Showing posts with label SkepticBlog. Show all posts
Showing posts with label SkepticBlog. Show all posts

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 

Monday, December 27, 2010

2010 Countdown, 10 days of Appreciation: Day 07 Brian Dunning of

We want to spend the final days of 2010 appreciating those who have supported us this year. Three years ago, we could have never hoped for this much success. Our only goal was to search, dig and find the most topical Bigfoot news, and share it with anybody that listen. If we were lucky, we would make a modest contribution to the Bigfoot Community and find an audience. We have been more than lucky, thank you.

We will save the last day for our fans, without your tips comments and suggestions we wouldn't have the mass appeal we have. For now, we would like to recognize the skeptics. One of our favorites Brian Dunning.

Brian bruised us pretty bad in his post at the and maybe we threw the first punch. The truth is, we think that even-handed skeptics are a healthy part of the Bigfoot conversation. We have said as much last year when we presented Benjamin Radford's Top 10 Reason's Bigfoot is Bunk.

A self described Bigfoot hopeful (he explains this further by claiming the hope is based more on emotion than on any actual likelihood), Brian Dunning has made a great case against both sides of the Bigfoot debate at his site Thank you Mr.Dunning for keeping us on our toes and for being an even-handed skeptic.

Below is a great post where Brian shares the 3 worst skeptic arguments against Bigfoot. He, then, follows up with the three worst arguments for Bigfoot. See? Even-handed! Please also visit his site and listen to his podcasts (links provided at the bottom of this post)

Killing Bigfoot with Bad Science
Is anyone doing any justice to the Bigfoot claim?

Today, we're going down a dark forest path on the trail of Gigantopithecus Americanus: the North American Sasquatch.

I see many cases on both sides of the Bigfoot debate where bad arguments, bad science, and just plain weirdness is being put forth, doing great disservice to their own side of the argument. There are intelligent and productive ways to explore a subject and present a case, but I don't see it being done very often on either side of the Bigfoot debate. I'm going to present what I consider the top three ways that each side of the Bigfoot claim is shooting themselves in the foot, beginning with the skeptics.

1. Saying that the guy who confessed to making tracks disproves the entire thing.

In 2002, a Washington logger named Ray Wallace died, and his family produced the carved wooden feet that he used to make Bigfoot footprints all over the Pacific Northwest, beginning in 1958. The newspapers and TV tabloids lapped it up, reporting that the entire Bigfoot phenomenon was now proven to be a hoax perpetrated by Wallace. Well, I feel the time has come for me to come clean about something that I've wanted to get off my chest for decades. When I was a kid, I once made some fake Bigfoot footprints too. The cat's out of the bag. Bigfoot is now doubly proven to be a hoax.

Obviously, anyone who has any kind of basic understanding of research methodology can't accept Ray Wallace's story as proof that Bigfoot is a hoax. Sure, he made fake prints. So have a thousand other guys. They were doing it before Ray Wallace was born, and they're still doing it today. Anyone can be making those tracks. Anyone...

2. Saying the Patterson-Gimlin film is "the worst fake ever."

I'm not a Bigfoot believer but I will give credit where credit is due. The Patterson-Gimlin film looked like a real animal to me. The Discovery Channel's "duplication" of it looked ridiculous. It looked nothing like a real animal, and certainly didn't remotely resemble the subject shown in the Patterson-Gimlin film. Chewbacca looked more real than the Discovery Channel's Bigfoot suit. Hollywood's state of the art in gorilla suits in 1967 were Planet of the Apes and The Galileo Seven episode of Star Trek. Two loggers with no previous gorilla suit experience made a suit that was better than today's state of the art, and certainly light years ahead of the 1967 state of the art. I'm not saying the film's real, I'm saying give credit where credit is due, and admit that if it is a fake, it's astounding. If you disagree then go through a stabilized version frame-by-frame as I have.

The half dozen or so Hollywood special effects artists who have since "come forward" to claim that they were responsible for the Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot suit, and the dozens of guys who have "come forward" to claim that they were the guy wearing the suit, are no more evidence against the film than Ray Wallace's wooden feet are evidence that no real Bigfoot footprints exist.

Critics of the film also say that the creature's behavior is unrealistic. I have no knowledge of what a real Bigfoot's behavior might be, but I have encountered bears half a dozen times, and they acted exactly like the Patterson-Gimlin creature: just walked away, unconcerned, with maybe only a look or two back.

3. Criticizing good scientists like Jeff Meldrum.

I've read old and new criticism of Dr. Jeff Meldrum of Idaho State University, and I'm only mentioning his name in particular as one example. There are several prominent tenured professors at legitimate accredited universities who have done Bigfoot research. They are probably far, far outnumbered by professors who have done psychic or other paranormal research, but let's stick to the subject.

Dr. Meldrum is not the obsessed Bigfoot guy who lives and breathes it 24 hours a day, and exhorts his students to become believers. Rather, he has a long list of publications and edited volumes, none of which pertain to Bigfoot; he teaches six courses, none of which pertain to Bigfoot; he's an Associate Professor of Anatomy & Anthropology; he's an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Department of Occupational and Physical Therapy; and he's the Affiliate Curator at the Idaho Museum of Natural History. He's not the Professor of Bigfoot. He carries as great a load of academic work in non-Bigfoot related studies as any professor. He's a real scientist doing real work. On top of all of this, he studies casts of Bigfoot footprints.

Dr. Meldrum is responsible for drumming up his own grant money from private donors to fund any Bigfoot research that he chooses to do. In some cases, he has received small amounts of matching funds from the university. If you feel this was a bad expenditure, then criticize the university regents who decided to write the check, don't criticize the person they gave the funds to. The work of responsible scientists like Dr. Meldrum is exactly what true skeptics should be asking the Bigfoot community for, not criticizing him for it.

Here is the way for a responsible skeptic to handle the Bigfoot claim. It's to say "You're making an extraordinary claim. Show me extraordinary evidence, and I'll believe it. Until then, I'm not convinced." Occasionally candidate evidence has come forward, like hair and stool samples, or the skull cap from Tibet. This evidence has been properly tested, and so far no new great ape species has been proven (and if I'm wrong about that, I invite your comments on the web site). A responsible skeptic's obligations do not extend to poking fun at the people who are looking for evidence, considering the lack of evidence to be proof of no evidence, or making personal comments about people. That's not good science. In some cases, Dr. Meldrum, and other scientists like him, are being better skeptics than the skeptics.

And now, I'd like to say a few words to those who mean to support Bigfoot but do themselves more harm than good with bad arguments. The wrong ways to support Bigfoot:

1. Stating that Bigfoot is an extraterrestrial, or comes to us from another dimension.

If Bigfoot claims are going to make any headway into mainstream science, it will be through zoological channels, not supernatural channels. Such claims are the most extreme form of counterproductivity, setting Bigfoot claims backwards all the way into the Dark Ages.

2. Being delusional: Seeing detailed Bigfoots in a blurry photograph that shows no such thing.

Half the Bigfoot web sites out there show numerous photographs of bushes and wooded areas, with certain areas circled. There's nothing within the circled area except other bushes; maybe a shadow, or a dark branch. But wait! Here's a detailed sketch of what's hiding inside that shadow. I'm not a psychologist so I won't presume to affix a label to this phenomenon; but seeing things in pictures that aren't there, and then obsessing over it, does not strike me as healthy. It's certainly more effective at raising concern for the claimant, than it is at convincing anyone that Bigfoot exists. If all you have is bad evidence, you're better off not presenting it.

3. Doing bad science: Seeking to support a preconceived conclusion.

Science doesn't work by starting with the goal of proving something and then assembling whatever evidence you can find that supports it. That's doing propaganda, not science. Start with a testable hypothesis, and then form a theory based on the evidence revealed by the data. Of course, following this method is going to make it pretty hard to come up with a theory that's supportive of Bigfoot, but that's what it's going to take if Bigfoot supporters hope to prove their point.

I know you're going to listen to all of this and conclude that I'm the pro-Bigfoot guy. I'll admit to being a Bigfoot hopeful (a hope based more on emotion than on any actual likelihood), but certainly not a believer. My point is simply that both sides of every debate contain a lot chaff along with the wheat. Both sides of every skeptical issue believe that they're right, but even those on the side that is right (and by that, I mean whichever side you're on) can probably stand to clean up their act a little, no matter what the issue is.

You should follow me on twitter here.

Brian Dunning

© 2006 Skeptoid Media, Inc. Copyright information

References & Further Reading

Alderman ,Jesse Harlan. "Bigfoot studies render academic an outcast." MSNBC. MSNBC.COM, 3 Nov. 2006. Web. 5 Nov. 2009.

Autumn Williams. "Bigfoot Photo and Picture Gallery.", The Legend Lives. Autumn Williams, 1 Jan. 2009. Web. 18 Nov. 2009.

Daegling, David J., and Schmitt, Daniel O. "Bigfoot's Screen Test." The Skeptical Inquirer. 1 May 1999, Volume 23.3: 3.

Davis, Marlon K. "M.K. Davis' frame by frame rendition of the Patterson Film." Bigfoot Encounters. Bobbie Short, 1 Dec. 2005. Web. 15 Nov. 2009.

Eagan, Timothy. "Search for Bigfoot Outlives The Man Who Created Him." The New York Times. 3 Jan. 2003, New York Edition: Section A, page 1.

Meldrum, Jeff. Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science. New York: Forge Books, 2006.

Napier, John Russel. Bigfoot: The Sasquatch and Yeti in Myth and Reality. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1972.

Reference this article:
Dunning, Brian. "Killing Bigfoot with Bad Science." Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media, Inc., 3 Dec 2006. Web. 27 Dec 2010.

Original Post Killing Bigfoot with Bad Science
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Thursday, February 11, 2010

"Skeptics" Late to Debunking Bigfoot

Today SkepticBlog wrote a post about a video they received a link to. They thought they would make fun of it and call themselves skeptics.

Didn't Autumn Williams already debunk this a month ago? Yes she did. Thankfully those "skeptics" did their research. No body minds them helping us out to filter the real deal, but we think some credit would be nice. Lets go to the ScepticBlog first and we will get back to Autumn Williams in a sec.

SkepticBlog is a collaboration among some of the most recognized names in promoting science, critical thinking, and skepticism. It also features the cast and producers of The Skeptologists, a pilot skeptical reality show.

The gist is they get this youtube video link and the guy, Johnny Walker, says he wants the video to get into the right hands.

And they spend more time making fun of it then doing any actual investigating.

Maybe it is a Bigfoot. Maybe it’s a guy in a suit, one that flares out bellbottom style, like my own cheap-ass gorilla suit does. Maybe it’s an autonomous robot in a suit. Maybe it’s a Bigfoot in a Bigfoot suit. Maybe it’s an example of high-end composite work combined with low-end 3D modeling, all rendered on Renderman.

The fact is that we can’t really know or conclude much of anything about this video, and the million others like it. We can’t prove it’s a fake any more than we can prove it’s a real Bigfoot. What it is is crappy evidence. It’s not testable. It’s fun, and it’s interesting, but its value as evidence is zero. Its value as an anecdote is that it suggests a direction for research. So to all who feel motivated: Grab your 3CCD cameras and head on up to Greenhorn, Oregon. A bellbottomed Bigfoot might be waiting for you.--Brian Dunning, Skepticblog

Autumn Williams had a different approach, she dug a little deeper:
I’m not sure what to say here. No offense intended if you’re trying to be serious (it sure sounded that way?), but the hair is obviously synthetic, the face appears to be a poor reconstruction of a “planet of the apes” theme, the makeup pitiful, the movements awkward, the staging is obvious, subtle references to the Patterson film are rather amusing… and I’d have to say, if it’s not an attempt at a hoax on your part, you’ve been hoaxed. Somehow, though, I find it difficult to believe that you could follow something for that long and NOT know it was someone in a stovepipe-legged, poorly-made suit. I didn’t even need to pause the footage to tell that...

...Finally, asking people for “offers” and having “james randi” in your tags in your youtube account is a dead giveaway that you’re looking for money. I’m sorry, but ol’ Jim won’t buy it, and I doubt anyone else will either.

Kudos for Autumn Williams to debunking this way before the "skeptics", and actually discerning motive. Maybe she should be in their new pilot TV show. If you want to see how a hoaxer with video gets debunked by a professional check out Autumn Williams post at

Autumn Williams at
Oh yeah JohnnyWalker's Youtube Page

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