Exaggerated Snowmen Claims Not Good For Cryptozoology

Posted by: Loren Coleman on October 10th, 2011

Over the last two days, the international media has picked up on releases from those conducting the Snowmen conference in Siberia. Reports began to circulate that “Yeti hunters claim to have discovered ‘indisputable proof’ of the fabled beast after grey hair was found in a remote Russian cave.”

Elsewhere, for example, it was noted that “The local administration of the Kemerovo region confirmed on its website that ‘indisputable proof’ has been found that confirms the Yeti, also known as Abominable Snowman, exists. What’s prompted this? Well, they found footprints, his alleged bed and possible hair samples.”

In far away Australia, the news was headlined “A Yeti in Siberia? ‘We’re 95 per cent sure,’ say scientists.”

The official Russian press release said: “During the expedition to the Azasskaya cave, conference participants gathered indisputable proof that the Shoria mountains are inhabited by the ‘Snow Man.'”

To see the phrase “indisputable proof” spread like wildfire has been unfortunate, for there is no zoological or anthropological proof of anything. It appears the conference organizers or the cryptotourism officials of Kemerovo or both were so interested in putting a good spin on the results of their “expedition” that they have overblown the results.

These exaggerated Siberian Snowmen claims are not good for cryptozoology. There is no reason to overdo what has been found merely to make an entertaining news story.

Calmer heads appear to be at work for the Daily Mail of London. That newspaper wrote:

The extraordinarily bold claims came despite no convincing photographic evidence or any proven discoveries such as bones, remains or DNA samples from a four day mission to Kuzbass in Russia.
Instead, researchers were led to a cave which contained a single unclear footprint and a small sample of grey-coloured ‘hair’ found on a clump of moss which has yet to be analysed.

Huffington Post interviewed today and the reporter and I discussed the context in which to consider, regarding short treks being called “expeditions”:

“This does not seem to be any more than what you hear about from weekend excursions in North America that go out, discovering some hair of undetermined origin, calling it ‘Bigfoot hair,’ then locating some broken branches and piled trees, saying it was made by Bigfoot, and finding footprints that look like Sasquatch tracks,” said Loren Coleman, director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

“These are not ‘proof’ that would hold up, zoologically,” Coleman told The Huffington Post.

I also was interviewed by Radio Free Europe, as well:

U.S.-based Loren Coleman, who was invited to participate in the event…[but was not able to attend] says DNA evidence from hair and fecal samples suggests that some unknown beast is indeed out there.
He says he has been fascinated by cryptozoology, or the study of hidden and unknown animals, for some 50 years, authoring multiple books on the yeti and establishing a museum on the field in the U.S. state of Maine.
And while he concedes that a quick trek into the taiga likely won’t find the yeti, he thinks the search is far from pointless.
“I have always been one of the proponents that I think we will eventually find some of these hominids, not by quick excursions in the field looking at old evidence, [but] by long-term funding of probably some good female researchers, putting themselves in the field for as long as 6 months,” Coleman said.
“Bigfoot, the yeti, the snowman — all of these different kinds of hominids and anthropoids that are unknown — are merely waiting to sort of be found if people have patience.”
Females should carry out the search, he explains, because much like apes, the undiscovered primates could be intimidated by male pheromones.
Someone like a Jane Goodall for yetis, he says, is what’s needed.

But to return to the main point here, while “evidence” might have been collected, there was not “indisputable proof” gained.

No DNA analysis has been conducted. No results have been confirmed or published.

One footprint, allegedly.

One clump of moss said to be a bed, supposedly.

Sorry, such a rush to make a sensational media splash is not even good hominology among my Russian colleagues.

Let us slow this all down. Perhaps it was not produced by the mainstream elements at the conference. I note Dmitri Bayanov of the Darwin Museum was not able to travel to Siberia, and the source of the news may be a tourism department interested in getting visitors to the area.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. 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. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

19 Responses to “Exaggerated Snowmen Claims Not Good For Cryptozoology”

  1. Benjamin Radford responds:

    Unfortunately “exaggerated claims” and hoaxes tend to make up the bulk of what passes for cryptozoology, from the Minnesota Iceman to the Skookum cast to the Georgia Bigfoot hoax to Grover’s “unhoaxable” tracks to Biscardi’s antics…

  2. Loren Coleman responds:

    Oh, come on Benjamin Radford! This is neither logical nor good use of critical thinking. You are mixing apples and oranges. You know as well as I do there is a world of difference between Grover Krantz’s attempts to examine evidence given to him and Biscardi’s pushing of hoaxes.

  3. Benjamin Radford responds:

    C’mon, Loren… surely we can agree that Grover made some “exaggerated claims”? I’m not saying he’s as bad as Biscardi, but if you’d like I can name several of his claims that were exaggerated– for example his claim that a particular set of tracks could not have been faked?

  4. Loren Coleman responds:

    Also, it is an exaggeration that such claims and hoaxes “make up the bulk” of cryptozoology. That would mean at least 51%, and that’s just unsupportable.

  5. Loren Coleman responds:

    I was afraid that if I said something reasonable that the skeptics would exaggerate it to dismiss cryptozoology, and here it has happened already. Unbelievable.

  6. Benjamin Radford responds:

    Well, I’d say it depends on how inclusive you are about “cryptozoology.” Are you talking about serious cryptozoologists such as Shuker and Naish? Or are you talking about people who write about cryptozoology? Because I have three shelf-fulls of books on cryptozoology FILLED with exaggeration….

  7. Benjamin Radford responds:

    So I’d agree with you that there are many cryptozoologists who do not make exaggerated claims, but if you’re talking about the bulk of crypto literature, I’d say exaggeration (often of evidence) is more common than not.

  8. Benjamin Radford responds:

    I should add that the exaggeration comes from both skeptics and advocates: “The Patterson film is solid evidence!” (exaggeration); “The Patterson film has been totally debunked!” (no, it hasn’t). Exaggeration is everywhere, from advertising to political claims… cryptozoology is not immune.

  9. Benjamin Radford responds:

    …In fact, this exaggeration is easy to see: How many times have we heard someone claim they shot a chupacabra, or filmed a Bigfoot? I’d argue that such claims are de facto exaggeration– someone making a claim beyond what they can objectively prove. If they just said, “I shot/saw something weird that *might* be a chupa or Bigfoot,” that’s not an exaggeration. But stating with certainty IS exaggeration, and it is common.

  10. Lorenzo Rossi responds:

    I totally agree with Mr. Radford

  11. davidk responds:

    I get the distinct, and rather disapointing, feeling some of the folks commenting about “exaggeration” have insufficient experience in dealing with the media or perhaps are simply not aware (surprisingly) of how the media operates (and I’m not “exaggerating”” the role of disinformation by the media here nor wishing to cause serious offence).

    A “possible” anything is not a story the MSM will report in almost all instances. An “exaggeration” (given or added to an account) invariably is. Whether a report is an “exaggeration” or is “added” or “given” quickly becomes nearly impossible to establish. The exercise is in selling advertising (readers) not accuracy. It’s been that way for a long, long time now.

    “Exaggeration” invariably occurs in all diciplines. From the pure sciences to politics (as Loren rightly points out), from education to police enforcement. It’s human. It’s rarely possible to use it as an absolute yardstick, though it’s tantalizing to do so. A scientist seeks truth, not assumption. A scientist tests a theory through experiment and observation – not media reports or “exaggerating” attention seekers. If it were any different we’d not have been likely to have split atoms, put a man on the moon or develop treatments for ailments prolonging the lives of so many.

  12. davidk responds:

    To add to my comment above. Loren should be commended for this balanced report and his reasonable admonishment of what is a premature claim. That admonishment does not – and should not – detract from evidence that may or not be vindicated through scientific study.

    As always, Loren. Your professionalism shines through.

  13. bobzilla responds:

    I think the problem with these reports is that they are released too soon. I half blame the researchers and half blame the media. There should be no announcements of any scientific discoveries until the findings have gone completely through all its testing and examinations.

    When a “new” or important paleontological discovery is reported in the news (“Largest North American Sauropod Discovered”) somewhere in the report you’ll read that the discovery was made perhaps a year or more earlier. The report to the media is made once they have done all the examinations on the find.

    When it comes to cryptozoology, the reports seem to come out immediately after the incident (Woman Films Sea Creature Over Holiday Weekend). Maybe it’s the human interest angle, or the sensationalism of the subject, but it needs to run its scientific course before cryptozoology news is reported.

  14. Hapa responds:

    Benjamin Radford:

    Hello again. I’m puzzled about your mention of the skookum cast among the list of exaggerated claims and hoaxes. Although It might be premature to call it a 100% Bigfoot body print (we don’t have a body of a bigfoot to compare with), I have no knowledge of it being blown over the top or being a hoax. Having said that I don’t know whether it was claimed upon discovery to be a fully certain Bigfoot body print. Meldrum wrote about it in his book but i’ll have to reread that section to see if they told the media that it was indeed a Bigfoot body print instead of a possible bigfoot body print, or that the evidence strongly leaned in that direction. As far as I have know it has neither been purely debunked or found to be a hoax.

    As for Minnesota Iceman, well that may never be fully explained, unless the original Minnesota Iceman exhibit is found.

  15. norman-uk responds:

    I tend to think here the problem is not that the claims are exaggerated but they are unsubstantiated in that it is not clear what was found and what quality of evidence they represent. As things are reports state there is valid evidence amounting to proof and alternatively there are scathing sceptical reports on the whole excercise. We need to wait until the dust is settled to find what there is and how good or bad it it. I expect a good eventual source will be, for example, Dr Meldrum in due course.

    There is not room for a great deal of optimism in that the cave site seems to have been well trampelled by homo sapiens and the local tourist industry are either exploiting genuine evidence which is ok, or transforming it to something it isnt, which isnt ok!

    Of course what’s in the papers is often not true nor cryptozoological and cryptozoology should not take the blame !

    Ben Radford, You are a hard man to please! If your critical examination leads you to conclude your 3 book shelves are full of cryptozoological exaggerations I wonder what kind of standards you are applying and do you apply the same standards to those books you approve of ? Because much of the sceptical literature is full of logical error as: One footprint is a fake so they are all fake, because an event is probable it must be so!

    The problem for many sceptics is that have an inbuilt attitude, barely mentioned, that does not allow them to accept new ideas and they cling on to their comfort zone within the prevailing scientific paradigm. It is common knowledge that some of us are too ready to believe and research much welcomed by sceptics, has been done to prove it. But to acheive balance the opposite needs to be appreciated.

    It is a mistake for a scientist to state that something is impossible or cannot be faked. Grover Kranz did it but it is not a monopoly of cryptozoologists to make this mistake they are at heart rational people able to see both sides of a case. Grover Krantz made a positive contribution to cryptozoology re sasquatch not matched by any sceptic I know of !

  16. Hapa responds:

    As I’ve said on another post about this Yeti news, I have a gut feeling there is more involved here than what had been stated by the research team. I usually don’t get this kind of feeling with other expeditions that turn up only hair and prints. Perhaps this will lead to research facilities being set up in the region where this expedition was launched, and perhaps that will lead to primary evidence, or perhaps the DNA in the hairs will show a connection or similarity with non-human hominids. I do not think that the Russian Snowman is a Neanderthal (the 6-7 foot tall, ape like nose, flat faces of the Chuchunna (spelt right?), aka the Russian Marked Hominids, which I think is what they were hunting for, is a lot different from the 5 foot 6 inch tall, long faced, big nosed neanderthals of prehistory, but perhaps it might be a denisovan or a descendant of Neanderthals or Heidelbergs…?), but if the DNA is a match for them or similar enough to raise eyebrows, then that might get more people into gear to find it and perhaps bring back a body or even live specimen. Or perhaps they have something in their finds that the have not recognized yet as a breakthrough (perhaps a bone in the nest they found that has not been noted yet, or something like it?). I just have a feeling there is more to this than what has been presented here so far. Hopefully the DNA extraction won’t take long, and that there will be more people go out to find these creatures.

    Hopefully also, any major tourism boost won’t drive these creatures or perhaps humans (?) deeper into the Siberian Snows, making it harder to discover.

  17. DWA responds:

    Bobzilla: thanks. You got it exactly right on the critical problem of cryptozoology.

    (Other than that none of those involved in this critical problem are scientists.)

    Trumpeting finds before they are proven worth the noise is not science. There is no response more reliable than straight dismissing anything that is said before proof is obtained. When you hold the press conference, you must have the proof in hand.

    Hapa: your puzzlement re: Skookum is justified. The Skookum cast has intrigued everyone with serious scientific chops who has looked at it, and was the critical piece of evidence swaying Daris Swindler, one of the most prominent primatologists. I have seen no negative criticism of that cast that holds water. Anyone who thinks it’s an elk needs to explain how elk levitate; there are no elk prints where they would have to be. Critics with no scientific chops get away scot-free in these discussions, as they’re preaching to a public raised on kneejerk scoffing at certain subjects, and totally ignorant of the science (to say nothing of the common sense: just watch an elk get up!) involved.

    So both sides in this debate are crippled: cryptozoology by true believers and proponents who don’t understand science, and skepticism by cynicism and ignorance.

    As to Grover, he did make claims he shouldn’t have. But he had more reason to take his position than the scoffers do to take theirs. Also, anyone who understands this subject knows that one cannot blame the animal’s nonexistence on the people looking for it. The evidence is all that counts.

  18. norman-uk responds:

    Could it be true that Ben Radford’s default position is that anything that accepts bigfoot etc is true is an exaggeration. So where there is an alternative or more conventional explanation he considers that the alternative must be true and the bigfoot explanation an exaggeration. So someone finds an elk hair on the skookum cast it’s not bigfoot it’s bigelk ! Disregarding the more important evidence of the detail of the cast and the logic and reports of bigfoot being an omnivore who might be shedding any kind of hair other than its own.

    DWA I don’t see why being a bigfoot believer is necessarily a great handicap. Who is more likely to get evidence of bigfoot a sceptic who attacks any evidence or a bigfoot advocate? Todd Disotell (NY labs) who has done nat geo dna analysis for years stated his job was not to prove anything but to disprove, surely his job is to do it right and let others be the judge. His is not a recipe for scientific advance and goes some way to explaining the failure of science in America to come up with the goods on bigfoot and generally not do appropriate research.

  19. DWA responds:

    “DWA I don’t see why being a bigfoot believer is necessarily a great handicap.”

    To me, “belief” in this discussion is a handicap. Evidence is the gold standard.

    I prefer Grover’s way of saying it, which he deliberately juxtaposed with “belief” for contrast: “My review of the evidence has led me to CONCLUDE…”.

    But I agree with you on Radford.

Sorry. Comments have been closed.

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