Sasquatch Coffee

RAW Takes On Skepticism

Posted by: Loren Coleman on January 11th, 2012

Five years ago, Robert Anton Wilson, author of Cosmic Trigger and 34 other books, died on January 11, 2007.

Robert Anton Wilson

Mark Frauenfelder is celebrating with “Robert Anton Wilson Week on Boing Boing.”

Mark notes that one of his favorite things about Wilson was his skepticism towards skeptics. From Wikipedia, Mark passes this along:

Wilson also criticized scientific types with overly rigid belief systems, equating them with religious fundamentalists in their fanaticism. In a 1988 interview, when asked about his newly-published book The New Inquisition: Irrational Rationalism and the Citadel of Science, Wilson commented: “I coined the term irrational rationalism because those people claim to be rationalists, but they’re governed by such a heavy body of taboos. They’re so fearful, and so hostile, and so narrow, and frightened, and uptight and dogmatic… I wrote this book because I got tired satirizing fundamentalist Christianity… I decided to satirize fundamentalist materialism for a change, because the two are equally comical… The materialist fundamentalists are funnier than the Christian fundamentalists, because they think they’re rational! …They’re never skeptical about anything except the things they have a prejudice against. None of them ever says anything skeptical about the AMA, or about anything in establishment science or any entrenched dogma. They’re only skeptical about new ideas that frighten them. They’re actually dogmatically committed to what they were taught when they were in college…”

How does this apply to cryptozoology’s “skeptics”?

Follow “Robert Anton Wilson Week on Boing Boing” during the next few days, over there, but if you wish to comment on what RAW said about skepticism as it applies to cryptozoology, you can leave comments here.

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.


27 Responses to “RAW Takes On Skepticism”

  1. DWA responds:

    Bingo. Thanks for bringing this guy to my attention. He’s got it entirely right on.

    The thing that gets me most about the crypto skeptic fringe is THEIR SPECTACULAR LACK OF CURIOSITY. They don’t want to examine the evidence. It never occurs to them that thousands of people who really didn’t want to see this, much less talk about it, might possibly be right, and that the most impregnable defense against scientific confirmation is rabid disbelief. They don’t even want science to look! If I were one of them I’d be saying, what we need is a good solid investigative blitz to shut these fools up. Instead, they look just as foolish as the true believers. They dogmatically insist upon The World As It Is Just Now.

    And he is so right about “materialist fundamentalists.” Atheists, for example. They call themselves rational. OK, I have one question for them: PROVE THERE’S NO GOD. There is no more evidence for that proposition than there is for there being one. Why wouldn’t God, if God is truly Almighty, consider evolution more fun than Six Days Followed By A Nap?

    These guys are not only tiresome, but loopy to boot.

    Thanks again for putting this here. I may have to stop into Boing Boing.

    And thank you, RAW. Hey: you know now.

  2. jayman responds:

    Not to stray off-topic here, DWA, but it’s the responsibility of the one making a claim – say that Santa Claus exists – to offer evidence to support the claim, not for skeptics to prove the negative.

  3. PoeticsOfBigfoot responds:

    More name-calling, both in the article and the first post on this topic. Boring and predictable, sad to say.

  4. Autumnforest responds:

    I just wrote about this issue recently. It’s the “atheistic” view of the unexplained. Everything we know is already in the textbooks, right? Hmm…. Yeah, that’s what people who know about the existence of other things in our physical world are exasperated by those who cling to science to be paranormal atheists when if they were truly open to knew knowledge, they would tend to agnostic. It makes them look a bit like the “world is flat” folks of the past who got proven wrong. How can we make discoveries if we believed there is a solid wall on the edge of our universe of knowledge?

  5. DWA responds:

    jayman: that’s not the argument.

    It is the responsibility of everyone in a scientific debate to offer evidence for their position.

    The unavoidable position of the skeptical fringe is: the evidence for cryptids amounts to a concatenation of false POSITIVES. That is a proposition susceptible to proof. The skeptical fringe is, in a word, lazy; they lie there and go “that could be fake, that could be fake, that could be fake” without ever trying to consider what the likelihood is, in a huge pile of evidence, that it is all fake. (Or whatever else false they say it is.) Their approach discourages scientists from taking forthright positions on the evidence, because they think to themselves: people like this pay my salary. I’d best keep quiet.

    If skeptics think that the Patterson-Gimlin film is a fake, as they’ve been arguing for decades, it is THEIR responsibility to prove that thesis. When you propose a thesis, you must back it up. Proponents like Jeff Meldrum understand that.

    All the proponents are responsible for is offering their evidence. If they were responsible for the proof, we’d have it. They aren’t. We delegate that responsibility to science, which isn’t looking. Not the way they look for, say, mouse leumurs and amphipods. Which is: following a coherent body of evidence to a conclusion.

    PoB: What’s boring, as RAW and I point out, is an approach that lacks curiosity and understanding, and reduces the discussion to back-and-forth between dueling fringes that can’t go anywhere because they don’t follow the evidence. That’s really boring, as note all the progress we’ve made on the sasquatch in the going-on-45 years since someone TOOK A MOVIE OF ONE.

  6. DWA responds:

    Stoosh:

    ——————————-

    “How does this apply to cryptozoology’s “skeptics”?”

    It doesn’t, in the least. Why would ANYONE be interested in cryptozoology & have zero belief in any of its possibilities?

    ——————————–

    This isn’t about “belief in” something. It is about evidence.

    And only one thing can be done with evidence for the evidence to be worth anything but titillation: following it to a conclusion.

    The skeptic fringe keeps saying “I don’t categorically believe cryptids aren’t real.” But they never address the scientists who vouch for them, nor do they ever come out for scientific review of the evidence.

    Don’t know what you would call that. But I call it belief in something.

    I share your frustration with most of what goes on in crypto. Which is why, other than criticizing it in the ways it needs to be criticized, I stay away from it.

    I focus on those using a scientific approach to the evidence. And generally ignore the rest.

  7. silverity responds:

    I would not even bother seriously engaging sceptics – especially the hardened variety. They have boxed themselves into a corner with their cynical rationalism so that nothing is proof to them. Anything is photoshop-able, they cannot be convinced.

  8. flame821 responds:

    Wow. Okay, speaking as an actual flesh and blood atheist, I’m not sure where some commenters are getting their ideas from.

    1] In science you do NOT prove a positive. You try to disprove a positive to see if the theory can be falsified. You make a statement about how you think something works and then you try to prove otherwise. If you cannot disprove your own supposition then you hand it over to others so they can try to disprove it.

    2] Agnostic and atheist are basically the same thing. Agnostics say they don’t know if god(s) exists, atheists state we have no evidence for the existence of god(s). So either you don’t know or you really don’t think so due to lack of evidence.

    3] As this relates to crypotozoology; seems to have very little to do with being skeptical and/or logical and much more to do with points of view. Some people will believe any and all anecdotal evidence/eyewitness testimonies, some people won’t be convinced until the cadaver is laid out before them. Most of us inhabit the middle ground. Each cryptid must be taken on its own merits. For example there is more circumstantial evidence to support Bigfoot than there is to support the Jersey Devil which has more to support it than say the Dover Demon does.

    4] Very few people would be arrogant or ignorant enough to truly state and believe that all we know now is all there is and all there ever will be. Look at the leaps we’ve taken in technology over the past few decades. Science is progressing at a rapid rate and we have discovered more things about ourselves and our world in the past 50 years than we gathered over the preceding 200 years.

    Heck, look at ghosts. Some people believe in them, some people don’t. Now while I do not personally believe that ghosts are disembodied spirits or human souls I would never go so far as to outright dismiss any and all cases as overactive imaginations or cries for attention. Who is to say that what we call ‘ghosts’ aren’t in fact some sort of fluctuating energy field that we haven’t learned (or don’t yet have the equipment) to measure at this point in time.

    I have a lot of friends and acquaintances who are in the scientific fields and are atheists and most of them break cryptozoology into one of three categories.

    a] Interesting but not enough evidence to get me really thinking about it in depth, however they have been proven right every so often so I wouldn’t write them off as a whole.

    b] Those people are grasping at straws and will believe anything (I blame a lot of TV shows and YouTube videos for this POV)

    c] I have better uses of my time than this. The cz field is so rife with frauds and hoaxes I can’t be bothered to sort them out. Get rid of the crazies and the liars and then maybe it would be worth the effort.

    To my mind, A & C have a valid points. B needs more education and exposure to some of the more rational cz sites (like this one). To prove to them that there are people within the cz community who look at the offered evidence with a rational and skeptical eye and don’t simply accept any blobsquatch as proof positive. Take a moment and think about some of the other cz, ghost and/or ufo sites you visit and tell me that there aren’t a few too many commentors who immediately jump on the ‘see, this is iron clad proof’ train while you step back and shake your head at them, wondering what, exactly, it is they are seeing in the fuzzy blurs that are moving across the monitor?

  9. flame821 responds:

    The skeptic fringe keeps saying “I don’t categorically believe cryptids aren’t real.” But they never address the scientists who vouch for them, nor do they ever come out for scientific review of the evidence.

    Don’t know what you would call that. But I call it belief in something.DWA

    I call it finite funds. Unfortunately this isn’t the heyday of science. More and more (especially if you follow American politics) you see science and even education being made out to be a villain. The funding science (and the arts) receives is less and less every year and we don’t have those private funders like we used to have. Everything is about the bottom line. If someone invests their money in research they want a payday in a timely fashion.

    If someone can invest $500,000 in drug research and expect to get a nice return within 5 years OR they can invest $500,000 in cryptid research and maybe get naming rights or their name in a footnote in a scientific journal, which do you think they’ll choose to do?

    As for reviewing the evidence, there are several scientists that are doing this. Yes, Meldrum is the most well known (and granted, he has gotten slagged from some of his peers for taking this seriously) but there are others.

    Truthfully many will review the evidence without knowing what it is. “Unknown hair sample”, “feces of unknown mammal”, “tooth of unknown primate” these things happen constantly and are put into data bases as just that, unknowns, however until we have something to compare them too (besides each other-although even that is helpful) there isn’t much that can be done with them.

    Think of it as a fingerprint. Great, we have a fingerprint, but unless the fingerprint shows up in a databank, law enforcement has effectively hit a dead end, they cannot go any further with ‘that’ piece of evidence. Doesn’t matter if its one print or twenty, without knowing who it leads to all they are left with is ‘this guy gets around, hope we catch him in the act soon’. Which, of course, leads right back to the first paragraph regarding money and resources.

  10. Massachusetts responds:

    Let’s face it, almost everything is photoshopable. So even the very best images require super careful scrutiny. And considering the lower quality of the bigfoot images we’ve all seen, the notorious blobsquatch stills and videos, the skepticism of the scientific community seems warranted. That doesn’t mean they’ve disproven the existence of the species, but it does mean that the photographic evidence is pretty thin and inconclusive.

    And then, head and shoulders above the rest, there’s PG. Patterson-Gimlin is certainly an interesting video (using this term loosely since it was originally film). But from what I’ve seen, for every expert who reviews it and believe’s it’s a sasquatch, you get those who strongly disagree, and more who scratch there heads and admit they don’t know. Sadly there are also those who refuse to look at all, which serves no good purpose (flame821’s class (C) skeptic, I guess. So it’s reasonable to classify this film in the inconclusive category for the time being: intriguing but not definitive.

    But wait, science as I understand it, is based on evaluating reproducible evidence, right? So all we need to do is collect a number of PG quality (or better quality) videos that share numerous points of congruity with the original, and we have some good evidence. Unfortunately, we have blobsquatch quality flicks backing up PG, so it’s no wonder skeptical people are reluctant to take the PG plunge.

  11. Massachusetts responds:

    Jeff Meldrum’s work is probably the best evidence to date (since Ketchum’s DNA work is unavailable for evaluation at present and remains a big question mark.) This evidence is very interesting and really makes a lot of people think about the possibilities. His best prints could be faked, but it would be very difficult and take a lot of skill and knowledge and multiple prostheses (not impossible, but probably not very likely.) It’s also possible 1 or 2% of the human population could produce many of the attributes of these prints, though again, that’s pretty unlikely. As I believe Meldrum has said, it’s a reason to keep looking for more evidence.

    So great, we should be able to find corroborating evidence to support these tantalizing findings and really synch it, right? Unfortunately, high quality corroborating evidence hasn’t really materialized at present, a la my above video post example. So basically we are in a situation where we have some interesting, tantalizing evidence, but it’s not enough to prove the existence of the cryptid.

    And remember, Ketchum aside, we have no type specimen, and no definitive physical biological evidence to date (only more “maybe” evidence.)

    Lastly, eye witness accounts just aren’t evidence. They are a reason to go looking for evidence at best. Scientists can’t be expected to accept eye witness accounts only, without extensive, verifiable, clear corroborating evidence.

    So the skeptical stance that scientists take isn’t so unreasonable. To say that bigfoot cannot exist is silly. To say that we’ve proven it does exist is not true. This cryptid hasn’t been proven to exist by those who research it. It may very well exist, but we have to prove it exists with evidence. We have some interesting evidence, but not enough for a definitive confirmation.

  12. Massachusetts responds:

    And really, if you make the claim, you have to prove it. It’s just that simple. Scientists don’t have to prove that bigfoot doesn’t exist. They don’t. It doesn’t work that way. The human mind is amazing, capable of imagining many incredible things: pink unicorns, flying horses, gigantic shape-shifting killer robots from space, you name it. Would we seriously say “Clearly pink flying unicorns exist, and I can prove that because, after all, those whacky skeptical scientists can’t prove it doesn’t exist?” No, we wouldn’t do that. And if we did, we’d be wrong. We really would be wrong. If we could provide DNA samples, a dead unicorn body, fossil evidence, high quality photographic evidence spanning many locations in time and space, then we’d have some proof. Then it would be reasonable for the crazy idea of the flying unicorn to become an acceptable, proven fact. But not before then.

  13. DWA responds:

    About two things.

    1) Skepticism.

    Of course we want the scientific mainstream to be skeptical. Skepticism is the essence of good science. (I’m a skeptic.) But scientific skepticism and scoffing are two entirely different, almost opposite, things.

    Scoffing kills through economic intimidation the scientific imperative to search and to keep an open mind. And much of the skepticism of scientists regarding cryptids that becomes public amounts to unsubstantiated scoffing. There’s-no-proof-so-I-will-laugh-at-you-’til-there-is is untenable (and it makes you look like an idiot when you’re proven wrong). Scientists who do it have abandoned scientific principle.

    That physicist who publicly called for Jeff Meldrum’s tenure on a pike a few years back would have been either fired or given the scariest lecture of his life had I been the head of that university. He’d never have done that again, trust me.

    There is only one permissible attitude on any unproven topic if one is a scientist always mindful of one’s duty to be one. And that is this: I await the proof and wish the searchers luck. Period.

    2) Atheism.

    Once again, I’m taking aim at scoffers here. Atheism and agnosticism, when interpreted as I-see-no-evidence-for-God, are understandable; one might expect scientists to have that attitude (although of course many don’t). What I don’t like is the attitude that says, you are a mushy-headed woowoo if you believe in God; atheism is a rational stance because anyone with a brain can see there’s no God. That is scoffing. God is, I’d think most of us can agree, beyond the scientific process. As I was brought up to remember once again in a recent discussion with some very intelligent, very religious men: Not everything that exists needs to be something for which we have evidence. That it requires faith doesn’t perforce make it phony.

    Or as a scientist recently said, and an atheist at that: if there is a God, he is likely to be mightier than any theologian of any faith has yet theorized.

    Works for me.

  14. DWA responds:

    And Massachusetts: science DOES have to prove the sasquatch.

    Simple reason: it won’t be real, to the society, until science does. The evidence is all over this site. It won’t matter how many bigfooters are convinced until the mainstream of science is.

    That they don’t want to at the moment doesn’t change where society puts the responsibility.

  15. DWA responds:

    Oh. And as to fringe skeptics.

    (Hey, I’m not the one putting all this food for thought up.)

    I see two fringes in cryptozoology, without which it would be a science in full with no apologies. One is the friinge that accepts any evidence of sasquatch as proof and Truly Believes. The other is the fringe that won’t accept anything as even possibly being evidence of sasquatch (they only sound like they don’t think that but they do), and says they have an open mind but insists there’s no evidence.

    These two fringes leave no room for science to operate. Both ask science to Just Believe, the former in something that isn’t proven, the latter in the mundane. Working together, they act to keep science from taking evidence seriously, because they make the field look, well, loopy.

    The sasquatch is backed by copious evidence, and yes eyewitness testimony is evidence. Ask any lawyer. Evidence – as opposed to proof – is ANYTHING that says:

    Look here and you might get proof.

  16. red_pill_junkie responds:

    Watching ‘Maybe Logic’, a docu about RAW, it occurs to me that the first thing Bob would suggest to Cryptozoology as a field is get rid of the ‘is’ and replace it with ‘maybe’, when discussing cryptids.

    So instead of fighting with skeptics who keep saying Bigfoot is fake, while we keep maintaining Bigfoot is real, we could all cheerfully state that “Bigfoot maybe exists.

    Then again, since Bob was a Discordian pope, he might have suggested we regard Bigfoot as King Kong resurrected :3

  17. norman-uk responds:

    The phenomenom of sasquatch is a great missed opportunity primarily by scientists. It is almost absolutely certain now there is a real creature out there giving rise to oodles of evidence which maybe if taken in parts does not prove sasquatch is real but as a whole does so. Running round this planet there is a very strong case to believe there is at least one kind of so called relic hominoid existing. These creatures must be under hugh pressure from human diseases and human monopolising of natural resources and terrain. How long will it be before the last one dies in some lonely thicket, being unlikely to stagger into view like Ishi ?

    When it is too late and they are no more will our descendents have to complain bitterly about our stupidity and conceit in letting this extinction event take place? Will they be discussing if they can and should bring sasquatch back from the dead, another thylacin scenario?

    Scientists seem to be making excuses for not finding or researching for any available evidence. Partly by subservience to the cult of scepticism a cult designed not to find anything out and stiffle invention and progress. An example of this is failure to deal with that amazing and valuable resource known as eyewitness reports. Not so long ago that was all the moon was! There are other failures of science but one has recently shifted which was denial of the value of sasquatch Dna, this was also something unfortunately generaly accepted by sasquatch advocates but now Dna is rightly all the rage.

    I do not think that in general sasquatch (reasonable) believers have been forthright enough about the evidence for sasquatch, critics did not tend to hold back in their sceptical criticisms and were allowed to appear to be winning the aurguments. There seems to be a gradual change taking place in public perception and sasquatch is on the way up!

    Paleontology is producing some very interesting and relevant material which throws light on sasquatch and this science ought to get involved with sasquatch research. Could be a fascinating time!

    There are problems with some areas of sasquatch evidence but these do not disprove sasquatch and isn’t it more usual than not for there to be problems and what are scientists for to sort out problems. Clearly there is the body problem which may be partly solved by Dna but has become more difficult as it seems likely Dna results may be close to humans and not very different, which would be much easier.

    There are clues or evidence for sasquatch gong back thousands of years and this is part of the whole matrix of evidence. Now is the time for more scientists, with an open and enquiring minds to get involved and not sit back basking in sceptic dogma.

  18. flame821 responds:

    @ DWA

    Okay, I think I understand what you’re saying. I believe the confusion came in when you used the term ‘crypto skeptic fringe’ but were referring to scofftics/scoffers and their evil twins, true believers. (basically anyone who has already decided what they want the answer to be and refuses to keep an open mind toward new evidence)

    As for atheist and agnostic, I haven’t seen so much railing against god(s) as I have rage against religion. (And if you honestly think about it many religions do have some rather odd, and at times dangerous, traditions) Due to the confusion earlier I do wonder if you might be interchanging the two terms in your comments? I ask this because scientifically you cannot prove a lack of existence but you should be able to find evidence for existence. Same with Bigfoot and any other cryptid, there really is no way for science to prove it doesn’t exist, however lack of hard evidence leads us to believe ______ cryptid more than likely does not exist. (same as the agnostic/atheist views on god(s) )

    Eye witness testimony, while often interesting is always subjective. Once again, using Bigfoot as an example. Most witnesses do not expect to see it, so when they are faced with a large animal with unusual features in an unfamiliar environment their ability to process and retain information TENDS to be compromised. More than likely due to adrenaline, poor viewing conditions and possibly shock. Now some people will be able to get passed this and give a decent account of what happened, most will not and their minds will fill in the ‘gaps’ with whatever seems appropriate. It is a well known and well documented fact that this happens. So while the eye witness accounts are a wonderful place to start they cannot be used as hard evidence. The footprints with the mid tarsal break on various terrains (something humans do not have and would be a pita to reproduce as a hoax) are far more compelling, but still not enough to put an entry into a zoology reference.

    As for proving Bigfoot’s existence , I don’t see mainstream science actively pursuing that anytime soon, unfortunately. However science is the only reliable tool we have at our disposal and luckily pretty near anyone can do it. It simply takes a little training, a LOT of documentation and a boat load of patience. The biggest hang up is the cost of decent equipment and the time commitment.

    However with technology improving every year I do have to wonder how long it will be before equipment that can scan for life signs within certain parameters will be available to the average joe. My best guess is hunters looking for bears (large mammal, weight of 250lb or higher as search parameters) will be the first to stumble upon one. Then the question will be what happens next? Shoot it? Photograph it? Get out of there and hope you can find it again with a larger group to back you up?

  19. flame821 responds:

    @ Stoosh

    It’s up to the claimants for its veracity to have the evidence examined to establish corroboration. The claim is the proponent’s, not the examiner’s. Thus far, & probably for all time now, the PG film has no validatory evidence to show it’s probable.

    True, science cannot prove a negative, however I understand where DWA is coming from. After all the testing, analysis and reconstructions that have been done on the P-G film showing that it would have been almost entirely impossible to fake with the technology of that time all it seems to take is one scoffer to go ‘nuh-huh, I still don’t believe it’ or yet another man claiming to be in the suit (even though none of them had the physical build or skeletal abnormalities to be mistaken for Patty) suddenly the P-G film is shoved back into the ‘well…..maybe’ area again. It gets disheartening to keep proving the same information over and over again. Especially when you know there are some people who will refuse to accept what you’ve shown/proven no matter what you do, short of dumping Patty’s carcass on their heads.

    At some point we have to come to an agreement that based on scientific methods and technical review of the film this passes the sniff test and should be included on the side of positive evidence.

  20. Tullimonstrum responds:

    To address to some points made here
    1. It is not true to say that self-styled skeptics don’t study the evidence. Skeptics publish books and peer reviewed papers reviewing evidence. The fact that most czers ignore those papers is not the fault of skeptics.
    2. You could have a zero belief in cryptids and still be interested in cz as a psychological phenomena.
    3. Or you could (as a good scientist) recognise that cryptids are hypothetical contructs which have negligible connection with doing good science and have distracted cz for too long so no one should taking a scientific approach should have a “belief” in them.

    By 3 I do not mean there are not unknown animals in the normal denier sence but that “cryptids” are *not* the raw data of cryptozoology to be proven or not proven. What we have as data (potentially) is eyewitness testimony for example. This reports (not sightings) may represent sighitngs of unknown animals or may not. To suggest the former, work needs to be done to reject ALL alternative explanations for the reports. Do cryptozoologists do this? No they obsess about different “types” of cryptid as if they really exist. The only thing we know exists are the reports. So if cz wants to be accepted by mainstream science it has got to wholly change its approach…forget about obsessing about cryptids and consider the potential evidence. That means lots of tedious statistical work on reports. Far less fun than going into the woods and speculating but potentially way better science

  21. norman-uk responds:

    Tollimonstrom
    1
    There are all sorts of sceptics, some who are sceptical on a issue , some who are just built that way and only can see the negative side of a case, some who think that by being sceptical they are somehow keeping up scientific standards, maybe because they have to be seen to. So in reality there are sceptics who do not study the evidence( they do not need to because there is no such thing as sasquatch is there?) , there are those who are only looking for ammunition and there are those looking to shallowly. Of course there are very rational sceptics too who prefer one side of a case but can appreciate the other side.

    I know sceptics publish books but I suspect peer reviewed papers are more honoured in their absence than by the presence! Wasn’t there one involving buffallo hairs? I don’t think those who have been persuaded by the evidence for sasquatch are that much interested in same old same old in sceptical literature regarding sasquatch at least. Mainly because it is quite obviouse there is an entity called sasquatch and the fascinating and urgent thing is trying to find out what exactly it is. This endeavor has been going on a long long time and if people now believe in sasquatch it is because of long term exposure to the evidence which can rationaly be viewed as coming from sasquatch!

    2
    Could be a good thing if they move on to studying why some cannot deal with something new in the world and are sceptical to the point of irrationality. A study of why people believe in things like sasquatch and what is thought to be wrong with them has already been well done.

    3
    I dont think a good scientist would on the evidence regard sasquatch as just a hypothetical construct or think it has nothing to do with good science. The opportunity is there for good science but a relative minority of scientists have taken it up. Perhaps they worry too much about functioning in a certain regulated way and forgetting that throughout the history of science flexibilty and creative initiative has always been part of best science. Sasquatch is evidently something very special and this must be catered for.

    4
    I am pleased you give credence to eyewitness reports and I think in practice if not in a formal sense possible alternate explanations are ruled out in proper reports. I dont think blob-squatch pictures are accepted as definite but possible.
    To meet your point about evidence gathering, seems a good idea and thats where scientists and science institutions should come in, why havn’t they, it seems irresponsible to me ? These in addition to those currently doing the research. They could then proudly call themselves cryptozoologists

  22. DWA responds:

    OK, off to Vermont for a week. So let me go for the biggest gaps before I get packing.

    Stoosh: re: skeptics having responsibility for proving P/G fake. “Wrong. It’s up to the claimants for its veracity to have the evidence examined to establish corroboration. The claim is the proponent’s, not the examiner’s.”

    Not sure you’re getting what I’m saying. The claim that there is enough evidence for the sasquatch to justify serious scientific scrutiny of that evidence to see what is causing it is the proponents’. They have satisfied that claim, as every qualified scientist I am aware of that has paid serious attention to the evidence agrees. What these people are NOT required to do is give time of day to the argument that, say, P/G is faked, because no evidence has been unearthed to support that claim. Proponents can therefore discard it until such evidence surfaces. (Going on 45 years now, and nada.) That doesn’t mean P/G and the sasquatch are real. It just means that the claim that they aren’t authentic is simply not supported by evidence. (Fakes that have been found don’t count as anything, any more than my dressing in a gorilla costume is evidence against the gorilla.) So, it’s time to get seriously looking, because all the evidence says we should look.

    flame821 gets it right:

    “True, science cannot prove a negative, however I understand where DWA is coming from. After all the testing, analysis and reconstructions that have been done on the P-G film showing that it would have been almost entirely impossible to fake with the technology of that time all it seems to take is one scoffer to go ‘nuh-huh, I still don’t believe it’ or yet another man claiming to be in the suit (even though none of them had the physical build or skeletal abnormalities to be mistaken for Patty)…”

    Precisely. Bigfoot skeptics keep dredging up a claim that holds no water. It’s time for them to say, okay, maybe we need to get serious and shut these pesky proponents up once and for all. Science, get cracking!

    Skeptical review of Meldrum’s book focused on his not giving any more than howdy-do see-ya-later to man-in-suit arguments. A scientist is not required to do any more than acknowledge for the record positions for which no evidence exists, nor to mount a diligent search for evidence backing such positions if his review points clearly in another direction. If the skeptics insist on P/G being fake, they have to show why, because otherwise that ship has long sailed and they’re just blocking serious science that could resolve the matter.

    Tullimonstrum: “It is not true to say that self-styled skeptics don’t study the evidence. Skeptics publish books and peer reviewed papers reviewing evidence. The fact that most czers ignore those papers is not the fault of skeptics.”

    You’ll have to show me one, at least one that seriously challenges either the P/G film or the sasquatch in general. I’m betting against you. Peer reviewed papers in areas that science doesn’t acknowledge risk having seriously wrong thinking set in stone. RAW properly cautioned against that. I’ve read things like Radford’s “Bigfoot at 50″ and the skeptical reviews of Meldrum’s book. They seriously lack analytical chops, and, in fact, don’t address either the evidence or the science at all. Unless you have something to show us.

    And as to: “You could have a zero belief in cryptids and still be interested in cz as a psychological phenomena.” Well, you could simply approach the field confident that you have all the answers. That would simply be at odds with keeping an open mind. And it would ignore the evidence.

    flame821: “Eye witness testimony, while often interesting is always subjective. …”

    Well, sure. But when lots of people are experiencing something that is so very consistent across time and geography that I could write the guidebook entry on the sasquatch now, and doesn’t sound at all like people are cribbing or comparing notes, there’s something that needs looking at. Frequency and coherence mark evidence that demands scientific scrutiny, and the eyewitness testimony to the sasquatch fills the bill. As to the excited states of mind you are talking about: eyewitnesses have calmly stalked the one they encountered without being noticed, or observed it at leisure from tree stands, or casually studied the animal through their rifle scopes, debating, before deciding not to shoot (for reasons I have never considered unreasonable. Not everyone wants to Kill To Make History).

    All the proponents are saying is all that RAW is saying: 100% denial and 100% acceptance are traps. All knowledge is provisional, based on what we know now. That changes.

    Look. It appears you’re going to find something when you do.

    And again: the proposition that you will find but fakes and hoaxes is untenable, as it is backed by zero evidence. Skeptics can provide that evidence, and yes, it is their job, as the scientists who have looked are satisfied it’s a dry hole, and that we need to accept the possibility that this is real. Show me a scientist who thinks otherwise and I’ll show you why he’s wrong. Try me.

    Or else, do what RAW says you should be doing:

    Argue with Meldrum, not me.

  23. flame821 responds:

    Well, sure. But when lots of people are experiencing something that is so very consistent across time and geography that I could write the guidebook entry on the sasquatch now, and doesn’t sound at all like people are cribbing or comparing notes, there’s something that needs looking at. Frequency and coherence mark evidence that demands scientific scrutiny, and the eyewitness testimony to the sasquatch fills the bill.

    While I am not discounting this I do have to remind you of an article that was published (on this site I believe, or it may have been in the comments) It documented that since the P-G film had become widespread and viewed by the population at large, more and more sightings had started to resemble Patty. Before that there would be great variations in colour and stature ranging from human size to truly gigantic proportions and everything from white to black (I think auburn and brown were the most common colours reported prior to 1965 or something of that nature with the whites and blondes more common East of the Mississippi River – will look for the link)

    This is where things get tricky research-wise. Is the commonality of physical reports actually due to the population losing genetic diversity, random chance, OR is it due to people’s minds filling in the blanks with what they expect to see (a la P-G film). Not counting the sightings that were done at leisure, most sightings take place over the span of seconds in poor lighting conditions so, much like eyewitness testimony in a criminal case, it remains the least reliable evidence.

    Although I do agree that a true scientific investigation should be done I just don’t think we have the physical means to launch a good one yet. Unless we have a specific area (it would have to be a reasonably small size) where we KNOW Bigfoot lives or at least frequents, how can scientists actually hope to find and study the animal? Particularly if Bigfoot possesses any amount of intelligence? (look at how chimps and gorillas manage to outwit their keepers, and these are well known and studied animals).

    At this point we either have to wait for technology to catch up, an accidental shooting to happen, or plain dumb luck regarding GPS/tranquilizers or a researcher tripping over a carcass.

    Have fun in Vermont, DWA, hope you don’t mind the newly fallen snow and sudden rush of cold air hitting us East Coasters this week. We’ve been pretty spoilt with the warm weather this Winter.

  24. Tullimonstrum responds:

    I should emphasise that I used “belief” in my previous email as a shorthand for “thinking the evidence suggests the animal exists”.

    I re-iterate for those of us who have never seen sasquatch (i.e. evidence of our own eyes) there should be no such thing as sasquatch (at least as a premise for writing papers). It is a hypothetical construct to explain the reports. Reports exist and perhaps something like the hypothesized bigfoot will be discovered in the future. But for the moment our data is reports and photos and other stuff. That is scientists should work from. Bigfoot is the hypothesis to explain them. It is a reasonable hypothesis but one of several. Working backwards from the assumption there is a species common name bigfoot is where people go wrong.

    Now a scientist may think it is a worthwhile investment of his/her time and energy to investigate bigfoot reports in the hope that a they represent evidence of an unknown animal but that should not be a premise of their scientific papers. Or perhaps they had compelling personal experience which they want to be vindicated. Or they could investigate cz reports because they think the underlying psychology/epistemology is interesting. But when writing papers they cannot start from the assumption bigfoot is a real animal because that premise cannot be demonstrated. They can start from the evidence though.

    In the marine cryptozoological literature people don’t make the mistake of assuming sea serpents exist and they study reports. Check out the papers by Naish, Woodley, Paxton et al. All published in mainstream science journals. At least one of those authors self-identifies as both a skeptic and a cryptozoologist. Statistically we know that sea monster reports are biased but no such similar analysis has been done for bigfoot reports. Doing analyses like that does not require a belief in bigfoot and there is no reason whywhy a statistical analysis of bigfoot reports could not be published in the mainstream scientific literature.

    BTW science can prove negatives, it cannot prove unbounded negatives. Science cannot answer the question “is there a God” it can (easily) answer the question “is there a ape-like creature that is not Homo sapiens in my bathroom” and with enough resources “in that there patch of Pacific northwest forest”.

  25. Tullimonstrum responds:

    PS DWA wrote
    “Well, sure. But when lots of people are experiencing something that is so very consistent across time and geography that I could write the guidebook entry on the sasquatch now, and doesn’t sound at all like people are cribbing or comparing notes.”

    This sort of comment is made often (Heuvelmans said similar things). How on do people know how to distinguish false reports from non-false reports? It strikes me as a seriously non-trivial problem. No one has ever looked a the consistency of reports through time as far as I am aware…Even if consistency was high it is not clear to me that would be evidence for an underlying realilty behind the reports or not. I can see arguments both ways.

  26. Mahalo X responds:

    IMO the term “belief” has little or no place in science, however we must not forget that it is often a personal “belief” in one’s hypothesis that drives even the consummate scientist’s quest for evidence. :)

  27. DWA responds:

    flame821:

    Back from VT. And since snow and cold were what I was looking for, I wasn’t disappointed a bit. They could actually have had a lot more and made me happy (and of course it fell as I was leaving).

    As to this: “This is where things get tricky research-wise. Is the commonality of physical reports actually due to the population losing genetic diversity, random chance, OR is it due to people’s minds filling in the blanks with what they expect to see (a la P-G film). ”

    Well, I’ve read lots of reports, and few of them even mention P/G. (IMHO, fewer people outside the crypto community have seen that film than we within it may think.) But most of them describe, from scratch, an animal that would make one think: this is either the thing in the P/G film, or something closely related to it. I tend – again having read many, many reports – to think that they need to be viewed openly and not with any result in mind. Read that way, they are very strong evidence, and IMHO are very strongly if only anecdotally associated with enough other kinds of evidence – every type that we have for animals we know about – that a scientist viewing the evidence objectively should consider further research imperative.

    Every scientist who has done so agrees with me.

    Not sure about the research you are talking about re: conformance to P/G; but similar studies of reports have shown not only consistency but conformance to biogeographical rules. They are beginning to write the encyclopedia entry “sasquatch.” In fact, they have. Random lies, illusions and misidentifications have a hard time behaving like biodata.

    BTW, the guy who (says he) shot one in Manitoba in 1941 saw a still from P/G not long after the film was shot. It settled for him – finally – what kind of animal he had shot (and examined at leisure, close up). So it works that way too.

    Any scientific search that is done must focus on an area of many recent reports (the data suggest several locations; bfro.net and texasbigfoot.com are the best sources I’m aware of) and must stay out there long enough either to gather proof or to make the team confident that the proof is there to be gotten. It can be done now, the problem of course being the overwhelming knee-jerk negativity to the topic that makes it, for now, unlikely.

    Tullimonstrum:

    “How on do people know how to distinguish false reports from non-false reports? It strikes me as a seriously non-trivial problem. No one has ever looked a the consistency of reports through time as far as I am aware…Even if consistency was high it is not clear to me that would be evidence for an underlying realilty behind the reports or not. I can see arguments both ways.”

    Distinguishing false from non-false reports conclusively would be easier were the animal proven. As it isn’t, that’s harder to do. But I can say that the reports – one does have to read them – sound simply like people, the vast majority of whom did NOT want to see what they saw, nor thought there was any chance that something like that was real, saw something. They describe it consistently, using no reference point but their own experiences; they see it in the places where one might expect to see it; the kinds of people one would expect to see it most often are the ones that do; and the sightings are compellingly associated with other evidence.

    As I said above: when a scientist approaches the sasquatch like a scientist, he either is convinced or says that research should continue until everyone is. No exceptions.



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