Cryptozoology Is Not About Faith

Oregon Game Camera Photo

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My friend and Cryptomundo colleague, British Columbian John Kirk writes on this blog today, “Bracing For Disappointment” that was itself a disappointment to read. I think it speaks to the erosion of natural history adventure and the rise of cynicism that has begun to infect our field. Speaking specifically about the potential and possibilities of the Vincent Chow revelations in the as-yet-to-be-released Malaysian photos of Mawas, Kirk writes that “given the flops as far as earthshaking cryptid footage and photos of the past are concerned, I do not have much faith that they will be as revealing as one would hope.”

Cryptozoology is not about faith; it is about openly gathering, collecting, investigating, and analyzing.

Frankly, I experience enough wet blankets being thrown on cryptozoological research and interests everyday without having to read about it on Cryptomundo. Of course, skeptical cryptozoology has its place. I am scientifically skeptical of much of what I investigate. Of course, we all have to be careful. I am cautious about all that I research. Of course, any and all media anticipations of photographs and films are going to be presented as the “best ever.” I understand the media does this for a variety of “pay attention to me” reasons. So what?

John’s message is logical but dismissal in a way that I never wish to be. I want to have an open-mind and an open-door policy so people will understand they can be treated with respect, passion, patience, and non-judgmental scrutiny by me, representing cryptozoology. Why in the world would I want to tell someone that I am going to be disappointed before I’ve seen their evidence? Why would I want to convey the message that “I think you will show me something that probably will remind me of past disappointments, so, I guess, I will begrudgingly waste my time on you”?

Sorry, I sense that John Kirk’s is the wrong message for cryptozoology to broadcast, if you ask me. And I know no one did, but here I am to say it anyway. Bring on your disenfranchised, bring me your photos, your footage, your stories that no one, not even you feel, may be real or worthy. Life is too short to have people dismissing your materials before you bring them to the table.

My mentor Ivan T. Sanderson was thoughtful, considered, and open to having people contact him with many stories, photos, and footage. He screened it all. Most of it turned out to be worthless in advancing toward a discovery. Did he then put out a message, therefore, that he thought the next piece of film was going to be nothing worthwhile? Ask yourself, would some of the great pieces of evidence, such as the Patterson-Gimlin film, a one in a million bit of footage, exist if his open-door, non-judgement initial policy not been in place? Revisionists have criticized Sanderson for some of his work, but he was able to open many doors that had been closed for decades before he came along. Sanderson’s form of open-door cryptozoology is why we are here today, not because of episodes of Edmund Hillary’s or more recent examples of character-assassination-based “skepticals,” that’s for sure.

Vincent Chow

I’ll review 5 million snapshots of a blogsasquatch to wait for that one or two photos that add to and enhance cryptozoological and zoological knowledge. I will wait for what Vincent Chow wants to show me, in his own timeframes, without pre-judgement. And I will certainly do this in a different spirit of openness than what I am understanding from those who wish to dismiss evidence before it is even seen.

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.

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  1. One of the best posts I’ve read here, Mr. Wells. (If I dispute it anywhere, that, um, doesn’t, um, count.)

    Read an analysis like this one.

    If you are a logical, rational thinker, i.e., someone who thinks like, well, like scientists are supposed to, you must come away from an article like this thinking: hmmmmm. Maybe there is something here.

    If on the other hand, you’re an irrational science worshipper (an….ummmm….Scientologist…..? heeeey, just doing some figgerin’ here ;-)), you’ll go: “HAH HAH! These things don’t exist. OK….?”

    In truth, the Bigfoot skeptics are the ones who come off looking and sounding like irrational conspiracy theorists, to me!

  2. OK, in that last post, last paragraph, substitute “deniers” for “skeptics.”

    For the skeptics, we’re still combing the globe for skeletons and roadkill. ;-)

  3. another “oh.”

    dblondon’s last post: pretty good too.

    Here’s to the people who were rational and logical enough to start looking. Seriously.

    And to those of us rational and logical enough to know: there might be something here.

  4. While in San Antonio for the “Bigfoot in Texas?” exhibit, I had the opportunity to watch Craig Woolheater, Daryl Colyer and Dr. Jeff Meldrum interact with an individual who claimed to have video of a Bigfoot from a vacation in Colorado.

    While this individual failed to produce the video while they were there (unless he finally provided it on the final day of their stay), and they were understandably skeptical, they impressed me by taking the time to listen to the individual, to consider his story and offering to seriously consider any hard evidence he might be able to produce.

    They didn’t trip all over themselves to accept this story, and in fact regarded it with more skepticism than I would have expected from a group that included individuals who claim experiences of their own. But I was highly impressed with their willingness to consider his story despite their skepticism. (And with their scrutiny of the alleged witnesses story for consistency over several tellings.)

  5. DWA
    Thanks for that excellent article from Daryl Coyler.

    I agree that, while this work on the correlation between rainfall and reported sightings, Meldrum’s work on the bone structure of primate feet, etc. isn’t as “sexy” as field expedition work, I do feel it is this kind of “circumstantial evidence” that will eventually get this field taken seriously and will eventually lead to a breakthrough.

    Yes, it is circumstantial evidence compared to, oh, say a clear and detailed photo of Bigfoot waving to the camera.
    But men have been sentenced to life in prison on less…

  6. Just a thought for another useful piece of information to glean from sighting reports:

    How close to his/her residence was the sighting? And in what season?

    The easy answer — not without its own flaws — to the correlation of hi-sighting with lo-pop density is: sure. People see these, i.e., see things, when they’re in the woods on R&R, i.e., on vacation. Transient visitors don’t count in pop density numbers, right? In other words, the potential-Bigfoot-sighter density in a region may be higher by a lot, at least seasonally, than the official pop density due to hunters, hikers, fishermen, etc. “swelling” the official pop figures.

    You can discount that argument by showing that sighters, whatever they were doing, were doing it where they live, not as transient boosters of the official pop numbers. Lots of sightings in “off” seasons are probably made by residents; or at least the chance of a transient boosting the numbers is very small.

    Just a thought.

  7. For those who might miss the rationale of the above it’s this: when the universe of potential hoaxers, drunks, naive misidentifiers etc. goes up, so do the sightings, if the animals aren’t real.

    Doesn’t matter, if they are.

  8. I offer a simple three-term syllogism.

    1. The vast majority of people don’t believe that Bigfoot exists.

    2. People who don’t believe Bigfoot exists won’t say they saw one unless they unequivocally did.

    3. The vast majority of people will not misidentify a known animal as a Bigfoot, but rather the other way around.

    Could it be this easy to knock away one of the main props of the argument that the animals don’t exist?

    Say yes. :-)

  9. Well, I was going to mention how I BELIEVE that cats and dogs, horseshoe crabs and trees, cars and galaxies all exist, but then good ol’ Grover speaks up from the dead to modify my position before I even start…
    I am forced to conclude that such things exist because I have experienced them with my own senses. Another important component, however, is that that conclusion is also based on the perceptions of people OTHER than myself, because they are forced to draw the same conclusions. That makes the existence of such things, and events as well, more probably than say, my dreams, for while I myself have indeed experienced them with my senses, I can be pretty certain that no one else has.
    To expand on that slightly, because so many people have concluded, based upon the input of their own senses, that Sasquatch and other such entities exist, I find myself forced to conclude that it is likely that they exist. This can, however, become easily complicated. I have a hard time, for example, believing that Faeries and Angels exist, although there seems no shortage of people that claim direct experiences. If pushed on the matter, I suppose I would have to conclude that their experiences have some underlying reality, even if the entities they experience do not.
    Others, of course, may think differently. In the July issue of the Fortean Times, Jerome Clark is quoted as saying, “Anomalous occurances may be experientially real, but it does not follow that all of them are ‘real’ on an event level…You can ‘see’ a merbeing; you can’t capture it and put it in a fish tank for everybody who wanders by to take in.” Which seems a nice way of saying what what I believe…ahem…CONCLUDE about faeries and angels. But Mr. Clark is a proponant of the extraterrestrial hypothesis regarding UFO’s, which other researchers would conclude are experiential rather than real on an event level. Perhaps at best they represent some form of tulpoid phenomena whereby they are manifestations of concepts and archetypes within the human psyche…yet another way of similarly regarding fae/angels. By contrast, maybe merbeings are just as real and physical as you or me (And Bigfoot makes three). No one will really know unless we catch one.

    Just to muddy the waters further, while few people older than 5 believe that Santa Claus is objectively real, even that entity may have some basis in objective reality. Many folklorists suggest that the Santa Claus legend is a hand-me-down from European hunter-gatherers attempting to honour the spirits of the bears they hunted by retelling the story of its life, mating, death, and rebirth. Surely the bears, at least, were real.
    One could also say that people of faith don’t believe either, but draw conclusion just as we do. A bible-thumper reads the bible, and concludes, perhaps based more on feeling than on thought, but perhaps not, that it is the literal truth, and evolution and geologic time must therefore be an experiential phenomena amongst scientists, but not objectively real. Perhaps he experienced an angel, and concludes that they must exist, therefore literature that speak of their existence must constitute evidence. But here, at last, is perhaps where we can reach some sort of, pardon the pun, conclusion, for scientific conclusions (or those based on rationality and reasoning…same difference in my book) can be modified, whereas religious conclusions tend to be more definitive, and as a consequence thereby also dismiss any subsequent contradictory evidence as false.

    I don’t know how nutritious this food for thought was, but at least it should provide you with a little roughage to ruminate on…