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The bigfoot defense?

July 3, 2009

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Viewers of South Park will remember the Chewbacca Defense. Now John Hawks raises the spectre of the Bigfoot defense.

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  1. July 3, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    John Hawks’ assessment of the paper is valid when it deals with it as an example on how to do good science, albeit with a problematical subject. However, Mr. Hawks -like the paper’s authors- starts with an a priori assumption, that the animal in question, Bigfoot doesn’t -indeed, can’t- exist. On that score I’m afraid I’ll have to disagree.

    I will not deal with the subject of the animal’s existence or non-existence. Instead I will delve into the matter of how deeply felt emotion can affect one’s thinking. Just as the expanding universe idea was contrary to Fred Hoyle’s steady state universe, so Bigfoot is contrary to our ideas of what lives -indeed, what could live- in North America. When the subject first hit the mass media the near universal response from scientists was, aint no such thing. As it turns out, most of those Bigfoot stories were fiction, written by a slimeball. But, written because he was sick and tired of hearing of all these Bigfoot stories from his neighbors. He didn’t believe such an animal existed, and he set out to discredit any reports. Succeeded well he did.

    Consider too stories of the Yeti and Nessie, which had their own share of fraud and fakery surrounding them. The new Bigfoot tales were of a kind with them. The adoption of Bigfoot by the woo community didn’t help matters any. Thanks to the animosity between the woo and scientific communities Bigfoot became associated with all sorts of crackpot crap as UFOs, the chupacabra, and the Mothman. It became part of the paranormal, when all it is is a zoological subject.

    And then came the Patterson/Gimlin film. A short piece of 16mm film originally showing what looked (to this then 13 year old watching it on the local news) to be a large, bipedal, non-human primate. Then again, I didn’t know that such an animal couldn’t exist yet.

    There were people who knew this however. Then too, Patty -as she came to be known- looked a little too human. Since Bigfoot couldn’t exist, the subject in that bit of film had to be a human dressed up in an ape suit. People are fixated on that explanation, and are reluctant to entertain any other. If Patty had only been a knuckle walking ape, then matters would very likely have proceeded in a very different way.

    And then you have the fake videos and photos we’ve seen since then. Obvious fakes, produced by people out to have fun at people’s expense. Practical jokes that have poisoned the discourse and made it near impossible to get serious research done regarding the subject.

    Now note that while you see Patty as being too human to be real, I see her as not being human enough. It can’t be fake, nobody makes a costume that good.

    But enough of that. My point is that over the years certain people have been polarized into one of two camps. You have those who are invested in the proposition that Bigfoot cannot exist, and find it hard, if not impossible, to concede they might be wrong. And you have those who are invested in the reality of Bigfoot largely because they can use the animal to support their own beliefs regarding the world. Both do nothing to encourage dialogue in this area.

    There are also question regarding how much we do know, how do we know what we know, and how accurate is what we know. I’ve heard it said that we’ve explored every inch of land on this world of ours, and as a result know it well. I must ask, how do you know that?

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