I want to say something important. I am presenting this evidence for you to review based on 300 nights in the woods over the past 5 years and 23 years of trying to figure out and learn about Bigfoot. At the end of the day, its your call whether you believe it or not. It will not change in any way what I know already and what I know is inevitable for the rest of you. 100 years from now, Bigfoot will be old news.
Photograph from AP
Published September 9, 2013
There's ample circumstantial evidence for all these creatures: eyewitness accounts, blurry photographs, mysterious footprints. For many cryptozoologists—the people who search for legendary animals—that evidence is enough to confirm a monster's existence.
But it will take more than shadowy sightings to convince Daniel Loxton and Donald R. Prothero that Bigfoot or any of the other monsters are real. What Loxton and Prothero want is scientific evidence. In their new book, Abominable Science! Origins of the Yeti, Nessie, and Other Famous Cryptids, they analyze the history of mythic beasts and the clues to their existence.
Loxton and Prothero come at cryptozoology from different directions. Loxton, a staff writer for Skeptic magazine, was an ardent believer in monsters as a kid, having spotted a Bigfoot print in the woods and a pterodactyl winging over his backyard. (Now, he suspects the print was a prank and the pterodactyl was a great blue heron.) Prothero is a paleontologist, who is also trained in biology and geology. He has written over 250 scientific papers and 28 books, including five textbooks on geology.
National Geographic's Rachel Hartigan Shea spoke with the two authors about bringing skepticism and science to the study of cryptids.
First of all, what is a cryptid?
DP: A cryptid is any animal that has never been described by science, usually something very unusual along the lines of a Loch Ness monster or Bigfoot, something that stretches the limits of what is scientifically plausible.
DL: It's based on the word cryptozoology, which means hidden life or animals. It implies a creature that's been recorded through folklore, something that we have reason to suspect exists.
What can science tell us about cryptids?
DP: The first thing, of course, is that a cryptid can't be a single animal. If there's one of them, there's got to be many of them. You can talk about their population density, the size of range they should have based on their estimated body size. All of that tends to weigh against them being real because they should have had huge ranges, and they should have been spotted a long time ago if they really did exist. And then there's other aspects, like geology, something you never hear the cryptozoologists mention. All the lake monsters, not just Loch Ness but the ones here in North America, in Lake Champlain and Lake George, were all under a mile of ice 20,000 years ago. The cryptozoologists never asked the question, "Well, how did the monster get in the lake if the lake was completely under ice, the lakes are all landlocked, and there's no way for a marine creature to get there at all?" Those are all things that are not news to geologists, they're not news to biologists, but they're apparently news to cryptozoologists.
All the cryptids that you discuss in the book – Bigfoot, the Yeti, the Loch Ness Monster, Mokele Mbembe – are very similar to things that exist or existed in the past: bears, primates, plesiosaurs, sauropods. Why the similarity?
DL: In some cases I think it's because they are the same. Bears are often associated with ogres or wildmen in folklore because they're pretty humanlike. Once that folklore is underway, you have the opportunity for people to make these misidentification errors where they see a bear and think it might be a bigfoot. (Read a National Geographic magazine story about Europe's wildmen.)
DP: These animals look like something familiar to us because the myths grow around whatever we've already just seen. Daniel pointed out in the book that the Mokele Mbembe myth emerged right about the time that large sauropod skeletons were first mounted in New York City and illustrated by people like Charles R. Knight. Then lo and behold, someone starts reporting one in the Congo, where it doesn't have any history prior to that.
So Mokele Mbembe definitely does not exist?
DP: We have an excellent fossil record of Africa. We have very great confidence that there have been no dinosaurs around in the last 65 million years because we have bones of large animals from Africa of all kinds but they're all mammals. Same goes for plesiosaurs. Worldwide, there are no bones of plesiosaurs in any marine deposit after about 70 million years ago. There are plenty of places where they should show up if they actually lived, but they don't. That to me is not just absence of evidence, that's very strong evidence that they don't exist.
That sentence -- the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence – occurs a lot in the book.
DL: It's a really good thing for people to keep in mind, but it's not always true. If the claim that you are advancing implies some kind of evidence, then failing to find that kind of evidence is evidence that that thing does not exist. Take, for example, the idea that there might be plesiosaurs in Loch Ness. Well, plesiosaurs had bones. That implies that there should be bones littering the loch. Well, they've dredged the loch to see if there are any monster bones down there, any plesiosaur bones, and there aren't. That goes to the truth of the claim.
Do you ever encounter people who say, "No, I saw it!"
DL: Oh yeah. I have a lot of sympathy for that. If you have the experience of seeing something with your own eyes, it's natural that that should trump my "talking head" skepticism and Don's arguments about why that's probably not so. But there's only so much I can do with your personal experience that I did not share. I accept that it's compelling to you, but it cannot be as compelling to me.
DP: By and large, all of the evidence for these really strange cryptids is from eyewitness testimony. People are fooled by their senses, especially sight, because we are notoriously bad witnesses. One of the sightings of the Yeti, or the abominable snowman, turns out to be a rock outcrop. The guy saw it move the first time and then he had to leave. He came back finally a year later--after his sighting had been all over the media--and it turns out that it was just a rock he was shooting pictures of.
What do you think the connection is between people believing in cryptids and the level of scientific literacy among the general public?
DP: Lately cryptozoology has been connected to creationism in a lot of ways. People who actively search for Loch Ness monsters or Mokele Mbembe do it entirely as creationist ministers. They think that if they found a dinosaur in the Congo it would overturn all of evolution. It wouldn't. It would just be a late-occurring dinosaur, but that's their mistaken notion of evolution.
Is there any one cryptid that you wish was real?
DL: All of them.
DP: I'm a paleontologist. I'd love to have Mokele Mbembe and a plesiosaur!
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Follow Rachel Hartigan Shea on Twitter.
Sasquatch surfs! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCcSjTbrv_U
Whose massive hand print with the unknown oval pad on the palm was left on my truck at 04 am in the rain on a remote logging road near Steamboat Springs, Co. Who does this hand print belong too? Its not human or per the chart a known large primate. The dermal ridges flow down the hand like yours, except one difference. They are 1/16" of an inch apart. When you answer these two questions for me, then we are talking. I know who they belong too. You will too hopefully soon.
Go down the page from the S and Q in our name. Look to the left of the diagonal Aspen tree. The bigger question is whose face is that with two round black eyes and a pig like snout staring at you from the Colorado woods. A defense contractor employee tried to debunk this photo. The result was the cleaned up second white photo. He thinks its real. He is a friend now. I know its real too.
Some kids thought/ dreamed of Santa, the tooth fairy, Easter Bunny....Me? Bigfoot.....Then....we grow up.
Better add God to the list. When something doesn't exist how could you have evidence of it's non-existence? That wouldn't make sense. Absence of evidence of its existence is proof enough that its all just a fairy tale.
Bigfoot is a real entity. What DP says about all of us cryptid hunters being Christian creationists is a load of crap and an unscientific generalization. I AM a Christian but I couldn't care less about proving or disproving evolution.
I love reading this stuff. Scientists talking about Bigfoot as not being real with no real evidence to support that contention. Not very scientific. The issue is very few if any scientists are spending any time or money looking for them out of fear of the topic. I love science, always have, but science is tethered to antiquated views of the world and tenure. All the great explorers appear to be long gone. Yet, I am proceeding quite successfully without help. I can't think of a recent serious University study, a Government study, or a Grant to try and prove or disprove this person of the forest off the top of my head. Almost all are privately funded like my search for the truth. By the way, I have an e-mail from the few scientists that are looking saying my evidence matches their 6 year study of this elusive person. You are not going to find what your not looking for. When science tells me what those 1/16" dermal ridges on my giant hand print are I will listen to that argument. The hand print was left on my truck at 04 am from the Colorado forest. Everyone seems to be afraid to speculate or even say what they think it is or where it should fall in relationship to humans and primates. Why? By the way, I have hair samples now in Idaho with a scientist, in Australia, and at Oxford University awaiting testing for DNA from a human geneticist. At least some of us are trying to get to the truth. I have news for all of you, my findings and massive pile of evidence indicate Bigfoot is very real and living in a forest near you. We had a saying I learned in sports at a young age that applies here, " You never worry about getting beat by a guy on the bench." It rings very true here. Thanks, Mike J-Founder-Sasquatch Investigations of the Rockies
There will always be myths about monsters, but I hope tax dollars are never used to "study" them. My Chupacabra agrees with this comment.
To start, I agree that Nessie is incredibly unlikely. That lake is big, but not nearly big enough to hide a full size plesiosaur, no matter how murky the water. The fact that the lake is land-locked is pretty compelling as well.
However, I wonder what these scientists' response would have been to questions about the recently discovered proof of the myths surrounding Sea Monsters (via the Collossul Squid, some 50ft long). That's not far off from the size of a plesiosaur, and it had the whole deep ocean to hide in for a very long time. I'm convinced Nessie isn't real, but there are definitely very large undiscovered animals still on Earth.
Or how about the recent discoveries (last 5-10 years) of new species of primates, even up to nearly gorilla size? Sure, Bigfoot might not be real, but I have a really hard time definitively saying it is so scientifically unlikely as to be considered impossible, like I can with Nessie. And Bigfoot isn't the smallest of the cryptids, either. There have been tons of smaller animals discovered in recent times as well. Scientists are still making new discoveries of many more creatures than just new kinds of bacteria or diseases; we haven't found everything on land yet, either.
Finally, I have to disagree regarding their statement that absence of fossils is, in fact, proof of absence. Look up "Living Fossils". The list is quite long. These creatures are very clear proof that scientists repeatedly find that the fossil record is incredibly unreliable. My favorite of these is the Coelocanth, which doesn't show up for the last 65 million years, but is still alive today. A set of bones (or other tough body parts, like shells) needs a very particular and peculiar set of circumstances to become a fossil; it's actually quite unusual, so there are enormous gaps in the fossil records.
The long list of Living Fossils is proof enough that the fossil record can't be relied upon for scientific evidence of anything but what can actually be found there. Lack of fossils is not proof of anything but the incompleteness and unreliability of the fossil record itself. We can say "this creature is in the fossil records here, but not here," but we can't say for sure that it didn't live at all before that time, or after.
Around my house I like to say that just because a scientist hasn't seen it yet, that doesn't mean it can't exist. Sure, the supposed evidence is untrustworthy until multiple scientists can study it and verify its existence, but lack of that evidence is not evidence that the creature doesn't exist. Those recently discovered species of small to large animals did plenty of existing on this Earth for a long time before any scientists could get around to proving their existence.
Interesting - the absence of evidence does not prove a claim is false or true, it just provides reasonable doubt to the veracity of that claim, unless there is presentation of refuting evidence.
Pure science keeps all options opened, and taking science as a theology unto itself can be blinding. The whole creation vs. evolution debate, and the infantile name-calling invested into that debate denies that there is anything we do not know, or perhaps, cannot know.
Yet, for all our wisdom, we have only just begun unraveling the human genome, and the underlying structures therein, the fabric of space and time is still very much a wonder, new or previously lost species discovered, human abilities outside our understanding of mechanism, and how and why we love, all elude us. New evidence is constantly uncovered, claims supported and refuted, and if we keep open minds, we can adapt and learn.
Also, be sure when attacking those who believe in Creation, be sure to then attack all such beliefs; it is not limited to Christianity, lest the Taliban would not have destroyed irreplaceable Hindu statues as graven idols despised by the God of Ibrahim/Abram/Abraham, for example. To attack one faith among many shows a bias, which damages the credibility of your claims.
There are indeed many scientific arguments that make the physical existence of most of these mythical beings seem quite improbable. But this only proves that maybe we have to look for other explanations of their nature. All these arguments are totally meaningless if these beings, or their experience, are 'paranormal' (-i.e. ''phenomena outside of science's current ability to explain or measure'').
This is a bunch of BS. I just scanned over it, just something thrown together for somebody with nothing to do to read. With ALL of the Photographing devices out there, every body carries a camera every day now, yet NO ONE EVER gets a clear picture of a "Extra-Terrestrial" being or Vehicle or one of these Freak "animals". PT Barnum was correct.
That "bigfoot" foot cast really looks fake. "Bigfoot" would not likely have neatly trimmed toenails like Roger Patterson's, but big long curved toenails that would show up in the casting.
That bigfoot footprint cast sure looks fake. Bigfoot would not likely have neatly trimmed toenails, but big old curved toenails that would show in the cast.
If you're worried about creation vs evolution, try this. It's a presentation I gave (public lecture). http://www.slideshare.net/johnostrowick/does-evolution-really-threaten-religion
"Creationists" are a completely different breed of Christian when it comes to their beliefs. They believe that the earth and universe were created in literal 6 day, 24hr. periods. Which of course is not rational as it is a proven fact that the universe's creation, as well as the earth's had to have taken hundreds of not thousands of billions of years. A designed earth and universe would be painstakingly crafted in preparation for physical life, thus the Goldilock zones our earth, solar system, and galaxy inhabit. Each one in perfect position to sustain life. At least that is what a reasoning, thinking Christian believes. So to wrap it up, you may believe in creation but that doesn't make you a"Creatonist
I live in Alberta Canada, and we have had several sightings in this province. I think it was the explorer David LIvingstone wrote back to Europe that he had discovered man like creatures and most Europeans mocked him. These creatures would soon come to be known as gorillas. My problem is why has no one found any skeletal remains. They always talk and show pictures of the big foot, but what of the small offspring? Gorillas are now easily sighted but how is it that big foot still seem to evade us? I am not saying that this creature does not exist, but something just doesn't add up here. Maybe they bury their dead? Yet not even one has been say killed by a bear. The pictures or reporting make it sound like they wonder around like a lone wolf. Even gorillas are sociable animals. These creatures must have some social system. I am sceptical.
Try to remember how long "scientists" said that rocks falling from the sky was bunk. Even up to 1908 scientists said that the Wright Bros. were con artists. A real scientist will say that BigFoot is an open question because I real scientist knows that negatives cannot be proven. Alfred Wegener was abusively laughed at when in 1915 he said that the continents drifted, and this laughter continued for 50 years. Do not worship at the Altar of Science. Do the scientific method and learn a little philosophy and humility? Scientists don't know everything.
Creationist ministers? There's few things as smug as someone calling christians ignorant. That line was a turn off, won't be checking out the book. The study of dinosaurs living or dead is imagination play time with no technological benifits for mankind. Too bad so many brilliant thinkers are wasting their brain power on wheather dinosaurs were purple or green instead of curing disease.
@Michael Johnson Handprint? I see a shape that is vaguely hand-like if you squint. As for dermal ridges, yes, I guess you could say those ripples kind of look like that. It's still very smudgy and looks more like caked-on dirt running in the rain, to me.
Still not seeing what I can accept as evidence of bigfoot.
@Michael Johnson I looked at that photo for ten minutes straight and still can't see a face. The only thing that looks remotely humanoid is the supposed toe.
@Michael Johnson I put a fresh pizza on my back doorstep last night. My wildlife camera actually recorded a bigfoot coming over, eating the whole pizza and then belching. It was awesome. You are so right, Michael. Bigfoot totally exists. I am glad I'm not the only believer out there. While he was distracted with the pizza, I ran out with an electric razor and shaved some fur off its a$$. How can I send you a specimen for DNA analysis? This is the proof we've been waiting for! We'll finally show those stupid scientists how stupid they really are! While those idiots are in a lab coming up with cures for dumb things like cancer and HIV, we are out doing what really matters, finding animals that most rational people don't believe in. Thanks again MIchael!
@Michael Johnson I'd love for it to be true, but a critical question remains: where are the bones? If there is one, there is a population that has been there for hundreds of thousands of years. There must be remains. Until someone trots some out, or a live specimen, there is no proof at all.
@Fred Hofstetter Technically, pure science closes many options. For instance, I could claim that every second Sunday of the month wings spring from my back and blue horns grow on my forehead and little insects crawl from little pustules on my legs that appear on that day—and just because I don't let any scientists examine me on a second Sunday of a month does not mean they need to keep all options open. Hey, I could be telling the truth, right? Right?
Their claim is that, based upon all the science they actually know, an existing cryptid of a certain size would leave traces upon the environment and/or require certain environmental factors to continue to survive. No animal is 100% solitary; there would be offspring, mates, perhaps herds and so forth. These would require a certain amount of living space, have a certain effect upon the environment, and so forth. The lack of any evidence of such effects or group effects upon the environment—the lack of a required environment that could sustain such a population—is a very good sign that those cryptids do not exist.
Now, perhaps scientists think that any human who can sprout wings and horns and insect-spewing pustules once a month would have some sort of genetic marker or other features that should be visible on any other day...because typically, humans don't undergo such transformations. Putting all this together, and finding no evidence whatsoever of the capability of sprouting such physical features, they would be justified in saying, "Nope, he's a liar!" or, kindly, "He's mistaken."
@Fred Hofstetter Most Christians are not evangelical fundamentalists and fully understand science. However, evangelicals have a lot of power in government and are quite vocal so that's the voice people think is the voice of Christianity. Many of us Modern Christians have understood the principles of Evolution while still in grade school and have a long interest in comparative religion in a position of open mindedness.
@Jonathan Bright That merely moves the goal posts, by saying that "well, these creatures are beyond the reach of science." If they are physical animals living on Earth, then they are not beyond the reach of science. If they do not live on Earth, then what are you even talking about?
@John Ostrowick Well done, but slide "Does Evolution threaten Religion -2" states that the Bible is 98.5% correct and 1.5% incorrect. You also state that only 1.5% of the bible was not written by god. Each of these are false statements and are based on opinion and conjecture.
@14 R3A50N I am a Christian, and many Christians might not be aware of this scripture. 2 Peter 3:8 be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. So much for the first 6 days being 24 hr. periods. Think about it.
@Shane C. I don't want to sound crazy Shane but my experience OUT in the woods I have seen a bigfoot & close by I saw a real indian but he was almost transparent.Bigfoots have never hurt a human,I think because they pop up in the forest as real for awhile but there actually a spirit or some type of indian curse or I know there not a real species all the time running around,I have been out there,have YOU & I saw a spirit indian with a bigfoot,you figure it out,iv'e tried!
@Roger Bird When ever did scientists deny rocks falling from the sky? Can you cite which books or journal articles made this claim? It's actually about probability assessment, not denial or acceptance. Google Bayes' Theorem.
@Roger Bird that's why I love science and the scientific method.. when done correctly it is open to all possibilities and is willing and able to change when evidence presents itself... when done correctly lol
@Hikaru Sulu You don't understand "science" and think it's one monolithic entity. Palaeobiologists and palaeontologists have nothing whatsoever to do with medicine/medical research. They are two different faculties at a university. That's like saying "Why do scientists waste time on studying flowers when they could be making better computers?" - again, different faculties (botany vs computer science or electrical engineering).
Maybe this will help. http://johnostrowick.blogspot.com/2011/08/popular-misconceptions-about-science.html
@Hikaru Sulu You aren't very smart are you,they don't just look for color & for discovering things it shows so much your little brain wouldn't comprehend,why they were so huge,the viruses they had & how to make sure they don't come back & kill us all & 100's of other important things humans can learn from & possibly keep our races alive!Sorry I had to be a jerk about this.
all new discoveries are good discoveries regardless if they have a use like curing disease... and yea maybe the creationist minister thing was a bit of a low blow even if it does hold some truth.. obviously its wrong to say all Christians are ignorant but I don't think he meant it that way..
@Jaqueline Kuma @Michael Johnson The majority of people are seeing it including the few scientists looking at this information. I am surprised you cannot. That I cannot help you with I am afraid, but dermal ridges at 1/16 of an inch are huge. You have to look at yours on your hand with a magnifying glass.
@Frank Smith Frank, Frank, Frank...Really...I didn't say science was stupid. Just afraid to be in the game, except for a brave few. You obviously did not look at our website and evidence.
@Ed Iverson @Michael Johnson These are people not apes per se that care about each other has been my experience. I speculate they take care of their dead just like we do. I bet I will never find any bones from any of your relatives either lying out in the open either. In my areas, there are countless old, unsafe mines from 1850's that would serve well or boulder fields to discard remains. All the old fossil remains of hominids fit in the small bed of a pick up truck. Things disappear quickly in the woods at different rates, some faster than others as well. This I do not know for sure, but this is my speculation.
@Shane C. @14 R3A50N Do you really mean "think about it" or do you mean blindly accept that its true and never question it? Because you know that the first thing they teach you in religion is to never question your faith?
Never question if there really is a God, never question how God could be invisible, never question how this creature could know the actions, thoughts and feelings of eight billion people all at the same time. Religion is not about asking questions or "thinking about it", religion is about believing what you're told regardless of how ludicrous it may seem.
I was not defending the 6 literal days period, and yes I know of that scripture, thus my agreement with science that the universe's creation took billions of years. So..... I have thought about it... as you could tell if you re-read my post. My belief is that the days of creation were great long epochs of time. Some ranging from billions and others millions of years.
@Craig Haynes @Shane C. I have spent time on the mountain on Vancouver Island directly across form Forbidden plateau. I have been In the Rockies, the Laurentian mountains in Quebec the forests of Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Ontario. I have never witnessed bigfoot, but I have seen much wildlife common to those areas.
@Craig Haynes @Shane C. Unfortunately one sighting does not count as statistical evidence - it's an "anecdote". This is not to say you didn't have whatever experience you had, just to say, if you want people to believe you, you have to divest the experience of your interpretation of it and look at it clinically for possible causes.
@John Ostrowick @Hikaru Sulu The Bible says that the knowledge of all things shall come to man. It does not say however that all the knowledge of things shall come to man. There is a difference. One thing for sure it also says where there is a lack of knowledge a people perish. This holds a absolute truth. Lets keep pursuing knowledge hopefully the knowledge of good rather than evil.
@Michael Johnson While fishing in Nfld. Canada in 1966 I came across half the carcass of a moose. I was only 12 years old but seeing birds, maggots and ants and flies all over it, I was partly traumatized for a few minutes and ran as fast as I could to get away from the area. Yes it is a rare occasion as I have been in the woods plenty of times since then and cannot recall seeing another carcass since.
@Ed Iverson I will say this to Ed, in 36 years in the woods of Colorado. I have never found a bear carcass or a mountain lion carcass either in the wild and I don't know any one of my friends in Colorado who has either and that includes all my hunter friends. Just not that easy. I saw a bear hit by a car once near Glenwood Springs.
@14 R3A50N I am not sure about billions, but definitely a lot longer than most creationist seem to believe. Thanks for your comment, at least we are still on the same page or so I think.
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