March 9, 2007

Pseudo-skeptics and Pseudo-logic

With all the talk about pseudo-skeptiks here on Cryptomundo as of late, I thought that I would republish this post.

From January 18, 2006

Answering the Bigfoot Skeptics

Published on today is an article written by a Cryptomundo commenter, Benjamin Radford, editor of the Skeptical Inquirer, entitled, “Rare Woodpecker Search Sheds Light on Bigfoot.” Going to the site, I found it humorous that the ad for the page is the Canadian Sasquatch for the Discovery Channel’s show “Mythbusters.

Some of what is included in Mr. Radford’s article has been discussed here on Cryptomundo in the past.

Read the article on the website, then read our rebuttal below and offer your thoughts and comments. Hopefully Mr. Radford will join us here for this discussion.

Pseudo-logic ( sū ‘ dō-lŏ’ jək) n. A system of deduction that initially appears to be based in solid inferential reasoning, but upon closer examination is determined to actually be without logical foundation.

Initially, the position staked out here by Benjamin Radford appears to have a logical foundation. He asserts that when a well-equipped team of professional and amateur scientists conducts a field study in the woods of rural Arkansas, and reports no sightings of the undocumented creature referred to as “bigfoot,” that it somehow validates or strengthens the position of those who claim that the animal does not exist.

Come again?

Actually, hundreds of excursions across North America take place every year by groups and individuals who fail to mention sightings of large, bipedal, hair-covered primates. However, Mr. Radford also seems to be ignorant of incursions into the American outback by groups and individuals who do report sightings of large, bipedal, hair-covered primates. In fact, one month-long expedition in 1967 even yielded film footage of what is possibly the animal Mr. Radford says doesn’t exist.

Mr. Radford seems to imply that simply because the well-equipped team who rediscovered the Ivory-billed Woodpecker wasn’t actually looking for large, unknown, bipedal apes, that if they reported a sighting, the sighting would somehow have some special merit that sighting reports by others in the past do not have. After all, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker researchers included biologists from Cornell University, as well as quite a few volunteer part-time field assistants. So, what if the team had reported a sighting of a sasquatch or recorded some primate-like vocalizations while out in the field? Would it have given Mr. Radford and others like him cause for consideration regarding the matter of bigfoot?

There are teams of professional and amateur scientists who have reported such encounters (including the Texas Bigfoot Research Center, a network of amateur and professional scientists dedicated to investigating the sasquatch mystery in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana), and there are individuals who happen to be anthropologists, wildlife biologists, psychologists, law enforcement and forest service professionals who have reported sightings, but apparently Mr. Radford and others like him simply choose to sweep such reports aside, citing wishful-thinking, misidentification and hallucination as the cause of such reports.


Apparently, what scientists don’t see is more important to Mr. Radford and others like him, than what scientists do see.

We also have many reports from hunters, who happen to be the most prolific witnesses in terms of bigfoot encounters, resulting from their sustained incursions into the remote and densely wooded areas said to be the habitat of sasquatches. While their business in the American wilderness is not of an investigatory nature, hunters are nevertheless out there for prolonged periods. However, Mr. Radford refuses to acknowledge the significance of their eyewitness reports.

Why is it that Mr. Radford seems to be more enamored with the fact that the Ivory-billed Woodpecker researchers did not report having sasquatch encounters than he is that large numbers of American and Canadian hunters, in addition to groups of researchers, comprised of amateur and professional scientists, have reported such encounters?

Mr. Radford apparently dismisses many such sighting reports because they, in his opinion, are from “believers” (which somehow invalidates their findings). Apparently, Mr. Radford is very adept at overlooking or ignoring important little facts. For example, many of the amateur and professional scientists who have reported encounters were not “believers” until they actually had the encounters; the vast majority of the hunters and motorists who reported such encounters were not “believers” at all until they actually saw something for which they had no conventional explanation. So, just because they reported a sighting (making them “believers”), are witnesses suddenly lacking credibility as individuals and scientists?

There’s more to ponder:

It is likely that, given the probable rarity of the species, there were no unknown North American apes in the area of southeastern Arkansas where the Ivory-billed Woodpecker researchers were searching.

This brings up another question: Has Mr. Radford actually talked to all the biologists and field assistants who were searching for the “grail bird” regarding what they saw or heard?

Sixteen square miles is not a very large area. Although it would certainly seem big to a person wandering around within it, it’s a drop in the bucket in terms of available habitat. To assume that an animal not observed within a prescribed area during a specific time frame must not exist anywhere is silly. How many mink did the biologists and volunteers see in that area? River otters? Did they observe black bears? Many woodpecker holes are constantly being monitored. Did the observers see flying squirrels, common animals that live in tree cavities? How many of these folks saw bobcats or gray foxes? All of these species should be expected in the ivory-billed study area. By Mr. Radford’s logic, if any of these species were not observed, they must be extinct.

Mr. Radford insinuates that the place where the woodpecker was observed is a prime sasquatch area, but is it? When was the last time a credible report emerged from that specific vicinity? The BFRO has posted on their website only one report, in Cleveland County, of a regional bigfoot sighting. This is over 60 miles southwest of the Big Woods of Arkansas. The Texas Bigfoot Research Center has not received any reports, credible or not, from the area. Characterizing an entire state as “prime Bigfoot territory” illustrates ignorance regarding animal distribution patterns in general. When biologists say that any mammal may be expected within a certain approximate area or range, it does not mean that the species will be found everywhere within that area; it may possibly be found wherever suitable conditions are found within that area. The same holds true for the sasquatch.

The current well-publicized attempt to further document the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is only the latest of such efforts over the years. This active species is very large, diurnal, and quite noisy. Yet, the documentation effort, to this point, has been a disappointment. How logical is it to conclude that a rare nocturnal animal like the sasquatch, an animal the birders are likely not even thinking about, does not exist if it’s not seen?

The extensive search for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker was conducted almost entirely during daylight hours; no night vision or infrared devices were employed. Most sasquatch researchers believe that their quarry is primarily nocturnal because there are as many or more sightings of sasquatches during the night than during the day; far fewer humans are active at night than daytime, therefore, nocturnalism of the animal is probable. Furthermore, there are very, very few reports of diurnal bigfoot vocalizations. The vast majority of reports regarding purported sasquatch vocalizations result from nighttime encounters.

The Ivory-billed Woodpecker researchers were not, in even the most remote way, looking or listening for an unknown bipedal primate. If they had recorded sasquatch vocalizations, it’s unlikely they would have expended much effort pondering what they were hearing; their search was for a large diurnal bird with a “kent” call. They were fixated on that, during the day. However, even had they made such recordings, Mr. Radford and others like him would most likely remain dismissive and cynical, continually citing “no hard evidence.”

There also exists the extremely remote possibility that one or more of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker researchers did have some type of encounter, but like others before them, they hesitated to report it. Few researchers would be brazen enough to risk the loss of project funding, or risk their personal and professional reputations, by coming back with anecdotal reports of sasquatch encounters, exposing themselves to ridicule and insinuations from Benjamin Radford and others like him that such sightings were caused by wishful thinking and/or misidentifications.

Following the line of reasoning presented by Mr. Radford, the fact that the TBRC and investigators such as Chester Moore and others have not reported any Ivory-billed Woodpecker sightings in Ivory-billed Woodpecker habitat areas, despite spending an exorbitant amount of time in such places (like the Big Thicket in Southeast Texas), must in some way invalidate the findings of the birders who obtained four seconds of woodpecker footage and a couple of purported ivory-billed vocalizations. Obviously, this is a conclusion that reasonable people would never seek to assert, but it is tantamount to what Mr. Radford has written.

The Texas Bigfoot Research Center is not a group made up of individuals who, on a whim or dream, choose to waste a huge amount of time and finances, risking personal and professional reputations, to validate an animal that can’t possibly exist. The Texas Bigfoot Research Center continues to maintain that the body of contemporary sighting reports, ecological patterns and relationships arising from the study of those reports, the physical evidence that has accumulated during the last fifty years, and our own personal observations while in the field, all serve to indicate the existence of a living species that has yet to be documented.

This response was written by Daryl Colyer, Alton Higgins and Craig Woolheater of the Texas Bigfoot Research Center.

About Craig Woolheater
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad, Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster, Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot: Return to Boggy Creek and Beast of the Bayou.

Filed under Bigfoot, Bigfoot Report, Cryptozoology, Evidence, Expedition Reports, Eyewitness Accounts, Forensic Science, Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, Sasquatch