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.