Dead bulls generate media BS

News outlets have picked up and run with the story of five bulls (Hereford bovines) that have died under mysterious circumstances near Salem, Oregon last July. I’m not sure why this is getting attention again now except for the obvious – that ideas about aliens are back in the public consciousness thanks to a whole bunch of hype from the To The Stars Academy claiming to have videos of unidentified aerial phenomena and “metamaterials” they claim may not be of earthly origin. I find all that entirely underwhelming. But dead cows that have seemingly had some of their organs removed (notably the genitals) is an American paranormal trope that has been around for decades, and animals dying under strange circumstances is a curious thing. I don’t have the time or expertise to look into the cases in detail. I am looking at this as an interested person reading the news and hearing some really bizarre paranormal-themed conclusions pushed.

The latest story of cattle death and mutilation began in local media outlets in August. The five carcasses found at the Silvies Valley Ranch were all males, there was no immediate cause of death, and they all happened in the span of a few days.

From Oregon Live:

The five dead bulls were found on July 30 and 31, in a wooded area about 15 miles from U.S. 395, the nearest major road. They were each about a quarter mile apart, Marshall said. There is some official disagreement on when they were killed – the Harney County Sheriff’s Office, which saw only four of the bulls, puts the deaths at three to 14 days before discovery, but Marshall believes the cattle were discovered within 24 to 48 hours of their deaths.

The officials at the ranch and the local sheriff’s deputy described it to reporters as unexplanable. Yet, even these early articles invoked bizarre, fringe ideas. The new wave of articled from mainstream sources (took them a while to grab on) are even worse. Even NPR did a story without critical commentary:

The bull looks like a giant, deflated plush toy. It smells. Weirdly, there are no signs of buzzards, coyotes or other scavengers. His red coat is as shiny as if he were going to the fair, but he’s bloodless and his tongue and genitals have been surgically cut out.

It’s important to always understand that many sensational stories end up not being what was told in the media. Key facts are left out, exaggerated, or entirely wrong. When careful research is done, the story often resolves into something far less sensational. Taking a logical view of these cattle mutilation stories, a few things very obviously jump out:

  • The cases are assumed to be related. They are lumped together and other claims from the past are added to the conglomeration. Then they are tied together by some dubious facts under a common name that strongly assumes a common cause. Is this justified? No. Lumping things together that may not be related implies mysteriousness when there may be none – each case needs to be investigated individually before concluding that they are related if the evidence leads that way.
  • Several facts about the carcasses are assumed or misrepresented. The idea of the wounds being from lasers or scalpels is not at all well-demonstrated. There are data and real world experiments that show this appearance and missing soft tissue is explainable by natural causes – bloating that leads to splitting of the skin, insects and predators that remove parts. While it is certainly possible that someone could have taken a tool to the carcasses, that seems less likely than more obvious explanations. The idea of lasers seems high tech and fits in nicely with a dramatic tall tale of aliens abducting cows for some unknown use and dumping the remains.
  • Almost every story includes the claim that there was “no blood” left in the carcass. This is a total red herring. When an animal dies from sickness or internal injuries, it doesn’t bleed out. The heart stops pumping and the blood pools due to gravity, coagulates, and is not in “drop” form anymore. Even if there was an opening, the blood would soak into the ground or be eaten by various carrion feeders like flies. Does roadkill bleed if you cut it days later? No. This is nonsense from people who don’t know what naturally occurs in dead organisms.
  • The same media reporting patterns occur – the stories from those affected or afraid are provided and the expert information is marginalized unless the expert’s comments play into a dramatic conclusion. There are plenty of people who could cogently argue the opposite view – that this is not nefarious or all that mysterious – but that wouldn’t get clicks, would it?
  • There are no tracks around the body. This suggests that the animal just died on its own. This is somewhat mysterious, for sure, but it is not so weird if the animal was felled by lightning, poisoning, an acute allergic reaction, or illness. Has every possible toxin, disease, or illness been ruled out? No. In fact, almost none of the articles on the Oregon deaths included information from a veterinarian. None mention necropsies were done. One reason was that the remains were not fresh enough for this kind of evaluation. I’m not clear on why that would be an issue. You can certainly discern if the animal was injured in some way. Obviously, blood tests were not possible.

Opinion of the Vice-president of the ranch, Colby Marshall, is quoted repeatedly in the media pieces:

“We think that this crime is being perpetuated by some sort of a cult,” he said. NBC

Marshall said he wonders if the killer used poison darts. “We think that these are very sick and dangerous individuals and they need to answer for this horrible crime,” he said. Oregon Live

Marshall speculates the bulls were darted with a tranquilizer that knocked them out. While some people acted as lookouts, others bled the animals out by inserting a large-gauge needle into the tongue and into an artery, then removed the organs after the heart stopped beating, he surmised. LA Times

Guesses and wild speculation printed in the media sound like “facts”. They are not.

Deputy Sheriff Jenkins also chimes in with ideas put forward by others and his own thoughts:

“A lot of people lean toward the aliens,” Jenkins says. “One caller had told us to look for basically a depression under the carcass. ‘Cause he said that the alien ships will kinda beam the cow up and do whatever they are going to do with it. Then they just drop them from a great height.” NPR

“Personally, I would lean more toward the occult, where people for whatever reason – whether it’s a phase of the moon or whatever rituals they’re going to do with their beliefs – are coming to different areas and doing that,” he said. LA Times

Jenkins, the deputy, said the wounds, when examined, appeared clean-cut. “The parts were definitely cut out with a sharp blade,” he said. “There weren’t any signs of predatory eating or chewing. They were cut out by at least one person.” Capital Press

None of Jenkins claims given above are factual but his capacity as a law enforcement officer carries weight even though he may have zero expertise in this particular area.

The articles note that common causes were ruled out – poison plants, predators and gunshots. Lightning storms did not occur during the time. There was not a full moon. The animals were not found close together. NBC news at least noted that natural causes were likely and explained the missing blood and the conditions of the carcasses. They cited Dave Bohnert, director of Oregon State University’s Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center, who said he believes people killed the bulls, but it could be natural – he had not investigated the case. It is odd that all were bulls, much less numerous in the herd than cows. So there is something here to solve but none of these people quoted are helping much.

The articles, not to mention the voluminous and really cringe-worthy commenters, serve up ridiculous “conclusions” about what could have done this. If someone can point to reliable sources that confirm any people butchered cows in this way in the name of Satan, please supply citations. There is little to no evidence of this far out claim. Mention of exsanguination automatically triggers people to yell “Chupacabra” which is goofy, but some people seriously believe there are vampire creatures preying on livestock. And, even early on, jokers suggested Sasquatch was messing with the cows. Unfortunately, this is not a new idea – it has been suggested that Bigfoot likes to hang around cows and even slaughter deer in spectacular ways. Again, it’s goofy. It is not reasonable to suggest some outside nefarious source (alien or human) is responsible when the natural sources have not been adequately studied. The best you can say is “I don’t know” what happened to these animals.

Interestingly, Oregon Live states the ranch is owned by a veterinarian. It seems odd that little science and mostly wild speculation and assumptions pad these news stories. Also of note, back in August, tissue samples were taken but there is no mention of the results. Decomposition makes the results difficult to interpret.

UFO investigators and alien believers deeply cling to the conclusion that this is very mysterious and point to other amateur sleuths that they claim have uncovered valuable clues. Yet, it remains that valid natural explanations are likely and these are accepted by the majority of scientists, veterinarians and experienced animal professionals. An FBI investigation in New Mexico in 1980 concluded there were no unnatural causes at play. [Rommel, Jr. Kenneth M. Project Director, “Operation Animal Mutilation: Report of the District Attorney, First Judicial District, State of New Mexico,” published in June of 1980.]

What is a fact is that some animals die suddenly and we sometimes just can’t figure out why.  That makes us nervous. People come up with creative ideas about what happened. But as a news consumer, it’s of paramount importance to think critically about the information provided. It’s unreasonable to propose extreme explanations and it’s irresponsible for the media to market these nonsense claims as if they had merit.

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Stone-throwing wall-thumpers: Review of Australian Poltergeists

APPaul Cropper sent me a copy of his new book with co-author Tony Healy, Australian Poltergeist: The Stone-throwing Spook of Humpty Doo and Many Other Cases. He must have known how much I love this topic and was eager to learn about various cases around the world.

I learned about the concept of poltergeists before many of today’s weekend ghost hunters were out of diapers. It seems like today’s paranormal investigators do not know much about the long and detailed history about this particular type of haunting. I didn’t know as much as I wanted to but Australian Poltergeist gave me great info but also an increased interest in seeking out more.

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Unexplained terminology Explained: ‘Paranormal’ versus ‘Supernatural’

Paranormal investigators say they look for evidence of paranormal activity. That phrase always confounded me. I don’t quite get it. What does it mean when someone says they have evidence of “paranormal activity”? And, how do you know it’s not normal activity that you just couldn’t ferret out?

There is a problem with how the word paranormal is used because it is often utilized in a way that is perhaps not consistent with the original intent.

Language evolves. Let me take a shot at unpacking some of these definitions about unexplained phenomena. See if it makes sense.

“Paranormal” and other terms for strange goings-on have changed over time. The word paranormal was coined around 1920. It means “beside, above or beyond normal.” Therefore, it’s anything that isn’t “normal” — or, more precisely, it is used as a label for any phenomenon that appears to defy scientific understanding. Ok, right there is a tripping point. Whose scientific understanding? The observer who is calling it “paranormal”? If so, that is problematic as a theoretical physicist sees things a lot differently than a dentist or a police officer. So, it appears too subjective to be precise. Each person may have their own idea of what constitutes “paranormal activity”.

The term “paranormal” used to just mean extrasensory perception and psychic power but, since the 1970s in particular — thanks to TV shows and proliferation of the subject in popular culture — the term expanded in scope to include all mysterious phenomena seemingly shunned by standard scientific study. It was a convenient way to bring many similarly peculiar topics under one heading for ease of marketing. So today, it can include everything that sounds mysterious: UFOs, hauntings, monster sightings, strange disappearances, anomalous natural phenomena, coincidences, as well as psychic powers.

Not everyone agrees that fields of study such as UFOlogy or cryptozoology (Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster and the like) should be considered paranormal but, if we think about the fact that after all this time, we have yet to document what these things actually are, that is beyond normal. Therefore, paranormal (arguably).

What appears as paranormal could essentially one day become normal. This has happened before with meteorites and still mysterious but likely explainable earthquakes lights and ball lightning. Or, we might not have developed the right technology or made the philosophical breakthrough yet to provide an explanation for some seemingly paranormal events. Perhaps we may find an instrument that can measure whatever it is that results in “hauntings” of a particular type. (Notice that I didn’t say an instrument that detects ghosts — an important distinction.)

Contrasted with paranormal is “supernatural.” To say something is supernatural is to conclude that the phenomenon operates outside the existing laws of nature. We would call such phenomena miraculous, a result of religious, occult (or magical) forces that are outside of human doings. These forces don’t adhere to boundaries of nature, which are waived. Perhaps the entity decides not to be detectable, for example. When that happens, we can’t test it, capture it or measure it. We just broke science. Our understanding stops if the explanation allows for supernatural entities to suspend natural laws on a whim. We end up with a form of “[Insert entity name here] did it.” Game over.

Paranormal events can appear to be supernatural but that in no way is proof that they are. Some unaccounted for natural explanation can be the cause. There is really no way to have excluded all natural possibilities in an investigation. We just may not have all the information. So to say something is the result of “paranormal” or “supernatural” activity is faulty logic. It can appear to be but you can’t say that it is for sure.

If you look at older anomalistic literature, you’ll find the word “preternatural” — a perfectly cromulent word — in place of paranormal. It’s not used as much anymore but it denotes a situation where the phenomenon appears outside the bounds of what we consider normal. It’s not supernatural, just extraordinary.

An even better word to use for weird natural phenomena — like strange falls from the sky (frogs, fish, colored rain), mystery sounds and lights, odd weather phenomena, etc. (things that might also be called Fortean) — would be paranatural. Events seem beyond natural because they are rare, unusual and we can’t quite pinpoint how they happened, but we need not revoke natural laws to have them occur. It’s similar to preternatural but sounds more modern.

Sorry about the word salad in this post but terminology is rather important for effective communication in order to avoid being misunderstood. These various words reflect the degree to which you want to go beyond observable, experimentally derived evidence. They get progressively LESS likely to be the correct designation: Paranatural -> paranormal/preternatural -> supernatural (which we can’t actually “prove”).

Pedantry over. We now resume normal communication.

This was originally posted at Huffington Post May 19, 2013.

Scientist states he has explanation(s) for sky noise but it only sounds sciencey

I’ve been closely following the story of strange noises from the sky that flared up in January. I wrote about them on Doubtful News.

The noises are widespread, varied in type, sometimes able to be explained and sometimes known to be hoaxed. But, because this spate of anomalies (a Fortean Flap, if you will) is in the so-called apocalyptic year 2012, the phenomena has attracted the acute attention of conspiracy theorists, End Times believers, and people just concerned that something weird is happening with the planet.

“I don’t care if anybody gets it. I’m going as the Doppler Effect.”

Though the sky noises phenomena is fading away – the receiving frequency of these claims are lowering like the Doppler effect – reports are still trickling in.

Followers of sky sounds were excited by the news that an actual scientist who sounded like he knew what he was talking about described the causes of strange sounds.

Reposted all over the web as being from an “acclaimed”, “credentialed” and “renowned” professor, unfortunately, this article immediately raised a slew of red flags with me and others who are sensitive to what real science looks like and how not so established ideas try to dress themselves up in sciencey getups. A cursory look revealed that this piece has hallmarks of pseudoscience and creates far more confusion than clarity.

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Your friendly neighborhood mon$ter

In a recent post on Skeptoid blog, I suggest that paranormal-based tourism, such as ghost tours and monster festivals, which are growing in popularity, border on fraud.

“Even if there are long-standing legends of strange events occurring at some location, to suggest that a place is haunted just to freak people out is contemptible.”

“Ghost tours and monster festivals are fun. But, their apparent frivolity disguise an underlying invitation to buy into an idea just because it’s entertaining while having no basis in reality.”

Commenters remarked that I might be getting too worked up over it. Meanwhile, I found this commentary from a local who thinks his town needs one of them monsters to draw tourists and he is not beyond creating one from scratch.Read More »

Research groups’ useful social function is not “being scientific”

The LA Times reports on the MUFON conference with the headline “convention emphasizes scientific methods”. The reporter then skewers this idea by showing how at least some of the attendees have thoroughly embraced the idea of alien visitation and human-alien hybridization. Oh my. (Read about a scientist’s experience in attending a MUFON conference here.

The reporter doesn’t have to go to the fringe to point out the sham of science here. It’s more basic than that – rooted in popular misunderstanding about what science is and what scientists do.

UFO researchers, including MUFON, were included in my study of ARIGs (amateur research and investigation groups). I looked at how they use the concept of science and being scientific in their activities. In this article, we see some common devices come up: they emphasize the “precision of a scientist” and the use of devices; they document reports, they are “professional”. All that is fine but certain critical components of being scientific are missing.Read More »

Paranormal-themed nonfiction TV: A list

I was writing an article when I realized I needed a clear idea about when this whole amateur investigation reality-television thing became popular. So, I started a list. (I’m a good Googler.) Here is a list of TV shows (series) that portray the paranormal as real or examine it as possibly real. Some are reality-type shows, some are documentaries. (Therefore, I have also included some shows on here of a skeptical nature.) Some are not wholly paranormal-themed but they contain an element that suggests a particular subject or event is beyond that which is currently accepted in the scientific community. I realize the line can be blurry.

Since one of my areas of interest is how the media promotes a view of science and the scientific to the public, I think the popularity of these shows is important. There is some research into how paranormal/supernatural themed shows affect the public belief in the paranormal, but there is LITTLE to NO research on how reality-type shows affects this or, regarding my interest, how the public perceives the “scientificity” of these shows.

I cataloged 125 shows ranging in premier dates from 1949 to some upcoming ones on the horizon. Read More »

Monster Stories from Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is the locale for oodles of strange stories, from the ghosts of Gettysburg to Thunderbirds of the northern forests, from the Jersey Devil sightings along the Delaware to UFOs in Kecksburg (and all across the state).  A 135-page book by Patty A. Wilson chronicles, specifically, Monsters in Pennsylvania: Mysterious Creatures in the Keystone State. As a monster fan myself (I hold a PhD in Cryptozoology from Thunderwood College [wink, wink], I was eager to check out the tales of local monsters.Read More »

Everyone panic. Or not.

A few weeks ago, I moved my desk next to an upstairs window overlooking a Bradford pear tree. For the past 3 weeks, when I sat at the desk during the day, periodically, a flock of about 50 starlings would swoop in and land on the tree,  devouring the shriveled fruits up like grapes. Then, in a whoosh, they would be off. Sometimes I would hear them clamor on the roof. This has happened no less than a dozen times. They seemed hungry. 

On my way home from work over the past month, I noticed crows arcing across the sky across the interstate from as far as I can see from left to right. This happened for several consecutive days in the same place.

This is the behavior of birds. It seems remarkable but not too unusual.

On December 26, we were on the beach in South Carolina near Charleston. It was snowing. There were starfish embedded in the sand. The south was experiencing record cold. It happens. I felt bad for the alligators in the swamps.

Suddenly, we experience such a Fortean start to 2011!  A massive and suspicious bird die-off in Arkansas on New Years Eve triggers a wave of mystery, speculation and imaginative explanations fed by more accounts of animal mortality events.  The current media sensation of reporting mass mortality events is very interesting in many ways. Shall we count the ways? Yes, we shall, because it’s fun – fun like outrageous speculation about the end of the world! (Well, if you have a hot-air filled balloon of speculative belief about these things, you won’t think this is fun.)

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Studying modern day amateur scientists and researchers or “What the hell was that?”

I’m off inside my own head these days…

My main project is my Masters’ thesis in Science and the Public. I started gathering data this summer; fall will be consumed with crunching data, making sense of it and writing it up. I’ll graduate in February, barring any unforeseen disasters.

The hardest part about a thesis is formulating a research question and designing a low-cost, reasonable study that will appropriately answer that question. It took me months to work that out. This was an important struggle because it teaches you that science has rules. These rules are pretty wicked to follow if you want to do it right – you must be perfectly clear about what you are asking and the results you expect to get. No ambiguities allowed. Everything must be defined. You must do the work. No shortcuts.

I’ve decided to focus on something that means something personal to me and can answer a question that hasn’t been addressed before in this context.
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Weird things road trip

Spent 10 hours driving through north central PA and upstate NY today. I saw an incredible sunrise over the Susquehanna River, the misty mountains and valleys north of Williamsport and the ridges of wind turbines in the rolling hills of New York. But, here are two puzzlers. Read More »

Solving Unexplained Mysteries: A review of “Scientific Paranormal Investigation” by B. Radford

This past March, I registered for a seminar on Scientific Paranormal Investigation at CFI – Washington, DC. Ben Radford was presenting and the event description mentioned his upcoming book of the same name. This was fortuitous since I was working on developing a thesis project about the prevalence of sham inquiry, focusing on amateur investigation groups, such as Bigfoot, UFO and ghost hunters. Sadly, I missed the event because of the death of my grandmother.

As my thesis idea gelled, I realized Ben’s new book would be a must-have for my references. So, I purchased it directly from his website (www.radfordbooks.com)  as soon as it was announced, before it even made it to Amazon. He noted in the inscription that I was his first order.

This unique volume includes so much about the topics on which I’m focused for my project -laypersons conducting investigations into paranormal activities and what it means to be “scientific”. I wondered how this book would compare with Missing Pieces by Baker and Nickell. It’s different in content, focus and scope. For starters, at this point in time, there has never been so many paranormal investigation groups. Thanks to the internet and television, these groups number over a thousand on any given day in the U.S. alone. Millions of people view Ghost Hunters on television and think that’s an example of how scientific investigation is done. It’s a timely topic.Read More »

Elbowing in

Continuing with “Sham Inquiry

Elbowing in on good science

The Journal of Scientific Exploration is the published by the Society for Scientific Exploration which describes itself as “a professional organization of scientists and other scholars committed to studying phenomena that cross or are outside of the traditional boundaries of science and…are ignored or studied inadequately…” Many of the members’ topics of research and methods are considered pseudoscience by conventional scientists. The journal is closed to outside contributors and criticism.Read More »

Ghost Hunting – Sham Inquiry

Thousands of eyewitnesses report ghostly encounters from ancient history to modern times. Contact with the dead is very much part of our modern culture. With the expansion of television content and the internet, stories about hauntings have surged in popularity.

Ghost hunting is a popular hobby for thrill seekers. It’s fun to be scared. The official community of ghost hunters, including those of popular reality TV programs, are non-scientists. However, they invariably tout the scientific nature of their activities. Read More »

Pretend science

Playing Pretend Science

In order to be technical, like science, pseudoscientists engage in a method of data gathering that is not haphazard or lazy. Intricate collection and analysis is often a part of pseudoscientific activity. They may produce enormous bodies of work. Commitment to a cause can prompt “energetic intellectual effort” [1]. The motives and ‘sciencey’ feel of the whole endeavor wins over those nonscientists who can’t recognize that it simply fails to meet scientific standards. Yet, for all the diligent work, the accumulated evidence can still amount to nothing of substance.
The public is happy to admire science as long as they don’t have to understand it deeply. Sham inquiry plays to the admiration of science by the public. A lack of familiarity with how science is supposed to work is a major reason why the public has trouble recognizing counterfeit science. Add an ‘-ology’ to the end of whatever you study and it acts like a toupe of credibility – to hide the lack of substance. The public is vulnerable to pseudoscience that resembles real inquiry and genuine knowledge.
The following are three examples of current pseudosciences. They all don the accoutrements of science without delivering the substance [2]. The field of cryptozoology is the likeliest of the three to hold the interest of real scientists these days because it is associated with the genuine fields of zoology, anthropology and wildlife biology and chock-full of amateur scientists. Ghost hunting is predominantly nonscientists who enjoy using technology and the new view that it gives them on the world. Creationism is a entirely different beast grown completely from religious ideology and dressed in a cheap and transparent scientific costume. This sham does not even fool courts of law but it continues to exert tremendous ideological force on the public.

Cryptozoology
Ghost hunting
Creationism
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[1] Haack, S. (1995). “Concern for Truth and Why it Matters”. The Flight from Science and Reason (1996). P. R. Gross, N. Levitt, M.W. Lewis, New York Academy of Sciences, p. 58.
[2] Bunge, M. (1995).“In Praise of Tolerance To Charlatanism in Academia”. The Flight from Science and Reason (1996). P. R. Gross, N. Levitt, M.W. Lewis, New York Academy of Sciences, p. 104.

Back to Sham Inquiry contents page.

Weak evidence

Quality of evidence

A frequent complaint from the fringe is that the scientific community is dismissive of the actual evidence for their extraordinary claim. Proponents of psi or UFOs will cite reams of evidence. The scientific community’s standard response is “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. That is, the evidence must be high quality, obtained through rigorous testing, with all other explanations accounted for. Overly precautionary experiments are required to support theories that seek to overturn established knowledge. Rampant fraud and gullibility exposed in some fields, especially psi research, require that extra safeguards be used in this research. This is not a double standard because, as Gardner notes for conventional studies, “gerbils don’t cheat” [1]. But humans do, sometimes inadvertently.

Many poorly tested pseudosciences have a characteristic over-reliance on anecdotal evidence. Similar to anecdotes, myths and legends will be used to support a claim. This type of evidence can not be confirmed and is subject to mistakes and misinterpretation. Science considers anecdotal evidence very weak because of the degree of subjectiveness.

In the public view, anecdotal evidence is very persuasive. It is a primary means by which we communicate ideas to each other. To deny an eyewitness account suggests that the researcher considers the eyewitness a lier, under the influence of some altering substance or mentally unstable.

Collected modern and historical anecdotes, bits of circumstantial and questionable evidence, and non-replicated results form an impressive body of evidence to the nonscientist. Even the scientist may feel that there “must be something to it”. The important attention to quality is lost. Lots of weak evidence does not collectively make strong evidence. In an analogy, skeptical investigator Ben Radford equates this to trying to make a cup of strong coffee out of a lot of weak brew [2]. The scientific community is unimpressed and, quite justifiably, turns away.

————
[1] Gardner, M. (1981). Science Good Bad & Bogus, Prometheus Books.
[2] Radford, B. (2009). Personal communication, April 27, 2009.

Back to Sham Inquiry contents page.

Animals hearing the earth whispers again

Earthquake in Illinois! Is this the end times?

Hot-underground-fictional-place-for-sinners, no!

And, I’ll go on record to say End Times stories are totally silly. The world has been going downhill since we humans got here in (more-or-less) present form a million years ago. Enough of that tangent. It was just to get attention anyway.

It’s pretty darn cool to experience an earthquake but, putting things into earthly perspective, this is no big deal. No one was hurt. If there were no buildings, liquor stores and knick-knacks, no damage would have been done. When natural events like this happen, one would hope that interest would be generated in the science and explanations behind it. No, we get a lot of rampant speculation. People make correlations that have no basis in reality because our brains are designed to find patterns and connections. Thus, it must be the end of the world. Folks, stranger things happen all the time. Let’s not be scared of them, let’s embrace the challenge of discovery!

I did notice my favorite anecdotal earthquake precursor stories crop up once again in the midwest – animals sensing the earthquake. It appears from all the stories that people’s pet cats, dogs and birds were riled up hours, minutes and seconds prior to the event. Seconds before, animals can perceive something amiss with the usual sounds or vibration before us humans perceive these waves. Hours and minutes prior, could they be sensing the emissions of builtup stress in the rock, electromagnetic waves, infra- or ultrasound, gas release, air ionization, etc.? Most certainly they can. Not everyone’s dog or cat showed concern. I read reports from the local news that some pets slept right through. Others were shaken after the event just like their humans.

From our understanding of earthquakes, we know that the strain builds over time. Those conditions modify the immediate environment. See my article on Whispers from the Earth. I have been compelled by the evidence and theories of plausible mechanisms to explain the occurrences, that some animals, even people, are able to perceive precursors of earthquakes. It’s not unreasonable; it’s not kooky; it’s not even paranormal. It’s factual that animals perceive the world differently than we do. I think a lot more folks understand that now.