Sasquatch Coffee

Evaluating Bigfoot Evidence

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on February 8th, 2007

Ben Radford, managing editor of Skeptical Inquirer and resident skeptic of all things cryptozoological in nature, has given me permission to repost his article entitled Bigfoot at 50 here on Cryptomundo.

It is a lengthy article, so I have posted excerpts here. The article can read in its entirety at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry website.

Bigfoot at 50

Evaluating a Half-Century of Bigfoot Evidence

The question of Bigfoot’s existence comes down to the claim that “Where there’s smoke there’s fire.” The evidence suggests that there are enough sources of error that there does not have to be a hidden creature lurking amid the unsubstantiated cases.

Benjamin Radford

Though sightings of the North American Bigfoot date back to the 1830s (Bord 1982), interest in Bigfoot grew rapidly during the second half of the twentieth century. This was spurred on by many magazine articles of the time, most seminally a December 1959 True magazine article describing the discovery of large, mysterious footprints the year before in Bluff Creek, California.

A half century later, the question of Bigfoot’s existence remains open. Bigfoot is still sought, the pursuit kept alive by a steady stream of sightings, occasional photos or footprint finds, and sporadic media coverage. But what evidence has been gathered over the course of fifty years? And what conclusions can we draw from that evidence?

Most Bigfoot investigators favor one theory of Bigfoot’s origin or existence and stake their reputations on it, sniping at others who don’t share their views. Many times, what one investigator sees as clear evidence of Bigfoot another will dismiss out of hand. In July 2000, curious tracks were found on the Lower Hoh Indian Reservation in Washington state. Bigfoot tracker Cliff Crook claimed that the footprints were “for sure a Bigfoot,” though Jeffrey Meldrum, an associate professor of biological sciences at Idaho State University (and member of the Bigfoot Field Research Organization, BFRO) decided that there was not enough evidence to pursue the matter (Big Disagreement Afoot 2000). A set of tracks found in Oregon’s Blue Mountains have also been the source of controversy within the community. Grover Krantz maintains that they constitute among the best evidence for Bigfoot, yet longtime researcher Rene Dahinden claimed that “any village idiot can see [they] are fake, one hundred percent fake” (Dennett 1994).

And while many Bigfoot researchers stand by the famous 16 mm Patterson film (showing a large manlike creature crossing a clearing) as genuine (including Dahinden, who shared the film’s copyright), others including Crook join skeptics in calling it a hoax. In 1999, Crook found what he claims is evidence in the film of a bell-shaped fastener on the hip of the alleged Bigfoot, evidence that he suggests may be holding the ape costume in place (Dahinden claimed the object is matted feces) (Hubbell 1999).

Regardless of which theories researchers subscribe to, the question of Bigfoot’s existence comes down to evidence- and there is plenty of it. Indeed, there are reams of documents about Bigfoot-filing cabinets overflowing with thousands of sighting reports, analyses, and theories. Photographs have been taken of everything from the alleged creature to odd tracks left in snow to twisted branches. Collections exist of dozens or hundreds of footprint casts from all over North America. There is indeed no shortage of evidence.

The important criterion, however, is not the quantity of the evidence, but the quality of it. Lots of poor quality evidence does not add up to strong evidence, just as many cups of weak coffee cannot be combined into a strong cup of coffee.

Bigfoot evidence can be broken down into four general types: eyewitness sightings, footprints, recordings, and somatic samples (hair, blood, etc.). Some researchers (notably Loren Coleman 1999) also place substantial emphasis on folklore and indigenous legends. The theories and controversies within each category are too complex and detailed to go into here. I present merely a brief overview and short discussion of each; anyone interested in the details is encouraged to look further.

1. Eyewitness Accounts

Eyewitness accounts and anecdotes comprise the bulk of Bigfoot evidence. This sort of evidence is also the weakest. Lawyers, judges, and psychologists are well aware that eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. As Ben Roesch, editor of The Cryptozoological Review, noted in an article in Fortean Times, “Cryptozoology is based largely on anecdotal evidence… [W]hile physical phenomena can be tested and systematically evaluated by science, anecdotes cannot, as they are neither physical nor regulated in content or form. Because of this, anecdotes are not reproducible, and are thus untestable; since they cannot be tested, they are not falsifiable and are not part of the scientific process… Also, reports usually take place in uncontrolled settings and are made by untrained, varied observers. People are generally poor eyewitnesses, and can mistake known animals for supposed cryptids [unknown animals] or poorly recall details of their sighting… Simply put, eyewitness testimony is poor evidence” (Roesch 2001).

Bigfoot investigators acknowledge that lay eyewitnesses can be mistaken, but counter that expert testimony should be given much more weight. Consider Coleman’s (1999) passage reflecting on expert eyewitness testimony: “[E]ven those scientists who have seen the creatures with their own eyes have been reluctant to come to terms with their observations in a scientific manner.” As an example he gives the account of “mycologist Gary Samuels” and his brief sighting of a large primate in the forest of Guyana. The implication is that this exacting man of science accurately observed, recalled, and reported his experience. And he may have. But Samuels is a scientific expert on tiny fungi that grow on wood. His expertise is botany, not identifying large primates in poor conditions. Anyone, degreed or not, can be mistaken.

2. Footprints

Bigfoot tracks are the most recognizable evidence; of course, the animal’s very name came from the size of the footprints it leaves behind. Unlike sightings, they are physical evidence: something (known animal, Bigfoot, or man) left the tracks. The real question is what the tracks are evidence of. In many cases, the answer is clear: they are evidence of hoaxing.

Contrary to many Bigfoot enthusiasts’ claims, Bigfoot tracks are not particularly consistent and show a wide range of variation (Dennett 1996). Some tracks have toes that are aligned, others show splayed toes. Most alleged Bigfoot tracks have five toes, but some casts show creatures with two, three, four, or even six toes. Surely all these tracks can’t come from the same unknown creature, or even species of creatures.

3. Recordings

The Patterson Film

The most famous recording of an alleged Bigfoot is the short 16 mm film taken in 1967 by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin. Shot in Bluff Creek, California, it shows a Bigfoot striding through a clearing. In many ways the veracity of the Patterson film is crucial, because the casts made from those tracks are as close to a gold standard as one finds in cryptozoology. Many in the Bigfoot community are adamant that the film is not-and, more important-cannot be a hoax. The question of whether the film is in fact a hoax or not is still open, but the claim that the film could not have been faked is demonstrably false.

Grover Krantz, for example, admits that the size of the creature in the film is well within human limits, but argues that the chest width is impossibly large to be human. “I can confidently state that no man of that stature is built that broadly,” he claims (Krantz 1992, 118). This assertion was examined by two anthropologists, David Daegling and Daniel Schmitt (1999), who cite anthropometric literature showing the “impossibly wide” chest is in fact within normal human variation. They also disprove claims that the Patterson creature walks in a manner impossible for a person to duplicate.

The film is suspect for a number of reasons. First, Patterson told people he was going out with the express purpose of capturing a Bigfoot on camera. In the intervening thirty-five years (and despite dramatic advances in technology and wide distribution of handheld camcorders), thousands of people have gone in search of Bigfoot and come back empty-handed (or with little but fuzzy photos). Second, a known Bigfoot track hoaxer claimed to have told Patterson exactly where to go to see the Bigfoot on that day (Dennett 1996). Third, Patterson made quite a profit from the film, including publicity for a book he had written on the subject and an organization he had started.

4. Somatic Samples

Hair and blood samples have been recovered from alleged Bigfoot encounters. As with all the other evidence, the results are remarkable for their inconclusiveness. When a definite conclusion has been reached, the samples have invariably turned out to have prosaic sources-“Bigfoot hair” turns out to be elk, bear, or cow hair, for example, or suspected “Bigfoot blood” is revealed to be transmission fluid. Even advances in genetic technology have proven fruitless. Contrary to popular belief, DNA cannot be derived from hair samples alone; the root (or some blood) must be available.

Hoaxes, the Gold Standard, and the Problem of Experts

Such hoaxes have permanently and irreparably contaminated Bigfoot research. Skeptics have long pointed this out, and many Bigfoot researchers freely admit that their field is rife with fraud. This highlights a basic problem underlying all Bigfoot research: the lack of a standard measure. For example, we know what a bear track looks like; if we find a track that we suspect was left by a bear, we can compare it to one we know was left by a bear. But there are no undisputed Bigfoot specimens by which to compare new evidence. New Bigfoot tracks that don’t look like older samples are generally not taken as proof that one (or both) sets are fakes, but instead that the new tracks are simply from a different Bigfoot, or from a different species or family. This unscientific lack of falsifiability plagues other areas of Bigfoot research as well.

Bigfoot print hoaxing is a time-honored cottage industry. Dozens of people have admitted making Bigfoot prints. One man, Rant Mullens, revealed in 1982 that he and friends had carved giant Bigfoot tracks and used them to fake footprints as far back as 1930 (Dennett 1996). In modern times it is easier to get Bigfoot tracks. With the advent of the World Wide Web and online auctions, anyone in the world can buy a cast of an alleged Bigfoot print and presumably make tracks that would very closely match tracks accepted by some as authentic.

What we have, then, are new tracks, hairs, and other evidence being compared to known hoaxed tracks, hairs, etc. as well as possibly hoaxed tracks, hairs, etc. With sparse hard evidence to go on and no good standard by which to judge new evidence, it is little wonder that the field is in disarray and has trouble proving its theories. In one case, Krantz claimed as one of the gold standards of Bigfoot tracks a print that “passed all my criteria, published and private, that distinguishes sasquatch tracks from human tracks and from fakes” (Krantz 1992). He further agreed that it had all the signs of a living foot, and that no human foot could have made the imprint. Michael R. Dennett, investigating for the Skeptical Inquirer, tracked down the anonymous construction worker who supplied the Bigfoot print. The man admitted faking the tracks himself to see if Krantz could really detect a fake (Dennett 1994).

Smoke and Fire

Bigfoot researchers readily admit that many sightings are misidentifications of normal animals, while others are downright hoaxes. Diane Stocking, a curator for the BFRO, concedes that about 70 percent of sightings turn out to be hoaxes or mistakes (Jasper 2000); Loren Coleman puts the figure even higher, at at least 80 percent (Klosterman 1999). The remaining sightings, that small portion of reports that can’t be explained away, intrigue researchers and keep the pursuit active. The issue is then essentially turned into the claim that “Where there’s smoke there’s fire.”

But is that really true? Does the dictum genuinely hold that, given the mountains of claims and evidence, there must be some validity to the claims? I propose not; the evidence suggests that there are enough sources of error (bad data, flawed methodological assumptions, mistaken identifications, poor memory recall, hoaxing, etc.) that there does not have to be (nor is likely to be) a hidden creature lurking amid the unsubstantiated cases.

The claim also has several inherent assumptions, including the notion that the unsolved claims (or sightings) are qualitatively different from the solved ones. But paranormal research and cryptozoology are littered with cases that were deemed irrefutable evidence of the paranormal, only to fall apart upon further investigation or hoaxer confessions. There will always be cases in which there simply is not enough evidence to prove something one way or the other. To use an analogy borrowed from investigator Joe Nickell, just because a small percentage of homicides remain unsolved doesn’t mean that we invoke a “homicide gremlin”-appearing out of thin air to take victims’ lives-to explain the unsolved crimes. It is not that such cases are unexplainable using known science, just that not enough (naturalistic) information is available to make a final determination.

A lack of information (or negative evidence) cannot be used as positive evidence for a claim. To do so is to engage in the logical fallacy of arguing from ignorance: We don’t know what left the tracks or what the witnesses saw, therefore it must have been Bigfoot. Many Bigfoot sightings report “something big, dark, and hairy.” But Bigfoot is not the only (alleged) creature that matches that vague description.

The Future for Bigfoot

Ultimately, the biggest problem with the argument for the existence of Bigfoot is that no bones or bodies have been discovered. This is really the 800-pound Bigfoot on the researchers’ backs, and no matter how they explain away the lack of other types of evidence, the simple fact remains that, unlike nearly every other serious “scientific” pursuit, they can’t point to a live or dead sample of what they’re studying. If the Bigfoot creatures across the United States are really out there, then each passing day should be one day closer to their discovery. The story we’re being asked to believe is that thousands of giant, hairy, mysterious creatures are constantly eluding capture and discovery and have for a century or more. At some point, a Bigfoot’s luck must run out: one out of the thousands must wander onto a freeway and get killed by a car, or get shot by a hunter, or die of natural causes and be discovered by a hiker. Each passing week and month and year and decade that go by without definite proof of the existence of Bigfoot make its existence less and less likely.

On the other hand, if Bigfoot is instead a self-perpetuating phenomenon with no genuine creature at its core, the stories, sightings, and legends will likely continue unabated for centuries. In this case the believers will have all the evidence they need to keep searching-some of it provided by hoaxers, others perhaps by honest mistakes, all liberally basted with wishful thinking. Either way it’s a fascinating topic. If Bigfoot exist, then the mystery will be solved; if they don’t exist, the mystery will endure. So far it has endured for at least half a century.

Skeptical Inquirer Bigfoot

Cover image of Skeptical Inquirer

There are several other articles of cryptozoological interest in the same issue.

There is an article entitled Cripplefoot Hobbled by David J. Daegling.

Evidence for Bigfoot gains credibility when the possibility of human fabrication can be ruled out. The trackways of a crippled Sasquatch are said to provide such a compelling case, but examination of this claim suggests that hoaxing the footprints may have been a fairly manageable endeavor.

There is also the ‘Mothman’ Solved! article by Joe Nickell.

This may be more giant owl talk by Mr. Nickell.

The issue is available to order at Committee for Skeptical Inquiry website. Click on the cover image aboe to go to the website and purchase your very own copy.

About Craig Woolheater
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, Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot: Return to Boggy Creek and Beast of the Bayou.


72 Responses to “Evaluating Bigfoot Evidence”

  1. kittenz responds:

    I think that there must be validity to at least some of the claims, especially some of the eyewitness accounts. These people have seen some kind of animal. Whether the sightings have been of a species or species, plural, of primate, or some other large bipedal animal, people are seeing SOMETHING.

    I do not find the P/G film convincing at all; I have made my opinion of that film known elsewhere in this blog so I won’t go into that here. But the sheer volume of sightings just cannot be easily dismissed.

    Even if 90% of them are misidentifications, wishful thinking, or downright hoaxes – even if 99% are such nonsense as that – that still leaves a great many sightings for which there is no easy explanation, unless that explanation is that the people really saw large, shaggy, bipedal animals. There just are not a lot of KNOWN candidates as to what kind of animals that could be.

  2. fredfacker responds:

    The lack of bones/bodies is a pretty hard point to counter.

  3. kittenz responds:

    That’s so, fredfacker, and that is the main thing that keeps me on the fence about Bigfoot.

    Even as much as we humans value our children, some of them are struck and killed by cars every year. No matter how careful hikers, climbers, and hunters are, some of them encounter death in the wilderness every year, and their bodies are usually found. Even animals as elusive as pumas and wolves are sometimes found dead in the wild of natural causes.

    That being said, I just don’t think that ALL of these thousands of sightings can be explained away. Whether Bigfoot are primates or something else, I think that they are some kind of living, breathing creature.

    Maybe they really are one or more unknown species of big bipedal primates. I think it’s possible. Finding a large, previously undescribed mammal becomes less likely as the world grows more crowded, but there’s a lot of poorly explored forest left, and if Native Americans could survive in it for thousands of years, I don’t see why Bigfoot couldn’t.

    I remain skeptical because no body, living or dead, nor any bones, have come to light. But I think that it’s possible that they exist.

    And if they don’t, I would like to know what people are seeing.

  4. Loren Coleman responds:

    Radford writes: “And while many Bigfoot researchers stand by the famous 16 mm Patterson film (showing a large manlike creature crossing a clearing) as genuine (including Dahinden, who shared the film’s copyright), others including Crook join skeptics in calling it a hoax. In 1999, Crook found what he claims is evidence in the film of a bell-shaped fastener on the hip of the alleged Bigfoot, evidence that he suggests may be holding the ape costume in place….”

    This counter-argument to the Patterson-Gimlin footage has been thoroughly overthrown. This unfortunate incident was nothing more than Chris Murphy and Cliff Crook looking at photocopied pictures of the P-G footage which were crudely enlarged on a copy machine. It had begun as a student project on behalf of Murphy’s son. The “bell-shaped fastener” was an artifact of the copying process, was pixel noise only, and does not appear in more detailed analysis of the footage.

    Chris Murphy calls this the “Murphy/Crook Bell Issue.” Today, Murphy is less than happy about the whole episode, and admits “the prominence given this issue by the media was hardly justified.”

    Cliff Crook is the person who decided to issue press releases about this before any indepth computer enhancements were actually undertaken. Allegedly Cliff Crook referred his involvement on this matter to his then-ongoing feud with Rene Dahinden (who owned partial rights to the P-G film). Cliff Crook has retired from the Bigfoot field.

    Today, Chris Murphy is a firm supporter of the Patterson-Gimlin footage.

  5. Craig Woolheater responds:

    Loren brings up a good point. We also need to remember that this article was published in the March/April 2002 issue of Skeptical Inquirer.

  6. joppa responds:

    It is still a big wild world out there. Indeed, fewer and fewer people are out in the wild anymore. The most hiked trail in the Great Smokies is a one mile paved trail to some waterfalls. Hunting as a pastime is declining as is backwoods fishing. We certainly are destroying more wild areas, but increasingly we are staying out of those back country areas.

    There is still large areas of wild places for these critters to hide and as we stick our noses to the twelve thousand cable channels and surf the web endlessly, we are less likely to see Ol’ Sas stroll through the back yard.

  7. springheeledjack responds:

    I’ve gone up against this Radford joker before…he is long on speech and short on hard facts.

    The problem with “skeptics” like Radford is that he/they are not really skeptical…the TRUE skeptic is as we are on this site…we look at possible sightings, evidence and what not, then sift through it to see what is plausible, what is hoax, and what is something outside the realm of known animals.

    These others start out with the idea that a creature is false, then sit back and try to get the true skeptics to bring them evidence that will satisfy them. That’s not how it works.

    Radford is good at taking accounts and evidence and using parts of it to back his own claims.

    And I do not agree with his claims on eyewitness unreliability. It’s easy for the “skeptics” to totally ignore eyewitness testimony because people make mistakes, because then they don’t have to face the possibility there are unknown critters out there. Good for them, but eye witness testimony does have value. Sorry Ben, but if people were as unreliable as you say that they are, then all observable data falls under that realm. And if that is the case, then any physical phenomena you view is always suspect, whether it is in the wild or in say, a laboratory. If eye witness data is totally unreliable, then so is eye witness data done by credible scientists, professionals and “reputable” people.

    What are we left with? Not much.

    People do make mistakes when they observe things…especially if they come into unknown circumstances, places or odd situations. However, you have to look at people and incidents in context. For example, (and I’m simplifying here so chill, and I am using a USO example instead of Bigfoot because that’s my area, so forgive me), if someone from the city comes to a lake and has not spent much time on a lake and they see a hump in the water, I would not trust them to know whether they were seeing something odd or not.

    However, if you have someone living along the edge of that same lake, and one morning they see a hump and it is not similar to waves or otter backs, etc., they are knowledgeable enough to know what they are seeing, and make an educated guess about whether it is something familiar or something unknown they are encountering.

    The “eyewitnesses are unreliable as witnesses” argument is a cop out, plain and simple. It’s the lazy way to not have to defend your position.

    I’ll see you soon again in the Fortean, Ben…

    CC

  8. joppa responds:

    As for the unreliability of eyewitness testimony. well we execute several people a year based on eyewitness evidence. The test is reliability. Further, you build on your case with further proof – footprints, hair, dead body, etc.

    Our problem is we often only have one piece of evidence at time. Only a fleeting glimpse or a melting footprint. So we educate ourselves on collecting more than one thing, and keep asking questions.

  9. Benjamin Radford responds:

    There are a few points that should be noted about my piece:

    1) It was not written or intended to be anything more than a brief overview of the Bigfoot phenomena for the lay reader and skeptical inquirer. I did not have the space to go into anything in-depth. Those who criticize it for not having any in-depth investigation are quite correct, but missing the point.

    2) As Craig noted, it was published in 2002. I am aware that the “bell fastener” has more or less been admitted as a film artifact–only one of many, and in some ways proves my point about the ambiguity of the P/G film.

  10. Benjamin Radford responds:

    Springheeledjack makes some interesting observations, many of them wrong. He seems to think, for example, that I am out to “disprove” Bigfoot somehow, not realizing that if I was certain it did not exist, I wouldn’t have spent so much time and effort investigating and writing about it.

    He also disagrees about eyewitness unreliability. It seems he thinks that he is correct, and thousands of police detectives, psychologists, and researchers are wrong. Loren Coleman is apparently wrong as well when he admits that most eyewitness sightings are mistakes. It seems that SHJack is right and everyone else is wrong… what a nice position to be in.

    But the most glaring mistake comes when he writes, “if people were as unreliable as you say that they are, then all observable data falls under that realm.”

    Wow, this is so misinformed it’s hard to know where to start… A few second’s thought will reveal how far off he is: We have observable data all around us that is verifiable independent of eyewitness accounts. Whether it’s a car accident, a change in a measured test tube, or just about any other human activity, just because people observe these events doesn’t mean that they can’t be verified. This is markedly different than Bigfoot sightings, which (so far) have left little or no independently verifiable evidence.

  11. mystery_man responds:

    I am pretty neutral on Bigfoot, but I don’t think the lack of a body is necessarily a big negative against its existence as some other posters have claimed. There have been new species discovered in this century whose bodies were never found before their discovery. Why should Bigfoot be different? Because it has been sighted by people and this suggests they frequent areas where people live? Most of the sightings are in fairly remote areas. Some of these other newly discovered animals were sighted by people too before being officially discovered. Other big discoveries had not produced a body for a long time either, such as the gorilla or okapi. One could argue that there are more people out looking for Bigfoot than there were searching for these creatures, but there are a lot of archeologists out there combing for fossils and huge new discoveries still pop up for creatures whose remains had never been seen before. Bigfoot bodies may just be ending up in places where people are not looking, and I think we cannot compare them to missing hikers because those hikers would certainly have people out looking for them. Even so, there have been people who have disappeared whose bodies were never recovered. I do not believe the lack of body to be an incredibly far fetched thing when dealing with an elusive creature that typically lives in remote areas. This creature is quite probably rarer than wolves or bears or other creatures living in the same environment and even those known animals do not leave a whole lot of bodies that are found. Not only is there remoteness, but also scavengers, etc at work with these bodies. This does not mean I totally believe Bigfoot is out there, just that I find nothing too bizarre about the lack of body and for me it is not a huge factor. And if Bigfoot eyewitness testimony is bad and not to be trusted, then you are arguing that all eyewitness testimony is not to be trusted. If that is the case, then why use it in courts or give it any weight at all? That being said, I agree that sightings should be approached in a non biased way although this is very hard as most people in this field have a preconceived stand on it which will affect the way they approach what they hear from the eyewitness. It is very important to not jump to any conclusions which it seems is hard to resist in this field both on the skeptic side and the believer side. I think witness reliability is an important factor too. I think that if, say, a famous primatologist claimed to have seen it, then that would be very valuable testimony. If you can’t trust an experts testimony to some degree, then how can you trust them to be doing any field work at all? As others here have said, there are so many sightings that it would be just as ludicrous to write them all off as it would be to accept all of them at face value. Whether all of them are caused by a hairy hominid or not, something strange is going on there.

  12. Benjamin Radford responds:

    And just a clarification: I have never said that all Bigfoot eyewitnesses are lying, or wrong. That eyewitnesses are often (not always) unreliable is a well-established scientific fact.

    I think it would behoove everyone to spend some time actually researching the topic of eyewitness reliability before making blanket assertions or assumptions about it. Otherwise, you’re really just talking out your ass.

    I happen to have a degree in psychology and have read dozens of articles and studies on the topic. (I also devote an appendix chapter to it in my book Lake Monster Mysteries.) So when people tell me how reliable eyewitnesses are, I have to shake my head, but I know they are speaking from ignorance instead of research.

    This is obviously a topic that the general public is badly misinformed about, so I plan to write a in-depth article about it later this year. Yet I wonder if I should bother, because the skeptical arguments are often ignored. People need to look at both sides of the issue, and be willing to challenge their ideas.

  13. fuzzy responds:

    I AM SO TIRED OF ALL THIS NEGATIVITY!!

    Isn’t anybody gonna put together an analysis of what we DO have about Squatch? A serious, scientifically-oriented dissertation enumerating, point-for-point, the enormous amount of evidence contributing to this creature’s existence?

    Here’s one simple bit I would like to see Radford, or anyone, debunk (because that’s what they all try to do, not rationally analyze, just debunk!).

    In the severe winter of 1977-78, in the MD/PA border area, another “enthusiast” and I stood next to huge, 19-inch, three-toed footprints in 12 inches of newly fallen snow. The tracks were sharply-edged, indicating recent formation, and they went straight down into the snow, much deeper than our bootprints, and were not smeared at the front or back, indicating a standard step, not running or leaping.

    These tracks measured over 5 and 1/2 feet from the toe of one to the heel of the next, consistently, across open pasture, through snow-covered shrubbery, saplings and finally off into the leafless woods, with branches broken off higher than I could reach, littering the footprint pathway.

    Try stepping 5-1/2 feet, toe to heel, on a bare lawn – then try it in fresh snow, without distorting or sloping their leading and trailing edges.

    That’s just ONE aspect of the search – examining footprint trails. There are so many other facets to the mystery, each crying for rational analysis, not irrational blather and 5-year old negativity!

  14. Benjamin Radford responds:

    Fuzzy says: ” I would like to see Radford, or anyone, debunk (because that’s what they all try to do, not rationally analyze, just debunk!).”

    I take great offense to that. I do not debunk, and I take great care in my logical and rational analysis. I have spent years writing and researching; what have YOU done, Mr. Anonynmous Fuzzyboy? Where’s your research?

    Clearly, he has read little of my work. John Kirk, Loren Coleman, and many others have quite a bit of respect for my scholarship and analysis, even if they do not agree with it.

  15. DWA responds:

    Springheeledjack and mystery_man: you said it. I don’t need to. But hey, it’s a blog.

    I agree with mystery_man that the absence of remains, although unusual, isn’t for me a significant enough factor to rate dismissal of the animal. If those who have made estimates are right, it’s a critter rarer on the ground than both the cougar and the wolf. Or the wolverine for that matter. And any of the other apes for that matter. And if it’s at least as smart as any of the other apes – something I consider likely – it’s not likely to just blunder in front of stuff and die.

    I consider it possible that bodies and bones HAVE been found – by people whose commercial interests might well die like that sasquatch were its existence confirmed. They shoveled and shut up. (Anyone smart enough to be in business for oneself would see by now that there is zero money in discovering this critter. Your timber op is comfortable enough to forego this op, thank you.)

    Just for the exercise, I critiqued this article a month or so back. To people who understand how eyewitness testimony should be treated, and who get outside some, there’s nothing in the article difficult at all to dismiss.

    It’s not a skeptical view at all. It’s a firm belief in nonexistence, with not much to support it. Science – and true skepticism – are about curiosity. The view expressed in this article is most incurious, and most unappetizing.

    And downright lazy. But it apparently sells books to those who WANT to believe. For whatever reason.

    “In this case the believers will have all the evidence they need to keep searching-some of it provided by hoaxers, others perhaps by honest mistakes, all liberally basted with wishful thinking. Either way it’s a fascinating topic.”

    That’s dismissal, in not much more than 25 words. Reason enough to dismiss this article. Were there not more.

    Big barrel. Many fish.

  16. DWA responds:

    fuzzy: don’t hold yer breath.

    And see how Ben dismisses somebody who has, well, been there. And pulls the argument-from-authority trick (which of course he’s careful to dismiss as a trick when it doesn’t back him). You’ve seen something pretty compelling there, fuzz. Me, I sit behind a desk and sell books. Who’s the authority?

    Good question. (Ben.)

    How do we even know this is Ben Radford, fuzzy? We can’t even see him. :-D

  17. mystery_man responds:

    Well, I certainly agree that eyewitnesses are not always reliable. I have a lot of experience in zoology and biology, but sadly none in psychology. I see what Mr. Radford is saying, that people should investigate these topics before making blanket statements. I am certainly willing to learn and I do not beleive I ever claimed my thoughts were true and correct, and I always appreciate it when people teach me ways in which I might be wrong. I however, do not appreciate hostile comments, not neccessarily directed at me but at other posters here. Would it not be better to educate people on the research regarding witness testimony without belittling them or attacking their intelligence? “Anonymous Fuzzboy”? “Talking out one’s ass”? I think Mr. Radford is very intelligent although I don’t always agree with him, but is this the way an obviously educated researcher talks to others? Is this how rational debates are brought about? Did they teach manners in that PhD course?

  18. Benjamin Radford responds:

    “DWA responds:”

    Ah, another critic hiding behind anonymity, with no specialized knowledge of the topic, who hasn’t bothered to read or understand the other side’s arguments or point of view, and who has done little or no research of his own, wants to criticize me….

  19. DWA responds:

    Ben, Ben, Ben. Oh the namecalling.

    You’re Biscardi-izing, right before our very eyes.

    Try responding for once, and you might not get this.

    (Oh. The argument from authority, remember, does NOT work here. Someone needs to get outside.)

  20. DWA responds:

    And I might note:

    1. You know nothing about me. And after exposure to your tactics, I don’t intend you to.

    2. You do safe research that preaches to the choir. No need for you to be anonymous. (Although I wonder if your name is really Ben Radford.) I might use the name Giordano Bruno, but the stake doesn’t appeal to me.

    3. Respond to our arguments, Ben. Running does not become a serious researcher.

  21. Benjamin Radford responds:

    And I apologize to Mystery Man. I do try and keep things very civil, but I just get frustrated.

    Furthermore, I think you will find that before I got snippy, I was called “lazy” and a “debunker” and had my work impugned by people who haven’t bothered to read it.

  22. mystery_man responds:

    I do hope all involved in these debates try to keep a cool head on both sides. We can disagree with each other, but let’s try not to let it become wholly uncivil. In the end, I think we all pretty much want to get to the bottom of this stuff, although our ways of thinking about it may vary.

  23. DWA responds:

    We’re trying, mystery_man.

    But unfortunately, despite what Ben says, a number of us on this board, me in particular, have made a very careful reading of his arguments, dissected them pretty effectively, come back with compelling counterarguments…that very clearly don’t get read, but responded to with namecalling.

    I don’t see Ben as a serious skeptic, or a serious researcher, but as somebody who gets hot-headed, well, rather, um, quickly, don’t you think? And, to echo his very own comment, who hasn’t made a significant read of the great majority of evidence for the sasquatch, then comes on dismissing those who have, well, all I can say is I’m really sorry, fuzzy. I bet it gets really frustrating for folks like you.

    That’s what we’re dealing with, and I’m having a harder and harder time taking it seriously. In fact, I don’t really respond to Ben, but to the many on this board who I hope don’t need reminding that there’s something they’re trying to get to the bottom of. And they shouldn’t let a cut-and-paste “academic” scare them.

    If I’m the designated bad cop, I don’t mind it a bit. ;-)

  24. mystery_man responds:

    I don’t think you are the bad cop at all, DWA. I respect your opinion quite a lot. I agree with a lot of what you say and I must say I can see what Ben is getting at even if I don’t really agree on all his points. But one of the things I really appreciate about this site is the way people can rationally discuss things without it getting out of hand. I have seen some sites that are a complete free for all and would hate to see any of these arguments degrade to that kind of level. Thankfully they haven’t gotten that bad yet! Sometimes we have to respectfully agree to disagree. That’s not to say that we should be scared of saying what we want to say, just that there are ways to say it that are going to make people listen more than belittling or name calling. Boy, don’t I sound like the little goody two shoes! One thing I’ve found when I get really frustrated, which I do sometimes on here, is type out the ranting message that I want, then sit back to take a deep breathe, then delete it and write something more rational. It works!

  25. fuzzy responds:

    Ben – Sorry for the personal offense you took – I lumped you with many others making totally wild and distracting objections to almost every post here on Cryptomundo, and while I realize that there has to be a skeptical viewpoint as a part of any analysis, I am exasperated by the same old, tired whining on minute points – “where are all the dead Bigfoot bodies?” – “how come they don’t land on the White House lawn” – (no, wait, that’s UFOs!).

    Instead of making caustic, non-productive jokes about the articles posted here, why don’t they channel that energy into positive discussions of the same data, adding to the archive of information we have to work with, instead of the non-selective “slash and burn” method?

    “Simply put, eyewitness testimony is poor evidence” (Roesch 2001)”

    But, if that’s all you have, you have to deal with it, instead of whining about its notorious lack of reliability.

    “Most alleged Bigfoot tracks have five toes, but some casts show creatures with two, three, four, or even six toes. Surely all these tracks can’t come from the same unknown creature, or even species of creatures.”

    Why not? If we don’t know what the creature is, and how many varieties it displays, or anything about its breeding or DNA, how can we say that it does not come with this variety of foot structure?

    “Third, Patterson made quite a profit from the film, including publicity for a book he had written on the subject and an organization he had started.”

    So what? Should he NOT have?

    “… the evidence suggests that there are enough sources of error (bad data, flawed methodological assumptions, mistaken identifications, poor memory recall, hoaxing, etc.) that there does not have to be (nor is likely to be) a hidden creature lurking amid the unsubstantiated cases.”

    Hundreds of anecdotal sightings, multiple witnesses, similarities in general and specific description, footprints, sounds, lairs, dead animals etc etc, but “there is not likely to be a hidden creature, lurking…”, right?

    I remember reading Menzel’s diatribe about how ALL UFOs were nothing more than visual and atmospheric distortions, meteors, misperceived natural phenomena or hoaxes – as a teenager, I was ready to dismiss the entire subject, until I saw a moon-sized, internally-illuminated disc sliding silently overhead.

    What I have done, Ben, is to get out into the woods, on both ends of the continent, and try to gather evidence to help us all learn about this creature. I live in the foothills of the Sierra, and there are many non-reported creature events all around. My expertise is not in written dissertations, but in active participation, on a more personal, person-to-person basis.

    Sooner or later, we may be able to understand more about Squatch, and work together to protect these wild creatures, and their kind worldwide, from our own stupidities.

    I hope I live long enough to see it.

    Mr. Anonynmous Fuzzyboy

  26. DWA responds:

    shill: worth responding to. As any truly skeptical argument is.

    ————————

    You say: “SpringheeledJack said:

    “Radford is good at taking accounts and evidence and using parts of it to back his own claims”.

    As do proponents.”

    —————————

    True there. There’s cherrypicking on both sides pro and con. Skeptics evaluate all of it, fairly.

    —————————

    You respond to: “The “eyewitnesses are unreliable as witnesses” argument is a cop out, plain and simple.”

    With: “Disagree. Everyone makes mistakes especially when they are surprised, in the dark, afraid, unsure, etc. It’s a fact that eyewitness testimony is notoriously bad. But, like Kittenz says, people have experienced something and that should be the goal – to find out what happened to them, not to prove a creature’s existence.”

    ————————————

    This is a bit more complicated. You’re right. But. (Or as the win/win-ists would say: You’re right. And…;-))

    It seems to me that Ben’s argument boils down to: ALL the eyewitness evidence for the sasquatch is SO bad that it can be summarily swept under the rug.

    I think Ben needs to read more sighting reports, something he simply does not seem to have done. I’ve never read one that could be reasonably explained as a mis-identification of a known animal. Lie? Oh sure, they could be. (But ALL of them?) Hoax? Sure. But too many of them were under circumstances that would make a hoax extremely unlikely as an explanation. (Including the P/G film, which has never had a strong counterargument offered to the postulation that it’s an unlisted animal.)

    Whatever Ben might say he thinks about sighting reports, one thing is very clear, and I’ve called him on it time and again without response. He does not offer a SINGLE idea what should be done with them. Which to me is, effectively, tossing them, all of them. There is no logical way around that conclusion.

    ————————————–

    You say: “I am also very on the fence about Bigfoot. Only a recovered body would knock me off of it.”

    ————————————-

    Many of us are on the fence. But I view the fence this way:

    The existence of the animal seems (my totally irrational reaction) almost absurd.

    But the argument that all the evidence for its existence is a concoction seems (a very, very rational reaction) at least as absurd.

    Which means: we need to follow up on the evidence. And the most important evidence, right now: The concentrations of recent sighting reports and trackways.

    They are not proof. But they tell you where you might want to look.

  27. Benjamin Radford responds:

    Fuzzy- Glad you spent time in the woods looking for Bigfoot, at least it’s getting out there and doing something! I also hope you live long enough to find of the things, and i’d like to be there when you do!

    DWA- I learned long ago to ignore your posts, which I find to be ill-informed and often riddled with logical and factual errors that I have too often wasted my time correcting, only to be met with subject-changing and name-calling.

    I have a basic, simple question to all those who put so much value in eyewitness testimony: If eyewitness reports are valuable as an investigative tool, what is the value? Where are the results?

    What is even one single, verifiable fact that we know about Bigfoot as a result of the thousands of eyewitness reports and sightings?

  28. DWA responds:

    To quote Ben Radford:

    “That DWA is somebody I need to avoid confronting head on.”

    Thanks for the confirmation. ;-p

  29. DWA responds:

    And Ben-scardi asks:

    “I have a basic, simple question to all those who put so much value in eyewitness testimony: If eyewitness reports are valuable as an investigative tool, what is the value? Where are the results?

    What is even one single, verifiable fact that we know about Bigfoot as a result of the thousands of eyewitness reports and sightings?”

    Go around the board, and you’ll find many refutations of this simple but major mistake, by me and others.

    In response to those refutations…we don’t really find anything, do we?

  30. DWA responds:

    For your continued entertainment.

    —————————-

    Ben says: And just a clarification: I have never said that all Bigfoot eyewitnesses are lying, or wrong. That eyewitnesses are often (not always) unreliable is a well-established scientific fact.

    And I say: Duh. So if some are wrong, they ALL are. Not sure that sounds logical to me. It might sound logical if one was worried that sustained field investigation of sites where conentrations of apparently-reliable (as in, real apparently functioning people with no axe to grind made them) sighting reports might lead somewhere. A “Professional” ;-) might worry about that.

    And Ben says: I think it would behoove everyone to spend some time actually researching the topic of eyewitness reliability before making blanket assertions or assumptions about it. Otherwise, you’re really just talking out your ass.

    And I have to say: I agree. Blanket assumptions like “eyewitness testimony is bad evidence” really have no place in scientific inquiry. As scientists, fortunately, know. (Nor does naughty language. :-D) But don’t worry about cracking books. Every one of you, every day, does considerable research into the topic of eyewitness testimony and its reliability. It’s called LIVING.

    Ben says: I happen to have a degree in psychology and have read dozens of articles and studies on the topic. (I also devote an appendix chapter to it in my book Lake Monster Mysteries.) So when people tell me how reliable eyewitnesses are, I have to shake my head, but I know they are speaking from ignorance instead of research.

    And I say: We need a primatologist here, not a shrink. There’s nothing holding back sasquatch research like folks with the wrong degrees using their degrees to back up their arguments. And people who are too impressed by degrees failing to note, whoops, wrong degree there!

    And Ben says: This is obviously a topic that the general public is badly misinformed about,

    And I say: Some “Professionals” contribute heavily to that. ;-)

    And Ben says: so I plan to write a in-depth article about it later this year. Yet I wonder if I should bother, because the skeptical arguments are often ignored.

    And I say: raving belief in nonexistence, against tons of evidence to the contrary, is not exactly making its case to be considered thoughtfully. But this may, I acknowledge, just be me.

    And Ben says, last but not least: People need to look at both sides of the issue, and be willing to challenge their ideas.

    And I say: Right, Ben!

  31. DWA responds:

    And Ben says: A few second’s thought will reveal how far off [springheeledjack] is: We have observable data all around us that is verifiable independent of eyewitness accounts. Whether it’s a car accident, a change in a measured test tube, or just about any other human activity, just because people observe these events doesn’t mean that they can’t be verified. This is markedly different than Bigfoot sightings, which (so far) have left little or no independently verifiable evidence.

    And I say: my personal candidate for longest non sequitur I ever read.

    Don’t believe me? Go ahead. Read it. Especially the part “just because people observe these events doesn’t mean that they can’t be verified.”

    HUH?

    But of course he’s right! As can be seen in the many sasquatch sighting reports in which numerous observers, at one point at one time, saw the precise same thing. Thus independently VERIFYING each other’s accounts.

    Maybe not so non seq after all! THANKS, Ben!

  32. MBFH responds:

    I’d just like to thank you guys, especially mystery_man, fuzzy and Ben for this discussion. Speaking(?) as someone who has only read the popular books on the subject and has never had a chance to spend anytime in the field (living in the UK has something to do with that!) I’ve learnt a lot. I’m also glad to see that you’re big enough to offer up some apologies.

    I’m going offer a couple of inexpert observations:
    Firstly, I’ve always been skeptical about many eyewitness opinions – especially those who have fleeting glimpses yet give estimates of height and weight which are taken as read. Then again, there are the witnesses who are well qualified, for want of a better expression, whose accounts cannot be dismissed easily.

    Secondly, I don’t have a problem with the lack of bones or body. Some accounts are of family groups. What’s to say that these creatures don’t remove their dead to some place? I’m not suggesting burial as there’s no evidence for it, or is the lack of bodies evidence in itself? I know this is just speculation and I’m more than happy to be taken to task about it – in a polite fashion.

    My name is Dave by the way. I’ve no reason to be anonymous but then again there’s no reason I shouldn’t be as my ‘expertise’ can’t challenge anyone. If people want to remain anonymous they may have reason for it. Its doesn’t matter. It’s what’s discussed here that counts.

  33. MBFH responds:

    DWA – sorry, I missed you out! Thanks to you as well.

  34. Benjamin Radford responds:

    Hi Dave

    Welcome to the boards; glad you found it interesting. I don’t necessarily have a problem with anonymity, but it’s easy for anonymous critics to take cheap potshots at those of us who aren’t afraid to have our names associated with Bigfoot and cryptozoology.

    I’m willing to put my name, research, and reputation out there, while many of those who criticize me are not. I have a lot more respect for someone who stands up to be counted than someone who slings anonymous barbs and red herrings.

  35. DWA responds:

    MBFH- I was getting ready to come after you for that unseemly omission.

    But in the UK, eh? heh heh…safe for now…. :-D

    There are issues any proponent has to deal with when it comes to the sasquatch. The no-body doesn’t bother most of us who think there could be something to this, but we have to accept it sure don’t help the argument any. The only point I wish to make here is that anyone who thinks it’s all fake has issues to deal with in making their case too. At least propose a scenario. No fair sitting on one’s hands waiting for a body.

    Speaking of bodies, MBFH, don’t feel left out! There seem to be more cryptid big cats over there than there are over here!

  36. fredfacker responds:

    I have to agree with Radford on the faultiness of eyewitness accounts. I worked a crime beat for several years and found that witnesses to the same event often recall things very differently and describe the same person very differently.

    Also, the human mind is very easy to trick. If a person is exposed to an image of something, and then asked later if that was the thing they saw, the mind has a tendency to fill that image in replacing the blurry memory of whatever it was.

    Police have gotten in trouble because if they wanted a certain person picked out of a line up, they would show the witness a mugshot of that person right after the incident or bring the person they arrested back to the scene and say, “Was this the person?” Then when the witness looks at the line up, they’re much more likely to pick that person — even if it wasn’t the criminal.

    If that simple bit of suggestion is so effective in altering a person’s memory, think what the iconic image of bigfoot can do to a witness’ memory when they see an unfamiliar form in the wilderness.

    However, I don’t think it’s worth dismissing eyewitness reports altogether because obviously they saw something. If nothing else, it provides a lead as to where some empirical evidence might be gathered.

  37. mystery_man responds:

    I also think that eyewitness testimony has the possibility of leading to more evidence and that is where I give it the most credit. Sightings in and of themselves may not ever amount to evidence, but I feel they can point us in the right direction. Sure, it may be unreliable and not every case is going to be worthy of following up on, but if one account can lead us to perhaps some hard evidence then that would be a very useful thing and I think it would be irresponsible to discount that as a possibility. Some species have ended up being discovered because testimony by natives people, to whom the organism was ethno known, was investigated further. Unfortunately testimony for Bigfoot has led to little up to now, but could this not be because no one really seriously followed up on some of the reliable accounts? I don’t want to put too much importance on sightings alone, but I feel that in some cases, where the witness is reliable, the sighting can be a useful tool.

  38. DWA responds:

    Let’s parse some more Benscardi stuff.

    Ben says: “Springheeledjack makes some interesting observations, many of them wrong. He seems to think, for example, that I am out to “disprove” Bigfoot somehow, not realizing that if I was certain it did not exist, I wouldn’t have spent so much time and effort investigating and writing about it.”

    I says: Not quite right, Ben. Here’s what you meant to say: I’m in the business of keeping this guy a mystery. That’s the reason I don’t address any of the reasonable suggestions regarding dealing with the evidence that have been presented on this site. See, if this animal’s discovered, everything I’ve written on the topic will look silly, not to mention being worth pretty much less than a Tom Biscardi dumpster souvenir. So I’m trying to make the people looking for the animal look silly, so the big guns of science won’t get involved. And God FORBID anyone decides to start looking for patterns of recent sightings and trackways and setting up long-term field operations in those areas. Then I’m WEAWWY SCWEWED. Better to just say, you saw something? No you didn’t, you dummy! I’m a PSYCHOLOGIST, is how I know.

    Ben sez: “[springheeledjack] also disagrees about eyewitness unreliability. It seems he thinks that he is correct, and thousands of police detectives, psychologists, and researchers are wrong. Loren Coleman is apparently wrong as well when he admits that most eyewitness sightings are mistakes. It seems that SHJack is right and everyone else is wrong… what a nice position to be in.”

    An’ I sez: Isn’t this neat? What all those “thousands” are saying is that you can’t take eyewitness testimony to the bank. SHJack would agree with all of them on that. Now doesn’t one wonder why eyewitness testimony is still one of the pillars of our legal system? SHJack doesn’t. And if you do…Here’s why, class: you may not be able to cash eyewitness testimony at the bank. But it can show you where the vault is.

    And Loren Coleman is most certainly right when he says most eyewitness sightings are mistakes. In case you’re late to the mauling, I’ve yardarmed Mr. Radford on this little disingenuity more than once. “Mistakes” really isn’t the word. “Pranks” is more like it. The Internet has opened the door to all kinds of cute pranksters. And there were all sorts of Marxes and Wallaces out there before the Web. We’re not even talking about them. We’re talking about the ones that are left after one sifts out the obvious crap. And there are a lot of them left.

    And then there’s the usual “he thinks he’s right and everyone else is wrong” zinger at the end.

    A true “Professional,” if you strictly ask me.

    He’s insulted people on this board…who have wound up apologizing to him. In case you were wondering: NOT a fan.

    But he makes a great pinata!

  39. joppa responds:

    Great discussion. It seems that most of the posters here are fence sitters, and are just waiting to get pushed off on the Bigfoot is real side. But half the fun for both sides is speculating why Bigfoot does or doesn’t exist.

    What is really going on here ? I think that there is a deeper philosophical or psychological element to this debate.

    Bigfoot to some decree, I think, represents the “boogyman” or “dark side” of the natural world. If we can prove he exists, we have conquered our dark fears by defining, naming and containing our nightmare to a biological entity that can be caged, examined and killed if need be.

    By debunking its existence we do the same, we have conquered our nightmare with cold clear logic of science and are made safe in the warm sunshine of certainty that Bigfoot cannot and does not exist.

    Ah but there’s the rub. Bigfoot will always be out there as long as the human mind can imagine or as our collective memory can recall the struggle to leave the trees behind and master our world. As our history seems to show, our species struggled with “others” for survival and perhaps just barely won.

    We will always be trying to conquer our nightmares and shine the spotlight on the boogyman. And if we do capture or debunk bigfoot, there will always be another cryptid to take its place.

  40. springheeledjack responds:

    Cool, looks like I sparked some debate…bout time, and glad I checked back tonight.

    As for Ben, once again you are not paying attention to what I am really getting at. You take the parts of what people say that you want to hear and refute only part of the argument.

    And as far as my attacking the sound minds and processes of legal enforcement and psychology and what not, let’s get it straight. I made an analogy off of your ramblings on eye witness testimony to prove a point. Your biggest failing is taking the specific and applying it blanketly across the spectrum.

    I already said people make mistakes on what they see…go read above again. BUT more importantly, what I said was that as a researcher and TRUE skeptic you have to take each case in context of who is seeing and what they are seeing and further more, how long.

    I’ve spent enough time on lakes and rivers and seen plenty of birds and snakes and fish, and sticks. Many times I have seen shapes in the water, but I have also taken the time to watch and see what I am really looking at. If there is a bird in the water and you watch it long enough, you are going to figure out it is a bird. Same goes with your floating logs (and again I am on my USO analogies because that is what I like bestest, and no offense to BF).

    I am talking about people who are familiar with the environments they spend lots of time with (forests, lakes, etc.) and then coming across something that is unknown. I’m not trying to convince you bigfoot is the missing link or that Champ is a plesiosaur, but I am saying that credible witnesses (and by credible I mean those folk who know their nearby environments and what is around them) cannot be dismissed 100%.

    You can correct me if I am wrong, but when I read your writings, I hear you saying that there are say, 500 eye witness accounts (and 500 being an arbitrary number) of a phenomenon, and from the way you talk, you take each one of them as unreiable because it was visual testimony, no matter how many and what the circumstances were.

    Me, I look at the body as a whole. I sift through the individual accounts, and make sense of what I can. In eye witness testimony, sure, I’ll give you–plenty of people see things they think are BF or USO and they are wrong. But other people are seeing things that are out of the normal spectrum of critters.

    Don’t waste your time telling me that 100% of those eye witness accounts are all misinterpretations of their surroundings. I won’t buy it, and I will once again accuse you of just white washing off accounts that you simply don’t want to deal with.

    Ultimately, perhaps we will never see eye to eye. Sure, I’d love tomorrow for a BF to come walking into downtown somewhere, U.S.A. and let the discussion go down a whole new path, or a USO to wash up or parade for the crowds, but we’re not there yet.

    I take eye witness testimony skeptically, but I do use it, and I give it weight dependent upon circumstance and situation to use it as a jumping point to move forward to try to find the critters in question.

    In the meantime, we will doubtless continue to battle on the internet and in magazines until one of us comes across what we are looking for.

    Alright, it’s someone else’s turn to ramble for a while…Ben?

  41. fuzzy responds:

    BEN: Who’s anonymous? I’ve used the Fuzzy nickname for 34 years! (Now people in CA and OR and CO are saying, “Hey! That Fuzzy must be Ol’ Whazizzname!”)

    DWA: “He’s insulted people on this board…who have wound up apologizing to him.” If you are referring to me, I didn’t apologize for offending Ben – I said, “Sorry for the personal offense you took – I lumped you with many others making totally wild and distracting objections to almost every post here on Cryptomundo…” – I’m sorry he got all puffy, but I didn’t apologize for offending him.

    Kind of a fine point there, I guess.

  42. things-in-the-woods responds:

    Ok, this is just a quick one- I’m not getting drawn into this whole debate again so soon after the mammoth ‘science and the sasquatch’ posting, but I’d just like to say that I think fredfacker nailed the whole issue on eyewitness accounts:

    They are dodgy, but not completely worthless.

    As I’ve said before, they don’t constitute any kind of objective proof, but they could usefully point us in the direction of further (field) research.

    I was kind of hoping we had all agreed on at least that- although come to think I’m not sure Ben did ever bring himself to agree even that (presumably he must if, as he says here, that he is not suggesting that all eyewitness accounts are necessarily false).

    That’s it, I’m out.

  43. DWA responds:

    fuzzy: fine point taken. I apologize for apologizing for your being an apologist for the need to apologize when apology ….there’s a thread in there somewhere…:-D

    springheeledjack: um, yup. Not that we’ll get a response to it – we haven’t yet – but yup.

  44. DWA responds:

    Ben (ever the supplier of fresh material) sez: I’m willing to put my name, research, and reputation out there, while many of those who criticize me are not. I have a lot more respect for someone who stands up to be counted than someone who slings anonymous barbs and red herrings.

    An I sez: didn’t we go over this? (Isn’t Ben good at providing material?)

    Isn’t it, well, pretty easy to be one of the horde touching the burning firebrands to the pile of tinder underneath the “heretic” at the stake? Shoot, if I could walk down the street saying that I took bigfoot research seriously, then I’d even say it at work! As it is, I probably take a significant risk just posting here from a work computer! Which I do occasionally. But then, I’m a risk taker.

    If you’d confront arguments head on you might be able to take a little more pride in making your name public. (If you really did some critical thinking in your “research” you might take even more.) If our being anonymous frustrates you, sorry, man. Stop coming here. We’re the ones with the unpopular view, not you.

    And STOP slinging barbs and red herrings. Confront our arguments like a man, sirrah! [removes glove, SLAP!, drops glove on ground, SO!]

  45. fuzzy responds:

    Amazing how much of our collective energies are wasted in dealing with TBS – The Beckardi Syndrome.

    To visitors reading this, please realize that Biscardi and his ilk are fringe elements in any Quest in which they appear – the wild, off-the-wall, idiosyncratic (”Deviating from the customary: bizarre, cranky, curious, eccentric, erratic, freakish, odd, outlandish, peculiar, quaint, queer, quirky, singular, strange, unnatural, unusual, weird…” Answers.com), unscientific, unprofessional side of the whole band of ”enthusiasts”, the extreme end of the bell-curve, if you will.

    There are also true scientific intellectuals on the other end of the curve, obscure folks who gather information for years and then write laborious tomes in a garret somewhere in Illinois, which are printed by tiny Psychology publishers in Portugal eleven years later, and which nobody ever reads.

    Then there’s the rest of us, gathered in a disorganized heap forming the middle of the curve, serious and educated and intense and curious and creative folks who are sincerely interested in the Quest, in one way and to one degree or another – people who are just as shocked as newbies are at the unbelieveable antics of both fringe elements.

    One would hope that we all understand this factoid, and that we maintain a holistic (”Emphasizing the importance of the whole and the interdependence of its parts. Concerned with wholes rather than analysis or separation into parts…” Answers.com) viewpoint, as we enter this mystic realm.

  46. springheeledjack responds:

    Let’s make a distinction. I see a big difference between Skeptics and Debunkers. Skeptics, as I have beat into a hole, look at all evidence and assess it as valid or non, then start coming up with theories and ideas and go find out what’s true and what’s not.

    Debunkers have the cushy job. They sit back and nay say things and then try to tell the rest of us what is good evidence and what is not. It’s easy to sit back in your chair and say, “Nope, that’s not good enough for me…find evidence I find valid.” Easiest thing in the world.

    From everything I have read so far, Ben, you’re a debunker. You hide behind the guise of Skeptic, but so far I haven’t seen it any real skepticism on your part. Offer me up the possibility and keep an open mind, and I’ll put you in the other category.

    And no I haven’t been to Lake Champlain yet (and to be honest, I am not 100% sure I want to meet BF in the woods…jury still out on that one), but I have been spent lots of hours sitting by bodies of water watching and studying and learning about natural occurences so that when I do get there, I will be better armed against logs.

    You also like to hide behind your “authoritative entities” like crime investigation and science, because if they say eye witness testimony is no good, then that’s the end of it.

    I beg to differ.

    Law enforcement doesn’t give much weight to eye witness testimony, sure I’ll agree, and with good reason. However, it is those same law enforcement people and the legal system that relies on eye witness testimony. You show me a court case that has no eye witness testimony, and it will be in the minority. Law enforcement does not like to rely on eye witness testimony alone, but they use it,…and somtimes it’s all there is.

    Doesn’t make eye witness testimony invalid, it just isn’t as good as a body…jee whiz that’s a shocker, but life is usually not that neat and tidy.

    And lets talk science for a moment. Science is the pursuit of fact through observation, study and experimentation–loose translation, Websters says it better, but basically that’s what we’re about. Science in theory does just great. You observe something, you study it, test ideas and find out what it is you are really observing and what is going on.

    In reality, science is fallible. Science is based on the failures that came before it and it is building on what didn’t work that we come to achieve true knowledge and understanding of the world and what’s in it. I can fire up all kinds of instances where science changed course due to new evidence, but I don’t want to take up a ton of pages, and I’m not even going to bring up the “C” word which science and debunkers hate (like fingernails on a chalkboard), because there are plenty of other examples.

    Science is supposed to be open minded, and always looking for answers. The reality is that the scientific field is more often very close minded about new ideas, especially ideas that threaten established thinking. Dinosaurs, case and point. How many decades did scientists ignore the idea that dinosaurs had the capability for intelligent behavior and were fast moving, top-of-the-food-chain competitors in the environment and that they were exclusively reptiles, until people like Dr. Robert Bakker (and there were others before him that got ignored) who finally got heard.

    Science and forensic science at its base is great. It is and should be our model for finding out what is going on with things like BF and USO’s.

    However, people who abuse the method or hide behind it to naysay everyone else, I have no respect for.

    If you are a skeptic, fine, come out and say “Hey Craig, I am skeptical. There’s not enough evidence for me to believe in what you are selling.” I can live with that, I do the same thing.

    But don’t ignore evidence you don’t want to deal with or hide by twisting scientific thought processes and tell me why this can’t be and that isn’t so. It’s not valid.

    Ben, I will give you credit for walking into Bigfoot’s Den here at Cryptomundo. But you know what, I am skeptical of your conclusions and I don’t buy what you’re selling.

    P.S. The big “C” is in reference to the coelacanth–it defies everything I grew up on and was led to believe by science about critters millions of years old being extinct. Go coelacanth (do you hear the sounds of fingernails on chalkboards???)!

  47. kittenz responds:

    Mr. Radford said:
    “I have a basic, simple question to all those who put so much value in eyewitness testimony: If eyewitness reports are valuable as an investigative tool, what is the value? Where are the results? ”

    Ask Jane Goodall or George Schaller the value of eyewitness observations. Or ask any other thorough researcher.

  48. kittenz responds:

    Most of what we know about animal behavior is based on eyewitness observations filtered through human interpretation.

  49. Kathy Strain responds:

    I want to thank Mr. Radford for coming here and posting. I personally found his article to be very good, and I implore those of you who have taken offense to it to read it again. I also want to thank Ben for the information on his background in psychology, as I had asked in another post what his experience with the scientific method was. I particularly like the statement “Either way it’s a fascinating topic. If Bigfoot exist, then the mystery will be solved; if they don’t exist, the mystery will endure.”

    That is akin to my belief in traditional Native American stories…if bigfoot exists, then these stories are the first accounts of their behaviors/character; if bigfoot doesn’t exist, the stories are the root of the myth…either way, it is fascinating!

  50. DWA responds:

    Kathy: sometimes you cryptos can be waaaaay too nice!

    I think that not only is this article not at all good, it dismisses all the good work going in in the sas field as crap. If I were a field researcher, I’d consider it an insult, plain and simple.

    As I said earlier in this thread: the paragraph from which you excerpted amounts to dismissal of what you do. Period. And believe me, I’ve read it. Very carefully. What he said about eyewitness testimony is almost as incredible as his insistence on going to that tired old well, over and over again.

    And I think this article can be very easily dismissed. I’m not even a scientist. And I know more about how science and scientists work than this guy. And this article is all the evidence I need.

    Period.

  51. Kathy Strain responds:

    Hey DWA – first off, I’m not a cryptozoologist, I’m an anthropologist, so I try to view things through the scientific lens first. I didn’t see anything in that article that dismissed any of my own work in the field, with Native Americans, witnesses that I work with, my own experiences, nor my own husband’s sighting.

    What he is stating is that witnesses can be wrong (which is true); films can be faked (which they can, as you will note with the Kentucky video); footprint aren’t as consistent as you would expect; and other evidence (DNA/hair) never results in anything solid. All that is true. If any one of these elements were strong, we wouldn’t be here debating it. I personally feel very strongly about the Patterson/Gimlin film, but again, even with the enormous amount of analysis completed on the film, it isn’t enough to prove the animals existence to those that hold the keys.

    I know that bigfoot exists because of my own experiences and my husband’s sighting, but while Ben may think I’m the cat’s meow (he does, right??), I know of no species that has been accepted by witness statements alone…and thank god too or else we’d have a whole bunch of false species out there (without getting political, think for a moment about the weight of that statement and the consequences if such were true on National Forests, Everglades, etc.).

  52. Kathy Strain responds:

    Oh, what I should also note is that the burden of proof is on us. Therefore we need to get about the task of ridding ourselves of those that taint the swimming pool and start obtaining evidence that is irrefutable. That’s what I’m concentrating on!

  53. DWA responds:

    Kathy: much to respond to here.

    You say: I didn’t see anything in that article that dismissed any of my own work in the field, with Native Americans, witnesses that I work with, my own experiences, nor my own husband’s sighting.

    I say: Ben dismisses sightings, period, out of hand. Your husband’s included. He calls sightings…well, let’s let him do it:

    ————————-
    Eyewitness accounts and anecdotes comprise the bulk of Bigfoot evidence. This sort of evidence is also the weakest. Lawyers, judges, and psychologists are well aware that eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. As Ben Roesch, editor of The Cryptozoological Review, noted in an article in Fortean Times, “Cryptozoology is based largely on anecdotal evidence… [W]hile physical phenomena can be tested and systematically evaluated by science, anecdotes cannot, as they are neither physical nor regulated in content or form. Because of this, anecdotes are not reproducible, and are thus untestable; since they cannot be tested, they are not falsifiable and are not part of the scientific process… Also, reports usually take place in uncontrolled settings and are made by untrained, varied observers. People are generally poor eyewitnesses, and can mistake known animals for supposed cryptids [unknown animals] or poorly recall details of their sighting… Simply put, eyewitness testimony is poor evidence” (Roesch 2001).

    ———————————————–

    Well, just because it’s in the Fortean Times doesn’t make it right. Sightings are at the very heart of the scientific process; there can be no science without them.

    To condemn sightings as poor evidence is both to misunderstand what evidence is and to leave science with nothing with which to work. That anecdotes cannot be tested is irrelevant; one does not test the sighting, but rather the proposition that the sighting places before one, e.g., 500 eyewitnesses to an animal in Liberty County places before one the proposition that this animal can be found there, which IS testable.

    “[Anecdotes] are not part of the scientific process…” Come again? Science is anecdotes, backed by advanced degrees. A peer-reviewed paper is a string of anecdotes; we take them for what they are based on faith, really – the faith that the science involved polices its own, and that the scientists involved have the degrees they claim they do and honestly conducted their tests and reported their observations. (And had their work peer-reviewed.) In other words, we presume the honesty of the process. Some of this information is independently verifiable. (And even in that case, in the end you are taking someone’s word for what you’re looking at. Unless you wrote it.) But most of it was the scientists, doing their work, unobserved by the people later reviewing the evidence of the work. We’ve seen more than enough examples of phony research that this can rest without further discussion. Sightings are, in fact, so integrated with science as to be indistinguishable from it. Science IS sightings; we could have no science without them. That scientific evidence and lay sightings of an undocumented animal are different goes without saying. But one never gets the former until the latter happens. If we are waiting for qualified scientists to see a sasquatch before acting on it — well, we have been waiting a very long time.

    A distinction is made between evidence and proof for a reason; the former cannot stand as proof by itself, but needs support. An eyewitness accusation in a murder case can’t convict by itself; nor can five eyewitnesses or even ten. But with a hundred or a thousand, most of us would vote to convict. And the lawyers themselves never dismiss such evidence – indeed, they depend upon it and place it foremost among the points of their case if available – unless other factors (physical/psychological impairment; poor lighting or viewing conditions; likelihood of witness bias; witness history of unreliability) make the validity of the witness’s testimony unreliable. If eyewitness testimony were THAT unreliable, no one would allow it to even be admitted into testimony. If people were generally poor eyewitnesses, their testimony as eyewitnesses would never be called for. On the points for which one seeks substantiation, people are generally good enough, with appropriate caveats. Which caveats are why lawyers back up eyewitness claims with other evidence. There is no lawyer or police officer in the country – in the world – whose ears will not prick up, or whose heart rate will not rise substantially, at the words, we have an eyewitness. It isn’t proof. But boy does it open doors to evidence. “The defendant was seen leaving the scene five minutes after the murder was committed” poses huge problems for the defense. Just those words. If we have a reliable witness, those problems multiply exponentially. It’s not proof. But it is BIG trouble. Or, if the lawyers really believe their client is innocent, maybe it’s good news. Either way, it’s big. Because it potentially – this point is critical – points the way to where proof might lie.

    Although the above “other factors,” and more, undoubtedly apply in numerous sasquatch sightings – as also does dishonesty, with most sighting reports to Bigfoot websites being summarily dismissed as pranks or otherwise unsubstantiable – a significant number of sightings appear to involve sober witnesses, of significant community standing and therefore endangerable reputation, of considerable experience in the outdoors and employed either for work or recreation in activities requiring accuracy of perception and unquestioned integrity. Airline pilots, lawyers, doctors, nurses, hunters, psychologists and scientists – the entire spectrum of American occupations, in fact – are among those who have submitted detailed sasquatch sighting reports. Anyone going to a website with numerous sighting reports will be struck at how few of the reports leave a scrap of doubt as to the likelihood that the witness saw anything but what is being reported – a large, hairy, manlike biped, but not a man, and corresponding to no other animal of which the person is aware.

    Is it possible that they’re mistaken? Sure. Is it possible that they’re accomplished liars with a pathological need to do this? Sure. Is it possible that this was a guy in an ape suit? Sure. That all of these combine to explain every one – or even a significant portion – of the sighting reports I have read? That is a big stretch. To advance it as a reason to discount sighting reports out of hand smacks very strongly of intellectual laziness. It also largely bespeaks extreme unfamiliarity with just how difficult it would be for hoaxers to consistently pull this off in the field. Anyone who has ever worn an ape suit – or has heard a description of the ordeal from someone who has – can relate. Report after report after report depicts an animal that moves with extraordinary speed, athleticism, grace and agility – an animal that astounded the observer with these qualities. None of which qualities I – or you – have ever witnessed in a man wearing an ape suit. Many of the actions described in many sighting reports – running at speeds up to 40 mph; jumps of remarkable distance; graceful movement by an animal that melted from sight – something that almost anyone who has tracked a big wild animal has experienced at least once – would more than likely lead to uproarious laughter (and a very, VERY humorous sighting report by a still-chuckling witness) if they had been attempted by a man in a suit. The Patterson-Gimlin figure moves along a river bar, terrain that anyone who’s done it more than once, particularly carrying a large load, knows is much harder than one would think who has never done it. One thing is certain about the P/G figure: if this is a man in a suit, he is carrying a very large load indeed, one that partially obstructs his breathing and his vision and weighs down his arms and legs. Yet I’ve never seen a person walking a sidewalk to a grocery store whose movement looks more nonchalant. The animal never once even looks down to see where its feet are going. No ape suit I am aware of from the 1960s would have allowed the person in it this kind of movement, even on take 100 of the shoot. If the hoaxers perfected one, they could have made millions in Hollywood. In this context, does hoaxing Patterson and Gimlin – in an area very difficult to reach with the required gear – then vanishing into the mists, taking no credit for the accomplishment, make any sense at all? Someone with a lot of money and many confederates – all of them too dumb to understand how much more money they could be missing out on – could, I suppose, be irrational enough to do this. (Howard Hughes, for example, was more than crazy enough. Emphasis on crazy.) Is this the way to bet? Of course, no one who has taken credit for the P/G hoax has been able to defend the assertion. What’s best to focus on here is that they all had a buck to make, and 15 minutes of fame to cash in on, simply by making the assertion.

    But I stray from the topic.

    In sum: to dismiss sightings as poor evidence is to leave out some of the most compelling evidence. They must be treated with care; they cannot stand as proof, must always be supported by other evidence, and are at best a pointer in the direction to follow; but science frequently begins with a sighting by a layman. It is simply not rational to believe that the sasquatch’s existence is ever likely to be documented – even if it does indeed exist – if sightings are simply dismissed as bad evidence. The record of dealing with film, tracks and other similar evidence over the past half-century should be enough to indicate that the time has long since passed for another approach. That approach will simply never happen if sightings are simply excluded from the process of verification.

    I will ask one more question. Mr. Radford has said that he doesn’t dismiss sightings. What, exactly, then, is it that he proposes be done with them? The simple answer is clear from this article: nothing. In plain English, “dismiss” is what he proposes to do with them. This is why skeptics like to spend so much time on footprint analysis – an irrational choice indeed, as the skeptics themselves make the point that comparing footprints leads nowhere without a holotype to give a type footprint validity. Logic dictates that skeptics should give shorter shrift to footprints than they do to sightings – but again, logic tends to leave the premises when skeptics (and mainstream scientists) are discussing the sasquatch.

    I will give one additional tidbit to chew on: given that sightings are poor evidence, is it or is it not a good idea for all of us – all of us who can see, that is – to do what we do? Which is: to act upon sightings, every day in virtually every act of our lives? Just asking. But I think Oscar Wilde put it best: it is a shallow man indeed who does not judge by appearances.

    In a pretty analogous case, the gorilla came to the attention of the Western world because explorers, deciding maybe the animal wasn’t such a fantastic notion after all, followed up the eyewitness testimony of locals. What’s the difference here?

    OK, that went on too long. But Ben definitely does not think a single thing can be done with sighting reports. This can be deduced simply from his not proposing anything to do with them but call them unreliable.

    Because a witness can be wrong, should we just assume they all are? That’s tantamount to the approach Ben is suggesting. Seems odd to continue fighting over footprints when we could just set up field studies in places where databases show concentrations of sighting reports and trackways that appear to be of good quality.

    That’s what Patterson and Gimlin did.

    One word: Bingo.

    Another thing. Wanna bet that if an expedition funded by something like the World Wildlife Fund or National Geographic or the American Museum of Natural History had come back with the film instead of Patterson and Gimlin, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, but instead wondering whether the six recognized species of sasquatch should all be one species?

    Quite possible. It DOES matter who brings back evidence. But you don’t toss that much bath water without sifting for babies.

    One more thing. As I and at least one other person here have said, the burden of proof is not on us. At least not just on us. That gives the so-called skeptics the pass of sitting on their hands and waiting to cherry-pick from the evidence presented – instead of explaining their outlandish thesis that this is all a concoction.

    Which the burden is on THEM to do. Proponents have provided tons of evidence. Skeptics have to REFUTE it. This they have failed to do.

    So far, I’ve got proponents running on tons of evidence – and…well, they’re not skeptics, they’re True Believers in Nonexistence. Because they’re running on empty when it comes to evidence to back their claims.

  54. sasquatch responds:

    My Grandfather said he saw a mountain lion run across the dirt road he’d take his morning walks on in N. California. NO ONE in our family said; Are you sure it wasn’t a deer or a dog? So, when someone says they saw a bigfoot why do people ALWAYS say; are you sure you didn’t see a bear or a moose? I think people are generally trustworthy in reporting what they see,-it’s just the subject matter that suddenly makes people say the witness is “unreliable”. This talk is laughable to me. I saw a bald eagle flying over the Platte River in Englewood Colorado earlier this week. I’d never seen one before in this area. I’ve seen only a few in my life and usually in much more remote areas. When I told my co-workers, NOT ONE person called me crazy or Unreliable…Why?

  55. mystery_man responds:

    Jeez, I leave this post for a day and look at all the stuff that’s been coming out! Good posts everyone! Sasquatch, I think the reason why people didn’t call these sightings crazy is because they were of a creature that is known to exist. No matter the sightings were made in unusual places, they are still documented animals known by science. That’s why when someone says they saw, say, the Ivory Billed Woodpecker and provide a grainy photo, people will not only accept it, but scientists will actually go out and follow up on such an amazing find. I feel it is a wholly different thing when someone claims to have seen a creature that is known as opposed to a large, undiscovered hairy hominid. People end up linking these kinds of sightings with sightings of little green men and no one is willing to take it seriously. That’s one of the big biases against sightings of Bigfoot. No one is treating these sightings as they would a sighting of a bear, or a mountain lion, or a wolf, or a woodpecker. There is no objectivity and there is the tendency to write them off and it is frustrating because what if they are real? If Bigfoot is ever documented as a real animal, I think you will find people much more willing to believe you saw what you really saw.

    I think Kittenz had a good point to, that people out researching animals in the wild are relaying their own observations which in effect is witness testimony. Granted these are animals that are proven to exist but it shows you that sometimes a person’s observations can be taken at face value. It also reiterates my own veiw that witness reliability is key. If Jane Goodall said she saw a Bigfoot, would anyone be inclined to tell her that she didn’t see what she saw? Now try the same scenario with, say, Tom Biscardi. Witness reliability.

  56. mystery_man responds:

    One more thing that I also think is important to add. Even with field researchers, there is sometimes some corroboration needed especially with very suprising witnessed behavior. When it was first reported that chimps actually would sometimes kill animals and eat meat, people thought it was crazy. I beleive it was the same with the use of tools and whatnot. Then you get a field study going to get repeated observations or some other primatologists out reporting the same thing and it becomes more of an established fact. But still, we are relying a good deal on a person’s observations to lead to the evidence.

  57. JJohnson1 responds:

    I think there is some huge misunderstandings here. No one is saying that eyewitness reports have no value, but as Kathy and Ben have said, they do not constitute proof. Even if the President of the United States saw a bigfoot, the USF&WS wouldn’t make it a species.

    What I think you are all meaning to say is that due to the amount of sightings by very credible people, the government should fund a formal study like they would for any other species, but they don’t, and it’s clearly due to a bias.

  58. DWA responds:

    shill: sightings as science: basically accurate.

    Every procedure you describe is being performed in significant part by eyes. Right? It’s just that – as you note – we bring in more witnesses, and we make sure they’re qualified to verify.

    No matter what you say, it’s gonna be somebody following up to SEE what was done and corroborate, by SEEING it, that we have valid observations. That’s how you remove the bias of the INDIVIDUAL witness.

    Where Ben wants to stop this process is by not even dealing with the bias of the individual witness. Just presume he’s loony or honestly mistaken, no matter the circumstances. Let’s keep looking at footprints and hair. For which we have no type animal as a model yet, so how can we confirm them as real or fake or misidentified? If Ben truly believes we should just wait until a sas decides to spend the night in the back of some hillbilly’s truck, he should just say so. But he can’t say there’s not plenty of data out there to pique science’s interest. Jane Goodall and George Schaller are proof positive of that.

    You say: “Eyewitnesses in court remembering things is different than remembering details when you are surprised, have little light, time, distractions, or a far distance, etc.”

    I say: Read sighting reports. Many people (unless we just want to presume they’re lying) kept their cool and stayed in place to watch the animal, in excellent light, for an extended period. (Several actually stalked or followed an animal that didn’t know they were there.) These people got some of the most detailed descriptions of an animal you will ever read; there is not a question of what they, OK, think they saw.

    You say: “Sadly, violent crime victims frequently misidentify their attacker as proved later by DNA tests. I know if I saw some large hairy thing in the woods, I’d be too truly scared, and have hightailed it out too fast, to rely on what I’ve observed. Emotions count during observations. I recommend “Eyewitness Testimony” by E. Loftus (1996)”.

    I say: Thanks. But, when I’m done the book, I’m still going to think: are we going to follow up on these sightings, or just lump all these people in the “incompetent observer” bin? (But hey, it might be a fun read. :-)) I WOULD, though, recommend a healthy-or-heavier dose of sighting reports to anyone spending a lot of time on observer competence. We got some competent observers. Or some flamin’ great liars. Or people – LOTS OF THEM – on drugs that I, well, WANT.

    And again, you might go nuts and run. I might too. But a lot of people didn’t, apparently. I simply can’t presume, without it being proven to me case by case, that all these folks were mistaken or lying.

    You say: “With a gorilla, the explorers said, “Hmm”, went looking, and eventually found. 30+ years of looking for this creature even with some substantial technology, and we’ve still not come much closer. (Yes, I know, he’s actively hiding from us.) There is still a lot that does not make sense but that does not allow us to assume that we jump across the chasm to “believe”. ”

    I say: I’d be the last one to jump that chasm. “Believe” is no word to use in any discussion of the sasquatch. We say “evidence” in this club. The technology has been insufficiently applied, by too few people, for too short a period. Patterson took a couple weeks with a home movie camera and a horse, and bingo!

    And he remains, to this very day, the only one that has devoted the right effort, in the right place. At the right time.

    Oh. How did he figure that out?

    He followed SIGHTING REPORTS.

  59. mystery_man responds:

    Shill, I am a little confused by your statement that eyewitnesses in court are different because “Eyewitnesses in court remembering things is different than remembering details when you are surprised, have little light, time, distractions, or a far distance, etc.” I’m sorry, but this makes no sense at all. When someone witnesses a crime, these factors are all present. How can you possibly say that they are different for a witness of a crime? That being said, court witness testimony does only go so far, however I recently read about a guy who was pretty much locked away because of one witnesses total assertion that it was him. One witness. Now, DNA has finally proven he is innocent but it goes to show that witness testimony should not be an end all, be all. As for eyewitnesses in science, I never said that sightings equals science. I said that often in the field, the path to those experiments and to the evidence starts with observations by a scientist. In these cases, the observations are accepted as a possible theory and follow up work can be done. I said field observations “leads to the evidence.”

  60. DWA responds:

    Well, I must say, we continue to get some nice posts on this thread.

    Such a refreshing change from that Revolutionary KY Bigfoot Pancake House thread. :-p

    shill: one more thing about your statement: “There is still a lot that does not make sense but that does not allow us to assume that we jump across the chasm to “believe”. ”

    What I see the so-called skeptic camp doing is jumping across a chasm just as wide – the one to “disbelieve.” And remember, we don’t use “believe” here. Not in that do-you-believe-in way. That’s for the Great Pumpkin. We’re talking about something subject to the scientific search-and-identify process here.

    Here is the true skeptic position on the sas, exhibiting all the proper earmarks of true skepticism (which is the best science):

    ——————————

    The pat assumption that the sasquatch is unlikely to exist simply because its evading science to this point appears improbable is an unacceptable presumption.

    Until the evidence is examined and either debunked or followed to a conclusion, there is much more evidence that this animal exists than there is that all of the evidence amounts to lie, hoax or mis-identification.

    ——————————

    There you go. THAT’S skepticism. THAT’S science.

    And as one can plainly see, we’ve turned science on its head when it comes to this critter. Time to put science back on the case. Time and money allowing, right, right, right….

  61. mystery_man responds:

    And JJohnson, that is one thing I think is very true and one thing I’ve been trying to say with my examples of field researchers. There is a bias at work when it comes to Bigfoot. Reliable people have seen this thing and I think we all agree that that is not enough in and of itself. But with known species or species thought to be extinct, the kind of sightings we have associated with Bigfoot would be enough for someone to take notice, put together a scientific team, and investigate further. And by investigate, I mean a formal field study that is scientifically viable and can devote the time that may be needed. And I agree with DWA that beleif is not really something that is relevant here. There is compelling witness testimony, now maybe that can be followed through to evidence, maybe not. Whether you beleive or not is not important, it is how the investigation is done, in as non biased a way as possible. Beleiving in Bigfoot, not beleiving in it, and thinking that there is a possibility for such a creature and that the sightings may lead to something are very different things in my opinion.

  62. DWA responds:

    sasquatch: when people say that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence (which is the same to me as saying simply, claims require evidence), what you’re talking about is what they’re talking about, I think.

    In some places, maybe not so much anymore, seeing a mountain lion once rated up there with seeing a bigfoot on the have-another-drink scale. It’s just human nature. The lion and the eagle are known from the places you mention, although sightings are rare. The sas, well, isn’t. And the sas has a unique history among North American fauna in the way it’s been treated. It’s never been accepted by either science or the popular mind.

    Until that changes (and the Internet may be changing lots of minds that aren’t going public with that fact, yet), you’ll continue to have this, I think.

    JJohnson1: I think that what you’re saying is right; but I don’t think all of us are having the misunderstang. I think we all know that sightings don’t prove anything, but that following what appear to be good reports could lead to something conclusive.

    I get the feeling that some out there just don’t want that to happen; they just don’t want sighting reports followed up, period. Not sure why; but I think that’s why we keep seeing the argument that because sightings can be off, they should be presumed to be, and not followed up.

  63. springheeledjack responds:

    This has been a reallllly gooooood discussion, and I must say I am more passionate on this front than many others in case you couldn’t tell…

    I think it is important to talk about this openly and extendedly–it gives others things to think about as well as ourselves…what we believe and why…what constitutes evidence and what does not, because ultimately, it is an individual thing forged by each of us.

    Thank you and goodnight!

    SpringHeeled JAck

  64. DWA responds:

    I thought I would add the following.

    I found it on the BFRO website.

    [pause for brickbats]

    Don’t know what’s going on with the BFRO lately (and if the KY video is an indication, it is not so good). But to their credit (I think? Maybe they just stopped paying attention), their website – which I always recommend, with TBRC’s, to anyone wanting education on this topic – has remained largely intact. Whatever tangents some of their gang have gotten on do not mar what was put up on the site by people pretty competent to discuss this matter. Read.

    ——————————————

    The use of subjective evaluation is what separates the legal perspective of witness testimony from the scientific perspective. Witness reports are considered “anecdotal evidence” by science, mainly because they are not testable. Yet many scientists are wise enough to understand that anecdotal evidence always precedes and leads to the collection of scientific evidence. In the history of science, scientific evidence has never been collected or even pursued until there has been enough anecdotal or indirect evidence at hand to merit an effort to collect the testable evidence. Thus without the collection and evaluation of anecdotal evidence or indirect evidence, there would be no scientific discoveries at all. This is the intrinsic relationship between the two types of evidence. Sighting reports by themselves are not scientific evidence, but they are what leads us to the scientific evidence. With respect to the pursuit of an unclassified species, the collecting of credible sighting reports is an essential part of the scientific process.
    ——————————————-

    Sums it up for me.

    Don’t know when this will happen. But barring dumb and undeserved luck, sightings will lead us to whatever-this-is.

  65. mystery_man responds:

    Wow, DWA, nice little excerpt! May end up quoting that at some point if you don’t mind!

  66. DWA responds:

    Hey, mystery_man, I quoted it, and it ain’t mine!

    I’d say “feel free,” but remember we now have Matt Moneymaker to contend with. He may come out with an edict that if you don’t swear to the authenticity of the KY Pancake House video, you can use nothing from the site, even with attribution.

    So, instead I’ll say….use it while you can! :-D

  67. Benjamin Radford responds:

    Finally DWA admits that he agrees with me!

    He states that the passage, which includes:

    “Sighting reports by themselves are not scientific evidence…”

    “sums it up for him”

    Excellent. Glad he finally came around to reality.

    The rest of the quote is “but they are what leads us to the scientific evidence.”

    This is of course where Bigfoot sightings have clearly failed, as they have NOT led to scientific evidence.

  68. DWA responds:

    [sigh]

    Some people, you just wonder when they’re gonna sniff the coffee. I’ve been with the reality camp forever now. I have faith Ben will join us someday.

    But he cherrypicks, yet again, taking what he agrees with and disregarding the rest. Which of course you can’t do in science. You have to deal with all of it.

    Ben should know that Realityville, from the scientific perspective, rests in understanding that THE WHOLE PARAGRAPH APPLIES.

    Bigfoot sightings haven’t “failed.” (How does that happen? People fail, not sightings.) Indeed, they lead the way, if science would just follow.

    Which science may not because of another cool quote: “Science is not about the search for evidence. Science is about the search for funding.”

    That the money isn’t flowing that way yet doesn’t make the animal any less likely. The research? Well, yeah.

  69. DWA responds:

    And I should point out here that Ben continues to make the critical logical error of presuming that our inability to clear our schedules to look for an animal – an animal that thousands of people are stumbling across in the simple act of living their lives – means it doesn’t exist.

    Along with the critical error of not understanding the scientific method.

    But I’m sure now we’ll see another argument-from-authority post. Why, you can even hold your breath for it. ;-)

  70. DWA responds:

    Oh.

    I see what the problem is.

    Ben really DOES cherrypick, doesn’t he.

    He says this:

    —————————————–

    Finally DWA admits that he agrees with me!

    He states that the passage, which includes:

    “Sighting reports by themselves are not scientific evidence…”

    “sums it up for him”

    Excellent. Glad he finally came around to reality.

    ———————————-

    On what point have I been in more consistent agreement with, I hope, everyone here, than on that point? Shoot. I PIONEERED that point.

    Of COURSE sightings are not scientific evidence, Ben. Now read the REST of the paragraph! :-D

    And reading my posts is an indispensible aid to anyone who wishes to be carved up by m…sorry, to ARGUE with me.

    I know Ben keeps hoping a sas will spend the night in some hillbilly’s truck and relieve him of the need to do any work. But we skeptics, we like to look at that evidence.

    And DO something with it.

  71. DWA responds:

    Remember this thread?

    Remember my assertion that, essentially, science is sightings, backed by degrees?

    At least a couple people seem to agree. Read this.

  72. DWA responds:

    And if you continue to pick your way through the pages at that link, you find this:

    ——————————————

    Indians from the Columbia River region of the north-western United States produced rock carvings that resembled the heads of apes. Anthropologist Grover Krantz (1982, p. 97) showed photographs of the heads to a number of scientists and noted: “Zoologists who did not know their source unanimously declared them to be representative of nonhuman, higher primates; those who knew the source insisted they must be something else!” Whatever the carvings may actually represent, Krantz’s findings are significant. Preconceptions seem to determine what scientists are prepared to see, and one thing most scientists are definitely not prepared to see is apelike creatures in the American Northwest.

    ———————–

    Science is objective. But sometimes scientists aren’t.



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