Friday, April 27, 2012

Sharon Hill: You are Not Entitled to Your Own Bigfoot Facts

Joe Friday from Dragnet insisted on the "Just the Facts"
Our favorite skeptic continues to keep us Bigfooters on our toes. In an article posted on www.csicop.org Sharon Hill, who runs the Doubtful News website, questions the use of the word fact in our community. Sure, her article mostly focuses around Matt Moneymaker, who is an easy target for bold claims of Bigfoot behavior.

The only argument we have is not all claims of Bigfoot behavior (including the examples she uses) are presented as facts. True, they don't have the disclaimer of being speculation, but that's because everything about Bigfoot is, by default, speculation. Isn't it? Aren't we all guessing in the end?  

So, while we agree presenting Bigfoot behavior as facts is a little much, we would defend the practice of tossing out the modifiers that indicate we are speculating when describing possible Bigfoot behavior. It's Bigfoot, its all going to be speculation by default. When we claim, "Bigfoot prefers to be at a higher elevation overlooking game trails," we don't think it will be accepted as a fact but speculation by default. 

Below is a excerpt from Sharon Hill's article which we encourage you all to read and give your opinion. 
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.
Fact? You Keep Using that Word But I Don’t Think It Means What You Think It Means
Perhaps there is confusion over what exactly is meant by “fact.” That word doesn't have a hard and fast definition, but rather one that is based on how the statement is verified—from universal on the left end to personal verification on the right. A scientific fact is at the extreme left end. It is incontrovertible, verifiable to anyone who wants to check it. Facts are the building blocks of theories that describe how nature works.
A more everyday usage of the term “fact” is in the middle: a statement that can be confirmed to the point where the consensus will be that it is true, it really occurred, or it is certainly the case. That infers that there was some process undertaken to establish some basis for what is stated. We accept a lot of things as facts not because we have personally verified them but because others probably have and/or because it is reasonable to accept those facts as true.
On the extreme right side is a fact based on personal verification. “Fact” is used as a label for a statement that a person very much wants to believe or believes to be true. It's a fact in that person’s mind because he or she has accepted it completely: “I know this is true. I’ve seen it.” You probably won't be able to sway that person’s belief with any counter facts of your own. Religious facts are in this category.
Read the rest of the article titled You are Not Entitled to Your Own Bigfoot Facts where Sharon Hill makes an example of Matt Moneymaker. But we will still stand by our position; some of us Bigfooters talk about Bigfoot behavior without acknowledging is is mere speculation, because speculation is inherent to all Bigfoot discussion.

8 comments:

  1. Except it's no different than when ghost hunters do the same thing. It's fundamentally speculation, but when they casually say "fact" or "theory", they imply that there's more to it. And the general public interprets it as much more than speculation as a result.

    And I'm saying this as a paranormal investigator. We need, as a community, to be more precise and accurate with our public statements, if we want them to be taken seriously when something truly extraordinary is uncovered.

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  2. All science is based on experiment and probability. Experiment is needed and must be able to be reproduced.

    The probability of having a valid hypothesis is established in the number of times the experiment is done. If you heat a rod of a mystery metal 10 times and each time you heat it you take ten measurements, it gets better.

    You then have establish validity within the limits of probability and accuracy. Keep in mind, "fact" is vague and overly broad concept, like "truth."

    However, validity has to do with what the logical progression from what you know. You have to define your terms and then build a logical argument from it.

    What is a Skookum and how do we know that?


    "Everybody knows it," is a bandwagon argument. 50,000 flies may think manure belongs on the menu. 537 wolves may think mutton and lamb should be on the menu. Of course, 311 million sheep may not agree.

    The word "theory" is as much abused as "truth" and "logic." You state a hypothesis and prove it with experiment. The data validates or invalidates the hypothesis.

    "A common distinction made in science is between theories and hypotheses. Hypotheses are individual empirically testable conjectures; while theories are collections of hypotheses that are logically linked together into a coherent explanation of some aspect of reality and which have individually or jointly received some empirical support."
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory

    A person I live with who has a MS in Education gets exposed to the History, Animal Planet, Military Channel, Discovery, et cetera while I watch TV. She often comments on the lack of accuracy of the statements they make, but when the word "theory" is used, she was less than complimentary, shall we say.

    So, "fact" is not a usable term in research. If you take course work in research you learn to be disciplined. You must have a valid research design and scientific method. I have taken over 12 term hours of research methodology alone.

    For those who are interested in the details, I keep notes on:
    "I Want To Believe" & Pseudoscience Versus Rigorous Scientific Method & Valid Research Methodology
    http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=10150567542292727

    There are arguments on these issues that repeat often and I find it helpful to keep this as a resource.

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  3. Guy, I admire your connection to rationality. But, I'm not sure that it's thought of as speculation in the wider community. By observing how the information is presented to serious researchers and to the public, I see it very much as a belief that will not easily be relinquished. The construct about what Bigfoot is has been internalized by many researchers. They would say it's fact. Maybe if pressed, they would admit it's speculation, but they do what they do based on that construct. It's prevalent in others besides Matt. But Matt is one of the most visible people to the public. And, because of that, I think he is influential on the public.

    Let me illustrate why I say that. In the field of ghost hunting, which has many parallels to cryptozoology, certain "experts" emerged who defined what it means to BE a ghost investigator. Their ideas about ghosts are pure speculation, to the point of ridiculousness. Yet, there are THOUSANDS of people around the world that accepted their views and go out and do the same thing.

    So, as much as we would admit it's all speculation, it's taken seriously enough to influence how people think about these things. And, slowly, even the public finds greater acceptance of subjects that on face value, are not scientifically acceptable. The use of "facts", framing information this way, is a not-so-subtle way of adding a veneer of credibility to ideas based only on imaginative interpretation. Frankly, that's a deceptive sales pitch and it feels creepy.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Sharon. Your articles and comments often give me the opportunity to think, and more importantly rethink. Your broader argument regarding the word facts is brilliant. In my mind, your article also speaks to the dangers of diluting the definition of a word by using it incorrectly.

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    2. Matt is an entertainer. He has as much influence as Snooki. There are a few actual researchers out there, but they wouldn't bother being on any TV show.

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  4. There is so much to this article I don't even know where to begin. But first,,,great one btw!!!! I love hearing from the skeptics,,,tho not as much as witnesses and etc,. Anywho,,,I can totally see where the skeptics are at here. In ex,,,my father,,and many of his friends,,,are life long woodsman. Been enjoying the woods and wilderness all their lives. Spent countless hours there. And never seen a trace. Nothing of the big man. While my dad thinks they once certainly were here many years ago,,,,,they are no more. In our community sightings are unheard of,,but I've collected many,,,many stories,,repots of "hauntings" and "Mothman" (a local legend here) supposed activity,,that knowing what I've learned/read in the "research" of many that came before me,,,would make me speculate very heavily towards a stray skookum spooking about. Things that these people who've told these incidents to me very clearly stated they believed these incidents to be related to ghosts,,,etc,,,and had no knowledge of the subjects I've thoroughly absorbed over the years,,as in supposed BF activity. IMO everyone seriously involved in this field would do good to remember,,,sometimes you may not agree with a skeptic,,but you can't blame them,,,look at some of the great researchers before us. Who have spent countless hours as well looking for this,,,and never found it. Rene Dahinden was quoted once saying "You know,I've spent over 40 years,and didn't find it. I guess that's got to say something." Thanks agian for another good article!!!

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  5. The word "fact" was messed up by scientist who shove evolution down peoples throats. Since "the far left" of the meaning of "fact" by those who are supposed to hold it sacred and dear abuses the term, it means little when used in any context that involves controversy.

    That goes for any subject, not just about Bigfoot.

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  6. Here is a fact. People report seeing bigfoot. That's a fact.

    Here's another; Native American Folklore contains bigfoot.

    Here is a big fact, those of us who have seen them could care less about skeptics opinions on this subject.

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