Posted by: Guy Edwards on December 14th, 2011
Above is an hour long interview with Dr. Jeff Meldrum conducted by Radio West. Radio West is broadcast on KUER public radio, a charter member of National Public Radio (NPR). Below is the critique of the interview by Wired blogger and science writer Brian Switek.
The Squid and the Ape (excerpt)
By Brian Switek December 10, 2011 | 6:14 pm |
For the November 11th show, RadioWest producer Doug Fabrizio interviewed Idaho State University anthropologist and Sasquatch devotee Jeff Meldrum. The stated point of the interview was to see how Meldrum applied scientific reasoning to the search for a creature that, at best, exists on the fringes of scientific investigation. That’s not what actually transpired.
Even though Fabrizio kept qualifying statements about the ever-elusive Bigfoot with “if”s, he was clearly sympathetic to Meldrum’s efforts to give the mythical North American forest ape an air of respectability. The show was more about how Meldrum became attracted to the cryptozoological celebrity and his feelings as someone trying to prove the existence of a creature that, as far as I am concerned, probably doesn’t exist and has been a persistent focus of interest due to cultural phenomena rather than actual evidence. (As I wrote in a story for WIRED Science, there comes a time in searches for missing or presumably extinct mammal species that returns rapidly diminish and that species is more likely absent than simply elusive. So many have searched for Bigfoot for so long without finding any unambiguous evidence that I don’t see any reason to think such an animal exists.)
Almost all of Fabrizio’s questions were uncritical. Some, such as when Fabrizio asked when the search for Sasquatch supposedly became academically taboo, were even sympathetic to Meldrum’s exceptional claims. When Meldrum retells the story of how he saw tracks that convinced him that Bigfoot was real, Fabrizio doesn’t ask about how Meldrum could tell that the tracks were from a real animal and could not have been hoaxed. When Meldrum goes off about how he has brought Bigfoot into the scientific mainstream through papers, talks at conferences, and the like, Fabrizio doesn’t ask “Well, which journals and conferences? What did you say? How was your work received by your colleagues?” Likewise, Fabrizio lets Meldrum state that there is a lot of photo evidence – albeit poor quality – of Bigfoot as well as hair and scat without digging into the details of those assertions and why those lines of evidence have not done more to confirm the supposed ape’s existence. I didn’t want Fabrizio to be actively hostile to Meldrum’s ideas, but the radio host did not seem prepared to challenge his guest on any point.
The interview was mostly about feelings. What Meldrum felt about this or that aspect of Bigfoot arcana was more important than the veracity of what he was actually saying. I don’t take issue with RadioWest having cryptozoologists or other people who make exceptional claims on the show, but, for FSM’s sake, hold them to account and push them to explain why they believe what they do. If someone keeps saying there’s really good evidence for Bigfoot, Triassic Krakens, ancient aliens, or whatever, we shouldn’t be afraid of pressing them on how good that evidence actually is. To say that evidence is good is one thing. To demonstrate the same is not as easy.