Posted by: Craig Woolheater on August 10th, 2013
The following is an interview with Daniel Loxton and Donald R. Prothero, authors of Abominable Science!: Origins of the Yeti, Nessie, and Other Famous Cryptids. In the interview, Loxton and Prothero consider, among other things, the phenomenon of cryptozoology and its relationship to science, and reveal their favorite cryptids!
Question: Let’s get this out of the way, right now: Does Bigfoot exist?
Donald R. Prothero: I would say that the odds are 99.999% against it. Not only are all the supposed “evidences” of Bigfoot either hoaxes, fakes, blurry photographs, or questionable movie footage, with not a single piece of hard evidence (e.g., bones, fur, carcasses), but there is LOTS of scientific evidence against their existence. The most important is that they would have to have a large population with huge home ranges, not just a single individual. Yet the more people look, the less they find. Even rare animals like bears eventually leave bones and carcasses behind. Their habitat is not the pristine “forest primeval” that most people imagine, but heavily modified and largely cut down by loggers over the years. It is traversed by lots of real biologists who never find evidence of Bigfoot—but plenty of animals that could be mistaken for Bigfoot, or animals that make sounds that non-biologists don’t recognize and attribute to Bigfoot. Another important factor: we have literally thousands to tens of thousands of fossils of Ice Age mammals in North America, including some extremely rare creatures—but not a single primate fossil, let alone remains of Bigfoot.
Q: How widespread is the belief in cryptids such as Bigfoot or the Yeti?
Daniel Loxton: Much more widespread than the fringe reputation of the topic suggests. For example, when asked “Do you think Bigfoot (also known as Sasquatch) is real?” in a 2012 Angus-Reid poll, 7 percent of American respondents affirmed the belief that Bigfoot “Definitely is real,” and 22% said Bigfoot “Probably is real.” That’s a more-or-less typical response to polls about cryptid beliefs. And that adds up to an awful lot of people.
Q: How do these legends begin?
DL: Well, we’ve just jotted down a quick 400 pages on that topic for anyone interested in some detailed exploration of that question! But the short answer is that it’s a snowball effect. An initial crystal from pop culture or regional folklore is set in motion by media, and that hype generates reports—some sincere and some hoaxed—which fuels further interest by a sensation-seeking media and entices serious proponents and scoundrels alike into the pursuit. And all that attention generates new sightings, which generate new media and inspire new popular culture…
Q: What explains the persistence in believing in the existence of such creatures?
DRP: There is lots of speculation, but the main factor seems to be that belief in monsters is universal among nearly all human cultures. In our scientific culture, where monsters have been banished to mythology, there still seems to be a deep-seated psychological need to believe in the unexplained and the mysterious, and accept the more supernatural explanation over the more mundane but scientific one. In addition, chasing monsters (especially Bigfoot) gives a lot of amateurs a sense of excitement and purpose, and a hobby they share with others of the same belief system. We found that a lot of “Bigfoot researchers” just like to use it as an excuse to get out in the woods and test their mettle against Mother Nature, but instead of birdwatching or hunting or camping, they search for Bigfoot.
Q: How do you discount the fact that people have provided eye-witness accounts of seeing these animals and in some cases, even DNA evidence?
DRP: Recent research has shown that human “eyewitness” testimony is extremely unreliable, and almost as likely to be wrong as to be right. As researchers have shown (and courts of law are now admitting), humans often misremember what they see, or color what they see with their expectations, or often “recover memories” of things that never happened. Humans are capable of hallucinating in broad daylight, or seeing a glimpse of something and then filling in all the details with things they’ve seen on TV or other media. Thus, for a scientific claim as incredible as Bigfoot or Nessie, “eyewitness” testimony is worthless, the worst possible kind of evidence.
All of the “Bigfoot DNA” cases have been debunked. The latest one, from a lab in Texas, proved to be incompetently done by someone who is not a top-notch molecular biologist. When her results were re-analyzed by a neutral lab, the samples all turned out to be normal human with a mixture of other common American mammals, including the opossum.
DL: Going to the eye-witness cases, I don’t discount them. My parents were cryptid witnesses—that’s what got me into this topic in the first place. An eye-witness occupies a privileged vantage point. Say you come to me and say you saw Bigfoot. Well, maybe you did. I don’t know what you saw. I wasn’t there. But because I don’t know what you saw, there’s only so much I can do with your story. I can’t take it away from you, but it’s just a story. We can talk about some of the possibilities and try to figure it out, though, if you’re willing.
Read the rest of the interview here: INTERVIEW WITH DANIEL LOXTON AND DONALD R. PROTHERO, AUTHORS OF ABOMINABLE SCIENCE!
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster.