - it's only the rich here. – user unknown Jan 2 '12 at 4:48
  • @user, the way I read the question and this answer, he's saying that the technology could be used in a way corresponding to the cited passage, not that this is effectively already the case in the nightclub. – Benjol Jan 3 '12 at 10:21
  • @Benjol And it still can't because RFID tags have a range measured in inches at best; that's why you have to wave your bus card really close to the reader and why a vet has to almost rub his reader against the chipped cat to be sure he gets a good reading. – Shadur Mar 4 '13 at 15:03
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The characters of the hebrew alphabet are meanwhile the ciphers of their numbers, so the number of the beast is just name of the devil, interpreted as a number - the same phenomena is the source of ideas like bible code.

So this is a constant value, which is said to be 666, by the way while the RFIDs transmit unique numbers - each number represents an individual cat, so the numbers can't be identical, and so they can't identify the same beast. And they are, of course, much bigger, than the name of the beast.

Meanwhile:

  • 'right hand' and 'in their foreheads' doesn't match
  • cats aren't mentioned in the bible
  • we don't see some selling or buying going on here

so nearly nothing matches - just a small detail: Something about numbers.

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    You haven't shown that Revelations is actually referring to Gematrian numeral for any word. You haven't shown that the word corresponding to "the beast" corresponds to 666 (or 616, in at least one variant of the text). – Oddthinking Jan 2 '12 at 5:33
  • Even so early a writer as St. Irenaeus (Haer., V, xxx) does not hesitate to explain the number of the beast 666 (Apoc., xiii, 18) by the word "Lateinos" since the numerical value of its constituent [Greek] letters yields the same total (30+1+330+5+10+50+70+200=666); while sober critics of our own day are inclined to solve the mystery upon the same principles by simply substituting for Latinus the words Nero Caesar written in Hebrew characters which give the same result. does not count? – user unknown Jan 2 '12 at 6:03
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    No, it doesn't count for squat. They've shown that at least two names can be made (post-hoc) to fit this format. I'm confident that there are many more. (If I am permitted to use English rather than Hebrew, I bet I can come up with dozens more after a bit of coding. From a computer science perspective: If people can generate hash-collisions for MD5, this function is wide-open.) What this hasn't shown is that the author of this section (is likely to have) intended it to be interpreted this way, or that the intended name of "the beast" to which this rule should be applied has been found. – Oddthinking Jan 2 '12 at 10:43
  • You don't need a couple of numbers, but millions, and the wording of the bible is not "the numbers of his name" in plural, it is singular. – user unknown Jan 2 '12 at 16:39

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