Serious science talk about Bigfoot – the new Tet Zoo podcast

Bigfoot/Sasquatch enthusiasts MUST listen to the latest episode of the Tetrapod Zoology (Tet Zoo) podcast. Episode 3 is the Bigfoot special. This podcast is by Dr. Darren Naish, PhD who writes the blog Tetrapod Zoology on the Scientific American network, and science artist John Conway.

Still of "Patty" from the 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film
Still of “Patty” from the 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film

This is a one and a half hour discussion about the best evidence known for the Bigfoot phenomenon. The three “best” pieces prior to this year are the dermal ridges confirmed by print expert Jimmy Chilcutt [Check out this interview on Monster Talk], the Skookum cast from Washington, and the Patterson Gimlin footage. Conway and Naish discuss the pros and cons of each one. The point of the discussion is that these three pieces, compelling when they appeared, have since fallen apart. The Chilcutt dermal ridges can be duplicated unintentionally through artifacts from the plaster casting process. Credit is given to the work of Matt Crowley. The Skookum cast that was interpreted by primate experts to possibly be consistent with a reclining primate, showing body and heel impressions in mud, has a far more mundane explanation as resulting from a native elk (wapiti) wallowing in the mud. Credit is given to the Chris Murphy book Meet the Sasquatch (which I have thanks to the aforementioned Matt Crowley). And finally, the Patterson Gimlin film, while certainly impressive on the surface and has not been completely debunked to my satisfaction, does suffer from some serious problems surroundings it’s documentation and history. Noted contributors for this information are Dan Loxton (of Skeptic magazine) and Dr. Don Prothero, who have a new book on cryptozoology coming out that I CAN NOT WAIT to get. Hope to see it this spring.

All the evidence, if solid, should have held up and led to ADDITIONAL finds to strengthen the case for Sasquatch, but that is not what happened.

Doubt swirls around this evidence which is just not good enough to conclude that a new and unique creature exists in North America. Darren makes some very pithy comments about skeptics and those who particularly will be “rejectionists”. I’ve heard lots of those. I’m not one of them. Neither is Darren. He gives all evidence a fair examination. THIS is what I say is the best method for examining Bigfoot, through skeptical scholarship.

Darren admits that he was reviewer for the Melba Ketchum paper when it was submitted to a scientific journal (a big one but I’m not going to tell you the name because he didn’t name it). So, the claim that Ketchum did shop the paper around to journals IS certainly true. As Darren notes (part begins about 1hr 9 min in),  there was no conspiracy not to publish the paper, it was just bad. He calls it a “peculiar” paper. It did not follow conventional format, was confusing, and adds another layer of mystery with the proposed “mystery” origin creature. The conclusions were untenable. John and Darren conclude that the Ketchum paper did more harm than good. It’s just that poor. Darren, a reader of Doubtful News, cites the spoof papers used as references.

They make a VERY important point about Bigfoot vocalizations (in reference to the Finding Bigfoot show). We don’t know what Bigfoot truly sounds like, if it exists, but we DO know for sure that people are out in the woods (more people all the time), CALLING for Bigfoot. So if you are out in the wilderness, it’s NOT impossible that some strange noise you hear can be another person calling for Bigfoot. Don’t miss Darren imitating the famous Morehead Bigfoot babbling sounds. Love that stuff. Very convincing.

Finally, they touch on the fact, with a tinge of disappointment, I think, that the evidence for Bigfoot that we SHOULD expect at this point – with so many looking for it – has not been forthcoming. All we need is a bone, not more anecdotes, not blurry pictures or films. But it’s not here. Therefore, while the idea of Bigfoot as real is not implausible on the face of it, solid evidence to support such a claim is absent.

Do not miss this episode. Find it on itunes.

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12 thoughts on “Serious science talk about Bigfoot – the new Tet Zoo podcast”

  1. Scientific analysis of the Sierra Sounds has already proven that they were not produced by humans or artificial means, which both Ron Morehead and Scott Nelson have discussed repeatedly. But other than that – great column.

    1. But as they mention, none of this is ever published in a place that it can be critiqued by real experts. So, I’m dubious of that.
      Thanks.

  2. “Real experts” at a university did the analysis and while there is not an appropriate journal to which the work could be submitted, it’s not been inaccessible. Perhaps you could talk to Ron about it. As one who works in academia, it is apparent that certain evidence cannot be critiqued in the normal manner, due either to the lack of applicable journal OR journal requirements that the PI has a PhD. Most individuals in this research only have bachelor’s or master’s degrees, and the arena’s controversial nature is a disincentive for PhDs to partner with them on paper submissions in the PI role. Even most of the PhDs and MDs in the field are reluctant to risk their reputations, Dr. Meldrum being a notable exception. And as Dr. Naish points out, Dr. Ketchum’s paper has done more harm than good. These are serious barriers. For this field to take serious steps forward, it either needs to recruit brave PhDs willing to take risks or it needs to find a venue for review that does not require PhD-only submissions. If there is a case to be made for the publishing and review of “citizen science,” Sasquatch research would be a perfect example. I am a proud academic snob myself, so I understand your dubiousness. But how would you suggest the Sasquatch research community deal with these challenges?

    1. Good points. There is a lot of damage to undo. I’m not sure what can be done with the Sierra sound recordings. But there are thousands of journals, I’m not sure I agree with that conclusion that there are not options. The problem I saw with the Ketchum paper and may apply to other bigfoot research is framing it in a way that presumes the thing already exists. If it is framed as a problem to consider, I think that would have lessened the poor reaction to be more conservative rather than the “I HAVE THE TRUTH” attitude she took.

    2. As we discuss in the podcast, evidence like sounds aren’t ever going to be good enough, even if we buy the “humans can’t do that” line, which I think is pretty doubtful. Someone could fake them by playing synthesised or altered sounds on a car stereo for example (this might be done innocently by Bigfoot enthusiasts trying to attract a Sasquatch), using instruments, or many other ways I haven’t thought of. As I say in the podcast, I think arguing about this sort of evidence is becoming a waste of time.

      What could be done? Find a good bit of direct physical evidence – I suggest a bone, and you’re done. All efforts should be in this direction, in my opinion.

  3. As it stands the only published paper is Dr. Meldrum’s

    Midfoot Flexibility, Fossil Footprints, and Sasquatch Steps:
    New Perspectives on the Evolution of Bipedalism: http://www.scientificexploration.org/journal/jse_18_1_meldrum.pdf

    While it is published this is not peer reviewed for the obvious reason that it is too controversial.

    Dr. Meldrum’s assessment is dead on according to the tracks I have seen and gotten to follow but hey…who am I? Just a person that believes in them. The footprints I have seen cannot be duplicated by man. It’s too detailed in the shift of weight, the reaction to terrain and a man wearing or hoaxing tracks will often do it uniformly in weight or if wearing special ‘shoes’ will be lighter in the front as man needs the heal to contact the back of any shoe for a decent level of movement. It could be duplicated by a harness like device inside the shoe or above a track plate but that would still be noticeable by a professional tracker. You cannot hoax a real tracker but very few get involved in this field.

    Wasn’t science resistant to the evolution theory at one point? It’s no surprise it will be resistant to this.

    1. Actually no, science was not resistant to evolution. Science in a professional form did not exist much before the Victorian time of Mr. Darwin so, bad analogy.

      You can make pronouncements all you like but science isn’t about belief. It’s about evidence which is seriously lacking after 50 plus years of looking.

    2. Hi David, I really think you should listen to the podcast – I think you’ll see that we aren’t resistant to bigfoot at all. Darren and I would love it if the evidence proved to be solid, but so far, unfortunately, it hasn’t. In fact, and this way the point of the podcast, it’s started to collapse.

      I think there is a fundamental problem here is that there are a million ways to fake trace evidence, and you’d have to discount all of them to demonstrate conclusively that the traces are real. This is too difficult, and always uncertain (maybe someone thought of a novel way to fake a track). No, such evidence isn’t going to cut it, we need remains.

  4. It’s too bad that you think the PGF film needs debunking. I think if you make the claim that it is a Bigfoot, you should be able to support that claim. What kind of critical thinking are you employing here? Has the Ivan Marx Bigfoot film been properly debunked? You should get on that one.

    1. I’ve not seen a solid alternative explanation proposed. I’m not saying it’s a Bigfoot, I’m saying what or who is it? What’s the story? I don’t buy a lot of the “I was the guy in the suit claims” and it’s still controversial. If its a hoax (as I say there are serious problems) then it’s actually a damn good one and is responsible for millions of people’s ideas about Sasquatch.

      Ivan Marks? Come on Drew, apples and bananas comparison there.

  5. There is only one “I was the guy in the suit claim”.

    The only alternative explanation needed is; Bigfoot has not been shown to be a real creature, clearly this is a person in a suit.

    I mean, if you are just wanting to solve the mystery of how it was created, that is fine, but you don’t have to solve the mystery, in order to prove that it wasn’t a Bigfoot.

  6. I am saddened but resigned to the liklihood that the whole spectrum of non-human hominids just don’t exist. The explanations for the lack of physical evidence have been backed into a corner. “They’re too clever! ” Okay, where are bodies of really stupid ones?

    My native friends say the sasquatch avoid notice by having mastered skills of telepathy and moving between worlds (presumably to cope with the influx of a savage tide of H. Sap) and I am okay with that, but it ain’t proof. Plus, with such a skill, the non-clever ones should be raiding supermarkets at night, no?

    Anyone wishing to hear bizarre noises, should listen to the yodelling and baby babbling sounds emitted by Basenji dogs and Boston Terriers. The first time I heard a Basenji at a dog show, I looked wildly around, “What the hell…?” My friend never looked up from combing her dog, just said, “Basenji.”

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