Sasquatch Coffee

Boing Boing Drops Pseudoscience Bomb On Cryptozoology

Posted by: Loren Coleman on May 21st, 2011

The popular culture, cutting edge blog Boing Boing has a diversity of opinions, but recently one of their bloggers went a little too far. This recent moment of less-than-grounded demeaning was thanks to throwaway comments from their science editor, a blogger named Maggie Koerth-Baker. She definitely appears to have gone over the edge, dropping the “pseudoscience” bomb on cryptozoology. Let us explore this business, and begin by illuminating a few things.

Needless to say, my knowledge as to what others think, of course, is not because I am an omnipotent seer. I have no idea why a few (I do not think it is most) people would associate cryptozoology with the word “pseudoscience.” Bernard Heuvelmans, Ivan T. Sanderson and many of my peers and I have made great strides in educating the general public about the realistic parameters of cryptozoology. I find the modern media and especially the online and electronic communities, like Boing Boing, infrequently mix everything up. Boing Boing certainly supports aware and solid bloggers, David Pescovitz and Mark Frauenfelder, who most certainly understand cryptozoology, its place in science and popular culture. But then there’s Maggie Koerth-Baker.

As opposed to getting frustrated, the appearance of Koerth-Baker’s recent blog merely means I need to try harder to be clearer in what I say, educate more, and spread critical thinking within the cryptozoological works I produce.

Most of the time, I do not waste my time getting defensive and doing battle with people who wish to label cryptozoology as a “pseudoscience.” Their minds seem to be usually already made up about how they wish to categorize my field, and I would rather be doing cryptozoology than trying to convince someone it is not something it isn’t.

Nevertheless, oftentimes, we must point out transgressions that appear to be beyond the pale. It does get troubling that even well-meaning people can so blindly slam an entire group of scientifically, skeptically-minded folks with demeaning categorizations that have little or no foundation in fact.

Therefore, for the purposes of criticism, allow me to share what Koerth-Baker wrote:

The Popular Science archives—Google-digitzed versions of whole issues stretching back to the beginning of the 20th century—will never not be awesome. Reading these magazines can teach you a lot about the culture and history of science. It’s also a nice way for journalists, like me, to remind ourselves about how very easy it is to get our jobs wrong.

For instance, just because the Royal Geographic Society is sending an expedition to the Himalayas to hunt for the Abominable Snowman doesn’t mean the Abominable Snowman definitely exists. In this story, from a gallery of Pop Sci articles about pseudoscience (some appropriately skeptical, some … not), it’s easy to see the writer getting so caught up in the excitement of the hunt that he stopped questioning whether there was really anything to hunt for. It’s a fun read. And a nice kick in the pants.

The Popular Science writer of this December 1952 (!) article got it “wrong,” according to this Boing Boing blogger. The writer Gardner Soule (a well-known cryptozoology historian) got “so caught up in the excitement of the hunt that he stopped questioning whether there was really anything to hunt for,” writes Koerth-Baker.

Oh really?  How are we to know if there are no Yetis out there (in 1952!) if no one was willing to test the hypothesis, based on Native folklore, traditions, artifacts, and solid evidence, that the Abominable Snowmen and Snowwomen might be out there? Why equate the word “pseudoscience” and “skeptical”? Clearly, Koerth-Baker is the writer here who has it wrong.

The simple fact is, the body of cryptozoology is not pseudoscience. There is a very large amount of testable physical evidence in the field of cryptozoology, and testing physical evidence is science, not Maggie Koerth-Baker’s “pseudoscience.”

Let me call upon some skeptics who have written about cryptozoology and pseudoscience via exchanges of the past here at Cryptomundo to check in on this matter.

Speaking of the tendency of some to lump cryptozoology in the dustbin of “pseudoscience,” science writer Matt Bille argues that, even if one thinks “cryptozoology is worthless in practice, it still does not belong there. The reason is that cryptozoology is a true science because it is based on falsifiable hypotheses.” (Update: See also here.)

Ben Radford, deputy editor of The Skeptical Inquirer, once commented at Cryptomundo, “I don’t consider cryptozoology a pseudoscience, nor paranormal. Our organization doesn’t just focus on paranormal topics, we cover fringe science, quack medicine, critical thinking, miracles, etc. So I’d say we agree on this.”

DWA, demonstrating a bit of the anger that cryptozoological fans often flash, once wrote: “The folks who have confirmed skeptics like me questioning the pat mainstream assumption that cryptids don’t exist are people who assemble observations, search for commonalities, perform statistical analyses, and posit sound hypotheses. Sounds like science. The ones who can’t convince me they’re right are the ones who click heels three times and crow: PSEUDOSCIENCE! Their attitude seems best exemplified by another legendary primate, or more precisely three of them: the trio whose hands conveniently cover sensory orifices to prohibit entry or exit of anything – like fact – that makes them uncomfortable.”

Writer Sergio penned this, “It’s so easy to dismiss things or people with a wave of the hand and say, ‘Bah pseudoscience!’ All hypotheses start with a basic premise. The premise is what impels the further investigation to refute or support the hypothesis.”

Daniel Loxton, editor of Junior Skeptic, correctly points out that we should be careful of throwing around words like “pseudoscience.” He wrote: “Cryptozoology is not, strictly speaking, ‘paranormal.’ At least at its best, it is also not pseudoscientific. Looking for unrecognized species is, in itself, a perfectly respectable, mainstream scientific pursuit….When skeptics lump cryptozoology in with paranormal topics like ESP and ghosts, we’re not using language in a precise way. This is just a casual short-hand that reflects pop culture convention and the fact that there is great overlap between proponents of each of these topics.”

I’m afraid that Maggie Koerth-Baker does not “get it.”

Cryptozoology is the study of “hidden animals;” that is the examination and investigation of reported living animals that Western Science may find to have been labeled as recently extinct, never extinct, or merely new species. But also the work of cryptozoology is to discover if the reported animals are merely misidentifications, mistakes, and in very rare cases (less than 1%) hoaxes. When and where did Koerth-Baker miss the point that you don’t find animals if you don’t look for them? Or that cryptozoologists are not also skeptical of the majority of such sightings and presented evidence?

As to the two Gardner Soule articles that Koerth-Baker directly (from 1952) and indirectly (from 1961), points to, one on Yeti and the other being a survey of what cryptozoological topics are being pursued, the Popular Science treatment appears to meet the goal of the writer, of course, which was a popular science news update of a cryptozoological hunt and a good overview of the cryptids.  It is unfortunate that Koerth-Baker (and the current editors of PS, apparently) found it necessary to use these old Soule pieces as another opportunity to dismiss the science of cryptozoology!

About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.


29 Responses to “Boing Boing Drops Pseudoscience Bomb On Cryptozoology”

  1. shownuff responds:

    Woe, Well written. And the touch by one of my favorite bloggers here DWA was classic. Cryptozoology is a real science and it is here to stay. Thank you Mr. Loren.

  2. red_pill_junkie responds:

    A very sensible reply to an unfortunate short-sighted association.

    I love Boing Boing. I think every net user should check it out at least once a week –if not daily!– but I’m also aware of the general ‘smartypants’ attitude of that community; it is something of a popular trend of this generation of thinking themselves smarter than their predecessors just because they happen to live in an era that enjoys the huge benefit of digital interconnectivity.

    There’s also the sad pairing of the left-side techno-geekery with an almost fanatic reverie of the skeptical/atheist political movement, IMO because that grants you entrance to a fraternity where vitriol and ad-hominem attacks are not only permitted, but encouraged. The nastier side of the Nerd Revenge. :(

  3. TheForthcoming responds:

    Great article Loren!

    Thank you for writing this in defense of Cryptozoology and Cryptozoologists everywhere.

    :)

    This reminds me of what Thomas Woodward wrote about ID (Intelligent Design) and how ID critics don’t bother to read anything about ID or educate themselves about it:

    “Epiphanies Signaling Paradigm Flux

    “Not long ago, I found myself in a televised discussion of ID with a college president whom I’ll call Dr. Smith.” I had read Dr. Smith’s very harsh public attack on ID, which had been published just weeks before the broadcast. Echoing what he had written, Smith said that his college would consider teaching about ID in philosophy or religion classes but not science classes because “ID is faith, not science.”

    Going on the offensive, I explained the evidence for design from the astounding complexity of the flagellar motor and other complex systems and brought out a few other scientific points in order to quash Dr. Smith’s thesis that “ID is faith, not science.” The epiphany, however, took place not on air but but off the air – between two segments. I leaned over to the college president and expressed my interest in knowing about the research he had done on ID, prior to
    writing his attack on ID. (His piece, although passionate and clever in rhetoric, reflected a painful ignorance of the most basic facts of the ID debate.)

    “How many books on our side – the ID side – have you read?” I asked, adding, “I would assume, of course, that you’ve read Darwin’s Black Box, Our most important book?”

    His answer was short and truthful, “I haven’t really read any books on the topic. I read a few essay’s.” In a way, I was not surprised by his answer, but I was still shocked. “How unscholarly” I thought to myself, “for a college president to write a vehement, wholesale denunciation of ID without having done any serious homework on the topic.” Since then, I have asked newspaper reporters, scientists, and entire audiences the same question: Are ID bashers doing their homework? Who is taking time to read major works on both sides? Have we entered a period of runaway anti-intellectualism in the universities and media?”

    -From Thomas Woodward’s book Darwin Strikes Back (2006) post Dover trial, Chapter 12, pages 181-182.

    The same applies to critics of Cryptozoology as well. I bet if that blogger actually bothered to read your excellent books and blog, Jeff Meldrum’s book Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science and other books and websites like the BFRO and TBRO they would think again before attacking this field of science.

  4. DWA responds:

    TheForthcoming: you mention Meldrum’s book. The last chapter is essential reading when it comes to the so-called skeptics who don’t bother to do essential homework. It’s a tour de force.

    One problem with ID that crypto shares is a lot of fringe opinionizing by hangers-on and people with other agendas. It might be to my advantage that I got a good start with a balanced review of the evidence in a mainstream magazine (National Wildlife, the spring after the Patterson-Gimlin film was shot). But many people are exposed to nothing but the fringe – the news media and its eternal hunger for the silly and the sensational can be blamed for that – and never find out that serious cryptos are as exasperated by the fringe as anyone.

  5. springheeledjack responds:

    It’s also easy to sit on the outside of a situation or idea and make judgments, without ever delving into the facts.

    That’s where I place those statements. The easy cop out is to say, ‘well of course it’s all just fantasy…’ but I don’t take those people too seriously either.

    Read, investigate and research as much as I have and I’ll respect your ideas. If you have an opinion that’s fine. Choose to to say there’s not enough evidence for YOU to buy into it, and I’m fine. But to make a blanket statement based on little next to nothing and I’ll just roll my eyes and ignore you.

    As has been said, Cryptozoology is the search for unknown species. Everyone (or at least the ignorant) boils it down to the big three: Bigfoot, Nessie and Abominable Snowman, and don’t even know enough to realize that cryptozoology is happening every day, new species are being discovered everywhere.

    Ignorance is what it is. The best we can do is educate and keep our own resolve.

  6. MSORRELL1964 responds:

    I am not at all surprised by what “Koerth-Baker” wrote in regards to the “truly recognized” science of Cryptozoology. This is an actual science that has persistently evolved over the last several decades. Many people have taken the time to leave their comfort zone and go out into the wilderness to search for many forms of evidence to validate their research.

    It is very apparent the evidence speaks for itself! I feel sorry for people who can’t even try to be open minded enough to recognize the validity of Cryptozoology as an actual SCIENCE.

    Someday, whenever that day may come, the world will finally see the only evidence that will change their beliefs. It will have to be the remains of an actual Sasquatch or Bigfoot. They will not accept the vast amount of eyewitness testimony provided over the decades by people of all different ways of life. The truth will finally come out over time.

    All it takes is an open mind and the ability to take an un-biased look at the evidence.

    Thank you, Mr. Coleman, for all of your hard work to keep the science of Cryptozoology moving forward. I also recognize many others who have given their time, expertise and money to support this science, such as Rich Noll, Dr. Jeff Meldrum, Todd Partain, John Green, the late Dr. Grover Krantz and many, many more out there.

    I truly support these researchers and field investigators. Someday, maybe I could have a chance to actually witness a field investigation in person.

    CRYPTOMUNDO ROCKS and THE “BFRO” is the real deal.

  7. TheForthcoming responds:

    Thanks DWA and well said. I agree with you on those issues regarding ID and Cryptozoology as well.

    You have some very good points and I am almost at the last chapter of Dr. Meldrum’s book.

    Also MSORRELL1964 said it best as well and my thanks goes to Loren, Jeff and many other heroes in this field who are honest, hard working and dedicated to bringing people the most accurate info their is on these issues involving Cryptozoology and their years of research and expertise as well.

    Keep up the great work and research.

    Thanks again guys and these critics that attack Cryptozoology seem to use no reason, logic or logical fallacies at times. They need to be more open minded.

    Like my intellectual friend U.S. Army Chaplain Pastor Joe Freas says who is into Cryptozoology “Cryptozoology attracts some critics, skeptics and supporters that are both sane and not sane just as the internet does.”

    Peace.

    :)

  8. PhotoExpert responds:

    Loren–Extremely well written!!! Excellent points! This post really stood out and I had to make mention of that fact.

  9. YowieLover responds:

    Yes very well said Loren…

    The ignorant will often criticize what they do not understand but this is invariably an attempt to make themselves feel better about their own massive shortcomings rather than carefully examine the subject with objectivity and the same measure of passion with which we pursue the subject.

    These people are blind pessimists…We are objective, evidence based, optimists who search for the specimen that can put these mysterious reported creatures on the known list of existing animals.

    P.S. a pessimist never did anything useful in this world.

  10. tropicalwolf responds:

    The cryptos bark back, but in this there is a problem. Those doing serious research are sometimes as much a part of the problem as they are part of the supposed solution. It seems to me that oft times, in any environment, one is a reflection of the company they keep. The problem is, cryptozoology IS considered paranormal by the mainstream because of its voluntary association WITH the paranormal. Serious sasquatch hunters are often mixed into displays at paranormal conventions and the like. Many are volunteering to be there. I find it hard to blame those who are ignorant of the field from associating the two together. It is like associating with known hoaxers, you in turn will lose credibility. Many of these types of conventions feature KNOWN “famous” hoaxers (mostly in the ghost hunting arena), yet we still allow serious researchers to mingle with, or present alongside, those individuals. We truly have no one to blame but ourselves for such ignorance. As DWA said, “serious cryptos are as exasperated by the fringe as anyone.”. Absolutely, however, if we continue to associate and give a voice to the fringe, are we part of the problem or part of the solution? Again, you are the company you keep. Stay strong Loren, your post was excellent.

  11. DWA responds:

    tropicalwolf: indeed.

    Cryptos are part time. They’re putting their own income into their passion; problem is, there isn’t enough. (Time, never mind income.) They need more attention (to the topic) and money (for the search). Unfortunately, some channels are not the cleanest. It becomes a choice between fitting something serious in amid all the nonsense…and getting no exposure at all.

    Biting the hand that feeds being in the minds of most unseemly in the extreme, one has a hard time distancing oneself from those with whom one has been allowed – invited – to share the stage. Ergo, there is great difficulty separating the crypto core from the dross surrounding it. Even the 2009 Texas Bigfoot Conference, which I attended, dipped its toe in the muck. There’s the Catch-22: it’s almost a practical necessity – or at least viewed that way – but it blurs, at worst besmirches, the message.

    You are the company you keep. That’ll never change. That crypto gets inadequate attention doesn’t excuse its improper association with unrelated topics. And only cryptos can change that.

    Unfair? Life is, at least last time I checked.

  12. JungleHusky responds:

    “It does get troubling that even well-meaning people can so blindly slam an entire group of scientifically, skeptically-minded folks with demeaning categorizations that have little or no foundation in fact.”

    It is by far easier to dismiss a subject out of ignorance and lack of an open mind than it is to have patience for the discovery that acts as confirmation for all those years of research. Yet I agree it is sad that even those who are “well-meaning” as you wrote, can dismiss such cases as the Coelacanth, and slam an entire field. Reminds me when terms such as “hard” and “soft” sciences were used to put subjects in a categorical box when we need to think outside the box.

  13. Mushlatubee responds:

    I find it interesting that while cryptozoology is often labeled as a fringe science, in where it is regarded as unscientific to listen to the locals, and yet the field of ethnobotany is regarded as a fine science, in which the botanists go in and listen to the locals for advice on finding new plant species. They are at the core the same thing, one merely substitutes animals for plants, yet one is accepted and on is not. Are we to believe that a tribal hunter is perfectly correct on where to find a new rare plant, yet is too stupid to tell the difference between a owl and a 7 foot primate?

  14. DWA responds:

    Mushlatubee: An illustration may be illuminating for the uninformed.

    You’re an ethnobotanist. You come into a village to ask the shaman about edible and medicinal plants. But you already know the answers! You introduce yourself; look around you – I mean do a slow -ish – 360 turn, then say to him: I don’t see any plants. That I’d eat or put on me or anything. You kidding? This is the tropics. Everything’s out to kill you!

    The shaman says: they’re all around you. They’re at your feet. I’ve spent years gathering this knowledge, after others spent aeons before me. That’s what it takes.

    You: ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh hahahaha. AAAAAhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh hahahaha. I see. You mean, you kept on looking and looking and looking around you until you CONVINCED yourself there were all these plants. You’ve gone over to the dark side, haven’t you….?

    This is precisely the attitude of skeptics – unfortunately, not just scoftics – toward people who have studied the Patterson-Gimlin film. You CONVINCED yourself that was what you WANTED IT to be.

    I mean, seriously, who does that? Who engages in that kind of behavior? Looking and looking and looking at something one doesn’t believe, until one does? Snap judgment is in our genes; it’s why most of us aren’t scientists.

    (Disclosure: I stifled a laugh when I first saw the P/G film, after decades of viewing stills and going: what is that?)

    And it’s why most of the ones who are scientists don’t know how to deal with unknowns outside their specific scientific field. All kinds of behaviors that simply aren’t observed in the run of people are automatically imputed to cryptos, because no one can fathom the possibility that their snap judgment might not be right.

    It is odd. And the only reason I can come up with it is the way people are raised. We are told from the time we can understand that some stuff simply doesn’t exist. And we have no idea what to do with that pounded-in rote training…other than obey it. We stop soiling our pants. But we get a lot of help with that. We never stop the process of soiling possibility with instant presumption. Because we never get any help with that, unless our parents or teachers understand how the scientific mind works, and help us accomplish that mode of thinking.

    Or in my case, leave me alone, and let me cultivate it myself.

    I had no problem with Bigfoot, because when I first heard of it, my parents never had. I evaluated what was available on my own. And I kept the open mind that is essential to scientific endeavor, even though I didn’t become a scientist. The open mind I cultivated with regard to the sasquatch, I later learned to apply to everything; because most of the people that are telling you what is, and isn’t, demonstrably don’t know themselves. Your individual judgment is always paramount. If, that is, you apply it fairly to evidence presented.

    This is why I feel free to lecture scientists on this topic. They may have learned to keep an open mind in the field in which they work. But not only do they frequently slip up there; they always slip up when true unknowns are under discussion.

    But.

    It helps, a lot, that a shaman can actually *show* the ethnobotanist the plant, and demonstrate its use. No question there.

  15. YowieLover responds:

    Hey Loren, would it be too hard to get some up and down arrows for us to rate individual comments? That one of Mushlatubee is a classic.

  16. shill responds:

    I’ve taken some exception to Loren’s response. It is here.

  17. DWA responds:

    shill: I take some exception to your exception.

    It’s in these names: Dan Loxton, Ben Radford, Blake Smith, Joe Nickell and David Daegling.

    I don’t consider them cryptozoological researchers, at all. First, they spend (by the admission of Radford and Loxton, at least) not much time on the field; second, I consider their work pre-loaded with the unspoken “skeptical” bias – that there’s nothing to see here, folks. Now Loxton’s a gentleman indeed, and welcome when he comes here. Not having dealt with Smith, Nickell or Daegling, I can’t speak to them as people. Daegling’s critique of Jeff Meldrum’s book, however, wasn’t a critique of the book at all; it was an expose of Daegling’s personal biases, and a clear indicator of a lack of critical thinking essential to the hard sciences. You don’t prove Patty human by having a bunch of guys strap on water bags and walk around, for example. You posit a whole theorem of how the whole hoax could have been pulled off, that holds together, something on which skeptics haven’t even begun yet after over 40 years; and *yes it is on them to do it.* You always provide evidence for your viewpoint in a scientific debate. Otherwise no one has any reason to respect it. “You can’t prove a negative” is a copout and not allowable. You most certainly can prove a false positive. Daegling thought that was Meldrum’s job, which it clearly isn’t, because that’s not Meldrum’s theory. Meldrum has done thorough research of this topic; Daegling has not, and their respective work shows it.

    I have clashed with Ben Radford many times here, and consider him transparently uninformed. (And nasty to boot, unless you agree with him.) He is fish in a barrel.

    The Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy – in my opinion as science as science gets – and Jeff Meldrum didn’t start with a bias. They started with evidence that intrigued them; and that evidence was bolstered by a number of personal experiences… and their scientific training. (Meldrum’s could not be more relevant; the TBRC includes wildlife biologists who have had personal experiences that easily settled the matter for them.) When one has seen a sasquatch, the matter is proven to that individual, who no longer has, nor should have, any reason to do anything but search for support that will bring the rest of us around to the truth. I hope you aren’t positing that he must do serious research into his possible insanity, when that has handily been ruled out.

    Science does the heavy lifting of truth in our society. Mainstream science has been lax on the matter, in the extreme. The hostility to the notion of sasquatch and yeti displayed by scientists who know nothing about the evidence is unbecoming science, to say the least. (I have never seen an argument against the validity of the evidence for these animals that doesn’t display flawed reasoning on its face.)

    It is only required of the proponents to lay the evidence at the feet of science. There, their responsibility ends, and it is up to professional, full-time zoologists to take up the evidence and come to a conclusion. That they have allowed amateurs – and a few dauntless professionals who can only devote part time to the effort – to do this for them should not reflect negatively on the amateurs, nor on those professionals.

    There is a serious core to cryptozoology; and that core has delivered more evidence for the existence of undocumented hominoids than has been found for any other species before confirmation by science.

    I for one consider your concern misplaced. Want to shed the lazy, timid, slacker label, zoologists? Try harder. Read the evidence before mouthing off. And that goes for you “experts” in the other sciences too. Unless a scientist has the evidence in hand, and has reviewed it thoroughly, he is forbidden to scoff, which act can only be seen as willfully obstructing a scientific investigation. Who wants to do that?

  18. doctoratlantis responds:

    I can’t speak for anybody but myself (Blake Smith) but I’ve spent hundreds of hours in the woods and fields of Georgia. Perhaps it’s my bad luck that I’ve never run into a Bigfoot – but it wasn’t from sitting in my mom’s basement. [Disclosure: My mom doesn’t have a basement.]

    The distinction between cryptozoology and ethnobiology is a topic that come up frequently on MonsterTalk. Our discussion with Darren Naish and with Tony Russell covered the topic pretty well, but we’ll be getting into it again next Wednesday when we talk with Brian Regal about his new book Searching for Sasquatch: Crackpots, Eggheads, and Cryptozoology. (As you can imagine, my first question is why would he call the book THAT?) Anyway, he covers the interesting dichotomy between the amateur field investigator and the professional research scientist.

    Perhaps there are cases where your characterization of science as a bunch of deliberately eyes-covered deniers might be applicable – but the reality is that science has taken a very close look at bigfoot and many other cryptids. These are interesting topics and when evidence can be provided it is examined thoroughly. That’s the way it is done.

    I’d really urge anybody who is interested in getting more credibility with the science community to listen to that Naish interview. He argues that the culture of amateur cryptozoology has been one of fiercely guarding evidence rather than publishing findings in journals. It’s sharing and publishing that gets you credibility, and vetting your work and defending your conclusions – that isn’t a whipping-line or dismissiveness, but the sometimes brutal methodology of science.

    Hopefully Darren won’t mind me referencing him here – he can clarify, of course, if I misunderstood his position.

  19. DWA responds:

    doctoratlantis: maybe your definition of “examined thoroughly” and mine differ.

    If you’re talking examining those cases that come up for public scrutiny, e.g., the Georgia Boys, well, the news media seem not to care one whit for the serious side of crypto. They don’t do anything much at all to publicize that. The exceptions stick out like sore thumbs. The media have put crypto into the “circus relief” bucket; they dredge it up when Everyone Needs A Laugh, and their predisposition to chuckle at it dominates. Not surprising, since the fringe is pretty much all that comes to public light. And not surprising that the skeptical community simply echoes that chuckling, because like the newsies, they see what sells.

    I thiink that the “brutal methodology” you refer to amounts to this: picking over never-debunked icons, choosing to emphasize “no-proof” (i.e., “no search”), rather than emphasizing “not one shred of evidence countering authenticity, in over 40 years.” Ignoring the animal(s) people continue to see, providing descriptions that have remained consistent over the decades, and that moreover describe an animal that couldn’t be much more different than it is from the public’s naive, shuffling knuckle-dragging herbivorous man-ape perception.

    If science did what you say science does, there would be several full-time expeditions in the field, right now. Actually, the sasquatch might have been confirmed within months of the Patterson-Gimlin film; not one objection to the authenticity of the film offered at the time holds a drop of water, and none have since.

    Images of the dwarf planet Eris – faint smudges of light – were taken in October 2003. By January 2005, Eris was confirmed, and the solar system we had “known” since 1930 changed. (By vote. Hmmmmm. THAT’S science, huhn.)

    And here, right on Earth, we have a clear MOVIE – no better clarity possible on commercial film of the time – of an animal that LEFT FOOTPRINTS that have been vouched for by experts in relevant fields – in 1967 – and here it is 2010, and nothing in the way of proof (although the mountain of evidence has grown roughly 20 times since then). Some serious scientists – whose stature allows them to say daring things without losing their funding – have said that this is a worthy scientific inquiry. Including Naish, pretty much on the strength of that one film.

    So, yup, your definitions and mine appear to differ, let’s just say somewhat.

    The evidence is right there; nobody’s fiercely guarding anything. I’m nobody special; I’ve read it.

    But science isn’t looking. Not as science, when it’s thinking straight, defines that term.

  20. DWA responds:

    This will further illustrate what I’m saying.

    See, the fringes of crypto – both skeptic and proponent –aren’t scientists. They don’t think scientifically. So they have a tendency to just go at each other, to pick on what is easy to pick on. The non-scientific skeptics pick on the Georgia Boys, Ray Wallace, Youtube videos, and all this other stuff that true cryptos know is fringe quackery. Then come the true believers on the proponent side – you must believe me! They’re human! They live in tribes! They’re shape-shifting and coming down on flying saucers! – which of course loads the skeptics’ guns quite nicely.

    Meanwhile, Jeff Meldrum, the BFRO, the TBRC, John Bindernagel, John Mionczynski, et al are just quietly collecting evidence, noting correlations, accumulating reports, and going about their hard-science business. The skeptics don’t have their guns loaded sufficiently for big game, and they seem to know it. So they never engage these guys, at all. The questions I always ask skeptics:

    (1) if all of this is such obvious fakery, why do you even bother? You don’t see me going around wasting my time on folks I know aren’t worth it;

    (2) why don’t you ever directly engage the scientists, in highly relevant fields, who disagree with you?

    Why do you keep coming at me with Ben Radford, one of those hammers who thinks every problem is a nail, and has a psychology degree that he badly misuses every time I read him, but since he has a psych degree, that’s the one he thinks is needed here? We’ve put so many holes in his flag here that it’s more hole than flag, but he keeps coming back with the same old tired stuff. Why does Daegling, an alleged scientist in an allegedly relevant field, pick on his pet peeves and areas of ignorance, when what he was asked, plainly, to do was to review a book that I have read, and can tell you he didn’t have to read to write what he wrote?

    Huh?

    I have put these questions to skeptics numerous times – and I’m not alone – and have never gotten answers. Why?

    In your last post, you talk about the “interesting dichotomy between the amateur field investigator and the professional research scientist.” The way that’s set up, you don’t seem to acknowledge that most skeptics are the former, and a number of the latter are cryptid advocates. Who are so convinced that they have taken it up pro bono. I’m going with the pros over the amateurs every time; and some hard-hitting pros are saying the sasquatch is real. The skeptics aren’t contesting them at all; if this were a softball game, the murder rule would have been invoked years ago.

    You know – you would have to know, and shame on him so would Naish – who’s zealously guarding their information. It’s the quick-buck quacks, the Georgia Boys, the Johor Jokers. That’s who. “Step this way and see the real th…wait, gotta pay me first!” Those guys. The ones up there on Mount Why Bother with Ray Wallace. Why waste your time? Meldrum has a book, right there. The TBRC and BFRO websites have provided you with reading material for weeks, if not months. Don’t summarize them with the “eyewitness testimony is bad evidence” canard or I’ll just have to laugh. Eyewitness testimony has reeled in more than enough new species to put that one to bed.

    An actual review of what Meldrum actually wrote – a direct confrontation with Meldrum’s science, rather than a he’s-gone-to-the-dark-side dismissal – would do. Start there, and you might make my work a little harder than it, frankly, is. If you think this is such an interesting topic, you might, you know, try to do something to, you know, make it, well, interesting.

    Which it is, as exciting as anything going on in science. As long as one tunes out the skeptics, that is.

    The reason that cryptozoology is so largely amateur: If science isn’t met with science, it doesn’t pay well.

  21. doctoratlantis responds:

    DWA :
    The history of cryptozoology is one filled with real scientists doing real scientific work. It also is a history filled with enthusiastic amateurs with no formal training. To date nobody has brought back a live bigfoot, nor a live Nessie, nor a live yeti, nor DNA to prove any of them exist. They have brought back live “chupacabra” but they turned out to be dogs, or other canids.

    Don’t conflate the media with science. I despise the media’s treatment of cryptozoology as much as you do – but its guileless acceptance of every claim as newsworthy is not limited to this topic. Think balloon-boy, run-away-bride, and the annual Halloween ghost stories.

    There is a large body of work on the sightings. Some of them are genuine mysteries, others are mistakes, and others still are hoaxes or confabulation. If the sightings are consistent and replicable, then I agree with you that further investigation seems warranted. However, there is a subtext to your allegation that “If science did what you say science does, there would be several full-time expeditions in the field, right now.” And that is that finding bigfoot requires field investigations by scientists. I don’t think it does, does it? Unqualified non-scientists can collect samples – or even SHOOT A BIGFOOT – if they want to. It doesn’t take a degree, just a gun.

    But you also seem to imply that scientists aren’t doing field research in those woods right now. Have you ever read about the hair-trap projects that are used to measure bear populations throughout the forests of the Northwest? Have any of those thousands and thousands of samples produced any anomalous primate hair? And what about all the DNA testing done on scat samples – has any of that turned up primate evidence? And who is doing all that DNA testing? Scientists.

    Science isn’t the enemy of cryptozoology. As long as there are mysteries, science is the best thing going for figuring out what is real and what isn’t – so long as what evidence is found is testable.

    I don’t want to debate the PG film. There are people who find it compelling evidence of an anomalous primate, and people who see a man in a suit. There are very qualified people on both sides of the argument – and the conclusion I have drawn is that barring further evidence it is impossible to know precisely what the film shows. So that film can’t settle the matter.

    If somebody ever gets around to killing one of these beasties or finds a corpse – well I’ll be cracking open a bottle of champagne which is sitting cold in my fridge right now. I’m a skeptic not a denier.

    But I think you’re in a strange position when you’re complaining that science isn’t giving its endorsement to cryptozoology – yet dismissing science as…dismissive? Cryptozoology needs to work with science and scientists or get used to that “pseudoscience” moniker.

  22. DWA responds:

    doctoratlantis:

    “…However, there is a subtext to your allegation that “If science did what you say science does, there would be several full-time expeditions in the field, right now.” And that is that finding bigfoot requires field investigations by scientists. I don’t think it does, does it? Unqualified non-scientists can collect samples – or even SHOOT A BIGFOOT – if they want to. It doesn’t take a degree, just a gun.”

    Well, many hunters have been in that situation – there’s no more reason to disbelieve than to believe the accounts – and as you say no one’s brought in a dead one. Many have said it was a tad close to murder for them; yet at least two hunters I’m aware of examined one they had killed. I know why one didn’t bring back evidence. No clue why the other didn’t; but he described the foot to Grover Krantz. It was precisely the structure Krantz had theorized would be necessary for a biped that size. No more reason to believe than to disbelieve that.

    You also have to be out long enough to get a shot. (Or to get documentation that will be accepted as proof.) Three days won’t get you a wolverine. I suspect it won’t get you something like this either. (Unless you get lucky; and apparently – if you believe the accounts – we haven’t had enough get lucky yet.) Nobody but Patterson and Gimlin seem to have put in the required time to reliably do this; P and G just had a different kind of shot in mind. But they did get it.

    The P-G film doesn’t settle anything by itself. But I’ve suggested the proper take on it. It should intrigue and challenge more scientists than it seems to. Fortunately, it did intrigue Naish; and he has the right take on it too.

    I think there’s a better way to do this than to wait for an amateur spending two days outside to kill one. And there’s enough evidence to go forward with it. This is where sighting reports come in handy; the places they suggest are places I would think from my experience would be good ones. I don’t think Leakey paid much to get Jane Goodall into the field; the ‘expedition’ doesn’t have to be big. And indeed shouldn’t be; I wonder how many chimps a team of 500 would have encountered. Time and open-minded observation – and someone who knows how to collect and preserve evidence – are more important.

    The leading edge of crypto *is* scientists, working with scientists; and it’s their work I’m concerned with. What needs to diminish is the hostility displayed by scientists unacquainted with the evidence (like that physicist at Idaho State who wanted Meldrum’s tenure on a pike). The operative paradigm now is that to show crypto leanings endangers one’s livelihood as a scientist. That needs to stop.

    The only thing a scientist should be allowed to scoff at is scoffing.

  23. DWA responds:

    I needed to add, with regard to this:

    “But you also seem to imply that scientists aren’t doing field research in those woods right now. Have you ever read about the hair-trap projects that are used to measure bear populations throughout the forests of the Northwest? Have any of those thousands and thousands of samples produced any anomalous primate hair? And what about all the DNA testing done on scat samples – has any of that turned up primate evidence? And who is doing all that DNA testing? Scientists.”

    You forgot the important question:

    Who’s going to come forward and say “hey, there’s primate hair on this trap?” Or, “know what? This crap came from a large primate, not a bear!”

    No one who wants to feed his family with a scientific career.

    Indeed, anomalous samples have been flat thrown out after testing “inconclusive” – which means “exciting” in English, because one can’t get “bigfoot” without a type specimen.

    That’s the way it is. Until scientists change it. They can.

  24. doctoratlantis responds:

    DWA:===============
    “Who’s going to come forward and say “hey, there’s primate hair on this trap?” Or, “know what? This crap came from a large primate, not a bear!”

    No one who wants to feed his family with a scientific career.”
    ==========================

    Okay – that’s just wrong. I’ve talked with quite a few scientists and all of them would be happy to write up findings on anomalous animal DNA. Todd Disotell, for example. He frequently tests odd samples. Why? Because it is a zero risk game. If he doesn’t find anything – he’s risked nothing. If he does find something he risks… what? Academic acclaim? The idea that scientists don’t want to encounter new evidence that challenges their beliefs is a myth. An easily debunked myth if you actually talk to or listen to working scientists.

  25. DWA responds:

    doctoratlantis:

    That’s too safe a passage, and you know it.

    It’s easy to say you’d be willing to write up findings.

    Then you have to do it. Suddenly, your wager means something. Like your career.

    If “The idea that scientists don’t want to encounter new evidence that challenges their beliefs is a myth,” why hasn’t a primatologist taken out a full-page ad in Nature, Science or Scientific American encouraging sasquatch research? Heck, why don’t the very editors of those august publications come right out to challenge their colleagues to take this up? If it would actually be so cool – as so many skeptical scientists say – if the sasquatch and yeti were real, why do so few working professionals put their money where their mouths are?

    I hear talk. What I see very little of is walking that talk. What I see is a PHYSICIST, of all people, trying to shout down Jeff Meldrum and get his research discredited. Do you think that could happen in a world where “the idea that scientists don’t want to encounter new evidence that challenges their beliefs is a myth”?

    Come on now. We both know the answer to that one.

    I don’t need to see scientists drop everything to look for Bigfoot. What I do need to see is that it’s safe to even discuss it.

    It’s not. When one hears all around one “this would be the scientific discovery/gold mine/take your pick of the century,” why isn’t there a freewheeling hunt for the truth, encouraged actively among full-time professionals? Why are people who simply say they saw one treated like nuts?

    When the poles and Mount Everest were unconquered, there was a full-on rush to be the first there. If it were safe to talk freely about this topic, the sas and yeti would be “biological Everests.” They’re not. Why is that?

  26. DWA responds:

    As I really don’t want us to go ‘round the mulberry bush forever on this, which we could, I wanted to offer this as my bottom line.

    As I frequently have said here…

    IT’S NOT SCIENTIFIC, AT ALL, TO BLAME AN ANIMAL’S NON-EXISTENCE ON THOSE SEARCHING FOR IT.

    My problem with the skeptic fringe of crypto is that it engages only the amateur fringe, rather than calling the professionals to action. What you skeptics *should* be doing, if you really are skeptics, is challenging the pat societal assumption that cryptids aren’t real.

    The Patterson-Gimlin film threw down the proponent gauntlet, clearly, in black and white. Over 40 years later it stands unchallenged. When you say, doctoratlantis, that there are knowledgeable people on both sides, you omit the difference: the knowledgeable proponents have made a solid case.

    I have no taste for “monsters,” at all. I only dig critters. The proponents’ case is the only reason I am here.

    I have said this a million times, mostly here:

    1) Knowledgeable scientists, in directly relevant fields, believe either that the sasquatch and yeti are real or that the search needs to be engaged by science. Their scientific case is clear, and unchallenged.

    2) No case that all the evidence amounts to a false positive has ever been made. And one won’t be. Until one is, the skeptics are without argument. Which one kind of needs in a scientific discussion.

    3) NO ONE ON THE SKEPTIC FRINGE IS ADDRESSING THE SCIENCE, AT ALL. And that includes the skeptical scientists, none of whom has made an argument I can’t riddle in minutes.

    Bottom line.

    If you want cryptids to be real, put your money where your mouths are. Stop ridiculing amateurs, and start clearing the way for the big dogs to hunt. Because the evidence says there is something to hunt for.

    Period.

  27. DWA responds:

    And one more thing: the final nail in the coffin of

    “The idea that scientists don’t want to encounter new evidence that challenges their beliefs is a myth. An easily debunked myth if you actually talk to or listen to working scientists.”

    Read it, right here on this site:

    Associated Press Attacks Meldrum

    So much for openness in the hard sciences.

    There it is, my bottom line. Refer to this and my previous post with any questions.

  28. doctoratlantis responds:

    DWA:
    The press is not “science”.

    In that article some people at his university say they’re embarrassed but he gets kudos from Jane Goodall.

    Science is not monolithic. Interdisciplinary criticism obviously is a sore-point for you – but sometimes it is appropriate and other times it is not.

    If you want to believe that science is a confederacy against bigfoot feel free. But your own evidence says otherwise.

    I gather from many of your comments that you don’t listen to MonsterTalk – and that’s fine. But I think we’ve done a better job of addressing these topics there than I can in intermittent thread posts.

    I also think your dismissal of Ben Radford and his work is a mistake. He’s one of the few skeptics willing to get out in the field and do original research on these topics. Which is what you wanted, right?

  29. DWA responds:

    “DWA:
    The press is not “science”. “

    The people calling for Meldrum’s tenure are scientists. The press’s attitude comes mainly – almost wholly – from the attitude of ignorant scientists like these. The press simply carries their water.

    “In that article some people at his university say they’re embarrassed but he gets kudos from Jane Goodall.”

    Which should be more than enough to tell skeptics: stop picking on amateurs and start wondering why some of the best scientists are backing this horse. And why they don’t have the support of their lesser lights. (And it should be emphasized that their “embarrassment” is expressed by ostracizing their colleague and calling for his job.)

    “Science is not monolithic. Interdisciplinary criticism obviously is a sore-point for you – but sometimes it is appropriate and other times it is not.”

    It is always inappropriate when the criticism is uninformed. If you are ignorant, don’t show it, is a good idea for scientists. As I have said, scientists knocking the sasquatch and yeti show their ignorance, and they do it quickly.

    “If you want to believe that science is a confederacy against bigfoot feel free. But your own evidence says otherwise.”

    Not at all sure what that means. I don’t think scientists do anything on this matter but shoot their own curiosity in the foot. All my evidence says that, with obvious exceptions, scientists are ignorant when it comes to the yeti and sasquatch.

    “I gather from many of your comments that you don’t listen to MonsterTalk – and that’s fine. But I think we’ve done a better job of addressing these topics there than I can in intermittent thread posts.

    “I also think your dismissal of Ben Radford and his work is a mistake. He’s one of the few skeptics willing to get out in the field and do original research on these topics. Which is what you wanted, right?”

    Until the skeptical community raises its game from what I have seen – and that goes double for Ben Radford, who as I have said doesn’t grasp science well and dismisses the bulk of the evidence without a look – to engage the professional proponents on their ground, I’ll stick with the Meldrums on this topic. Evidence is on their side, and that’s everything.

    My previous two posts stand unchanged.



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