Wednesday, July 4, 2012

NEW BOOK: Skeptics Analyze and Dissect the Psychology of Bigfooters

Daniel Loxton’s Illustration for new Skeptic book about the psychology of Bigfooters
At the Skeptic Blog Donald Prothero announces his upcoming book on cryptozoology co-authored by Daniel Loxton. This is a great opportunity for us Bigfooters, it is easy to remain in our own echo-chamber of assumptions. Although we believe bigfooters are a little more rational than most sub-cultures, this doesn't mean we don't have our own bubble. After all we are human.

Unfortunately at Skeptic Blog Prothero doesn't talk much about his new book.  He references two other books familiar to us. First he mentions Joshua Blu Buhs book, "Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend"

Buhs also points out a common theme in the conflict between amateur cryptid hunters and professional scientists. The amateurs usually have a big chip on their shoulder over their treatment by academic scholars. They feel that if they can find the elusive creature that science rejects, they will be able to triumph over people who have ignored, ridiculed, and disrespected them for decades. In the words of veteran Bigfoot hunter RenĂ© Dahinden, “I’d take the scientists by the scruff of their collective necks and rub their goddamn faces in—actually, I would like to see all the people—the scientists—who have opened their mouths and made their stupid, ignorant statements, fired from their jobs….They should totally, absolutely, right then and there, without pension, without anything, just be taken and thrown out the front door. Then and there.” Buhs follows this statement with “and when that dream was realized, those who had always known the truth, those who had come to the right conclusion by the dint of hard work and the application of skill, would receive the dignity that the world had otherwise denied them .” According to Bigfooter Peter Byrne, “More credibility should be given to the common postal worker, the truck driver, the policeman, the housewife, the fisherman, the farmer, the surveyor, the bum off the street, hippies, hitchhikers, milkmen, shop-janitors, bookkeepers, etc. ..The simple genuine honesty of the country people” would at last be celebrated, and the world put right.
Then Prothero introduces a different take from Christopher Baders book, "Paranormal America: Ghost Encounters, UFO Sightings, Bigfoot Hunts, and Other Curiosities in Religion and Culture"

Bader et al. (2011) provide a slightly different look at the culture of Bigfoot “researchers” based on their experiences in the Bigfoot community of East Texas. (We used the quotes around “researchers” here because they don’t really do true scientific research in the sense of lab experiments, testing hypotheses, or scientific publication; their “research” consists mostly of reading the Bigfoot literature and tramping through the woods). Like fans of any particular topic (from NASCAR to the vampire series Twilight or True Blood), the Bigfooters form their own “subculture” of people who believe strongly in the reality of Bigfoot, and spend a significant amount of their time and resources researching Bigfoot. They have their own meetings, their own jargon, their own shared body of accepted knowledge, and their own distinctive way of looking at the world.
Bader et al. describe the people and events at the annual Texas Bigfoot Research Conference (TBRC) in Tyler, Texas, and also followed one of the dedicated Bigfoot hunters on his late night hunts for Bigfoot. As they describe it , the conference of nearly 400 dedicated Bigfoot “researchers” is much like any other meeting or convention of an established organization or interest group. It is populated by mostly conservatively dressed, white, middle-class people attending a daylong slate of presentations. Exhibitors selling books, DVDs, T-shirts, and every other sort of Bigfoot merchandise fill the hallways. Most of the membership are people who know the Bigfoot legends and evidence backwards and forwards, and speak in shorthand about “the Skookum cast”, the “PG [Patterson-Gimlin] film”, the “Ohio howl”, or the “shoot/don’t shoot” controversy (whether a Bigfoot hunter should actually shoot or not if they find Bigfoot). As sociologists have long pointed out, the argot or distinctive lingo of a subculture is part of the process of becoming a member of the subculture, distinguishing insiders from outsiders, and a mark of acceptance when you master it.
Overall Prothero concludes:
Needless to say, the more conventional Bigfoot “researchers” try to disavow any connection to the paranormal crazies like Johnson or Beckjord, but the boundary between the subcultures is very faint and frequently crossed. More importantly, Bader et al. (2011) showed that most Americans who accept Bigfoot also accept the ideas of UFOs, Atlantis, psychics, ghosts, and other paranormal beliefs. To most Americans, all these paranormal ideas are more or less equal, and there is no real distinction between cryptozoology and the UFO cults.
You can read the full Skeptic Blog post at http://www.skepticblog.org/2012/07/04/bigfoot-on-the-brain/ 

4 comments:

  1. Guy:

    In a related area, I did extensive research into how paranormal investigation groups claim to do science. Using a broad definition of "paranormal" I included cryptozoological and ufo investigation groups in the study. It focused on how amateur investigators portray themselves as "sciencey" to the public. An article about this study is available here http://www.csicop.org/si/show/amateur_paranormal_research_and_investigation_groups_doing_sciencey_things My thesis is also available for those who want to contact me as well.

    There is some common ground between crypto skeptic and believer camps. The only excuses as to why we do not work more together are purely selfish ones as I see it. We enjoy our own little enclaves. That gets us no where.

    This is a complicated topic because it involves social issues, emotions, personal experiences and completely different ideas about how the world works. I'd be interested in some civil discussion about it.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the comment Sharon! I highly recommend your study on amateur investigation groups.

      I believe the insight you provide in your study is a little more accurate than Joshua Blu Buhs or Christopher Baders take on the community.

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    2. It's a different perspective from theirs for sure. I have both those books. There is much value in them.

      We have to open ourselves up to other perspectives. And we have to evaluate criticism in order to improve. But, that's hard to do. It's not as fun as just being OUT there as a self-styled expert, especially when the media pays so much attention to those people.

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  2. Your starting point is inherently biased if you're set out to prove something; the self-serving conclusions will come naturally. :]

    ReplyDelete

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