Sasquatch Coffee


Science and the Sasquatch

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on January 26th, 2007

The First Perspective, a First Nation newspaper out of Manitoba published a nice bi-monthly Bigfoot article series entitled Bigfoot Buzz.

Go here to read the article archives on their website.

This month’s article is a timely one, entitled Science’s Attitude Towards the Sasquatch.

January 24, 2007 – with Terence Sakohianisaks Douglas
The First Perspective (National Aboriginal News)
Brokenhead First Nation, Scanterbury, Manitoba.Bigfoot Buzz

Recently in the media, a particular academic at a university in the United States has been called to task by many of his peers for his support of a Sasquatch event that was held at the university. Indeed, many of the comments from his peers were pretty disparaging to sat the least. The gist of their comments was that the investigation of the Sasquatch was not a topic for “serious” science, and any scientist who did such an activity was not a scientist at all but a quack. I have always been bothered by this attitude of most academics and scientists, as from my point of view, it seems to be in opposition to what their professions are all about, namely the searching for facts within the natural world to produce useful models of reality.

Briefly Speaking, How Science Works

At its core, science refers to any system of objective knowledge, yet in a more restricted sense, science refers to a system of acquiring knowledge based on the scientific method, as well as to the organized body of knowledge humans have gained by such research. The scientific method is a unified process used by scientists to find solutions to problems. The main characteristic of the scientific method is that it attempts to minimize the influence of a scientist’s bias on the outcome of an experiment. Such unbiased experiments can be achieved by correct experimental design, and thorough peer review of experimental design as well as conclusions of a study.

It must be noted that scientists never claim absolute knowledge. Unlike in say mathematics, a proven scientific theory is always open to falsification, if new evidence is presented. This is an important characteristic of science; even the most basic and fundamental theories can turn out to be imperfect if new observations are inconsistent with them. Accordingly, it is critical that every relevant aspect of research be made publicly available. Such availability permits peer review of published results, and allows ongoing review and repeating of experiments and observations by other researchers operating independently of one another. By following these procedures it is possible to determine how reliable the experimental results are for potential use by others. This is, briefly speaking, how science works.

Science and the Sasquatch

To say that science has not been kind to the Sasquatch is an understatement. Generally, most evidence of the existence of the Sasquatch that has been presented to various universities, colleges and other similar institutions for scientific examination has been scoffed at when initially presented. Such reaction most certainly presents evidence for a bias towards such evidence, which in my opinion, contaminates the whole scientific method as described above.

However, when a scientist that is open to the possibility of the Sasquatch, they are ridiculed to the point where their “fitness” to be in the “scientific club” is questioned. It is odd that those scientists and academics who theoretically should be standing by the principles of science, particularly that of unbiased investigation, would deride a colleague for exercising such unbiased investigation into a possible phenomena within the natural world.

If the attitude of those scientists and academics noted above towards the Sasquatch were applied to other areas, then there would be not addition to the knowledge we have of the natural world. Indeed such an attitude has affected the addition of knowledge in the acceptance of other animals within the natural world. The mountain gorilla? It cannot exist, said the scientific community at the turn of the last century, so it does not exist. The duck-billed platypus? Totally preposterous, scientists had said in the 1700′s, that is ridiculous. The coelacanth? Extinct for millions of years, it cannot possible exist in the present. However, all of the naysayers in the scientific community were proven wrong in the end.

Of course it can be argued that he acceptance of these animals was a result of a specimen of each being brought in to be examined by scientists. Touché. However, in order for a Sasquatch specimen to be brought in for examination, I believe there must be within the scientific community a general acceptance of the possibility that the Sasquatch may exist. A first step must be made some scientists to accept as real the possibility of these creatures. Thankfully there are a few scientists that have taken this bold step and kept true to the principles of science to entertain the possibility of the Sasquatch. Hopefully in the years to come this will translate into more a general acceptance of the Sasquatch within the generally population, and an increase of reports and evidence that will aid in the Sasquatch being accepted as an animal within the natural world.Terence Sakohianisaks Douglas

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.


82 Responses to “Science and the Sasquatch”

  1. skeptik responds:

    It’s always fun to hear how people talk about science in awe. Or despise.

    Just like any other church.

    Science is an activity, and if you cannot convince the community by use of indicators (evidence) that they do not lead straight to another conclusion than yours (Occam), you are rejected.

    But being rejected does not make what you are advocating (which is what you are doing) untrue.

    Einstein wasn’t wholly accepted until 1914 (or something) when his “prediction” concerning the bending of the light from a certain star was confirmed by “untainted” observers from the scientific community.

    Understanding science as a social activity explains why indicators are mostly interpreted within the accepted truths of its actual belief-system (horizon, cognitive/social network etc).

    But it’s still (just) an activity. Like banging rocks together.

    If bigfoot exists, I hold that it exists with or without the acceptance of any community.

  2. swnoel responds:

    “If the attitude of those scientists and academics noted above towards the Sasquatch were applied to other areas, then there would be not addition to the knowledge we have of the natural world. Indeed such an attitude has affected the addition of knowledge in the acceptance of other animals within the natural world. The mountain gorilla? It cannot exist, said the scientific community at the turn of the last century, so it does not exist. The duck-billed platypus? Totally preposterous, scientists had said in the 1700’s, that is ridiculous. The coelacanth? Extinct for millions of years, it cannot possible exist in the present. However, all of the naysayers in the scientific community were proven wrong in the end.”

    The difference is they have a specimen of all these animals.

    To equate our technological ability to research and gather data today, with our ability just 30 years ago is a joke.

    We’re talking about a proposed 8 foot 600 pound animal, not a small 8 oz. primate hidden in a dense jungle in Brazil or Madagascar or a fish dwelling in the depths of the Pacific Ocean.

    Even at that, these animals are being found and documented, where’s BF?

    Sure we have tracks, if that’s what they are. Where’s the specimen?

    Until science has an actual specimen to study, this enigma will be just that.

  3. kittenz responds:

    It’s true that if Bigfoot exists, it exists, and the belief or disbelief of any given person or community does not alter that reality.

    The fact is that Bigfoot DOES exist – or at least SOMETHING exists that people have seen and perceived to be Bigfoot.

    The only way to find out for sure just what exactly Bigfoot are, whether or not they are New World giant primates, is through objective research and investigation. No matter whether one is inclined to believe that giant shaggy primates do exist here, or that they do not, closing the mind to the possibility of their existence will not resolve the question:

    What kind of animal(s) are people seeing?

  4. Ceroill responds:

    Interesting article. Thanks for showing it to us, Craig.

  5. mystery_man responds:

    Objective research is key. It does not help the image of sasquatch researchers when people go out and make bold assumptions or jump to conclusions like how some twisted branches must be the work of Bigfoot. Swoel, the author even mentioned that you could argue that there have been bodies for all the mentioned species, but “in order for a Sasquatch specimen to be brought in for examination, I believe there must be within the scientific community a general acceptance of the possibility that the Sasquatch may exist.” If no one is seriously out putting scientific methods to bear on this with proper funding, then how is that body, if there is one, going to be found? Skeptic said that we should be should hold to its existence with or without the acceptance of the scientific community but I tend to disagree. It is not about whether we care that they believe us or not. Right now the people who do actual field research are doing it as a side endeavor and are more than likely paying out of their own pocket. In order for any kind of real funding to be put into the research, I think it is integral that we have the acceptance of the scientific community. If investigating sasquatch was seen to be viable research, there would be more rescourses brought to bear on finding out what is going on. In that sense, I feel it is very important that the scientific community pay more consideration to the possibility of Bigfoot.

  6. Pete.Wilson responds:

    It’s a shame that bigfoot can’t get the respect and interest of science even on par with the ivory-billed woodpecker. There are many similarities between the two. Of course, there is the pride factor, science never likes to admit their wrong.

  7. DWA responds:

    Swoel: mystery_man pretty much wrote what I was going to.

    Science LOOKS for teeny little primates in tropical rainforests, because science EXPECTS teeny little primates in tropical rainforests.

    If a Bigfoot convention — of actual sasquatch — were held on the campus of a major American university, I’m not sure the public would ever find out!

    One thing about science I’ve seen proven over and over. If it doesn’t want to see you …you don’t exist.

    Great article. Glad we got to see it.

  8. DWA responds:

    skeptik:

    “If bigfoot exists, I hold that it exists with or without the acceptance of any community.”

    Exactly.

    It gets kind of funny to see skeptics continually arguing that our incompetence in the search — or unwillingness to search — means something doesn’t exist.

  9. alanborky responds:

    My favourite skeptical pronouncement is Carl Sagan’s, “Extraordinary claims, require extraordinary proof,” which, to me, is the biggest Freudian slip going, because it betray ‘normal’ scientific investigations are subject to paltry requirements for acceptance, so long as they fit the expected picture, (hence the literally hundreds upon hundreds of scientific papers I read in many fields while at university where I was shocked to find it was perfectly acceptable to record, “40% of samples where spoiled”, meaning, “gave results contrary to expectations,” as I got to personally witness at two different and unrelated universities in a variety of different and unrelated departments).

  10. joppa responds:

    If Bigfoot exist as a natural creature (I’ll leave paranormal Bigfoots to themselves and their friends), then the creature must conform to basic scientific and natural principles. If it is a mammal, it has certain biological requirements common to all mammals. It must eat to maintain a core body temperature. It must breed, or be extinguished from the animal kingdom. It must have a stable population size (although I don’t think that a very large one is required for continued existence) or else it will be genetically diminished in short order. I could go on.

    All in all, the science of Bigfoot study has some requirements that must be met in order for the scientific community to recognize the possibility of its existence. Can the Pacific Northwest support a population of large forest primates? Maybe. Can Long Island, New York, or Madisonville, Tennessee?
    Doubtful.

    Before we bash mainstream science for dismissing Bigfoot, quit dismissing the science which explains how and where a Bigfoot can exist.

  11. DWA responds:

    joppa: We don’t want to dismiss science at all. Hey, we need their help here.

    I don’t think, though, that science could meet any of the requirements you specify, before the animal is even discovered. Read up and find out how much is known about the requirements you list for the brand-new species of Peruvian cloud rat. You won’t find them. But that sucker is in the inventory. You have to get a body before anyone will devote the effort to find the rest. For the rat, they got the body. Now the rest can follow.

    Food is a frequent issue; many biologists wonder what this guy could find to eat. Robert Michael Pyle, a Ph.D in ecology from Yale, in his book “Where Bigfoot Walks: Crossing the Dark Divide,” which I highly recommend, discusses this. He concludes, in part:

    —————

    Some biologists have doubted the ability of the backcountry to nourish such a big, active animal. …Such people are probably not foragers. …Several primary plant converters, from Roosevelt elk to mountain goat, attain prodigious size in these hills. [Yes, this is the Pacific NW. But most of the East is, actually, much richer habitat. - DWA] Throw in a little red meat, fish, and insects, and bears are possible. Yet the resources are scarcely exhausted in most years. …As I was to find in the coming weeks, the amount of nutritious material in the wilderness is greater than most people begin to imagine, and most of it is composted uneaten.

    ———————————–

    It’s hard to dismiss science that isn’t being applied. But this isn’t the only place where the frequent assumption that a big primate can’t survive on the forage of the temperate regions is compellingly disputed. Bigfoot actually has more food options than any other critter out there, bear included, if what has been gathered from sighting reports is indeed true. (Such as killing fully grown healthy deer, elk and wild boar, something that a bear will rarely if ever attempt. Or bringing those apples within reach by applying force to the tree — with hands — that a bear can’t.)

    Sighting reports are, yep, not proof. But only a concerted search will yield that. And sighting reports seem to be taking in many of the requirements you’re talking about. (Including, heh heh, that one.)

  12. joppa responds:

    DWA: I couldn’t agree more; the Southeast could support hundreds of Bigfoots, but I don’t think that there is a historical native population. I reserve judgement for immigrants; if Rocky Mountain catamounts can extend their range from Colorado to Illinois, and coyotes and armadillos can make it to Virginia Beach, why can’t a intelligent group of Sasquatch meander across the land.

    The problem is that both sides of the argument misunderstand what is possible for Sasquatch to exist. If an area can support a bear population it can surely support a more intelligent opportunistic omnivore. However, just because we have deer as thick as rabbits, doesn’t mean there are scores of Sasquatch chasing them down.

    Besides you can live a lot longer by eating bugs than wasting all your energy chasing down a deer. I’m just glad we are not on the menu – yet.

  13. things-in-the-woods responds:

    While I agree it is frustrating that many mainstream scientists do dismiss even the possibility of bigfoot, I don’t think we should be too hard on them.

    From an objective standpoint the evidence that we have is rather weak (clearly people who have seen bigfoot have rather stronger evidence, but we are talking about how that testimony looks to people who haven’t had those experiences themselves), and, as Joppa correctly says, the reasons for at least be skeptical are rather strong.

    And while we might be correct in saying that mainstream scientists actually dismiss bigfoot out of some personal prejudice or bias, regardless of the evidence, I think we must also admit that for most of us cryptos our willingness to believe, or even to allow the possibility, is in part down to our own prejudices and bias.

    In my case it is because it appeals to some romantic strain in me, and because as someone who has a professional interest in hominid evolution, the possibility of being able to study at first hand a living or even a recent corpse of a new primate and perhaps even a ‘missing link’, is just too juicy a prize not to dream of.

    In any case the fact that they are so dismissive should just give us all the more reason to get out there and get some better, more conclusive, evidence.

  14. things-in-the-woods responds:

    Incidentally, saying that I would relish having a chance to study a bigfoot corpse doesn’t mean that I’m in the ‘wanted, dead or alive camp’- killing a bigfoot would be equivalent at least to killing a chimp or a gorilla (if not a human), and that, in my opinion is totally immoral.

  15. mystery_man responds:

    It is definitely the case that a lot of cryptos are biased towards the existence of Bigfoot just as scientists are against. I think bias either way is going to be counterproductive to finding out what is going on. Objectivity is paramount and the article explains very well this concept. I feel there has to be a willingness on the part of scientists to accept the possibility of the existence of Bigfoot and at the same time, there has to be a willingness on the part of believers to accept that Bigfoot may not exist. There is compelling evidence for Bigfoot and there is compelling against Bigfoot, so there has to be a willingness to sift through all information available whether it pertains to one’s own personal view or not. I read just as much skeptical literature as I do books by active Bigfoot researchers, and I take it all in. I feel that is a key thing to keep in mind when approaching this subject, the ability to be objective and see the phenomena from all angles, not just the one that is what you want or that fits into any preconceived mold.

  16. DWA responds:

    There is, as we’re saying, bias on both sides of the question. The difference is that the bias of sas proponents is simply backed by a lot more evidence.

    We’re just not comfortable with saying the above, because we for some reason have this societal presumption –comparable to the old one about the flatness of the earth and its centrality to the universe — that the sas can’t exist.

    Jumping from the evidence to the conclusion that it does is bad science, for sure. Societal confirmation counts. But presuming there’s no evidence worth following up on is even worse science — none.

    The only reasonable way the two sides of the question can come to a middle ground on which both agree — which if the animal isn’t discovered may never happen — is to look at the evidence, and either debunk it or follow it to a conclusion.

  17. things-in-the-woods responds:

    well said mystery_man.

    However, what I guess I was trying to say is that if I adopted an entirely objective approach I would have to admit that there was probably no very compelling reason to accept the existence of sasquatch. I think the balance of argument would tip quite heavily against the possibility of sasquatch, and as such it would not be such an outrage that people would be dismissive.

    And so, in that light I don’t think it is necessarily too bad a thing to have somewhat of an illogical bias (e.g. a desire for it to be true), because, in my case, it keeps me heading after those little glimmers of light when otherwise I might just have given up and gone and something more productive.

    In theory ‘science’ should always be open to new data, and all theories must be contingent. In the real world of actually doing science, scientists generally and quite understandably, tend to devote their time and resources to those projects they feel have at least a reasonable chance of success. Being totally objective, the quest to prove bigfoots existence is not such an endeavour.

    So I suppose what I am saying is that of course we should look at all evidence objectively, but we mustn’t get quite so angry that scientists ignore us (although they needn’t be quite so mean- we don’t do any harm!), and we should accept that we also have biases and that needn’t be too bad a thing either as long as they don’t completely blind us.

  18. mystery_man responds:

    Things-in-the-woods, those are very good points and I agree. Of course people are going to have a desire for a certain outcome, that is the whole point of doing an experiment to begin with, to see if a theory is valid. And I suppose a certain theory could be said to be a bias of sorts. It is when the evidence that is presented is viewed through the cracked lens of bias that we lose the efficiency of our methods. A skeptic will take evidence and possibly disregard it when it might be important whereas a hardcore believer will take broken trees or a depression in the ground and proclaim that as evidence for Bigfoot. Either way is not constructive. Sometimes I feel it’s like both sides are trying to stick square pegs into round holes, twisting the evidence to fit into a preformed theory. I think it is normal to have a desire for a certain outcome, I certainly know I hope Bigfoot is real, but we should not let that taint the evidence presented. It should be viewed from both sides and hopefully, it will be what we are looking for. But in the end, I feel we have to be willing to accept that we could be wrong and that evidence may not be what we want it to be. Although the evidence for Bigfoot is scant as far as science is concerned, there are some things that I would thing would be compelling for scientists to at least look into.

  19. Mnynames responds:

    First off, I think we need to separate the concept of Science from the institution of Science. There is nothing wrong with the former, but the latter, being a human activity, is necessarily flawed.

    The institution of Science is well, only human, and thus subject to the same mistakes and irrational states of being as anybody else, even if its framework tries to filter them out as much as possible. I think one problem is that it is natural for scientists to associate or equate themselves with the concept of science as opposed to the institution of science, therefore the tendency is to think that if the Scientific Method is unbiased, so must they be.

    As for the carrying capacity of North American wilderness for a large bipedal primate, I think it is worth noting that, best guess, there were 100 million Native Americans in North America around 1500 or so, and they were all living off of the land, albeit with the benefits of some agriculture.

    Another possibility is that Sasquatch are nomadic or migratory, which changes the equation somewhat.

  20. DWA responds:

    Well, I sure don’t want to be too hard on science. It’s got its mitts on too much stuff important to all of us for that.

    I do notice a scientific bent toward saying there’s just no, or no good, evidence for the animal. As recently as the September edition of Scientific American, the author took out a sidebar in his article about the possible dispersion of pre-human species of apes across the Old World to discuss the sasquatch. He said that, while everyone he knows in his field would love for the animal to exist, the lack of evidence makes it highly unlikely.

    Of course he doesn’t discuss the volume of sighting reports or trackways, or their consistency across space and time. In fact he doesn’t discuss them at all. And he’s one of a long parade who call the P/G film something it isn’t: fuzzy.

    Why can’t you just say that there’s a lot of evidence, but it still needs followup by appropriate resources to a conclusion?

  21. Benjamin Radford responds:

    Interesting article, too bad it didn’t really ask the real question: “Where is the science in the search for Bigfoot?”

    Where, exactly is the science?

    Is Jeff Meldrum’s analysis about anatomy (based on a FILM) good science?

    Is Fahrenbach’s Bigfoot analysis good science?

    Is the BFRO’s Skookum cast analysis good science?

    If so, by what criteria? I challenge anyone to show me how any of the above (which are among the most touted examples of science being applied to Bigfoot) are good science. Pick a widely-accepted list of criteria for the scientific method and see how the above research measures up– or doesn’t.

  22. DWA responds:

    Ben Radford asked: Where, exactly is the science?

    Lots of places. Unfortunately, they’re all on the proponent side. I’m still waiting for the first skeptical analysis that proposes a coherent fake/misidentification scenario that explains a significant minority of the evidence, to say nothing of all of it. (Saying it can be faked is stating the obvious. When you have an unknown animal, there is no “real” yet.)

    Ben Radford asked: Is Jeff Meldrum’s analysis about anatomy (based on a FILM) good science?

    Sure. When there is no “real” (yet), science does what it always does in the face of the unknown: analyze what’s available in the form of evidence. One thing the P/G film is NOT is “fuzzy.” That is one analyzable piece of film. Not debunked yet; and something that clear, having 40 years behind it, should have been, by now, don’t you think? Unless of course the skeptics aren’t doing their job. With which, I’d concur, if it’s that flimsy a piece of evidence. Waiting until the other side produces evidence, and then sniping at it from a position of incredulity (what is so incredible about this animal?), and offering no coherent counterargument, smacks of intellectual laziness. One has to be smart to be a skeptic. Not so, a cynic.

    Ben Radford asked: Is Fahrenbach’s Bigfoot analysis good science?

    Again, sure. Visual evidence is evidence, and the survival of most of us through the events of our busy days suggest it’s pretty good evidence. What F.’s analysis shows is the remarkable consistency of sighting reports across space and time. We already know more about the sas than about many species confirmed by science. We just need that body. (And like any true skeptic, I’m withholding final judgment until either we see that body, or until evidence comes forward that all of this is fake or misperception. I’m not holding my breath on the latter; it’s been forty years now. Whales can’t hold it that long.

    Ben Radford asked: Is the BFRO’s Skookum cast analysis good science?

    Absolutely. Have skeptics debunked it? And of COURSE that’s their job. What is skepticism otherwise, but cynicism?

    Ben Radford asked: If so, by what criteria? I challenge anyone to show me how any of the above (which are among the most touted examples of science being applied to Bigfoot) are good science. Pick a widely-accepted list of criteria for the scientific method and see how the above research measures up– or doesn’t.

    Done. (And I’m not falling for that “pick a widely-accepted list” dodge, which just says, as we’ve seen here: pick a list I will accept.) By the standards in the above article — which if you don’t accept, I’m not sure I can call you a scientist — proponents, read, skeptics, are analyzing the evidence. Like good skeptics everywhere, they mistrust conclusions and are comparing observations and evidence with what they know, and using the scientific techniques at their disposal.

    BAD science is saying that you can’t evaluate any of the evidence scientifically. The sas, if it exists, is an animal. Which means?

    SURE you can.

    Another example of BAD science: clinging to a belief that something doesn’t exist, CAN’T exist, in the face of all the evidence to the contrary. Actually, that’s not bad science. That’s religion. Skepticism is not a religion.

  23. DWA responds:

    Oh, BTW, Ben, I’ve read and critiqued “Bigfoot at 50.” Big barrel, but with many fish.

    But you can read it all right here on this site. ;-)

  24. DWA responds:

    Oh. Mnynames. Good post.

  25. DWA responds:

    And since I can’t resist, two things:

    1. I’d forgotten that Daegling and Schmitt performed science — of a sort — on the same film Meldrum did. If they were so sure it was fake, why did they go to all that trouble? I think Ben may be cherrypicking here.

    (Actually, I’m through talking about tracks. Let Meldrum’s book be the last word, which of course it is. He has proven all he can, in fact all that’s worthwhile that anyone can, prior to a real animal being confirmed: than an uncatalogued bipedal ape is a plausible maker of the tracks. Without a body he can prove no more than that.)

    2. A theory, just a theory. You don’t think that Bigfoot remains have been discovered? No bones, no body, nothing?

    You know who spends more time in the woods, in more remote segments of the woods, in greater numbers than anyone else? Right. Foresters. Loggers. Miners. Hunters. The first three much more than the last, but all four have something potentially to lose if this animal is discovered. You don’t think that the Forest Service or one of its timber-slashing lackeys — or is that the other way around? — wouldn’t order a shovel-and-shut up in such a case? I’d actually be astounded if that’s never happened, although unless someone blatts, there’s no way of knowing. Come to think of it, I’m astounded that this is the first time I’ve read of anyone discussing this possibility — not in terms of a what-if, but in terms of a what-already-has. Given the rarity of the animal, I think that’s a plausible scenario. Heh heh, I wonder how many forest fires might have started as misguided ways to cover up evidience?

    At least it’s much more plausible, anyway, than the skeptics’ implicit postulation of the hoaxer equivalent of NASA and Universal Studios, combined into one. There’s a really really good reason for someone to do what I’m suggesting. A comprehensive hoax, of the magnitude required to account for all the evidence? Don’t think so.

  26. things-in-the-woods responds:

    Hi Radford,
    It’s always good to see you here. I do, however, have some questions with regards to your last post. You ask ‘where is the science in the search for sasquatch?’. Presumably you meant ‘where is the science in the search for sasquatch that supports the the hypothesis that sasquatch is a real?’ I can certainly think of many instances of claimed evidence being submitted to scientific techniques (e.g. morphological and DNA testing of claimed bigfoot hairs). Now you can question whether these were good science (i.e. were results obtained from more than one testing site, etc.), but, given that none of these tests has ever produced anything more positive than being unknown, and most of them have been negative (i.e. of known animals) to dispute that it was good science would seem only to dismiss this negative evidence against sasquatch. I realise, of course, that even if this is what you are claiming it cannot thereby be seen as positive evidence for sasquatch, but it would at least leave the question completely open with regards to those particular pieces of evidence.

    My other question is just what kinds of science you want, and reasonably expect could be carried out in this case?

    It seems to me the kinds of science that one can do in the context of trying to prove the existence of a putative animal is somewhat limited. The evidence that is claimed is, in the main, footprints, hairs, feces and such like, and reported sightings, and a couple of videos. One can test the hair and the feces, as has been done (with, as i say, negative or at best inconclusive results). One can analyze videos to address questions of morphology, gait and so on (and at the most basic level whether or not you can see the zipper- as is done here regularly and mercilessly), which has again been done, with conflicting conclusions as to its plausibility. Again one can suggest that this was bad science, carried out with a bad methodology (although what one can’t do, as you seem to do, is dismiss such analysis per se as unscientific- studying gait and morphology from video is a standard procedure in many fields of the biological sciences, especially where one does not have an in-the-flesh specimen).

    With footprints and sightings doing science becomes much harder. Footprints you can record and assess morphologically to see if they are of any known animal, and if not, how biologically feasible they might be. Again that has been done. Otherwise one can check for obvious signs of hoaxing and interview those who claim the sighting. That isn’t going to be terribly scientific, but then, other than ruling out that they are mentally disturbed in some way, its hard to see how it could be. But that doesn’t mean it is useless. Interviewing is an accepted methodology in the social and psychological ‘sciences’ (whether it is done with required rigour and checks in place, is of course questionable).

    Other types of scientific methodology that could be (and have been) carried out might be, given the claimed characteristics of the creature, modelling various aspects of its biological and environmental feasibility.

    Other than this, I can’t think what kind of scientific methods you think could be applied. At the heart of the physical sciences of course, is repeatable experiment, with controlable variables and repeated conformation of results. In the context we are discussing these just aren’t feasible options (other than in the theoretical sense of creating models and testing them against what evidence we do have). But then again these are also not feasible options in many other fields of endevour. Archeology and primatology immediately spring to mind. The idea that Jane Goodall was not doing science, or even that she was not doing good science, when she was collecting what, at the time, were dismissed as anecdotal field reports, is incredibly outmoded. Equally, when we do archeology, in most cases we, by definition, do not have the possibility of repeatable experiments with controlled variables. Rather, we must just collect data and try and test it, in a one-time, but modifiable way against hypotheses.

    Anyway this is getting far to long and rambly, but basically, you can’t claim that no science is being carried out in this field, and secondly, the position we are in means that what we do must be considered much more akin to field science rather than lab science, the soft physical sciences rather than the hard physical sciences, and perhaps, even more to the historical or social sciences at least in the methodologies available to us.

    Having said all that, DWA; when you say “There is, as we’re saying, bias on both sides of the question. The difference is that the bias of sas proponents is simply backed by a lot more evidence”, the fact is those who argue that sas doesn’t exist don’t need any evidence on their side. Their argument isn’t and needn’t be based on evidence, but rather only on lack of evidence. The default hypothesis must be that sas doesn’t exist, and as such it is up to us to provide the evidence to the contrary.

    As yet I don’t think we have.

  27. DWA responds:

    Things-in-the-woods: good post. Coming from a skeptic, that’s a compliment.

    I think that when you are arguing that the sas doesn’t exist, you by definition have no argument. You can’t argue to a general negative; you can’t prove the non-existence of something. You can therefore provide no evidence of non-existence, because evidence must point to the existence of something. The hypothesis can only be from a positive, and is based on the evidence, thus: North America is home to an unlisted species of giant primate. THAT is the testable hypothesis.

    The skeptic arguing the “nonexistence” side can only be arguing one thing: that the evidence, and there is lots of it, is all hoax, lie or mis-identification, positives which can at least theoretically be proven. If you can offer no evidence of these things, you have a weak argument, which is essentially hinging on a BELIEF: “no way!”

    You can’t base an argument on lack of evidence. Not when the other side has so much. Actually, you can’t, period. You need to refute the other side’s evidence.

    And of course, unless we get that proof, all of this is just talk. But until we make a generally-accepted concerted effort to get that proof, the hypothesis remains untested.

    I most certainly think, though, that skeptics are only skeptics if they challenge conclusions. One cannot conclude — and the skeptical negatives are right on this — that the animal exists. There is nothing that can serve as proof now, or even an indicator of probability. But just like the proponents who go too far in being conclusive about non-conclusive evidence, too many skeptics jump to the conclusion that the animal is not likely to exist — without addressing the evidence that it might well.

    That is not skepticism. It’s belief. I think we all need to be on guard against belief as a conclusion, which of course it can’t be.

  28. Mnynames responds:

    This may be straying slightly, but…

    I know that several analyses of BF reports have been made, and that these generally show patterns of habitation that match closely what one would expect the requirements of a large, bipedal primate to be (Ie., sightings are clustered around suitable habitat with ample water and food provisions). Several have also shown a possible migratory pattern when looked at sequentially.

    My question is this- Has anyone attempted this analysis on any other cryptids?

    Another question would be if anyone has done this for reports of a more unlikely nature, say of Dragons or Satyrs? If someone were to do an analysis of Centaur reports and found corresponding evidence of behavioral patterns (Migration) or commonality of habitat matched with the requirements necessary to sustain such a creature, well, that would go a long way to debunking BF. If the analysis showed NONE of those things however, that is further evidence that BF researchers may be onto something…

    To put it another way, if you can find such order in what is almost certainly random data, such statistical analyses become irrelevant. But if you can’t, that makes the analyses that have been done that DO show such things quite statistically meaningful.

  29. Benjamin Radford responds:

    DWA claims that the Bigfoot analyses I asked about were in fact good science but oddly never gets around to answering my question: “By what criteria are these good science?”

    It’s simply “because I said it is,” which is of course not an argument, nor good science. Since DWA can’t or won’t answer the question, can anyone else pick an accepted list of the hallmarks of good science and show me how these various analyses stack up?

    anybody?

    hello?

  30. things-in-the-woods responds:

    yep DWA, i guess you are right- one can’t prove the hypothesis of non-existence- what i was trying, in a rather confused way, to say is that to be skeptical one doesn’t have to prove non-existence, only- as you say- that the evidence for is unconvincing.

    And Mnynames- i think that’s a very good point- and, in the context of this discussion, a good example of how we might go about testing (in some sense) our hypotheses. I do fear that in fact we probably could pull almost any pattern out of the data sets if we wanted to- especially given the potential sampling bias engendered by the fact of the subjective decisions as to which sightings to count as genuine or strong and those to regard as mistakes or hoaxes.
    still, i agree it would be interesting for someone to do if they had the time.

    And mr radford- there is sniff of arrogance about demanding answers to your questions in such a manner, while at the same time completely failing to respond to those asked of you…

  31. DWA responds:

    “And mr radford- there is sniff of arrogance about demanding answers to your questions in such a manner, while at the same time completely failing to respond to those asked of you…”

    Not sure I could have said it better, things-in-the-woods. Thanks.

    But of course I did respond. I said, Ben, that article right up there says what good science is. Those are the criteria.

    I’ve seen this before, as I said. Give me a list, then I’ll tell you why this that and the other aren’t right, because I’ve wirtten a book on it. Ben: that article up there is by somebody who has at least read the right books.

    No more red herrings. You know the weight of the evidence for this animal. It’s the reason we’re still here 40 years after Patty. Now, for the first time, hazard an answer to my question, because I’ve answered yours.

    Give me a plausible scenario for everything out there — even ten percent of it — being bad evidence. Your serve. Time for the “Professional” test. Those of you who actually read my posts know exactly what I am talking about.

    Mnynames: when I read dragons and satyrs, I went uh-oh. But another good post, my man! And yet another point that both sides of this debate need to address. The sasquatch evidence shows the classic picture of a mammal species conforming to conventional requirements. Is it in fact doing that?

  32. DWA responds:

    Wow, Ben. Just re-read my response to you.

    Not sure it’s conceivably possible for you to get a better-informed, more concise, more head-on, DIRECT response.

    We certainly DO have a “Professional” test going on. I promise, I’m not rubbing my hands.

  33. things-in-the-woods responds:

    just another thought on what Mnynames bought up- we also have the problem of a self-fulfilling hypothesis here. What i mean is that we form a model as to what this beast should be doing (e.g. where it should be living, etc) based on the characteristics we propose it has. And then we test this against the evidence we have. The only problem is that the evidence we have has been selected from among a wider set of claimed data perhaps at least partially on the grounds that the evidence fits the model.

    That is, we have all these claimed sightings and we sift through them to see which we consider likely or unlikely, and discount those that seem very unlikely, but how we judge them unlikely is at least partly on the basis of what our model has predicted. So, for instance, we get reports of sas in suburban areas, or areas of intensive agriculture, and so on, but we discount them precisely because we think the animal for whom we have produced a behavioural and ecological model should not be in those areas (although, of course, we do often rule them out for other good reasons).

    In ruling them out in such a way we are only making sure that our model is insulated from contradictory data- a classic case of accomodating a theory to all possible data. However, if we accept those sightings then we have evidence that suggests that the animal is not conforming to the model.

    this is just a thought- i’m not saying we are doing this, or that its an insurmountable problem, but i think its one we should be aware of.

  34. DWA responds:

    Well, actually, things-in-the-woods, this may relate to what I consider one of the biggest problems — actually, maybe the biggest — with the search for the sasquatch.

    That problem is the apparent base presumption that this critter is just too fantastic to exist. So any piece of evidence for it — even a film that shows the animal so clearly that if it were a bear, we’d know what species and if it were undiscovered, we’d have found it by 1969 — is presumed to be fake.

    The giant squid is more fantastic than the sas. Heck, pick any whale. Pick bats. Where did they come from? (They’re more closely related to primates than to mice, just thought I’d toss that in.) I know I know: we have proof for these critters. But remember that part of the “proof” of the upward size limit for the giant squid was circular marks on the hikes of sperm whales. Shoot, that’s evidence?

    The base premise has all of us but a few dedicated amateurs on occasional weekends looking at 50-year-old footprints, 40-year-old film, and our navels, rather than in the field, for the animal.

    I don’t think it’s necessarily a leap of faith for science to run with what it has and do intensive field research. We really have all the evidence we need, except for the findings of such a search.

  35. Benjamin Radford responds:

    And mr radford- there is sniff of arrogance about demanding answers to your questions in such a manner, while at the same time completely failing to respond to those asked of you…

    Sorry, I’m quite busy and didn’t have a chance to get to it. I’ll attempt a quick answer while I wait for DWA or anyone else to find a list of hallmarks of good science and explain how the studies I cite are good science. DWA seems content to refer me to the description above, as if that answers the question I have been asking all along. Simply referring me to a general description of science DOES NOT answer the question…

    I can certainly think of many instances of claimed evidence being submitted to scientific techniques (e.g. morphological and DNA testing of claimed bigfoot hairs).

    I agree with this. There is good science in the search for Bigfoot, sadly there’s precious little of it. I can think of several examples, most of them involving DNA analysis (such as the Manitoba bison), that are good science. Now compare that with the research by Fahrenbach and tell me where the science is.

    At the heart of the physical sciences of course, is repeatable experiment, with controlable variables and repeated conformation of results.

    You have very insightfully pointed out why so much of the research is not good science. It is rarely testable or repeatable. There is little or no peer review. The scientists do not fully consider alternative explanations. And so on.

    In the context we are discussing these just aren’t feasible options (other than in the theoretical sense of creating models and testing them against what evidence we do have).

    I read this as an admission that good science is not (or cannot) be brought to bear on the subject of Bigfoot. Is that right? If so, where is our disagreement?

    basically, you can’t claim that no science is being carried out in this field,

    I don’t; there is good science, but most of the study and research proffered is clearly not good science.

    and secondly, the position we are in means that what we do must be considered much more akin to field science rather than lab science, the soft physical sciences rather than the hard physical sciences

    I agree; the problem is that the “field science” that is being done is mostly not good science. NOT because it’s not “hard science” (though that’s part of it), but because the researchers are not following good scientific protocols.

  36. things-in-the-woods responds:

    mr radford- you ask “where is our disagreement?”- well, i think you will find that i wasn’t disagreeing with you particularly- i was asking you questions. At most i was disagreeing with your phrasing of what was really at stake here, where you said “Where is the science in the search for Bigfoot?”

    I suggested that science (some of it good, possibly most of it bad) was being carried out. And it seems you concur.

    And i agree with much of what you have just written. I would, however, like to respond to one point;

    you read my statement that repeatable experiments with controlled variables etc are not feasible here as “an admission that good science is not (or cannot) be brought to bear on the subject of Bigfoot”

    that, in fact, was not my conclusion (at least not my intended conclusion). What i was trying to say was that there are areas of scientific endeavour in which such methodology is not possible (or at least not in the same way, or to the extent, as with the hard sciences such as physics and chemistry, etc). But i was also trying to say that in those areas (such as archeology), different methodologies must be adopted, and that given the inherent constrains of such fields of inquiry, even if these methodologies are somewhat different to those in the hard physical sciences, those methodologies can still be seen as both good and valid.

    I was also trying to suggest that the particular kind of endeavour we are engaged in here (trying to gather evidence as to the existence of an as yet unconfirmed animal) places particular constraints. I was asking, in that light, what kinds of scientific techniques and methodologies you would suggest could be applied here (note, that was a request for your informed opinion, not an attack or criticism).

    For instance, if it were the case that everyone who lived in my house claimed to have seen a large racoon-like creature running about at night, what scientific techniques and methodologies (and what repeatable and controlled experiments) would you suggest would be appropriate, in trying to ascertain whether such a creature did in fact exist, and what it might be.

    My guess would be- try and collect hair samples or droppings and then analyse them, interview those who claimed to have seen it, and compare the picture they give with known or possible animals, etc.

  37. DWA responds:

    Like I said.

    The Peruvian cloud-forest rat was, as far as I can tell, discovered in the field, with no prior evidence for its existence. Serendipitous, but someone was out there. And prepared to accept a new species of rat.

    The problem with the sas is that no one going by the base premise that this thing CAN’T EXIST will accept sas evidence as anything OTHER than evidence of something else, i.e, fake or mis-identification. in other words, contrary to the assertion Ben makes above, I think that possible alternatives to what the evidence seems to clearly point to – a bipedal ape – have not only been considered, they’ve been OVER-considered. And then again, not considered at all, as in: accepted without criticism or analysis. Not even many sas proponents seem to notice that the proponents have compiled a pretty impressive body of evidence, for something that doesn’t exist. As compared to a few – barely a handful – of debunkings. (Conducted, of course, by proponents.) None of the so-called crown jewels of sasquatch evidence has been shown conclusively to be fabricated.

    Good science has been conducted – by those willing to try – on both sides of this issue. The net result so far: Still, nobody knows.

    And still, the evidence is out there, and still the reports come in, from people whose word most of us would take on most anything else.

    I think we have an extreme danger of navel-gazing on this issue until the existence of the critter becomes moot in light of the destruction of its habitat. There is more than enough evidence out there for scientists to start tracking it, in the field, to a conclusion. Don’t take my word for it. Read up. It’s only a trickle so far, but scientists are starting to come over to the “let’s look for it” side.

    The skeptics among us say: about time.

  38. Benjamin Radford responds:

    Thank you, TITW, it is refreshing to have an actual exhange of ideas. I appreciate it. And, no, I took no offense to your questions. This is not a personal issue for me.

    in those areas (such as archeology), different methodologies must be adopted, and that given the inherent constrains of such fields of inquiry, even if these methodologies are somewhat different to those in the hard physical sciences, those methodologies can still be seen as both good and valid.

    I agree! With a few notes / questions: 1) Why should Bigfoot be treated any differently than any other presumably empirical subject? Bigfoot is NOT archeology, it is presumably a biological creature. I don’t understand why the standards of scientific evidence or inquiry should be any lower for Bigfoot. Can you explain?

    2) Bigfoot research deserves real science, good science, not pseudoscience. And much of the public (including many Bigfoot researchers) have a very poor understanding of what good science is.

    what kinds of scientific techniques and methodologies you would suggest could be applied here

    I’m perfectly happy with the tools of science that are currently being used: DNA, forensics, etc. What I find especially annoying is the insistence among many here that eyewitness sightings and photos / films are good evidence, despite the fact that they clearly is not, and all the decades of eyewitness reports and images have not yielded a single verifiable fact about Bigfoot, not one. I’m amazed that Bigfooters keep going back to a dry well.

    You’d think they’d notice the spectacular track record of failure…

  39. DWA responds:

    Ben says:

    “I’m perfectly happy with the tools of science that are currently being used: DNA, forensics, etc. What I find especially annoying is the insistence among many here that eyewitness sightings and photos / films are good evidence, despite the fact that they clearly is not, and all the decades of eyewitness reports and images have not yielded a single verifiable fact about Bigfoot, not one. I’m amazed that Bigfooters keep going back to a dry well.

    You’d think they’d notice the spectacular track record of failure…”

    ————————————-

    All I notice is the spectacular lack of effort to follow up on concentrations of sighting reports. Nothing has failed that has never been tried, right?

    Of course sightings and video have “not yielded a single verifiable fact about Bigfoot.” Everyone knows this. That is because that sentence is really a non sequitur: you can’t have a verifiable fact without a verified animal. But why would visual evidence yield anything, when a general presumption that visual evidence is bad evidence – which if one thinks about it turns normal scientific procedure on its head – means no one is following up the evidence?

    This, of course, combines with the continued focus on evidence from which we can only derive, at best, two results – not good evidence/inconclusive – to keep the sasquatch hidden from scientists, if not from the hosts of people who have seen one.

    In other words: the proposition “North America is home to a giant bipedal ape” remains, after half a century, untested. Not unproven. Untested. Because no test done on tracks, scat, hairs or what have you can prove anything better than: unknown primate. There’s no body to which to link this evidence.

    My assertion is that science has more than enough evidence to go looking for that body. And nothing unless it finds it, no matter how much testing is done on how much indirect evidence.

    Oh. “Unknown primate” does mean “sasquatch.” But I digress.

    I’ve said it many places on this board. Here’s one more, broken out for easy understanding.

    The evidence of our daily lives is sufficient to tell us that what we see is pretty good evidence, in general.

    Science could not proceed without sightings, taken at face value in peer review.

    Ben has said before on this board that anyone who asserts that what they saw is what they saw is committing an act of arrogance.

    In that case, each of us who can see lives every day committing, from the time we wake up in the morning to the time we go to bed at night, one act of visual arrogance after another.

    Either the sightings are debunked, or they are followed up to a conclusion. To do neither is to deny the importance of the two essential tools in all scientific endeavor: our eyes.

    Simple enough.

    Unless, of course, your interest is in making sure the mystery never gets solved. Then, “see no evil” applies. (Hmmmmm. Isn’t THAT appropriate. :-D)

  40. DWA responds:

    I feel I need to add that of course there are some very intelligent people out there who are doing just what I incorrectly said no one is doing, i.e., following up on sighting reports.

    It’s just that they lack the time and the funding to come up with conclusive evidence because they aren’t professionals getting full-time salaries for the search. No group seems to spend more than three or so days in the field at a stretch. Almost every such outing I read of comes up with things that would be very difficult to attribute to anything but a large, unknown animal. But as close as they come, no one hits the jackpot before, ding!, everybody has to go back to work.

    One of these groups may hit the lottery. But there is no reason to expect that. One thing’s been proven over and over again in zoology. The goods require not only effort, but TIME.

    (Oh. The coelacanth. Every now and then, someone DOES hit the lottery.)

  41. DWA responds:

    You know, some Bigfooters are just fountains of misinformation and a discredit to the search.

    DWA, for example. What a buffoon.

    In his laughable post above, DWA writes: “All I notice is the spectacular lack of effort to follow up on concentrations of sighting reports. Nothing has failed that has never been tried, right?”

    If you knew a damn thing, DWA, you’d know that following up on concentrations of recent sighting reports — with a 1967-vintage home movie camera, no less — was what Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin did. They only took a couple weeks.

    And look what they came up with, DWA.

    For shame, man. Do your research next time.

  42. things-in-the-woods responds:

    Well hello again radford (this is turning into one of the more extended exchanges, which can’t be a bad thing- I too welcome the chance to have proper constructive exchange of ideas)

    Just a couple of responses to your questions/points.

    Firstly, I’d like to deal with your remarks concerning eyewitness accounts.

    You say “What I find especially annoying is the insistence among many here that eyewitness sightings and photos / films are good evidence, despite the fact that they clearly is not”.

    Now i know that by ‘good evidence’ you mean scientifically admissible such that it would weigh in scientific theory building (i.e. produced from a scientifically valid procedure, involving replication, etc). We must be careful, however, not to conflate this sense of ‘good evidence’ with the sense where it relates to truth. Clearly evidence could be bad in the first sense, but good in the second sense (that is, true, but obtained through non-scientific methods).

    Therefore, that they are not good in the first sense cannot be the ground for insisting that they are also not good in the second sense (although, clearly, if they are hoaxes they are bad- i.e., no evidence- in either sense).

    The fact is that what makes these accounts good or bad evidence (in the sense of being true or false) is whether or not these people actually did see sasquatch- the quality of this evidence is conceptually tied to the existence or nonexistence of sasquatch. If sasquatch does exist and has been seen by these people then clearly these accounts constitute very good evidence, if it doesn’t these accounts are no evidence at all (at least no evidence for the existence of sasquatch, although, of course, they might be very good evidence of an interesting psychosocial phenomenon). And if they were good in this second sense (that is, true), it only shows something of a deficiency in scientific method, that they could be said to be bad evidence (don’t leap on me for that- i happen to think the scientific method is one of the greatest achievements of humankind).

    The only way one could a priori claim (and, given that neither you, nor anybody else has analysed and followed up- let alone disproved- all of these accounts, such a claim just would be a priori) that this kind of evidence is bad evidence (in the sense of being false), is if one starts with the premise that sasquatch does not exist. But if one does this one simply begs the question. Presupposing that which one aims to prove is a circular (thus, invalid) form of argument. And, of course, the same goes for those who presuppose that sasquatch does exist.

    We certainly need good science in this field. We also need to keep a watch out that our logic is equally good.

    Secondly, you ask, with respect to my linking of the search for bigfoot with the discipline of archaeology, “Bigfoot is NOT archeology, it is presumably a biological creature. I don’t understand why the standards of scientific evidence or inquiry should be any lower for Bigfoot. Can you explain?”

    Well, clearly, as you say, searching for bigfoot is not archaeology (although, as i have recently posted on this site- it might not be a bad thing if it were. Indeed, if bigfoot does exist, then the search for bigfoot IS- at least in part- archaeology; there must be bones out there somewhere). This was raised only as a partial analogy. What i was trying to get at was that by its very nature our endeavour (and, importantly, the stage at which our endeavour stands) just isn’t open to the kind of controlled and repeatable experiments that we might be able to carry out in a lab, if, for instance, we were investigating the properties and reactions of certain molecules (other than in the ways that we have both agreed have- or should have- been done with regards to hair analysis, etc). I was suggesting that other kinds of methodology (data collection and testing it against hypotheses) might be acceptable here (as it often has to be in archaeology), at least for the kind of evidence (eyewitness reports, etc) we do have at present. While these methods may be problematic (the risk, of course, comes inductive, rather than deductive, arguments), and do not guarantee a firm conclusion (they are analysis that yields suggestive rather than absolute results) we need not dismiss them as useless (you could argue that these are not good science- and that archaeology is not really a scientific field of enquiry- indeed, i might agree with you there- but even if that is the case, it is clearly not a completely useless discipline- it is too good at providing useful explanations of phenomena. One aspect of the parallel i was trying to draw out is that archaeology is a successful empirical discipline that, while it does use scientific techniques- carbon dating, etc-, as a field of enquiry it cannot be based on the core elements of the physical sciences- replicable tests, etc. Likewise, the search for the sasquatch- until we have final proof- is in a similar position)

    Therefore, I’m not necessarily suggesting that the levels of evidence required here should be lower than in other disciplines. I am quite happy to accept that we won’t have proof of sasquatch until we have at least skeletal remains. But to dismiss evidence that does not provide this ultimate proof as empty and useless is not justified. I admit that we have no proof of sasquatches existence- what we might have, of course, is evidence that is suggestive.

  43. mystery_man responds:

    Wow! It looks like I came back to this discussion a little late! I think something, whatever that is, is going to have to be done to make Bigfoot research more viable and acceptable by mainstream science simply because as has been said before, there simply isn’t the funding going into this field that is going to produce great science or great results. Bigfoot researchers are typically paying out of their own pocket while a mainstream zoologist will get grants and research money. That is a disadvantage for Bigfoot research right off the bat. Additionally, I have heard the term “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” and I feel for the most part this is true even in more decidedly mainstream sciences. If you make a bold theory, you had better be able to back it up. So while there is some good science going on out there and good circumstantial evidence, there is still too much speculation and drawing of conclusions going on in sasquatch research. In the eyes of mainstream science, Bigfoot researchers are making an extraordinary claim by saying that there is an 8 foot tall hairy hominid roaming the Pacific Northwest without leaving a body or decent photographic evidence. So now, unfortunately the burden is on us to back those claims up. I believe there could be the answers and hard evidence we are looking for out there, but it is going to be hard to pursue without the resources needed.

  44. mystery_man responds:

    And I am fascinated by the exchange going on here. Proof that this is a great site to just read the posts and learn new things.

  45. Benjamin Radford responds:

    Now I know that by ‘good evidence’ you mean scientifically admissible such that it would weigh in scientific theory building

    That is partly what I mean by good evidence, but we can go to an even more fundamental definition of “good evidence” that images and eyewitness reports fail to meet: Good evidence leads to conclusions, it leads to other evidence. As you and others have more or less admitted, are dead-ends. They go nowhere, build to nothing. One eyewitness report is as good as a dozen, or a hundred, or a thousand.

    If you just look for the results, you find that all the time and effort spent on eyewitness accounts and Bigfoot images has been wasted. That’s not to say that tomorrow we might not get something better, but Bigfooters have been doing the same thing over and over again, apparently expecting a different result.

    The only conclusive answers about Bigfoot have been negative or ambiguous, and come from real science (e.g. DNA analysis).

  46. Benjamin Radford responds:

    I’m not necessarily suggesting that the levels of evidence required here should be lower than in other disciplines.

    With all due respect, I think if you’ll examine the assumptions behind your reasoning, you are. I hear this line of thought a lot, from people who are defensive about the lack of hard evidence. Their response seems to be, when you really break it down, that there should be a different standard for Bigfoot evidence.

    Example: DWA and many others insist that eyewitness reports are good evidence, even though psychologists, detectives, and most cryptozoologists grudgingly admit that most sightings are mistakes, and BY DEFINITION eyewitness testimony is unreliable.

    If we are going to find proof of Bigfoot, it won’t be through lowering the standard of evidence. If you really believe that Bigfoot is a biological creature, then it should be treated as a biological creature, and subject to the same standards of evidence as others. To do otherwise is to engage in the logical fallacy of “special pleading.”

  47. Benjamin Radford responds:

    there simply isn’t the funding going into this field that is going to produce great science or great results.

    I don’t buy this line of argument. There have been well-organized, financed searches for cryptids (Tom Slick is just one example). Furthermore, anyone can go look for Bigfoot at no cost… It might be as simple as a hiker finding a body somewhere on a trail.

    So while there is some good science going on out there and good circumstantial evidence, there is still too much speculation and drawing of conclusions going on in sasquatch research.

    I could not agree more!

  48. DWA responds:

    Things-in-the-woods says: “The fact is that what makes these accounts good or bad evidence (in the sense of being true or false) is whether or not these people actually did see sasquatch- the quality of this evidence is conceptually tied to the existence or nonexistence of sasquatch.”

    Couldn’t have said it better. (Hey, somebody has to play bad cop with Ben Radford. :-D) Totally tossing out the possibility that these people saw what they say they saw – on the possibility that, well, they might not have – is tossing evidence, with no idea whether that’s baby or bath water going out the window.

    Not too scientific an approach, if one just asked a scientist. (And yes, many scientists do toss the visual evidence, yet another example, as another astute poster put it, of the difference between true science as a carefully constructed body of knowledge and procedure, on the one hand, and the imperfect people who try to practice it, on the other.)

    Mystery_man says: “Additionally, I have heard the term “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” and I feel for the most part this is true even in more decidedly mainstream sciences.”

    True. But this is a sentence with GREAT potential for misuse. It might keep people from searching – or thoughtfully advocating a search – for something that most certainly, from all indications, will yield its existence, if not all its secrets, to the standard processes of scientific search and identification.

    The claim that a giant ape is roaming around, um, just beyond your back fence, unrecognized by science, is truly an extraordinary claim. The body, when we get one, will be extraordinary in the sense that we went so long without getting one. But that would clearly represent not so much the extraordinary nature of the animal as it would our extraordinary ability – demonstrated time and again throughout history – to simply not see what we don’t want to see.

    The proof of the sasquatch, if such exists, is really no more extraordinary than the proof of the Norway rat. We follow the evidence, as we do any evidence, and we find the animal.

    And we find – as we will, if we find anything – that it’s just another animal. Yeah, maybe a bit neater than the Norway rat from our biased perspective.

    But just another animal.

  49. Benjamin Radford responds:

    By the way, this is exactly the sort of idea exchange we should have at a Bigfoot conference some time. I spoke at two last year, and was disappointed there wasn’t a chance to have a real, genuine discussion like this…

    I’d be happy to participate again this year, if I’m invited and schedules allow.

  50. Benjamin Radford responds:

    The proof of the sasquatch, if such exists, is really no more extraordinary than the proof of the Norway rat. We follow the evidence, as we do any evidence, and we find the animal.

    Finally something the anonymous critic DWA and I agree on! The standards of evidence for proving the existence for the rat should be the same as for Bigfoot.

  51. DWA responds:

    Re: This exchange between mystery_man and Ben Radford:

    —————

    there simply isn’t the funding going into this field that is going to produce great science or great results.

    I don’t buy this line of argument. There have been well-organized, financed searches for cryptids (Tom Slick is just one example). Furthermore, anyone can go look for Bigfoot at no cost… It might be as simple as a hiker finding a body somewhere on a trail.

    ————–

    I buy that line of argument, for sure.

    If we’re waiting for a hiker to find a body on a trail, we might as well wait for a hiker to find a new planet. Hiking is not searching. I’ve hiked my whole life in country packed to the gills with white-tail deer and black bear. I’ve found, between the two species, one intact carcass, and one other that someone as knowledgeable as me might ID as a deer. (Not a scrap of bear evidence.) For perspective, one-half of Prince George’s County, MD, has more whitetails than there are considered, by the most optimistic estimates, to be sas on the entire North American continent. And the places I actually hike may have more than that. And that’s one carcass and a smattering of remains a KNOWLEDGEABLE hiker might identify. Lifetime.

    Now, I’ve had many sightings of both. Which, if either were an unknown species, wouldn’t count for squat as proof.

    (But they would as evidence. ;-) )

    Only one sustained effort has been made to find the animal the only way acceptable evidence for science will be found: by scouring the field for an actual animal, and bringing back visual evidence of that animal, if not a body.

    Patterson-Gimlin.

    Translation: Bingo.

  52. DWA responds:

    Re: the exchange between Ben Radford and I:

    ————–

    The proof of the sasquatch, if such exists, is really no more extraordinary than the proof of the Norway rat. We follow the evidence, as we do any evidence, and we find the animal.

    Finally something the anonymous critic DWA and I agree on! The standards of evidence for proving the existence for the rat should be the same as for Bigfoot.

    ————–

    Then we must agree that the evidence for Bigfoot includes visual evidence. (Which was available for rats long before science gathered data on them.) Rats were confirmed, on the basis of visual evidence alone, long before humans had science.

    I’ll keep saying it because it needs saying. The footprint-go-round will never get us beyond: unknown/could have been faked.

    We need to go further than that.

  53. Benjamin Radford responds:

    Rats were confirmed, on the basis of visual evidence alone, long before humans had science.

    This is such a silly statement I don’t know if I should bother to respond…

    But I guess I will. Of course knowledge of rats preceded the development of scientific methodologies. That’s like saying, “People knew about the Sun long before humans had science.”

    The difference is, of course, that we have physical evidence of rats. We have physical evidence of the Sun. We have no physical evidence of Bigfoot.

  54. DWA responds:

    OK, I just wanted to see if you could recognize a silly statement if I made one.

    And of course you have to respond. I’m responding to all of yours!

    (Oh. What do you mean by “physical evidence of the Sun?” You ever touched it, Ben? A scientist would know that that’s NOT a silly question.)

    Here’s your latest. Oh, actually, it’s silly statements, plus you agreeing with me on something ELSE. Hope, springing eternal!

    You say:
    “Now i know that by ‘good evidence’ you mean scientifically admissible such that it would weigh in scientific theory building.”

    Well, Ben, I could not agree more. Let’s go on.

    You say:
    “That is partly what I mean by good evidence, but we can go to an even more fundamental definition of “good evidence” that images and eyewitness reports fail to meet: Good evidence leads to conclusions, it leads to other evidence.”

    Ben, I could not agree with you less. OK, wait. You have it right. Except you put that part about images and eyewitnesses failing in there. WHOOPS! But you tried.

    There is one reason why the four most exciting words in jurisprudence are: “We have an eyewitness.” It’s because eyewitness testimony, like all GOOD evidence, LEADS (as you so correctly say) to conclusions, it LEADS (as you so correctly say) to other evidence. Eyewitness testimony CAN be bad, which is why, ALL BY ITSELF, it is unreliable. But (didn’t things-in-the-woods explain this to you?) when it’s good, it leads to more evidence, which backs it up. Without eyewitness testimony, science would not have the basic building blocks of theories.

    You say:
    “As you and others have more or less admitted, [images and eyewitness evidence] are dead-ends. They go nowhere, build to nothing. One eyewitness report is as good as a dozen, or a hundred, or a thousand.”

    You must not be reading my posts. I’ve gone over this again and again and again. One may or may not be good. A dozen should raise eyebrows, particularly in a very restricted geographic area over a relatively short time. A thousand tells science: LOOK HERE, DUMMIES! THERE’S MORE EVIDENCE IF YOU JUST LOOK HERE!

    But not being dummies, scientists know this. So they tend to do that. Except in the case of the sasquatch, where blind belief that the animal can’t exist blinds most scientists to what their science tells them they should be doing: looking.

    You say:

    “If you just look for the results, you find that all the time and effort spent on eyewitness accounts and Bigfoot images has been wasted.”

    Couldn’t agree more. I’ve never seen so much opportunity to learn something wasted, for so long, since the first evidence that the earth might not be flat. BTW, Bigfoot researchers, who spend much of their time following up sightings, would be pleased to hear you contradict what you so often tell them: that you don’t denigrate their hard work.

    You say:
    “That’s not to say that tomorrow we might not get something better, but Bigfooters have been doing the same thing over and over again, apparently expecting a different result.”

    Yeah, they keep expecting people to get interested and help them out. Silly of them. When it comes to Bigfoot, science takes huh? pills.

    And finally, the silliest statement:
    “The only conclusive answers about Bigfoot have been negative or ambiguous, and come from real science (e.g. DNA analysis).”

    Come again? This is conclusive how? Does the animal certainly exist, or certainly not? Negative means “this sample isn’t.” Ambiguous means “this sample might be.” Which means, basically, that all this “real science” amounts to a dead end, and one that I can confidently predict will spiral on forever, because there is no animal (as far as science and the public are cooncerned) without a body. How can you come up with DNA results that confirm an animal for which there is no documented DNA evidence? (The explanation for this one should be exciting.)

    But there we are, as you say, doing the same thing over and over again, apparently expecting a different result. And never having a chance to get one.

    Unless we follow good sighting evidence to places where we might have a chance of getting something conclusive.

    Ben. Do you want to find this animal, or not? I’m suspecting, not!

  55. DWA responds:

    I forgot to say that when Ben Radford sees a sasquatch, I would LOVE to be inside his head. :-D

  56. DWA responds:

    Oh. Had to comment on this.

    “The difference is, of course, that we have physical evidence of rats. We have physical evidence of the Sun. We have no physical evidence of Bigfoot.”

    I’m sure that the physical evidence of rats and the physical evidence of the Sun began with SEEING them. (Which is physical evidence, the entry of light rays through the retina, followed by interpretation, then action.) All science starts with people seeing something. If visual evidence were basically bad, science basically wouldn’t exist. (We basically would not be ALIVE.)

    Reiteration number 1002…

    But at least you agree with me that footprints, hair, et al. are dead ends. Whew! THAT took a while! :-D

  57. mystery_man responds:

    -”there simply isn’t the funding going into this field that is going to produce great science or great results.”

    Ben Radford says- “I don’t buy this line of argument. There have been well-organized, financed searches for cryptids (Tom Slick is just one example). Furthermore, anyone can go look for Bigfoot at no cost… It might be as simple as a hiker finding a body somewhere on a trail.”

    I think funding has a lot to do with it. An enormous amount to do with it and it is a legitimate argument. Hoping a hiker comes across a body is not a very scientific way to approach this is it? If you follow this kind of thinking through to other sciences, it just doesn’t make sense. Going camping to try and find Bigfoot with no money is not the answer here I think. A zoologist goes into the field with funding and resources. By the rationale here, you could say that anyone could go out and study, say, gorillas with no funding at all. Do you really buy that? Sure it is a known animal, but you said yourself that Bigfoot should get no special treatment or be held to any less of a standard for evidence, so it should get the funding needed to study it like other animals, right? Yes, there have been well financed expeditions, such as Tom Slick, but these are few and far between compared with mainstream contemporaries. I doubt that amount of searching could provide much data on a known species let alone an unknown species.

    DWA- yes, Bigfoot is just an animal but one that science considers unlikely. That peeves me too, but it is true. So in order to make them listen, we need better evidence than what we have so far. If I say there are dragons living around here, that is also just an animal, right? But it is one that is going to require me to back up these claims more so than if I said there was a new type of rat perhaps living in the forest. True, the evidence is there or it is not, but the claim itself is going to affect how mainstream science approaches the topic. A rat is going to be seen as more feasible and therefore I think there is going to be more of a willingness to investigate.

  58. DWA responds:

    mystery_man: right, the “unlikelieness” of Bigfoot pretty much demands a body, forget anything in between.

    One reason why we can be done with footprints, which cannot be proven to be anything. The only thing, now, to do with footprints is to go where we’ve seen lots of them recently and try to come up with video/photo evidence. We have already proven what we can with footprints – that the sas is a plausible cause. We can go no further.

    I’m just saying that the body – the holotype – is what you’d need for anything else. Even a Peruvian cloud rat demands a body before science puts it in. A holotype for a dragon or a centaur would for sure command attention. The animal might be unusual – OK, fantastical – with regard to our expectations. But the body would be standard scientific we-need. And in that sense, you’re not really backing up your claim any more so than you are with the rat. You’re just getting, in each case, what you need to convince people. The body.

    That’s my point.

    But as to the willingness to investigate, well, yeah, that’s the rub, ain’t it? I just don’t think it’s so much the animal’s implausibility as scientists’ belief – with no particularly good reason, really, in my opionion – that the animal is implausible.

  59. DWA responds:

    But there is one more thing I did want to point out to everyone here, in case the visual evidence is confusing you.

    Ben and I actually agree. on EVERYTHING.

    Never trust visual evidence! ;-)

  60. things-in-the-woods responds:

    go away to do frivolous things like sleep and eat, and you find yourself way behind the conversation..

    DWA says, perhaps rather tongue-in-cheek “Ben and I actually agree. on EVERYTHING.”

    In fact, i think this is pretty much the case.

    It seems to me that we all agree (at least those of us who who have engaged in this particular debate) that we don’t have evidence that proves the existence of sas (none of us would be here if we did). It seems that we also agree that the only evidence that could count as proof is something on the level of a body.
    All well and good.

    The disagreement between ben and the rest of us seems to come in relation to non-conclusive evidence. Ben it seems, holds that this is worthless, whereas most of the rest of us seem to think that it is useful (at least potentially) to some extent.

    Now i think that the source of this disagreement could be because ben fails to appreciate that we accept that it isn’t evidential PROOF (the problem is perhaps that he confuses those of us who hold this position, with those cryptos who do think it constitutes proof). Thus, he thinks it is essentially worthless because it doesn’t prove anything. But, of course, i for one don’t think it does prove anything. At best it suggests something, and at worst it is data that has to be accounted for somehow.

    In holding his position (if, indeed, this is his position), it seems to me that ben is just obviously wrong. As DWA has just discussed, non-conclusive evidence has an essential place (indeed, is the point of origin) in scientific enquiry. Equally obviously, it does not have a place in scientific proof. But proving something and investigating something are distinct phenomena (indeed, as concepts, they are categorically distinct).

    I also have to agree with DWA that ben’s position specifically on eyewitness reports is flawed. Sure eyewitness reports are inherantly unreliable. But that does not mean they carry no weight (again, as regards to an scientific investigation, if not a scientific proof). Indeed, we conduct a reductio ad absurdam argument with regards to a position that does dismiss eyewitness reports as having any weight in science, then we get to the point where there can never be scientific proof of anything. (Indeed, ben would seem to be thorough-going solipsist, which makes his bothering to argue with us somewhat unaccountable).

    If eyewitness reports are inherantly unreliable, and thus worthless, why are we to accept that when a scientist says he saw a particular result of his experiment he wasn’t in fact mistaken,and it was something else?

    Of course, the claim would be that we can get other people to witness his experiments, or look at his results. But if each individual eyewitness report is intrinsically suspect then even getting any number of other eyewitnesses to witness the experiment or look at the results can be of no help.

    If, however, it is allowed (as of course it must be) that such multiplication of unreliable evidence does hold more weight than a single piece of such evidence then eyewiness reports cannot be dismissed as useless.

    Of course, they could still be wrong- but then, that is just what i said earlier; “The fact is that what makes these accounts good or bad evidence (in the sense of being true or false) is whether or not these people actually did see sasquatch- the quality of this evidence is conceptually tied to the existence or nonexistence of sasquatch. If sasquatch does exist and has been seen by these people then clearly these accounts constitute very good evidence, if it doesn’t these accounts are no evidence at all”.

    One final point regarding ben’s claim that the other charcteristic of ‘good evidence’ is that ‘it leads to something’. I am quite happy to accept this, as long as ben is willing to accept that the question of whether or not some piece of evidence leads to further evidence or proof has no particular time restraint on it. That is, we can’t call evidence bad evidence just because it hasn’t YET led to something else. In such a case, all evidence would be bad evidence until it led to something else, and then it would become good evidence. And that is just silly.

    That the evidence for bigfoot that we have at present (such as it is) hasn’t led to the discovery of better evidence or proof of bigfoot is therefore fundamentaly irrelevant. Is there some limit on how long evidence can count as evidence? If so, what is it? People have claimed evidence of bigfoot for perhaps a hundred years (yes, i know that doesn’t count indigenous american accounts). Does ben mean to suggest that we have reached some evidential ‘consume by date’? Lets hope not- there was evidence that the earth went round the sun for thousands of years before anyone produced conclusive evidence that this was the case.

    Equally (and this just to bait the creationists out there.. ;>), there was evidence for evolution by natural selection way before Darwin, and later scientists, proved the existence of the process (incidently, i read a piece about pete seeger in todays Guardian newspaper, about how he sends bumper stickers to creationist that read ‘Gravity- it’s just a theory’. Brilliant!).

    time to eat again…

  61. things-in-the-woods responds:

    oh, and DWA, just to even up my comments (and just because we don’t want too much consensus here..);

    you talk about “scientists’ belief – with no particularly good reason, really, in my opionion – that the animal is implausible.”

    1) On the evidence we have, and on the the justified expectations (about how such a being might manage subsist, about how there should be at least some fossil evidence, or at least evidence of some primate having existed in north america within the last few million years, etc), that scientists find sas ‘implausible’ is not for ‘no good reason’.

    2) that they find it implausible is not really the problem. It is those who hold that it is impossible that pose the real problem. And this because they are obviously wrong. On no meaning of the term ‘impossible’, is it impossible that sas exists. Highly unlikely perhaps, but impossible no.

    3) As i said right at the beginning of all this- given that scientists do generally find the idea implausible (and, as i suggest, justifiably so), means that they are also justified in being reluctant to follow it up. Real world pressures of time and money mean that they, of course, are happier pursuing those things that they do not find implausible, and thus believe have a greater chance of producing results.

  62. Benjamin Radford responds:

    >>ben’s position specifically on eyewitness reports is flawed.

    Since nearly everyone else here chooses to hide behind anonymity, I have no way of knowing whom I’m addressing. However, from the comments, I can surmise that few if any have any background or training in psychology, the field of experitise dealing with eyewitness testimony. I happen to have a degree in the subject, and have read up the mountains of evidence about eyewitness accounts. I think I have a better grasp of the topic than most do.

    >>Sure eyewitness reports are inherantly unreliable. But that does not mean they carry no weight

    I agree. I have never said eyewitness reports are worthless, all I said is that 1) they are essentially psychological phenomena, and therefore very subject to error and bias; 2) they have been proven to be often wrong; and 3) have not yielded a shred of actual evidence to date.

    >>If eyewitness reports are inherantly unreliable, and thus worthless, why are we to accept that when a scientist says he saw a particular result of his experiment he wasn’t in fact mistaken,and it was something else?

    This is actually a good example of why scientists do not accept eyewitness reports! The scenario you describe has never happened: when a scientist reports the results of a study, there is actual, measurable, hard data to look at. Other people can replicate the experiment, test it–unlike a Bigfoot eyewitness report. No real scientists has ever asked others to accept the results of an experiment based on something he or she “saw.”

    This is really an apples-and-oranges analogy, and doesn’t work at all.

  63. mystery_man responds:

    I think I should clear up what I meant by “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” just because I want everyone to know what my opinion on this phrase is without it being taken out of context in the future. If someone makes a claim, such as “the ivory billed woodpecker still exists”, then there is more of a willingness to go on relatively little evidence and there are those in the scientific community willing to give it serious consideration. Really what evidence is there that they still exist? Some sightings, some other circumnstantial evidence, but no body. Correct me if I’m wrong. This is because it is a species known to have existed and the claim that it is still out there is not so farfetched. So as a result, you get its acceptance as still around based on little actual hard evidence. I have seen animals that were given serious scientific consideration based on little more than camera trap photos and footprints(the new type of civit they discovered is one) simply because they were animals considered to be not entirely implausible animals. There are animals that have less evidence than Bigfoot has, yet they are embraced as being worthy of further study. Why? Because the claim of their existence is not completely “extraordinary”.
    Then you have the sasquatch. It is a creature that science sees as very unlikely and as a result, any evidence eyewitness account or otherwise is going to be taken with a grain of salt or completely discounted. Anything brought to light is going to be held to very stringent standards to even be considered as a possibility. You get the PG footage and immediately it is examined inside and out for being a possible hoax. I bet if there was comparatible footage of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker, or even a Bili ape, we would not have the same dillema with it. Someone says they saw a Thylacine and you may get forestry people to go check it out. It is not a ludicrous claim to most and as such is more within the realm of possibility, acceptable as possibly real. Someone sees Bigfoot and they are the butt of jokes and their sighting is often given short shrift. The reason? I think it is because the claim of a large hairy hominid is an extraordinary one. There is almost an immediate bias against it and all evidence is scrutinized and debunked where possible.
    So what I am trying to say is that if you claim to have found a new rat, there is relatively speaking less that you have to provide for your claim to be given consideration simply because it is not an outlandish idea in the minds of mainstream science. A bigfoot on the other hand, well, you had better have a body or else.

  64. Benjamin Radford responds:

    TITW said: As i said right at the beginning of all this- given that scientists do generally find the idea implausible (and, as i suggest, justifiably so), means that they are also justified in being reluctant to follow it up. Real world pressures of time and money mean that they, of course, are happier pursuing those things that they do not find implausible, and thus believe have a greater chance of producing results.

    This is an excellent point, and should be read and understood by all those who whine about how scientists aren’t lining up to do Bigfoot research. Interest will follow good evidence, not the other way around.

  65. things-in-the-woods responds:

    Hi ben.
    if it really makes that much of a difference to you, my name is also ben (but that might get confusing- best to just keep to the monikers dontcha think?), and you are quite right- i don’t have a degree in psychology. I do have a degree in archaeology, a masters degree in cognitive science, and am just writing up my PhD on the conceptual issues involved in the evolution of mind.
    Quite what difference that makes i don’t know. I was rather hoping that people had got past the ‘argument from authority’ manouver.

    Anyway, on to the actual arguments.

    You say, “I have never said eyewitness reports are worthless, all I said is that 1) they are essentially psychological phenomena, and therefore very subject to error and bias; 2) they have been proven to be often wrong; and 3) have not yielded a shred of actual evidence to date.”

    I completely agree with points 1 and 2. I also agree with point 3, but only as much as this refers to ‘further’ evidence (such sightings are, of course, evidence in their own right- whether particularly reliable or not). And, as i say, we cannot know whether this is because there is no further evidence to be found, or simply that, as yet, no more evidence has been produced. I also agree with this only as far as it refers to ‘better’ evidence. It is arguable that this evidence has led to more of the same kind of evidence, in just the way DWA suggests (i.e., sightings have led to further investigation that produced more sightings).

    With regards to your second argument, you state that my analogy of a scientist reporting on an experiment, and witnesses reporting on sas sightings “is really an apples-and-oranges analogy, and doesn’t work at all.”

    However, as i wasn’t drawing an analogy , this is of no consequence (if there is an analogy in there it is only that the both involve visual experience- and, as such, it would not be an apples-and-oranges analogy at all). All i was doing was elucidating (alright, trying to elucidate) the fact that if we are to distrust a priori EVERY first-person report of visual experience then we cannot make special pleading for certain cases, and the implications of accepting this. And to suggest that such reports play no place in scientific procedure is patently false (given that they just are at the base of all interpersonal communication). If science is anything other than a completely individual endeavour (which it could not be) then we simply could not doubt all such reports. A scientific report is at base a report of visual (and perhaps other) experience. In a psychological report, for instance, the scientist reports his visual experience of the subjects behaviour in response to stimuli (or, perhaps, his visual experience of the ECG reading on his computer screen, or perhaps of the printout of the figures that he has before him).

    Of course, this argument is irrelevant as you have made it claer that you allow that we should not, in fact, dismiss every such eyewitness report.

    And finally, you write;
    “This is actually a good example of why scientists do not accept eyewitness reports! The scenario you describe has never happened: when a scientist reports the results of a study, there is actual, measurable, hard data to look at. Other people can replicate the experiment, test it–unlike a Bigfoot eyewitness report. No real scientists has ever asked others to accept the results of an experiment based on something he or she “saw.””

    Well, firstly, scientists do accept eyewitness accounts (and not just in the most essential way that i have just described). They might not accept them as conclusive evidence (but they might), but they do not ignore them. When Jane Goodall first described chimpanzees as using tools Louis Leakey did not refuse to accept those reports until he himself had seen them doing so.

    And secondly, it amounts to spectacular naivety, or self-deception, to claim that scientists never ask others to accept, and nor do other scientists accept, eyewitness reports from others. Scientist routinely accept the word of others. I would extremely surprised if, during your study for your degree, you went back and studied the raw data, or replicated the data yourself, for every reported experiment you accepted (and you can’t appeal to others having replicated it- because you are only then accepting their eyewitness reports).

    If you did, you were a damn sight more commited than any other scientist i have ever met.
    In which case, I salute you :)

  66. DWA responds:

    Mystery_man and things-in-the-woods: VERY good posts.

    MM’s is part of the reason, Ben, that almost all of us here choose anonymity. It might affect our current careers or job prospects if the extremely reasonable positions we take on this subject were known to our employers.

    Whereby the utterly irrational position that the sasquatch doesn’t exist (yes it is, because it’s based on ignorance of the scope and depth of the evidence) doesn’t cause a ripple. In fact, it makes you part of the club of people who all know for a fact that the earth is flat. Everyone else gets burned at the stake.

    Whoops, wrong century. :-D

  67. mystery_man responds:

    Well, I feel a little out of my depth here having only a degree in Biology and Zoology but none in psychology or cognitive science but here’s my two cents for what it’s worth. One of the things that keeps me interested in the possibility of Bigfoot is precisely that so many people from all walks of life, living in vastly different areas have essentially reported similar creatures and I hesitate to assume that they all must be liars, seeing things, or misidentifying known species. Is it some sort of mass hallucination? Not being versed in these things, I don’t know, but I sure would like to find out what the root cause of the large amount of reports is. Something strange is going on and whether it constitutes evidence or not, I am curious.

    That being said, I think eyewitness reports are a tricky thing. Sure, a lot of people claim to see Bigfoot but then again, a lot of people all over the world claim to see aliens coming out of UFOs, ghosts, and all manner of paranormal phenomena. A feel a lot of people who embrace Bigfoot sightings might scoff at alien sightings so there can be a little bit of a double standard going on. I think the first thing that has to be ascertained is how reliable the witness is. I am admittedly no expert on this matter but I feel the quality of the witness and the sighting is key. Is this not important in all areas where witness testimony is used? Is the witness some guy out drinking moonshine, or is it an “expert witness” such as Jane Goodall? In the latter case, of course her testimony is going to carry more weight than if, say, my little cousin claimed to see Chimps using tools. Can we really equally consider a detailed report by a law enforcement officer versus someone claiming Bigfoot got out of a spaceship? In my opinion, witness reliability is immensely important. In science, whether an eyewitness report is ignored or given heavy consideration is going to depend largely on this factor.

    Also, although I think that sightings are never going to amount to conclusive evidence in of of themselves, they have the potential to lead us to possible new evidence. If there is a sighting and someone follows up on it and through this they find a hair sample that can be DNA tested, then this sighting is a huge help by facilitating the collection of evidence. Ideally, I think we should follow these eyewitness reports to possible conclusive evidence. I also think there has to be a file of these sightings kept, that can be cross checked and given comparative analysis. In the end, although sightings may never be what is needed to prove one thing or the other, they can be a valuable tool and I don’t think they should be discarded out of hand.

  68. Benjamin Radford responds:

    Hi Ben

    I was rather hoping that people had got past the ‘argument from authority’ manouver.

    I wasn’t making an argument from authority, which is a logical fallacy basically saying “believe me because I’m an authority.” I was asking people to believe the hundreds of psychologists, police, and others who have studied the topic say.

    In the same way, if I had a question about archaeology, I’d put more stock in an answer coming from you than a random person on the street. That’s not an argument from authority, is it?

    scientists do accept eyewitness accounts…Scientist routinely accept the word of others. I would extremely surprised if, during your study for your degree, you went back and studied the raw data, or replicated the data yourself, for every reported experiment you accepted (and you can’t appeal to others having replicated it- because you are only then accepting their eyewitness reports).

    Are you really reducing the results of scientific experiments to merely “eyewitness reports”? As if the results of a scientific study have no more weight than a person’s impressions?

    Scientists rarely just accept the word of others, they test for themselves. They examine each other’s methods and protocols, they peer-review.

    I really have a hard time believeing you are comparing a non-testable, non-replicable, eyewitness sighting to a empirical, scientific study whose data and methods can be examined by anyone….

  69. Benjamin Radford responds:

    I was rather hoping that people had got past the ‘argument from authority’ manouver.

    Oh, and by the way, Ben, if you have a problem with the argument from authority, you’ll really hate Jeff Meldrum’s book on Sasquatch. That’s Meldrum’s whole calling card: that he’s a scientist, so you should listen to him. That Fahrenbach is a scientist (he’s a microscopist), so we should believe him. I hear this all the time from DWA and many others here. It’s funny how they pick and choose which experts and authorities they listen to.

    That’s most of what the book is, arguments from authority. I agree with you, and suggest that people ignore ALL of the arguments from authority in Bigfoot research, and instead look closely for themselves at the flawed science and methodologies.

  70. DWA responds:

    Actually, Ben (we both know which Ben I mean), I never said anything that could ever be construed as advocating the argument from authority.

    I look at Meldrum’s science, not his business card.

    You discount everything he does because the animal hasn’t been confirmed yet.

    You’ve never pointed out one clear example of “bad science.” We’ve pointed out many.

    Your turn.

  71. DWA responds:

    BTW, Ben, I’d put more stock in an answer coming from Jeff Meldrum than a random Radford on the street.

    That’s not an argument from authority, is it?

    (Using someone’s quotes against him: GOOD science.)
    :-D

  72. Benjamin Radford responds:

    DWA writes, “You’ve never pointed out one clear example of “bad science.”

    I have in fact pointed out several examples of poor science and methodologies, including the most obvious, Fahrenbach’s analysis, which as I stated is based on reports that Meldrum himself admits are “unreliable.” Bad science, there you go.

    This is exactly why this is a waste of my time.
    “To argue with a fool makes two fools.”

  73. things-in-the-woods responds:

    hi ben,

    I didn’t really think you could have been making such a sneaky move; just wanted to make sure ;). But having said that, i don’t think you even need to appeal to the knowledge psychologists and policemen and so on, to get us to accept that eyewitness reports are potentially dubious. We all know that, and, indeed, I think all of us have stated it here.

    So anyway, specifically;

    I wasn’t reducing scientific experiment merely to reports of visual experience; what I was saying is that science intrinsically involves, and relies on, such reports (it is also much else besides).

    Furthermore, I would like to suggest that while it is true that scientists do engage in peer-review, and do critique each other’s methodology (and jolly useful that is too), that doesn’t really engage with the point I was making- they still typically take the scientists word that the results he said he produced (and ‘saw’ for himself) just were those that actually transpired (that when he says the subject reacted in a particular way, that is what the subject did). Relatively rarely are experiments replicated (at least, not every scientist who accepts the truth of such reports replicates those experiments).

    But, anyway, I think we are in danger of getting a bit sidetracked here- the arguments I have been making have generally been with regards to the fact that I took you to be arguing that, essentially, as eyewitness reports are inherently problematic (i.e. they can be mistaken) we cannot put any credence in them, and that, therefore they count for nothing in the search for sasquatch.

    As you have explained that you do not dismiss the relevance of such evidence in an a priori manner, then I don’t think we have a disagreement (at least on points of principle). I think we can both accept that such reports carry different amounts of weight depending on the context of the report (e.g. the report of a well informed individuals under controlled conditions- i.e. a scientist in a lab- carries more weight than an ignorant individual under confounding conditions- a scared city kid lost in the woods in the middle of the night). As such we should also be able to agree that such reports should be assessed on a case-by-case basis (and that some bigfoot eyewitness reports constitute better- in the sense of more reliable, even if not more true- evidence than others e.g. the scared kid versus the independently confirmatory reports of several individuals who claimed to see sas in broad daylight).

    In fact, I do not even think that we fundamentally disagree over where we should draw lines across this continuum. The evidence that proves sasquatch is, as i have said, going to be a body.

    Eyewitness accounts are never going to prove anything, but they might point us in a certain direction (they are useful, therefore, as i have been trying to articulate, in the scientific investigation of the question of the existence of sas, even if they cannot count as evidence that answers this question- one way or the other).

    If we could agree on these I think that would a good, constructive first step. I’d be interested to hear if you do have a problem with any of them.

  74. things-in-the-woods responds:

    Hi ben,
    we’re all posting much faster than i can keep up with. However, with regards to bigfoot researchers using the argument from authority, you may be right.

    If so, we shouldn’t pay any heed to such an argument- however, it doesn’t follow that we should therefore reject all their arguments. Whether they back an argument with a call to accept their authority or not, doesn’t affect the validity of that argument itself- it just means we should assess that argument itself (If they argue that claimed dermal ridges on footprints suggest sas is real- or whatever it is they argue- but then say at the end ‘and you should believe me i’m a scientist’, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t engage with the argument about dermal ridges).

    Such an argument is as invalid as the argument from authority.

  75. DWA responds:

    True.

    And to refuse to argue on the grounds that you don’t have a common-sense proposition makes an ignoramus.

    I made the point-blank assertion that you consider NO research into this animal to be good science, on the precise grounds that the animal is unconfirmed.

    And you, well, just confirmed it. In the face of history’s very stacked deck proving the opposite.

    Um hum. A true “Professional.” The research can be considered done. “Professionals,” as Mr. Krantz advised us all, carefully channel the horse down the avenue of continuing to chase its tail.

    Exactly why THIS is a waste of MY time. But thanks for sharing.

  76. things-in-the-woods responds:

    oh, and really this is a waste of all our times-

    believers- get out there and find the evidence
    unbelievers- go and do some science that you feel is valuable
    me- go and write your thesis before your supervisor kicks your arse.

    goodnight. sleep tight. hope the things-in-the-woods don’t bite.

  77. Benjamin Radford responds:

    TITW: Whether they back an argument with a call to accept their authority or not, doesn’t affect the validity of that argument itself- it just means we should assess that argument itself

    THANK YOU! This is the point I have been trying to make! This is exactly why it’s important for people to look closely at the arguments that Meldrum, Fahrenbach, and others make about Bigfoot– as well as those by skeptics such as myself, Dennett, Daegling, and Crowley.

    I ask all interested researchers to learn about what good science is, then see how well most Bigfoot research stacks up.

    Sadly, this is rarely done. Instead, many posters here jump to the defense of Meldrum et al. without looking closely at their methodologies, and often without really reading the skeptical analyses and critics.

  78. DWA responds:

    Things-in-the-woods: I’d rephrase.

    Believers and Unbelievers: cut that out! This isn’t about belief. It’s about EVIDENCE.

    Skeptics: evaluate the evidence.

    Biscardi and Radford: birds of a feather.

    Say hi to your supervisor for me. ;-)

  79. DWA responds:

    Since a bottom line on this topic would be nice, here’s mine.

    ———————————————————

    1. There seems to be a significant body of evidence for a large, bipedal North American primate, the validity of much of which has not been assessed.

    2. Such scientific tests as have been conducted on evidence presented have proven inconclusive. The significant possibility exists either (1) that all the evidence presented is the result of either fakery or mis-identification of known animals or (2) that the evidence points to the existence of the as-yet uncatalogued primate species.

    3. More than one mainstream scientist has expressed the clear opinion that fakery and mis-identification cannot be considered reasonable explanations of all the evidence presented.

    4. Assessment of the provenance of evidence such as footprints and hair of the alleged primate is necessarily limited by the absence of a type specimen for comparison.

    5. A reasonable case therefore exists for the mounting of a significant field effort to capture more compelling evidence of the animal, such as bones, a body, or significant photographic and video documentation, such as to pave the way for further research eventually documenting the species’ existence if such evidence is found.

    ——————————-

    I think this is reasonable. Because it is. Whether science can see its way clear to devote the time and effort (and money) is, of course, an entirely different matter.

    But that doesn’t lessen the reasonableness of the case.

    I don’t think it’s overreaching a bit to say that anyone who considers this bottom line unreasonable really, REALLY doesn’t want proof of the sasquatch’s existence to ever be found.

    Why? Well I can think of some reasons. But for most of us, they aren’t reasonable.

  80. mystery_man responds:

    I don’t know about you all, but I don’t think this has been a waste of time at all. Some really good posts here, lots of good debate and sharing of ideas. I think these kinds of discussions are not only informative, but something that should happen more often. As Ben said before, it is good to have in-depth, genuine discussions like this. Great ideas and good point everyone. Totally NOT a waste of time in my eyes.

  81. mystery_man responds:

    By the way, did my post about eyewitness sightings get up in time? Everyone was posting so fast and my post was awaiting moderation that you might not have seen it. It’s just some of my thoughts on eyewitness testimony. I can’t believe this discussion made it to the third page! Good stuff.

  82. Buzzardeater responds:

    I am not very educated, but is it not true that the initial premise, if flawed will foul even careful, well-funded research? Everyone on this thread is debating whether or not an ape can live on the outskirts of our modern society. This dismisses the anecdotal evidence of interbreeding. More learned men than I have stated that interbreeding with animals is not possible. Therefore it didn’t happen? No.Therefore they are not animals! To breed with humans they must BE humans. That they are unusual humans is incontestable, but to imagine that they are a type of ape is unworkable. If one begins with the presumption of humanity things begin to make more sense. Add the known element of mischief (yes, people are helping them, directly and indirectly) and you begin to see the possibility of the data making some sense.



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