Sasquatch Coffee

Radford Tries Being Scientific

Posted by: Loren Coleman on April 24th, 2008

Ben Radford tells us how his “science works.”

“Lake Monsters I Have Known” sounds like the setup for a bad horror movie or an even worse children’s book. One thing it might not sound like is science. But without science, Ben Radford explained at a recent meeting of New Mexicans for Science and Reason, the stories of the Loch Ness monster and her kin spin out of control in a hurry.

Monthly meetings of NMSR, as the organization is known by its members and friends, are the sorts of places you can go to learn about the truly strange — UFOs and lake monsters, to take two examples — but also the scientifically serious. Curious about the latest scientific findings on the extinction of the dinosaurs? The dawn of rationalism in ancient Greece? The science behind vaccination? The evolution of political values? Or do you just like good magic tricks? You’ll get that at NMSR as well.

At one recent meeting, organization founder and current vice president John Geohegan wowed the crowd with a simple demonstration: A string of beads seemed to fly into the air before gravity tugged it back down to Earth. Audience members laughed and clapped in delight. The group’s members tend to like the label “skeptic” to describe their particular mind-set, and they have a reputation for enthusiastically debunking bizarre claims.

In the late 1990s, NMSR president Dave Thomas debunked author Michael Drosnin’s claims that hidden messages predicting the future were encoded in ancient biblical text. Thomas, a computer programmer, mathematician and physicist, is also one of the leading experts on the lack of UFOs at Roswell in 1947. The idea, explained Radford, a Corrales resident and NMSR regular, is not to set out with debunking in mind. It is simply to test claims made by others, applying the tools of science.

Radford has traveled to Loch Ness and other lakes around the world looking for genuine evidence of the storied lake monsters. “It’s not an issue of me trying to disprove it,” said Radford, who has yet to find a lake monster claim that holds up. “That’s how science works.” NMSR began in May 1990, the brainchild of Ken Frazier, an Albuquerque resident who is the editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine. The national organization that publishes the magazine was trying to create local skeptic groups. Frazier sent invitations to all the magazine’s Albuquerque-area subscribers. New Mexico seemed fertile ground, Frazier recalled, with both a strong foundation in scientific research and a tradition of less firmly grounded ideas. “We have a lot of bizarre claims,” he said, “from UFOs in the south to New Age claims in Santa Fe.”

The organization’s goal, Frazier said, was “to encourage critical thinking.” Thomas explained the difference between science and the sort of pseudoscience frequently debunked by the group this way: Science, he said, looks at all of the available evidence and tries to come up with some sort of overarching explanation that explains it all.

Scientists call them “theories,” but when they use the word, they mean a well-established idea: the theory of relativity, the theory of quantum mechanics, the theory of continental drift, the theory of evolution. Pseudoscience does the opposite. “They start out with a belief and then they cherry-pick the data to find little nuggets that support that belief,” he said.

During the 1990s, the group formed the base for a battle against efforts to weaken the teaching of evolution in New Mexico public schools, said Marshall Berman, a retired Sandia National Laboratories physicist. Eventually, the political effort was spun off into a second organization, the Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education. While there remains an enormous overlap in the membership of the two organizations, the practical division of duties now seems to be that the coalition is the place for serious political action on education issues, while NMSR is where members go to play. And play they do.

Meetings open with some sort of extraordinary science display or a magic trick, usually engineered by either Thomas or vice president Geohegan. Magic tricks — card tricks, disappearing coins, ropes that you slice in two and then magically restore — are a skeptic favorite. When he gives presentations to school students, Thomas always makes clear before the trick that what they are seeing is really trickery, not genuine magic. “It’s to show,” Thomas said, “that things are not always as they seem.”

Sources: “Skeptics group tries out scientific theories,” by John Fleck, 21 April 2008, Albuquerque Journal, Albuquerque, N.M. (Thanks to Paul Cropper.)

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.


34 Responses to “Radford Tries Being Scientific”

  1. DavidFullam responds:

    “A string of beads seemed to fly into the air before gravity tugged it back down to Earth. Audience members laughed and clapped in delight.”

    Glad to see they are easily amused.

  2. Daniel Loxton responds:

    Oh, I wouldn’t hang too much derision on an isolated comment quoted in a daily newspaper article (and I can’t think how it’s helpful to make a blog post just to deride it). Loren knows as well as anyone how difficult it is to get the nuances of one’s views correctly represented under those circumstances.

    In any event, my colleague at the Skeptical Inquirer is correct: science progresses by looking critically at the strongest cases and asking if the claimant offered sufficiently strong evidence in support of their thesis, not by chasing after every claim made anywhere by anyone.

    I won’t bother Cryptomundo readers with the old burden of proof argument further, except to point out that we all actually agree on this. Today there will be thousands of anomalous preliminary results reported by scientists around the world, and thousands more first-person claims of low-probability cryptozoological, fortean, and supernatural events.

    Not one of us will accept the personal responsibility to try to “disprove” all of those claims; we’re all comfortable setting them aside and waiting for compelling confirmation.

  3. johnstownmonster responds:

    SIGH!

    How can we expect to make discoveries if science only works with, as he puts it, “well established idea[s].” It’s depressing to think of a scientific community that proves only what it already knows. It even SOUNDS ridiculous.

  4. Cryptid Hunt21 responds:

    Only science can tell.

  5. Sergio responds:

    johnstownmonster, it sounds ridiculous because it IS ridiculous. And not only is it ridiculous, but it’s really tired. 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. Unless of course, the hypothesis is in contrast to what the Almighty Radford deems worthy of further testing or investigation.

    Science should, by all means, attempt to discern an “overarching” explanation, but not an “overarching” explanation that defies reason. Often, “overarching” explanations from Radford and others of his ilk absolutely defy reason. How fatiguing.

  6. Benjamin Radford responds:

    I’m baffled by what anyone here finds obectionable about anything I said. I was quoted as saying that when you go into an investigation, you should not try to prove nor disprove the phenomenon, because that’s not how science works.

    If you’re disagreeing with that, then you’re saying that an investigator SHOULD try to prove or disprove, instead of just following the evidence? Does anyone here really think that?

    Why the hostility of “Unless of course, the hypothesis is in contrast to what the Almighty Radford deems worthy of further testing or investigation”? Where did that come from? I never said or implied anything like that, in fact I suggested exactly the opposite, that you need to consider all theories, not just ones “deemed worthy of investigation.”

    Did anyone actually read the piece above?

  7. Benjamin Radford responds:

    Oh, I think I see the confusion: johnstownmonster misread the piece, and thought that I made a comment about “well-established ideas.” He found it ridiculous, and Sergio agreed and carried it further. A little closer reading will reveal that the quote is from Dave Thomas, not me. Oops.

  8. jerrywayne responds:

    I like reading Radford and never find him offering a position that “defies reason”.

    It is important to be skeptical of paranormal claims, if we truly want to discern what is most likely true from that which is unreal, mythological or folly. My favorite cryptozoologist, Bernard Heuvelmans, was concerned that the field of inquiry he pioneered might fall into the black hole of occultism. Has his fear been realized? Just beneath the surface of contemporary zoological cryptozoology is a serious undercurrent of occult cryptozoology based on beliefs more metaphysical than scientific.

    Folks like Radford and Joe Nickell are a counterbalance to such occultism. If cryptozoology is to gain scientific acceptance, it will have to move beyond its pop culture, monster-mongering, occultic character and move towards a more cautious, mundane avenue of inquiry and investigation.

    Of course, this does not mean that we should fall into cynicism. There are likely large unknown animals yet to be discovered. Let’s look for them with a discerning eye.

  9. SOCALcryptid responds:

    RADFORD, a true legend in his own mind!!
    Johnstownmonster, I totally agree
    Sergio, jerrywayne, Ditto
    Wow, Radford, what do you have to say for yourself. I base science on truth not “well established ideas”. This just confirms that I will never take anything serious that you have to say.

  10. Benjamin Radford responds:

    SoCal Cryptid wrote:

    “Wow, Radford, what do you have to say for yourself. I base science on truth not “well established ideas”. This just confirms that I will never take anything serious that you have to say.”

    What do I have to say for myself? Please re-read the original piece and you’ll find I never said anything about “well-established ideas.” My only quote in the above piece is that a person shouldn’t go into a phenomenon trying to prove or disprove it, but instead follow the evidence. What’s wrong with that?

  11. MattBille responds:

    The article’s definition of a theory (it’s not really clear if it’s Radford’s) as a well-established idea makes no sense. A theory may become a well-established idea, but by definition it cannot start out as one.
    Radford is arguing that cryptozoologists jump to a conclusion first and then cherry-pick the evidence, but you can’t just say that: you have to offer some proof. Cryptozoologists, I am sure, in any case he would cite, would disagree in any event: they would respond that they have looked at the body of evidence and proposed a theory to explain it.
    Nowhere in all this is the important caveat that a theory must be falsifiable to be scientific.
    “Zooforms” or apparitions as explanations for cryptozoological sightings are outside this realm, for example, because it is not possible to prove they don’t exist.
    In contrast, while there may be inadequate resources to test a hypothesis like “there exists some large, yet-unclassified elongated aquatic animal in Lake Okanagan,” the theory is nonetheless falsifiable: a physical animal’s existence could be conclusively proven or disproven if the the resources to search the lake thoroughly were available.
    “There are no large unknown animals involved in cryptozoological sightings” is likewise testable, in theory at least. But it is not established fact, and it can be challenged by competing theories.

  12. cryptidsrus responds:

    Once again, I have a feeling this is going to turn into one of those “Let’s gang up on RADFORD”-style of threads—(at least, HE will look at it that way)—so I’ll content myself with making a point instead of contributing more venting to the coming “discussion.”—

    1) Ultimately, as has been stated before in SO many different threads and in SO many different ways, the only way that RADFORD and NICKELL and other “debunkers” (or just plain “skeptics”) will be satisfied is by looking at a ACTUAL dead body—
    or filmed creature that satisfies THIER standard of what constitutes for THEM “non-photoshopped, non-blurry, crisp-as-a-blue-day image showing the creature in every conceivable angle shot by an expert cameraman who does not autofocus too much or too little and is also an expert on what constitutes a new species” of animal. So as has been previously stated before, there really is no use venting about this fact or getting angry with RADFORD.

    Actually, I have no problem with Radford being on this forum. ALL points of view need to be addressed here, even if we disagree with it. From my point of view, what will happen, will happen and what will be known will be known. Ultimately the validity of either side’s claim will be validated by time and evidence. (From my point of view, it will be the “they exist” side, but that’s just MY opinion). So getting angry about it is not going to help any.
    He simply looks at things from a totally different point of view-a different paradigm, so to speak. He is not willing to make the Imaginal “leap of faith,” and THAT’S fine. Once gain, time will bear out who is right and who is wrong.
    So welcome, Mr. RADFORD. I disagree with you, but ain’t got no beef with you here. We’re all members of the human race here. Hopefully we can meet in the middle one day.

  13. SOCALcryptid responds:

    Well there is a first time for everything so here goes. SORRY for the miss quote RADFORD. I apologize. A professional investigator should go to a scene with a open mind to collect evidence which then can be used to prove or disprove a claim. I am in no way one who is part of a belief system. Good solid evidence that leads to the truth is what I am after.

  14. johnstownmonster responds:

    I never said anything about WHO specifically was speaking about those “well established idea[s].” I was merely commenting on the depressing nature of the thought itself.

    ANNNND, I do still find that concept both specious and really sad no matter who said it.

    Sorry if you thought I was misquoting or misrepresenting you, Mr. Radford. Please read my response and you can see I wasn’t. It’s pretty clear.

  15. Benjamin Radford responds:

    SoCal: Thank you for having the courtesy to apologize and admit I was misquoted. Daniel, Jerrywayne and cryptidsrus, thanks for your comments as well.

    I’m just discouraged at the hostility, and the fact that so many people are so eager to criticize me without bothering to read the piece or check their facts. I am happy to discuss and defend things I write and say, but I don’t speak for all skeptics, and other skeptics don’t speak for me.

    I feel like I have tried for years to help, not hurt, the cause of cryptozoology. I make a sincere and genuine effort to be fair and give the topic the respect it deserves (not to mention bring better science to it), and for the most part I get criticized, kicked in the face, and waste my time defending myself against [foolish, deceitful, or boastful language].

    I feel like someone who, on a walk one day, comes across a group of people trying to build a large house. I see people busily putting up walls and pouring concrete, but it all seems so disorganized, and the walls keep falling down, and there is little or no progress. I want to help, I want to see the house built, and I try to offer some ideas about how to do it better. I point out where the foundation is weak, or where there is warped lumber that will cause problems later on.

    Almost every time I try to point out why what they are doing is not working, the workers get angry with me, hurl stones and insults at me. As they go back to work, I try to explain that I want to see the project succeed, but that it has to be done right. A few listen, but most don’t want to hear it. This happens a few more times, until finally I stop trying to help and just walk away.

  16. jedimaster5000 responds:

    I believed that Roswell did happen, its just that the Gov. have to keep it a secret for so long because they made a deal w/ the aliens (I guess its not to do it public or else horrible things will happen)

    And about cryptids…it is times like this that actually or makes me believe some scifi phenomenas does exist (for example anomolies, like in that bbc series)

  17. red_pill_junkie responds:

    Cryptidsrus, well written :-)

    I agree, this forum —and life at a whole, for that matter— would be rather dull and boring if all of us agreed on everything.

  18. DARHOP responds:

    Steps of the Scientific Method Detailed Help for Each Step
    Ask a Question: The scientific method starts when you ask a question about something that you observe: How, What, When, Who, Which, Why, or Where?

    And, in order for the scientific method to answer the question it must be about something that you can measure, preferably with a number.
    Your Question

    Do Background Research: Rather than starting from scratch in putting together a plan for answering your question, you want to be a savvy scientist using library and Internet research to help you find the best way to do things and insure that you don’t repeat mistakes from the past. Background Research Plan
    Finding Information
    Bibliography
    Research Paper

    Construct a Hypothesis: A hypothesis is an educated guess about how things work:
    “If _____[I do this] _____, then _____[this]_____ will happen.”
    You must state your hypothesis in a way that you can easily measure, and of course, your hypothesis should be constructed in a way to help you answer your original question.
    Variables
    Variables for Beginners
    Hypothesis

    Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment: Your experiment tests whether your hypothesis is true or false. It is important for your experiment to be a fair test. You conduct a fair test by making sure that you change only one factor at a time while keeping all other conditions the same.
    You should also repeat your experiments several times to make sure that the first results weren’t just an accident.
    Experimental Procedure
    Materials List
    Conducting an Experiment

    Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion: Once your experiment is complete, you collect your measurements and analyze them to see if your hypothesis is true or false.
    Scientists often find that their hypothesis was false, and in such cases they will construct a new hypothesis starting the entire process of the scientific method over again. Even if they find that their hypothesis was true, they may want to test it again in a new way.
    Data Analysis & Graphs
    Conclusions

    Communicate Your Results: To complete your science fair project you will communicate your results to others in a final report and/or a display board. Professional scientists do almost exactly the same thing by publishing their final report in a scientific journal or by presenting their results on a poster at a scientific meeting. Final Report
    Abstract
    Display Board
    Science Fair Judging

    Even though we show the scientific method as a series of steps, keep in mind that new information or thinking might cause a scientist to back up and repeat steps at any point during the process. A process like the scientific method that involves such backing up and repeating is called an iterative process.

    Throughout the process of doing your science fair project, you should keep a journal containing all of your important ideas and information. This journal is called a laboratory notebook.

  19. springheeledjack responds:

    My thought is that when you go into an investigation, you are basically testing a hypothesis based on past information: in the case of Loch Ness you have eye witness sightings and photos and videos and what not…so if you go to Loch Ness chances are you will talk to some of those who have witnessed the thing, then you will probably choose a location to look for yourself based on your own compilation of sightings (each of us individually most likely will have our own ideas about what constitutes a valid sighting). Then you set watch basically to see if you can recreate the experience in a particular spot. Disagree if you want, but basically that is applying scientific investigation.

    And here I don’t think anyone has or takes issue with that.

    HOWEVER (god that has to be my favorite word:), the problem comes into play when you have someone who says, okay “I” sat on this hill where Mr. X said he saw Nessie and “I” haven’t seen Nessie therefore Nessie does not exist.

    Where the standard scientific approach falls down in the investigation of crypto-critters is simply that the lab area where one is trying to recreate the experience is hundreds of square miles instead of a lab, computer, etc. There are a huge number of variables in play that cannot be controlled (weather, a certain point, the visibility of the loch, etc.) and so it makes coming up with clear evidence infinitely harder than, say, taking a tub of water, putting a dozen goldfish in and then creating a database of info on their movements and behavior.

    And it gets too easy to dismiss things like Nessie because one person has no encounter after a couple days of searching. There are plenty of people on Loch Ness and Lake Champlain and other lakes who have said time and again that they had lived on the loch/lake for years and never saw anything before having an encounter with something unknown. My point being that scouting a lake/loch for 2 days or even a week and coming up with nothing and then making the claim that there is no such critter is folly (now if you want to say “I” have found no evidence for such a creature during my visit–now that is valid–it’s just when people extrapolate to say that since “I” found no evidence there is no creature, that it is not only invalid, but misrepresenting the situation).

    Daniel Loxton’s remark up there near the beginning about Not one of us will accept the personal responsibility to try to “disprove” all of those claims; we’re all comfortable setting them aside and waiting for compelling confirmation

  20. springheeledjack responds:

    Okay, my thought is that when you go investigating cryptids you are using a scientific approach. Basically you are testing a hypothesis based on past information in the form of eye witness accounts, photos, video, etc. Going to Loch Ness I would guess most of us would try to talk with some of the locals who have actually had an encounter, try to glean any further information and then pick a site for observation on the loch–based on a database of sightings trying to pick the best possible place based on those sightings, a place of high visibility and what not (though I would guess we each have our own ideas about what constitutes a valid sighting–I know I do).

    Then essentially you try to recreate the experience—having a sighting of Nessie either by eyesight, camera, or whatever. You are always testing the data…and yes, I believe many people go with a specific idea in mind…that yes there is a critter and I am looking for proof OR the converse, that I believe the sightings are bunk and I am looking to strengthen that argument.

    HOWEVER (just for the record, that is my favorite word), I take issue with people who make broad claims based on their own limited observations. Now if you go to Loch Ness and camp out for 2 days or even a week, and have absolutely no encounters, sightings or the like and then you say, ‘On my excursion to Loch Ness I found no evidence to back the claim of there being an unknown creature in the loch’ I have no beef with you at all.

    I do take issue with the people that say ‘since I spent “X” number of days at Loch Ness and found no evidence there is no such creature.’ That is not only invalid, but a false statement.

    For one, there have been plenty of people who have spent decades on the Loch and never had an encounter only to finally have an encounter of something unknown. More importantly, investigating cryptids is not the same as recreating an experiment in a lab or in a tank. There are way too many variables to control out in a lake/loch (such as weather, visibility, distance and being at a fixed point waiting for something to happen just to name four of them). The number of variables alone is daunting, and I do believe that is where people get into the mindset of debunking–the less daunting task (seemingly) is to try to disprove the sightings/photos/videos to get to a place where one feels comfortable saying there is no Loch Ness Critter.

    I do have an issue with something Daniel Loxton said up above there near the beginning–he said–

    “Not one of us will accept the personal responsibility to try to “disprove” all of those claims; we’re all comfortable setting them aside and waiting for compelling confirmation.”

    I understand what you are saying, but I don’t buy it. Taking that stance is just an easy way not to have to deal with a sighting or encounter that you have no answer for. It is wayyyyyy too easy to just shove a sighting into that pile and ignore it because it puts a kink in your own theory…for both debunkers and believers. To my mind, if you are taking a stance either for or against Nessie, then you are taking responsibility for backing up your claim by having to defend your claim against all of the evidence, not just the pieces you want to deal with.

    A lot of times in these threads I think many of us are basically arguing for the same things, we’re just coming at it from different angles and levels. We ALL want to know what is going on at Loch Ness (well those of us into the water critters anyway). AND we all have our own theories about what is going on at Loch Ness. Many are variations on a theme and at times those ideas are at odds, but the bottom line is getting at truth plain and simple.

  21. Larry responds:

    The debate about scientific methods is misplaced here. Take it as your starting point that cryptozoology is really just zoology with a focus on undescribed animals. Like herpatology is zoology with a focus on reptiles. In zoology, “lab work” is not done to test a hypothosis in the traditional sense that applies to physics or chemistry. In chemistry, the investigoator observes a phenomenon, develops a theory to explain it, and devises a test. If the test works and is repeatable, then the explanation becomes the theory to explain the phenomenon. Anyone who wants to challenge the theory, needs to show contrary results. This applies to all kinds of things we take for granted as proven facts today including gravity and magnetism. So, the fact that something continues to be labeled as a theory (most notably evolution) does not mean it is merely a working hypothosis. This is the argument creationists use. It is entirely semantic and not consistent with the true meaning of the word theory.

    Back to cryptozoology: there is no real way to conduct an experiment covering the entire Pacific Northwest to test whether there is a small population of undescribed hominids in the woods. Zoologists, in this sense, don’t do experiments and lab work. They do field work. Unfortunately, a lot of field work is being in the right place at the right time. It takes time and luck, although it should be informed by a working theory about the behavior and range of the animal being sought. I suspect that every zoologist doing field work WANTS to prove his or her theory. That means the question is really about what consitutes proof as opposed to hints and wishful thinking. A dead body clearly does, a blurry blobsquatch does not. If you ask me, the Champ stills posted a few weeks ago are among the most intriguing pictures I have seen in a long time. But, without a body, DNA sample, or MUCH clearer image, all I can do is be intrigued.

    Either way, it strikes me as wrong for either side in this debate to treat zoology (of any species, pun intended) as a lab science.

  22. CryptoHaus_Press responds:

    i’ve read all the commentaries herein, which at least some of we regular visitors to cryptomundo will hopefully admit, if pressed, is not the normal and thoughtful manner which all postings deserve.

    too often, many of us (myself included at times) read not the thread as written but the threadbare skimming of said postings as we imagine it to read. this is not bad science, it’s bad manners.

    i’m not above nor immune to it; i’ve more than once posted heated responses i wished later i had the ability to retract beyond a pained but sincere ‘mea culpa.’

    i find myself quite in agreement with Mr. Radford on many points, at the risk of being ‘flamed’ by those who don’t. too many crypto and crypto supporters are unwilling to admit the possibility that, for example, bigfoot does not exist; that ufo’s are not much more than unexplained natural phenomena or outright hoaxes, etc.

    this ‘defensive’ posturing many in the crypto field experience is of course understandable. like many who view the possibility as real — that is to say, there exists enough evidence to admit that cryptozoology — they also then bear the brunt of those who outright doubt.

    in other words, they are made to feel foolish and self-discrediting for admitting even the possibility.

    but if you are well-read in regards to science & its history, you’ll see that many in science have faced the same dilemna. in fact, you’ll see that many were persecuted to death, imprisonment and as religious heretics for suggesting such now well-accepted ideas as a round planet, that the Earth is not the center of God’s universe, and even that carbon dating and DNA can show many artifacts and relics once considered Holy Grail were mislabeled, misunderstood or — worse — deliberately constructed to mislead followers.

    this polarization is as rampant now as it has ever been. churches deny science; science denies God; and the rest of us who are not on either extreme of these false debates are left to wonder what happened to the Enlightenment ideals that kept the two apart but equal branches of human endeavor, with neither owing explanation of the other to be acceptable.

    so it is with crypto vs. zoology, in large part, these days. zoologists say nay, cryptos say yay, and the gulf between them widens, not closes, despite good scientific research and reasoning by both camps.

    no scientist postulates the impossibility of a theorem that’s worth a damn; he or she describes some parameters, tries to prove or disprove them with a set of tests, and describes the results, reaching a conclusion.

    the conclusion may be wrong but the data accurate. the data may be wrong but the conclusion later proven with other data to be accurate. they may both be wrong; they may both be right. they may both or either be later overruled by other evidence or conclusions.

    quantum theory, for example, suggests the very conducting of a test leads to a forgone and/or ‘tainted’ conclusion.

    so it is with cryptozoology when it becomes insular and self-protective. it becomes not does this possibility exist and can it be proven, but: how many sasquatch dance on the heads of a pin?

    we would ALL do well to consider the faults of our respective approaches to scientific inquiry, crypto vs. zoology, etc. none of us have the answers a priori; if so, why do we even bother to debate the evidence herein?

    so agreement vs. disagreement spilling over into rancor and personal character assassinations are to be expected or we’d all be inhuman; but to encourage them and not realize that we all lose out by dividing ourselves to conquer is a loss for everyone who participates at this forum.

    we should not just welcome a skeptic, but entertain and consider their point of view.

    else, we’re just converts, not scientists, and simply prove those would ridicule cryptozoology as self-insulated ala religion.

    equally, scientists need to admit that the evidence for many crypto species is compelling, and just because the likelihood may be reasonably remote, does not mean a mountain gorilla or formerly believed extinct fish will not be discovered and verified at a future date.

    i really dislike the divide; maybe some of you who bother to read my long-winded posting will agree.

  23. Justncredible responds:

    Another athesit group forcing schools to remove open teaching of history is what I see here.

    To the press guy, you do know that no one ever thought the world was flat right? Einstein was wrong in most of his theorys, and quantum mechanics is incomplete. No proofs for evolution have ever been found to exist.

    Yet this group is given press time when they teach “junk” as debunking valid theorys.

    Scientists call them “theories,” but when they use the word, they mean a well-established idea: the theory of relativity, the theory of quantum mechanics, the theory of continental drift, the theory of evolution. Pseudoscience does the opposite. “They start out with a belief and then they cherry-pick the data to find little nuggets that support that belief,” he said.

    This guys statment is incorrect to say the least and he has little to no idea what he is saying.

    I really want to know why these guys are let out around kids in schools??? They are insane athiest.

  24. SOCALcryptid responds:

    Benjamin Radford, please do not give up. At times I have the same feeling. You have put so much time in being the skeptic you are. It would be a waste to see someone just give up and walk away. Cryptozoology needs skeptics, investigators, scientists, etc., To find the truth. What is real from what is not. Yes, you and I along with many others tend to disagree with each other. I agree that hurtful words to each other is highly uncalled for. I feel as mature adults we should get along weather we agree or disagree.
    I have to say that the media at times makes you out to be cryptozoology’s bad guy. The “no man”. Which makes us feel that you are simply out to say “that is not real”. without a proper investigation. Now I know this is not who you are.
    We may not agree on certain topics. That’s fine but do not give up on your search for the truth. Stay the skeptic you are.

  25. CamperGuy responds:

    Googled. Found stuff.

    Mr. Radford is rather articulate with pleasant wit. I doubt he can claim not to be a skeptic. Isn’t open-mindedness just as important to scientific methodology as skepticism?

    Loren wrote the forward to “Lake Monster Mysteries”.

    Did anyone actually read the piece above? …..Mr. Radford
    Yup. Other articles too. :) I found the article about woodpeckers and Bigfoot interesting. Disagree with some of your viewpoints.

    i really dislike the divide; maybe some of you who bother to read my long-winded posting will agree…….CryptoHaus_Press
    Just wanted you to know it was read and would surprised if you were ever flamed. Nice friendly group here. Opinionated yes.Makes it interesting. :)

  26. Rapscallion responds:

    Again i find myself posting. This time, out of appreciation. Cryptohaus, we have had obvious disagreements in the past, however we never let them become inflamed, nor did we allow them to degrade into name calling or “sanity” questioning retorts. Crypto is one hundred percent correct on this end, whether you agree with someones methods or disagree, you owe them the simple respect to hear them out without lambasting them for a differing methodology. Invariably when i read CM im always pleased by how cordial people are with one another, even when at odds over the context of thier statements. And even though i seldom voice my opinions i do in fact read most every article as it hits the site and i certainly hope the “trend” continues where we actually act like an open forum. And to Mr. Radford i personally applaud you for your actions, and being willing to defend them. After all, we argue strongly for that which we believe to be correct, and i should say Mr. Radford is entitled to stoutly defend his modus operandi when he believes it is the best approach. Again folks, opinions differ as widly as tastes in food, that doesnt mean the rest of the food out there is unpalatable, nor are the people eating it “wrong”

    Rap

  27. CryptoHaus_Press responds:

    CryptoHaus_Press
    Just wanted you to know it was read and would surprised if you were ever flamed.

    thanks, but… why do i hear the voice of Bugs Bunny as he turns to the camera and slyly sez: “ehhh, he don’t know me very well, do he?” ;)

    but truly, thanks, and — welcome! i’m just a poster like you, but i always like it when folks agree with me. doesn’t everyone? ;)

    To the press guy, you do know that no one ever thought the world was flat right?

    you DO know there are STILL folks who believe the world is flat, right? if there is still a Flat Earth Society (google it if you disbelieve me), then your suggestion “no one ever believed it” is, by default, incorrect, as someone currently believes it to this very day!

    Einstein was wrong in most of his theorys, and quantum mechanics is incomplete. No proofs for evolution have ever been found to exist.

    wow, i don’t know where to begin with THAT series of statements!

    re: Einstein. “was wrong in most of his theorys (sic).” actually, most of his theories were correct, sir. at least as of this writing and outside the pulpit of your local fundamentalist church.

    and while it IS true that some quantum mechanics have placed some of his theories in a kind of “relativistic state” (pun intended!), in that they suggest there are exceptions to the rules, most posit still that the theories he espoused are, in fact, pretty sound for our space/time continuum. it’s only when you start dealing with multiversal scenarios Einstein’s theories become, well, antiquated but still fundamentally supposed as valid by most theoritical physicists.

    you may be interested in knowing (or know but fail to cite) that Einstein was a strong believer in God. he famously said, “God does not roll the dice” in relationship to his debate with early quantum theorists because Einstein refused to believe his cherished “Unified Field Theory” would never come to be, whether he finished it or not (he did not).

    whereas, many quantum theorists couldn’t believe and still don’t that Einstein’s viewpoint held sway, because it did not account for randomnistic elements that their theorems accounted for. again, Einstein used God as a defense of his theories, so this whole idea somehow he was both wrong and an aetheist is ‘fundamentally’ (pun intended) incorrect.

    it’s easy to say “he was proven wrong,” but you offer no proof of your assertion, which makes it not only incorrect, but false and therefore demeaning to a lot of folks who’ve lived whole lives dedicated to proving (and successfully so) his theorems.

    the ONLY reason we are mapping the universe currently back to the Big Bang (which of course you reject, one presumes, as a Godless concept) is because of the red-shift spectrum theories Einstein dedicated his life to mathematically solving and formulating. visit NASA and read about the Hubble Telescope if you doubt me; the information clearly states the relationship between mapping the cosmos and Einstein’s theories.

    if he’s so wrong about them, we’ve sure gained a lot of facts — not theories — but facts from them! far more, i suggest, than we have from the pages of the Bible or Koran in terms of facts rather than beliefs, which are distinct as night and day, imho.

    equally, the statement “no proofs for evolution have ever been found to exist” is wrong. or are skeletal remains of extinct species simply grand hoaxes? or rather, the work of God who works in “mysterious ways” when convenient and at odds with known evidence? again, not theories, but facts. Darwin and others can prove with mitochondrial DNA certain facts, such as the make-up of your genetic being; this is not a theory, sir, but a fact.

    a theory might be to then extrapolate from the fact and say: ‘we evolved because the DNA record indicates certain parallel probabilities that…’ yadda yadda. again, this is not to say the theory is correct because it is stated, but that it is simply a valid theory based on facts, rather than a religious argument based on a dogmatic belief.

    They are insane athiest.

    that would be ‘aetheists,’ actually; you not only mispelled it, but forgot to make it plural to match the ‘they’ pronoun useage.

    which, you know, if you’re so worried about schools and the influence of aetheists, you MAY want to watch out for ‘mis’-educatin’ our school kids by posting this kind of improper grammar and spelling. after all, as our beloved (by 30% or less of the nation, that is), Baptist president once infamously said in fact, not theory, “The real question is: is our children learning?”

    Another athesit group forcing schools to remove open teaching of history is what I see here.

    again, that would be not ‘athesit’ (sic) but ‘aetheist.’ you were closer the second time you tried it. ;)

    i won’t ask what your ‘open history’ of teaching is; suffice to say, it sounds rather like the new ‘creationist’ museum that opened (i believe it was in Missouri? but i’m not sure; perhaps you can tell me?) recently wherein it shows animatronic dinosaurs and cavemen interacting?

    wow. you know, wow. that’s, well, basically theology masquerding as science, and — as far as i can tell, at least, and i’m only one person, mind you — that has nothing to do with cryptozoology. that’s not even pseudo-science; it’s just plain wrong! maybe ‘wrongology’ is a word???

    or does one have to be a believer in God (perhaps, even more to the point, YOUR God?) to be a cryptozoologist, as well? it IS an interesting theory, but: isn’t it contradictory? i mean, if the world was made in seven days and there’s no evolution, how do you account for cryptids that are human-like but not human? God doesn’t experiment, after all; he is that he is or rather ‘I am that I am,’ or so we are told in the Bible.

    but in finality, i thank you for posting as you did. it proves my point: that there is much false debate where none need exist between those such as yourself who have orthodox religious views and those such as myself who do not. we disagree on religion, but so what? religion has nothing to do with science; they are not mutually exclusive, but rather, not mutually inclusive by default. you may believe that is semantics; i say it’s the difference between Enlightenment and Theocracy.

    i am not an ‘aetheist’ but neither do i subscribe to your probable viewpoint as evidenced by your implication (and i note that i am implying as well you implied it!) that Creationism is somehow superior to the “unproven” theory of evolution.

    rather, i reitereate: the argument is as false as saying Einstein has been ‘proven’ wrong, that no ‘proofs’ (sic) of evolution have been found, etc. there are many pieces of evidence that evolution is a valid theory, such as fossil evidence, radio carbon dating methodology which show through the process of radioactive decay that such specimens are hundreds of millions of years old, and on and on and on.

    the 700 and PTL Club do not believe that, and certainly have done an effective job of sustaining the false debate between religion and science for true gain (by themselves). it does not alter the facts nor theories of science, however, as they are not dependent upon one’s spiritual belief, but upon one’s ability to maintain an open albeit critical mindset.

    but i grant you this: there will probably never be a theory that holds as much non-accountability as religious or poliltical dogma. science by nature allows for fallability; religion by nature does not. after all, can one say God makes mistakes? but scientists frequently do and admit it with at least some form of proof on top of it.

    dogma is absolute; to question it is heretical and thus damns the skeptical mind to an eternity of hell. so be it.

    but you wouldn’t be responding to these thoughts nor reading them on your computer screen if someone hadn’t taken the ‘theories’ of electricity and neural networks and computer science as something other than a surefire way to achieve ‘eternal damnation,’ sir. it’s not the Ol’ Debbil who created the internet; at least, that’s my own theory. i grant you again i cannot back that up with facts. ;)

    you can trace the ‘evolution’ of the scientific method without having to be a believer in it; one cannot say the same for religious belief, which requires the follower to either exhibit pre-ordained belief or be excommunicated by his fellow adherents as blasphemous.

    that is why the two should remain ‘seperate but equal’ branches of our republic, and that is why our Founders did as much; it wasn’t that they were aetheists, far from it in many cases. but neither did they believe it was good for our government and schools to become indoctrinated by one set of beliefs a priori over another.

    as science kept an open, critical mindset, it was preferred by the Enlightenment types who founded democracy as we know it. church was for church; science was for science. i have no problems with that, myself.

    and thanks again for reading another long-winded text to those who did vs. those who were callin’ upon the Lord to damn me for typing this message! for that alone, i truly do thank God! ;)

  28. CryptoHaus_Press responds:

    Cryptohaus, we have had obvious disagreements in the past, however we never let them become inflamed, nor did we allow them to degrade into name calling or “sanity” questioning retorts.

    true enough, but that’s because i admitted i’m crazy from the start! ;)

    seriously, my thanks! i agree with what you posted entirely.

  29. HOOSIERHUNTER responds:

    Oh boy, looks like we’ve stepped into the creation vs evolution thing again. How did we get there? Look, I’m a believer, but faith is not subject to scientific proof. It works on different principles. It is a subjective experience. Science, on the other hand, (at least good science) should be demonstrable. Does science and religion work? Yes, but in different ways. What about cryptids? Can science say they don’t exist? No. Why? Because they can’t prove they don’t exist. The best they can ever do is prove they do exist when one is found. That’s really all science can do. The rest is simply opinion. To be a skeptic is fine–just don’t pretend it’s science. To quote Arthur C. Clarke: “If a scientist says something is possible, he is most certainly right. If he says something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.”

  30. springheeledjack responds:

    To CryptoHaus_Press, all I have to say is that you make a false statement lumping all crypto hunters into the category of saying “yay” against the scientists…I will argue that crypto hunters are skeptics by their nature.

    Now you have people who will argue for the existence of BF and Nessie until their dying breath, but that does not necessarily mean that they are not skeptical in nature–doesn’t mean they believe every picture of a wave or shadow or hairy guy in a suit is a cryptid…and it doesn’t mean that they do not look at evidence in an objective manner.

    THAT is what I argue against, is the notion that debunkers somehow have a better sense of objectivity and look at the “evidence” with a much more scientific eye. That is not only false but incorrect. Skeptics are those who look at the evidence for such things and then weigh in based on the evidence available–some for the likeliehood and some against.

    The error is in ASSuming that those who disbelieve in such notions are merely skeptical and more objective than those who do believe in such possibilities.

  31. CryptoHaus_Press responds:

    To CryptoHaus_Press, all I have to say is that you make a false statement lumping all crypto hunters into the category of saying “yay” against the scientists…I will argue that crypto hunters are skeptics by their nature.

    what? that’s all you can find that i say that’s false in all that wrote? heck, i can find lots more, and i wrote it! ;)

    more seriously: a good point. i didn’t mean that ALL cryptos are one thing and ALL scientists are another. i was attempting to make the larger, metaphorical point that there exists a divide between SOME of each that is disheartening. as some folks posted and agreed with my statement, i think it can be said that however poorly i may have worded it, the basic gist was communicated.

    that said? i don’t think most crypto hunters are skeptics by nature at all. i don’t know WHAT ‘most crypto hunters’ are by nature, nor, do i suspect, do you or any other human being.

    again, it’s kind of a false division, very similar, springheel, to the one you say i make in saying scientists are skeptics vs. cryptos aren’t.

    the nature of every one of us is subjective, is my larger point. it’s when we actually begin to attempt to create these largely artificial distinctions that all persons involved become belittled.

    i cannot say, therefore, that all of any ‘type’ of human endeavor is one wya or the other; my limited but lifelong experience suggests quite the opposite, that diversity — as it is in biology, religions, and art — is the more salient aspect. again, one fool’s opinion! ;)

    i have met many ‘converts’ to cryptozoology who are so adamant that ‘bigfoot is real i don’t care what YOU say!’

    others i have met in the crypto field — just as numerous — say to me, ‘you know, there’s a lot of evidence, but i remain skeptical.’

    and then again, there are the uber-skeptics who always tell me — and i’ve heard it a lot as well — ‘there is no such thing as bigfoot, it’s all make believe and i can prove it.’

    so you know, again, i think the point i was trying to make, however unsuccesfully to some herein, is this: whether you’re skeptical, rejectionist, or believer, you’re still a cryptozoologist at heart if you are fascinated by the subject and spend time studying it, whatever your motives.

    after all, why would anyone else bother unless they admit they’re intrigued? even the so-called ‘ultra rationalists’ who reject all evidence to the contrary are mesmerized by ‘proving the falsehood’ of sasquatch (like such a thing could ever be done, as pointed out very eloquently herein by others!).

    like the Bard said, horribly paraphrased, ‘i think the skeptic doth protest too much.’ ;)

  32. johnstownmonster responds:

    Mr. Radford, I was surprised to see your heartfelt lament about hostility in the field (and on these forums) when you posted…

    “Oh, I think I see the confusion: johnstownmonster misread the piece, and thought that I made a comment about ‘well-established ideas.’ He found it ridiculous, and Sergio agreed and carried it further. A little closer reading will reveal that the quote is from Dave Thomas, not me. Oops.”

    …as a response to a general comment about what I think is a depressing thought on the part of some skeptics and modern scientists. This certainly seems like a somewhat hostile reaction to a general observation based on the article (which I did read, contrary to your assertions) that was in no way pointed directly at you.

    The central idea I wrote about still seems very specious to me and doesn’t seem to support the spirit of open-minded discovery I would love to see a whole lot more of in the scientific community. Just an observation and an honest feeling.

  33. DWA responds:

    “Pseudoscience does the opposite. “They start out with a belief and then they cherry-pick the data to find little nuggets that support that belief,” he said.”

    Except for the utter absence of any little nuggets to pick – they have a strong tendency to think you can prove the nonexistence of something – I’m not at all sure that I have better seen scoffiticism encapsulated in a sentence. As has been shown, many times, right on this site.

    Thanks!

  34. DWA responds:

    “That is what I argue against, is the notion that debunkers somehow have a better sense of objectivity and look at the “evidence” with a much more scientific eye. That is not only false but incorrect. Skeptics are those who look at the evidence for such things and then weigh in based on the evidence available–some for the likeliehood and some against.

    The error is in Assuming that those who disbelieve in such notions are merely skeptical and more objective than those who do believe in such possibilities.”

    Springheeledjack: precisely.

    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.



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