Bigfoot researchers making big leaps

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A few behaviors really irk me: acting like an authority to the public when you don’t deserve to be authoritative and making shit up to give a good story. The scientist in me would like experience, credentials and an exhibition of expertise. I also need evidence for wild claims. Because, well, you know… I doubt it.

One group in particular is very fond of putting these behaviors together – self-styled Bigfoot researchers.

I’m fed up with Bigfoot proponents pulling “facts” out of thin air and telling me what Bigfoot likes and doesn’t like, where he sleeps at night, how he avoids detection, how he communicates. They tell the public that wood knocking and nighttime howls are from Bigfoot. They find locations where one passed through or slept. They even apparently know about their “culture”. How can you, Bigfoot researcher, justify these fantastic claims? I’d like to know.

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU SAY IS FACT? Show me the data! Publish it! Open it to review by biologists and take your lumps.

No. Instead they appeal to the public as experts.

The rampant speculation and story spinning reminds me of the old-timey natural history tales. Ancient authors had no observations of foreign animal life and relied on second (or third) hand reports from travelers which led to wild errors and extravagant tales like those of the manticore and the basilisk:

“…he is king of serpents, and they be afraid, and flee when they see him. For he slayeth them with his smell and with his breath: and slayeth also anything that hath life with breath and with sight. In his sight no fowl nor bird passeth harmless, and though he be far from the fowl, yet it is burned and devoured by his mouth.”

Really? Cool. Too bad none of that ever panned out.

Let’s come out of the clouds for a moment…

FACT: No one has EVER documented that a Bigfoot/Sasquatch really exists
The idea of Bigfoot is supported by anecdotal, eyewitness and some rather weak physical trace evidence. It is supplemented by some photos and films of dubious authenticity or interpretation and sound recordings which are pretty much useless.

People have been searching for decades. Odds are, he ain’t out there for us to find. But, even if he IS out there, how dare you so called “researchers” just spin your own natural history and pass it off to the public as truth.

These groups are representing themselves to the media and, ultimately, the public as serious and scientific. That’s pathetic. Real science is backed up by carefully collected data sets. Scientific explanations are based on theory in concordance with existing knowledge we have about the world.

I’m going to try some speculation…let’s see. Researchers are SO frustrated that a population of these creatures, not even one, can not be found that they have constructed their own biological sketch of what they think it ought to be like. They use the weak evidence as inspiration for various species of Bigfoot-like creatures. And they deduce, Sherlock Holmes-like, what things might be like if we add their hypothetical Bigfoot to this woodland setting.

That was intellectually satisfying.

Notably, in my speculation exercise, I’m not asking you to assume the existence of an entity that has eluded us for 50+ years. I’m talking about human behavior (which we can study because humans can be observed). I also have some observations you can make for yourself to back up my idea. You can see cryptozoologists make the huge leap beyond the evidence in pro-Bigfoot literature, local news stories (like this one which prompted me to start swearing and write this post), and various television programs (such as the Animal Planet show Finding Bigfoot which has researchers from the same Bigfoot research group).

It’s pretty sad that we don’t have a body or even better evidence after all this time. I hoped for it. But concocting classification, habits and even the evolutionary history of a being that has never been documented to exist is just an imaginative thought experiment. It isn’t research and it ISN’T science. You should STRONGLY and IMMEDIATELY doubt it.

Update June 9, 2011. PLEASE listen to the latest Monster Talk podcast with Dr. Brian Regal. Link. He explains more about the rise of amateur groups and more importantly, how scientists need “the goods”, not shoddy pictures, videos or more stories.

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20 thoughts on “Bigfoot researchers making big leaps

  1. Thefarmer Va La

    I am inclined to doubt it until truly compelling evidence is put forth, if, I can
    muster the courage to do so. However, the difficulty lies in the fact that what is
    compelling to me and what is compelling to my neighbor may be two very
    different things. As each bit of ‘evidence’ for the existence of Bigfoot knocked
    down, one by one,many proponents are now seeking to explain the lack
    of hard evidence by what they see as the only possible solution —
    that the beast must obviously be paranormal/multi-dimensional. This strikes
    me as desperate hijacking of, or at least an illegitimate child of,
    Keel / Valee musings: We have spent countless hours on the subject, we
    have failed to prove it exists as biological or hardware, therefor, it must be paranormal

    • idoubtit

      Good point. I call this “supernatural creep”, where they gravitate towards ANY explanation, no matter how otherworldly. An alternative would be to give up the idea and they often are not willing to do that.

    • idoubtit

      Raises a ton more questions than answers. It ought to be published (besides on his own website) and open for debate if he so confident.

  2. Gary B

    All of the alleged sasquatch/bigfoot dna that is supposed to exist is only reported through bigfoot orginazation websites. If you want to be taken seriously, stop this nonsense and publish allowing for peer review. if you do a Google search for bigfoot dna for the last few years you will find that NONE of it has any scientific value and is most often classified as ‘unknown’ which is then taken as evidence by footers as more proof for the existence of bigfoot. It is time to put up or shut up and the song and dance nonsense being paraded by The Erickson Project needs to do just that.

  3. 100% human? Isn’t it safer to assume that it came from… a human?? And if it is a stone age or ancient race, then we have to throw out all the reports of 8 ft tall bipeds and giant footprints. And the source sciencealivenews.com has exactly one article on it, this one.

  4. Publishing should not be considered as easy for the proponents, due in large part to the very skepticism this blog imparts. While it is imperative that such happens, most publications of any nature won’t touch the subject without a hint of tongue-in-cheek. This, perhaps, is not without due cause, though technically out of line and otherwise childish and unnecessary.

    Point is, right or wrong the subject has become taboo in part because of the implausibility of the subject and its history of non-evidence and farce, and that many in the scientific fields related to a given line of evidence would not touch an otherwise legit piece of evidence on this subject if they could help it due to the taboo.

    So that is one of the major hurdles from the skeptical/scientific end. Many speak of willingness to take up such evidence, but I fear how many would follow through. I speak only to point out that should true evidence come that needs our reconsideration of the fact, the biases on the scientific end must be limited despite what already seems to be damning evidence (or lack thereof) again the hypothesis of Bigfoot.

    This said, those who preform “research” more often condemn themselves to the stigma that has plagued the notion that is Bigfoot since it fell into popular discussion, “expedition”, and inquest. They have found the hostility of he scientific community to be such as to alienate them. While in part a natural end to their often misguided effort, they quickly account for their lacking by blaming others (another very human trait).

    Though the scientific end might have something to account for in isolating them, proponents are often the cause of their own woes. They, while trying to do their best (assuming such to be true) in an amateur fashion, break the scientific rules they seek to implement and when failure comes to them, instead of checking themselves, they blame others for their own failings and only complicate their own efforts.

    Spurred on by fellow “researchers”, their own experiences, and beliefs that allows for antagonizing their detractors, the Bigfoot proponents carry on in well-meaning ignorance, if not open hostilities to those resources that might otherwise be at their disposal to discover the truth; though in their own way, they could not discover the truth even if it were real due to their resentment and willingness to believe in spite.

    Should the creature(s) be real, the “researchers” sadly do little credit to their cause. If false, then science/skepticism/etc. has much to learn about converting those who “know something to be true”. While the standard-bearer that is science, or more precisely those who wield it, must expand its willingness to help those it might otherwise disagree with, those who cry out for something extraordinary must relent that the measure of proof, though perhaps unfairly high, must nevertheless be met and exceeded for success.

    It’s not that Bigfoot cannot exist, it’s that your reasons for why suck.

    • idoubtit

      Russell:

      Thanks for commenting with lots of salient points. I’m mostly in agreement.

      [I’m going to use the term ARIGs to represent these amateur research and investigation groups who are not under a university or run by scientists.]

      I’ve looked into the split between amateur and professional science and I understand your points about the “stigma”. Amateur researchers such as I have called out, have a love/hate
      relationship with science as you describe. They want to be recognized by that authority because it is so powerful. Yet, they don’t enter the forum or present their work for scrutiny. They make their own rules.

      ARIGs will get no where following the same old worn paths that lead no where.

      I have two suggestions. First, they need to drop the pro-paranormal bias (by this I mean they have to stop actively
      advocating that the answer is a cryptid, something currently outside of scientific knowledge). Their goal OUGHT to be trying to find an answer, not supporting a cause. Bias kills scientific inquiry, which is structured to eliminate it by methods such as blinded tests and peer review. But, this may mean new researchers may need to emerge because existing ones are too invested in their belief to be objective.

      Second, pair with a scientist. You say many scientists won’t go near this subject but I’m not so sure. There are several who will because they are interested in the big question of what might have happened. But to allow for scientific research may mean a lot less
      fun. And the ARIGs lose control. I’m not sure they are willing to concede that because they think their ways are right.

      I see a potential change happening. More impartial researchers, who are not so invested in a belief, are looking into things and are able to answer some new questions. I’m not seeing debunkers anymore. These new researchers have more credibility because they are careful and lack the extreme bias you can smell from miles away.

      I’m also not seeing ARIGs address the major criticisms skeptics have raised. If you don’t engage with your critics (at least the non-crazy ones) and think about their comments. How can you ever improve? I’m VERY interested in talking to ARIGs to see if they would be willing to allow this type of researcher into their circle to give suggestions and participate. Many of the new skeptics are not argumentative and not debunkers at all. We are curious! If ARIGs were less dismissive of us as “scoftics”, we might make for an interesting partnership!

      What do you think?

  5. Well made points, all of them. I have myself spoken of several of your ideas, though perhaps in less refined formats, to the ARIG I am a member of (and official skeptic, no less!) yet while they seem to agree with me in principle, I fear their lack of movement towards such ideas is their bred biases against the scientific community and other fears of the scoftics. Perhaps I should look more into becoming the bridge between my ARIG group and those scientists (or fellow skeptics) and jumpstart the process.

    On this note, I might think other skeptics might also consider joining these group like I have in some capacity. I think it is Ben Radford who I spoke with before signing up and he told me that he, too, was a signed up member of similar organization and did it for many of the same reasons I find myself there now. I think we all often keep to our own groups (and forums) a little too often and those who are braver to venture into “enemy territory” (a term that should be shunned in effort to progress) are also more likely to be “confrontational” or at least forceful in their stance.

    From the inside, one can learn who these “believers” are and discover a new appreciation for the human side to this argument (something I fear is too often overlooked). One can also realize what problems are within a smaller, more influenceable area and work with people on a personal and group level towards better results that help both sides of the argument: which should have the same goal of discovering the truth of the matter. Showing such genuine interest will do much to devolve the willingness by both to label each other as nameless groups who are easy to demonize and discount.

    Certainly, the pro-paranormal bias is of major concern. Though I find in my own group a common rejection of paranormal Bigfoot, that may not be so for other “paranormal” topics. However, it is a good first step and for similar groups, it’s a great starting point to show them a better way to view other topics as well. To encourage a skeptical scientific mentality, as many have said before me, it is best to start where it already exists within those who want to help or be involved with. This will also go a long way to dispelling the tendency to bolster a belief (and its biases). I know one person who refuses to talk to me about Bigfoot at all just because I question the P/G film; such is not so common, but it is certain that such must be addressed with those who have not gone so far, and act as a counter to those who hold such rigid beliefs.

    Since there is a lot of ground to cover in all these areas, but especially in the “bolstering beliefs” section, one might, once establishing a relationship, showing good faith and intent, and acquiring collaboration or relations with interested “real” scientists, then perhaps it is best to go over some old territory. Find the things that have been admitted by ARIG members to not work or are inadequate and using them as starting points to discover if they indeed does not work and more specific reasons why not. From there, an established criteria can be formed that will allow scrutiny of current efforts and perhaps will lead to new and better tactics.

    I admit this is a rather optimistic general outline, but I think it’s plausible in some form. I also hope I touch on all your points, too. Let me know if not.

  6. Anonymous

    They have been found. They have been captured. They have left overwhelming physical evidence. They have been documented. They have been filmed. They have captured one of us. They have been shot and killed. They have been domesticated.
    They are here.

    Do some research, read some books, raise your eyebrows.

    ” Everything you know is wrong” by Loyd Pye, is a good place to start.

  7. Anonymous

    In the case of sasquatch, there are many ancient forms of life (pongids) which are widely believed to have roamed the planet at one point. There’s scientific evidence for them. So really the only leap of faith is that one (or probably more) of them has managed to sustain itself to modern times.

    If you’re asking why is there no evidence of this, the simple answer is that there is evidence in footprints, hairs, scat, photos, etc., not to mention lots of oral history from a variety of cultures around the world. Do you actually believe that bigfoot researchers are the ones doing the lab work on all these pieces of evidence? Of course, the samples are sent to existing and independent labs.

    If the result says “human origin”, who is to say that bigfoot is not human? If the result says “inconclusive”, why is that result inconclusive? If the result says “undetermined origin”, that is evidence of something, something which science can’t determine. If the bigfoot community lined up enough “undetermined” evidence, what would you say? For that matter, what would you say to the folks in the Disclosure Project?

    Hey, if Linnaeus classified them, then that it is good enough for me. Then again, maybe he isn’t scientific enough for some people, especially those who believe that science created the world and not the other way around.

    Proof lies in the eye of the beholder unless, of course, you’re waiting for the scientists to determine your reality. Is it a particle or is it a wave?

    For those who want to learn, google Ivan Sanderson’s Legend Come to Life and read the online version.

    • idoubtit

      Not what I asked for, not convincing, not any better than 50 years ago. You have to up the game, there, Anonymouses.

  8. Thefarmer Va La

    In the jungles of Cambodia, for instance, new species can be still discovered. Based on the totality of peer reviewed evidence to date, one could say that it seems to indicate that the only way that such large hominids could exist, on a global scale, is if a) there is a global conspiracy to hide evidence or b) they are paranormal in nature. Are you prepared to go there?

    In both cases I ask myself ‘why?’ Is my belief based on evidence, or the lack thereof?

  9. all of these comments are interesting, but no comments are valid unless from a witness. there are plenty of people who have seen these things behaving in both a physical and “paranormal” manner, and many cultures in which discussions such as above would not be necessary. they know it to exist, and have known. i can tell you i have seen this thing and it behaved in a paranormal manner. no amount of discussion here about dna and scientific paper means a hill of beans to me. i want to know what it is. so far the attempts to “find bigfoot” are meaningless and ridiculous because they do not recognize the manner of its existence.. organized “scientific” groups seek to repress any information that does not fit into their preconceptions. and now things have degenerated into reality tv. you are quite right that they make outrageous claims based on little or nothing. my claims are based on my experiences, and are for me at least and those who know me evidence enough to say that something mighty strange is going on. keel and valee and redfern and franzoni have alll written about it. so far eyewitness accounts are the ONLY thing we have. yet they are repressed and redacted by researchers. why?

    • idoubtit

      I disagree with your comments about eyewitness reports being valuable. They can lead us to look in a particular direction but anecdotes are so unreliable for many and various reasons. This is well known.

      But your story is an example of how each person thinks of evidence. Your experience, and your interpretation of it was good enough evidence for you. But it isn’t the same for me. I look for much more solid evidence. Please remember, I’m not out to question your belief or change your mind. I’m saying that I need something more concrete to accept it for myself.

  10. Anonymous

    Most people who don’t believe in Sasquatch tend to not be woodsy folks to begin with. Few of them have ever gone camping at any undeveloped campsites, etc. The woods are a vast, vast area. A lot of the locations are near impossible to get to on foot. The forest floor is not visible from above. When you are driving through the woods you tend to be alone and focused on the road.

    People often ask, why haven’t we found dead ones? Well, take a hike in the woods, consider all the birds, squirrels, chipmunks, deer, etc… Why isn’t the forest littered with bones? Because they are eaten.

    The forest is extremely vast, and it’s extremely ignorant to assume it is completely explored. If Sasquatches are nocturnal, think about it, how many people hike at night? Once a month on the full moon, if at all. Hunters rarely hunt at night, in fact, in many areas that is against the law (Except for certain game, even then hounds are involved and any thing would be scared away).

    Granted, if there is a large species of ape somewhere in North America, I’d be expecting it to turn up in Alaska or Canada. But I have, unknowingly, been in areas where Sasquatch has been sited (in NorCal). It’s quite easy to see how something could hide away. You can see maybe 5-10ft into the forest line, further sometimes if you are lucky.

    I am hard pressed to believe Sasquatch is paranormal in anyway because that is just simply ridiculous. I’m not sure if they are a form of humankind. If anything it’s simply a wood ape. Even if their population is low (which who really knows), any animal that doesn’t not want to be seen can easily evade a human. Go on a hike through a wooded area with known bear/cougar activity, and tell me how many you see :). They aren’t even endangered. Hell, coyotes are all over the place but it’s a rare thing to see them during the day.

    I do think these shows, and weekend warrior quests are quite useless. Though, I will point out that it is very hard to track/hunt/capture something we know little about. People claim they eat deer, but who really knows. However, I’m sure a well funded month long expedition in a “hot spot” would come up with a quick answer. But where do you get the funding? Or even the appropriate team? It’d have to be comprised of field biologists, trackers, and hunters. Not Sasquatch fans.

    Now if there were to be an at least month long expedition, out in the wilderness, not just every other weekend and they came up with nothing. Then I could rule out his existence.

  11. NorCal Hiker

    Most people who don’t believe in Sasquatch tend to not be woodsy folks to begin with. Few of them have ever gone camping at any undeveloped campsites, etc. The woods are a vast, vast area. A lot of the locations are near impossible to get to on foot. The forest floor is not visible from above. When you are driving through the woods you tend to be alone and focused on the road.

    People often ask, why haven’t we found dead ones? Well, take a hike in the woods, consider all the birds, squirrels, chipmunks, deer, etc… Why isn’t the forest littered with bones? Because they are eaten.

    The forest is extremely vast, and it’s extremely ignorant to assume it is completely explored. If Sasquatches are nocturnal, think about it, how many people hike at night? Once a month on the full moon, if at all. Hunters rarely hunt at night, in fact, in many areas that is against the law (Except for certain game, even then hounds are involved and any thing would be scared away).

    Granted, if there is a large species of ape somewhere in North America, I’d be expecting it to turn up in Alaska or Canada. But I have, unknowingly, been in areas where Sasquatch has been sited (in NorCal). It’s quite easy to see how something could hide away. You can see maybe 5-10ft into the forest line, further sometimes if you are lucky.

    I am hard pressed to believe Sasquatch is paranormal in anyway because that is just simply ridiculous. I’m not sure if they are a form of humankind. If anything it’s simply a wood ape. Even if their population is low (which who really knows), any animal that doesn’t not want to be seen can easily evade a human. Go on a hike through a wooded area with known bear/cougar activity, and tell me how many you see :). They aren’t even endangered. Hell, coyotes are all over the place but it’s a rare thing to see them during the day.

    I do think these shows, and weekend warrior quests are quite useless. Though, I will point out that it is very hard to track/hunt/capture something we know little about. People claim they eat deer, but who really knows. However, I’m sure a well funded month long expedition in a “hot spot” would come up with a quick answer. But where do you get the funding? Or even the appropriate team? It’d have to be comprised of field biologists, trackers, and hunters. Not Sasquatch fans.

    Now if there were to be an at least month long expedition, out in the wilderness, not just every other weekend and they came up with nothing. Then I could rule out his existence.

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