Rumors, hoaxes and myths of the week, then I tell you how to sort through it

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I need a name for these weekly wrapups of activity. Suggestions?

Good week for crossovers. My post on Slenderman (Slender Man?) did well with the paranormal crowd. I’ll be working with some experts to develop another piece on this relating to pop culture. Looking forward to doing that.

I was able to connect with the local Bigfoot investigation group after a rumor broke that a Bigfoot was shot near Altoona. Turned out to be a bust. As is typical. The Bigfoot community is especially awash with hoaxes to the point that you can not take anything serious. I wrote about this for Huffington Post. That post got many positive comments and was passed on via social media. I was happy to see that. It’s really important to pass on things you like so they reach the maximum audience. Nothing is as depressing as doing a lot of work and having it go no where.

Therefore, I’m thinking about book projects… :-) Continue reading

When I’m disliked by only one side, then I know I have a problem

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Some of you may know I now blog for Huffington Post as well as the usual outlets. Some of you have been kind enough to read and retweet. I appreciate that. My latest piece is out.

Suspend Your Skepticism and Just Listen.

I’ve been circulating in the Skeptisphere for a good long while. But I have not forgotten the value of being challenged and seeing alternative views. This draws me to paranormal conferences and events. I go there to be immersed in highly unskeptical ideas. It is immediately clear, to me at least, that I am out of my comfort zone at these events. I do not feel free to talk to anyone lest they determine I am not of their “ilk” and decide I should be shunned. But I am curious, and no one berates me for wanting to listen and observe. What is it about the paranormal culture that draws people here? Why is this population of people happy to spend a weekend engaged in these particularly paranormal activities, listening to speakers and making new friends?

This is a piece I wrote after I returned from a paranormal conference. I would strongly suggest all capital-S skeptics read it and would love to know what you think. I find myself cringing when I hear people (e.g. “skeptics”) laugh at paranormal believers (not beliefs but BELIEVERS) and soundly state “Bigfoot is a myth. Grow up!” How narrowly you see people. Skeptics lack empathy in many cases. You may decry me for giving paranormalists the time of day but I think they have something to say about being human. I’ve not been treated kindly by some in the skeptic-athesist community and I’ve been stabbed in the back and teased by some of the “skeptical believers” (I don’t accept their soft definition of “skeptic”) and of course you’re doomed if you are the Skeptic on a pro-paranormal forum. But, honestly, I’m so used to that. I write policy for a living. If I make everyone happy or NO one happy, I’m doing something right. It’s when I am only liked by one camp that I know I have a serious bias problem.

On the flip side, a new Sounds Sciencey was published this week as well. Continue reading

Serious science talk about Bigfoot – the new Tet Zoo podcast

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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.

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A week loaded with Doubtful stuff

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It was a very exciting week! Here’s just some of the stuff that went on.

I was busy updating pieces on the Ketchum Sasquatch DNA project. One will appear as a special report in the next Skeptical Inquirer and will give you a run down of the timeline and what went on. A longer version of this will appear in Skeptical Briefs with more details. As far as I know, this will be the only place where this story will be published in print.

So many big stories this week on Doubtful News! I was able to connect with a genetics PhD who looked at the Ketchum data and broke the story which caused the hit counts on their video discussion about it to go from the 200s to the 2000s and get lots of attention. Of course, that came with many commentators to the site defending Ketchum’s data but overlooking the sloppiness of her presentation. There were several developments but you can read those in other posts here and on Doubtful News.

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Bigfoot study getting skeptical attention

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My Bigfoot pieces on Doubtful News have been getting some attention. That makes me think that a (balanced) skeptical view is welcome on this topic. For one, it just SCREAMS “skepticism needed,” with even the Bigfoot researchers disgusted at the quality of Bigfoot evidence coming out and the seemingly daily parade of hoaxes.

Ketchum Bigfoot DNA paper released: Problems with questionable publication (Updated) | Doubtful News.

The up to date news is that the Melba Ketchum study is looking worse every day. The promised high-definition video from the associated Erickson project has yet to appear except for the short clip of what looks like (just saying) a carpet breathing a bit TOO deliberately. And perhaps the face looks a little too like Chewbacca? Hmm.

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Ketchum’s Galileo Gambit

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One of my essential reading blogs, Respectful Insolence, has resurrected an older post on The Galileo Gambit. It was timely. It was in reference mainly to the day to day parade of quackery that passes by in the media. Orac coined the term “Galileo gambit” to describe a very common ploy used by quacks – they compare their persecution and non-acceptance to that of Galileo.

At least, I think I was the first to coin this term. I haven’t been able to find a reference to the “Galileo Gambit” dating before I wrote the original version of this post way back in 2005.”

Immediately, I thought of Dr. Melba Ketchum who recently pulled the Galileo Gambit when she announced the publication of her Sasquatch DNA paper.

We encountered the worst scientific bias in the peer review process in recent history.  I am calling it the “Galileo Effect”.  Several journals wouldn’t even read our manuscript when we sent them a pre-submission inquiry.  Another one leaked our peer reviews.  We were even mocked by one reviewer in his peer review.

Sorry, a lame excuse. It’s special pleading for why she had such trouble with her paper.

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Half-baked dragons and truthery

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Last night on Virtual Skeptics… of course we had robots. Now they are attacking animals and making rats really depressed. Best quote came from an audience member who said the best way to make a rat depressed is to send him to grad school. Win.

Bob talked about the defacing of the Delacroix painting by a 9/11 truther.

Eve told us the story about historic dragons and the latest dragon debunking.

I talked about the shiny thing on Mars. I was not satisfied with the official explanation, mind you.

Tim told us about the push to license naturopaths, the great things about Lanyrd, and other skeptical online stuff.

Then we dove a little into the Bigfoot news of the day. You can see the show notes here and the show is embedded below. There are many visuals in this one include cute things and a Bigfoot sighting (watch for the cheezy Bigfoot appearance at the very end). Continue reading

The TRUTH about Spike TV’s $10 million bigfoot hunt

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I’m proud (certainly not quite the right word) to call Tim Holmes a friend (and sometimes admirer). He’s a nice guy with an unconventional outlook on the world. In HIS world, Bigfoot is out there and UFOs visit regularly.

I wrote about Tim and the Who Forted gang after I attended the premier of the film The Bigfoot Hunter: Still Searching. (Tim IS the Bigfoot Hunter)

Tim (at right) and the Who Forted crew at the premier of The Bigfoot Hunter

Tim (at right) and the Who Forted crew at the premier of The Bigfoot Hunter

Tim was recruited to try out for Spike TVs new Bigfoot hunter show. I talk about the news of this show, offering a $10 million dollar prize here:  Finding Bigfoot just got REALLY serious! (UPDATED: Prize money) | Doubtful News.

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Facts? You keep using that word, Bigfoot hunters.

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You are Not Entitled to Your Own Bigfoot Facts” is my latest piece up on Sounds Sciencey. It’s a continuation on this piece which still gets a lot of hits on the site.

In this one, I take to task some self-styled Bigfooters who consider speculation as “fact”. It gets pretty silly…

Self-styled Bigfoot researchers make claims that suggest they know more about Bigfoot than Bigfoot might know about himself. They can tell me what Bigfoot likes and doesn’t like, where he sleeps at night, how he avoids detection, and how he communicates. They tell the public that Bigfoot makes those sounds they hear at night. They find locations where a Bigfoot passed through or slept or built a shelter. These researchers even know about Bigfoots’ “culture”—what they do with their dead relatives, how they can fool humans. But apparently they don’t know enough to catch one.

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Why I give up on Bigfoot sites and forums

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I’m going to have a bit of a rant. This post is mostly opinion. However, it is based on actual situations that can be documented.

It’s about cryptozoology forums and how they don’t work.

I’ve posted before about how I stopped visiting Cryptomundo because my comments were not posted as they were critical of the views of the original post. Or, other commentators were allowed to have free say but I was ostracized as a skeptic. Those who know me know that I am not a ranter. I try to be civil in discourse. Worse, some of my comments were edited on Cryptomundo to bias my viewpoint (an evil skeptic). See this post.

While I still don’t visit because of the ad content (ubiquitous, which makes the page unsightly and slow to load) and the content being not so great, the situation there has gotten considerably better. I feel I could post a comment there and it would now be published unchanged.

Second, I quit going to Bigfoot Evidence because misogynistic or crude remarks by some commentators (some were disgusting and personal about me [here: comment #8]) were not moderated or removed even after request (we had a small group discussion via twitter). Comments there degenerated into a cesspool at times. The content also became cheap with various “tipsters” posting unsubstantiated stories and guest posters being really off the mark. Comments were moderated for profanity but not for other sad qualities.

And, again with the ads. I get the feeling these Bigfoot sites are about profit, ego and status, not getting to the best answers about what is really going on with the Bigfoot phenomena. Continue reading