Monday, April 1, 2013

Fooled by Bigfootery

As a kid, I was always fascinated with animals, particularly the more intelligent ones. I read lots of books about natural history and watched thousands of wildlife documentaries on the Discovery Channel. These were generally accurate programs, as far as I could tell, and so I thought nothing of taking their Bigfoot documentaries just as seriously.
` Since those programs don't usually give "the skeptics" much air time, nor portray them as as knowledgeable on the subject, I had the distinct impression that they were a bunch of puffed-up idiots who were given just enough time to embarrass themselves on shows about a scientifically verified animal.
` For years I thought I knew almost everything about the subject, including all of the skeptics' 'nonsensical' arguments, until I actually read some skeptical material for myself. As it was mostly unfamiliar to me, probably years went by before I had heard enough to think it had much merit.

One of my main misconceptions was that these "skeptics" on TV were so ignorant of the mountains of evidence for Bigfoot, and yet so sure that Bigfoot didn't exist, that they must be too arrogant to be worth listening to. Instead, I found that I was the ignorant and arrogant one, not bothering to question sensationalistic TV programs Just Because The Discovery Channel Said So.
` Why hadn't I heard about the "other side" of the debate before? Because on programs whose point seems to be arguing that Bigfoot exists, the "token skeptic's" strongest arguments are often omitted or edited down to a weakened form. (The same can be said for shows on Nessie, ghosts, alien spaceships, etc.)

The first thing I learned was that people who doubt the existence of Bigfoot are not necessarily saying that they "know" that it doesn't exist, but that the evidence for Bigfoot is only slightly better than the evidence for unicorns.
` After all, no 100% clear trace of Bigfoot is actually known to science, although there have been plenty of confirmed hoaxes, suspected hoaxes, and mistaken observations. But if Bigfoot isn't real, then how could so many people believe it anyway?
` To answer that question, think of the masses of people who passionately defend their view or ideology on some subject, while other masses of people disagree -- at least one side or the other has to be wrong! So yes, millions of people can be wrong, even if they cite scientific-sounding evidence in support of their stance.
` Based on all of the evidence I'd collected by that point, I decided that justifying a belief in Bigfoot's existence was much more problematic than doubting this belief. However, if an undeniably real Bigfoot is discovered, then 'belief' would no longer be necessary and 'acceptance' would be inevitable.

When I started my first blog in 2005, I thought it would be fun and educational to write an article on some of the things I had learned about this subject over the years. This effort quickly turned into three posts -- numbers six, eight and nine.
` Before transplanting those posts over here, I did a fair bit of fact-checking, edited out excessive wordiness (which I call "deblathification"), and used the extra space to help me cram in more details. In the first of these (creatively titled) articles, I discuss how the "ape" version of Sasquatch, as well as Bigfoot were "invented" via stunts in the late 1950's:

Bigfoot Critique Part 1 (deblathified)

Curiously, I have encountered people who accept this recent origin of the whole Bigfoot concept, and yet also believe that later on, Bigfoot coincidentally turned out to be real anyway.
` In the next post, I go on about some of the supposed evidence of Bigfoot's existence. Except I'm not done editing it, so for now, please enjoy this blank and linkless title:

Bigfoot Critique, Part 2 (deblathified)

And finally, well, this is coming next. Check back to this post soon!

Bigfoot Critique, Part 3 (deblathified)

To hold you over, I'll link to another post on this blog, about Matt Crowley's investigation (and recreation) of Bigfoot dermal ridges.

Although this is a massive amount of work, I would have finished these by now if I hadn't spent a few days away from home. Even so, I'll still probably not be really finished, as I expect to see critiques of my Bigfoot Critiques, especially by people who are more convinced of Bigfoot's existence than me.
` This thought unnerves me because I know a few people who say that they live among Bigfoot. Some take photos that they claim are of Bigfoot in their backyard, or Bigfoot tracks on their patio. Even one of my long-time friends shocked me by saying, "Of course Bigfoot is real -- he's my neighbor!"
` So, a post like this one could be interpreted as an insult by some, as though I think that I can change their mind about something they take for granted in their daily lives. I don't really, although I have told people about such things just to see what would happen.

In one such instance, I was standing at a college bus stop with a fellow student, describing what an Australopithecus looked like. (Wouldn't anybody?)
` He said, "Oh, you mean like Sasquatch?" and proceeded to tell me (if I remember correctly) that although he hadn't seen one himself, he had heard some scary animal calls and felt as though something was watching him from the woods.
` He also said that while he was on a Sasquatch-hunting expedition, someone had gotten a video of a small, black-furred figure stealing pancakes from their camp, of which I expressed much interest. He hadn't seen the video, although he was confident that it existed, that there was no mistake about the figure's identity, and that these Sasquatch expeditioners were not out to fool each other.
` During our time on the bus together, we had a friendly debate during which I gave him an abbreviated version of my Bigfoot Critique, curious as to his response. As I recall, he mainly seemed somewhat dismayed that I kept telling him to watch for trickery.
` I never saw him again, so don't know whatever became of him, nor this alleged video. I still would like to watch it for myself, however. Do you hear that? I think that's... YouTube calling...

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